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5 HUGE Improvements That Will Come to Disney Theme Parks by 2016

Madame Leota

Whenever a discussion of the future of Walt Disney World and Disneyland occurs, people provide pie in the sky suggestions involving technology that has yet to be invented. I am not going to be so ambitious in my discussion. In fact, everything I mention today is already on the cusp of being available right now. What follows is not a debate about how we will enjoy amusement parks in 2060. Instead, I am evaluating five things I expect all of us to be doing in 2016.

After all, the future is never quite as far away as we think...

1. ALL rides can be planned months prior to a park visit

FastPass+

Obviously, the new FastPass+ system is a strong step in this direction. As I recounted in a previous column, the current setup has several flaws. At the moment, a Walt Disney World park visitor can only acquire three FastPasses in advance and they must be for the same location. Even consumers who own annual passes or Park Hopper tickets are arbitrarily limited in this regard. No one has the ability to select more rides or split them among the various parks. This solution is less than optimal.

In December of 2010, the New York Times famously published in article in which they quoted Disney research. The data indicated that the average visitor experiences nine rides a day. Disney was so bothered by this information that many of their modifications over the past five years have been intended to increase that number. FastPass+ is believed to have boosted the average into double digits. The problem is that as currently constructed, the system allows a user to choose only 30% of their daily rides in advance. While better than nothing, it is not good enough.

My belief is that Disney will use the data being collated in their parks right now to optimize the system by 2016. At that point, visitors should have the ability to select all of their rides ahead of time. The current restraints within the system such as the tiering system for the most popular rides and the inability to create reservations at the various parks will be lifted. The end result will be that visitors will be empowered to build an entire Disney ride itinerary prior to leaving their homes.

2. EVERY course of a meal may be planned months prior to a park visit

The luxurious dining room of the Be Our Guest Restaurant. Image © Disney

Those of you who are familiar with the current Be Our Guest FastPass+ beta lunch experience realize this concept is not far from reality already. Let me explain the process for those of you who are not. Walt Disney World suggests advanced dinner reservations for their most popular restaurants. Be Our Guest, one of the newest restaurants in the Magic Kingdom, is also arguably the most difficult in terms of acquiring dinner reservations.

This information explains why I was so surprised to receive an email beta invite to have lunch at Be Our Guest. I was provided the opportunity to select the time I wanted to eat from a set of luncheon windows, and I picked 1:15 – 1:45. What followed next was the surprising aspect of the process. My party and I were asked to select our entire meal straight down to the beverage and dessert. Twenty days before my Disney arrival, I knew exactly what I would be having for lunch on my sixth day.

In terms of enhancing my Disney experience, it was a great idea executed poorly. When we arrived for our reservation, Disney had no record of it; furthermore, our attempt to acquire our reservation number failed because their system was stuck in an infinite loop. A Disney employee confided that this happens more often than not right now, indicating that the idea is still a long way from being perfected. Once it is, however, a person will have the ability to choose their dinner in December when they make a reservation in June.

That is a spectacular addition in that it will give visitors one less thing to worry about when they get to the parks. Plus, Disney will have the ability to turn over tables faster since they can have the food prepared almost as quickly as guests sit down. In the process, more customers may be served, reducing the need for the rest of us who improvise rather than the plan to acquire the advance dinner reservations in question. In this regard, early menu selection aids both kinds of amusement park guests, planners and improvisers.

3. Transportation details will be readily available via an app

Monorail

This topic is a touchy one for most Walt Disney World visitors. Unlike Disneyland and the international theme parks, on-site transportation for resort guests is a nightmare due to the expansive nature of the four parks in Orlando, Florida. No matter which park is a visitor’s home base, traveling to and from the other locations as well as Downtown Disney is at best an adventure. At worst, it is an exercise in hopelessness. I say this from recent experience as we were rewarded for our attempt to visit Wilderness Lodge last month by an hour long wait for a ferry. Had we but known that this were a possibility, we would have taken the less romantic but more pragmatic bus. Therein lays the problem with Walt Disney World transportation. Everyone is flying blind when it comes to the arrival time of the next vehicle.

The solution is an easy one that I am shocked Disney has yet to implement. Disney drivers are in constant contact not just with one another but also with park employees. Their internal GPS system is a robust one providing ample data about arrival and return times. For no reason whatsoever, Disney currently chooses not to share this information with their customers. This is an illogical decision in that any moment a customer spends waiting in line for a bus is one that cannot be used spending money at Disney.

What should have happened by now and almost certainly will happen in the near future is that Disney adds one key feature to their MyDisneyExperience app. The Transportation tab will indicate exactly when the next bus/ferry will arrive, thereby enabling guests to plan the perfect moment to exit the park/hotel. In the process, guests can maximize their enjoyment of the Disney ecosystem while the company itself is rewarded with more emptying of the wallets of its customers. In addition, the aggravation level for Walt Disney World travel is reduced, increasing the satisfaction level of the guests in question. It’s a win/win proposition for all involved.

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There are 50 comments.

I guess I will just have to wing it as I have a old fashion cell phone with no data access. Therefore I cannot get any apps,pics, etc. Disney use to be fun , now it it just one big nightmare of technology.

I have a smartphone, but travel to Disney with my immediate family of 11. This would be work! Can you imagine scheduling this and coordinating for all those people, especially the grandchildren? Biggest problem- I don't know what I want to eat for dinner tonight, let alone a week's worth of meals 3 months from now!

agreed.

There are places within the park where you can schedule fast passes if you do not have a smart phone...

WDW used to be a fun thing that allowed you to let go and relax. Now it is just as much work, stress and schedule restricted movement as day to day life is!

i love disney, but too much planning! i want to go to an attraction and go on it, not plan it 3 months in advance

What ever happened to the magic of relaxing and just doing what you want when and who the heck wants to plan months ahead of time what they may have a taste for down the road. Don't like all these changes.

Pretty sure they're not going to force you to plan your trip months in advance. there's no armed Mickey Mouse that will come to your home and make you plan.

The problem being that if everyone else is planning their rides 8 months in advance, is that going to hurt me if I'm just winging it? Am I going to have to wait forever or, worse, not get on a ride because I didn't plan it in advance?

talk about over planning. The busy season dictates you do plan EVERYTHING if you want to see everything. Being spontaneous is no longer part of the experience.

We just returned from Disneyworld and it was our first time with the fast pass + feature. You really should use your three allowed fast passes to guarantee the rides you want to ride. Every ride does still have regular standby lines but it is best to have a fast pass for the popular ones like Mine Train and Peter Pan and Splash Mountain.

I agree coompletely. On my last few trips to WDW I felt like I was on some sort of schedule. There was no option to wake up in the morning and say "What shall we do today?" Having to make ADRs months in advance has a certain convenience. But with Disney now charging a fee if you change your mind less than 24 hours in advance is a pain. One morning we woke to a day of torrential rain. We had an ADR for dinner at The Biergarten that evening. No way did we want to slosh all the wY to the bach of Epcot for dinner that day. We called in the AM and canceled ore ADR with what I consider plenty of advanced notice but my credit card was still charged for canceling. Now with the pre booking of the Fastpass+ times another level of vacation spontaneity is removed. Sure you can ignore or change the reservations you've made months in advance. But this is at the risk of loosing all chance of getting another decent Fastpass option that day if you do this. Now this author is suggesting choosing your meals at specific restaurants months in advance. Sorry, but if this were to happen I think it would've the end of my wanting to visit WDW ever again. I just don't want to be on a tightly planned schedule while I'm on vacation.

We can already add characters to our photo pass photos at Disneyland and California adventure. Very cute.

First of all I don't know where you get your information? The transportation is a major problem. You have to many morons running the program. The monorail system is a maintenance nightmare. The bus drivers are over worked and underpaid, you may work 3 days on nights, 4 days on morning's ones sleep cycles are never adjusted. So you have tired, fatigued drivers. One falling asleep at the wheel train wreck. Its run by selfish people that don't care about anyone but themselves.

I think that the transportation issue is a big issue. We stayed at Ft Wilderness and the transportion from Magic Kingdom is the ferry we had to wait over 1.5 hrs it was horrible not just one night but a few and what made it so bad was the ferry from The Grand Floridan and Contemp resort ferrys came 4x talk about tired and mad. There is no bus to Ft Wilderness. The tech that could pin point transporation would be great. We were in New Orleans and using the trolley system was great we were able to track the trolleys and new exactly when it would be to our stop. So hopefully Disney will have an app to track all transportation.

Its a wonder how some become guest service managers some have zero people skills. If walt where alive he would not put up with this crap. The buses are supposed to run every 20 min. I have witnessed 3 people who have died on Disney property, all fatigue related Disney accepts no responsibility Por employee management.

I love Disney, but Universal has been doing #5 for awhile now.

You sure have a twisted view on what "improvements" actually means. None of those seem to me to be improvements.

The one about the buses sure would be. It'd be helpful to know when the next one is coming.

It is very true that universal has been doing #5 they have app so can use it on your phone but also with the new universal app it does the same as #4

Strange article... I wouldn't say that the changes re. planning are a HUGE improvement - to the contrary, a lot of people are very against it. You can already get pictures like the ones mentioned - maybe they are going to extend that, but again, not exactly a huge improvement. If this is all that Disney have got to throw back at Universal, then they are going to be losing market share.

The first two are improvements? Do you really know what you want to order until you sit down? What if it is raining or especially hot? Do you think you may want to change your plans but worry you might not be able to get on a favorite attraction if you miss your reserved time? Does spontaneity have any value?

The problem with making dinner reservations ahead of time is you can't cancel if something comes up without paying a penalty. They charge ten dollars a person to cancel

Disney has so many problems. The life of Disney is gone. Transportation is the worst it's ever been. I over heard on fairy Boat the captain work close shift and come back in to work 12 hours the next day. I'm sorry but them boats are not on tracks that is very dangerous. Management needs to wake up. Disney is all about stores and shopping anymore. I could go on With a very long list.

Planning to this extent is too much like work! Where's the vacation in your vacation? I've been over 50 times as this could deter me from a visit .. I have 4 kids and really can't bother with all this planning with meals Etc .. Makes us seem like robots instead of vacationers and simply loses its personal touch. Hate to see that !

My worry with all this pre-planning is where does that leave ones that don't want to pre-plan? Are rides still going to be available? Can you get regular fast passes anymore once you get there?

I was just over at universal a few days ago and it just seems thay got it together. I worked for the mouse for almost 2 years, please don't get me wrong, I love Disney and the issues can be fixed but we need to come together as a collective. They don't have to be this way.

I was just over at universal a few days ago and it just seems thay got it together. I worked for the mouse for almost 2 years, please don't get me wrong, I love Disney and the issues can be fixed but we need to come together as a collective. They don't have to be this way.

Although picking a few Fastpasses in advance is nice, I WOULD NEVER WANT PLAN EVERY ASPECT OF MY VISIT. That is just too much, no flexibility, no spontaneity; and I'm a planner. My family calls me " The General.", when we travel to Disney Still I wouldn't want that much " control ".

Displeased with transportation to/from hotels. We older folks enjoy coming to Disney but the walking to bus stops, especially from the parks, is difficult. Any improvement coming in this direction?

I guess the hyperplanners win, as Disney can book their revenue with some degree of certainty. Having been a Florida annual placeholder for 28 years, I shudder to think how many thousands of dollars I've shoveled into Disney's maw. It costs them nothing to keep me and others like me as customers, yet we're regarded as slightly worse than stale dog vomit.

I guess the hyperplanners win, as Disney can book their revenue with some degree of certainty. Having been a Florida annual placeholder for 28 years, I shudder to think how many thousands of dollars I've shoveled into Disney's maw. It costs them nothing to keep me and others like me as customers, yet we're regarded as slightly worse than stale dog vomit.

I guess the hyperplanners win, as Disney can book their revenue with some degree of certainty. Having been a Florida annual placeholder for 28 years, I shudder to think how many thousands of dollars I've shoveled into Disney's maw. It costs them nothing to keep me and others like me as customers, yet we're regarded as slightly worse than stale dog vomit.

I guess the hyperplanners win, as Disney can book their revenue with some degree of certainty. Having been a Florida annual placeholder for 28 years, I shudder to think how many thousands of dollars I've shoveled into Disney's maw. It costs them nothing to keep me and others like me as customers, yet we're regarded as slightly worse than stale dog vomit.

I guess the hyperplanners win, as Disney can book their revenue with some degree of certainty. Having been a Florida annual placeholder for 28 years, I shudder to think how many thousands of dollars I've shoveled into Disney's maw. It costs them nothing to keep me and others like me as customers, yet we're regarded as slightly worse than stale dog vomit.

I guess the hyperplanners win, as Disney can book their revenue with some degree of certainty. Having been a Florida annual placeholder for 28 years, I shudder to think how many thousands of dollars I've shoveled into Disney's maw. It costs them nothing to keep me and others like me as customers, yet we're regarded as slightly worse than stale dog vomit.

Overall, fun list. BUT, I would say that pre-ordering my meal in advance would not be fun for me at all. Half the fun for me is sitting down, taking in the scenery, examining the menu, and seeing what craving I'm having in the moment. Hopefully they don't make pre-ordering a requirement!

Also, the image-real navigation system? Oh, man, can you imagine how many people would be running into trash cans, and barriers, and other people? It would be like people bumper cars. I'd rather people just learn to use the paper maps!

one thing this article misses is the ppl power of 2015, a lot of ppl including me are getting so fed up with planning in advance, it's getting out of had, I just spent 2 days trying to organise my fast pass,
Ppl will rebel and go back to the old way
Turn up at the park, and just enjoy your day,,,

What ever next me planning when I want to use the bathroom 60 days in advance or can I buy a fast pass that lets me jump the line,,,

Disney this madness has to STOP

We were just there last week and we couldn't use their fast pass app because it will only work with Iphone IOS7 or IOS8. We refuse to update our Iphone4s so their app was not available. Benefit of the doubt, we went to their website on our phone's browser and did the fast pass so we were still able to use our 3 free passes.

Not true. I am a cast member at magic kingdom and have the iphone 4S and have not taken the update and the My Disney Experience app works perfectly

Not true. I am a cast member at magic kingdom and have the iphone 4S and have not taken the update and the My Disney Experience app works perfectly

The old app may work on the Iphone4s but you can only download the latest version app and it will only download for the newest IOS on the Iphones. We couldn't download the app because we have an older IOS on our Iphone4s.

Same goes for other apps. You can't get them unless you have the latest IOS. Or you can't update your apps for the same reason. Unless there is a way to download an older version app in the app store?

For me, number 4 is the most exciting prospect. This system could function like the yelp monocle, where it utilises your camera and then points you in the right direction. Love this idea!

WDW' s bus system is atrocious. There is nothing magical about cramped, dirty, inconvenient buses. A new monorail line from DD-EPCOT-Animal Kingdom would be such a huge improvement as would a more centrally located bus hub (Boardwalk?), since the buses are never going to go away completely. Also some type of non-bus link from the EPCOT monorail/bus stations to the boat hub in World Showcase without having to go through the park. Never have figured out why the central bus station is on the very edge of the property at DD?? I've always wondered why Disney executives have never realized that all those hours we're spending on transportation represent lost revenues because you can't spend much on a bus.

I was also invited to test the Be Our Guest Lunch FastPass+ system and had an incredibly positive experience. We ended up being very late because we had gotten stuck on Pirates. We explained what happened, they pulled up our order and explained that it had gone cold so we would have to go through the parlor and reorder. We placed our order and found seats in the West Wing and it was like the guy had followed us. We had been there for only about 3 or 4 minutes before our food arrived nice and hot.

was at the contemporary in September and they have a monitor showing when the bus going to certain destinations will arrive

I actually remember during Spring Break of 2014 my family was emailed that we would have lunch at be out guest, so we planned our dining, and then they gave us this cute little rise that held everything in it. Of course things didn't go right, so we ended up re-ordering it, but at least we got into Be Our Guest

I'm a Disney World bus driver. Our buses are dispatched by computer system APPROXIMATELY every 20 min. We constantly get comments from guests that they have waited longer. But we know it to be untrue. We have a record of when our buses arrive at each destination.like the article says, we are all on GPS system. It informs our dispatchers if we are off route or not moving. So we are not just off having a snack leaving people waiting. And none of us like to hear unhappy guests upon our arrival. We are mature professionals who enjoy our jobs. Our dispatchers can tell you at what time the last bus arrived at a destination. And 9 times out of 10 you could go back and check the record and it would tell you what bus was at which location at any given time. And Disney did listen to guests about the issue of guest not knowing the very minute the bus would arrive. Well bus systems that work this way are usually doomed to fail. Because there are times when you have weather conditions, traffic conditions, bus break downs etc. We do have a system to where if there is a bus breakdown, we can easily plug in another bus to do that run at any time. We do this by not using one bus to do one run. We are dispatched every time we go into the hub (or park). And it is not as mysterious as it is made out to be here. The parks are the hubs. This is where you make connections to other resorts. The closest park to you is the one you should use to make your connections. Ask any bus driver if you need help with this. Any of us can give you the proper information. Don't ask front desk people. They often don't know the best routes. That's like asking one of us about things inside resorts we never go into. We don't know. We do try to give you any information we can. And Disney has started implementing a new system in each resort with screens that tell you approximately what time the next bus to the destination of your choice is going to arrive. But it is not working totally as designed yet. You might get a time for two or three parks but two might not be showing a time. The system is undergoing some bugs. But it's a huge system. We have nearly 400 buses going to all of our destinations all day and into the night! It is the 3rd largest fleet in the state of Florida! And they are working on it. But if you come out at peak times you will likely see full buses and long lines. We try our best to be prepared for peak times and we have extra buses out there. Sometimes there are sudden rainstorms when everyone everywhere are all coming out at the same time. This is going to be the time when you will likely see the longest lines. It does not mean we have not been there in an hour! It means we are doing our best and we are working the hardest! Remember safety is the most important priority at Disney World! And if it is pouring down raining, our buses might have to go 5 miles an hour slower. This is what we are instructed to do to keep everyone safe! So please be a little patient. We are doing our best to make you happy! And I challenge you to look at your watch when you arrive at the bus stop. It always seems longer when you are waiting than it really is. You should see a bus APPROXIMATELY every 20 min to any destination on the entire FORTY SEVEN SQUARE MILE property. That's 33,000 acres of land. It takes time to get from place to place! We have not yet implemented our magic carpets yet.

I'm a Disney World bus driver. Our buses are dispatched by computer system APPROXIMATELY every 20 min. We constantly get comments from guests that they have waited longer. But we know it to be untrue. We have a record of when our buses arrive at each destination.like the article says, we are all on GPS system. It informs our dispatchers if we are off route or not moving. So we are not just off having a snack leaving people waiting. And none of us like to hear unhappy guests upon our arrival. We are mature professionals who enjoy our jobs. Our dispatchers can tell you at what time the last bus arrived at a destination. And 9 times out of 10 you could go back and check the record and it would tell you what bus was at which location at any given time. And Disney did listen to guests about the issue of guest not knowing the very minute the bus would arrive. Well bus systems that work this way are usually doomed to fail. Because there are times when you have weather conditions, traffic conditions, bus break downs etc. We do have a system to where if there is a bus breakdown, we can easily plug in another bus to do that run at any time. We do this by not using one bus to do one run. We are dispatched every time we go into the hub (or park). And it is not as mysterious as it is made out to be here. The parks are the hubs. This is where you make connections to other resorts. The closest park to you is the one you should use to make your connections. Ask any bus driver if you need help with this. Any of us can give you the proper information. Don't ask front desk people. They often don't know the best routes. That's like asking one of us about things inside resorts we never go into. We don't know. We do try to give you any information we can. And Disney has started implementing a new system in each resort with screens that tell you approximately what time the next bus to the destination of your choice is going to arrive. But it is not working totally as designed yet. You might get a time for two or three parks but two might not be showing a time. The system is undergoing some bugs. But it's a huge system. We have nearly 400 buses going to all of our destinations all day and into the night! It is the 3rd largest fleet in the state of Florida! And they are working on it. But if you come out at peak times you will likely see full buses and long lines. We try our best to be prepared for peak times and we have extra buses out there. Sometimes there are sudden rainstorms when everyone everywhere are all coming out at the same time. This is going to be the time when you will likely see the longest lines. It does not mean we have not been there in an hour! It means we are doing our best and we are working the hardest! Remember safety is the most important priority at Disney World! And if it is pouring down raining, our buses might have to go 5 miles an hour slower. This is what we are instructed to do to keep everyone safe! So please be a little patient. We are doing our best to make you happy! And I challenge you to look at your watch when you arrive at the bus stop. It always seems longer when you are waiting than it really is. You should see a bus APPROXIMATELY every 20 min to any destination on the entire FORTY SEVEN SQUARE MILE property. That's 33,000 acres of land. It takes time to get from place to place! We have not yet implemented our magic carpets yet.

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