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After 2 years — an iconic part of a Disney trip is finally returning

March 31, 2022
5 min read
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Every time I've visited Disney World lately, it's felt more and more like the "before times." Parades and fireworks are back, mandatory masks on attractions are a thing of the past and the crowds seem to grow every time I'm there.

One noticeable reminder that things aren't quite as they were is the velvet rope that stands between Mickey and guests like myself who can barely resist the urge to give him a big mouse hug every time I see him.

(Photo by Tarah Chieffi/The Points Guy)

Sure, you can still wave at him as he passes by atop a parade float or say "Hiya, pal" at one of the socially-distanced meet-and-greets around the parks, but there's nothing quite like the feeling of Mickey wrapping his white-gloved hand around your shoulder as you smile for a non-distanced photo.

I'm happy to report that the days of staying six feet away from Mickey – and your other favorite Disney characters – have come to an end. Disney announced today that traditional character meet-and-greets are returning not only to Disney World, but also to Disneyland, Aulani and the Disney Cruise Line.

And -- that's not the only much-beloved pre-pandemic offering that's finally returning to Disney.

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Details on when you can hug Mickey once again

(Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)

According to the Disney Parks Blog, traditional character greetings will begin their reintroduction to Disney World, Disneyland, Disney Cruise Line and Aulani Resort in Hawaii on April 18. Disney did state that "not all locations will be available immediately," and they "anticipate reopening in phases throughout the spring and early summer."

A favorite pre-pandemic Disney transportation option is returning, too

No, it's not the return of the free Magical Express Bus. But, there is another way to get around Disney World that we've missed sorely since the 2020 reopening that is making a much-anticipated return.

If you are looking for a spirited way to get around the parks with ease, Disney recently revealed via TikTok that the popular Minnie Van service is returning to Disney World this summer. The red-and-white polka-dot Minnie Vans can transport you between your Disney World resort hotel and Disney's theme parks, plus to and from the airport.

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When the service relaunches, you can book a Minnie Van through the Lyft app and pricing will vary based on the distance traveled.

(Summer Hull / The Points Guy)

Disney is resetting guest expectations for Genie+

Disney fans have had a love-hate relationship with Disney's new paid skip-the-line service, Genie+, since it launched at Disney World in Oct. 2021. Though TPG has had relative success with the service and knocked out quite a few more rides with it than without, there has been a lot of confusion around how to use the system and other guests who don't want to spend the day rabidly attached to their phones have had mixed results.

(Screenshot courtesy of Disney)

Perhaps in an attempt to temper expectations now that crowds are on the rise, Disney World added a snippet of information to the Disney Genie page on its website that states "On average, guests can enter 2 to 3 attractions or experiences per day using the Lightning Lane entrance if the first selection is made early in the day."

(Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)

In our experience, you can get through many more than 2 to 3 attractions, but it's possible on busy days that your $15 per person will only get you skip-the-line access to a few attractions. Similar verbiage was not added to Disneyland's website where the service costs $5 more and there are more attractions to choose from than at some of the Disney World parks.

Related: Is Disney's new paid Genie+ service worth it?

How to use Disney Genie+ to meet characters without the long wait

Speaking of a certain lamp-dweller, one of the experiences you can utilize it for is character meet-and-greets. In the age of social distancing, lines to meet Mickey and other characters have been short (I waited less than 10 minutes recently), but once hugs and PhotoPass photo sessions come back, those waits will most certainly go up.

(Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)

Currently, you can use Genie+ to reserve a Lightning Lane return time for certain character meet-and-greets like the Disney princesses at Magic Kingdom's Princess Fairytale Hall or Olaf at Hollywood Studios' Celebrity Spotlight. If you have a must-see character, it might be worth using Genie+ to skip the line.

Whether you choose to wait in line or skip to the front, get those hugging arms ready because Mickey and friends are waiting for you with arms wide open.

Featured image by Matt Stroshane, photographer
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
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Cons

  • Steep $550 annual fee
  • May not make sense for people that don't travel frequently
  • You must spend the $300 travel credit before earning 3x points for travel and dining
  • No automatic hotel elite status
  • Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,200 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • $300 Annual Travel Credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year.
  • Earn 5x total points on flights and 10x total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards® immediately after the first $300 is spent on travel purchases annually. Earn 3x points on other travel and dining & 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Get 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. For example, 80,000 points are worth $1,200 toward travel
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
  • Access to 1,300+ airport lounges worldwide after an easy, one-time enrollment in Priority Pass™ Select and up to $100 application fee credit every four years for Global Entry, NEXUS, or TSA PreCheck®
  • Count on Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Lost Luggage Insurance and more
Best premium travel card for value
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards Rate

10xEarn 10x total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
5xEarn 5x total points on flights through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
3xEarn 3x points on other travel and dining.
1xEarn 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Intro Offer
    Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,200 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®

    80,000 bonus points
  • Annual Fee

    $550
  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    740-850
    Excellent

Why We Chose It

If you are looking to take your premium rewards to the highest level, this card is really a no brainer in our eyes. Chase's Ultimate Rewards make points easy to redeem, with a wide range of 10 airline and three hotel transfer partners and a friendly user interface. Despite the high annual fee, Chase is consistently adding new benefits to keep the card competitive in a fierce premium rewards field.

Pros

  • $300 annual travel credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year
  • Access to Chase Ultimate Rewards hotel and airline travel partners
  • Unlimited 3x points on the broad category of travel and dining
  • 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • Broad definitions for travel and dining bonus categories

Cons

  • Steep $550 annual fee
  • May not make sense for people that don't travel frequently
  • You must spend the $300 travel credit before earning 3x points for travel and dining
  • No automatic hotel elite status
  • Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,200 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • $300 Annual Travel Credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year.
  • Earn 5x total points on flights and 10x total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards® immediately after the first $300 is spent on travel purchases annually. Earn 3x points on other travel and dining & 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Get 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. For example, 80,000 points are worth $1,200 toward travel
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
  • Access to 1,300+ airport lounges worldwide after an easy, one-time enrollment in Priority Pass™ Select and up to $100 application fee credit every four years for Global Entry, NEXUS, or TSA PreCheck®
  • Count on Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Lost Luggage Insurance and more