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

Mar 31, 2022

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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.

Socially distanced meeting with Mickey
(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.

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 courtesy of Disney Parks.

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