It's fair to say that 2 p.m. in Florida on Tuesday will be a significant timeline moment for Walt Disney (DIS -3.39%) theme-park enthusiasts. Annual passholders will be able to enter any of Disney World's four iconic gated attractions without having to make a reservation. It may not seem like a big deal, but it will be the first time in more than 37 months since folks with year-round passes had that flexibility.

Passholders can't exactly party like it's 2019. Admissions without reservations are limited to anytime after 2 p.m. in the afternoon. The new access also isn't allowed at the flagship Magic Kingdom park on Saturdays or Sundays.

The annual passes also cost a bit more now than they did before the pandemic-related shutdown in March of 2020. However, outside of those nuances, it's a return to the freedom and spontaneity of dropping by a Disney World gated attraction on a whim -- as long as the day you want to visit isn't a blockout date on your actual pass tier or the park itself isn't at capacity. 

A whole new world

The timing is deliberate. The easing of restrictions was applauded when they were announced in February, but easier access starts now after the end of a very busy spring break season at Disney World. The parks were so crowded the last two weeks that the variable pricing for Genie+ -- the premium add-on that allows day guests online access to book return times in expedited queues at many rides and attractions -- hit a record $35 per guest. Genie+ is back to $20 per person this week. 

The move is long overdue and a win-win change for theme-park fans, as well as Disney shareholders. It's clear why annual passholders like the lifting of reservation restrictions for afternoon and evening visits. Locals can now just mosey over to their favorite Disney park to walk around, go on a few rides, and perhaps grab dinner. Other passholders can now book resort stays without fearing that they will get shut out of a day at the park, especially if they happen to be late risers. 

Shareholders may not have circled April 18 on the calendar with the same vigor as passholders but are the ones who will be smiling in the end. Making it easier for owners of annual passes to visit more frequently is a moneymaker.

Regulars don't historically spend as much as infrequent visitors and get discounts on many in-park purchases, but it's all incremental. Even cost-conscious passholders who don't expect to spend any money at the park will still help fill the coffers at the House of Mouse. When they enter the free standby line for a ride or experience, it makes the premium-priced Genie+ and individual Lightning Lane purchases that much more compelling for everybody else. 

Calling an audible for a pass play

Tuesday isn't the only day of note for regulars at the Florida resort this week. Disney World will start selling all four tiers of annual passes again to new buyers on Thursday. Purchases are currently limited to the entry-level Pixie Pass for in-state residents, an attractively priced pass at $399 for year-round access, but it's limited largely to off-season weekday visits. 

The passes may not last long. Disneyland resumed selling its annual passes last week and only the priciest plan is still available. The availability window may last longer at Disney World, where it has twice as many parks and different dynamics with locals, but Disney World will likely be keeping some of the passes on a short leash until it's able to ramp-up capacity through expansion and the return of all pre-pandemic offerings. 

This is still shaping up to be a big week for Disney World fans, as well as investors in the leading media stock. It may be a small world after all, but it's a huge opportunity for the world's largest theme-park operator.