It’s been nearly four months since Walt Disney World closed its gates for guests of its theme parks and folks in the Orlando & Central Florida areas. This week, Disney World reopening is making folks planning their Disney vacations wonder what’s changed and how the parks are keeping folks protected. From safety measures to queuing up for rides to restaurants and well being, here’s everything you need to know about Disney World reopening.
1. Disneyland VS. Walt Disney World Reopening Dates
Recently, Disneyland had announced that it had backed up its opening date due to state approval. And, while folks were a bit sad over it, keeping safety in mind is top priority. For reference (and if you like dates), Shanghai Disneyland opened on May 11th and Hong Kong Disneyland opened on June 18th, both with reduced capacity.
Walt Disney World, however, kept with its original opening date of July 11 (Annual Passholder reviews were on July 9 & 10) for Magic Kingdom and Disney’s Animal Kingdom.
On July 15th, all Disney World theme parks continued with its phased reopening, so fans of Star Wars in Disney’s Hollywood Studios and a limited Epcot Food & Wine Festival can get their fill.
Disney Resort Hotels opened just a couple of weeks ago and are offering a phased opening plan with DVC Resorts opening first and additional properties opening at a later date into mid-October. For now, there’s no planned reopening for my family’s favorite on-property lodging, the All-Star Resorts. Guests are required to wear face masks in all common areas and restaurants along with physical distancing, but wearing them in your room isn’t necessary.
Compliments of cancelling summer reservations due to the pandemic, the new reservation system opened in late June to reschedule. These days, guests are encouraged to use online check-in via My Disney Experience and skip the front desk altogether if possible.
2. Disney Parks and Coronavirus in Florida & California
With coronavirus cases on the rise in Osceola County, Florida and Orange County, California, Disney truly has to go above and beyond to keep us all safe when we visit. And while we won’t know the measures put in place for the west coast parks yet, this week I learned a ton about what the Walt Disney World Resort is doing.
Before WDW parks opened, we knew a few things simply based on Disney Springs. Reopening on May 20th and keeping with all health and safety protocols, all cast members and guests were required to wear face coverings except for eating or drinking and maintain social distancing of six feet apart. Additionally, temperature checks were mandatory for both, too.
Following the rules of government officials and health experts (the CDC and coronavirus task forces in the county) for the pandemic, Disney has been monitoring positive covid-19 cases. Mid-June, an employee at T-Rex Restaurant (a sit down-style dining option) reportedly tested positive but no official statement from Disney was made.
Okay, let’s get into the details about park opening measures.
3. What’s NOT at the Disney Parks in Walt Disney World for 2020?
I’m starting with what’s not at Disney World because, if you’re reading this to help plan your Disney vacation, not having these when you visit may be a deal breaker.
This year, and into 2021, there will not be any fireworks or nighttime shows to end the park day. Also, parades have been cancelled as well. Instead of parades ad meet and greets, WDW is offering Character Cavalcades. Honestly, they’re adorable. FYI: Cavalcades are not on the schedule, so my advice is, when you hear background music change, keep an eye out.
Yep, it’s a bummer but maintaining social distancing is a very high priority. Extra Magic Hours have stopped also, which has always been a huge perk of staying on property at a Disney World Resort.
As for the Disney World water parks, they’re on hold, too. Working with a phased reopening plan, no dates have been announced for Blizzard Beach or Typhoon Lagoon.
So, what else?
There’s no traditional character meet and greet style. While I personally love giving Mickey a hug, if it means keeping myself and my family safe, I’m happy to have a distanced conversation for now. And probably the most painful for me, Fastpasses are not available as well.
And lastly, there’s no walking up to a Walt Disney World theme park turnstile and getting the go ahead to enter. All guests must reserve entry via the Disney Park Pass System, which is not without its glitches. Without notice, Annual Passholders received a message for a preview via the My Disney Experience app and it was sold out within 45 minutes.
I was lucky; my Apple Watch pinged me via push notification so I was able to get passes for my family. Folks with hotel reservations were able to score theme park reservations first, which makes complete sense.
For the autumn season, many fans (myself included) sighed with sadness over the cancellation of Mickey’s not-So-Scary Halloween Party. There hasn’t been an official cancellation update for Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party yet, but I expect it to be in the near future unless the pandemic gets well under control.
4. Kids and Masks at Walt Disney World
Children under age two aren’t required to wear a face mask while at a Disney Park, Disney Springs, or in the Disney Resorts, so I’m not counting them.
Did cast members ask guests to put their face coverings on properly? Oh, yeah. Not only were there frequent announcements about social distancing and wearing face coverings, cast members were quick to let guests know about maintaining both the properly.
If you’re looking for good, affordable masks, check Target. We found ones that stayed on well and aren’t too flashy – and they were two in a package for $4.00. And if you can’t find any at Target, the Disney World theme parks have plenty they’re selling at $6.00 each or four for $20.00.
5. Disney Theme Park Entry & Bag Check
Transportation & Ticket Center temperature screenings are for boat and monorail. For the other three parks, it’s located at the park entrance before the window for park tickets. It was super easy and we were directed in an orderly manner, too. We simply walked right in between the scanners with our tech devices out and at arm’s length.
Speaking of bags, here are 10 more things to pack in your Disney World park bag for 2020 and 2021.
I know, kids can get messy. Add in the fact that strollers are generally parked THISCLOSE together when you’re hitting an attraction and it’s not ideal. At least for Animal Kingdom, I did notice that cast members were directing guests to park their own strollers.
Folks seemed pretty good about not parking them side by side as well, so you’ll have to use your good judgement. I sure wouldn’t want to put mine bang next to someone else’s.
7. How Stressful Is It In the Parks?
Honestly, it wasn’t stressful at all. The crowd level was super low and, even though it was hot, neither adults or kids were complaining. That’s a very good thing.
8. Rides at Disney World: How Clean and How Many?
Okay, there is something I have to mention about the rides. While there are hand sanitizing stations everywhere we looked, I didn’t notice cast members cleaning the ride seats down before or after guests. Personally, I’ll take sanitizing wipes and do it myself next time for peace of mind.
9. All the Hand Sanitizer
Like I mentioned above, I didn’t have to dip into my own stash of hand sanitizer once during my time in the theme park. Plus, hand washing stations were in places where bathrooms weren’t. So, between washing my hands at the stations and bathrooms, and hand sanitizer, I felt confident touring the park.
The bathrooms were not congested at all. They also seemed very clean, too. The hand dryers were turned off so it was paper towels for the win. Again, if it means a successful Disney World reopening, I’m all for it.
11. Social Distancing
It was not a problem at all. If cast members saw someone getting too close to another party, they made sure to let them know, in the nicest possible way, to keep a wide distance.
12. Dining: Eating and Drinking with a Mask
For now, unless you already had an advanced dining reservation that was cancelled, there’s no way to get into Table Service dining. So, my advice is for Quick Service Dining locations.
We were strongly encourages to use mobile ordering for Satu’li Canteen. When our order was ready and prepared, we were allowed to enter the restaurant. It only took maybe five minutes to get our food and find a seat.
Before and after eating, we kept our masks on. While the official policy is to remove your mask once seated, I just feel more comfortable with it on as much as possible.
13. Cast member Cleanings
There were plenty of cast members with cleaning products and towels to wipe down hand rails, dining seats, and tables. If I’m being honest, I actually looked for a freshly-cleaned table to eat at for lunch. With Disney World reopening, I’ve heard plenty of times that guests are responsible for wiping down tables and chairs. Personally, I had to do it a few times just for peace of mind.
Make sure you look for the entrance to the shops as it’s a one way in, one way out situation. I’m sure it’s to keep count so guests don’t go over capacity.
15. Walt Disney World Resort & Theme Park Transportation
I’m not a huge fan of crowded areas to begin with, so buses and boats packed to the hilt is not appealing. WDW has made provisions for folks on its transportation system and has marked locations to stand and sit. For the monorails, cars are separated by barriers and each party has its own side.
Of course, always check with local and state covid-19 updates and play it safe. For example, at the time this post was written, folks coming from the New York tri-state area are required to quarantine for 14 days when they arrive.