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Disney World fans were thrilled to hear the magic is back! Disney World Parks in Orlando reopened on July 11 for Magic Kingdom and Disney’s Animal Kingdom and then on July 15 for Epcot and Disney’s Hollywood Studios. This TravelingMom was one of the first ones in through the turnstile for the Magic Kingdom grand reopening after four months closed because of the coronavirus.
Read on for tips, information and impressions from the first glimpse of the reopened Disney World, including a video that shows just how uncrowded Disney is at 25 percent capacity!
If you are thinking about a Walt Disney World Resort vacation this summer or fall, these are things you should know before you head to Orlando.
Changes at Disney World
First, let’s go over the safety measures for guests visiting Disney World during the phased reopening:
- Park attendance limited in accordance with CDC guidelines for physical distancing using a new park reservation system. (More on that in a minute.)
- To enter a park, both a reservation and valid admission for that park on that date is required.
- Face masks with ear loops are required for all guests (ages 2 and up) and all cast members (Disney employees). Face coverings are required by Orange County, Florida, ordinance.
- Temperature screenings are required in some locations.
- Some experiences—including theme parks—may be modified or unavailable to allow for physical distancing and limited contact
- Helpful technology and the My Disney Experience app will help you make the most of the magic
Disney Park Pass System
To manage attendance during this reopening period, while also helping guests plan ahead before their arrival, Disney introduced the new Disney Park Pass system. During this time, all guests with valid admission are required to make a reservation in advance for each park entry, using this new online tool.
To enter a park, both a park reservation AND valid admission for the same park on the same date are required for each person in your party ages 3 and up (limit one park per day).
Face Masks at Disney
Face masks are required for everyone ages 2 and up. Bring your own face mask and wear them at all times, except when dining or swimming.
All face masks (whether disposable or reusable) must:
- Be made with at least two layers of breathable material.
- Fully cover the nose and mouth and secure under the chin.
- Fit snugly but comfortably against the side of the face.
- Be secured with ties or ear loops and allow the guest to remain hands-free.
At this time, based on guidance from health authorities, neck gaiters and open-chin triangle bandanas are not acceptable face coverings.
Disney World Video Tips
The author shares her insights during a video interview with TravelingMom:
Is Disney World Safe?
This is a hard question to answer. Everyone has different thresholds for “feeling safe.” As a family that typically travels over 200 days per year, we never felt unsafe during the pandemic. Travel is an inherently risky endeavor. Especially, if you travel overseas. We always take appropriate precautions, but know that we’re taking a risk.
With that being said, we felt perfectly safe at the Magic Kingdom. Between the mandatory masks and social distancing, as well as the new plexiglas installed in rides and queues, required mobile ordering for food, and limited capacity, the Magic Kingdom has never felt more safe.
I’ve never seen so many hand sanitizer stations! There were 3-4 at every shop entrance and of course, at every ride. Cast members required guests to use hand sanitizer before getting on any ride.
Where Disney Could Do Better
There were a couple areas that could use improvement, to ensure the utmost security measures are in place.
- We did not see the enhanced sanitary measures we expected. Disney always set the bar high for hygiene and sanitation in the theme parks, so there’s not a lot of room to “improve.” However, many of the janitorial staff were just standing around. We didn’t see a lot of repeated cleaning of handrails and trash cans. The rides were only wiped down every two hours (over that time, a ride vehicle could see a LOT of passengers). So, sanitizing commonly touched items (handrails, trash cans, etc.) and ride vehicles could use some improvement for the most safety conscious guests.
- As I mentioned, Disney requires mobile ordering, at this time. Additionally, cast members do not allow guests to enter the restaurant until their order is ready. This resulted in some bunched up crowds outside many of the dining locations. Now, they’re outside in the fresh aid, not in an enclosed space, which is safer. And everyone was wearing masks, so I believe the risk from this issue is minimal.
What is Different for the Disney World Reopening?
There are so many things that are different, but even with these differences the Disney magic is still there. Here are a few things that are different.
We already talked about face masks. You are required to wear a face mask all day at the Disney Parks, except when you are eating or drinking. Disney also has created “Relaxation Stations” where you can take off your mask. You still have to keep social distance, but this is a great way to relax a bit without masks, especially in the oppressive Florida heat.
The Disney cast members wore face masks and face shields. This did make communication a little tougher. There were several times I had to ask cast members to repeat themselves when giving us directions.
Disney partnered with Advent Health to provide temperature screenings at the Disney Parks and Disney Springs. Everyone in your family will get a temperature check to enter. The thermometer is held a couple inches from your head. If your temperature is 100.4 degrees or higher, you and your party will be asked to leave. The temp checks were a quick process. It only took a few seconds to check our entire family.
Disney does have floor markers and signage everywhere reminding you of social distancing. You will see these anywhere there would be clusters of people. This includes the temperature testing, security, queues, merchandise shops, quick service, etc. Just friendly reminders to keep the distance between fellow guests and cast members.
You will also find social distancing on the rides and shows. For rides like Flight of Passage at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Park, Disney cast members will have your family in your own vehicle. For rides like Jungle Cruise, your family would be separated from other families with plastic separators. Disney did an excellent job of social distancing.
Use Mobile Ordering
Disney recommends mobile ordering via the My Disney Experience app for any quick service location. We always use mobile ordering, just because it saves you so much time. During reopening, this is key to ordering food at the Disney Parks.
I only saw mobile ordering at places like Cosmic Ray’s and Pecos Bill at Magic Kingdom. I even saw cast members helping guests set up the app and use it outside the restaurant.
TravelingMom Tip: Phone batteries drain fast at Disney World, between taking all those photos, using the My Disney Experience app and searching for wifi service. Bring an external battery pack to ensure your phone lasts throughout the day and into the night.
The Disney Characters are such a major part of any family vacation to Disney. The character experiences are different at Disney World for reopening, but just as magical!
The Disney Characters do keep the social distance. This means you can get a “social distancing” selfie. You will not be able to give hugs or get close to the characters. They do keep the proper social distancing.
You can see the Disney Characters throughout the Disney Parks. You may see a character parade down Main Street USA, Anna and Elsa in a parade at Epcot, or StormTroopers at Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge. They may be in a parade, on a stage, on a balcony, or in the distance.
These experiences can be just as magical. One of my favorites was with Winnie the Pooh at EPCOT. He was waving at guests near Journey into Imagination with Figment, on a hill next to a tree. Pooh was waving to guests and pausing for selfie pics. He was dancing, playing hide and seek with the kids behind a tree, and just having fun. I loved watching the kids interact with him. It was one of my favorite Disney Character experiences ever.
Hand Sanitizer & Hand Washing Stations
Disney does an excellent job of providing resources to keep your hands clean. There are large signs next to all restrooms, as a reminder to wash your hands. There also are extra portable hand washing stations throughout the parks and Disney Springs.
You will also find hand sanitizer throughout the merchandise shops, quick service locations, restaurants, snack kiosks, and more. You will also find hand sanitizer before you enter a ride line, right before you board the attraction, and after you get off the ride.
Disney is providing limited capacity at the Disney Resorts, Disney Springs, and at the Disney Parks. In addition, there is even limited capacity at restaurants and stores at the Disney Parks.
Disney Park Pass Reservations
Disney now requires a theme park ticket AND Disney Park Pass reservation to enter the Disney Parks. This new reservation system helps keep the Disney Parks at limited capacity. Disney is reserving a select number of entries for Annual Passholders, Disney Resort guests, and theme park visitors.
When planning your Disney World vacation, you should check the Disney Park Pass calendar first to make sure tickets are available for your favorite parks. If there are tickets available, you can start booking your Disney Package and then make your Park Pass reservations. This is a new step in the Disney World planning process for visiting Mickey Mouse.
Your Disney Park reservation and theme park tickets are still attached to your Disney MagicBands. You will still use your MagicBand to gain access into the parks (without using your fingerprint).
What’s NOT at Disney World Now
No FastPass+ Reservations
During the Disney Parks reopening, there are no FastPass+ reservations. Check wait times on your My Disney Experience app. You can click on the map to see the current wait times for the rides and attractions.
Even though FastPass+ reservations are gone, the wait times are fantastic. With limited capacity, the wait times were not long. We walked on Peter Pan with a 5 minute wait, Mine Train was only 20 minutes, and Thunder Mountain was only 15 minutes on reopening day. We love walking right on our favorite rides, without a wait. You normally have to pay for a premium special event party to walk right on these rides without a wait.
No Nighttime Shows or Fireworks
Disney has canceled its popular nighttime shows and fireworks spectaculars for the foreseeable future. No surprise there, considering the huge crowds that cram together to watch the spectacular shows at the end of the park day.
Sadly, the parades have been cancelled, too. Same reason — people line the streets, shoulder to shoulder.
No Extra Magic Hours
Extra Magic Hours, the early morning and late night hours reserved solely for guests staying at Disney Resort hotels, are gone for now.
Disney Magic Lives On
Disney World is different, but the magic is still there! It was amazing to walk into Magic Kingdom and see the updated pink Cinderella Castle and ride Thunder Mountain and see Tigger dance down the street for the character parade.
How do you feel about visiting Walt Disney World in Florida? Are you ready to experience the magic again?
About the Author
As a Florida local, Allison Jones grew up right down the road from Mickey. Some of her favorite childhood memories are with her family at Magic Kingdom. She even worked at Disney as a lifeguard at Typhoon Lagoon and as a hostess at Tower of Terror. She continues her love of Disney today. Allison owns an online travel agency specializing in family travel. She also travels 200+ days of the year with her family. You may see her at Disney World, on Disney Cruises, or even at Tokyo Disney. You can find Allison on Jones Family Travels, on YouTube, or at her travel company at Destinations in Florida.