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It was the moment Disney lovers had been waiting for: an announcement that Walt Disney World is ready to reopen after the long, trying COVID-19 shutdown. Disney’s reopening plans, approved by Florida authorities on May 29, include changes likely to upset loyal customers. Here is what we know, and some insights into how your visit might look different post-coronavirus pandemic.
Proposed Reopening of Walt Disney World Theme Parks
Disney World’s plans, approved on May 29, call for the four parks to reopen slowly beginning on July 11. That’s when the Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom open. EPCOT and Hollywood Studios will follow on July 15.
Beyond that, details relayed on the Disney Parks Blog are skimpy. But, it is clear, that people who have been itching to buy a ticket and head to Orlando will need to wait a while longer.
What We Know about the Walt Disney World Reopening
- New tickets sales and Disney resort hotel reservations are temporarily paused.
- Disney is focused on working with people who already have tickets and hotel reservations, such as people who had Disney vacations planned that were postponed by the shutdown.
- ALL dining reservations have been canceled, including reservations made as part of Disney dining plans included in packages. When reservations resume, the booking window will start 60 days ahead of a trip, down from the former 180 days.
- FastPass+ reservations have been canceled.
- There will be a reservation system for entry into the parks.
- Extra Magic Hours are suspended.
- Disney Vacation Club members can make new reservations.
- Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort and Campground will reopen on June 22nd along with Disney Vacation Club resorts at Walt Disney World. Read this line twice. It means not all properties will be opening at the same time.
- Experiences that draw large groups – such as parades and nighttime spectaculars – will be paused for the near term.
- “High-touch” experiences such as makeover opportunities, playgrounds and character meet and greets will remain temporarily unavailable, although Disney characters will still be in the parks.
- Disney states that: “Additional information on enhanced health and safety measures and operational changes for reopening locations will be shared soon.”
- Guests will be subject to temperature checks and guests ages 3 and up will be required to wear masks.
During the closure: The Re-Open Florida Task Force has been meeting and setting guidelines for a safe reopening. Josh D’Amaro, former President of Walt Disney World Resort, is on this task force along with John Sprouls (CEO Universal Orlando Resort and Executive Vice President of Universal Parks & Resorts).
If You Have a Disney Vacation Booked
The single biggest takeaway we’ve gotten from all information put out by Disney is to make sure that the email address on your reservation is one you check regularly. Disney is making all notifications by email. Phone wait times can be lengthy; digital contact is definitely the way to go right now. If you used a travel agent to book your Disney vacation, notifications will go to the travel agent.
No Word Yet on Disneyland Reopening
Based on what we have seen with the proposed Walt Disney World reopening plan here’s what you should know for Disneyland. After announcing its proposed reopening dates, ticket sales and hotel reservations for Walt Disney World were temporarily suspended. At this point, the website is allowing reservations beginning July 1 for Disneyland. But no reopening announcement yet.
If you’re hankering for a Disneyland trip it may be best to hedge your bets. Chat with Get Away Today about changeable plans and lock in tickets and a reservation before opening dates are announced. Disney is working with guests with reservations first.
How Theme Park Re-Openings Might Look
As we said, details on how the Disney World reopening will work are skimpy. However, as travel writers who have seen practices in place around the world at the beginning of this pandemic, and as keen Disney watchers, we’ve got some thoughts. These are what we like to call logical speculation, our best guesses on what might happen.
One thing we know: Social distancing will still be in place. How will social distancing impact the Disney Parks? Around the country and the world, task forces have been meeting to discuss steps that need to happen for large venues to open.
Update 5/5/2020: Disney’s Chief Medical Officer put out a statement that confirms some of our assumptions.
At a minimum, expect these for employees daily. It is likely that in the first few weeks of reopening, all guests also will have their temperature checked before they enter the theme parks.
These will be abundantly located around the parks. We visited in the first week of March and saw them everywhere. The Orange County Economic Recovery Task Force has mandated that touchless hand sanitizer be located at the entrance and exit to every ride. We love this. It’s much more manageable to have everyone sanitize their hands than wipe down pull bars and belts between riders.
Currently, the turnstiles at the entrance to all of the parks like Magic Kingdom and EPCOT require you to tap your MagicBand and put a finger on the scanner. It is likely that these entries will temporarily be made touchless with no fingerprint required.
Expect all employees to be wearing face masks, except for character performers (princesses, princes, etc). Character performers will be socially distancing, so no meet and greets for the foreseeable future. Based on the trend at Shanghai Disney and Disney Springs, we believe masks also will be mandated for guests, except when dining. ShopDisney recently added some pretty adorable Disney-themed face masks. One more way to Disneybound!
Resort Guest Priority
In Phase 2, non-essential travel in Florida is not recommended and vacation rentals are open to Florida residents only. Theme parks are allowed to open at reduced capacity. There shouldn’t be any major issues with parks closing due to capacity being reached. Realistically, guests would be Florida residents.
During Phase 3, when non-essential travel restrictions are lifted, we believe that when parks reach capacity, people staying at on-property Disney resorts will be given priority entrance. Historically, Disney has prioritized admissions for annual passholders and resort guests, even on dates when the parks are packed, like New Years Eve. .
TravelingMom Tip: Disney doesn’t officially release capacity numbers, but online sources have said that Magic Kingdom has a capacity of 100,000 guests. That means a capacity of 50,000 if Disney World keeps to a 50 percent level.
Quick Service Dining
Quick Service Dining services will likely be amped up. In keeping with social distancing guidelines, table service dining restaurants would not be able to seat a party larger than 10 and would have to add more space between tables. It’s an obvious conclusion to assume that quick service dining will be encouraged.
The My Disney Experience app will become even more important. You could always place mobile food areas at specific outlets (like Magic Kingdom’s Caseys). Expect more locations to become available for mobile ordering.
Theme parks will tape off 6 foot guidelines in line. Even with that, it will be difficult to maintain social distancing in lines, so we expect virtual queues to become more utilized. Some of you may have experienced the virtual queue process for Hollywood Studio’s Rise of the Resistance. This process requires guests to be in the park to enter the queue. However, we think the process will be more immediate. Maybe a Curbside approach? You order your ride and then click “I’m here” when you arrive to get an exact time slot to enter the ride. Again, this is our best guess. We’d love to hear how you would run virtual queues in the comments.
Expect some changes here. The tricky parts? Rides like Typhoon Lagoon’s Crush ‘n’ Gusher and Blizzard Beach’s Toboggan Racers involving rafts and floats. Disney will need to sanitize those. The biggest changes will be on Blizzard Beach’s Cross Country Creek Lazy River. You used to be able to just grab a float along the 3,000 foot attraction and hop in. Another thought: Watch for reserved cabanas or family seating. We’ve got to imagine that offering reserved seating will minimize the number of roving cast members on chair sanitizer duty.
A Different Type of Character Experience
Disney has announced that high-touch experiences like makeovers and character meet and greets will be on hold for right now. That doesn’t mean the Disney magic will disappear. Expect roving characters that you can see from a distance. There have been some creative photo opportunities at the reopened Shanghai Disneyland and Disney Springs including Princess Aurora’s fairy godmothers on castle balconies and Stormtroopers patrolling shops.
Your thoughts on this are as good as ours. We’re assuming Disney doesn’t really want to put cast members at risk by having them dig through the bags of every guest. But, they’re also not going to let park safety slide. If we had to speculate, we’d say more metal detector use and possibly the addition of some type of random bag check (every 7th guest for example) or bag scanners.
Where to Buy Discounted Disney Tickets
Traveling Mom recommends Get Away Today for discounted Disney tickets and vacation packages. Not only does the company have the lowest prices, but it also offers a best price guarantee. If you ever find park tickets cheaper, Get Away Today won’t just match the price, the company will beat it. Read our full review of Get Away Today here. With their Peace of Mind and layaway plans it’s the perfect way to plan your next Disney vacation.
When Will Disney Reopen? A Park-by-Park Guide
Disney World Resort Area Transportation
No announcements on Magical Express changes have been made at this time. (5/28/2020)
It seems likely that transportation options may have cut capacity to promote social distancing. This makes the Skyliner a great option since families can travel in their own gondola. We expect busses, monorails, and boats to have reduced capacity. Busses may end up being a winning option here since Disney has extra to put into service.
This could also impact Magical Express capacity from the airport. Families, especially larger families, may want to consider a car rental once they’re in Orlando. If you’re staying in a resort area hotel you’ll pay for parking but then parking in the theme park lots will be free.
Disney Springs: Phased Reopening Began on May 20, 2020
Since Disney Springs in Orlando, Florida is made up of retail tenants and restaurants, we had predicted that it would open earlier than the parks. The phased reopening started on May 20, with limited parking, capacity and hours.
Self-parking is available only in the Orange and Lime garages. From there, guest go through a temperature checkpoint. Face coverings must be worn at all timest, except when eating or drinking. The Re-Open Florida Task Force outlines that during Phase 1 restaurants should operate at 50% capacity using social distancing guidelines. Restaurants should prioritize patio dining and keep bar areas closed.
Retail establishments in Phase 1 are able to operate at 50% capacity while sanitizing high touch areas. Employee training on sanitation should be conducted and face masks should be encouraged.
Disneyland (Anaheim, California)
Update: In late May, Disney began canceling reservations into the 3rd week of June. In addition, booking dates are only available from July 1st onwards.
Located in Orange County California, Disneyland has no set opening date but at this time the website is allowing reservations beginning July 1. Currently, California Governor Newsom has announced a phased reopening for California, lifting the stay-at-home order in lower risk counties. The state is currently entering Phase 2 in some counties, which reopens low risk retail businesses for curbside pickup. The Disneyland Resort area likely wouldn’t reopen until Phase 4, which includes stadiums, concert halls and live sports. There is no timeline for that.
Earlier today, cast members welcomed guests back to Shanghai Disneyland. Check out highlights from the reopening: https://bit.ly/3coSB7v
Posted by Disney Parks Blog on Monday, May 11, 2020
Shanghai Disneyland Reopened May 11, 2020
Shanghai Disneyland, Disneytown, Wishing Star Park and Shanghai Disneyland Hotel reopened on May 11th with limited operations. Along with the announcement of reopening the following information was released. Disney will adjust these guidelines as the company assesses implementation and success.
- Be prepared to present a China government ID card, or valid travel document, for each guest at the park turnstiles (photos or printed copies will not be accepted)
- Purchase dated admission tickets for Shanghai Disneyland prior to arrival. On-site sales will not be available. Annual Pass holders must make a reservation for their visit date and time through Shanghai Disney Resort’s official online channels before their visit to the park.
- Provide basic personal information for each guest visiting the park, including name, phone number, ID type and ID number via Shanghai Disney Resort’s official online channels after purchasing a ticket and prior to arriving at the resort. A Shanghai Disneyland Reservation QR Code will be provided after the successful submission of the required identification information, and guests will be required to present the code before entering the theme park.
- All guests must wear an approved mask during the entire visit to the resort except when dining.
- Every guest and employee entering the area will need to undergo a temperature screening upon arrival and present their Shanghai green QR code. An app calculates the QR code. It combines factors such as travel history, exposure to coronavirus patients, and a symptom checklist to “green light” someone to move around the area. Guests will need to register for their Health QR Code prior to their arrival.
At this time, Disneyland Paris is advising guests with reservations for June 15, 2020, or later that their bookings are still valid. Originally, France was planning to gradually reopen the economy starting May 11. France is reassessing the reopening (announced 5/4). A proposal being considered would extend the coronavirus health emergency through July 24, 2020. Paired with a quarantine requirement of 14 days for visitors from outside of the UK and Schengen area, it may be best to delay your trip until fall or later.
Note: Coronavirus has delayed construction on Disney’s Hotel New York- The Art of Marvel. If you have reservations before November 1, 2020 your trip will be impacted.
Tokyo Disneyland and Tokyo DisneySea
Tokyo Disneyland is closed. Originally reopening dates were supposed to be announced in mid-May. On May 25th, an announcement was made that closures were being extended. An announcement will now be made once requests for closure from the government and municipalities have been lifted. Since at this point Japan still has restricted tourist access including for those coming in from the United States, it could be awhile.
Hong Kong Disneyland
Hong Kong Disneyland remains closed. Disney has yet to announce a reopening date. Hong Kong has been denying entry to non-residents since March 26. Once that restriction lifts, we can expect to see a reopening date.
Which Disney park are you most excited to visit once it reopens?