The decision to visit Walt Disney World during these crazy COVID times is definitely not to be taken lightly. Is the value there? Where is the magic? I can’t hug Mickey Mouse, so I’m not going….these and many other doubts and questions cross the minds of Disney travelers every day.
But in the end, is it “worth it” is what it comes down to. Having just returned from a 10-day Disney trip during the pandemic, I want to share my best tips and tricks with you, to assure you that if you are comfortable traveling, Disney is definitely a good option!
The first step to visiting Disney during a pandemic is to set your expectations accordingly. I think of it this way. First, if you are a frequent Disney traveler, you have likely done SO much at Walt Disney World, and you know this time will be different. We chose to focus this trip on attractions, and being fluid and flexible with our park plans. Not going to lie….touring the parks that way was AMAZING!
On the opposite side, if you are a first timer and this is your “one and done” Disney vacation, I would highly suggest waiting until things are more “normal”. If you follow what is happening in the parks, you’ll see that since they reopened the parks in July of 2020, Disney World has been slowly bringing back experiences and dining options as the months go by.
Once you have decided to go, you want to be prepared! As with all good Disney vacations, planning is involved, and this time is no different. Walt Disney World has instituted some changes that honestly, I hope are here to stay!
What to Expect in the Disney Parks
Upon arriving at your Disney park of the day, you will enter a temperature screening tent. A quick check of your temperature, and you are off to the tapstiles and security to start your day!
Be prepared at security to empty your park bag of aerosol, metal sunscreen bottles, umbrellas, external phone chargers, and stainless steel water bottles. Also, carry your park bag in front of you as you go through the metal detectors. This will speed up your entry and you will be on your way!
Wait times in the Disney parks are definitely not what they seem to be. First, the wait times on the app are somewhat inflated. From our experience, we did not wait longer than 45 minutes in a standby line for ANY attraction.
On a “normal” Disney trip with Fastpasses, our breaking point for standby is about 35 minutes. Otherwise, we look for a Fastpass or skip it that day.
My best advice is to hop in a line and just wait. The queues for the attractions a consistently moving. They definitely look WAY longer than the wait time, and before you know it, you’re on and off your favorite attraction. The queues are marked for distancing and this is something I hope stays for a LONG time.
It was SO nice to be in a queue and not have people in my space. This helped make our park day more fluid, as well. We could focus on one area of the park, without running from one side to the other, since wait times were consistent, regardless of the attraction.
Disney World Dining Safety Tips
First, Disney is not offering any dining plans. To be fair, I did miss the convenience of the dining plan.
On the opposite side, we were more cognizant of eating breakfast in our room, or having a snack we brought into the park instead of buying something. I think it evens out in the end, but as of now, there are not any Disney Dining Plans.
Mobile Order for Quick Service is a MUST. You want to be very familiar with the My Disney Experience App, and how Mobile Order works before you go to the parks. In fact, many Quick Service locations will not let you inside unless you can show that your order is ready. There are certainly exceptions, but overall, you need to know how to Mobile Order.
Table Service Dining is still “worth it”. We did a sit down meal almost every day of our trip. While many of your favorite character dining experiences were not available, we did make use of some of the table service locations we had not tried before, and came away with a few new favorites! Table Service Dining also offers a “Join Walk Up List” through My Disney Experience. So if you decide at the last minute that you want a sit down meal, and you had not previously booked one you can try to join a walk up list at one of the locations in the park.
When you are seated, there are no menus. Guests utilize a QR code to access the menu through their phones. This, along with mobile order, makes it more important than ever to have a portable charger with you in the parks to keep your phone charged.
My new favorite trick is to book a sit down meal within the last hour, or even closer, to park close. We were able to leave a nearly empty Magic Kingdom, EPCOT, and Hollywood Studios each night because of this. This makes for great photos, and you aren’t caught in the rush of the crowd trying to get back to your resort.
Masks aren’t hateful. When Disney first implemented the mask wearing, there were many travelers who refused to go to the parks until it was lifted. However, that doesn’t appear to be happening any time soon, so why not make the best of it? I am so thankful I did not let the wearing of a mask get in between me and making memories with my daughter at Disney.
If you have to wear a mask, make sure it’s one you like! Cloth masks, disposable, microfiber…there are more than enough options out there for you! I highly suggest taking two masks per person per day, including a disposable or two. From experience, wear a disposable on rides like Splash Mountain… trust me, you’ll be glad you did!
Disney is not fooling around with the mask mandate. They are required for guests ages 2 and up, and if members of your travel party cannot wear one all day in the parks, Disney is asking you to choose a different time to travel. There are also Cast Members stationed at popular pictures spots in the parks, whose sole purpose is to tell guests to keep masks on for photos.
Know Disney’s Expectations Before You Go
Walt Disney World has an ENTIRE section of their website dedicated to everything you need to know before traveling to the parks. From mask wearing, to dining options, to Park Pass Reservations, it is all there. They even update the resort offerings as they open as well.
Choose Your Resort Wisely
One of the key aspects to enjoying Walt Disney World during the pandemic is to choose your Disney Resort wisely.
First, the park hours are more limited than normal, and close a little “earlier” than many Disney travelers are used to. Personally, I was fine with this. This meant we could be back at our resort at a decent hour, enjoy some time at the pool, and regroup for the next day.
On previous trips, if we closed out a park, we weren’t back to our room until close to 11 or midnight, meltdowns ensued, and we fell into bed exhausted and woke up the next day to do it all over again!
While all of the Disney resorts have fun pools, choosing a resort with several pools as well as some activities is key. You are going to have more resort time, and that is okay! Another key factor is to choose a resort that is in proximity to other dining options.
Not ALL the restaurants at the resorts are open. So, you will likely get tired of the same food ALL.THE.TIME. Choosing a monorail or Skyliner resort opens up lots of options for you.
This may also be a good time to explore a studio or villa set up at one of the DVC resorts or Art of Animation suites. Having those extra bathrooms, kitchen amenities, and even extra space will be a great perk since you will be at the resort more.
Visiting Walt Disney World during a pandemic was a great choice for our family. We had our expectations set, toured the parks more leisurely and enjoyed so many of the small details. Focusing on attractions was key. We were able to enjoy so many headliner attractions literally over and over. Some things we would only ride once IF we were lucky to get a Fastpass.
The magic is very much alive in the Walt Disney World Parks. The Castmembers are so glad to be back, and Disney is bringing the magic to guests in new and fresh ways. I hope your family decides to visit the Disney Parks sooner than later!