Updated May 16, 2021
After spending a year at home alone with the exception of a couple of road trips a couple of hours away, I finally got the courage to get on a plane and head south to Florida to celebrate my birthday at Walt Disney World.
Now why would someone who’s been extra cautious (and I’ll admit extra nervous) about covid-19 decide to go somewhere as crowded as Disney World during this pandemic. Well, it all comes down to mental health needs and familiarity. A year alone is rough and I needed the one thing that makes me truly happy, Disney World. And as much as I’ve been to Disney World in my life, it’s somewhere I feel familiar so god forbid I did get sick there (thank god I didn’t!), I would feel comfortable at least being somewhere familiar to me. And if anyone is going to be incredibly organized with covid-19 protocols, it’s definitely going to be an organized successful company like Disney!
So for anyone else looking to take the leap and head to Disney World, here are my tips on how to enjoy your trip.
Plan Your Park Days Before The Trip: A trip to Disney World has always required a lot of planning. In the past you would plan which park you wanted to go to each day based on your fast pass reservations that you could make 60 days before your trip. At this time fast passes are not available, but you must make reservations for the park you want to visit each day of your trip as the parks are only operating at 35% occupancy right now.
Some parks, and in most recent weeks during spring break, all the parks have been selling out of park passes. It’s incredibly important that before you book any part of your trip, to check the park pass availability
Once you’ve checked the availability calendar and see that there are park passes available when you want to travel, you can book your trip. I recommend that once you book your trip, you reserve your park passes right away so they don’t sell out, especially if you are going during a busier time of year.
Plan Your Dining Before The Trip: Just like before dining reservations can be made prior to arrival. In the past, reservations opened up 180 days before the trip, but now they are opening up 60 days before the trip. If you are comfortable dining indoors (I’m not quite there just yet), make sure to make your reservations at the 60 day mark. Restaurants have lower capacity due to social distancing of tables. Therefore, reservations are filling up quick.
Be Prepared For Mobile Ordering: If you are not wanting to do sit down meals or don’t feel comfortable with dining inside, then you will most likely be dining at quick service locations. For many of the quick service locations, they are requiring mobile ordering. Therefore it’s more important than ever to make sure you have a good cell phone battery.
After a year at home where I didn’t realize that my almost 2 1/2 year old phone had a really awful battery, probably made worse from me having it sitting in the wireless charger all day the past year. It caused some issues with mobile ordering as I had to keep putting my phone in airplane mode to conserve the battery and then taking it off of airplane mode, it took a moment to get working again, definitely time to upgrade my phone as I didn’t have issues last time I was at Disney World just before covid hit.
If you do have issues with the mobile order, there are cast members outside each restaurant that can help you and they do have lines to wait in to order food for those that can’t mobile order.
Another thing to keep in mind while using the mobile ordering, is that unlike before, quick service may not mean eating right away, sometimes you might need to wait. When you go into the app, you can select a time for your order. If you are a big planner, you could go on the app earlier in the day to plan your meals for later in the day. I personally just waited until I was ready to eat which normally wasn’t during the prime meal time, so I never waited more than a half hour.
Some of the more popular quick service locations like Woody’s Lunch Box at Disney’s Hollywood Studios can sometimes have a long wait, over an hour or more, so ones like these you may want to start your mobile order earlier in the day.
Bring Enough of the Right Face Masks: One of the reasons I felt comfortable visiting Disney World is that they are extremely strict when it comes to face masks. As of May 15 2021, Disney has updated their face mask policy. Face masks are no longer required when outside but are still required whenever indoors (unless eating or drinking), on all disney transportation and on all attractions, including when in line for attractions even if the lines are outdoors. For all the people that think wearing the mask below your nose is ok, this won’t fly at Disney, they will say something to you about wearing it properly over the mouth and nose.
It’s important to make sure you bring masks that are comfortable on you. And make sure to bring enough with you so you can change it out during the day. It can get pretty hot standing in line and no one wants a sweaty gross mask on their face. A lot of people find that the disposable masks are the coolest and I definitely agree, they don’t seem to stick to the face as much as the cloth masks and they are so easy to change out during the day. I am overly cautious and wore a disposable with a cloth mask on top of it, mostly because the disposable masks are too big for my face. The Disney cloth masks fit my face really well and are so cute!
No matter what mask works best for you, it’s important to remember while now you no longer need to wear the mask the entire day, you will still be wearing a mask for a quite some time during the day. The best thing is to have a positive outlook about it, it’s not fun, none of us enjoy the masks, but in my opinion wearing a mask all day at Disney is way better than working all day at home without a mask. Remember if you go into it with a negative attitude, you will have a negative experience. Positive attitudes help so much!
Be Prepared For Limited Hotel Room Housekeeping Services: While there is enhanced cleaning services in between guest check out and check in, the daily housekeeping that is normally offered for hotel guests is suspended at this time. Instead, every other day, light housekeeping services will be provided. This includes emptying trash, replenishing towels and bathroom amenities and wiping down of vanity and counters.
Be Prepared For Socially Distanced Disney Transportation: We have all had our issues in the past with the Disney transportation taking a long time and being crammed onto an overly crowded bus. Thankfully they are limiting the amount of people on the bus and each party is being assigned their own section to sit in so the crowded buses are not an issue at this time.
While the lines appear long, I personally felt they moved quicker than normal. While less people make it onto each bus, the wait in between buses during busy times seemed less, sometimes they would have one or two buses waiting while boarding another bus. They also recently started using coach buses for some of the busier resorts which can hold more people even when social distanced.
The best part of the buses right now is the guarantee of a seat on the bus. There was nothing worse than having to stand on a bus after a long day on your feet at the park. With every disadvantage there is an advantage. Would you wait a bit longer to have a comfortable ride back to the resort, I know I would.
Don’t Be Misled By Long Lines and Wait Times: With each party having to be six feet apart in lines for the rides, the lines definitely appear ALOT longer than they actually are.
Also the wait times aren’t always accurate. Good news, the wait for most rides are less than the posted wait times, some by 10 minutes or so, but some by a lot. When I was there, the wait time for Big Thunder Mountain was posted as 40 minutes, but I only waited 10 maybe 15 minutes tops.
The overly cautious person in me must remind you to pay attention to the very clear “Please Wait Here” markers on the ground in the lines. “Please Wait Here” means here not 4 feet ahead of the marker bringing you 2 feet from the party in front of you. You won’t get on the ride any quicker, so covid aside, why not have the luxury of space between you and a perfect stranger on a hot day 🙂
Enjoy the New “Magic” in the park: Due to social distancing, things like character meet and greets, parades, fireworks and shows aren’t happening right now. Disney has of course tried to make up for this by having some magical extras in the park.
At certain locations, at unposted times, they have characters in the park for you to take that socially distanced selfie with. (As a reminder, Disney has a strict face mask policy which requires face masks to be kept on for all pictures). To me this was a different and fun way to see the characters and it was nice to not be wasting time in line to see them.
To replace the parades they have unscheduled Character Cavalcades thru the park. This to me was always a fun surprise and I loved seeing them more than seeing the normal parades. The ones in Animal Kingdom were on boats on the water which was a lot of fun to see. Check out the below video from Magic Kingdom.
Have a Magical Trip: The final tip is to have a magical time! While going during a pandemic may not be the right time to go for some people, it can still be magical. If you’ve been before and love Disney as much as me, it can still be magical and even if you have never been it can still be a magical experience.
The most important thing to remember is the trip is what you make it and only you can decide if now is the right time to visit Walt Disney World.
Are you looking to book a trip to Disney World soon? I hope these tips can help your and also remember most travel agents don’t charge extra to help you plan your trip and they can be a tremendous help. I’m more than happy to help make your next trip to Disney World the best trip ever!