My Take on Walt Disney World After Re-opening: The Magic is Still There!
My teenage sons and I recently spent five days at Walt Disney World! I'm excited to share my thoughts and photos with you.
We watched and waited until the last minute to make the decision to proceed with our trip. Disney made it easy for us to “wait & see” since they added a “Book with Confidence” policy that allows guests to cancel until the time of check-in without penalties.
Deciding when you are ready to travel again is a very personal decision. Prior to traveling to Walt Disney World, I read countless news articles, blogs, and reports from fellow travel agents.
We felt comfortable proceeding with our vacation due to the following factors:
1. Airport and Southwest Airlines Health & Safety protocols: extra cleaning and disinfecting measures, social distancing with a guarantee of open middle seats, HEPA filtration onboard, and mandatory mask requirements.
2. Disney’s health and safety guidelines: enhanced cleaning, physical distancing with markers and physical barriers, temperature screenings, specific face covering requirements for all guests, numerous hand sanitizer/hand washing stations available, and limited-contact features such as online check-in & mobile ordering for dining.
3. Significantly reduced park capacity: Disney now manages park attendance through required park reservations that guests make in advance.
You may have heard that Walt Disney World looks a lot different than it did before the pandemic. That is true, but we are glad we had the chance to experience it. The DISNEY MAGIC is still there!
To summarize the new experience at Walt Disney World in a word: EASY
Here are the changes we loved:
· No need for advanced planning: Advanced Dining Reservations are no longer required at 180 days out. You can make ADR’s as early as 60 days ahead of time, but dining reservations were easy to come by at the last minute. No Fastpass+ reservations at 60 days out either.
· No Fastpass+ reservations: It was fun to share with the boys that this was the Disney I knew and loved as a kid. Want to hop on Peter Pan’s Flight? Jump in a short line and do it. After the ride, you decide where to head to next. It was awesome to go where we wanted when we wanted.
· Low Crowds: While I have not found a confirmed number for park capacity, I can tell you that the crowds are LOW. It was a unique feeling to walk down Main Street, USA with minimal amounts of people nearby.
· Rides, Rides, Rides: Do you love to ride as many rides as possible? If so, this is the time to visit the parks! On our Animal Kingdom day, we rode Pandora: Flight of Passage 3 times in a row with zero wait – and once more as we were leaving the park with a 10 minute wait. On our last Hollywood Studios day, the boys rode Star Wars: Smugglers Run a total of 5 times. Most rides had minimal to no wait, while the more popular rides had 30-50 minute waits in peak parts of the day. (This is when we hit the resort pool to cool down and avoid lines.)
· Character Viewing: While there are no Character Meet & Greets available, we loved the unexpected appearances of our favorite Disney characters. Each park has “character cavalcades” that pop up regularly. Watch your favorite Fab 5 characters, Disney Princesses, Pixar characters, Winnie the Pooh & friends, Disney Junior, and other favorites waive and dance as they ride by. Plus, characters greet guests from set locations in Magic Kingdom and Epcot. For example, Winnie the Pooh can be found chasing butterflies next to Imagination Pavilion in Epcot. We were able to see more characters on this trip since we did not need to wait in line or have Fastpass+ reservations to meet them.
· Shorter Park Hours: Depending on your park touring personality, this could be viewed as a PRO or CON. I am typically the type of person who wants to “rope drop” the park, ride the maximum number of rides, and close the park down. With shorter hours, it gave us time to sleep in, head to Disney Springs for dinner, and have a relaxing evening at our resort.
· No rushing required – With significantly lower crowds, we could take our time, stroll the parks, take in the sights, stop for photos, and RELAX.
· Empty quiet pools – We had the pool to ourselves during most of our visits to one of the many “quiet pools” at Caribbean Beach Resort.
There are a few changes worth mentioning that might make you want to delay your next parks vacation:
· Masks are required and strictly enforced. Masks must always be worn by guests ages 2 and up – and must be of the 2-3ply and ear-loop variety. The exceptions being while you are at the resort pools, where chairs are placed for social distancing or while actively eating or drinking, which must be done while stationary. Personally, we were surprised that we did not mind wearing our masks in the Florida heat. There are Relaxation Stations throughout the parks where you can take a mask breaks at properly distanced tables in the shade, but we did not find a need to use them.
· No shows or fireworks
· No park hopping
· No character meet & greets
· Hotel and restaurants are limited. Disney has a reopening plan with additional hotel and dining options opening in the future. We were pleased with the options available to us, including our stay at Caribbean Beach Resort. The Skyliner Gondolas offered a scenic and socially distant way to get to and from our resort, Epcot, and Hollywood Studios. Dole Whip is readily available too – need I say more?
When the time is right and you are ready to travel again, I would love to offer my planning services to you for FREE! As a travel agent, I am paid directly by the travel supplier after my clients' vacation. The price is the same if you book on your own or take advantage of the free assistance a travel agent can offer you. Feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or request a quote below: