Guests at Walt Disney World Resort theme parks in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., are encouraged to use cashless payment options whenever possible when making purchases as the parks begin their phased reopening July 11, 2020. (David Roark, photographer)

As the Pandemic has shown no sign of letting up anytime soon and the vaccines are rolling out. Some may be wondering…what exactly does a Disney vacation look like in a Post-Lockdown, Covid-Era?


We wanted to give our followers a little rundown of how the parks are looking, what to expect when you arrive here, and how you can still enjoy a family vacation in the temporary “new normal.”

TRAVELING TO FLORIDA

While the state of Florida has reopened, exactly where do you start…making the proper arrangements to ensure travel to and from goes smoothly? Trust me, it’s not just you, it’s something I struggle with too. Being the wife of someone who travels constantly, it’s hard to keep up with regulations and restrictions. The good news is, there plenty of valid and helpful info out there for Travel info and COVID Testing in Florida. Here are resources for you.

For Traveling Nationally and Internationally

For General COVID Information In Florida

For A List Of Covid Testing Sites NEAR Orlando Theme Parks

FACE COVERINGS

The question we received daily is, when will they go away? The shortest answer is, no one truly knows. Knowing Disney, as a past Cast Member and now Passholder, it will most likely be one of the last things to go back to “normal.” If the face coverings in the parks seem to make the least bit of difference on AND off stage, they will keep it as long as they need to. Walt Disney World has just updated their mask policies and you can it HERE

(Caitie McCabe, photographer)

Here are some tips to ease your mind on wearing a mask in the parks

Make it a part of your day to utilize the relaxation stations- There are multiple relaxation areas at each park meant to allow you to sit down, unwind and remove your mask. A great opportunity to sit and navigate what’s next on your agenda. In a way, it forces you to take moments with your family and much needed rest, which is the whole point of a vacation anyway.

-Disposable Masks-Have trouble with sensitive or irritated skin? I take masks like these to the parks. I switch after eating, or after having to remove it more than once. This ensures that your skin gets relief and you are using a clean mask. Want a cute Disney Face Covering? Buy it! Wear it for pics or special moments over your disposable. I bring toner or face spray with me, that helps to hydrate/clean your skin.

-Prep Time For The Kids- If your children are hesitant about wearing Coverings in the parks, it’s understandable. My best tip to you…is to prep them. Let them wear it around the house, maybe make it a game. It makes all the difference prepping the kids before getting on a plane and vacationing in unfamiliar territory.

HOTEL STAYS

Disney has a simple online/in-app check-in and You can find out details regarding cleaning procedures on The Official Disney Website !

Occasionally you will encounter weird hours for quick service and sit-down dining areas. Rest assured, you can go on the My Disney Experience App and have that knowledge at your fingertips. And Cast Members are always willing to help you navigate.

TRANSPORTATION

The Monorail has partitions to space out guests. They limit the number of folks in each cabin for comfort and safety of everyone. This does slow the Monorail loading process, but compared to packing in like sardines pre-pandemic, I don’t know it’s a bad thing.

The Ferry Boat Feels just the same only less people on the boat itself. There are dots on the ground where your party should stand. Park capacity is different than before -35% currently- so even waiting to get on is relaxed.

Buses have limited capacity and partitions to space out guests. Bus schedules differ so you will want to check with your Resort’s Front Desk to know exactly when they are available.

Disney Skyliner is the newest form of transportation, they have routes connecting to Hollywood Studios and Epcot from various Disney Resorts.

Transportation has a number of routes, hours and accessibility, so check with the Front Desk at your Resort for what will be the best form of transportation for you.

YOUR DAY AT THE PARKS

Parking/Entry Procedures

Let’s say, you decided to drive to MAGIC KINGDOM.

Parking attendant Cast Members usually load every other spot and carefully map out a system ahead of time. You do not have to second guess being too close to another vehicle. This is a physical Distancing measure set in place for Guest and Cast comfort and safety.

Disney still requires touchless temperature checks as you enter any parks, which takes one moment of your time. If your temp reads 100.4, you and your party will not be allowed to enter the parks. This is for the safety of yourself as well as those around you. It is suggested that you take along your own thermometer and check before you travel to the parks, for extra precaution.

Security has become a breeze, walking right through without having to unload everything you own. Only when they need to inspect something, triggering the censors, will you need to stop. Umbrellas, Some technology (Camera attachments), as well as something silly like a compact mirror could trigger the walk through. A swift step to the side, they double check your bag, and you are on your way.

Park Entry

Just your Magicband is scanned at the gates as a Cast Members greets you. No fingerprinting, another safety measure they have implemented to limit contact between guests. Markers label ground to administer physical distancing. By now, those marks become just a part of the experience. For me personally, I have always had claustrophobia with larger crowds, so that gesture of distancing is a welcome addition. When you do vacation here you will see what I mean.

The Start of your day

If you wait just a moment or two (weather pending) ,before walking down Main Street chances are, characters will be rolling down the street in a cavalcade. Or they may be waving to you atop the train station. Music fills the space and that is moment it all starts to feel like there is no Pandemic. The outside world starts to fade away and the calming thought of “you’re at Disney” sinks in. There are no parades right now, but these bursts of excitement, that take the same route as parade did, add an energy boost and surprise factor to your day. These Cavalcades are “randomized” which makes it exciting. There are even markers on the ground for these drive by moments as well, to remind guests to physically distance when possible.

It’s different Magic, but the same goal…to bring you out of your every day life and make memories together. The parks are a bit less busy allowing you to ride that ride you always walked past or eat lunch on the hub grass. Same goes for the other parks as well.

Differences In The Daily Park Experience.

There are markers on the ground to allow for physical distancing in multiple areas of the park. Cosmetically, signage is amplified but not too distracting. Disney knows how to theme even the simplest of things. Occasionally you hear a bright voice reminding everyone of the precautions put in place, but not distracting after the first two times you hear it.

Each attraction has some change to them: seat less at a time, space out rows or have new partitions. Cast Members do regular cleanings on the ride vehicles themselves; they wipe down arm rails and frequently trafficked areas. There always seems to be someone cleaning.

The Wait times

Just this past week, I came to the park and had 5 minute to 30 minute wait times. Around the end of 2020, those same lines were 30-60 minutes. It throws me back to the days of pre-fast passes. A fun day at Disney can be done, it just requires a bit more planning. I allot around 30 minutes per ride when I plan. It keeps me ahead of schedule and realistic about how many rides I can actually do on that day. Also I like to utilize some creative thinking. For instance, at Magic Kingdom one of the mountains could be a 50 minute wait at 1:30pm…but at 2:00pm, it may drop down to a 20-30 minute line. Park-hopping starts at 2:00pm so that makes this a high travel time between parks…especially if a Festival is happening at Epcot.

On a side note, would a few “day plans” on The Kingdom Insider interest you? If so, let us know in the comments!

Dining.

The My Disney Experience App is the greatest tool you will ever have for your Disney vacation. Select your location, order your food then tap “prepare” when ready. Walk up to the window when it tells you to and your meal is there for you. The Seated dining for the most part is in-app booking as well. Some have walk-ups available but always plan ahead for seated dining. Dining locations have changed capacity, it feels very private compared to years past. Especially booking one of the first slots for breakfast, lunch or dinner.

Shopping

Testing now is merchandise mobile check-out where you scan and checkout while shopping, avoiding a wait in line to get that one pair of mouse ears you wanted! This feature is not yet in full motion, but seeing how well it is going, I won’t be surprised if it becomes part of the “new normal.”

The shops have a capacity for each location and there are specific entry and exits. a bit of an annoyance finding the IN door sometimes, but small price to pay not being in a crowded store! To avoid a line, go smack in the middle of the day to shop merchandise or just after morning.

The Entertainment

The entertainment is probably the most noticeable change at Disney. There are no longer “meet and greets” but they do have character appearances and “pop ups” throughout the park every day. No autographs or hugs are available at this time. But the photo opportunities are still accessible with the addition of physical distancing and creative locations.

As I mentioned, parades and spectaculars are still on hiatus. We don’t have an answer on when that will return, however, they have come up with wonderful ideas to fill that void, and it truly is a neat trade off.

For instance, there are some acts and shows that have and will return in some capacity; Voices of Liberty on stage in the American Pavilion at Epcot, The Dapper Dans atop the Train Station at Magic Kingdom and soon enough Festival of the Lion King will return in a reimagined format. They have put in the effort to reassemble the entertainment factor to the best of their ability, so far.

AT THE END OF THE DAY

Once your day has ended, I have every belief you will still leave, filled with the Magic only Disney can provide. Things look different, yes, and have since reopening. The truth is, not even the Disney Company knows what the “new normal” will evolve into, but for now…they have proven that in the face of adversity, they can still provide Magical Moments, Memories and protect the Legacy Walt Disney built.

(Kent Phillips, photographer)

Need help planning your next visit to Walt Disney World? Let our partner travel agency, Academy Travel, be your guide. Book your next vacation today!