A dream is a wish your heart makes. Over the last year of the coronavirus pandemic, we have all wished for better times to come. One of the best ways to combat the sadness of being in a gloomy place is to put yourself in a happy place. Even better if it’s THE happiest place, Walt Disney World. Going to Disney in a pandemic wasn’t an easy decision. I did a lot of research on park safety, read endless tips from other park visitors via blogs and social media, reviewed everything Disney shared and more. And why did I decide to go you might ask? For many reasons…I was going to be in the area, I LOVE Disney, it’s the 50th anniversary (my mom, and fellow parkgoer went the year it opened and my first visit was the 25th anniversary), it was a chance to experience the park with less crowds and most of all, to have a day to feel like a kid again! After the last year we’ve all had in quarantine, it was a dream and a wish my heart ached for.
I can’t say I completely let loose like a typical kid, as Covid was still on my mind the whole day, worrying about who I was near, what I was touching, etc. But in the end, I felt safe, and I felt happy! If you need a happiness boost too and are planning a visit to Disney World, I want to make sure you feel confident in making that decision and I’m sharing all my tips and recommendations for visiting Disney during a pandemic – what it’s really like and what you can expect.
- Do your research! Review all the rules and regulations on the Disney World website. Look at other blogs and social media to see what other parkgoers have to say. Each park is unique and you may have a different experience in each. A lot of my info is specific to the Magic Kingdom!
- Purchase tickets AND make park reservations in advance. You now have to have a park reservation in addition to your ticket, so Disney can manage crowds.
- I recommend only visiting the park for one day. It was a lot mentally and physically to stay distanced and safe, and I think more than one day might take away some of the fun. With that said, pick the park that will give you the most bang for your buck. For us, it was Magic Kingdom – more rides (and no noteworthy new ones) seemed like more possibility for dispersed crowds and less wait times.
- Park hopper passes are still available, but you can only park hop after 2pm. You can upgrade to a hopper day of, which will ensure you know which parks are available to hop to (they might not all be available based on reservations/attendance).
- Arrive early, especially if driving to the Magic Kingdom. The monorail trams to the park entrance from the parking lot take longer than normal, but due to good reasoning – they are really spacing people out and practicing social distancing. (P.S. the monorail is faster than the boat. You’ll understand why you need to know this when you arrive.) The day we visited the park opened at 9am. We were in line at the parking lot gates around 8am. They let us park around 8:30am and this ensured we were in the park right at 9am – to hear Mickey and friends welcoming us in song. M-I-C-K-E-Y M-O-U-S-E
- Download the My Disney Experience app and connect your tickets and credit card. You can still pay via credit card machines almost everywhere in the park, and not all places require you to order food ahead of time, but the app makes everything easier. You can check ride wait times, look for the nearest restrooms and make dining reservations and food orders. You can also view photos taken by park professionals and on rides, right on your app. (We didn’t have Magic Bands and were fine with that. They are convenient if you are staying at the park, but not needed if you are not.)
- Dining Reservations & Fast Passes: Instead of the usual months ahead planning you had to do for Disney visits in the past (if you wanted to see and eat all the latest and greatest in rides and food), there are currently no fast passes for rides at Magic Kingdom and you can now only reserve restaurants about 60 days in advance. Not all restaurants are open so things do fill up quickly. If you can’t get the reservation you want, have no fear! Disney World now offers a walk up wait list (which can be done on the app) to fill any vacant spaces. You have to be near the restaurant when it is open in order to get on the waitlist. We were near Cinderella’s Castle around 11:30am, not long after they started serving lunch, so we added ourselves to the wait list via the app, had a table and were seated before noon. It was seamless! And we got to have lunch in a magical gem within the park and see Cinderella herself (from a distance of course).
- Wear a comfortable mask. You will be in your mask pretty much all day, so make sure it is comfortable and fits snug around your chin and nose – for your own safety and those around you. Plus, who wants to be pulling at their mask all day? If it fits well, you can just relax and enjoy yourself. I also recommend bringing a back-up mask. You may get hot and sweaty, it might get uncomfortable or you might get soaked on Splash Mountain – you never know. And of course, if you are truly in need, they sell Disney themed masks in the park.
- Bring hand sanitizer, lotion and disinfectant wipes. There are sanitizing stations all over the park, including at the entrance and exit of every ride. I was sanitizing every few minutes, caking on lotion and starting the process over again and again. But, it kept me feeling safe! We had wipes and on high-touch rides, like Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin, we did use them to wipe everything down. Other rides, we just did our best not to touch anything and sanitized right after. We only saw cast members cleaning one ride in between loading and unloading and that was the carousel. That’s not to say they were not cleaning others without us noticing. The cast members also did a great job spacing people out on rides.
- Stand your ground – literally and figuratively! Every ride has properly marked where to stand to keep social distance. Find your mark and stay on it. This will help protect you and your fellow Disney lovers. They are even spacing lines so on top of having no one in front or back of you, you have no one on the side of you as well. Some people don’t pay attention, but don’t be afraid to point out their marks to them. We had to ask a few “in the cellphone zone” riders to stay on their marks and/or pull up their masks. We did it nicely and they complied. We did also see some cast members remind parkgoers to pull up masks and keep their distance. I’ll be honest, not all cast members seemed to care, or maybe didn’t notice. If you feel unsafe say something to someone or move to another location.
- Crowds & Control: While Disney World requires reservations for the parks, they cannot regulate where people congregate in those parks. Some areas are bound to be more crowded than others. Be aware of your surroundings and any time you don’t feel comfortable or safe, move. You can’t control thousands of other people, but you can control yourself. Supposedly the parks are operating at 30% capacity. It felt like more than that to us though and was definitely crowded in some areas. Maybe it’s because I haven’t even been around small crowds in the last year, let alone large ones? Also, you have to remember, Magic Kingdom alone can normally accommodate 100,000 visitors, so 30% of that…it’s still a lot!
- Remember to take care of yourself and respect others as well. If you feel sick, don’t go! Mickey, Minnie and the other parkgoers don’t want your germs. You can change your ticket reservations up to the day before your visit (and I am sure if you felt you had Covid day of, they’d let you move them then too). Take precautions with proper mask wearing, sanitizing, etc. and not just for you, remember you are doing it for everyone around you as well. If you do all this, you can really experience the magic of Disney without the fear of Covid.
Walt said, “Life is composed of lights and shadows, and we would be untruthful, insincere and saccharine if we tried to pretend there were no shadows.” He was right, there is darkness and light in everything. In the dark times we have to seek out the light. He left a legacy by giving us a physical place to seek that light, a place where a person of any age can be a kid without a care (or less of them) in the world. A place to don a pair of sparkly ears and a big smile – even in times when that smile has to be hidden behind a mask.
Signed with Style,
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