Disney World is OPEN Again!
On July 11, 2020, Disney World welcomed guests into the Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom for the first time in 118 days. Disney Parks chose to implement a phased reopening for the Most Magical Place on Earth. Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom opened their gates on July 11.
Epcot and Hollywood Studios will open on Wednesday, July 15.
As you can imagine, Disney Parks have had to make some significant changes to keep guests safe.
Disney is strictly limiting capacity to the parks by implementing a park reservation system. If you want to visit a Disney park, you must purchase a park ticket beforehand and make a reservation online. To do this, you must visit the Disney Park Pass page.
Typically, the Magic Kingdom can handle almost 100,000 guests in one day and wait times for attractions can exceed two hours during the busy season. Disney did not release information about how many guests they were allowing into Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom on reopening day. Some experts speculated Disney capped capacity at 20 to 30 percent. What I do know is most wait times were only about five to ten minutes.
The longest line was at the Splash Mountain Gift Shop, where guests had to wait up to 240 minutes to purchase Splash Mountain merchandise. This classic log flume ride is receiving a complete makeover shortly, and it will transform to a Princess and the Frog theme. Guests waited hours in a virtual line to purchase t-shirts, key chains, mugs and hats with Brer Rabbit and friends, but this did not impact wait times for the ride.
Getting into the Disney parks will take a little longer than usual. Parking attendants are instructing guests to park in every other space. No trams are running from the parking lot, so plan on extra time to make the trek from your car to the park entrance. The monorail, ferry boat and buses are running, but Disney is limiting the capacity on each mode of transportation.
Temperature Checks and Security
Disney is using a touchless thermometer to take all guest temperatures before entering the park. If your temperature is 100.4 degrees or above, you must go to a cool-off tent for more monitoring. Guests whose temperatures remain elevated will have to leave the park, along with the rest of their party.
Going through security also is different. Some guests have had to place their electronics in a plastic bag before placing them in a plastic bin. Other guests reported they kept all metal and electronics in their backpack and strollers, and security inspected bags using minimal contact.
Magic Bands and Tickets
Before the pandemic, you would touch your ticket or magic band to the gray Mickey icon at the ticket gate and place your index finger on the finger scanner. Now, you are not required to scan your finger. Disney is not using Fast Passes right now, so all attractions are using socially distanced stand-by lines. Guests are spaced six feet apart, and they must wear a mask at all times.
Disney has precise mask requirements. A “mask” must have ear loops. This means you can’t wear a neck gaiter or a bandit-style handkerchief. The mask must loop around your ears.
One important difference between Universal Orlando and Disney World is you can take your mask off at Universal if you are eating or drinking. At Disney World, you must sit down to eat or drink. You cannot walk around with your morning coffee or your ice cream cone and remove your mask.
Character Interactions, Parades and Fireworks
Until further notice, Disney has suspended character meet and greets, character meals, parades and fireworks. All these activities involve close contact and various levels of crowding, and it is too difficult for guests to maintain social distance. For me, this is the most disappointing change to the Disney parks.
I understand why they have to postpone the Festival of Fantasy Parade, Celebrate the Magic fireworks and Epcot Forever show, but those are my favorite attractions at Disney World. I would trade Rivers of Light over Expedition Everest at Animal Kingdom any day of the week. Those shows pull at my heartstrings and give all the good feelings!
Is it Worth it to Go, or Should You Wait?
This is a loaded question, and I think it depends on several factors. I would advise you to WAIT to go to Disney World if:
- You have underlying health conditions—Do not jeopardize your health to go to the parks. Covid-19 is spiking in Florida, so if you have a chronic health condition or you are worried about getting sick, please wait.
- You are sensitive to the heat—Florida heat and humidity is intense, but I find the mask makes the heat more intense. It is easy to feel lightheaded and dizzy after wearing a mask for several hours.
- You want to park hop—You are not allowed to park hop at this time. I have a 7-day park hopper in My Disney Experience, but I have to view it as a base ticket right now. Disney will not refund my money for the hopper, and I can’t upgrade to an annual pass because Disney has suspended annual pass sales. If I use my ticket now, I lose the value of the park hopper. I assume Disney will allow park hopping in the future, but I don’t know when that will occur.
- This is your first time to visit the parks—If you go to Disney World now, you will not have a typical experience. You’ll miss out on fun character meals like Cinderella’s Royal Table and your child won’t be able to meet Mickey Mouse. You also can’t end your evening with fireworks. Missing out on these iconic experiences can leave you with a feeling of missing out.
- You want to do a lot of character dining—Many of my clients purchase the dining plan, and they use the dining plan to book character meals. The dining plan offers significant savings when booking character dining. Disney has suspended selling the Dining plan during the pandemic, and there will be no more character meals until further notice.
For those who go to Disney World often, like me, I suggest you go to Disney World as soon as you feel safe. Disney World is known for its customer service and its commitment to the guest experience, and they have not lost sight of its mission. You may want to practice wearing a mask all day in the 90-degree heat!
Please consult the Disney World website for the most updated information about park hours, safety measures and guest experience. When you’re ready to book a vacation, fill out a quote form, and let’s get started planning! An experienced travel advisor will help you navigate the constant changes in regulations and requirements.