After months of Covid restrictions, we decided we were ready to head out on vacation. Our entire household had gotten over Covid-19, and we felt pretty safe traveling. I found an amazing deal on airfare, and since our kids could do their school work online, we booked a trip to Disney World.
We weren’t quit sure what to expect with regulations due to Covid-19. We had been to Disney World several times before, but we knew this time would be different. Hopefully our experience will help you to plan your trip to Disney World. For us, it was a great experience and one we would definitely recommend doing! Here are some of the changes you’ll want to be aware of before you book your trip.
Ticket Reservation Requirements
In order to enter any of the parks, not only will you need a ticket, you will also need a reservation. Due to the Coronavirus, there is a limit to how many people can be in each park each day. You’ll need to buy your tickets online and then make a reservation for the day you want to visit each specific park.
Thankfully, you can check to see if a park has availability before you purchase tickets. The Disney website is quite simple to use and will walk you through the process.
Obviously, with a limited number of tickets available, you’ll want to buy tickets and make your park reservations as soon as you can. Waiting until shortly before your trip to make park reservations could keep you from visiting your favorite park.
Our entire immediate family got Covid and we had to reschedule our plane reservations. We had to make our Disney reservations only 2 weeks before we went, but thankfully we were able to reserve all the tickets we wanted.
If you’ve been to any of the Disney World parks, you know that actually getting into the park can take some time because some of the parks require you to take the Monorail, a shuttle, a tram, or a boat to get to the entrance after you have parked your car.
The first day we went to Hollywood Studios. We knew it would take some time to get our ticket cards and get our Disability Access Pass squared away so we got there early. The parking at Hollywood Studios is easier than the other parks because you can actually park right close to the park entrance without taking any other mode of transportation.
When we got to the parking lot entrance, we were told they would not allow us to enter the parking lot until 30 minutes before the park opened. We ended up having to drive in circles for what seemed like forever before they let us park.
Some parks require you to take Disney transportation from the parking lot to the park. There is a cap on how many people can be on each bus or Monorail and social distancing is enforced. Expect it to take slightly longer to get to the parks due to social distancing requirements.
Once you get to the park, you will be required to have your temperature taken. It is quick, easy, and contactless. The employee just does a quick forehead scan and off you go to security.
On previous trips to Disney World, everyone with a bag or backpack was required to have it searched before entering the park. However, this time they selected people at random for bag checks. We did not have to have our bags checked on any of the days we went to the parks, but family members who were with us had theirs checked.
Masks are required in Disney parks for anyone 2 years old and older and must be worn unless you are eating (and only while stationary–we got chastised for that one!). Disney employees are not shy about reminding park visitors to adjust masks to cover both mouth and nose.
Some rides even have pre-recorded messages about mask wearing, and if an employee sees you wearing a mask incorrectly while you’re on a ride, they will remind you (even if you can’t see them, they can see you!). There are also signs throughout the parks reminding of the mask requirements.
There are hand sanitizing dispensers located all over each park. Rides which typically have longer lines have hand sanitizing stations in the lines. All rides have several automatic hand sanitizer dispensers available after you get off the ride.
It would be nearly impossible to sanitize every ride between each group of riders so it’s nice to have a way to sanitize hands between each ride.
The food experience in Disney parks is a bit different as well. You are still allowed to bring food into the parks and carry it with you or leave it in a locker. If you want to purchase food other than snacks, you will have to order it through the Disney app. You choose which restaurant you want to buy from, then you select a time and place your order. Then you come back at the pick up time to get your food.
Be aware that if you wait until you get hungry to figure out meal plans, you will likely be hungry for a while. It’s best to make a plan, reserve a time, and order your food before you go to the park, ideally even days in advance. I know, it takes some of the spontaneity out of the experience, but trust me, you don’t want to drag around a hungry toddler or teenager.
Many of the snack stations and carts allow you to walk up to the window or counter and order as before (with your mask on of course). If you just need a Dole Whip, churro, popcorn, ice cream cone, or other quick treat, those are pretty easy to get immediately.
Be aware that with limited capacity some of the eating establishments that are usually open are currently closed. Be sure to check the app to see which restaurants are available so you can make plans and avoid disappointment for yourself and your fellow Disney visitors.
The ride lines are similar to how they were before COVID. There are signs on the ground every 6 feet so you can be sure to socially distance correctly. Rides with longer lines had someone holding a sign indicating the location of the end of line.
We also noticed that lines which used to be mostly inside are located outside now. With the reduced capacity, the lines are shorter than we are used to at most times of the year.
When lines were indoors and had to wrap around, there were often plexiglass dividers to allow for social distancing.
During Covid, Disney World is not using the Fast Pass system. That means you will have to wait in the regular lines for each ride. You can use the app to see how long the wait times are for every ride. Without Fast Passes, the most popular rides can have longer lines. It’s a good idea to get to the parks early and get in line for the your favorite rides; lines are typically shorter first thing in the morning.
While most of the rides are still open, some of the other attractions are closed. Shows and large parades are no longer taking place (although there are impromptu parades that drive through the park occasionally). We were pleasantly surprised to find that rides which have always been closed for maintenance during that time of year were open.
On some of the rides, you are only allowed to be seated near those in your party, so sometimes you’ll see empty rows which normally would be filled with passengers.
Unfortunately, meeting characters at Disney World is one thing that has changed during Covid. You can still see your favorite characters in the park; they just aren’t as up close and personal as they used to be.
When we walked into Magic Kingdom, the Disney princesses were lined up behind the railing up at the train depot. We had to look up to see them above us. It was fun to see them, but not quite the same experience as being able to walk up to them and take a photo.
The mini parades had a few characters and we saw Star Wars characters in Galaxy’s Edge. Overall, however, there weren’t as many characters as we are used to seeing at Disney World.
Pin trading is a favorite activity for my family and for many other Disney park lovers. We were worried pin trading wouldn’t be happening at all during the Covid time, but we were pleasantly surprised to find we could still trade pins in the parks themselves.
Rather than choosing pins from the lanyards of Disney employees, there were stations set up throughout the park where pins were located on boards or boxes. After choosing the pin you want to trade, you tell the employee and they had you the pin in exchange for one you choose to trade. We noticed most pin trading employees sanitized our pins after we gave them the pins we were trading.
While pin trading is still happening in the parks, it is not happening at Disney Springs. We wished we had known that earlier; we went to Disney Springs the day before going to the parks, and the kids were disappointed there was no pin trading available there.
Disability Access Pass
We have a child with a disability, and in the past we have utilized the Disability Access Pass. Basically, it allows you to “wait” your turn in line without actually being in line. It is designed to help those who have a hard time physically waiting in line, and that is definitely our situation. I wasn’t sure how the new regulations would affect our ability to use this pass or if it was even being offered during the pandemic.
I called before we booked our tickets and was told the pass works just as it did before. When we got to the park on the first day, we went to Guest Relations and they helped get the pass set up. We had no problems with it at all, and it made our experience much less stressful than it would have been without the pass.
Depending on the number of people in the park and in your party (and, in our experience, depending on the employee who helps you) you might be able to get your entire party onto the pass. This allows you to enjoy the park while keeping your party together.
Using the pass is easy. You go to the beginning of the line of the desired ride and an attendant will scan the ticket card of the person with a disability. Then they give you a return time. You come back during the return window and each person will have to scan his or her ticket card.
I was a bit concerned about keeping my crew hydrated while we were having fun. In our hometown, while many places are starting to open up, drinking fountains are often not available. I didn’t know if we would be able to fill water bottles at the Disney parks or if we would have to spend our life savings on buying drinks each day. Thankfully, we found drinking fountains were readily available and almost always had a hand sanitizing station nearby.
As usual, the restrooms were kept clean and we felt very safe using them. It did seem that there were employees cleaning every time I entered the restroom. Whether they are cleaning more often due to the pandemic or if I just had coincidental timing, I’m not quite sure. But knowing Disney, they probably are being even more careful about keeping things clean.
Rather than carry around all of our snacks and ponchos, we opted to rent a locker at the front of the park. We have done this before, and it was really no different than during a non-Covid time. You scan your card to pay for the locker and choose a pin code to unlock the locker. The fee is for the entire day, and you can access the locker as often as you choose.
The days we visited happened to be sunny, but with Florida weather you never know when a downpour might come. We chose to leave ponchos in a rented locker so they would be close by if we needed them. We also left some snacks and a camera in the locker so we wouldn’t have to carry them with us all day either.
Strollers and Wheelchairs
Strollers and wheelchairs can still be brought into the park or rented near the front entrance. If you are bringing your own stroller, be sure to check on the Disney World website to make sure your stroller meets their requirements.
We had a very fun and memorable experience in Disney World during Covid. Sure, there were a few things that we couldn’t do and some things that were a little different than we were used to. However, the magic was definitely still there. If you are thinking of taking a Disney trip soon, I recommend going. Knowing the above information will help you be prepare so you can make the most of your vacation.