What You Need To Know About Returning To Walt Disney World
The magic is back and here’s what you need to know about returning to Walt Disney World. With so many questions swirling around about returning to the most magical place on earth, we have put together a list of the most frequently asked questions that we got while we were in the parks over the past few days
Walt Disney World has gone above and beyond in maintaining that magic that we all remember while adjusting to these unprecedented times to keep guests and cast members safe.
Just how has it changed since last you last walked down Main Stree USA? Here’s an inside look at what to expect when you return and what you need to know about returning to Walt Disney World. You asked and now it’s time for your questions answered?
Is It Safe To Go Yet?
This is the million-dollar question and no one can answer that but you. It’s a personal decision that you will need to make in regards as to what you feel is in the best interests of you and your family. Disney has taken every safety precaution imaginable and ones we couldn’t even imagine while still surrounding you with the magic that keeps us all returning over and over again and only time will tell if this was the right time to reopen and step back into this new kind of normal that we are all living in right now.[KGVID]https://www.disneygals.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/07/Magic-Happens-Here-Welcome-Back-To-Walt-Disney-World.mp4[/KGVID]
When asked this very question, Disney CEO Bob Chapek explained,
“Well, I think what we can say is that we’ve done everything we can to open up responsibly. Taking the guidance of local health officials, state health officials, national health officials, plus our own well qualified doctors on staff to create an environment to create new operating procedures, to create new policies, to do new training, new standards of hygiene. So that when a guest comes in we can continue the trust that guests have always had with the Walt Disney company and enjoy the parks so they can make those magical memories that last a lifetime.”
How Do I Make A Reservation To Go To A Park?
Booking Your Park Reservations
The Disney Park Pass system is now open to Guests with valid admission. The number of Disney Park Pass reservation days you can hold at one time varies based on your plans:
- Disney Resort and other select hotel Guests with a valid theme park admission can make reservations for their length of stay.
- Annual Passholders can make theme park reservations for up to 3 days at a time, and for their length of stay if staying at a Disney Resort or other select hotel.
- Existing ticket holders can make reservations for the number of days of valid theme park admission.
Although park-hopping is suspended at this time, one of the big questions is if you leave the parks, can you come back in later in the day and we are happy to share that the good news-the answer is YES, you can! If you have a valid park ticket and Disney Park Pass, you can leave the park and come back later. However, guests will need to go through temperature screenings and bag checks again every time they enter the parks.
What Do The Parks Look Like Under The New Health Guidelines?
As we have already seen with the reopening of Shanghai Disneyland as well as Disney Springs, upon entering, every guest will pass through the health screening tents for temperature checks is quick and easy. All cast members and guests over 2 years old must wear a mask but there are plenty of Relaxation Areas throughout the park should you need to take a breather.
You’ll also see a copious amount of tape at six-foot distances in the queue lines and essentially throughout the park so that people know what six-foot actually looks like. Disney cast members are always around to help guests maintain that social distancing, which is so important.
With the limited crowd sizes allowed into the parks thanks to the new Walt Disney World Reservation System now in place, the biggest difference that you will immediately notice is that it feels as though you have the entire park to yourself.
The parks have put into place new training for the cast members, enhanced cleaning and disinfecting measures in place. There’s a bigger focus on technology with the reopening, with plans on introducing digital lines as we have seen with the boarding passes and digital queues for such attractions as Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance as well as expanding the magic band.
Now, not only can use the Disney apps to check on wait times or order food but to even locate hand sanitizer stations and to look at digital menus. The goal is for the apps to be able to cut down on waiting times and interaction between guests.
Are All Rides and Attractions Open?
Almost all of your favorite attractions are open, including Spaceship Earth at EPCOT, which had been slated to go down for refurbishment, but now, Disney has shared that the refurbishment work has been paused.
A complete list as to what is and is not open at Walt Disney World for the various attractions, experiences, and shops that will be open at each park when the parks begin to reopen and a look at what has not reopened yet can be found here.
What Safety Measures Are In Place At Rides and Attractions?
Every attraction has hand sanitizers at the entrance and exits and many had them within the queues.
There are markers around every corner to remind you of social distancing and where to stand, and where not to and
many rides have installed partitions between the rows in the queues and seating is now every other row. Ride vehicles are wiped down before the next group boards except in such cases as attractions like the World Famous Jungle Cruise which periodically closes for a short period of time to allow for cleaning of all of the boats.
On every ride we went on, as well as everywhere throughout the parks, physical distancing floor markers were present to keep guests at a safe distance from one another.
Additionally, in line at Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, Seven Dwarfs Mine Train among others, certain sections had a partition installed where distancing would not have been possible.
At Haunted Mansion, the Stretching Room no longer asks you to step to the center of the room but instead, you will find that the Stretching Room paintings are fully stretched in place as you walk through the room. The Ghost Host can be heard periodically telling guests, “Welcome, Foolish Mortals.” barriers in place that will lead you directly to your Doom Buggies. Similar to Haunted Mansion, you will notice that many of the preshows have been suspended for the time being.
The biggest thing to remember that while the lines may look longer due to the social distancing procedures in place, many lines looked longer than they actually were and because of the limited capacity of those in the park, we were able to ride everything we wanted to, as many times as we wanted to so if you were worried about not being able to book your FastPass+ reservations, don’t be.
The wait for Flight of Passage was 5 minutes all day long and we were able to ride Space Mountain 3 times in a row. The only attraction where we experienced any kind of a wait, and by wait we mean 20 minutes was on Pirates of the Caribean because it had just started raining and many of the other rides were temporarily were closed and Mine Train.
Although high contact play areas such as Dumbo’s Playground at the Magic Kingdom and The Boneyard at Disney’s Animal Kingdom have still not reopened, fun activities such as Wilderness Explorers were open and ready to take on recruits.
The biggest news just announced was the announcement as to will you still be able to experience Star Wars: Ride of the Resistance at Disney’s Hollywood Studios and I am happy to report that the Force is strong ride you will! You can find
out more about the new procedures for joining the Virtual Queue to obtain your boarding group for Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance and everything else you need to know about traveling to a galaxy far, far, away here. Many will be happy to hear that the Rider Switch and Disability Access Switch is operating as normal.
What About Entertainment?
Although parades, shows, and fireworks and temporarily been halted, for the time being, there is still plenty of entertainment and chances for character sightings and interactions from afar still to be found around every corner.
At the Magic Kingdom, parades have been replaced with an all-new kind of entertainment and magic. Disney characters are still there, and while it may be a few months before we can get our picture with Mickey Mouse or a hug from Chewbacca, we will still be seeing them out and about just in different ways with physical distancing in mind.
Disney has introduced a number of special cavalcades and processions that will feature the characters in the parks much in the way that we have seen the Stormtroopers patrolling from the buildings above which pop up throughout the day with a wide variety of special cavalcades down the Magic Kingdom parade route, as well characters sailing the waterways of Disney’s Animal Kingdom, processions along the World Showcase promenade at EPCOT, and motorcades
on Disney’s Hollywood Studios’ Hollywood Boulevard. The Disney Prince and Princess along with other beloved classic Disney characters can be found throughout the day making appearances from the up above on the Train Station talking to and interacting with guests, although from a distance, but still just as much fun. Above the entrance to Country Bear Jamboree were the Country Bears themselves
Plus part of the magic that is Disney is that you never know what awaits you. For example, you may see Buzz Lightyear after rocketing through space in Tomorrowland, or Captain Jack Sparrow hiding around the corner as you exit
Pirates of the Caribbean or even members of the Resistance hiding from the First Order in Black Spire Outpost. And then there’s the age-old question on everyone’s mind-“Who rode it better-Merida or Gaston?” You be the judge.
What Dining Options Are Available And Can I Still Make Advance Dining Reservations?
So what do you need to know about returning to Walt Disney World when it comes to the new health and safety measures are in place at restaurants across Walt Disney World Resort theme parks during the phased reopening? These new procedures include:
- Enhanced Cleaning – Seating and dining areas are cleaned between guest seatings, along with increased cleaning procedures in other high-traffic common areas.
- Self-Serve Changes – Beverages and other items previously available as self-service options will now be served directly to guests.
While most of your favorite eateries are back open and waiting to greet you, there are a few changes you will notice such as few grab and go and snack options throughout the parks but yes, while you can still get the iconic Dole Whip,
and Mickey Ice Cream Bars, churros and turkey legs may take slightly longer to reappear. In addition, many Walt Disney World restaurants are using convenient technologies to minimize contact at dining locations, including:
- Reduced-Contact Menus – Most quick-service theme park restaurant menus are available in the Mobile Order section of the My Disney Experience app and/or displayed on signage at the restaurant. At select table-service locations, you are also able to scan a QR code with their mobile devices to access a digital menu.
- Mobile Order – Using the My Disney Experience app, you will be able to easily browse menus for most quick-service theme park restaurants, order ahead from wherever they are in the park, and pick an arrival time that fits their schedule. Upon their arrival at the restaurant, simply tap “I’m here” in the app and head to a designated pick-up area. The service fully supports cashless payments, including debit cards, credit cards, Disney gift cards and more.
- Mobile Dine Check-in – The My Disney Experience app now offers this service via mobile device for select table-service theme park restaurants. As your check-in window for a dining reservation arrives, you will receive a push notification on their mobile device prompting them to check-in via the app; you can also begin the check-in process by scanning a QR code located in the restaurant’s lobby. A series of prompts will walk you through the check-in process, confirming their arrival time and party details. You will then be notified when your table is ready. While Disney will be encouraging everyone to utilize this new mobile check-in option, you will also still be able to check-in at the restaurant’s podium, as well.
- Food Allergies – Rest assured that food allergies and taking into account the specific eating needs are all still in place as is Disney’s commitment to giving you a wide variety of dining and food choices. Menus are marked as to what vegetarian, plant-based, gluten-free and other dietary needs are available at each place and if you or someone in your party has specific food allergies, simply stop at the podium in front of eatery and let the cast member know and they will help you with your specific needs.
- ADR-Advance Dining Reservations- Many people have asked if you can still make ADR’s and the answer is yes, you may now make dining reservations up to 60 days in advance.
- In-Park Dining – Before booking your in-park dining reservation, remember that must have valid park admission and a reservation for park entry through the new Disney Park Pass system—as well as a dining reservation—to dine at in-park, table-service restaurants.
Dining reservations do not guarantee admission to the park. Please note that Magic Kingdom Park and Disney’s Animal Kingdom theme park are now open. Disney’s Hollywood Studios and EPCOT will reopen on July 15.
Additional Dining Information:
- Menu items may vary. For specific menu information, check the restaurant’s online menu.
- Character Dining will not be offered during the initial reopening, with the exception of modified Character Dining experiences at Garden Grill Restaurant and Topolino’s Terrace – Flavors of the Riviera.
- Dinner shows will not be offered during the initial reopening.
- Dining locations are limited in capacity. Some locations will remain temporarily closed.
Have Changes Been Made For Purchasing Food And Merchandise?
- Cashless Payments: At this time, it is recommended all Guests use cashless payment options, including debit cards, credit cards, and Disney Gift Cards. You also can opt for contactless payment options—such as mobile wallets—or use cash to purchase a Disney Gift Card at Guest Relations and select merchandise locations. Disney Resort hotel Guests can also use MagicBands to charge their purchase to their Disney Resort hotel folio.
- Social Distancing While Shopping – You will find that stores are reducing the capacity of those shopping at any one time with some modifications to the shopping experience that will help us manage capacity and foster physical distancing which includes limiting the entrances to the stores, clearly marked social distancing markers as well as arrows on the floors to help with the flow of traffic.
Pin Trading: We will continue to offer Guests the opportunity to pin trade with Cast Members through the use of pinboards in select locations. Cast pin trading with lanyards will not be available at this time to maintain physical distancing.
Dressing Rooms: For the time being, dressing rooms will not be available.
Delivery Option: Package delivery to the front of the parks or to Disney Resort hotels will be suspended. However, shipping merchandise directly to your homes continues to be available.
- Returns: In-person returns are available at merchandise locations.
Are There Still Disney Photopass Opportunities?
Happily, the Disney Photopass photographers are back and ready to help you create and save the memories that you make throughout your visit. Disney PhotoPass Service at locations throughout the parks with all new magic shots. At select attractions, iconic park locations, and popular dining events, they’re on hand to once again capture all of your magical moments with one-of-a-kind photo opportunities that only they can offer.
The biggest changes to this program are that in order to save your photos to your gallery you’ll need your Disney Magic Band, which the photographer will scan before your photo is taken but like always, minutes later, your pictures are ready to view in your gallery—online or on the My Disney Experience app. Although there are no photos with your favorite characters at this time, you will find many unexpected surprises when you go to view your gallery.
Is Disney Transportation Still Available To Get To And From The Parks?
So what other important things do you need to know about returning to Walt Disney World? Complimentary transportation is back although you will notice a few changes. In keeping with the health and safety guidelines, transportation is operating with physical distancing measures in place, including in the load zones and queues, as well as aboard buses, monorails, and watercraft boats. The Skyliner will be operational but each Skyliner will only have one family per vehicle. We also found the same to be true of the Monorail when we visited.
It is important to remember that for the time being, you may only visit one park per day. With this in mind, complimentary transportation between theme parks is temporarily unavailable. This includes temporarily suspending monorail service between the Transportation & Ticket Center and EPCOT.
At this time, Disney is recommending that all guests entering through the auto plaza use cashless payment options. Disney is maintaining physical distancing guidelines by parking cars in every other parking space and, something very important to note, Walt Disney World has temporarily suspending parking trams. The good news is that with limited capacities entering the parks each day, it also means far fewer people using the parking lots.
What Are Some Are Some Of The Biggest Differences?
So now that the official phased reopening is underway, what do you need to know about returning to Walt Disney World? From the moment we entered, I was struck with the unparalleled joy and happiness that was apparent in guests and cast members alike and yes, I did shed a tear or two or three but they were all happy tears that came from this small piece of normal during these surreal times.
The limited crowd capacities gave being there an even more magical feel as it was like winning a contest and getting to have the entire Park to yourself for the day. While wearing a mask during the hot July heat was a learning process, it did not take long to not notice the mask at all and having several with me to swap out either after a spontaneous mid-afternoon Florida rain or after a water ride, or just to feel a little refreshed helped.
Although I missed grabbing a spontaneous snack or a churro, it was a small thing and I came prepared with plenty of snacks and extra water in my backpack. Even though there are hand-sanitizers everywhere, I also had disposable hand wipes with me. The extra planning of the little things helped to ensure that they didn’t become bigger inconveniences during the day. I missed not being able to hug Mickey and Chewbacca but not as much as I thought as Disney did an outstanding job incorporating the characters into the parks in such a way that I think I actually saw more of them throughout the day.
I loved not having long waits for rides, spur of the moment Cavaldaces of Characters and just returning to my roots of a day gone by, but never forgotten where there was no planning required when we went to Disney. We simply arrived, walked through the entrance, and allowed ourselves to be swept away in the magic wherever it may take us. Walt once said “It’s kind of fun to do the impossible.” and “If you can dream it, you can do it.”
Never before was this more true than in what we are experiencing right now with the reopening of Walt Disney World. But for now, the one thing I am 100% sure of is that the magic is back.
What else do you think you would need to know about returning to Walt Disney World. and are you planning to visit this summer or are you waiting?