The Walt Disney World Resort re-opened in July. We have — of course! — posted loads of tips, policies, and all sorts of info on our social media pages, but —- What’s it REALLY like to visit the parks right now? This is a question we’ve gotten lots from clients lately. And it makes sense! This the first pandemic we’ve lived through and so, naturally we’ve all got questions.

I have just returned from a wonderful week at WDW. I want to share my impressions and some first-hand experiences to help set your expectations.

FIRST THINGS FIRST: A little caveat.

I know we’re tired of hearing this, but … These are unprecedented times. This is a fluid and dynamic season. Yadda, yadda … we know. But we need you to really KNOW.

Things with the Disney Parks are changing all the time. Don’t hold us to what’s in this blog post because it could change before your trip. Your best resource is your personal travel advisor. Your second go-to spot needs to be the WDW “Know Before You Go” website. Bookmark it. There you will find all the latest updates on safety procedures, park policies, attraction news and more.

Without further ado… Here is a quick top 7 list of What to Expect: Visiting WDW in 2020!

1. Masks are required.

Disney’s policy is that everyone age 2 and up is required to wear a face mask at all times. The only exceptions are when swimming or actively eating/drinking. (If you are eating/drinking in the parks, you cannot also be walking in the crowds. You must step aside and be stationary.) Be sure to check out Disney’s current policy for what types of face masks are allowed (or not).

So…what was it like wearing a mask ALL day? In high heat and humidity? In the rain? Actually, it was easier than I thought it would be. The heat and humidity weren’t fun, but you do get used to it. There are also a number of relaxation stations in the parks where you can go to cool off and get a mask break if you need it.

This is the relaxation station in Star Wars Launch Bay.

TRAVEL TIP: I suggest bringing more than one mask per person per day so that you can swap it out if it gets damp. Disney does have some really cute ones for sale in the parks (they are $6 each) in sizes for both children and adults.

2. Disney hours are a bit different.

Disney’s hours are not what they used to be. Because fireworks and nighttime events have been suspended, the parks are closing earlier than in the past. This is a bummer, BUT in order to not have a crowd of people at the turnstiles first thing in the morning, the parks are opening prior to the posted opening time. This has actually been the case for Animal Kingdom since the opening of Pandora and for Hollywood Studios since the opening of Toy Story Land. Now, all four parks open early – close to an hour prior to the posted time!

Park hours are always subject to change, so be sure to check the app regularly during your vacation. You’ll also want to be aware that Disney Transportation — buses, monorail, and ferries — may have limited service. Expect to see social distancing on all of these, too!

TRAVEL TIP: How do you get there IF you want to take advantage of that early park opening? If you have your car, I definitely suggest driving to the parks. If you don’t, I would use a service like Uber or Lyft.

This is us in line to get into Hollywood Studios driving our car. We were lined up 1 hour and 20 minutes prior to official opening. Takeaway: DON’T SLEEP IN!

3. Entry protocols are a breeze!

Because they are trying to keep people moving, temperature checks, bag checks, and ticket scanning is a breeze. (Visit that Know Before You Go site to view all the health and safety protocols currently in place.)

As you approach the turnstiles, you’ll have your temperature checked – quick and simple. Then you’ll walk through a metal detector — There will be announcements to remove umbrellas, metal cups, and eye glass cases from your bags. — and then proceed directly to the turnstile. Disney is not currently doing the biometric finger scans so this part goes quickly too!

4. Expect to fall in love with social distancing.

Let’s talk social distancing. I love it. And I hope it stays forever. What is really nice is that you actually have some time to take photos in the queues. This is quite important over in Galaxy’s Edge. No one is rushing you if you want a photo of the family in front of the waterfall to Flight of Passage.

The markers for social distancing are an engineering marvel. You’ll notice as you go through lines that sometimes the party in front of you is WAY more than 6 feet ahead. Well, there is a reason for that – because if you were only 6 feet apart – then they would be closer than 6 feet to the party on their left or right. The social distancing markers extend beyond lines for the rides (and stores!) – they are also present on benches and in theaters. Social distancing at the Flights of Wonder show at Animal Kingdom was fantastic as it really allowed for unimpeded views of the show – and the ability to stretch out your legs!

Notice the social distancing markers on the benches at Flights of Wonder.

TRAVEL TIP: The socially distanced lines sometimes go around a blind corner. You’ll want to have to peek around before stepping up. See if it’s ok to move forward or not. If you move too early, there is no way to move back to where you were supposed to be!

5. Disney is keeping space on the rides, too.

Rides are also socially distanced. Boat rides such as Pirates of the Caribbean, Splash Mountain, and Frozen Ever After have guests in the front and back row. Other rides have guests in every other vehicle/row. On rides like Mission Space or Smuggler’s Run – it’s one family per cock pit. This especially makes for a strange ride on Smuggler’s Run! One exception to this was Kilimanjaro Safaris – the truck was full but each row was no more than one family and there are plastic shields between each row.

TRAVEL TIP: If you are a water magnet like me, this means that you will potentially REALLY get wet on these rides without the counter weight to the splash! Prepare yourself. 🙂

You may also notice that some of the queues are altered. Those attractions that used to offer pre-ride shows are now working just to keep the lines moving rather than collecting crowds in waiting rooms or holding spots.

Reduced capacity does of course impact the lines. And the socially distancing definitely makes lines appear much longer than they actually are. Don’t be intimidated by the posted wait times – they USUALLY are quite inflated.

6. Mobile Ordering will become your new best friend.

Mobile Ordering is a must. For many quick serve options, you MUST mobile order. The only exceptions I saw were the Starbucks locations and the carts.

Mobile Ordering is quite easy to do from your MyDisneyExperience app. We have a whole blog post showing you exactly how to do it! CLICK HERE to see that.

You can even make adjustments to your order. Want to leave the tomatoes off your salad? You can choose that option in the app. (My biggest complaint was that no bun was not an option to choose for any burger/sandwich!)

If you do have an allergy, don’t use mobile ordering and instead approach a cast member for your order.

TRAVEL TIP: Choose to dine off-peak. If you go at high traffic times, there may not be seating available inside the restaurant due to social distancing measures. If that’s the case, just ask a cast member where you might find a table near by.

7. If you buy it, you carry it.

Right now there is no sending bags to the front of the park or back to the resort. This eliminates a lot of touch points, but it could mean you need to put a little forethought into your souvenir purchasing.

So… if you want to make a purchase that you don’t want to carry, what are your options?

  • Wait until late in the day so you don’t have to carry it for a long time.
  • If you drove, have someone from your group take it back to the car.
  • Rent a stroller and load it up with your souvenirs rather than your small children.
  • Rent a locker. They are available at the front of the parks.

There’s so much more!

I could probably go on much longer about our trip and all the fun we had and how much I REALLY LOVE the social distancing and wish it would stay this way FOREVER, but —- this is a start. You can always go to your favorite A Time to Treasure Travel agent with questions. Ask about character experiences, Main Street cavalcades, and special events. 🙂

Things are bit different now, but THERE IS STILL MAGIC TO BE FOUND IN THE DISNEY PARKS.

Have you been to the Disney Parks since the reopening? What are your best tips?

What to Expect: Visiting WDW in 2020

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