News for 2021:
- Disneyland 2021 and 2022 Disney Armed Forces Salute Ticket Offer
- Disneyland 2021 Disney Armed Forces Salute Room Offer
- Walt Disney World – One Step Closer to Normal
- Using Disney Armed Forces Salute Tickets in 2021
- 2022 Disney Armed Forces Salute Timeline
- Using the Walt Disney World Theme Park Reservation System
We did it! We just spent 2 weeks at Walt Disney World and experienced all of the post-closure changes in person.
In this post we’ll share it all with you. We’ll share our experiences, the good and the bad, our thoughts on the whole can of worms plus some tips.
See our Second Trip Back (November 2020)
And our Third Trip Back (January 2021)
UPDATE 6 Feb – 2021 Disney Armed Forces Salute Tickets
UPDATE 3 Dec – Disney has announced 2021 Disney Armed Forces Salute Info
UPDATED: 21 Oct 2020 (originally posted 10 Sept)
Please note that the trip detailed in this post took place the last week of August-first week of September 2020. While Disney never releases actual attendance figures they have said they are limiting their parks attendance level to 25% capacity. We suspect that when we were there numbers were well below 25% as we are now seeing reports of long wait times and angry guests (because they read about short waits online). YOUR WAIT TIMES MAY VARY FROM THIS POST! However the practices detailed here are still in effect.
Hang on, this is going to be a long post covering everything about the trip!
There will also be a lot of pictures, many of which will have few to no people in them. Some shots are of places that are always crammed tight with people!We stayed at multiple Disney World Resorts, used Theme Park Reservations (and changed some while there), visited all the parks multiple times, dined at Quick Service and Table Service locations, and went to Disney Springs multiple times. We were very busy!
We also went to Shades of Green to see what was going on there but that is covered in another post.
Note: This post will present to you exactly what we had to put up with in order to visit Walt Disney World during under the current conditions, so that you may make an educated decision whether a Walt Disney World vacation is right for your family at this time.
Please also check out our Planning Guide for these unusual times.
Bottom Line Up Front
We think this is an amazing time to go to Walt Disney World! You just have to put up with the bad (covid inconveniences), to experience the very good (extreme low attendance and amazingly high cast to guest ratio)!
Disclaimer: Those who are afraid of catching covid, those who are in the at risk population, or those who are at risk of passing it on to someone who is at risk, should not be going to, or working at WDW.
Everyone else, who is allowed to travel to WDW by command guidance should seriously consider it. It is a once in a lifetime chance to experience Walt Disney World’s Parks with MINIMAL crowds!
General Disney World Information
Here we’ll discuss generalities and global policies/issues. Further on in the post we will cover specific areas of interest.
In order to enter a Disney Theme Park, Disney Springs, a Disney Table Service Restaurant, and some partner Table Service Restaurants, you’ll need to get your temperature taken. Under 100.4 is good to go. If you are over, they will direct you to a cooling off area (under a tent outside) to cool off and then you can try again. If one person in the party is over temp, the entire party will be denied entry.
While there, the last week in August and the first in September, it was HOT and humid. Temps were 93 – 97 most days with a high day of 99. All days had a “real feel” in the triple digits.
This made the requirement to wear a mask when outside your room pretty rough. This is the hardest thing that you will have to deal with during your stay. Disney requires that everyone age 2 and over wear specific types of masks (described in our Covid planning post) at almost all times (except in your room, while seated at a restaurant, or when “actively” eating or drinking while stationary and socially distanced) even if you are nowhere near anyone. You may not take your mask off for pictures no matter how far you are from anyone! Disney does not want photographic evidence of people not wearing masks in the parks. You also may not remove your mask on rides.
Relaxation Stations are available in the Theme Parks (2 per park), they are areas where you may enter, stay socially distanced and take off your mask. You don’t have to be actively eating or drinking to do so. Why this is safe and doing the same in the theme park is not is never explained.
As of October 2020 Disney World has posted this new warning on signs in the theme parks: “Guests not properly wearing an approved mask will be asked to leave.”
On their own, people tend to bunch up when in lines, entering buildings, etc. It is happening (occasionally) at WDW. Disney is actively working to combat this. “Wait Here” stickers or dots to stand on are everywhere on the ground where people would line up for attractions or stand once in them, or where they enter buildings, parks, or transportation.
Random cast members are tasked with holding social distancing reminder signs and circulating through the park (they love this job, not!). Children’s Activities Cast Members have been re-tasked to be the mask and social distancing police. These cast members in yucky yellow shirts will remind guests if they stray from the rules (mainly mask wear). Other cast enforced this stuff to varying degrees, some couldn’t care less. Almost all were observed to be polite, but there were 2 or 3 observed interactions where the cast member raised their voice in an angry manner.
All restaurants and shops have maximum allowed capacities that are a percentage of the actual fire code capacity, in order to help with social distancing. Some doors are entry only and some exit only. Cast members are stationed at the doors with iPhones with apps connected to a totaling system. Those at all the in doors tap the + on their app for everyone going in and those at all the exits tap the – for each guest that leaves. When the app says they have reached capacity inside, they stop people from entering until they are under again.
All elevators are marked to be used by 1 party only. Some also say max of 4 sharing the same room!Attractions have severe social distancing imposed. Smaller ride vehicles will seat only 1 party. Bigger vehicles will have a party in the front and rear with separation. Theatre style seating skips rows and staggers seating in every other row. (imagine me by myself in the 6 seat Test Track car or me and 2 others in the 12 seat Dinosaur car)
Queues for the attractions have the 6 foot Wait Here floor stickers and either skip rows in the back and forth queues or place vertical Plexiglas between rows where this isn’t possible. This stretches the lines out into the park (into sun, rain, etc.). They have put long extensive lines of Wait Here stickers for lines that never materialize.
Most payment locations have a Plexiglas wall between the cast member and you. This often makes communication difficult with the masks and the wall. I like most guests and cast stand a little to the side of the wall so just the masks interferes with communication. Most everyone is fine with this at Disney and at home. But I had one cast member who moved to keep the plexiglass between us.
There are more specifics that we will discuss as needed in the various sections below.
Disney World is doing what they call Enhanced Cleaning. In my opinion they should have been doing most of this all along! All surfaces are constantly wiped down or sprayed with disinfectant (though I saw some shoddy work, e.g. getting about 70% of the table being wiped…) You’ll see cast in the parks wiping down poles. And they stick your room TV remote in your room in a baggie???
Free Hand Sanitizer
Disney World has provided hand sanitizer dispensers everywhere! (This is part of the reason that you couldn’t get it for so long , big companies buying it up) It is at every location that you could think of in multiple dispensers, Attractions, restaurants, resort hotels, walkways, merch shops, literally anywhere that you might think I’d like some hand sanitizer, there it is!
There are also hand wash stations all over with water, soap, and hand towels.
Disney has integrated other touchless payment options into their existing Magic Band payment system (with many new touchless devices replacing the existing ones). This seems to really have mucked up the Magic Band payment system. I experienced many, many times when I’d have to tap my band and enter my pin numerous times to get it to work. Also, in the past when purchasing if you just looked continuously at the Magic Band scanner, no words were needed, the cast member just knew that’s how you wanted to pay. But now you have to say I want to use my band as there are multiple options to use on the scanner and they have to push the Magic Band button.
MDT THOUGHTS –
The temperature checks were quick, efficient, and almost a non-event.
Mask wear is not normal and there are many areas of the country where it hasn’t been as in vogue as it has in other areas. People forget about them. I myself walked out of my room at least 4 times without one and I saw others who would forget to put them back on as well after having them off in the parks, this led to them being chased down by a cast member.
MDT TIPS –
Make no mistake, good hygiene plays a big part in staying healthy. I travel to WDW often, and I used to get sick with a common cold from time to time after returning home or while still at WDW while on long trips. Years ago I upped my awareness of what and how I touch, consciously increased the use of hand sanitizer and hand washing as much a feasible while out and about at WDW and wiping down airplane and resort room surfaces, since then I’ve stayed cold free post Disney. This should always be your method of operation while on vacation! Even after this blows over and COVID-19 becomes just another one of the seasonal flus (like the swine flu 2009 (killed 80K) and Hong Kong Flu 1968 (killed 100K mostly elderly, it’s the strain that is so deadly to elderly now) after we achieve herd immunity.
I found the damp mask sucking up against my face when I inhaled to be very irritating and uncomfortable in the Florida triple digit real feel temps. I used a soft piece of wire in the shape of a U with a short 90 degree bend down on each end to keep the mask from sucking in. The short bit sticking down from the bend slipped into the channel the elastic went through on my homemade masks.
Often when walking out by myself and I couldn’t see another human at all for a long distance I’d drop my mask off one ear for a little break.
I like many other people kept a water bottle with me whenever out of my room, and by doing so could stop wherever Id liked (6 feet from others) pull off the mask and sip my water to get a break from the mask.
I and many others offered to share space (elevators, assigned group sections of buses, Skyliner cars, the single large table inside in the air-conditioning at the Baseline Taphouse, etc.) as long as both parties are fine with it, it helps avoid waits during busy times. I’d say “You can join me if you like, or I’d tell the bus driver that I was fine sharing my assigned section of the bus with anyone who was OK sharing. Another single rider behind me in line and I shared a Skyliner during peak travel time (park open) from the Caribbean Beach to Hollywood Studios stations. Some people who aren’t scared will accept, others won’t.
Cast members don’t like telling you to fix your mask anymore that you like hearing it (well the majority don’t), so make it easier on both of you. If you’re taking a breather and see you are approaching a cast member, straighten yourself up. Then they won’t have to engage. I Never heard “You should have had your mask over your nose.”, they just tell people to fix it if it’s not to standards at that moment.
UPDATE: As of October 2020 Disney World has posted this new warning on signs in the theme parks: “Guests not properly wearing an approved mask will be asked to leave.” This is a big change to the reminders to cover your nose that I saw and experienced. How strict they are with this has no been reported yet. So caution is warented.
Walt Disney World Information on Specific Areas
Below we’ll discuss specific areas of interest and get a little deeper.
Air transportation was a novel experience! Almost no one in airports, whizzing through TSA, very empty planes, and instant luggage service were all wonderful.
My early morning direct flight from Cincinnati to Orlando International had about 15-20 people on it besides crew.
Orlando almost seemed abandoned; I saw so few people.
My bag, along with the others from my flight, was sitting next to the luggage carousel when I got there. You must carry your own bags at this time, there is no Magical Express luggage service.
When I arrived at the Disney Magical Express counter, I was informed there could be a wait of up to 40 minutes between buses due to capacity limitations, but my bus was boarding when I got to the end of the empty line.
The driver loaded my bag and I got right on.
There were probably 12 people on the bus heading to 3 resorts, and I was the only one that got off at mine.
The driver retrieved my bag, I tipped her and was on my way.
See out Magical Express Review
I stayed at a monorail resort for part of my stay. Monorail service was great!
They are running 5 monorail trains on the Resort Track as compared to the usual 4, to deal with the imposed capacity limitations.
Each monorail passenger car has a front and back section each with its own doors. In each section there are forward and rearward facing bench seats that usually hold from 6-8 people depending on size. In-between is a standing/stroller/scooter area with grab poles that can accommodate a lot of people.
During normal times the cars will fill up as needed often to squished capacity. Under the current social distancing rules there is no standing, the bench seats are for a single party, so 4 parties per car.
The forward-facing seat in the car’s front section backs up to the rearward facing seat in the rear section. Disney has draped a tarp between the two seats that leaves a good 2 to 6-inch gap around the edges.
Monorail trains were never full though and arrivals of the next train speedy. The resort loop still stops at all 3 resorts (Contemporary, Polynesian, and Grand Floridian), the Transportation and Ticket Center (TTC), and the Magic Kingdom. No one ever got on at the TTC, so Disney most likely is sending all of the very light load from the parking lot via the express loop.
Note the PolynesianVillage Resort is now scheduled to reopen in Sumer 2021. The DVC portion will remain open. But the monorail station will be shutting down at some point in the future for the renovation that will be taking place.
Note: The Epcot Monorail Line is not in service at this time!
Skyliner service was not so smooth! I stayed at a Skyliner resort for 4 nights of my stay and the Skyliner was mostly inoperative (at least the section I was on, there are 3 loops) for 3 of my 4 days, causing the need to use buses.
The Skyliner stops running (after offloading everyone at a station) in high winds or if there is lightning nearby. This can be often in the Central Florida summer, there were 2 bad storms while at that resort, but they were not present for the majority of almost 3 days’ worth of down time.
Skyliner cabs, which hold up to 10 during normal times are currently limited to a single party (even if there is one of you!).
Currently, Pop Century is the only Value Resort open and Caribbean Beach is the only Moderate. This means that for those desiring those price points these are the only options. No problem, we assume under normal loading limits, but a big one now based on how Disney World handles riders switching between Skyliner loops.
A little background. The Caribbean Beach Resort (CBR) is the main station, where all 3 loops come together in a T. You have to get off and switch loops or routes here if CBR is not your destination. One loop, the base of the T runs to Hollywood Studios, one side of the top runs to Pop Century, while the other side goes to the Riviera and then on to Epcot.
With the reduced cab capacity lines form at both Pop and CBR. After waiting in the line at Pop and riding the Skyliner to CBR you are then forced to go to the back of the long line that has formed at CBR. This is also true for Riviera guests heading to Hollywood Studios. This is a very bad policy on Disney’s part! Guests that have already waited in a line at another station should merge near the front into the lines for departing loops!
Buses to Hollywood Studios and Epcot run much less often at Skyliner Resorts when the Skyliner is running.
MDT TIP – If your main interest is making rope drop (park open) at Hollywood Studios or even Epcot, then opt for the more expensive Caribbean Beach over Pop Century so you’ll only have to wait in one line or plan extra time into your morning. At the Riviera, plan time for a minimal wait at your own station if going to Epcot, and a minimal wait at your own station and a long line at CBR if going to Hollywood Studios.
See our Skyliner Page
Disney has engineered social distancing into their bus fleet by creating seating zones. They have placed numbers corresponding to the zone on some seats and do not use signs on others. Vertical pieces of plastic are zip-tied between the zones. Zones have from 2 to 4 seats. One party per zone, unless you offer to share. No standing is allowed.
MDT THOUGHTS – Buses rarely had all zones full. We only experienced this when Hollywood Studios was opening, as lots of people are trying to get to the busiest park in time to secure their Rise of the Resistance Boarding Group.
Disney has also enforced social distancing on their fleet of boats with seating zones and skipped rows of seating.
Magic Kingdom Ferries have designated standing spots.
Parking Lot Trams
Trams are not operating. But there is really very limited vehicle traffic and parking is close to the parks.
MDT TIP – Vehicle traffic is mostly generated by locals. Currently locals are plussing up attendance the second half of Friday and the weekends.
MDT THOUGHTS ON TRANSPORTATION – Were pleased with the state of Disney World’s transportation. It was better than we feared. We’d expected long waits. But keep in mind that it is only working well under the severely reduced capacity because of the very low demand! As demand picks up the social distancing must be dropped, or the system will fail!
There is only one major change to your departure from your Disney Resort.
You will still get your Magical Express letter (with departure time the next day) on your room door. You will still get your receipt emailed to your address on record.
What you will not have access to is at Resort Airline Check In and Baggage Check for your departing flight. If you are not going straight from your room to the Magical express, you’ll want to store you bags with Bell Services. You can pick them up just prior to the Magical Expresses arrival.
Once it arrives, just give your letter and bags to the driver. They will place them in the baggage compartment and give them to you when you arrive at the airport. Then just take them to your airline check in area.
See our Transportation Overview Page
Disney World Resorts
Walt Disney World has had online check in for many years, it’s easy and convenient. But now they are requesting that guests use this option if possible and they are calling it Direct to Room.
At any time after linking your room reservation to your My Disney Experience account you can do your advance check-in. Just click “Start Check-In” next to your room reservation on your MDE Plans Page and it will walk you through the process.
- You’ll be asked for a mobile number for notifications about your room. It will already have your email from your account pre-filled in, but you can edit it.
- You’ll be asked to add or verify a credit card for room charges
- You’ll be asked your arrival time (see our Tip on this below)
- You can select Housekeeping Service every other day or none at all
- You’ll need to set up a pin for your Magic Bands if you haven’t already (you’ll be directed to your MDE Profile to do this)
- You may make room location requests if you didn’t when you made your reservation (making one here will override any made previously) Options vary by resort, but are typically High or Low floor, Near or Far from Elevator, sometimes a King Bed is an option (these are not guaranteed)
- And finally, you’ll be asked to read and confirm the Online Check-In Terms and Conditions and Save
Note: you can still cancel your reservation if needed (based on your cancelation date) after checking in! You don’t have to wait till just before you go. Many people check in way in advance. All you’r really doing is taking care of the administrivia that’s done at check-in.
MDT TIP – Technically, check-in time is 3 p.m. at Walt Disney World Resorts and 4 p.m. at the Disney Vacation Club Resorts. All rooms are supposed to be ready by this time. Naturally some rooms are ready earlier. When yours becomes available you will receive a text (if you supplied a number, an email, and a push notification from your My Disney Experience app. Disney World Resorts try to clean rooms in the order needed (based on your estimated arrival time) but as the day goes on things always get further and further behind! If your room is not ready around your stated arrival time, you’ll get a notification that it is not quite ready yet. During this trip, on one of my check-in days, I had not received any notifications by 3:30 so I headed to my DVC resort. At 3:50 I was told that “My room was not ready because I put 4:00 p.m. as my arrival time. It could be another 20 minutes to an hour and a half!” It ended up being an hour and 35 minutes until the room was ready. So, I recommend always putting a (much) earlier estimated arrival time that what you expect!!!
If you did not do online check-in or need something you can certainly go to the Front Desk upon arrival if you need to, they have their plastic virus barriers up.
But if you did the online check-in you do not need to go to the Front Desk. You can go straight to your room if it’s ready, explore your resort, head to Disney Springs, or go to a theme park.
You may still store your bags with Bell Services when waiting for your room to become ready or for your ride on departure day. Baggage delivery to your room is available, but you must be in the room to accept the bags at the door. The point of this is that the Bellhops are not supposed to enter the room and contaminate it or get contaminated by you (whether you are there or not).
Third Party Deliveries
Amazon and other deliveries are still taking place. You must be there to meet your delivery person, however. You cannot set up advance deliveries at this time.
As noted above you can select whether you want every other day room service or none. Disney has reduced it from every day due to staffing. No matter your selection, a Housekeeping cast member will enter your room every day. While in the room they will empty your garbage and ensure you are not stockpiling guns and ammunition or doing anything else untoward. This daily check and the switch from “Do Not Disturb” door signs to “Room Occupied” signs took place a few years ago shortly after the Las Vegas Hotel/Concert shooting. Housekeepers will knock and enter even if you have the Room Occupied sign on the door! You can coordinate an inspection time that would be best for you based on your schedule, for instance when you are away rather than trying to take a nap, by pressing the Housekeeping button on your room phone.
Not all dining locations are open at this time and the list changes, so be sure to find out what will be available at your resort.
Private Dining as Disney calls Room Service is mostly nonexistent. Only a couple resorts have restarted it.
At some resorts the dining options are very limited!
Temperature checks are required at Resort Table Service locations.
There’s more on dining later in the Disney World Restaurant Section.
Airline Check In/Baggage Check In
This handy service is not available at this time! So, if you have a long wait for your flight on departure day and don’t want to tote your bags around with you, you’ll need to check them with Bell Services, especially if you are going to a park or Disney Springs. I’ve seen families toting a full set of full-sized suitcases around Disney Springs! This is just nonsense; all you are saving is a few bucks tip for the cast member who takes and returns your bags.
Not much else has changed as far as your experience in your resort, save for the ever-present masks. Which must be on outside your room, unless seated in a restaurant, in a pool area, or “actively eating or drinking” while stationary and socially distanced.
See our Resorts Overview Page
Disney World Security
Security has changed to allow social distancing and limited touch. There are no more bag checks! Yay! Instead Disney has new walk-through scanners that scan you and your bags for things you shouldn’t be bringing in.
You can just walk right through at a normal pace right behind (6 feet behind) the person in front of you!
There are however 3 things they ask you to remove from your bags and pass around the scanner, those being metal bottles, aerosol cans, and umbrellas.
These new scanners are in use in 100% of the security locations.
This is so much faster than the old system!!! At least with the minimal attendance.
Disney World Theme Parks
In response to the current situation Disney has severely limited their attendance levels in the theme parks.
The number of people in the parks are at historically low levels!
This is the main huge benefit of going to Walt Disney World right now!
I took a whole lot of amazing photos while there and so many are of locations that normally are choked with people, that don’t have a single person in the shot!
To control and limit attendance, Disney World has put a halt to Park Hopping and instituted a Theme Park Reservation System. You must select one and only one theme park to visit per day. A valid ticket or annual pass has to be linked to each person in your My Disney Experience account to make a reservation. Reservations may be made as far in advance as Disney’s calendar goes out.
See our detailed Theme Park Reservation Post.
Each park has 3 categories within the total number of people allowed in the park for the day. Each receives an allocation of each park’s allowed attendance. These categories are:
- Disney Resort Guests (who have tickets or a pass)
- Annual Passholders (without a resort reservation)
- Those who only purchase park tickets
Rest assured that if you are a Disney Resort guest, you will be able to go to any park desired on any day. If, however you fall into one of the other categories your options can be limited.
The daily attendance limit for each park and the percentage fir each category are not released by Disney. But it seems initially passholders without resort reservations were having trouble securing park reservations. Recently Disney made an adjustment in the alocation for passholders as it became easier to get a reservation for those folks.
Prior to entering Disney’s parks you’ll receive a temperature check and security screening (not necessarily in that order depending on where you are entering or coming from) and then you’ll proceed to the ticketing entrance.
Cheap, Chinese paper masks are available to purchase at entrances for those who do not have a mask or an approved mask.
There are no more fingerprint scanners at Disney World’s theme parks! You just scan your Magic Band or ticket card and go! This is another plus and speeds things up!
The theme parks all have set hours that do not change day by day and all parks close before dark. The length of the park days has been from 8 to 10 hours, adjusted in large timeframes (not daily).
FastPass+ has been paused until further notice. The parks have gone back to the days before even the old paper FastPass where you could hold a single FastPass at a time by going to the attraction and getting paper passes. Disney World is back to the days of having only standby lines!
With the low attendance levels this works just fine!
It is possible even with the short days to do as much as you’d like to get accomplished!
Wait times have been from non-existent in some cases to around 40 minutes.
As we talked about above, extreme social distancing is in effect on all attractions. FastPass lines were closed in order to re-engineer the paths people walk in the queues to enable social distancing. This social distancing is not to be sneezed at (see what I did there?) It was a joy to stand in queue lines and not be clobbered by a backpack when someone spun around who was was wearing one on their back that was standing right in front, behind, or next to you. Also no one else’s kids flailing or constantly bumping into you. And over the years we have experienced some bad BO from others in lines. Not so now! Everyone is 6 feet away!
Theme Park dining was fine, there were ample Quick Service and Table Service locations open, though not all restaurants and carts were open as they are not all needed.
A temperature check is required for entry into a theme park, so none are needed at restaurants.
You must have a Theme Park Reservation (for that park) to dine at a Theme Park Table Service Restaurant. Having a reservation will not get you into a park by itself to eat.
There’s more on dining next in the Disney World Restaurant Section.
Not much else to add to what’s been said regarding merch shops, controlled capacity levels in all shops, plastic barriers at registers, etc.
Parades, Fireworks, and Personal Experiences
Parades, Fireworks, and Personal Experiences that involve close proximity (character meet and greets and meals, makeovers, etc.) are all canceled for the time being.
Disney World has instead instituted what they call Character Cavalcades, these are in all parks and are like a mini parade, with a few characters and one vehicle. They are unannounced and take place all day. It provides a chance to see the characters at a distance. The no published schedule prevents crowds gathering ahead of time and the headache that would cause for the cast. In the Animal Kingdom they are on pontoon boats in the river, in the other parks they have a driving route.
Watch Our Mickey and Friends Cavalcade Video
They have also placed characters up on balconies or atop buildings to wave or talk to at the people below.
As noted above there are 2 per park and you can read more about them in this post. We only used 1 in the Magic Kingdom a couple times when we had to wait for a dining reservation (because it was air conditioned). But there are ample quiet, (almost) deserted spots aplenty in the parks where you can stop, take off you mask, and sip your water. Really the parks for the most part offer the opportunity to stop away from others and sip almost anywhere.
MDT THOUGHTS –
I can’t emphasize enough how awesome the lack of people in the parks is!!!
It makes all the inconveniences you have to endure to enjoy it worth it!
I can’t remember a time when the parks have been like this in recent times. You’d have to go back to low attendance days in the mid 80s to see crowds like this.
In our family, we’ve already had 2 trips and a 3rd is scheduled before the end of the year. We’ve had 3 generations go.
MDT TIP –
Crowds definitely plus up on Friday nights and weekends, and to some extent Friday afternoon with locals. Currently Hollywood Studios and Epcot are the busiest parks (in that order), followed by Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom. If a weekend is part of your trip, plan accordingly. On our upcoming trip Saturday will be a pool/Disney Springs day and Sunday will be Animal Kingdom. We’ll hit the other parks when they are less busy during the week.
Disney World Restaurants
The information in this section applies to all Disney World Restaurants, in the resorts, parks, and Disney Springs.
All restaurants have capacity and distancing limitations. Tables are either positioned to have 6 foot spacing between guests or some tables are marked as not to be used.
Not all dining locations have opened!
All restaurants have limited menus, when compared to pre-closure.
Table Service Restaurants
A temperature check is required for entry into Disney Resort Table Service Restaurants. Theme park and Disney Springs Table Service restaurants are covered by your initial entry.
In order to be able to comply with State mandated capacity instructions Disney has taken several extreme measures. Those being cancelling all Advance Dining Reservations that had been made prior to their closure and canceling the Disney Dining Plan for the foreseeable future. They did this because they had way too many reservations on the books to stay at the reduced capacity allowed and not all restaurants would be re-opening.
They have also changed how far out that you can make your Advance Dining Reservation from 180 days to 60 days.
As noted, a temp check is required to enter Table Service Restaurants. You must wear your mask to the table and anytime that you get up. But once seated you are clear to take it off.
You should plan ahead if you desire to have Table Service meals and make reservations early, especially for popular locations. This way you’ll have a guaranteed place to eat. Disney charges a fee to cancel Advance Dining Reservations the same day as the reservation, but there is no fee to reschedule your reservation to a later date and then cancel it!
We found that day of reservations were very chancy using the app. Even using the Dine Now feature, which looks for Walk Up availability at nearby restaurants, could at times return zero availability. However, we found on more than one occasion that while the app said there were no reservations available and no Walk Ups available, if we went to the restaurant in person, they had plenty of room. They just have not perfected the system to how they are operating now.
Quick Service Restaurants
At Quick Service Restaurants, Mobile Order via your My Disney Experience app is required.
The cat is out of the bag! Mobile Order used to be an awesome way to skip the line at the locations that had it, because most people just didn’t know about it. So often I’ve walked by a long line to pick up food that I’d ordered and paid for on my app just minutes ago.
Now everyone knows about it.
There is a slight change to the process now. Once you order and click “I’m here”, you’ll walk up to the cast member controlling entry outside the restaurant. They may tell you to enter and tell you where to wait or they may ask you to continue to wait outside until you get the notice that your food is ready.
Mobile Order is charged to the card on file in your app, not your Disney Resort Room.
Once you pick up your food you can sit in any of the approved locations in the restaurant, take off your mask, and dine as normal.
Condiments may not be available, so you may need to ask at the counter.
Lounges and Bars
Just like restaurants, Disney’s lounges have capacity and distancing limitations.
All lounges, like the restaurants have 6-foot distancing requirements for seating. Larger lounges handle this just fine, with tables spread out and just a few seats available at the bar. However, some are so small that they have serious limits, for example no bar seating and just 2 tables available.
Some locations are no draft/bottle and can only.
You can always walk up to the bar and carry away though.
MDT THOUGHTS –
Make Advance Dining Reservations for when you think you’ll need them and adjust as needed. Better to have one that be scrambling.
MDT TIP –
No walking and eating your favorite hand carry snack (or drink). That’s tough with an ice cream that’s melting… You’ve got to be stationary to drop your mask!
Not all locations at Disney Springs have re-opened yet.
The same limitations for restaurants, lounges and bars above apply here.
For the most part all the same precautions we’ve talked about regarding restaurants and merchandise locations apply here.
A temperature check is required for entry into Disney Springs, so none are needed at restaurants.
Many locations at Disney Springs are not Disney owned. This means variations to some of what Disney is doing based on their company policy. Everything from not opening to zero seating at a huge bar.
MDT THOUGHTS –
Over the years, especially after the recent expansion, Disney Springs had become way too crowded. It began to look like one of the theme parks it had so many people in it. As with the parks it was refreshing to stroll through Disney Springs with very light foot traffic!
MDT TIP –
Crowds have always been worse on Friday nights and weekends here at Disney Springs with local shoppers and diners. With the parks all closing early we’d heard that it was busier every evening but did not find that to be the case. Weeknights were comparatively light. Overall though way less people than in year’s past.
That’s it for our big returning to Disney World post. We tried to get everything down here for you. What we saw and thought about it and some ideas for you to consider.
I hope this helps you to decide if putting up with the inconveniences is worth it. I think it is!
Attendance will be low for a while, till this all blows over. It’s a golden period!!!
Walt Disney World’s Cast
One last thought.
I mentioned before that the cast to guest ratio was incredibly high. This means excellent attention and service!
I had so many great interactions with the cast. One thing I have always done is to treat them with kindness (too few do) I always ask how they are doing (so many seem surprised or delighted that I’ve asked) and tell them to have a great day. Try it you’ll like it!
I had many conversations with Disney and Disney Partner cast members regarding the hardship they had to go through this year, being laid off for so long. Very many have still not been called back. It’s so sad this has happened!
Make sure you tip well, I tipped well over my normal this trip. You can see our tipping guide here.
I’d like to get your polite thoughts in the comments section below, on the measures described in this post that Disney has put in place in order to open, and for you to ask any questions that you might have about my experience.
Please, I don’t need your thoughts on the corona virus, this post is about Disney’s reaction to it.
p.s. I’m still sifting through the thousands of pictures I took while there. In doing so I’m sure to see something that will spark a memory or tip I need to share, so I’ll update this post as needed.
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