Special Info for these Crazy Times:
- Park Hopping Returns to Walt Disney World Starting in 2021
- Walt Disney World Starting to Discount 2021
- Will There Be a 2021 Disney Armed Forces Salute Room Discount? When Will Disney Announce a 2021 Salute Room Discount?
- Our Return to Walt Disney World
- Planning and Executing Your Walt Disney World Vacation During These Trying Times
- Using the Walt Disney World Theme Park Reservation System
Welcome to our resource for all of the things that are different about a Disney World Vacation during this Temporary Abnormal.
On this page we’ll be discussing everything that is different about planning and executing a Walt Disney World vacation for military families during this temporary “crisis.”
UPDATED: 20 November 2020.
We have a huge amount of content here on MDT and we cannot go through to edit it all for these temporary changes that are not the “new normal” that will be done away with, necessitating changing everything back. Instead we’ll point to this page from all over the site for changes and modifications to the “real normal” that you need to take into account.
It’s easier to make changes here than on each and every page/post that mentions, for example Disney Armed Forces Salute Tickets.
We’ve been really disheartened by the fearful tone on several of the big Disney fan sites this year, where they’ve written about going back to WDW from a fearful point of view. You won’t find that here! These onerous modifications to how we travel to Disney will one day be gone and we’ll be back to normal. This is not the new normal, it’s the temporary abnormal. I’ll just leave it at that.
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. Since 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 I’ve stayed cold free post Disney. This should always be your method of operation while on vacation! Even after this blows over.
We initially published this post after our first trip back to WDW in August after their re-opening and have now updated it after our second trip in November.
So here we go, let’s jump into planning and then we’ll talk about execution.
This post is divided into 2 sections: Things to think about and be aware of while planning, and What things are like on the ground at WDW. Both sections talk about similar sub topics such as Theme Parks or Transportation.
Planning Your Military Family’s Disney World Vacation
When beginning your Walt Disney World planning, you might want to start with our Military Family’s Guid to Planning a Walt Disney World Vacation post. Then come back to this post to see what’s different.
Walt Disney World has made significant changes to how you need to plan for your vacation. Let’s take a look at what you’ll need to consider.
Disney’s reaction to the current health concerns has been extensive. Whether this is due to their buy-in or protecting themselves legally doesn’t matter, you’ll have to deal with it.
During your vacation you will be assaulted with reminders of the current health issue, both visually with rules and distancing signs everywhere and aurally with constant PA announcements about the rules. Disney World is no longer a place to escape the cares of everyday life!
Temperature checks, masks, and social distancing are all mandatory.
Temperature Checks – Before entering Disney Springs or the Walt Disney World theme parks, you will undergo a temperature screening with no-touch thermometers. Anyone displaying a temperature of 100.4 F or above will be directed to an additional location in the shade to cool off for re-screening. Those with actual temperatures of 100.4 F or above will not be allowed to enter; those in their party will also not be allowed to enter.
Masks – Face coverings are required for all Guests (ages 2 and up) at all times, except when dining or swimming. You may also remove your mask while actively eating or drinking, but you must be stationary and maintain appropriate physical distancing. You are no longer allowed to walk and eat or drink without a mask as you could in the first weeks of this.
Masks (whether disposable or reusable) must:
- Be made with at least two layers of breathable material
- Fully cover the nose and mouth and secure under the chin
- Fit snugly but comfortably against the side of the face
- Be secured with ties or ear loops and allow the Guest to remain hands-free
At this time, based on guidance from “health authorities”, neck gaiters, open-chin triangle bandanas and face coverings containing valves, mesh material or holes of any kind are not acceptable face coverings.
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 statement is also part of their periodic PA announcement of restrictions.
Costume masks are also not considered appropriate and are prohibited.
There are no exceptions at all to these rules for medical or physical issues!
Social Distancing – Physical distancing measures are in full effect and may include:
- Signage and Ground Markings have been installed throughout Walt Disney World Resort to help Guests better navigate common areas while practicing physical distancing.
- Physical Barriers: Physical barriers have been added in select places where it is difficult to maintain strict physical distancing guidelines. These may be visible in areas around cash registers or at Guest Relations, for example, to help promote proper distances between people.
- Parking: Cashless payment is recommended at the auto plazas. Cars will be directed to park in every other parking space at the theme parks.
- Training: Cast Members are trained to engage with Guests and promote physical distancing guidelines in common areas and queues.
- Transactions: Cashless payment is recommended throughout Walt Disney World
- Use of Mobile Food Order is encouraged
Disney World has even created a new job for certain cast members, that of medical safety enforcer. These cast members all wear new bright yellowish orange shirts and spend their day reminding people to keep their mask on, wear masks correctly, and to stay 6 feet from others (while getting closer than 6 feet to do so).
Big changes for Disney’s theme parks include the suspension of the FastPass Plus system, suspension of Extra Magic Hours, and having to make Theme Park Reservations ahead of time among others.
The huge change for the Disney World Theme Parks is that Disney is greatly reducing maximum attendance levels. They are doing this via a Park Reservation System. Theme Park Guests are limited to reserving one theme park per day (Park Hopping is not currently allowed, but will be starting 1 January 2021) ) and your theme park must be reserved ahead.
Once the reservation limit is reached for a specific theme park on a given day, no more reservations can be made, unless there are cancellations. This implys that you may not be able to go to your desired theme park on a specific day, or any parks at all on some days for that matter. To date this has only affected annual passholders without resort hotel reservation, those with resort reservations and single day tickets have been able to get the park of their choice with a few exceptions.
Disney has divided the park attendance limits into several buckets of guests, those being Guests with Disney resort reservations, Annual Passholders, and ticket holders (those staying elsewhere). By doing so, it’s not possible for Disney resort guests to take up all the available reservations. Each group has different rules.
To enter a park, both a park reservation and valid admission for the same park on the same date are required for Guests ages 3 and up.
- Disney Resort and other select hotel Guests can make park reservations for dates during their stay for the number of days that they have valid theme park admission.
- 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.
Reservations are made through your My Disney Experience account. See our How To Guide.
You can check your desired dates in advance for planning purposes on Disney’s page.
Theme Park Tickets are required to make a Park Reservation. You can make your reservation as soon as you have your tickets in hand. You do not have to wait until a certain number of days prior.
Walt Disney World’s Water Parks are not open at this time.
MILITARY CONSIDERATIONS: Some Base Ticket Offices are still closed, preventing military families from buying their discounted tickets! Shades of Green has been selling long distance.
Not all Walt Disney World Resorts have re-opened yet. Disney will open more resorts progressively as needed based on guest volume.
The first Walt Disney World Resorts to open were the Disney Vacation Club properties. These were followed by a couple of the co-located Disney Resorts (Polynesian & Contemporary) and then Pop Century.
If you had reservations at one of the closed resorts, Disney moved you to one that was open at the same rate you reserved with. For example we had a reservation at Art of Animation and we were moved to Pop Century.
The following Disney World Resort hotels are open and accepting new reservations:
Bay Lake Tower at Disney’s Contemporary Resort
Boulder Ridge Villas at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge
Copper Creek Villas & Cabins at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge
Disney’s Animal Kingdom Villas – Kidani Village
Disney’s Art of Animation Resort
Disney’s Beach Club Villas
Disney’s BoardWalk Villas
Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort
Disney’s Contemporary Resort
Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort
Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground
isney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa
Disney’s Old Key West Resort
Disney’s Polynesian Villas & Bungalows
Disney’s Pop Century Resort
Disney’s Riviera Resort
Disney’s Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa
Disney’s Yacht Club Resort
The Villas at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa
Several Disney World Resorts were opened solely for the use of NBA teams that are playing on property.
Future proposed Disney World Resort hotel openings dates are:
Note: the above proposed dates and dates and resorts have significantly changed several times.
Deleted from the re-opening list:
Not all features are open at some of the Resorts, this includes some pools, restaurants, and lounges. Club level lounges are closed as well.
MILITARY CONSIDERATIONS: After some issues, Disney Armed Forces Salute Resort Room Discounts are available for dates in 2020 and 2021. The 2020 Salute ticket offer was extended through 26 Sept 2021, but you must purchase by 18 Dec 2020.
The 2020 Disney Armed Forces Salute Room Discount runs through 18 Dec 2020. No 2021 Disney Armed Forces Salute Room Discounts have been announced. Normally the following year’s Salute is not announced until late-September.
The big change for tickets is the suspension of Park Hopping and closed Water Parks as mentioned above.
Disney Armed Forces Salute Tickets are only sold with the Park Hopper or Park Hopper Plus options. The Plus option includes Park Hopping and Water Park entrances.
When Disney restarted selling Military Salute Tickets, they stated that these special military tickets would be the same price as before and would continue to be sold in only the Park Hopper and Park Hopper Plus varieties even though Park Hopping has been suspended. Disney went on to say that there would be NO monetary compensation to the military purchasers for the lack of park hopping.
The 2020 Disney Armed Forces Salute Tickets, both previously purchased but unused and newly purchased have had their expiration date extended through 26 Sept 2021. It is unknown the fate of the last three months of 2021.
Ticket sales of 1 to 7 day Regular Military Discounted Magic Your Way Tickets have also restarted.
At a minimum, tickets are needed to make theme park reservations!
MILITARY CONSIDERATIONS: Most Base Ticket Offices are still closed, preventing military families from buying their discounted tickets! Shades of Green has been selling long distance.
There have been big changes to dining at Walt Disney world as well.
Not all dining locations have opened at the WDW Resorts that are open.
Social distancing measures are in effect, which include greatly reduced capacity with dining parties distanced from each other.
Temperature screening is in effect prior to entering all Table Service restaurants. Those displaying a temperature of 100.4 F or above will be directed to an additional location for re-screening. Those with actual temperatures of 100.4 F or above will not be allowed to enter; those in their party will also not be allowed to enter.
The Disney Dining Plan in not available at the current time. Disney World cancelled (and refunded) all Dining plans that had been reserved for 2020.
All Advance Dining Reservations that were made prior to Disney World’s closure were cancelled and guests had to start over.
The reason for cancelling the Advance Dining Reservations and Dining Plans was the reduced restaurant capacity. Most Disney World restaurants are often fully or close to fully booked. They simply could not honor all of those reservations and seat requirements with half capacity seating.
Advance Dining Reservations may now be made 60 days in advance (as opposed to the regular 180).
Disney World’s Magical Express airport transportation is running using reduced loads and physical distancing.
Luggage service from the airport to your room has been suspended.
Disney World has suspended their Minnie Van Service. And it has now been announced that it will not return!
Park-to-park transportation is not available until 2021, when Par Hopping resumes.
Park to Disney Springs transportation is not available.
Park Reservations can only be made via the My Disney Experience website, not the smartphone/tablet apps. You can go to the website on your phone to do it!
Executing Your Military Family’s Disney World Vacation
Besides the items on our regular packing checklist you will also want make sure to include plenty of comfortable face masks as well as sanitizing supplies.
Face Masks – In order to be comfortable in the Florida heat you’ll want to get the thinnest, loose fitting (around the nose and mouth, not the edges), 2 layer masks that you can get. This will keep you within Disney’s rules. You will want plenty of these masks as they will get damp/wet in the Florida heat and afternoon rainstorms. It is not healthy to keep using or reuse a mask that has been or is continually damp as mold and bacteria can grow in them. Bring enough that you can wash them in the room and leave them to dry while using others.
Anti-bacterial wipes for cleaning surfaces.
Plenty of anti-bacterial hand gel.
Chapstick for lips chapped by extensive mask contact.
Walt Disney World provides an extensive system of free transportation to its guests. During this time extensive modifications have been made to enforce social distancing which severely impacts vehicle capacity and travel times.
Magical Express – As mentioned just above the Magical Express airport transportation is running again using reduced loads and physical distancing, so expect it to take longer to get to your resort from the airport. With luggage service suspended, you will need to go by baggage claim to get your bags and then drag them to the Magical Express departure area!
Minnie Van – Disney’s Minnie Van Service has not re-started operation and will not. So sad, we lover this option!
WDW Bus System – All bus lines are reported as running as normal, except for routes to Epcot and Hollywood Studios from resorts with Skyliner service.
Monorail – Both Magic Kingdom Monorail loops are in service, with internal canvas separators between the front and rear of each car. Only 2 parties per car one in each section, seated on the front and rear seats (no standing). This severely reduces capacity! The Epcot loop is not in service, in order to put the extra monorail trains on the Magic Kingdom loop.
Skyliner – The Skyliner is in service with reduced capacity (only 1 party per gondola). This increases wait times during peak transportation times.
Water Transportation – WDW’s Fleet of Boats – Some but not all boats are in operation at reduced capacity.
- Magic Kingdom Ferry Boat – Social distancing enforced by dots painted on the deck. Up to 5 people per dot, larger partied use more than 1 dot. About 60 parties (dots) are allowed. This could increase wait times during peak transportation times.
- Magic Kingdom Resort Boats – Social Distancing enforced by only using every-other seating row. Capacity greatly reduced. This could increase wait times during peak transportation times. Polynesian Village Resort, Wilderness Lodge, and Fort Wilderness – Operating; Grand Floridian – Not Operating
- Epcot Resort Area Boats among the resorts and Epcot & Hollywood Studios – Social Distancing enforced by only using every-other seating row. Capacity greatly reduced.
Parking – Self-parking is available at Disney Resort hotels. Valet service is temporarily unavailable, with the exception of guests with disabilities who may require parking assistance. A valid disability parking permit is required.
Masks are required in all common areas except pool areas. You may remove your mask inside the pool area fence.
Disney requests that you do online check in via your My Disney Experience account if possible. On your scheduled checkout day, you’ll be automatically checked out of your room, so you don’t have to visit the Front Desk.
But the front desks are all open.
Some Disney Resort hotel services will be modified or unavailable during the initial reopening period, based on physical distancing and health guidelines.
- Bell Services will deliver luggage to rooms, but will not escort Guests or enter the room if you are there.
- Club-level service is temporarily unavailable
- Deliveries may only be made to occupied rooms
- In-room celebrations are not available
- In-room dining is available, but will be delivered to your door only and will be placed on the end of a cart and pushed towards you keeping the whole cart between you and the server
- Dry-cleaning and valet laundry services is temporarily unavailable; self-service laundry is available
- Shipping services are temporarily unavailable at resorts
- Resort airline check-in service is unavailable
- Package delivery to your resort (or the front of the parks) has been suspended. You can still ship to your home from merchandise locations.
Housekeeping services have been modified at Disney Resort hotels to include enhanced cleaning and reduced contact.
Prior to your arrival, your room will undergo thorough cleaning—with attention to:
- High-touch areas, like TV remotes and door handles
- Housekeeping tools will be cleaned between rooms
- Floors, which will be steam cleaned and vacuumed between Guests
Inside your room, you’ll find:
- Individually wrapped glassware
- Double-cased pillows
- Additional items that have been cleaned and wrapped in single-use packaging
During your stay, your room will receive a light cleaning service only every other day, which will include:
- Removal of trash and used towels
- Replenishment of towels and amenities throughout the room and bathroom
- Wiping and cleaning of the vanity and counter surfaces
- Vacuuming if needed
Cast members will only perform this service if you are not in the room. If you are there they will hand you whatever you need though. You can request a desired time to have your service completed (when you are away) by calling the Front Desk or Housekeeping directly.
You can also decline this every-other-day service.
- Feature pools may operate with reduced hours; leisure pools are open 24 hours a day
- Pools are operating with reduced capacity to allow for physical distancing
- Select poolside activities may be available at select Resort hotels
- During our November trip, masks were not required inside the pool area fence.
Fitness Centers & Sports Courts
- Fitness centers are open in alignment with state and county regulations, and may have reduced hours
- Fitness centers may have reduced hours and capacity
- Instructor-led fitness classes are not available
- Fitness and sports courts are open, and Guests must maintain physical distancing
The following amenities and experiences are not available during the initial reopening period:
- Character experiences
- Dog parks
- Electrical Water Pageant
- Marina rentals
- Spas, salons and Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique
Additionally, the following special offerings and childcare services are not available during the initial reopening:
- Fireworks voyages and tasting cruises, including the Pirates and Pals Fireworks Voyage
- Fun runs
- Wonderland Tea Party at Park Fare
- Hula lessons
- In-room childcare services
- Mermaid school
- Special classes and programs—including culinary, cultural and animal programs
You will receive a temperature check in order to be allowed entry to Disney World’s Theme Parks.
Masks are required at all times unless you are seated in a restaurant, outside eating or drinking while stationary and maintaining physical distancing, or you are in one of the Mask Relaxation Stations located in the parks. These stations are areas where you are allowed to remove your mask if it is getting too much for you. You must be stationary and maintain physical distancing in these areas.
Some of these Stations are indoors in the air-conditioning (which some other Disney sites think is scary) and some are outdoors in the Florida heat. All have tables with chairs or high top tables to stand at which are physically separated. Outdoor locations are either fully covered, offer some natural shade, or umbrellas.
Mask Relaxation Stations:
- Magic Kingdom
- Golden Oak Outpost in Frontierland (Outdoor very little shade)
- Tomorrowland Terrace in Tomorrowland (Outdoor – Fully Covered)
- Pete’s Silly Sideshow in Fantasyland (Indoor – Air-Conditioned)
- In Future World, between Test Track and Mission: Space (Outdoor – Umbrellas)
- Outside the Yorkshire County Fish Shoppe in the United Kingdom (Outdoor – Umbrellas)
- In the Akershus restaurant (not serving food) in Norway (Indoor – Air-Conditioned)
- Hollywood Studios
- In Galaxy’s Edge, near Rise of the Resistance (Outdoor – Umbrellas)
- Animation Courtyard in Star Wars Launch Bay (Both Outdoor and Indoor – Air-Conditioned)
- Animal Kingddom
- Pizzafari in Discovery Island (Indoor – Air-Conditioned)
- Upcountry Landing near UP! A Great Bird Adventure (Outdoor – Fully Covered)
Stations are fairly well distributed through the parks.
MDT prefers using the indoor ones! (this is not recommended if you are in the 0.05% of the population that is at risk. It’s also of course not recommended that you go to Disney World if you are one of the very, very few at risk).
Hand wash and sanitizing gel dispensers are abundant in the parks as are cleanliness and separation posters.
The PhotoPass Service is still available, but you may not remove your mask for the photos, even if you are 6 feet or more from anyone else!
You may not even remove your mask for your own photos even if you are a safe distance from everyone!
Masks are required on rides and if you remove your mask any PhotoPass pictures will not be processed for the entire ride vehicle (some of whom might not be in your party!)
Park Hopping Extra Magic Hours and FastPass Plus have been suspended.
Note: Park Hopping will return on 1 January 2021!
Starting Jan. 1, 2021, guests who purchased a ticket, package or annual pass with Park Hopper benefits will be able to visit more than one park per day, with some new modifications as part of our ongoing focus on health and safety.
Guests must make a Disney Park Pass reservation for the first park they plan to visit (reservation requirements are subject to change) AND enter that first park prior to visiting another.
Disney will set specific Park Hopper hours during which this option will be available. Park Hopper® hours will start at 2 p.m. each day and end at the park’s scheduled close time.
Park-to-park transportation is also planned to resume in 2021, with operations beginning each day shortly prior to the start of Park Hopper hours.
Theme Park Reservations
You’ll pick ahead of time what park you’d like to visit each day of your trip. It is possible to change your mind prior to entering the day’s selected park. You first need to cancel the reservation that you have and then try to reserve the park that you’d like. Note there is risk in doing this.
You may leave your selected park and return later in the day.
Park hours do not vary as they did prior to the shutdown. Each park has a set 10-hour day, which doesn’t vary day to day.
Schedule through 7 September:
- Magic Kingdom – 9 a.m. to 7 p.m
- Epcot – 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.
- Hollywood Studios – 10 a.m. to 8 p.m
- Animal Kingdom – 8 a.m. to 6 p.m
The New Reduced Schedule starting 8 September:
- Magic Kingdom – 9 am to 6 pm
- Epcot – 11 am to 7 pm
- Hollywood Studios – 10 am to 7 pm
- Animal Kingdom – 9 am to 5 pm
Star Wars Rise of the Resistance Virtual Queue
For guests with a Disney Park Pass reservation to Disney’s Hollywood Studios, Rise of the Resistance will continue to have limited availability accessible through the My Disney Experience app virtual queue. Boarding groups open up at 7 a.m. via your app from anywhere, and again at 2 p.m. if you are in Hollywood Studios for you to attempt to join a queue.
Here are more Virtual Queue details to be aware of before you arrive:
- First, make sure to download the My Disney Experience app. Once you enter the park, log in to your account at one of the distribution times (10 a.m. or 2 p.m.).
- Once you have logged in, select “Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance Virtual Queue” on the home screen. You will be able to view the current status and next steps for joining the virtual queue.
- The app will indicate when there is no availability for a specific distribution time. Some guests may join backup groups.
- As long as your My Disney Experience account is linked to park tickets for you and the others in your group, you can enroll everyone in the virtual queue at the same time. In order to give as many guests as possible the opportunity to join the Resistance, each guest can enter the virtual queue no more than once per day.
- Make sure push notifications are turned on for My Disney Experience so you will be alerted if your group is called to return. You’ll have up to an hour from the time of the alert to go to the entrance of Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance.
- Guests who are enrolled in the virtual queue will be able to see an estimated return time indicating when they may be called back to experience the attraction. This time may change throughout the day, so continue to check the app for updates. Also, the tip boards around the park will display the boarding groups that have been called back.
- Please note that joining the virtual queue does not guarantee the ability to experience Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance (due to down time).
Quick Service locations are encouraging the use of Mobile Order, which has greatly expanded its restaurant location participation. You will order and pay through your My Disney Experience app. Some registers are open for those without the app.
Temperature Checks are required for entry into Table Service locations.
Masks must be worn to your table at all restaurants, where you may then take them off.
Table Service locations have adopted Electronic Advance Dining Reservation Check In and Electronic Menus. You’ll need to scan QR codes with your phone, which will step you through the check in process or take you to a page with the menu. This eliminates human contact, laminating all menus, and cleaning them between guests.
Touchless Payment (Magic Bands, Apple Pay, etc.) are preferred. Keep your dirty bills to yourself.
In order to eat in a Disney Resort Hotel that you are not staying at, will require you to make an Advance Dining Reservation. You can’t just drop in. Advance Dining Reservations are recommended for your own Resort Hotel as well.
Menu selections have been reduced at most restaurant locations.
We recommend that you make reservations for all desired Table Service meals ahead, especially for resorts with limited options/no Quick Service options like the Epcot Deluxe Resorts!
You will receive a temperature check in order to be allowed entry to Disney Springs.
Masks are required at all times unless you are seated at a restaurant, or if you are outside eating or drinking while stationary and maintaining physical distancing.
Most, but not all locations have re-opened at Disney Springs. Most locations at Disney Springs are not Disney owned and their re-opening is based on their owner’s discretion.
What’s Open at Disney Springs?
Check Disney’s current lists:
Over to You
Share your thoughts and experiences with Walt Disney World’s Re-Opening in the comments section below!
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Read about the Temporary Changes to Disney World during their Post-Lockdown Re-OpeningSee Our Great Disney Discount and Planning Info:
- Disney Veteran & Military Discount Eligibility Guide
- The Military Family’s Walt Disney World Comprehensive Vacation Planning and Preparation Guide
- Military Disney Tips Disney Packing Checklist
- Disney Military Tickets – Your Start to Finish Guide
- Resorts/Hotel Overview Page
- Dining Overview Page
- Transportation Overview Page
- Technology Overview Page
- Shades of Green, WDW’s Military Only Resort
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