Walt Disney World During Covid-19
After canceling two trips this past spring due to Covid-19, we finally made it back to our happy place this October. So how different is it? Do we recommend even going? Can it be fun with many resorts, restaurants, stage shows, and nighttime fireworks not operating right now? And really, just how awful is it wear a mask for hours in 90 degree heat?
There were many pros and cons to this. In a nutshell, we had a great time and it was nice to feel somewhat normal in this crazy year we’ve all had to deal with. If you’ve been to Walt Disney World before, aren’t upset about wearing a mask, and go in with certain expectations I would say yes, go. If this is your first trip (and I did see people with 1st Visit buttons) I would say no. Wait it out and hope things return to normal somewhat soon. (Although recent reports suggest mask use and park reservations will be a thing well into 2021.)
Alright, let’s get to it….
We visited Walt Disney World from October 3rd through October 11th. We stayed at Disney’s Pop Century Resort, but spent our last night at a deluxe studio villa at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa, thanks to friends who gifted us a one-night stay on their DVC points for our 10th wedding anniversary. (Which was our first time staying at the Grand Flo!)
Firstly, read about Walt Disney World’s Covid-19 warnings and mask requirements straight from them right here. What has changed during the pandemic?
Disney Park Pass System – No more park hopping at the moment, and you must book a reservation for the park you do intend to visit for the day. When we would drive to a park, the parking attendant at the booth would ask us if we had a park reservation for the day. If you don’t, you aren’t getting in. I really really missed park hopping though.
Face Coverings – Yes, you do have a to wear a mask. Yes, even outside. Yes, even at your resort. Basically keep it on unless you are eating and drinking while stationary. You cannot walk around Epcot tossing popcorn in your mouth anymore. You and your group must pull off to the side, take your mask off, eat your snack, put your mask back on, then resume on your way. If you are inside of a restaurant, seated at a table, and decide to get up to use the restroom, you must put the mask back on. Yes, you will see people breaking the rules. But you will also most likely see a cast member politely reminding them about the rules.
I washed our face masks in the sink at our resort each night. We brought plenty with us, and also brought spares into the park each day. We wore regular cloth ones that went around our ears, ones that tied, and also used the ear savers that go around the back of your head. I ordered mask brackets to wear inside of our masks, but they did not arrive until after we returned home. Disney sells plenty of masks if you forget yours, and I also saw vending machines where you could purchase disposable masks.
Temperature Screenings – Before you enter a park you will go in a white tent (like the one in the photo above, behind Gary) to have a super quick temperature screening. We also had temperature screenings at resort restaurants, such as when we had dinner at The Wave at Disney’s Contemporary Resort.
Mobile Ordering at Quick Service Restaurants – This one worked fairly well at the parks, but was a total disaster for us at our resort, Pop Century. Basically, in order to eat at a quick service restaurant, you must order your meal in advance using the My Disney Experience app. When your order is ready, show the attendant at the entrance of the restaurant your phone screen that proves your order is ready for pickup, and they will permit you inside. Once inside, pick up your order and find an empty table that doesn’t have a sign on it that says you cannot sit there due to social distancing. (This was VERY hard to do at Pecos Bill at the Magic Kingdom. Every table was full it seemed, and we witnessed a cast member allow a large group to sit at tables that were supposed to remain empty for social distancing. Unfortunately, they were right beside us so we got up and moved to a different table.)
Our experience at Pop Century was a mess. When the parks close, the food courts at the resorts are completely mobbed. Gary wanted a half-gallon of milk to keep in our room. Simple enough, but you can’t just walk in, take it out of the cooler, pay for it, and be on your way anymore. (Although we did see milk in coolers at other resort gift shops – mostly DVC resorts, that was not the case at Pop Century.) We mobile ordered the milk and waited over a half hour for the message that said our order was ready, but it never came. We finally went up to a great cast member and told him how long we had waited just to get a refrigerated item. He went in the back and returned with it for us. In total though, we probably waited 35 minutes just to buy a half-gallon of milk. And a side note, I really missed just gazing all of the lovely cupcakes and other desserts that would usually be on display at the food court.
Social Distancing in Queues & No Fast Passes – I also miss fast passes. I understand why they aren’t a thing right now, due to having space in the parks for social distancing. I just liked knowing I would have at least 3 attractions that would have a minimal wait for us though. On our last day of our trip, after breakfast at the Grand Floridian Café, the only thing we did at a very busy Magic Kingdom was have a Dole Whip, watch the Country Bears, and shop at Memento Mori before we hit the road towards home. And yes, there is a line to get into Memento Mori in order to have social distancing in the store.
This also poses a problem of finding the end of the line for some attractions. The end of the line to get into Frozen Ever After in Epcot’s Norway was well into China. Again, totally understandable for social distancing, but it did make it a scavenger hunt of sorts just to see where you were supposed to get in line.
Hand sanitizer & Hand Washing Stations – There were plenty of hand sanitizer stations around the parks, mostly before and after you get off of a ride or attraction. Every now and then you would find portable sinks that you could use. It took a little trial and error to get enough water to come out using the foot pedal. But it worked. Mostly we relied on hand sanitizer and washing our hands in a regular restroom though.
No Character Meet & Greets – You can no longer get a hug or an autograph from the characters. However, there are other ways to see them out and about in the parks. We got this photo with Mary Poppins and gave her a quick wave. In total, that meet and greet took all of 20 seconds. We also saw characters above the train station at the Magic Kingdom, in various mini-parades, and even cruising on a boat in Disney’s Animal Kingdom. For people like us who go to Walt Disney World often, this was kind of fun to see the various ways they would incorporate the characters into the parks. (There are also a few socially distanced character meals still happening, we just didn’t go to any of them.)
Transportation Changes – The lines to get on the bus to a park in the morning are LONG. We drove to Disney’s Hollywood Studios on our first full day of vacation and I glanced over to the entrance of Pop Century, wondering why there was a huge crowd there. Oh, that’s just the line to get on the bus to get to Magic Kingdom. The lines are socially distanced, and the buses are taking off probably only 25% full. There were numerous buses out there the morning we took the bus to Magic Kingdom, and we probably watched 4 or 5 leave before we finally got on one. Cast members even handed out free bottles of cold water to everyone because we were all in the hot sun for nearly 45 minutes. The perk is you are guaranteed a seat and you aren’t crowded by other people’s backpacks in your face. Plus you get dropped off at the entrance to Magic Kingdom, which is why we took the bus to begin with. There is no fun in driving to the Magic Kingdom at all.
You are supposed to get a “zone” to just yourself and your party. However, once we shared a zone with a party of 3 on a bus to Disney Springs. Gary and I sat on one side, and 3 others were directly across from us. It didn’t bother us though. However, some other bus drivers were sticking to the one group per zone, which makes for some pretty empty buses. The Skyliner was similar, in that the lines were long, but they kept moving. And it was really nice to get a gondola to ourselves after riding it with some rude people earlier this year, people who felt that we needed to hear music blasting from their phone during our ride.
And we did notice that the lines for transportation is when we saw the most mask offenders. People eating their breakfast in line, wearing masks below their noses, and taking their masks off to chat. When a cast member caught it they said something, but these folks were also the type to pull the mask back down the minute the cast member walked away.
Signs, Signs, Everywhere There’s Signs – Some commenters on social media have complained that the signs and constant announcements that play at the parks reminding you to wear your mask properly and to socially distance are “not very magical.” Well, this is what has to happen in order for Walt Disney World to even be open right now. It’s a trade-off I’m willing to have in order to be there.
Resorts, Shops, and Restaurants Are Still Closed – Our two favorite restaurants, Boma and ‘Ohana are still closed. As are the Port Orleans resorts. Many stores around World Showcase at Epcot weren’t open either. There is a long list of places that are still closed, but there is still plenty to do. Walt Disney World is huge and there is never lack for anything to do.
Did we feel safe there? We personally had not eaten inside of a restaurant since March before we took this trip. I appreciate the social distancing efforts and the fact that people are wearing masks at Walt Disney World, although yes, some not correctly. Where we live, this is not the case. We wanted to check out a Spirit Halloween store near us just yesterday. Despite the sign out front noting that face coverings were required, a group of people directly in front of us as we were walking in were not wearing masks at all. We walked in the doorway and saw another group not wearing masks so we turned around and left. If this store was at Walt Disney World, you would have had a cast member out front telling those people to put on a mask, and they would also be limiting the amount of people in the store to begin with. None of those happen where we live. Yes, there are more people at Walt Disney World, but I also felt safer there. We’ve gone back to not eating inside of restaurants, which is a bummer. Yet another reason why Disney is better than real life.