What’s Walt Disney World like during COVID? My mother and I planned a two-day girls trip to check it out and share with you. I felt it was important to wait the obligatory two weeks from our trip to share our experience. It was – different – like everything is now days. A resemblance of what was there before, but not the same.
If you are thinking of a trip, I still recommend it. Working in the performing arts industry, I can tell you first hand that places like Disney need your support right now. They have figured out how to open back up safely and we want them to survive for the future. When you go, shows are not up and running yet, and park hours are shorter, but crowds are also lighter letting you ride the rides! Here’s a run down of our visit plus a few tips:
Know Before You Go!
- Disney requires advance park reservations. This is an additional step after you purchase your ticket. I recommend making your reservation as soon as you know what date you want to visit.
- Masks are required as soon as you step out of your car and onto property. Gators and face shields are not considered masks, and anyone age 2 or older needs one! We watched the whole entry line get held up while a mother argued with security! (You’re not going to win…)
The Parks: We started our trip on a weekday at Animal Kingdom – a park my mother had never visited before. Entering has changed, first you are guided through a series of tents run by the staff of Advent Health that take your temperature. Then on to an upgraded security check where they no longer search your bags. One more stop at the ticket turnstile where you no longer scan your finger and you have officially entered the park!
So What Happens if Your Temperature is Too High?
If your temperature reads 100.4 F or higher, you and the rest of your party will be escorted to an area where you have a chance to rest and then be rechecked. Use this opportunity to cool down if you have just walked from the hot parking lot. A friend of ours had a hat on that caused her to be too hot. Once she removed the hat she was fine.
Once in the park, we headed for one of the most popular attractions, Flight of Passage. There are no Fast Passes during this time, so plan the longer waits for earlier in the day when you have more energy.
This was our first experience waiting in a socially distanced line. It wrapped out of the regular que and off into the “woods”. The wait said 40 minutes, but in reality it was about 30 minutes. This was the longest wait we had both days, even at rides like the Seven Dwarves Mine Train which is always notoriously long.
We actually enjoyed this style of line because it kept moving. By the time we reached the Magic Kingdom the next day it was a full game: “Move ahead two spaces! Go back one since that family didn’t technically move yet. Now advance to go!”
Character experiences are very different now as well, but the magical moments still exist. Disney has also designed mini-parades call cavalcades. Some have specific times during the day while others happen sporadically. For the characters, while there is currently no close ups, hugs or autographs, we did see a number of them waving to us, especially at the Magic Kingdom.
The Hotel: We took advantage of the current hotel discounts to stay at The Contemporary. Usually the room rates would be out of my budget, but with the parks closing between 5 to 7 PM each evening, I knew we would want a nice home base with dining and activities. Our room was clean, but we wiped it down with Clorox wipes as an extra precautionary measure. The pool and hot tub were open and outdoor evening movies were still happening. Coming out of dinner, we caught the tail end of the fireworks show on the outdoor movie screen. A strange thing to watch knowing the castle is all quiet behind you.
Dining: Finding food in the parks can be a little tricky right now. At Animal Kingdom, we found ourselves wandering around the Africa section looking for an open food stand for lunch. By the time we finally found potstickers and french fries at a small stand we were starving. The same situation happened the next day at Magic Kingdom with most of the restaurants closed.
Plan Ahead to Enjoy Your Meals!
Thanks to the My Disney Experience app you can plan ahead to take advantage of the limited selection of open food. Seated dining can be a well deserved break from wearing your mask, but make sure you know what type of food the restaurant serves and also the price range.
The mobile option for ordering food was one of my favorite features long before COVID. Plan you group’s order in advance and place it with the app. Then click a button to let the counter service know when you have arrived. Your fellow travelers can find a table while you wait to pick up the order!
An extra note during COVID: Disney does not allow guests to walk around the park while eating or drinking. There are also periodic announcements reminding you to wear your mask except when actively eating or drinking. Cast members are on the look out for guests not following the rules, so be prepared to play along.
For our entertainment after the parks closed, I hade made us a reservation at the California Grill. This is one of my favorite restaurants on top of the Contemporary Hotel and we were lucky enough to eat during the sunset. One of the advantages of this restaurant is the walk out balconies where you can see different areas of Walt Disney World and Orlando. When the fireworks shows are happening at the Magic Kingdom, the restaurant also pipes in the sound track to follow the show.
While the California Grill falls under the $$$$ category, there are plenty of items to be shared off the menu. Our waiter was wonderful and made sure to help us draw the meal out knowing we had nowhere else to be that evening.
Overall, it was a very enjoyable trip to Walt Disney World and a chance to escape everyday life. Our take away was that we felt safe and the entire resort felt very clean. Cast members were cleaning ride seats periodically and hand sanitizer machines were available as soon as you exited an attraction.
I miss the shows and the fireworks, but I know that those things will be back with time. Rumor has it they are using this opportunity to work on the new fireworks spectacular for Epcot… Let’s hope this and more are in the works, but for now, enjoy the opportunity to ride the rides with less crowded lines.
See you real soon!
Have you been to Disney during COVID? Let us know what your experience was like below!