Walt Disney World has finally announced that it will be reopening the Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom on July 11, 2020, and Epcot and Hollywood Studios on July 15, 2020. But along with that fantastic news comes some pretty major changes. So how will the parks be different when you return? Let’s break it all down.
UPDATE: Walt Disney World has continued to update health and safety protocols as more people have gained access to the COVID-19 vaccine. For the latest information, please visit Walt Disney World’s “Know Before You Go” page.
Changes to FastPass+ and Extra Magic Hours
FastPass+ and Extra Magic Hours have been suspended. All existing FastPass+ reservations have been cancelled. Walt Disney World will be utilizing all available queue space in insure safe social distancing for park guests. But since the parks will also be operating at reduced capacity, we anticipate shorter wait times which should help offset the loss of FastPass+ – silver lining!
Changes to Dining Reservations and the Disney Dining Plan
All existing Advanced Dining Reservations and experience bookings such as tours have been cancelled. The Disney Dining Plan has been suspended. Guests who had previously purchased a Dining Plan will be refunded. Walt Disney World will reopen with limited capacity which means that not all restaurants may be open.
When Walt Disney World does begin accepting Advanced Dining Reservations again, it will be with a 60-day window. This will allow guests to plan closer to their vacation. No more making reservations 180 days in advance! (Another silver lining!)
Theme Park Reservation System
Potentially the biggest change we see to how guests will plan their Walt Disney World vacations going forward will be the theme park reservation system. In addition to park admission, guests will be required to have a reservation to visit a theme park. Walt Disney World has temporarily suspended any new ticket sales or hotel reservations. Guests with existing hotel reservations will be given priority access to the new system, beginning on June 22, 2020.
The system is now known as the Disney Park Pass System. It will be available for guests visiting through September 26, 2021. As soon as you book a Walt Disney World stay, you will want to book your Park Pass for each day you plan to visit a theme park. Admission is not guaranteed, even with the purchase of a park ticket!
Park Hopping Suspended
Park Hopping has been suspended for now. Walt Disney World plans to reinstate park hopping in the future.
Safety and Social Distancing Changes When Walt Disney World Reopens
Effective May 15, 2021, Walt Disney World has updated their mask policy. Guests are no longer required to wear masks in most outdoor locations. Guests 2 and up are still required to wear masks in and on attractions, in line for attractions, when entering and exiting attractions and theaters, and indoors. To view the updated policy, visit Walt Disney World’s Know Before You Go page.
Walt Disney World has announced extensive changes to park operations for when they reopen. These changes were made in line with CDC guidelines regarding social distancing.
From the official announcement:
“Upon reopening, theme parks, Disney Resort hotels, restaurants, attractions, experiences and other offerings may be modified and will be limited in capacity and subject to limited availability or closure, based on direction from health experts and government officials to promote physical distancing.
Additionally, attractions, experiences (such as shows, parades and fireworks), services and amenities may have limited availability or may remain closed. We will provide more information as it becomes available. We reserve the right to cancel any reservations, admission media or purchases and provide applicable refunds.”
Masks will be required for all guests, ages 2 and up, as well as Cast Members. Temperature Screenings will be required in some locations, especially as you enter a theme park. Anything that encourages crowds to gather such as parades and fireworks have been suspended.
Disney has also added a strong COVID-19 disclaimer to all of their websites, terms and conditions, etc.
“We have taken enhanced health and safety measures—for you, our other Guests, and Cast Members. You must follow all posted instructions while visiting Walt Disney World Resort.
An inherent risk of exposure to COVID-19 exists in any public place where people are present. COVID-19 is an extremely contagious disease that can lead to severe illness and death. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, senior citizens and Guests with underlying medical conditions are especially vulnerable.
By visiting Walt Disney World Resort you voluntarily assume all risks related to exposure to COVID-19.
Help keep each other healthy.”
NEW Changes to Walt Disney World Operations
On June 7, 2020, Disney released additional details regarding park operations. Some important items:
- Guests are strongly urged to visit https://floridahealthcovid19.gov/travelers/ before they travel to Walt Disney World to ensure that they comply with Florida’s requirements. If a Florida visitor is ordered by the state to self-isolate or quarantine will not be allowed to enter a Walt Disney World Resort.
- Guests must have a room or dining reservation to visit or access a resort.
- Guests are encouraged to use My Disney Experience for check in and to communicate with the resort. My Disney Experience has added a chat feature for resort guests to use during their stay.
- Housekeeping has been reduced to every other day during a guests stay. Guests do have the option to forego housekeeping services.
- Self-parking is available with standard fees but valet parking will be exclusively for guests with disabilities. A valid disability permit is required.
- Self service laundry is available but valet and dry cleaning have been suspended.
- Club Level service is unavailable. (Though most resorts that will be reopening do not offer Club Level rooms.)
- In Room Celebrations are unavailable.
- Feature pools may have reduced capacity. Stormalong Bay at Disney’s Yacht & Beach Clubs may not be available when the resorts reopen.
- These features will be unavailable at all resorts: Arcades, Campfires, Dog Parks, Electrical Water Pageant, Fireworks Cruises, In Room Child Care, Marina Rentals, Pin Trading, Playgrounds, Spas, Salons (including Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique), Classes and programs
- Minnie Van Service will be suspended at first when Walt Disney World reopens.
- Transportation will be offered at a reduced capacity.
Should I Cancel My Planned Walt Disney World Vacation?
Given all of these changes and restrictions, it is understandable that some guests may wonder whether to cancel or postpone their visit. Here are some questions to consider when making your decision!
“Is this your first visit?” If you have never been to Walt Disney World before, you may want to consider postponing. The current restrictions will definitely be a big change from what you would have experienced prior to the pandemic.
“Can you tolerate wearing a mask all day?” For some guests, especially those with special needs, wearing a mask may be a deal breaker. Especially in Florida in the summer heat! Disney suggests that guests who are unable or unwilling to wear a mask may be better off visiting at another time in the future.
“Do you think some Disney is better than no Disney?” For some of us, just being at Walt Disney World, even in a limited capacity is enough. (Me. It’s me.) But if having some things be off limits such as parades, favorite attractions or restaurants will ruin your trip, I would recommend postponing.
“Were you planning a ‘Do Less, Enjoy More‘ type of vacation?” If so, you are in luck! This may be the perfect time to enjoy Walt Disney World in an entirely different way. Reduced capacity means less crowds, more time to wander and take in all of the incredible details, and more time at your resort. And if you are a Disney geek like me, you may be really interested to see how all of this works in person!
What Is Most Important
These are a lot of changes. And we are all going through something right now, which means that new information is even harder to process than normal. So the best advice I can give anyone trying to make a decision about their Walt Disney World vacation is to take a breath, and take time to REALLY think about what works for your family. Nothing matters more than the health and safety of your family. And what works for you may not be what works for someone else. And that’s okay!
All of the changes that Walt Disney World is making are with the safety of the guests and Cast Members in mind. And these policies will continue to change and adapt as time goes on. Stay well, stay safe, and stay healthy!
Will these changes affect your Disney vacation? Let us know in the comments!
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