2020 has been a stressful year for everybody. We saw our travel schedule become completely zero and even getting to spend time with family and friends became almost nothing. But that means we spend a lot of time together as a family in close quarters. Since moving to Florida, one of the things that we were looking forward to was spending more time in Disney World.
This has been updated as of July 2021. Very few COVID precautions remain in place. If you are unvaccinated, part of a fragile family, or do not feel comfortable visiting a theme park while there are still new Coronavirus cases, we recommend NOT visiting Universal, Busch Gardens or Disney Parks. We don’t feel comfortable visiting while our kids are still unvaccinated as there is no more social distancing and everyone, vaccinated or not, seems to have stopped wearing masks.
Now that Walt Disney World has reopened since being closed for several months due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we got to experience the Magic Kingdom and its precautions. Here is everything to expect and how to prepare for a day at Disney World with elevated health and safety precautions.
What you'll find...
- Did Disney World Fully Reopen?
- Reservations for Entry to Walt Disney World Parks
- Know Before You Go: health precautions at Disney World
- Safety Precautions We Observed in the Magic Kingdom
- 5 Tips for an Easy Health and Safety Conscious Disney Trip
Did Disney World Fully Reopen?
Beginning on Sunday March 15th at Disney World closed because of the covid-19 pandemic. Originally they were planning just to be closed through the month it ended up laughing all the way into July. Reopening, Disney Springs welcome guests and then on July 11th Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom both reopened. On July 15th Disney’s Hollywood Studios and Epcot reopened as well.
While all the parks are open for visitors, the experiences are limited when it comes to ones that draw a crowd. The shows that would normally get people congregating along Main Street or in front of the castle have been postponed until further notice. Additionally, indoor shows such as the Monsters Inc Laugh Floor are not running currently. Vacation booking is also limited, but new dates are released every day!
We recommend booking through Get Away Today because they do so much work with Disney and have tons of experience, including during all the upheaval of the Coronavirus.
Modified Entertainment in Disney World
As I said, because entertainment tends to attract guests into close proximity, shows and character meet and greets have really changed. Instead of the grand parades, there are character floats and processionals that happen throughout the day. We saw a tiny parade with Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Daisy and Pluto on a float, spied some Country Bears on a balcony in Frotierland, and then saw Chip ‘n Dale on a river raft waving at guests as they sailed by.
Even though this isn’t as exciting at the epic Disney entertainment everyone is used to, it definitely brings fun back into the park when it seems much more quiet than normal.
“What about fireworks in the Magic Kingdom during COVID-19?” Well, with modified operating hours and efforts to minimize congregating, the nightly fireworks display is on hold… but if you’re staying in a Walt Disney World Resort hotel, from 6:00 pm to 10:00 pm each night the Magic Kingdom’s fireworks show plays on a loop. Check with Guest Services once you’re checked in to confirm which channel it’s on.
Dining and Food Service in Disney World during COVID19
Dining also looks very different as Disney World is focusing on health and safety in regards to covid-19. Mobile Order and Pay through the My Disney Experience app is the standard unless you are doing sit down dining. Even quick service dining at hotels is modified to limit contact.
Outdoor vending operations for things like frozen treats, drinks and snacks is operating at a minimum, both due to fewer people in the parks and to limit interaction and crowding.
Lastly, dining is one of the only times you get to remove your mask in Disney World. You need to be stationary and actively eating or drinking for the mask to be okay coming off.
Reservations for Entry to Walt Disney World Parks
Something new to Walt Disney World with the reopening of the parks since COVID-19 is the park entry reservation system. That’s right: you cannot just decide to visit Walt Disney World during COVID-19, but you need to plan it. This is a great course of action to both limit the number of guests, thus minimizing crowds, and it helps the Parks staff for the number of guest who’ve made Park reservations.
It’s not a complicated process. Here are the steps WE RECOMMEND (the Disney World website alludes to a different process).
- Begin on the Disney Park Pass Reservation System page.
- View PARK AVAILABILITY CALENDAR and find the dates you want to be sure you can book it.
- Book your tickets (our affiliate link here!)
- Once your tickets are booked and linked to your My Disney Experience account with everyone’s names, you can reserve your actual admission date.
I know it may seem odd that it’s two different steps to reserve your entrance to Disney World during COVID-19, but as long as you check your dates and then book tickets right away, you shouldn’t have any trouble.
And if you haven’t used it before, there is a chat help feature. USE IT!
Know Before You Go: health precautions at Disney World
Half the battle with staying healthy during the COVID-19 pandemic is following rules and guidelines for keeping healthy. Disney World during COVID-19 has set the benchmark for how all other parks (theme, National Parks, state parks…) should operate. The processes and rules they have in place made us feel extremely comfortable and safe for the duration of our visit to the Magic Kingdom.
Physical Distancing at Disney World
Even when you aren’t within the gates of one of the Disney Parks, there are still physical / social distancing guidelines and measures in effect. From elevator waiting areas in the hotels to the queue to just get to the entry plazas at each of the Parks, there are markings on the ground and cast members monitoring and guiding guests to keep their distance a safe amount.
We were actually the most concerned with how well other guests would comply with social distancing guidelines at Disney World. While we waited to enter the Magic Kingdom, we realized that it wouldn’t be a problem. Thankfully, those visiting Walt Disney World want to be there enough that they understand and are committing to following Disney’s rules. They want to enjoy the parks and seemingly don’t want to mess that up for others either.
Social Distancing Measures within Disney Parks
Once inside the Parks, there are additional social distancing measures in place besides just lines on the ground. In addition to spacers on the pavement and cast members enforcing physical distancing, within the attraction queues there are Plexiglas walls to keep guests apart.
There are some ride lines that have HUGE gaps (much more than six feet) between markers, but that’s because Disney has made sure that the radius of the waiting lines also takes into account guests on the other side of the queue stanchions. You can enjoy your favorite Disney World attractions without being directly smushed into your neighbor while in line.
Temperature Checks Before Entering
That’s right. Before you can even go through Disney Parks security, they do a touchless temperature check of all guests. If you have a temp of more than 100.4 F you and your party won’t be allowed into the Parks.
That room for error felt like peace of mind for us. It can be hot in Florida, and waiting in line can make me feel toasty and stuffy. Thankfully, if the outside temp is a bit much, the room for error ensured that healthy guests like us that may over-heat a little could still enter.
Mandatory Face Coverings at Disney World
If in 2019 somebody told me that I would voluntarily wear a cloth Goofy or Stitch mask in 95 degree heat, I would’ve laughed and not even understood the reference. Well, if you want to be on Disney property enjoying the Parks or hotels (outside your room) you MUST wear a mask. No questions asked.
Masks with breathing valves aren’t allowed, but nearly every other version of the hottest fashion trend of 2020 is allowed (see Disney World website for updates). This is the verbiage directly from their site:
All face coverings (whether disposable or reusable) must:
- Be made with at least 2 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 bandannas and face coverings containing valves, mesh material or holes of any kind are not acceptable face coverings.
Costume masks are also not considered appropriate and are prohibited from being worn.
We got some really fun Disney character masks once inside the park (had our own prior to entry). There are lots of options available and come in a variety of sizes. Disney World during COVID-19 is still Disney World. They still know how to make things fun and take care of guests.
How to Follow Health and Safety Rules at Disney World
If you want to be in a Disney Park, you’ll make the right decision and follow the rules, simple enough. If you forget about the situation of an easily spreadable virus and get too close to others or take off your mask, you’ll be promptly reminded by cast members (and probably other guests too) to fix your behavior.
Hand Sanitizer: Learn to Love It
An additional step guests at Disney World during COVID-19 can do is to continually use hand sanitizer. The Park has lots of extra help cleaning and sanitizing constantly, both high touch surfaces and attraction vehicles, but guests can do their part too. At all attractions you’ll find hand sanitizer before entering the queue, right before you board a ride vehicle (log, doom buggy…) and then as you exit the ride. Use them all!
Safety Precautions We Observed in the Magic Kingdom
It’s easy to say all of the things that Walt Disney World is doing to make the Parks as safe as possible during the COVID-19 pandemic, but is it actually all enforced? Yes! No doubt. Of course, there are moments when people stray, but they’re always put back on track.
Extra Sanitation Measures at Magic Kingdom
As I said, there are extra cleaning procedures happening at all times throughout Disney World. In the Magic Kingdom we had several moments where we were waiting in line for a ride and an announcement came on stating that there would be a delay as extra sanitation measures were being performed on the ride vehicles. I don’t know the frequency of this, but we had it happen on Splash Mountain, Thunder Mountain and It’s a Small World.
Another way Disney is providing super sanitary conditions is by cast members continually cleaning high-touch areas. While waiting to be seated at the Jungle Navigation Co Skipper Canteen we watched two different cast members spray and sanitize seating areas and even the edges of doors.
Guest Sanitation Measures in Disney Parks
You can’t put all the responsibility to not transmit germs onto the Disney cast members. There are hand sanitizer stations and extra mobile hand washing sinks throughout the different lands. Pair those with people actually washing their hands when they use the bathroom or blow their nose and it’s great!
Sit-down Dining Experiences
We only had one sit-down dining experience at the Magic Kingdom, and it was at Jungle Skipper Canteen. The waiting area was set up to keep parties plenty distanced before their tables were ready. The serving staff wore both face masks and face shields.
Seating within the restaurant was VERY distanced, with not just space between tables, but empty tables between tables. The timeliness of being sat and served was good and the staffing level was appropriate to the number of guests in the restaurant. It was nice to enjoy a fun meal at the Magic Kingdom.
Using Mobile Order and Pay
The My Disney Experience app has all kinds of features, including holding your park tickets and doing a digital key to let you into your hotel room. The best feature though, and one you’ll need to be familiar with if you’re visiting Disney World during COVID-19 is Mobile Order and Pay.
Before starting in the Park, be sure to link your method of payment so it’s easy when the time comes to order. The menu is available, including allergen and nutritional notes, in the app and it’s easy to customize orders. Submit your order and then you’re set!
Tip: be sure your screen changes to say that they’re working on your order. Even if you get a confirmation that it was submitted, if the screen doesn’t change, they aren’t working on it yet. If time has passed and you think your order should be ready, approach a cast member to make sure there wasn’t a technical problem (happened to us).
Ultimately, Mobile Order and Pay is super easy and when Disney World operations get back to normal, I think everyone will be using it as the standard.
5 Tips for an Easy Health and Safety Conscious Disney Trip
If there’s one thing we observed from visiting Disney World during COVID-19 it’s that if people care about something, they’ll follow the rules and do what’s right. And this includes kids of every age wearing masks all day without issue. So, how can YOU make a visit to Disney World easy on you and your family during COVID-19?
- Accept now that face coverings, limited experiences and physical distancing are a standard. The attitude you adopt now will color how much you and your family enjoy their visit when the time comes.
- Be sure to read ALL the safety information available on the Walt Disney World website and watch their videos so that you aren’t surprised by any health and safety measures or limited experiences while visiting.
- Get fun, comfortable face coverings prior to arriving at Disney World. You’ll be wearing them the whole time (except when actively eating/drinking or swimming). Etsy or your local artisan craft store has some great options (including Disney masks).
- Bring your own sanitizing supplies. Disney has stations for sanitizing everywhere, but for your own comfort, bringing wipes and your own hand sanitizer to keep on your person may bring you an even greater level of confidence.
- Lastly, do what’s right for you and your family. If you think the smaller crowds and extra health and safety precautions in Disney World are perfect for your visit, then go for it! If right now isn’t the time and if you aren’t confident in the behavior of others or Disney’s ability to maintain the right environment, wait until a later date when you can enjoy the parks at ease.
Our family really enjoyed ourselves and were beyond impressed with how well Walt Disney World is handling crowds and sanitation during the COVID-19 pandemic. We have confidently recommended a trip to our local friends and would return again. We felt more safe and looked after in Disney World than at our local grocery store.
I hope all this information has been helpful, and when it comes to booking, feel free to reach out to our preferred Disney Vacation vendor, Get Away Today. They are the experts and can help sort out any concerns or missing info you think of.