by Military Diva
Would you feel safe traveling to Walt Disney World right now?
The choice to travel during our current pandemic is a very personal one. Some families are blessed with health, financial stability, and faith in recommended safety protocols. Other families are limited by their own personal health concerns, work availability, and potential spread to at-risk individuals.
In our community, kids have been attending in-person classes for a few months. Our high schoolers have been involved in athletic events. We have attended church and visited the movie theater. We wear masks, maintain a proper social distance when possible, and are fortunate to be very healthy.
Our family was recently given the opportunity to visit both Walt Disney World and Universal Orlando Resorts to experience their Covid Safety Protocols first hand. We talked over the risks, examined the airport/airline safety requirements, and familiarized ourselves with the destination’s safety procedures. And we chose to go.
Please understand that we are in no way trying to coerce anyone out of their own comfort zone or place anyone at risk for transmission. We weighed the risks as a family and felt comfortable making the trip. And we returned home without becoming ill.
Continue reading below if you would like to learn more about the Covid Safety Protocols we experienced at Walt Disney World.
“Know Before You Go”, Masks, Temperature Checks, and Cleaning!
Disney World has created a mini-site of information known as “Know Before You Go” to help prepare guests for a safe visit to their destination. Resort and park safety protocols, current policy changes, refurbishments, closures, and more are all available on this one site. It is frequently updated with the most up-to-date information and should be the first and last site any guest visits when looking for accurate information. Walt Disney World is very strict on the following requirements.
All guests over the age of 2 are required to wear a snug-fitting, two-layer face covering when in public areas of Walt Disney World.
- It is recommended that guests over the age of two that have trouble wearing a mask postpone their trip to a future date.
- Face coverings must cover mouth, nose, and chin; must be secured with ties or earloops
- Neck gaiters, face shields, bandanas, and masks with openings of any kind are not permitted
- Guests must wear their face covering unless eating in a stationary position or swimming. Guests will not be permitted to walk around eating or drinking mask-free.
Temperature checks have also been implemented at the entrance to all parks and Disney Springs. Guests with a temperature over 100.4 and their accompanying guests will not be allowed admittance. Guests reading over 100.4 will be offered a second screening to determine the accuracy of the initial reading.
Cleaning enhancement procedures have been implemented throughout the Walt Disney World resorts and parks. Cast Members can frequently be seen wiping down high touch areas, seating, tables, and attractions. Additionally, no-touch hand sanitizer stations are visible everywhere!
Walt Disney World safety procedures for transportation include guided seating, plexiglass barriers, increased cleaning, and reduced capacity on buses, boats, monorail, and gondolas.
Lines, Attractions, and Show Experiences
The Walt Disney World property has implemented several procedures to keep guests safe when entering attractions and shows. The pavement in the queue is adequately marked with 6 ft distancing signs. Plexiglass partitions have been installed in areas that cannot avoid closer proximity and cast members can frequently be seen cleaning railings and high touch areas. Interactive play areas in the queues are inaccessible and/or inactive. The rides themselves are being filled to a smaller capacity and cleaned frequently.
When entering theaters for shows, guests of more popular venues are escorted to their seats by a masked Cast Member. Less crowded venues allow guests to enter on their own, making sure to sit every other row with “X” amount of open seats between groups. Cleaning frequency has also increased.
Additionally, no-touch sanitizer stations were strategically placed throughout the queues and boarding areas.
Changes to Dining Experiences
Walt Disney World Dining looks a lot different than it did last year. While Mobile Ordering has been an option for several quick-service locations, it is now the preferred way to order food.
- Using the “my Disney experience” app, guests can select a dining location, order/customize their meal, and pay electronically with a credit/debit/Disney Gift Card.
- Head to the dining location, click “I’m here” on your order, and wait for the “order ready” message.
- Once the “order ready” message is received, proceed to the venue entrance.
- Guests are greeted by a Cast Member, asked to show their order number, and instructed to enter.
- Guests then proceed to the pick-up window noted on the app, gather their food, and find a seat before removing face-coverings!
Character meals, buffets, and table service meals have also experienced several changes. Guests are encouraged to have reservations and check-in via the app when arriving at their dining location. Mobile versions of the menus are available on mobile devices. And, cashless payments are preferred.
Currently, only Garden Grill (Epcot), Hollywood & Vine (Disney’s Hollywood Studios), and Topolino’s Terrace (Disney’s Riviera Resort) are offering character meals. During these experiences, guests are to remain seated as characters pass by at a safe distance. Some characters may remain in a stationary location, visible but away from guests.
Most traditional buffets have transformed into delicious all-you-care-to-eat family-style dining, to avoid high touch buffet experiences. New menus and pricing can be found on the Walt Disney World site (Things to Do, All Restaurants, Select Location, View Menu)
*Chef Mickey’s is expected to return on December 16, 2020.
Parades, Fireworks, Select Shows, and Park Hours
Many experiences have been temporarily halted due to Covid safety procedures, financial constraints, and Cast Member layoffs. But in true Disney Fashion, other surprises await guests willing to experience the parks in a different way!
- Traditional parades have been temporarily halted throughout all Disney World parks. Spontaneous Character Cavalcades have popped up instead! Keep your eyes open and watch for small versions of the Disney parades to travel down Main Street USA and other locations in the Disney World Parks.
- Fireworks have been temporarily halted to minimize crowd gatherings and save on finances. Disney World has implemented a beautiful Holiday Castle projection to awe guests of Magic Kingdom. There are four scenes, the first appearing just after dusk, that change every 15 minutes.
- Many shows such as Fantasmic!, Beauty & the Beast Live on Stage, and The Festival of the Lion King are currently closed. Walt Disney World hopes to return many of these shows in the future.
- Walt Disney World parks are currently offering limited park hours and have temporarily stopped offering Extra Magic Hours to resort guests (although several parks unofficially open early!)
While there is a lot of information to follow, we found the Walt Disney World “Know Before You Go” site to be very helpful. We were well prepared for our trip and had a good idea of what to expect onsite. We experimented with face coverings in advance, making sure we were comfortable wearing our choices for long hours. We isolated ourselves at home for the week prior to travel (with the exception of school and a stop for groceries). And we monitored our own temperature for a few days prior to our flights.
In the resorts, there were many signs reminding guests to follow face-covering requirements and to self-monitor for any Covid symptoms. We also witnessed a few cast members offering friendly reminders to adjust masks or sit to enjoy food/beverage. And the pool offered a wonderful break for those with mask-fatigue! Guests seemed to naturally distance, offering everyone a comfortable level of space to enjoy the moment of freedom!
When boarding the bus, drivers assign families seats by number. While it takes a bit longer to board, all efforts are being made to social distance guests that are not part of the same group. Masks are still required and eating/drinking is frowned upon. Plexiglass partitions are up to help add an additional level of separation.
Entering the park, took a few moments longer due to the temperature screenings. When exiting the transportation areas, guests are led into white tents (similar to those used at baggage check areas). Cast members quickly scan guests’ temperatures with a touch-free device. We quickly and efficiently passed through this area, completed bag check, and entered the admission line. We did notice that our finger scans were not needed when scanning our ticket! At this time, we are unaware if this is an official policy or just a temporary change.
Once in the park, signage reminding of the current regulations could be found everywhere!! Cast members were quick to reinforce the mask policy and announcements were frequently played over the loudspeaker. And here again, in most areas, guests were very respectful of others’ personal space.
Attraction lines and experiences were quite different! Our first experience at Seven Dwarfs Mine Train in Disney’s Magic Kingdom was a true eye-opener. As we approached the coaster all we could see was the line! The stand by sign noted a 75-minute wait (not uncommon for this attraction), but the line snaked out of the main queue, past the Mad Hatter Tea Cups, and around the corner to the back of Seven Dwarfs attraction (near the entrance to Ariel’s Grotto)! We fearfully took up the back of the line, noting the distance marks every six -feet on the ground. It did not take us long to move back to the front of the attraction and enter the main queue. We quickly realized the line really wasn’t that much longer than normal. The distancing and minimized queue space inside the attraction forced the line to stretch further, making it seem longer! We made it onto our train in less than the noted 75-minute time. (We were actually closer to 55 minutes.)
Shows such as For the First Time in Forever: A Frozen Sing A Long and Muppet Vision 3D offered a very safe experience. As mentioned above, we were either escorted directly to our seats or directed to a row with a set number of seats between us and the next group of guests. We did not witness the Cast Members actively cleaning our seats, we could tell that they had recently been wiped down.
On a pleasantly funny note, several shows tailored their scripts to include Covid references (The male narrator from Frozen reminded his female counterpart to maintain a proper distance…”Stop, don’t go there, this is my No-No Socially-Distanced-6ft-Circle” or “Sing with us, but not too loud, please don’t scream, and make sure your mask is on!!” )The actors did an excellent job reminding us of the required protocols while entertaining and making light of the situation.
The Dining Experience was such a surprise for our family! While we were initially nervous about the mobile ordering process (we haven’t used it in the past), this is one change we hope stays forever!! It was so nice to order our food from a non-crowded location, taking our time looking over the menu. We could review everything without worrying we were holding up the line and quickly customize each entree. There weren’t any guests bumping into us as we attempted to carry our tray of food. And Cast Members were very quick to wipe tables between guests.
*We did not experience any table service meals during this trip.
Parades and favorite shows were definitely missed on this trip. We missed our personal traditions. But with shortened park hours, our days were still very full. We enjoyed the beauty of the Holiday Castle projections and marveled at the Disney Creativity. The projections themselves were incredible, and by changing every 15 minutes, they created an experience where guests would stop for a few moments (properly distanced) and move along. There were very few crowded areas, even in the usually high-traffic Castle Hub area.
All-in-all, our family had a wonderfully low-key visit to Walt Disney World in November. Yes the prices are still high, yes there are risks, and yes everyone must wear a mask! But it is still Walt Disney World. They are certainly well equipped to adapt to the current environment, providing entertainment and safety to all those willing to travel.
If you are interested in more details or have specific questions, feel free to contact All for Dreams Travel. They are a fee-free agency partnered with Gateway Travel/Gateway to Magic Travel, an Authorized Disney Vacation Planner.