Is Disney a good idea during a pandemic?
Whether you want to believe that there is a pandemic going on or not, Walt Disney World is taking all precautions in reference to the novel virus, Covid19. When Disney World reopened in July, we were anxious to get back to our beloved castle that we have called home for the last thirty something years. But we waited a couple of weeks to be sure not to get our hopes up. A possible second closing is always a possibility. We bought our tickets and made our “reservations” (more on that later) and with a seven day out plan, we booked our hotel. The answer to so many of my readers questions about our trip was answered with “its complicated”. And I will break down the reasons why shortly. Please understand, that if you choose to leave your house during these times, you are at risk for contracting Covid. The only way to be completely risk free is to never leave your home and that is 100 percent fact. I will tell you that different establishments have different levels of risks. No masks? Higher risks. Plenty of social distancing in an outdoor setting? Much lower risks. I have traveled a good bit during these recent and bizarre times and I can say that Disney was definitely a lower risk adventure for sure.
The easiest way to determine if you should go to Disney right now is to find out what Disney guest you are. What do you go to Disney for? I will break this down for the most common types of Disney guests below:
1. Character meet and greets. This was the biggest lost Disney took when closing and reopening. I fully understand why, but still a bit sad about it. If you only go to get those moments and photos with the famous faces of Disney, then you might want to sit this one out. At least until there is a change in development. If you plan on going and the meet and greets are second or third on your list, do not fret. Characters stroll throughout the park periodically, unannounced, throughout the day like mini parades, also known as cavalcades. There are also characters that are located on stages up and away from guests that you can get photos of or with while the character is safely over six foot away and basically in the background, photobombing your selfie. It is definitely not a "one on one" that a character enthusiast would find suffice but a photo op, none the less. Also take note that “character meals” do not offer characters. Menus and pricing have been adjusted to keep guests reservations coming but the magical "one on one" interaction is absent. So unless the restaurant food and atmosphere is to die for (Be Our Guest) then by all means, still make that reservation. I will say that Beast did take the time to poke his head inside the West Wing for a swift 10 seconds so that we could applaud his excellence. This was too brief to even call a character interaction but it was nice to see his familiar face, however brief it was.
2. Food and Shopping. There is still plenty of merch to purchase and still plenty of food to eat (as you will see in the photos below) so if this is your number one reason for going to disney (this is mine) then you will not be completely disappointed. I will say that my favorite Cheshire Cat Tail kiosk and Casey’s famous hot dog shop was closed, as was my beloved Big Top Tent souvenir shop. So with those being some of my favorites, I was greatly disappointed. Head to my Instagram Highlight of "Magic Kingdom" to hear my real-time, super shocked and super devastated reaction to the Big Top being closed. I almost cried…
3. Rides. If this is your number one reason “why”, then go. Go now, don’t hesitate. Wait times are at an all time record low and I would say about 85% are open. As more and more time passes, and more and more information gets out about the low wait times and the great safety measures being taken, more people are going to flock to the castle. The week before we were there was noticeably less crowded in photos than the weekend we went. Everyone is chomping at the bit to get back to normal, travel, and go to Disney, so the sooner you go, the greater the chance of a lower crowd experience. Disney will continue to keep the park at very low capacity by requiring park reservations. But the lowest crowds are right now and will only go up from here. During our time at Disney, we rode 11 of the approximated 23 rides (not including several “sit down theater” attractions that are at Disney) in Magic Kingdom. We quite possibly could have rode more but this was due to us having dinner reservations at Be Our Guest, lots of shopping, and just taking our time in general. There were roughly five or six “rides” that were closed such as the Peoplemover, the WDW Railroad, and the Laugh Factory. The lines are most definitely spaced out to where you and your party can stay a safe distance away from other park goers. I LOVE that. Plexiglass partitions have been set up in some lines that require you to weave in and out while standing side by side to someone. You are still side by side to someone but separated by the glass. These areas are a little tight. At some points, I felt like I was in a box, safe from the virus, but feeling a little claustrophobic. And though the lines are safely spaced, there are still hundreds of surface areas for kids to explore with their little curious hands. According to the CDC, surface spread of Covid19 is not the main way the virus is spread but it is possible. Remember this when taking the kiddos. We saw dozens of children touching all of the surfaces that they could get their hands on because they are kids. Its unavoidable. Bring the hand sanitizer and take a small amount of comfort that there is hand sanitizer and hand washing stations everywhere! But also use your best judgment. If you know you will constantly be worrying about your kids touching surfaces, you may want to sit this one out. Visit the CDC website for more information on children's risk to covid19. At Disney, limiting kids to a stroller and refusing to let them touch anything is near impossible. One idea that I did have for waiting in lines is to bring one of these in your backpack for the kids to play with in line. This will reduce the temptation to mess with dirty surfaces around them while waiting. It can also be wiped down very easily. Keep it for "line waiting only" so that they will be super interested in them while waiting. My sister bought one of these for Fallon and she LOVES it. Another option would be to hand them your phone... GASP. I usually discourage screen time while at Disney World but times have changed, clearly...
"It may be possible that a person can get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes. This is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads, but we are still learning more about how this virus spreads.”- Center for disease and control.
4. The food and wine festival. There are several food kiosks that were closed for the festival but SO many that were still open. We went during the “early opening of the festival” and were told by several cast members that more kiosks would be opening the closer it got to the more traditional festival date. The early opening of the festival was thought to be an incentive to still visit Epcot since it is 50% construction right now along with the current pandemic. Eating and drinking around the world while riding every single ride with no wait time was worth it for Garrett and I, TAKE MY MONEY. But, Epcot being Roman’s favorite park to visit, we both agreed that without the character meet ups and with all of the construction, It was not worth the ticket price for children at this time for that particular park. Between the kids not usually having the pallet for all of the amazing, cultural, delicacies and with Wreck-it Ralph and Baymax on hiatus, it was easy to say “no” to Epcot for our return with Roman and Fallon.
5. The shows. Well that’s a big no for right now. No shows, no fireworks. The cavalcades are done throughout the park at random and the characters are waving and dancing as they pass you by, but its about a 2 minute ordeal and if you are park goer number two or three in the list above, you may miss those all together since they are unannounced. So definitely hold off on your visit if the shows are your jam. You will not get your money’s worth in this case.
Those are usually your top five Disney park goers categorized. Decide which one is you and then make your decision. We also had so many questions throughout our Disney re-opening trip that readers were asking. Here are the most popular ones:
Should we go for the first time ever during the pandemic?
I have had a lot of people ask if this is their first trip to Disney World, will it be just as magical. So if you have never been to Disney World, you won’t have any expectations. You will still be wowed at all of the wander and spectacular that is Disney. But right now, its hot, its mask mandated, and its scaled back. Take that money, put it away, and wait. If you are a Disney regular and you just miss your second home, the magic is still there. You really will have your heart tugged on when you are not able to see children running around with giant smiles on their faces, moms and dads skipping down Main Street laughing, senior citizens hugging Mickey for their 100th trip to the castle… It really is surreal. See images below of my childhood versus the current pandemic.
How often are the rides cleaned?
There was a scheduled cleaning of all rides every two hours approximately. If you are in line for a ride and notice a stall in your line moving, chances are, the cast members are doing a cleaning, have patience and be grateful. A little tip for the super cautious: bring a small ziploc bag with clorox wipes and use one to grab “buckles” and such so that you do not have to touch. Also, while riding, remember to put your hands together (think prayer hands) so that you are less likely to touch surfaces while riding. Just keep saying “keep yo hands to yo-self”.
Are masks required the entire time?
Yes is the short answer. Cast members were very diligent in looking at guests to ensure they were wearing their masks properly. We all know that person who "wears a mask" and its about 3 sizes too big, hanging off of there mouth, nose exposed... You will be corrected. Masks are not only required but are required to be worn correctly. You will be able to remove your mask when eating and drinking while stationary. One time, I finished my food and turned from the table to walk to a trash can to dump my tray and quickly realized that I had forgotten to replace my mask. I was called out and corrected promptly.
Some know before you go tips:
Character meals are re-priced (or major menu adjustments) and do not offer actual character table visits.
There are relaxation stations so that you can remove the mask and rest comfortably.
Quick service meals are mobile order only. It's great BUT once you have your food, you must find a table. Since the tables are socially distanced, finding a table during the lunch/dinner rush can be difficult. You also can not eat/drink unless you are stationary, meaning, no walking while you eat (my go-to in the past). Try eating earlier or later like 11am or 2pm when it comes to lunch and 4:30pm or 7:30pm for dinner. This is also a great reason to try and score reservations at a sit down place like Be Our Guest. You’re guaranteed a table with wait staff ensuring a great experience.
Park tickets must be purchased followed by making park reservations. You can no longer buy a ticket and choose the park to visit spontaneously. You must have a reservation to the exact park that you will visit for an exact day, this allows WDW to keep track of capacity and to keep the parks from getting crowded. Park hopper options are currently suspended and unavailable at this time.
There are no fast passes. You will not need them. The longest we waited was 40 minutes and that was at Starbucks. The fast pass lanes are now being used by DAS/differently-abled guests only. See guest services upon arrival for more information.
Crowds are very controlled and socially distanced, however, during park opening and closing hours, dozens of people try to crowd into shops like Emporium and the Confectionary. If there was ever a time I was nervous about Covid, it was during those times.
Park hours are very different. Park hours have always varied based off of show times and fireworks. With both of those being absent right now, the parks tend to have very sporadic hours. Epcot during our trip, opened at 11am and closed at 9pm. But Magic Kingdom opened the following day at 9am and closed at 7pm. Check before you go.
Bring multiple masks. You will sweat and breath into your mask and there was nothing more satisfying than whipping out a fresh new mask halfway through the day.
Bring hand sanitizer that hangs on the outside of your backpack. That way it is accessible at all times.
Bring a large water bottle and stay hydrated! Especially during the hotter months, the masks make for an increase in sweat so keep that in mind. You also can not walk and drink. Meaning no sipping on that water bottle any ole time you want. My friend bought these before the trip and they were a life saver. One day, it was so hot, I began to feel ran down and puny. One of these mixed in my water bottle, had me good as new within thirty minutes. Not the best tasting thing in the world, but worth it!
See you real soon...?
The entire purpose of Garrett and I’s trip to Disney without the kids was to see if it was safe and worth the money to bring them right now. Our family of four have, not once, gone more than a year without visiting Walt Disney World. We are so anxious to get back. As far as safety goes, we are confident in our return, but with the mandated masks (which we are all for and support completely) the Florida heat is going to keep us away for just a little bit longer. The coolest months of the year will come with more information on Covid19 and definitely more comfort as far as temps go so for now, we will keep our sights on the earliest part of 2021. This will be the first, and hopefully last, calendar year that our babies go without WDW.
The Adventurous Alfords