If you are a follower, you recall Garrett and I went to Disney shortly after it re-opened in July 2020. You can read that blog here. We knew after that visit, that we were not ready to bring our kiddos. Not because we thought it would be dangerous, because let me tell you, Disney has taken ALL precautions when it comes to Covid guidelines safety. We were more concerned that we would not get our moneys worth. With no fireworks, no character meet and greets, and many attractions closed, we did not feel it was the right timing to bring them back. Slowly after that, Disney started adjusting and implementing more into the parks the more we learned about the coronavirus. By December, we knew that we wanted to take the kids back as soon as we were able. We planned a last minute trip for the first weekend in January.
Last minute is VERY difficult and a major gamble now that Disney has been open for so many months now. Parks are still limiting capacity, but that capacity is being met almost every day at every single park. See below images of the increased crowds. Thankfully, the first weekend into January was when the majority of schools went back after Christmas break. The "trend" showed that there would be more availability that particular Sunday, when most people head home. We were able to lock in a reservation for Magic Kingdom the week before (which, again, was still risky).
We opted for an Airbnb that was PERFECT for location. Unfortunately, the owner (a very sweet lady from Miami) was having some issues with managing cleaning services from afar, and we were not very happy with the result. If having a full kitchen and a SUPER short drive to Magic Kingdom and Disney Springs at a great price is a priority, then hit me up for more details. With all plans in place, and one dinner reservation for each day made, we packed up and headed that way!
Staying Safe and Healthy
Out of all the places I've been since COVID-19 hit our country, Walt Disney World has surpassed every single place in COVID-19 safety precautions and enforcing them. They have an abundance of cast members who walk around solely to monitor people's appropriate mask wearing. While on the jungle Cruise, a family of three pulled all their masks off just to take a picture and the ride was immediately stopped and they were scolded in front of everyone to replace their masks. There are definitely areas that allow mask removal and resting at their "relaxation stations" throughout the park. And if you are stationary, you can sip on a drink or eat without your mask. There has been very little change since July on their precautions except for some of their rides. In July the monorail only allowed one family, travel group, per a compartment but now, two separate travel groups are allowed, one group per a bench with sitting down only. Rides like "Frozen Ever After" was only allowing one family per a boat back in July, now there are partitions between every row, allowing the boats to be filled to capacity. Though this is safe, it really degrades the ride a bit so keep that in mind before waiting a long time to ride. The food and wine festival in July of 2020 was great but was scaled back significantly. Slowly, Epcot has been adding more and more to their festivals over the last 5 months so I still encourage the foodies to continue to visit Epcot if desired.
Park Hopping is BACK!!
The park hopper option is back as of January. Park hopping additions to your ticket are a bit pricey, but less than buying a whole second ticket for a day at a different park. The reservation guidelines are still in place but with some changes to the park hopper add on. If you buy a park ticket with park hopper option, you are still required to make a reservation for the park that you are going to visit first and then you must go to that park prior to visiting the next one. You will not be able to visit the next one until 2pm that day. Park availability will be taken into account when going to your second park. As of right now, park reservations are not required after the first park visit, but of course, this could change at any time.
Updates On Cavalcades
I had an opportunity to chat with a cast member on our trip to Magic Kingdom, and as of now, the last cavalcade of the day usually comes through anywhere between 4:30 and 5:30. If you haven't seen one all day, head to the front of the castle during that time frame to catch one before they stop running for the day. Also be aware of where you are standing and where your stroller is. The cast members will ask you to move back if you are to close the the parade. And standing right at the edge of the side walk is too close.
EXTRA MASKS! We went in July AND in January and though the cooler temps in January mad the masks SO much more tolerable, they still get nasty after a half day or so.
STROLLERS! With kids, it can be nerve-racking watching them run all over the place touching every surface known to man. Not only do strollers keep your kids close and safe, they also save so much energy for your kiddos so that they do not get over tired. Our kids loved having the stroller. But we still allowed them to run around when we were in open areas. They also had to stand in line without the stroller which brings me to the next essential.
DIGITAL GAMES! Lines are no where near as long as they once were PRE-Covid. But there are still lines that require a 30 to 60 minute wait. During these wait times, kids can get anxious. Pre covid, I had no issue waiting in line while my kids hung on the railings like small chimpanzees but times have changed. Getting your kids to stand up right on their "wait here" line is super challenging. This is the ONLY time that I would encourage a screen time moment at Walt Disney World. One family was playing the cell phone game, "Heads Up". It was really fun watching them all have a good time while acting out different animals. Another option is this device from Amazon. Pull them out ONLY for line waiting so that is stays interesting to the kids during long waits. These are also good for a short game of Pictionary!
RAIN GEAR! This is definitely an obvious answer during all times, Covid or not, but with crowds getting heavier despite the pandemic, when it starts to rain, (and it most likely will) this is the perfect time to get in all of your desired rides. A lot of people still like to sit under shelter until the rain passes but the rain cuts the line waiting down almost in half. So gear up and get in line. These are the most perfect and adorable umbrellas for kids and allows them to keep themselves dry while having fun in the rain.
SANITIZING WIPES! Again, Disney does an outstanding job of keeping everything clean. But you can never be over cautious when it comes to a new and strange virus. While we were taking a photo with our camera phone propped up on the stroller, a stranger walked up and grabbed my phone and took the photo for me without even asking. I was a bit in shock but made sure to thank her promptly before grabbing my phone back. This same woman reached into my stroller and took a couple of pumps of my hand sanitizer for herself. LOL! What can you do, amiright? Thankfully I had a pack of sanitizing wipes and was able to clean my phone thoroughly as well as my bottle of hand sanitizer.
HAND SANITIZER ON A STRAP! Always have a small bottle of hand sanitizer on a strap hooked to your belt loop or backpack for quick and easy access. All lines still offer hand sanitizer at the beginning and end of each ride but I did notice a couple of stations were out, which is different from July. This is most likely due to the crowd's increase in numbers.
A CUP WITH A LID! Lids (with the exception of Starbucks) have been banned in all Walt Disney World parks. Kids without lids can be disastrous! Remember to bring your kids' sippy cups or a reusable cup with lid and straw.
So there have definitely been some changes since the original re-opening, post Covid19. I still continue to get questions about if a trip to Walt Disney World is A) worth the money during these times and B) still "magical" with all of the guidelines? The answer is still just as complicated now as it was in July... If this will be your first time to Disney, try to wait as long as you can, maybe this fall or winter. We should have made some major leaps in vaccine studies and herd immunity that there may be a less strict Disney by then, but that is just my guess. If Disney's current guidelines and restrictions will be the same for more than a year from now, then your kiddos are going to grow and grow and you should try to take them while they are still young. Kids are only kids once and for such a short time. If things are still like they are now by the end of the year, I say go. Disney is magical in any dose.
Let me know if you plan to visit Disney in 2021 and I would love to know about your own experiences! Cheers!
The Adventurous Alfords