With the pandemic of 2020, quite a few things have had to change at Walt Disney World when they reopened. While the magic is different, it isn’t gone. And if you have been to Disney World multiple times, experiencing it this way definitely creates a new, unique experience.
Here are the biggest changes at Walt Disney World:
1. No Character Meets – Due to social distancing, characters are not able to meet and greet Guests. While this could sound unfriendly and dull, it has actually allowed the characters to greet Guests in new ways.
Character Promenades – Throughout the day, characters come out in mini parades. In Animal Kingdom, they appear on the boats in the river. In Epcot, they ride through on horse drawn carriages and buses. In the Magic Kingdom, they utilize single parade floats. And in Hollywood Studios, they ride in convertibles that are wrapped to represent the character.
Distance Greetings – Characters also appear on stages and platforms to wave at Guests. In the Magic Kingdom, characters appear on the Main Street Train Station platform and wave at Guests. They can also be found on the Tomorrowland Stage and the porch of Crystal Palace. In Epcot, sometimes you see them in the Gardens. You never know where they might pop up and wave at you.
Selfie Opportunities – The characters pose at safe distances for you to turn around and grab selfies with them. This happens at the select character meals that are open as well as in the parks.
2. No FastPass+ System – Due to the social distancing in the queues, Disney has temporarily eliminated the FastPass+ system. While this shocked us all at first, it actually isn’t really even necessary right now due to the lower crowd capacity at the parks. This allows Guests to ride what they want when they want versus waiting on the system to tell them it is time to ride. Queues aren’t able to handle extra long crowds so most of the popular rides cap out at about 35-40 minute wait.
3. Mobile Ordering Isn’t Optional – Walt Disney World was working on rolling out Mobile Ordering and teaching Guests to use it before the pandemic. Now, it isn’t optional. Most Quick Service restaurants aren’t even allowing you in the door until you have placed your Mobile Order on the My Disney Experience app and it has alerted you that it is available for pickup. Make sure you have downloaded the app before you get to the park.
I actually like this because I hate waiting around at the counter on my food. I place the order while I am in the queue for an attraction and then hit the “I’m Here” button as I am walking towards the restaurant.
4. Park Hopping Isn’t Available – Due to the Park reservation system that Walt Disney World is utilizing, you aren’t able to hop to multiple parks within the same day. You have to book a reservation for the day you plan to visit.
Disney has split the park reservations among 3 groups of Guests…Resort Guests, Ticketholders and Annual Passholders. We are seeing the Annual Passholder allotment booked for weeks at a time but the other 2 categories are consistently available even same day. This is good news for the Resort Guests and Ticketholders because if your family changes their mind last minute, you can easily change your reservation from one park to another.
5. Masks aren’t optional – You are going to have to wear a mask in the parks, period. It isn’t enjoyable in the Florida Heat especially during the hottest part of the summer. But it is something we all have to do….so the best tip I have for you is to bring extra masks with you. This way if you sweat through one or get one wet (yes, you even have to wear it on Splash Mountain) you’ll have backup.
Overall, Walt Disney World is different but it is still magical. If you are planning a trip for a week or even a day, you’ll still have an enjoyable time….it’ll just be unlike any time you’ve had before.