Visiting Disney is something that’s high on the list of things to do this year for many families. Disney has been a staple of family-friendly entertainment for decades, and their parks have been hubs for family vacationers and local Disney lovers since the parks opened so many years ago. With things beginning to open up again, many families are gearing up to visit the parks again, but there will be a few changes implemented to ensure a more safe visit. Today, we’re looking at what visiting Disney will be like in the coming months.
What to Expect When Visiting Disney
So we know that the world is beginning to open up, and we know that Disney is part of that. While everyone – including businesses – is chomping at the bit to open, those openings are going to come with both mandated and voluntary safety precautions to ensure the safety of patrons. As Disney is both a major player in the realm of family-friendly entertainment and touts itself as “The Happiest Place on Earth”, it’s no surprise that they’ll be doing everything they can to ensure the safety of their patrons.
Masks are Here for the Foreseeable Future
Health experts widely agree that masks help protect against the spread of COVID, and Disney is taking them at their word. Following CDC guidelines, masks will be a requirement when visiting Disney throughout 2021. No masks, no entry.
Social Distancing is Still in Full Effect
COVID didn’t disappear, we’ve just learned how to handle it better, and part of that is sticking to social distancing. Disney will continue to ensure that social distancing stays a prominent part of the park’s safety measures. Expanded queues, markers, a reduction of certain entertainment options, and occupancy limits on transportation, shops, restaurants, and rides are all in place, and they’ll stay in place at least through the end of 2021.
In addition to the above measures, Disney is also actively installing plexiglass dividers between ride vehicles to allow for more people to experience the rides in safety, which will ultimately cut down wait times (we hope).
Entertainment and Meet and Greets Remain Limited
Visiting Disney this year will feel different, especially in this regard. The classic mass-crowd shows that Disney normally provides like fireworks, parades, and nighttime events aren’t happening at the moment. Most meet and greets are also off the table, as well. Rather than the classic up close and personal meet and greets, Disney has opted for character cavalcades that run every so often throughout the day.
While some entertainment has been tabled for now and character interactions are handled differently, “Festival of the Lion King” will be returning this summer to Disney’s Animal Kingdom, giving us all hope that more shows will be making a comeback, as well.
Reduced Capacity Means Reservations are Key
More and more restaurants are opening back up, but as I stated earlier, they’re running at reduced capacity. If you’ve ever visited Disney, you know that reservations were important before COVID ever arrived. Now, they’re an absolute must. Advance Dining Reservations can be made up to 60 days in advance for dine-in restaurants, and it’s highly recommended that you do so. With more people coming back to the park, reduced capacity in restaurants means that reservations are just about the only way you’ll get a seat.
Take Advantage of Mobile Order
Quick-service restaurants, like those kiosks that serve hot dogs or other treats, are going to be in high demand with the reduced capacity of dine-in restaurants at the park. Because of that, lines at these grab-and-go stops are going to be long. Very long. Skip the wait and take advantage of Disney’s Mobile order using the Disney World App. You’ll be able to place your order in advance and simply pick it up.
Capacity will be Increased Over Time
Right now, visiting Disney will seem like a dream at 35% capacity if you ever visited before COVID. Be prepared for crowds to increase, however. It seems only natural that as COVID cases decrease and more people are vaccinated that Disney will increase its capacity. According to CEO, Bob Chapek, that’s exactly what will happen. Disney plans to increase capacity, that capacity increase will be determined by how the vaccine rollout goes.
Visiting Disney Still Requires Park Pass
When Disney first reopened, it implemented a Park Pass reservation system. Using this system, visitors were required to reserve the park they planned to visit on each day of their vacation. In a continued effort to manage the capacity of each park, Disney plans to keep its Park Pass system in place.
It’s advisable to make your reservations early, especially for Disney’s Hollywood Studios or for weekend days, as both the weekend and Hollywood Studios fill up quite rapidly. Right now, Disney has plans to keep its Park Pass system in place until the first part of 2023.
Increased Wait Times for Disney Transportation
To keep passengers socially distanced into their respective parties while using transportation services, Disney has implemented queues and loading zones. Because of these changes, you’ll experience longer wait times for buses, boats, the monorail, and Disney Skyliner. Added to that, Disney’s Minnie Van service has been temporarily suspended. If you plan to use Disney transportation, be prepared to wait.
More Events are Happening – Just Differently
Big events like Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party and Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party were canceled in 2020, but some events still took place. More events are scheduled for 2021, but with some modifications. For example, EPCOT’s Flower & Garden Festival is slated for 2021 with some modifications, however, it will have concerts on the weekend.
Park Hopping is Back With Some Caveats
Park Hopping is back, but it’s just a bit different. You’ll have to make a reservation for the park you plan to start your day in using Park Pass, however, you’re able to hop over to a different park at 2 PM if your chosen second park has the capacity.
Water Parks are Back
Visiting Disney water parks is once again an option. Well, visiting one is, anyway. Right now, Disney’s Blizzard Beach is open with safety measures in place. Disney’s Typhoon Lagoon remains closed and will be closed until further notice. However, we can hope for a future opening if the vaccine effort goes well.
Extra Magic is Gone but Early Theme Park Entry is Here
Extra Magic Hours have been gone since Disney reopened, and there are no plans to bring them back yet. However, guests can still get in some extra time. The new Early Theme Park Entry benefit will make its debut just in time for the 50th-anniversary celebration. It allows guests of on-site hotels and certain off-site hotels to take advantage of an extra 30 minutes of early entry to any theme park every single day
New Disney MagicMobile Service
You won’t have as much need for Disney’s MagicBands when visiting Disney as you would have before. Now, you’ll be able to use Disney’s MagicMobile service. Disney is rolling out the service in phases later in the year. It will offer a contact-free way to access some MagicBand features such as theme park entry through your mobile phone. Using the My Disney Experience app, visitors will be able to create a Disney MagicMobile pass and it to their device’s digital wallet.
Plan to Book Everything Early When Visiting Disney
With capacities increasing throughout the park and more increases planned as COVID restrictions ease and more vaccines are rolled out, booking everything early is more important than ever. From your initial trip to parks, dining, rides, and everything else that requires a reserved spot, advanced booking is the way to go if you want to enjoy everything that visiting Disney has to offer in 2021.