So you’re planning a trip to Walt Disney World and it’s either your first time or your first time in a long time. We are going to go into detail about everything you need to know about going to Disney right now.
We do want you to be prepared. Disney is a little different right now. Planning a trip to Walt Disney World is a lot of work in “normal” circumstances and right now there is a lot of confusion and different policies and procedures that have to be adhered to.
We hope that this guide will help you in planning your trip.
Masks are something you are just going to have to accept if you plan on setting foot on Walt Disney World property in 2021 and likely into 2022. When you are at any park you must wear your mask.
You might be thinking that you could just get a drink or a snack and wander sans mask down Main Street or any of the lands. Think again. Months back, almost immediately following the reopening of Walt Disney World back in July, 2020 Disney made a specific rule that masks must be worn at all times while in the parks. Guests can not eat or drink with their masks off anywhere in the parks except in designated locations while actively eating or drinking.
Each park has relaxation stations where guests can go if they are in need of a mask break. Those locations are perfect for taking a few minutes to breathe the fresh, sultry air or Central Florida without your mask.
It’s not just parks. Masks are also required when walking to and from the parking lots or on any of the transportation options, walking around the resorts or walking to and from dining.
We recommend having extra masks on hand in the parks or on property. If you get wet on an attraction, if it rains or if you get one really dirty, it’s a great idea to have some additional masks, we keep disposable masks on us at all times just in case.
New at Walt Disney World since the reopening is the theme park reservation system. Every guest must have both a theme park ticket and a theme park reservation in order to get into the parks.
You must make a theme park reservation for every day that you want to visit a Walt Disney World theme park. Your theme park reservation also must be for that day. So, you can’t make a theme park reservation for Epcot on Thursday and decide that on Thursday you want to go to Magic Kingdom. You can change your theme park reservation as long as their is availability but that is not guaranteed so plan your days in advance.
Park hopping recently returned to Walt Disney World. If you aren’t familiar with park hopping that means that certain ticketholders have the ability to visit more than one park per day.
In order to take advantage of park hopping you must have a theme park ticket that allows for it. Those tickets are the Park Hopper and the Park Hopper Plus. Annual Passholders also have the ability to park hop.
Prior to the pandemic, guests could park hop without a theme park reservation. Things are a little different now. If you have a ticket that enables you to park hop you still need to make a theme park reservation. You also must go to that theme park before you can go to another park.
So, if you are wanting to go to Hollywood Studios but you have a theme park reservation for Animal Kingdom you have to go to Animal Kingdom BEFORE you can go to Hollywood Studios or any other park.
In addition, park hopping doesn’t begin until 2 pm so enjoy the park you have the reservation at until 2 pm and then head to any other parks. Be careful though because if parks have reached capacity they will not let you in so gauge crowds and keep checking your My Disney Experience app to stay up to date on the all the park happenings.
Where You Stay Matters
If you are staying on property then you fall under the resort guest category. That means that you can book a theme park reservation every day for the entirety of your stay as long as you have a valid theme park ticket.
If you are a ticketed off property guest and you purchase 4 days worth of tickets, you can book four days worth of theme park reservations.
If you are an annual passholder not staying on property, you can book up to three theme park reservations at a time.
Disney has really cut back on the transportation options and it’s unfortunate. The busses still run from every resort to every park and Disney Springs. You can also take a bus from theme park to theme park. Busses run about every 20 minutes and are operating with physical distancing guidelines in place.
If you are not staying at a resort but want to visit a resort you can take a bus there. Be mindful though that if you are looking to visit a Walt Disney World resort and are not staying at that resort or do not have a dining reservation then you could be denied entry as Disney is trying to limit resort hopping and maintain physical distancing guidelines and capacity limits.
The Skyliner gondola system is available for all guests to and from Epcot and Hollywood Studios and for the Epcot resorts, The Boardwalk, Beach Club, Swan and Dolphin and Yacht Club. The Riviera, Art of Animation and Pop Century.
The Skyliner line runs between Hollywood Studios and Epcot with stops at The Riviera Resort, Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort where all guests must disembark and transfer. There is another line that goes to Disney’s Pop Century and Art of Animation Resorts.
The Disney Skyliner is a convenient way to travel to and from Hollywood Studios, Epcot and those resorts. During peak times like park openings and closings the lines, especially at Caribbean Beach which is where the transfer station is can get pretty backed up. Expect to add up to a half hour at that station due to high volume.
The friendship boats are running from Epcot and the Epcot resorts to Hollywood Studios and from the Magic Kingdom Resorts, The Polynesian, The Grand Floridian and Wilderness Lodge to and from those resorts.
The Monorail and Ferry Boats are available from the Ticket and Transportation Center to the Magic Kingdom. If you are staying off property or renting a car and driving to the parks and you are going to the Magic Kingdom you will park at the Ticket and Transportation Center also known as the TTC and take either a Ferry Boat, the Monorail or a bus to the park.
The Monorail is not currently running (at the time of publication) to Epcot. In order to get from Magic Kingdom you Epcot you must either drive, ride share or you can take a bus.
In addition, there is currently no stop on the Magic Kingdom Monorail loop at the Polynesian Resort. The Polynesian is undergoing major refurbishments and there is no Monorail station at the time being. So, if you are taking the resort Monorail it will only make resort stops at The Grand Floridian and The Contemporary.
If you are looking to get from The Magic Kingdom to one of the Magic Kingdom resorts, The Contemporary, The Polynesian, The Grand Floridian or Wilderness Lodge, you can take a Friendship boat from The Magic Kingdom to any of those resorts. You can also walk from Magic Kingdom to The Contemporary, The Grand Floridian and from The Grand Floridian and the Ticket and Transportation Center to The Polynesian.
Lines and Crowds
Disney is currently operating at around 30 to 35% capacity although the company has not and rarely releases exact numbers for park capacities or attendance. That number is expected to increase as the year goes on.
Disney has also made changes to experiences within the park. Lines are long and there is currently no Fast Pass option. We’ll talk more about that in a minute but with No Fast Pass option that means that everyone who wants to ride a certain attraction is in the same line. There is currently no way to bypass that line so lines are long.
At parks like Animal Kingdom and Hollywood Studios although there are more attractions than there were a few years back, there are still only a limited number of attractions available. Shows like Finding Nemo the Musical and Festival of the Lion King at Animal Kingdom have not yet reopened though it is looking like they will reopen in the coming months.
At Hollywood Studios The Beauty and the Beast Live Show, The Little Mermaid and others have also not reopened leaving guests with limited attractions to experience.
Have a plan for attractions and be prepared to wait in lines. Also, currently there is no eating or drinking in lines for attractions and guests are spaced out to ensure physical distancing.
In addition for lines being long for attractions, they are also long for food. We suggest eating breakfast or at least getting your morning coffee prior to entering the parks. The Starbucks locations and coffee locations at each park have long lines everyday.
We encourage you to have a plan for each day and know where you want to go each day. Planning is always important in Disney and that is no exception right now.
We encourage you to book your dining in advance, book your park reservations in advance and be prepared to wait in lines.
Stay tuned for part 2 of our everything you need to know in the parks series and even more because we are covering resorts and dining as well.