I visited Disney World the week of November 8th. I wanted to share some of the things I noticed about visiting Disney right now:
Please note: Since the writing of this article the number of COVID cases have more than doubled and many places have hospitals at capacity. My frank advice is don’t go right now. However, you may have already made your decision in which case I hope the following information is helpful for you!
Ever since Disney World reopened in July, there has been plenty of information about visiting Disney right now. If you follow the news or read other blogs you’ve probably heard all of the basics: masks are required everywhere, social distancing markers are on all the queues, capacity for rides and transportation has been cut down, the requirement to make park passes. There’s also been plenty of info and speculation on things like crowd levels and wait times.
And in case you can’t tell from the 1000+ blog posts I’ve written about Disney, I’m definitely a planner and a researcher! So I scoured tons of information before I traveled to have an idea for what to expect. I checked wait times on the app and on various websites. I read reviews of bloggers who visit the parks several times a week. I went over all of Disney’s policies and kept myself up to date on what restaurants and attractions were open. I saw tons of pictures and knew that photos about crowds could be misleading. We visited in early November.
Yet there were still some things that surprised me about visiting Disney right now. A lot can vary based on your circumstances such as when you travel. And not all of these things are bad, they were just unexpected. As someone who visits Disney a lot, there were things I didn’t think would make much of a difference but they did.
This is also not to debate whether or not people should be traveling to Disney during the pandemic. My very brief thoughts are that Disney does everything it can to stay safe and goes above and beyond in that regard. You can approach it in a very safe manner like we did, such as driving down and not eating inside restaurants. Case numbers have now almost doubled since I traveled so that’s something to think about as well, but a topic for another blog post.
However, if you’re going and doing your research some of these small things I encountered may help you feel a little more prepared, so I figured if it’s helpful for someone I will share them with you! Of course my experience is not indicative of anyone else’s, but they may be things you’ll want to think about too.
Weather has a bigger impact on your trip
“Rain? Throw on your poncho and let’s go!” That’s typically my philosophy at Disney. And normally it works – if it’s raining a lot I can go into a show, restaurant, or find some activities to do to wait it out. But the week were there it rained for a good portion of the day almost every day (there was a nearby hurricane at the time so we were getting rain from that). And those shows I normally duck into? Many of them aren’t running right now. And the shops got way too crowded for my comfort level. Not only that, but when it rains for a good portion of the morning and Splash Mountain, Big Thunder Mountain, Jungle Cruise, Dumbo, and Seven Dwarfs Mine Train all close down, those “short” lines you’ve been hearing about at the other attractions get a lot longer really quickly.
Hopefully you don’t run into the bad weather we did, but it was a little frustrating that there was a lot we couldn’t do or had to wait a long time for.
I had more back pain than I’m used to
I feel so old! But at 32 back pain is very real, and for me it hurts the most if I have to stand up without moving much for long periods of time. Basically I’m good when sitting or walking/running, but not standing around. Which is what a lot of Disney is right now – standing around in lines. It’s usually not as big of an issue when everything is open because I can do a line with a bit of a wait and then take a break by watching a show, or rely on my fastpasses. It was the worst on our Hollywood Studios day because those waits do get on the longer end and there’s really no avoiding them if yo want to do the attractions.
Outdoor seating at table service is not guaranteed
We only feel comfortable eating outside right now because we won’t be indoors without masks on. Typically we schedule one sit-down meal a day, so our options were a little limited to places with outdoor seating. And even if you have a reservation at one of those places, you can’t guarantee to sit outside. Especially if it is raining they may only seat inside. Luckily they did waive the credit card charge when we asked to cancel due to no outside seating, and there were quick service places we could go with outdoor options.
Pre-shows actually really add to the experience
Disney attractions aren’t just rides. It’s not simply hop on a roller coaster and scream. They all have a story to them, and even though you may not always pay attention to the pre-show they actually add a lot to the experience. We did Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway for the first time and I did feel like I was missing part of the story without the pre-show. Even rides where I know it really well, it definitely feels lacking just walking through the Haunted Mansion straight onto a Doom Buggy or straight onto a Tower of Terror elevator.
Park capacity increased to 35%
This happened quietly and was casually mentioned by Bob Chapek during the week I was there (capacity had previously been limited to 25%). It’s a little frustrating we weren’t told as I do base my comfort level on what the capacity/amount of people is. Obviously an increase in capacity also leads to longer wait times. This may have only been relevant in Hollywood Studios but just something to be aware of.
Cast members are stressed
Cast members are amazing. They are going above and beyond right now to try and make things still magical. Of course I knew before going that they are stressed – many of them lost their jobs, have had hours reduced, and lost co-workers. Not to mention that they are working with the public in the pandemic. However, I didn’t expect to be able to tell they were stressed, which I think is naïve of me (especially as someone who works with the public themselves!). This is not to knock them at all. They all are truly doing their best. But cast members that might normally be waving to you at attraction entrances are having to reprimand guests for lowering their masks. Instead of creating magical moments they are refilling hand sanitizers, trying to learn a job they haven’t done before, or filling in for someone else.
I do not say this to be negative towards them at all. The opposite, they are incredible. But be aware that this is the situation and be extra kind towards the cast members. If you’re visiting Disney right now, follow the rules so they don’t have to enforce them (no one wants to be doing that).
Having a car was great
Normally I fly down, but this time we drove. I don’t love driving (I have a fairly long commute at home) so I like just using Disney transportation normally. However, I loved having my car! Even in pre-COVID times I’ve found the waits for the buses have been longer and longer, and I would get stressed trying to time everything. To just be able to drive over to a park if I want to is great. It just saved so much time. I could drive to Disney Springs. If you have a reservation at a restaurant at another resort it’s much easier to get to than trying to take a bus, then the monorail, etc. I also felt safer in my car not having to breathe the same air as people on a bus (they do space people out and have dividers between areas of seats).
You can eat pretty much anywhere as long as you’re seated away from people
Before going I had heard that in order to eat or drink you need to be seated and stationary while visiting Disney right now. I had kind of imagined this means you need to be in a designated eating location – at a table at a quick service place, at one of the tables around World Showcase, etc. You can actually sit and eat or drink without your mask on pretty much anywhere you want as long as you’re not within 6 feet of someone. So on a bench, perched on the edge of a flower bed in Epcot, on a random slab of rock in Adventureland. That definitely made things easier.
Disney Springs wasn’t crowded in the evening (on weekdays)
This was a surprise to me because the other reports I’d read all said Disney Springs was one of the most crowded places to go since so many locals head there in the evenings or on the weekends. We didn’t go on a weekend but we did go twice in the evening during the week and it was pretty dead. Again, this may have been the rain or chance of rain keeping locals away, but it definitely surprised me. I can only speak for myself but this was one thing I wasn’t expecting.
Thinking about a trip to Disney World? Check out my Ultimate List of Disney World planning resources to get you started. If you’d like the assistance of a travel agent at no extra cost to you, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and we can start planning and booking your trip!
Other blog posts of interest:
The cost to travel to Disney every month in 2021
2021 Disney trip planning guide
What’s different about Disney World planning during COVID-19
What to pack for Disney during coronavirus
Why you want to plan your 2021 Disney vacation now
Have you heard different things about visiting Disney right now? When do you plan to go back?