You’re going to Disney World? Here are 10 COVID changes that will greet you at the parks

Michelle Marchante

Despite the warnings about traveling, Disney World can be irresistible.

So, if you’re thinking of spending some holiday time in the Land of the Mouse, you’ll want to note that things just aren’t the same there.

COVID has complicated the rules.

Earlier this month, Disney CEO Bob Chapek told investors that the maximum capacity of its theme parks would increase to 35%, up from 25%, because its parks in Orlando were seeing high demand and strong attendance, according to ClickOrlando.com.

It still won’t look like how it used to.

Since the parks reopened in July, COVID-19 has changed the Disney park experience, with a reservation system in place to control how many people are inside at a time. There is also a bunch of social distancing rules to reduce the risk of COVID-19 spreading among visitors and employees (guests and cast members in Disney talk).

And just like Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party, Disney has canceled “Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party” this year because of the novel coronavirus. Disney is still promising to deliver “holiday magic in other creative ways” throughout the Walt Disney World Resort.

Whether you’ve already visited the parks post-COVID or you’re headed there for the first time since the pandemic began, here are 10 things you need to know before you arrive at the “Happiest Place on Earth”:

Traveling to Disney World? Here are the COVID changes to know

1. Water parks Blizzard Beach and Typhoon Lagoon remain closed. One of the parks is expected to reopen March 7, 2021, though Disney hasn’t given any hints which one will reopen first.

2. Reservations are required to enter Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Animal Kingdom and Hollywood Studios. To enter one of the theme parks, everyone 3 and older must buy a ticket and make a reservation for the day they want to visit the park through Disney’s Park Pass system. If you have a multi-day ticket, you will be required to make a park reservation for each date of your visit.

TIP: Disney recommends checking if reservations are available for the day you want to visit one of its theme parks before booking your ticket. Once you purchase the ticket, quickly go back and book the reservation because space is limited.

3. You can only visit one theme park a day until January. Park Hopper ticket options, which let guests visit multiple parks on the same day, are being sold online, but you won’t be able to use Park Hopper until next year. Starting Jan. 1, 2021, guests with the Park Hopper ticket option or an annual pass with Park Hopper benefits will be allowed to visit more than one park per day after 2 p.m.

Disney says park reservations will be required for the first park but not the second, though this may change in the future. To learn more, visit https://disneyworld.disney.go.com/experience-updates/parks/#water-parks

4. Fastpass+ services are suspended and Annual Passholders are not guaranteed park entry. Fastpass+ lets you reserve access to select Walt Disney World theme park attractions, entertainment and character greetings in advance. The service is suspended to control capacity and maintain social distancing, according to Disney. Also, Disney says annual passes do not guarantee park entry and passholders are still required to make reservations using the new online system.

Guests must wear masks at Walt Disney World.
Guests must wear masks at Walt Disney World.

5. Everyone 2 and older is required to wear a mask/face covering except when eating/drinking (must be stationary) or swimming. The mask or face covering must be made with at least two layers of breathable material, fit snugly against the side of your face and under your chin, be secured with ties or ear loops and must fully cover your nose and mouth.

“At this time, based on guidance from health authorities, neck gaiters, open-chin triangle bandannas and face coverings containing valves, mesh material or holes of any kind are not acceptable face coverings,” Disney’s website reads. “Costume masks are also not considered appropriate and are prohibited from being worn, in alignment with our existing rules.”

6. Temperature checks with no-touch thermometers will be conducted before theme park entry. Temperature checks will also be conducted at other Walt Disney World Resort locations, including Disney Springs and table-service restaurants at Disney Resort hotels.

Anyone with a temperature of 100.4 F or above will undergo another screening. If you are found to have a temperature of 100.4 F or above, entry will be denied and those in your party will also not be allowed to enter.

7. Parades, nighttime spectaculars and character greetings may be temporarily canceled or modified. Disney says this is to accommodate physical distancing. Playgrounds may also be closed. Dressing rooms inside shops are closed and Disney PhotoPass photographers will not touch your cellphone, camera, tablet or other electronic device.

Servers and Disney workers will also be required to wear masks.
Servers and Disney workers will also be required to wear masks.

8. Stay at least six feet away from others. Like other places, Walt Disney World has added floor markings, signs and barriers to promote social distancing. Similar measures are also in place on resort transportation, including buses, monorails and watercraft boats.

Disney says it has also enhanced its cleaning of high-traffic areas such as elevators and restrooms and has placed hand sanitizer and hand-washing locations throughout the parks.

9. Download the My Disney Experience App for real-time ride wait times and park hours. While the mobile app isn’t new, it’s useful to have, especially during the pandemic with its contactless hotel check-in capabilities and mobile ordering at select restaurants.

10. Review your ticket and hotel cancellation, modification and refund policy. Things happen, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, and you might need to modify your reservation or cancel it. Disney is not selling annual passes, for example, but is still allowing current passholders to renew them.

To learn about Disney’s updated ticket policies for cancellations, modification and extensions, visit https://disneyworld.disney.go.com/experience-updates/parks/#modifications and scroll down to the “Modifications, Cancellations and Refunds” section.

Would you hop a train to Disney World? The yellow Brightline is making a bet you will