After nearly 4 months of closure due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Walt Disney World resort will begin a phased reopening of their theme parks on July 11, 2020. As with the rest of the world, Disney will be offering a modified experience for the safety of their guests and Cast Members. My guide attempts to cover most of the major changes coming to Disney, but I’ve linked to Disney’s official information pages at the end of each section. It’s a lot of information and it’s constantly changing. Always check with Disney to make sure information is accurate.
Walt Disney World will not be reopening all of their resort hotels and those that are reopening will be staggered. This is likely due to the use of several resorts for the NBA to finish their 2019-2020 season and to handle the lower theme park capacity.
Face coverings/masks will be required in resort hotel public spaces. They will not be required while swimming nor while dining. Obviously you’re free to take your mask off in your room.
Disney will be increasing their cleaning of rooms between guests. Carpets will be steamed in addition to being vacuumed. Certain things like TV remotes will be cleaned then wrapped in plastic for additional protection.
Housekeeping during your stay will be reduced to every other day and will only involve trash collection, towel service, wiping down counters, and vacuuming if needed. You may decline this every other day housekeeping completely if you aren’t comfortable. If you need anything, you’ll be able to call into housekeeping and have it delivered to your door.
If you have an existing 2020 Walt Disney World vacation confirmed and your booked resort is closed, Disney will be in touch with you to move you to a comparable resort. As long as you booked a reservation before the closures happen, Disney will do everything they can to make your trip happen.
Disney has resumed sales of tickets, hotels, and packages for 2020 as of July 9.
Yes, you will. Disney has planned their operation modifications through September 2021 at the moment. It’s expected if the situation improves Disney will begin dropping these modifications, but (obviously) a concrete timeline is unknown. If you want a full, pre-before-the-world-ended, Disney experience, your best bet is to wait until 2022.
If you have any additional questions or concerns with the reopening of the resort hotels, including what resort dining locations will be open and pool procedures, Disney has provided an extensive page with information
The largest change coming to the Walt Disney World theme parks is the introduction of the Disney Park Pass system to accommodate for lower capacity due to social distancing. This is a reservation system that is required for all guests, including Annual Passholders, to enter the theme parks. Additional modifications will be made throughout the park to promote social distancing and avoid large crowds.
Face coverings/masks are required at all times in Walt Disney World theme parks, including while on attractions, except when dining. Disney has specific guidlines regarding coverings, and loose coverings like neck gaiters or bandanas, nor masks with valves, are not allowed:
Do note that while on pathways, you must be stationary and physically distanced from other parties to remove your mask to eat or drink. Remember: Walt Disney World is private property and they have ejected and banned select individuals who have refused to comply.
All guests must have a temperature below 100.4°F (38°C). If any guest in your party has a temperature, your entire party will be denied entry. Disney offers an isolated “cool down” area to allow for re-testing should you fail the initial scan (Florida is the surface of the sun during the summer after all). Add a thermometer to your packing list and check everyone in your party before you head to a park.
Due to the one-park-per-day requirement at the launch of the Disney Park Pass system, Park Hopping will not be allowed with the initial reopening. Those with existing Park Hopper tickets will be credited for the Park Hopper addition. You can purchase Park Hopper tickets for 2021, but it has not been confirmed when Park Hopping will return.
Hours are currently shortened due to less demand and less cast member availability. Park hours will be extended on a day-to-day basis off demand, primarily Fridays-Sundays and around holidays.
Extra Magic Hours will be temporarily unavailable for the time being.
To keep proper social distancing between groups, rides and attractions will be at either a limited capacity or closed. Masks are required to be worn on all attractions. Hand sanitizer is available after exiting each attraction.
Here’s the list per-park of what’s reopening and remaining closed:
Disney will temporarily disable the FastPass+ system for the time being. All rides will be stand-by only, with the exception of Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance.
Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance will continue to use its Virtual Queue boarding group system. Instead of releasing all boarding groups right away at park opening, group releases are staggered between two windows: 10AM and 2PM.
People already hated a stranger sitting next to them on rides, so understandably, single rider lines are temporarily suspended. Single riders are considered a party now and proper social distancing will be maintained between each party while on rides.
Markers to remind the 6’ social distancing guideline are placed around the park in areas where lines typically form. Hand sanitizer is available before boarding attractions and when exiting. Portable hand washing stations are located throughout the parks to help guests keep clean.
Due to the large crowds that form, most entertainment will be temporarily suspended. This includes stage productions like Festival of the Lion King or Voyage of the Little Mermaid. However, there will be limited street entertainment available.
Due to the challenges involved with maintaining proper distancing between characters and guests, Disney will not be offering character meet & greets.
In place of the meet & greets are “character calvacades” in each park. These calvacades feature the characters on floats similar to parades, but Disney does not announce when these happen to keep people from crowding to await them. The calvacades also keep moving continuously to prevent crowds from forming.
Due to social distancing guidelines, capacity on transportation is heavily modified. Masks/face coverings must be worn while on transporation.
Buses are limited capacity so everyone has a seat. Buses hold a maximum of 6 "parties" but the actual capacity varies from bus to bus and load to load. Due to resort closures, no park hopping, and no park to Disney Springs routes, buses are more frequent to help keep waits short even with the limited capacity.
You can expect the first buses for the day to arrive on the mark an hour before park opening. To allow for socially distanced queuing and limited capacity, you should plan to be in line an hour and a half before park opening.
The Express and Resort monorail lines are open and operating with up to only 4 parties of 2 per car, with a vinly divider in the middle.
The Epcot line is currently not running. Bus transportation is available to and from the monorail resorts to Epcot.
Boats to and from the Magic Kingdom and nearby resorts are currently operating and are subject to capacity limits.
Boardwalk area boats are currently unavailable. Bus transportation will be available alternatively.
One party will be allowed in each Skyliner cabin. Thanks to its continuiously loading design, the Skyliner has only seen slight wait increases, mainly around park opening and closings.
The Skyliner typically begins running early about 15 minutes before scheduled opening, which is an hour before Disney's Hollywood Studios opens. Guests wishing to visit Epcot cannot board at the Caribbean Beach or Riviera stations until 10:30AM. Due to the late open of the Epcot station, the Skyliner is unfortuantely not an option for Boardwalk area resort guests looking to rope drop Hollywood Studios.
There are select resorts that are within walking distance of one or two theme parks:
The Disney Park Pass system is very similar to the FastPass+ system. You create a “party” with everyone in your group, select the date and theme park you wish to visit, then reserve.
Availability is split between 3 different groups:
Each group has its own availability allotment. Annual Passholder reservations have been more limited than the other 2 groups, but Disney has begun re-shifting availability more into Passholders' favor if capacity allows so. Disney has a live updating calendar with all 3 groups' availability. Availability is limited mostly on weekends and holiday weeks. Disney's Hollywood Studios goes much faster than the other 3 theme parks due to interest in Star Wars and limited park capacity.
Ticket holders will be able to book up to the amount of days they have purchased. Annual Passholders will be allowed to book a maximum of 3 days unless they have a Disney or partner hotel reservation, which will then allow them to book any day during their stay.
Disney has resumed sales of ticket sales for 2020 as of July 9. Currently the only tickets available are one park per day due to the ongoing closures of the water parks and the Disney Park Pass system only allowing one park reservation per day.
Theme park ticket purchases for 2021 are now available. Reservations with the Disney Park Pass system are required through September 26, 2021. Park hoppers are available to purchase for all of 2021, but there’s no guarantee when park hopping will actually return.
If you have any additional questions or concerns regarding the theme parks, Disney has several pages on their website:
Like elsewhere around the world, Walt Disney World will operate their dining locations with a reduced capacity. Certain dining locations will continue to be temporarily closed, while others will be heavily modified.
The majority of dining locations are open at Walt Disney World, but select locations will be closed mainly due to limited space.
Many Epcot locations will remain closed due to International Cast Members not being able to return with the current travel restrictions; no timetable has been given about their return either.
Disney took the bold step in early June to cancel all existing Advance Dining Reservations (frequently abbreviated as ADR) regardless of date. Reservations have slowly become available as Disney confirms their plans.
The window for reservations has been greatly reduced from 180 days to 60 days.
It’s important to note an Advance Dining Reservation does not guarantee you access to a theme park. Only a Disney Park Pass reservation guarantees access to a theme park. Due to the duct tape nature of Disney IT, they do not check/require Disney Park Pass reservations to make theme park dining reservations.
An exciting new feature added a few weeks ago now allows you to join a table service restaurant's walk up list via the My Disney Experience app. You can see the wait time from anywhere in the world, but you must be within a reasonable distance of the location to join the list.
An Advanced Dining Reservation will be required to dine in a resort restaurant where you are not staying. If you are staying at a resort, you will have access to all restaurants at the property, but it’s highly encouraged to make an Advanced Dining Reservation to guarantee seating.
All Character Dining, except for Garden Grill at Epcot and breakfast at Topolino’s Terrace at Disney’s Riviera Resort will be temporarily suspended. Locations that offer non-Character Dining experiences (like Trattoria al Forno) will continue to offer those options.
Non-character dining buffet locations are now served family style. They will still be all-you-care-to-enjoy, but a Cast Member will serve your food in addition to drinks.
Mobile ordering allows you to use the My Disney Experience app to order and pay for your meal ahead of time and pick it up at various Quick Service locations. For certain locations, it's required to order through mobile order, however there are cast members that can place your order if you don't have the app (no cash accepted). Disney has also begun testing carryout via mobile order for table service restaurants at resorts.
Originally limited to just credit cards, Disney has worked over the last few months to expand payment options to include Disney Gift Cards, Apple Pay, and Google Pay.
Due to the limited capacity, and the continuing supply issues, many locations will be modifying their menus.
Disney encourages scanning a QR code with your phone at table service restaurants to view menus. Certain locations offer printed menus on request.
If you have any additional questions or concerns about dining, including dining locations that will be open, Disney has a page on their website