After nearly 4 months of closure due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Walt Disney World resort began a phased reopening of their theme parks on July 11, 2020. As with the rest of the world, Disney is 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.
Due to limited theme park and transportation capacity, it is currently not feasible for Walt Disney World to open all of their resorts. The majority of resorts are now, or will be soon, open.
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 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, and in some rare cases, an upgraded resort.
Yes, you will. Disney has planned their operation modifications through the end of 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 guidelines 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 face covering to eat or drink. You may take off your face covering for photos, but only if you're outdoors and physically distanced from other parties. 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.
After months of no Park Hopping, on January 1, 2021 Park Hopping finally returned to all 4 Walt Disney World theme parks. You must have a Park Hopper ticket or Annual Pass to take advantage of Park Hopping.
There are a few modifications compared to the previous Park Hopping setup:
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 retired and replaced with a new Disney resort guest perk named "Early Theme Park Entry." Every day at every park, Disney resort guests may enter 30 minutes early. Disney has not provided an exact date for when this benefit will begin, but it's expected before the end of 2021.
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 has temporarily disabled 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: pre-park opening at 7AM and 1PM. For the initial pre-park opening 7AM window, you must have a Disney Park Pass for Disney's Hollywood Studios that day. Meanwhile, the 1PM window is exclusively for guests that have walked through the park entrance that day. (The window was previously 2PM, but was moved up in anticipation of Park Hopping's return.)
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 is temporarily suspended.
The Frozen Sing-Along at Disney's Hollywood Studios and Feathered Friends in Flight at Disney's Animal Kingdom are currently the only production shows running. Festival of the Lion King is scheduled to return sometime in Summer 2021.
Limited street entertainment is also available.
Due to the challenges involved with maintaining proper distancing between characters and guests, Disney is not 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 transportation.
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. Buses are now 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, even earlier during busy holiday weeks.
The Express and Resort monorail lines are open and operating with a limited amount of parties per car in assigned spaces.
The Epcot line is currently not running. Bus transportation is available to and from the monorail resorts and the Magic Kingdom to Epcot.
Boats to and from both the Magic Kingdom area and Epcot area resorts are currently operating and are subject to capacity limits.
One party will be allowed in each Skyliner cabin. Thanks to its continuously loading design, the Skyliner has only seen modest wait increases, mainly around park opening and closing.
The Skyliner typically begins running early about 15 minutes before scheduled opening, which is an hour before Disney's Hollywood Studios or Epcot opens, whichever is earliest. Guests wishing to visit Epcot cannot board at the Caribbean Beach or Riviera stations until 30 minutes before Epcot's opening. Due to the late open of the Epcot station on most days, the Skyliner is unfortunately 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. As more people begin to travel in 2021, I recommend making your Park Pass reservations as soon as you've decided on a Walt Disney World Vacation. 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 are able to book up to the amount of days they have purchased. Annual Passholders are 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.
Theme park ticket purchases for both 2021 and 2022 are now available. Reservations with the Disney Park Pass system are required for both 2021 and 2022 currently. Park Hoppers became available to purchase again on January 1, 2021.
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, breakfast at Topolino’s Terrace at Disney’s Riviera Resort, and Chef Mickey's at Disney’s Contemporary Resort are 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