Disney World During a Pandemic
I know most of you are probably thinking we are crazy and to be honest we were starting to think we were crazy ourselves. We planned our trip to the most magical place on earth about 16 months before we actually left and after going back and forth on whether we should cancel or postpone our trip, we decided to just throw on our masks and go for it! I'm glad we did.
Listen when I tell you I've been to Disney World WAY too many times. Growing up that was my parents vacation of choice every year. Seriously... EVERY year. This will be the second time we've taken our kids and I must say that this time was our best experience yet!
Many of you asked if we felt safe and the answer is ABSOLUTELY! Just about everything at Disney was socially distanced with lines looking much longer than they actually were do to spacing. There were antibacterial stations everywhere and you were advised to use a station before AND after every ride. There was antibacterial everywhere! Also, employees were cleaning nonstop! I saw handrails, ropes, walkways, counters, and rides being disinfected ad nauseam. Masks were strictly enforced. My dad actually got in trouble for walking with his mask down while sipping coffee. If you are eating or drinking you must be sedentary. I'm not going to sugarcoat it...it was HARD keeping Owen mask compliant at all times. He did a pretty great job overall but his willingness to comply definitely changed with his moods. We found that Magic Kingdom was he strictest with him. If a Disney employee saw him with his mask off, we were immediately met by "how old is your son?" Owen is a big 2.5 year old so I don't think there was a chance in hell we could pass him off as a one year old. They were a little more lenient at Hollywood Studios and the MOST lenient at Animal Kingdom and Epcot. We really did try to keep it on him as much as we could but I felt like I could breathe a bit more at the latter two parks. No one asked us his age!
There were parades! Not the scheduled parades you would normally see at Disney but more like impromptu parades throughout the parks. It was always fun to catch one because it always felt serendipitous to be standing in the right spot at the right time. We were lucky enough to catch a bunch of these parades. They also had character breakfasts! While our Chef Mickey's breakfast was definitely not the norm, all of us loved it! They served breakfast family style vs. the usual all-you-can-eat breakfast buffet. The characters came out and stood behind our table for a picture. They waved and blew kisses from about 10 feet away and my kiddos enjoyed every second. You could also find the characters at the parks. They weren't walking among the crowds like before, but instead usually up high or behind a fence. Tatum met Ana from Frozen in Norway and fan girled so hard. I honestly don't think my kids cared that they couldn't hug the characters. The experience we had felt just as magical.
Let's talk about the crowds. This was definitely the LEAST amount of people I've seen at Disney. While the popular rides at each park still managed to rack up a 30-45 min wait at times, just about every other ride was empty. We walked onto so many rides. We rode It's a Small World 6 times in a row one day. Nolan and I thought we would never get that song out of our heads. We walked onto Slinky Dog. We did the Frozen ride 8 times in a row. We walked onto Splash and Space Mountain. Our game plan everyday was to get to the park right when it opened and ride the most popular ride first. After that, really everything else had no wait.
Most Popular Rides by Park:
Magic Kingdom: Seven Dwarfs Mine Train
Hollywood Studios: Slinky Dog Dash, Rock 'n' Roller Coaster, Tower of Terror and anything in the new Star Wars area
Epcot: Test Track and Frozen Ever After Ride (I would normally list Soarin' here too but we walked right on)
Animal Kingdom: Anything in the Avatar area (Pandora)
We were able to see some of my kid's favorite shows, too. They brought back the Frozen Sing-a-long at Hollywood studios and honestly seeing my kids singing at the top of their lungs might have been the highlight of my trip. All of the shows had socially distanced seating.
For what it's worth, I would recommend going to Magic Kingdom on a different day other than Monday. We ended up doing MK twice and it was busier on Monday and dead on Wednesday. I've heard Monday's are historically bad days to attend MK. Also, when you enter a park ALWAYS go to the left first. People have a tendency to go to the right and work their way around. Do the opposite.
We absolutely LOVED the new Skyliner transportation system! So much so that we are thinking about staying at Disney's Beach Club Resort next time for it's direct skyliner access to the parks.
Our trip was made extra magical by our planner, Melissa! She arranged everything for us and reminded us on important dates for reserving dining, park days etc. I can't recommend her enough! I've linked her Instagram here.