Updated: Dec 8, 2020
Will a trip in 2021 to Disney World Be Worth the Money? This is a question we never thought we’d be asking. Still, with the pandemic, Theme Parks in Central Florida have drastically changed how we will enjoy our Disney Vacation.
With all of the park offers in mind, We’re going to take a closer look at what Disney World Vacation will look like to attend in this turbulent time. Will all the Rides be open? What shape will Disney Dining in the Park take? Will there be Character Dining? Will Characters be in the Park? Who does the new park reservation system apply to? And many other questions. We’ll also take a look at the resort situation and what is being offered.
So Let’s get to it. At this point, information is coming out daily on what and how the parks will look. We know that the Magic Kingdom and the Animal Kingdom will be the first two parks to open on July 11th. Then, on July 15th, Hollywood Studios and EPCOT will be opening. During this unprecedented time, many changes have occurred within the parks. So, now, more than ever, Disney Vacation Planning is an important element of your Disney Vacation.
The first hurdle that you must overcome is the new Park Reservation System. This new system is required for you and your party to gain entry into the parks. In addition to this reservation, you will still need a park entry ticket or annual pass. One thing to stress is that having a daily ticket or annual pass doesn’t guarantee your reservation, so you need to confirm on both of these.
The Park Reservation System has just come on-line, and I know that on the first day, they were experiencing many bugs and system shutdowns due to overload. I used the new system a couple of days back and had no problems. The glitches seemed to have been fixed. As a pass holder, I was able to choose a park and then move to an availability calendar to see what parks had availability on a given day. Now, I did also notice that as a PassHolder, I had a more limited number of days with availability than a resort guest or even a daily ticket holder. I’m not something I’m thrilled with as Disney already has my money for the tickets and seems to be favoring high priced options.
Once you have selected your days, these are saved on your MY DISNEY EXPERIENCE. Yes, you will need this mobile app to move through the parks with your magic bands. Most areas are moving to contactless entry, thus the Bands. You will have access to your itinerary. You will be making the Virtual Ride Reservations on this app as well as being notified when your party is ready.
Now onto the Parks. First and foremost is the increased concentration on public and cast member safety. Masks will be mandatory for all, except for people who have specific medical issues. In this instance, while not official yet, I believe they will be required to wear face shields. I do know for a fact that Universal has just enacted this requirement. Now, the downside is that some rides and attractions may not be suitable for these shields, so these individuals will need to put on a standard mask or not enter the attraction. This alternative is their choice.
Please remember that these masks will help improve all of our safety, and Disney requires them. This protocol is not a question. They will not let you into the park without one, just as if you tried to enter the park with any other item on Disney’s forbidden list.
Next is Temperature Checks for all, guests and cast members alike. No exceptions. Your temperature will be screen by a contactless thermometer and will need to be under 100.4. If above the limit, you will not be allowed to enter. You will have a chance to cool down in a given area and try to enter a second attempt.
Now, in the parks, you will notice hand wash and hand sanitation stations. Also, you will see social distancing markers on all rides, attractions, and cue areas. These items are designed to help keep us all safe.
Another area of social distancing kept in the corner is the number of guests allowed into the parks. At this point, Disney will more likely start at around 25% capacity, moving to 50% in small increments until they reach the maximum. We saw Disney do this in China, and it worked well. Slow and steady. It allows the guest and the cast members to all acclimate to the new restrictions that are in place to help keep us all safe.
At the attractions, you will notice these same social distancing markers as well as no more single rider lines. These lines have all been removed to increase the cue areas to accommodate the social distancing. Another huge change is the discontinuation of FASTPASS. No more can we make our ride reservations on-line. Now we will be using a new virtual cue system. I haven’t seen this yet, but I assume it is the same system used on the new Ride Of The Resistance Ride in Hollywood Studios. You will need to make a party reservation, and the system when your boarding party is getting close to boarding. This system will help keep cue lines to a minimum and is now an important component of Disney Vacation Planning. After looking at several lists of attractions, it seems as though the parks will be opening with almost all attractions open. Entertainment offerings such as shows at Cinderella’s Castle, Fantasmic, Lion King, parades, and fireworks have all been postponed at this time. Basically, any gathering of a large crowd has been shelved for the immediate future.
Another change to your Disney Vacation that you will see is that cast members will now be wearing face shields for the attractions. These shields were agreed upon between Disney, Cast members, and the Unions. This Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) will provide aid in keeping us all safe and healthy.
So you’ve managed to snag some great ride experiences with the virtual ques, now you’re hungry. What’s open for you to eat. From this listing that has been provided on many sites, including Disney’s Blog, most foodservice venues will be open. The dining experiences may be modified, and social distancing will definitely be followed. Again, your Disney Vacation Planing will plan an important role.
With this in mind, there will be fewer available seatings for guests, so you need to make reservations when they become available in MY DISNEY EXPERIENCE. From the information that we have read, quick service locations and table service locations will be operating. You will need to make your dining reservation to ensure that you get a table at your preferred dining venue. At this point, Disney is only taking dining reservations for guests that had reservations at the time of the park closing back in March and booking through September 2020. They have not named a date as to when the rest of the public will be able to book their favorite location, but we hope to see this date soon.
The significant change is that the buffet locations like the Crystal Palace will be changed to family-style offerings. At the time of this blog, Character Buffets like the Crystal Palace and 1900 Park Fare have not been listed for opening. It seems that these locations would be great options for social distancing, but at this time, Disney hasn’t given a date when this style of location will open. Regards, you will still have a large assortment of culinary offerings to quench your hunger. Additionally, the majority of the smaller locations for dessert items and snacks are on the list for reopening.
Another Item to look at for your Disney Vacation is what are the park hours. The reservation system indicates that the parks will be open from 9-7 daily. Now, keep in mind that while the parks may open at this time, some locations within the parks may open later and close earlier than the parks. This is a fluid time, so check the specifics out on the MY DISNEY EXPERIENCE app. It will provide you with all of the details you need for your day in the park. Another note is that at this point, there is still no opening date for the water parks.
Park Hopping, a favorite perk to the Disney Fan, has been discontinued no end date. This fantastic benefit allowed you to jump from one park to another. Still, due to capacity limits, Disney is suspending this plan. Your reservation is only suitable for one park. It has no ability to reserve a second park for the same day. Not quite sure what this will mean for transportation, such as the MONORAIL, as it goes directly to EPCOT.
Speaking of transportation, with only Disney Springs and DVC Resorts open at this time, Buses are the only option. They are running from the open DVC Resorts to Disney Springs. When the parks open, Disney has indicated that all transportation options except MiniVans will be operational. This transportation includes the Skyliner, which is next to POP CENTURY. They will be the first value resort to open. Even the water transportation on Seven Seas Lagoon and Bay Lake will be running. This imparts due to the fact the Fort Wilderness Campground in open on Bay Lake, and The DVC rooms at the POLYNESIAN are open. The ferries from the Ticket and Transportation center will be running to move guests from the parking lot to the Magic Kingdom. Additionally, the Monorail Express loop will be running. Not quite sure how Disney is addressing social distancing on this metal tube, but we will all see soon.
With respect to the Disney Resort’s themselves, the majority of the DVC locations are up and running. On June 22nd, select Disney Deluxe Villa Resorts, and Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground will reopen. These select Disney Deluxe Villa Resorts include:
· Bay Lake Tower at Disney’s Contemporary Resort
· Boulder Ridge Villas at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge
· Copper Creek Villas & Cabins at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge
· Disney’s Animal Kingdom Villas – Kidani Village
· Disney’s Beach Club Villas
· Disney’s BoardWalk Villas
· Disney’s Old Key West Resort
· Disney’s Polynesian Villas & Bungalows
· Disney’s Riviera Resort
· Disney’s Saratoga Springs Resort
· The Villas at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort
Now the schedule for additional Resort ones is listed below. This schedule illustrates how Disney Vacation is phasing in the resorts over time. Now, these schedules could undoubtedly change based on occupancy and need.
July 10th Disney’s Animal Kingdom Villas – Jambo House, Disney’s Pop Century Resort, Disney’s Contemporary Resort
· July 29th Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort
· August 12th Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort and Disney’s Art of Animation Resort
· August 24th Disney’s Yacht & Beach Club Resorts
· September 21st Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa
· October 1st Disney’s BoardWalk Resort
· October 14th Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort
Now, if you’re a seasoned Disney traveler, you’ll notice a couple of resorts are missing. Disney’s Port Orleans and Disney’s Wilderness Lodge are both missing. These resorts will be the last to open and will be based on need and guest numbers.
Other questions that will come up is how Disney Vacations will handle social distancing at the resorts. There has been a lot of talk about the new On-Line Check-In System for Disney Resorts. This system allows you to check into your room without going to the front desk. This procedure is done on MY EXPERIENCE. In this app, you can even put in room location requests, update your credit card, and allow Magic Band Purchases by specific guests within your party. We have used this app for the last couple of years, and it does work well. Your Disney Resort notifies you when your room is ready. They automatically add the room key to your Magic Band. You are no more waiting in line. This improvement will be an excellent method of reducing the Resort Check-In area lines, helping to keep us all safe.
Another issue at the Resort, and probably the main issue, is the Pools in my mind. Living in Florida, I know the need for pool time. Traveling to Disney over 40 times, I see the need for the pools. Many pools in Florida have been limited to a given number of occupants at a given time. I’m not sure how Disney is planning to handle this. I know that they will have a solution, maybe not one that we like, but they will have one. In this situation, I would suggest a resort with at least two pools to help spread the crowd out.
Keep in mind that Disney Vacations hasn’t released opening dates for the water parks for a reason. First, social distancing in a water park doesn’t work all that well. Second, you usually don’t wear a mask in a water park as your not advised to soak your mask. However, this means a lot of people walking a round a park with no masks on. I don’t believe that is what Disney is looking for. Until we can find a solution, Typhoon Lagoon and Blizzard Beach will probably not reopen until Covid-19 numbers have been lowered and have remained at a lower level for a period of time.
So, now back to our original question. Will a trip in 2020 to Disney World Be Worth the Money? That depends on how you view all of the above changes. For those of us who have been coming for decades, we’ve seen many changes to the way Disney addresses guests and crowds. These changes have taken place over periods of time. Now we are faced with significant changes in a short timespan.
Discontinuation of FastPass, A New Park Wide Reservation System, Entertainment Restrictions, No Parades, or Fireworks. These items change the experience significantly for myself as I have been privy to the ultimate freedom over the years. Other restrictions, such as temperature checks, masks, social distancing, and virtual cues, distract from the experience that I am used to having. But since I’m a Disney Fan, it will not deter my family and me. However, we have the flexibility to go anytime for short periods of time, so long as we can obtain a park reservation. This, in turn, may drive us to parks that we would not frequently visit.
As a season Disney Vacation Fan, you need to consider these items. Even if you come annually or biannually, the experience will be different than you’re used to. We talk about when things go back to normal, but what if this is the new normal. I accept this and will adjust accordingly, will you?
Now, if you are a first-timer, then it’s a different story. You have no comparison of how the old systems worked: the packed parks, the long lines, and the entertainment venues. Yes, you’ve probably seen them on Youtube, but that’s not the same as experiencing the parks in person.
In this light, the experience will still be something to remember. You will have access to classic rides and attractions. Characters will still be visible in the parks, but not available for one-on-one interaction. Disney Vacation has even derived a way for you to obtain your favorite character autographs. You will still be able to experience Disney’s Culinary Pallet. Drinks, Deserts and of course Dole Whip will still be available. Resort will still perform to the Disney Level and amenities will be available, maybe in a modified manner. Disney Vacation Planning is now becoming even more important.
The answer to the question is really for you. The only real advantage is the lower number of guests in the parks. The cons are many, from face masks, no Fast Pass, reduced Character interaction, reduced park hours, and NO Park Hopping. Some of these items are more restrictive than others. For Instance, Fast Pass has been replaced with the Virtual Cue system, so a compromise. Modified Character interactions are acceptable, so long as your favorite characters are visible.
The biggest issue for some will be the loss of park hopping. This hopping meant that you could visit all 4 of the parks on the same day. I might also add for a price. We stopped this long ago, as we felt this privilege is not worth the extra cost on your park ticket. For some, this was a necessity, now gone. You will now just have to plan your day around one park, and with the virtual queue system, this will be ok.
You will spend a good amount of money to make this Dream Disney Vacation come true. On average, a family of 4 will pay $1500 -$2000 per person, including airfare, Disney Resort Stay, Dining Plan, Park Passes, and incidentals for a 5-night stay. You can do a Disney Vacation for less, but that’s a topic for another article. Not cheap, so you need to consider all your options.
At this point, Disney is the only theme park leading a successful reopening in stages with all aspects of working correctly. As stated earlier, the reopening in China was slow and steady. I know, you could say that other parks in Central Florida have opened successfully. Yes, you could say that, but we’ve been to these reopened parks. While the reopening was good, I do expect more from Disney. Shortages of hand sanitizer and lack of facemasks on cast and guest better not be tolerated in the Disney Parks as I’ve witnessed in others.
So, No matter what you decide, it is still my belief that Disney will hold to a high level no matter what. They will try to bring the best possibilities for safe fun to us and the masses, while still observing safety for all.
The answer, for me, is simple. I will be there at the parks when they reopen—enjoying my favorite rides, deserts and locations. All of these have been and are a part of my life. Now, If I was looking for my first trip to Disney, I might wait at least a couple of months for the dust to settle. At that point, the new systems should have all of the bugs ironed out, so glitches won’t affect your day in the parks.
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