Living in such close proximity to Disney and having small children, we have been frequent Disney World visitors over the last 4 years. We let our annual passes expire last year once the pandemic hit and have found ourself with quite the Disney itch many times this past year when we were growing weary of staying home so much.
Disney opened back up in July 2020 at limited capacity and with various safety precautions (you can read about everything that have put in place here) and we decided to celebrate our sons 4th birthday there by visiting The Magic Kingdom and Hollywood Studios. I knew going into it that it wasn’t going to be the full Disney experience we were accustomed to, but was curious if it would it still have that wonderful magical feeling and ultimately, would our time and money spent there be “worth it” during this unusual season called COIVD.
I thought I would break down all the major changes first and then at the end, I’ll give my honest review as to wether or not I feel it is a good time to visit Disney World or not.
There are no fast passes, so how were the wait times?
We REALLY missed having fast passes. I love having a plan going into the park and its just a lot more difficult to execute even your non fast past plans without reservations for rides. Yes, you can have a game plan of what rides you want to do and in what order…but you obviously can’t know the wait times until you are there, and it may make more sense to go to a different ride than you were planning due to a shorter wait time. On average, we waited around 35-45 minutes per ride (some more, some less) and with little kids, those wait times were sometimes tough. I know you have to be prepared to wait in line at Disney, but at least when you are able to incorporate fast passes, I feel it makes for a less frustrating day.
Masks must be worn by guests 2 and up at all times unless eating or drinking while stationary.
This policy is strictly enforced with signs all throughout the park, periodic audible announcements reminding guests to wear their mask properly and at all times and cast members politely enforcing it as well. If you do not like to wear a mask and if you have a child who struggles wearing their mask, I would seriously consider waiting until masks are no longer required as this really is a non-negotiable thing. If you do not comply, they will ask you to leave. I’m not sure if there are exceptions to the rule (like if someone has sensory issues or disabilities) but I would highly encourage reaching out to Disney in advance if you think you will have someone in your party who won’t wear the mask as they do reserve the right to refuse entry for anyone who will not comply. It would be devastating to come that far and not be able to enjoy the Disney magic!
There are “relaxation stations” sprinkled throughout the parks to allow guests to safely take a break from wearing their face covering and you can also remove your masks while eating and drinking, but only while stationary. This means you can’t casually walk around the park and munch on a churro. Find a place (ideally in the shade) where you can enjoy your food or beverage to be in compliance with their policy. You also are not supposed to take your mask down even for photo ops so we TECHNICALLY were breaking the rules here.
The last thing I want to mention about wearing a mask is that it does get hot. And Orlando is already quite hot most of the year and it did get quite taxing after several hours wearing it in the heat. Again, something to really consider how comfortable you are with that before making a decision about wether to go or not.
No character meet & greet, large parades, performances or fire work shows.
The Festival of Fantasy parade at Disney World and evening firework show are arguably some of my favorite aspects of visiting Disney World. In order to maintain social distancing, the daily scheduled parades that always draw big crowds are not currently happening. Instead, there are smaller, pop up parades sprinkled all throughout the day so even though you don’t know when it will happen, the changes are you will likely happen upon one at some point. We were able to see a Princess parade, a Mickey & Friends character appearance, and a Toy Story parade. In my opinion, these missing aspects were a huge bummer, especially if you have little kids. Not being able to meet your favorite character or princess is such a vital and magical aspect of bringing your little ones to Disney.
It still felt crowded, even when operating at a limited capacity.
I’m not sure the exact percentage they are operating at but the parks still felt pretty busy. You have to make a reservation for the park you plan to visit that day prior to arrival, which is how I assume they are able to cap the amount of guests per day. The hours of operation are also shorter than usual.
So, is it WORTH it to visit Disney World right now?
Obviously this is a personal question that will vary from person to person but my own take on this is: not really. Here’s the thing; if you choose to go right now, I 100% believe you will still have a WONDERFUL time. It’s Disney and there are still rides to be rode and you’ll get Mickey Mouse sightings…but I just think between the high cost of visiting Disney World and the existing challenges you have to overcome when taking a trip with young children even during a normal trip (like long days which lead to cranky kiddos and warm temperatures), you might be better off waiting to get the FULL, real experience without having to deal with mask wearing. I just think there is such a special element of getting to give your favorite characters a hug, seeing Tinkerbell fly over the castle with fireworks launching in the night sky and not having to worry about if your child is properly wearing their mask at all times and soaking up SEEING the smiles…that I would encourage you to wait. I especially feel this way if this would be your first trip. Hold out for a later time if you are planning to make you first Disney World trip so you can truly experience it at its fullest. If your kids are older and you’ve taken a few trips before, I think it would be fine as long as you don’t mind the masks/no fast passes.
I hope this was helpful and gave some first hand insight if you are unsure about wether or not to visit Disney World right now. Everyone certainly has their own opinion and experience and this just happens to be ours.