Is it safe to visit Disney during a pandemic? Full Safety Recap from our Recent Visit
Updated: Feb 3, 2021
My family of five just returned home after 8 magical days at Walt Disney World. We've received so many questions about our experience, so I decided to put together a full safety recap.
As a travel advisor specializing in Disney, I’m extremely familiar with everything they have done to reopen in a safe and thoughtful way. Before making our decision to travel, I talked with friends and colleagues who had already been back to hear their first-hand experiences. Hearing praise from those I know and trust was a big help! Disney’s top priority has always been the safety of their guests and that has never been more evident than now.
Here’s my honest review after 8 days at “The Most Magical Place on Earth”
✈️ FLYING: We flew from Cleveland to Orlando on Southwest. With limited flights, we had to connect through Nashville and were unable to fly non-stop. We were on a total of four planes roundtrip. I chose Southwest intentionally because they seem to be going above and beyond in terms of safety. They require face masks of all passengers and are flying at reduced capacities with no middle seats. They’ve adjusted their boarding process and only allow 10 people to board at a time. They’ve also modified their in-flight service and have limited it to water and pre-packaged snack mix. Southwest has also enhanced all of their sanitation measures between flights with more thorough cleaning. All in all, we had a very positive experience flying.
🚍 TRANSFERRING: One of the reasons we love staying at on-site Disney properties is their complimentary Magical Express transfer service. We boarded the Magical Express less than 20 minutes after stepping off of the plane - super convenient! They’re located right inside the terminal and take you directly to your resort. Hand sanitizer was readily available throughout the boarding area and seats on the bus were assigned with empty rows between travel parties to assist with physical distancing. One thing to note is that the Magical Express has temporarily suspended luggage retrieval, so guests need to stop by baggage claim and bring their luggage with them to the bus.
🏨 STAYING: We chose to stay at Bay Lake Tower at Disney’s Contemporary Resort. We’ve stayed here before and love its close proximity to the Magic Kingdom (just a quick walk away)! It was important to us that we stayed in a villa with our own kitchen, washer and dryer. This allowed us to have groceries delivered so we could enjoy some meals in our room and also made it very convenient to wash our masks (and clothes). With two teenagers and one tweenager, having some extra space to spread out was also helpful. We chose a two bedroom villa, which included 3 full bathrooms, two balconies, a full kitchen, living and dining area. In terms of added safety at their resorts, Disney has implemented the following:
*Enhanced cleaning of high-touch areas including door handles, pulls, knobs, light switches, faucets, thermostat controls and more
*Amenities (like remote controls) thoroughly cleaned and wrapped
*Modified housekeeping to limit the amount of time housekeepers are in rooms (this can also be declined altogether)
*Contactless check-in and check-out through the Disney app, allowing guests to bypass the front desk entirely (the app will even unlock your room with a digital key)
*Hand sanitizer readily available in all common areas
*Signage to help guests maintain physical distancing in high traffic areas like lobbies and outside of elevators
*Limit of one party per elevator
*Added magic ~ since the Happily Ever After fireworks have been temporarily suspended, resort guests can watch a pre-recorded showing in their rooms each night between 6 and 10 PM. We LOVED this…we had the best seat in the house with no crowds!
🏰 PLAYING: Visiting the parks was the absolute highlight of our trip. We’ve traveled to Disney World countless times and have never had a more enjoyable experience. With significantly reduced capacities, it felt at times as though we had the parks entirely to ourselves. In addition to fewer guests, Disney has implemented the following safety measures:
*Contactless temperature screenings at park entrances
*Physical distancing signage throughout the park
*Mask requirements for all guests ages 2 and above - no exceptions
*Designated Relaxation Stations where guests can safely remove their masks while physically distanced from others
*Modified queues for attractions, including plexiglass dividers and clearly marked areas letting guests know where to stand (this was SO nice not only for safety but for a much more pleasant experience waiting in line…no more filling in all empty spaces!)
*Frequent sanitation of attractions
*Empty rows or vehicles between parties on attractions
*Automatic hand sanitizer at the entrance and exit of all attractions as well as frequent points throughout the parks (I brought tons of my own hand sanitizer and barely used it because it was so readily available everywhere)
*Hand washing stations throughout the parks to allow guests to get a full 20 seconds of soap and water (controlled with your feet, so no need to touch the faucets)
*Virtual queues to enter the stores if they are full, in addition to designated entrance and exit points
*New ways to enjoy the magic, including spontaneous character cavalcades in place of parades and new and exciting ways to safely interact with all of your favorite characters
🍔 DINING: Let’s be honest, the food at Disney World is a reason unto itself for a visit! We dined at several restaurants within the parks, at Disney Springs and our resort. Here’s how they’re making the dining experience safe for their guests:
*Reduced capacity with tables marked off between parties to help maintain physical distancing
*Masks required anytime you aren’t seated at your table
*Mobile check in through the Disney app and a text message alerting you when your table is ready (no crowding around hostess stands or in lobbies)
*Mobile menus - QR codes are on the tables so you can scan and view the menu easily (they have disposable paper menus for those who need them)
*Mobile ordering through the Disney app for quick service food
*Contactless payment through the Disney app
👙 SWIMMING: Yes, the resort pools are open! They’re running at reduced capacities to help with physical distancing. Lounge chairs are frequently sanitized and may not be moved. Masks are required when guests aren’t in the pools.
💤 RELAXING: This was our most relaxed Disney World vacation ever. We’re normally park hopping late into the night, but with that service temporarily unavailable we found ourselves back at our resort early in the evenings. With the parks running at such significantly reduced capacities, we never waited more than 30 minutes for a ride (most times we waited less than 5 or walked right on). This allowed us to experience so much more in less time, which meant we were comfortable returning to our resort for a few hours of rest during the hottest part of the day. We also felt well rested each night with plenty of time to sleep.
💭 FINAL THOUGHTS: When I think of this vacation, the first word that comes to my mind is “grateful.” We were so grateful to be back and while the experience was definitely different, we found it to be better. The Cast Members thanked us every day for returning to the parks and it was evident that they were relieved to be back at work after a lengthy furlough.
The world is strange and confusing right now. Being back at Disney World gave us new memories to cherish and a much needed sense of familiarity, joy and gratitude.
I hope this info helps! If you have specific questions about our experience, please let me know!
Kelly is a lifelong Disney fan and expert Travel Advisor for all Disney destinations. She specializes in meticulously planned vacations perfectly customized for each of her clients. For a complimentary vacation quote, click here.