What It’s Like to Visit Disney World During the Pandemic

I will preface this post by saying: I know that it is not a smart idea to visit Disney World, or go anywhere (besides outside to explore, alone) during this pandemic, but my family surprised me with a trip to Disney World for Christmas. It was not my idea and I originally did not want to go, but after looking up the precautions the park was taking, considering our own precautions and health, I was convinced to go. Please do not hate on me, or this post or my blog. I am writing this post only for informational purposes and to record this experience as history. Additionally, I do not condone or recommend anyone go to Disney World right now so that we can all stay safe. All that being said, here is my experience going to Disney World during the pandemic.

For Christmas, my family surprised me with tickets to Disney World. They were already planning on visiting me here in Florida (we took precautions, of course), and just before they arrived, they surprised me with tickets for us to go to Disney World’s Magic Kingdom.

I’ve been dreaming of going to Disney World ever since I was a little girl. I grew up in southern California and went to Disneyland nearly every month from age 2 to 13. I could walk that park blindfolded, backwards. But living on the west coast, Disney World in Florida was just too far away. From the lodging to food to park tickets, it was an unachievable dream. But now that I *live* in Florida, a mere 2 hours from Orlando, this dream is possible – with the one gigantic caveat of the pandemic.

But enough about my dreams – you’re likely here for my experience.

In case you are unfamiliar, the Disney World complex is made up of four parks: Magic Kingdom (where you’ll find Cinderella’s castle), Animal Kingdom (like a zoo with rides); Hollywood Studios (home to Tower of Terror and Star Wars land); and finally, Epcot (a place to walk around, eat and explore different cultures – no rides). Tickets range anywhere from $110 to $200+, depending on the time of year, but Florida residents can find tickets for $109. Parking in the Disney lots is $25 per day, or you can park somewhere else and shuttle in.

Because of the pandemic, Disney is restricting the number of people allowed into each park. You have to make a reservation online for the day and park that you want to go to. To secure your day and park, I’d try to schedule it at least a few weeks in advance because park tickets will sell out / fill up, especially parks like Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom.

Masks are required at all times, even on the rides, unless you’re actively eating or drinking. I saw a lady get scolded by security for briefly taking off her mask for a photo. To be safe, I’d bring at least one extra mask, too, in case you loose yours, and some hand sanitizer, although there is hand sanitizer literally all over the park.

#MaskUp!

My family went to Magic Kingdom and our experience like no other began. Parking was a breeze – instead of fighting for parking, you get assigned a spot right near the front. You walk to the entrance to the tram or boat shuttle and get stopped by security. They take your temperature via your forehead with one of those laser thermometers so they don’t touch you, and briefly check your bags. Everyone in your group must pass the temperature check in order to go into the park. The tram or boat shuttle will take you to the park entrance; if you take the tram, each family is assigned their own section, but it still doesn’t fill up. Once you finally reach the park entrance, there are zero lines and you can literally walk right into the park, once you scan your tickets. It was so surreal to not have to wait in any lines whatsoever to get into the park – not for parking, or at security or the tram or park entrance.

However, that surreal-ness is short lived because once you get inside the park, that’s when you find the people. It was busy, but it definitely wasn’t as busy as it normally would’ve been around Christmastime. I love Disney at Christmas – the entire park is decorated in Christmas decorations and Main Street USA is the most beautiful area of all.

Main Street USA at night

This Main Street USA is different, however, because not all of the shops are open. Many, if not most, of them are open on Main Street USA, but this was not the case throughout the park. We discovered that most of the shopping and restaurants are closed or have very limited hours, so it made finding food a challenge. We searched the entire park and could hardly find anywhere to get a churro (my favorite snack at Disney) or find my mom’s favorite chewy sour balls. It was disappointing, but I understand the restriction. To sit down at a restaurant, you have to download a special app that will allow you to make an online reservation and it may take an hour just to get a table because they’ve limited seating due to the pandemic.

Just because they’ve limited the number of people in the park does not mean that you’ll avoid the long wait times for rides, either. Since there is a restricted number of people, they have taken away the “Fast Pass” option for rides. (Fast passes allow you to schedule a time to ride the ride, so you can essentially schedule out your day via fast passes and never have to wait in lines – this is how my mom and I visited Disneyland when I was younger.) Since there is no longer a fast pass option, you might wait an hour to get on a ride. The favorite rides, like Pirates of the Caribbean, Thunder Mountain, Snow White’s “The Mine,” Space Mountain, and others will require you to wait in line for an hour. It’s obviously not ideal, but that’s all part of the Disney experience, I guess. They space the lines out so you have the recommended 6 (or so) feet in between you and the people in front and behind you.

Once you board the ride, on rides like Pirates of the Caribbean and Space Mountain, they will give you the entire boat / rocket. So instead of cramming in with strangers, you get the entire thing to yourself and your party. It’s actually really nice! There is also hand sanitizer before and after the ride, so you can constantly sanitize your hands, which we did.

They no longer have the “Meet the Character” sessions for safety reasons, so if you’re hoping to meet Cinderella or Mickey or Pooh, you can’t. You can still find them in the parades – they have parades like every hour or two – but you can no longer meet or interact with them.

They’ve also cancelled the nightly fireworks show to prevent people from congregating in a large group. Instead, Cinderella’s castle puts on a light show throughout the day. For Christmas, the technicians decorated the castle in Christmas-themed lights and every 15 minutes the lights change and fireworks erupt very briefly from the castle to announce the change. It’s pretty and people still congregate near the castle to take photos.

Christmas wrapping paper covers Cinderella’s Castle

My favorite ride is, for sure, Space Mountain, with Thunder Mountain being a close second. The Mine ride is the Magic Kingdom’s newest ride and it’s incredible. That coaster is so incredibly smooth, unlike the more rickety Space and Thunder Mountains. My mom and I were amazed at how advanced the animatronics and rollercoaster tech have become.

Overall, I thought that my visit to Disney was still fun. It’s kind of what you make of it, you know? Either you can be angry or freaked out or panic, or you can go with the flow, be adaptable, safe and considerate of others.

Again, this post was not meant to be problematic, I just want to detail my experience, be informational, help others, and record history.

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Thank you for reading! Have you ever been to Disney World? Let me know in the comments below and like this post if you want more like it!

Xoxo’s

Emmalee

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