July 11, 2020 – the first day my favorite place to visit reopened to the general public after months of uncertainty due to closures from Covid-19.
If you are not super familiar with planning a Walt Disney World vacation, certain things might strike you as odd on your next visit. Plastic shields, social distancing reminders, etc. would be jarring to any returning guest.
However, these pale in comparison to much larger changes Disney aficionados take for granted. The biggest changes at Walt Disney World impact your vacation planning experience across the board.
Park Reservation Needed
This is most likely the biggest change of all. You MUST make a reservation to enter the park at this time since capacity is limited. There is no park hopping for the foreseeable future.
For the longest time, the pros have known to make their dining reservations six months ahead of time. So reducing the window to only 60 days is enough of a shock on its own. Add to that no character dining and no buffets and the Disney experts don’t know what to do!
For the time being Chef Mickey’s is a characterless, family-style experience. Similar changes are yet to come as the resort expands its openings.
The entire dining experience ranks highest among the biggest changes at Walt Disney World. It’s Mobile check-in and digital menus further demonstrate the extreme alteration of one of the linchpins of a Walt Disney World vacation.
Another feature we’ve come to expect is FastPass Plus. Even though it’s only been a few years, returning Disney guests quickly adapted to the process of reserving popular rides in advance. Not only could you skip the standby line at your favorite attractions, you could even schedule the time for three rides up to 60 days before your visit.
FastPass queues have all been removed to make room for standby queue expansions. This was done to accommodate the social distancing requirement of 6 feet between parties.
Disney’s Magical Express
Disney’s Magical Express is an amazing perk for Disney resort guests. The motor coach service transports travelers from Orlando International Airport to their Walt Disney World lodging free of charge. Part of the service has always been that Disney picks up your checked luggage from the baggage claim and delivers it to your room after your check-in. It makes your arrival and departure days go more smoothly.
However, Disney has pulled this service, and guests must now claim their own bags and bring them to the motorcoach themselves.
Because generating crowds is a problem, Disney temporarily suspended fireworks and parades. Character meet-and-greets no longer appear as well. Instead, spontaneous cavalcades and distant character interactions help keep some of the magic alive even though these changes at Walt Disney World mostly draw more attention to the entertainment that’s gone missing.
However, I will say that characters popping up in different and unexpected locations is definitely fun to see!
Face masks are mandatory and you can’t help but notice them everywhere. You’ll make note of who’s wearing their mask, who isn’t, and who’s not wearing their mask correctly. Disney branded face masks are as common as hats and t-shirts.
For guest comfort, whole sections of not yet opened restaurants and other rest stops have been converted into mask free relaxation stations. If you’ve ever dined in Akershus or visited the Star Wars Launch Bay, it’s a strange sight to see at these locations.
There is still lots going on. There may not be large scale parades but the small limited ones that are happening are lively, entertaining and really enjoyable.