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The Phased ReOpening of WDW

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I just returned home from a week long stay in the Walt Disney World area (my daughter lives in Celebration). While stores and restaurants all around WDW are open, the Disney parks and resorts remain closed. I drove under that sign several times and it was just a little eerie. No other cars. No Disney buses. No Disney hustle and bustle. It was sad.

The Phased ReOpening of WDW

I was able to have dinner out a few nights and the town center area of Celebration seems like nothing ever closed. I was also able to get a hair cut and my nails done in the area (something I couldn’t do at home in SC until this week).

With the news that other theme parks in Orlando will be opening the first week of June, everyone is wondering and waiting for news of WDW opening.

Here’s the thing – everything we are reading on-line is nothing more than speculation. Disney is holding all their information close. I’m sure it isn’t that they don’t have a plan. They just aren’t sharing that plan with anyone.

When they closed the parks, the world found out on social media. The third party restaurants and shops in Disney Springs, found out the same way the rest of the world found out – on social media.

So what will the reopening of WDW be like for all of us waiting for the big reopening day? We can only speculate. Disney Springs opened on May 20th with limited capacity and safety guidelines. I visited on May 21st to see what it was like.

Disney Springs

Parking is limited and when you arrive everything is clearly marked where you can/can’t park. There is no outside ground parking available. All visitors must filter through the designated parking garage. Once you park you must get to level 2 where you will have your temperature checked by a cast member with a Non-Touch thermometer. The cast member holds the device a few inches from your forehead.

the phased reopening of WDW

At this temperature check station there are also several hand sanitizer stations and signs letting you know that masks must be worn while in Disney Springs.

It was a very warm day (around 93 degrees). I did start out wearing a cloth mask. I quickly realized that a cloth mask won’t work for me in the Florida heat and switched to a paper mask I had in my bag. I’m glad I had this experience before heading to the parks when they open with only a cloth mask. I now know to wear a paper mask when I do get to visit the parks for comfort in the heat.

Children under the age of 3 are not required to wear a mask and we can assume that will be true when the parks reopen as well. My grandson is 3 and wears a mask regularly at home when shopping so easily put his mask on without question or argument.

All throughout Disney Springs there are hand sanitizer stations as well as hand washing stations.

NOTE: Many of the third party stores that were listed on various sites as opening on the 20th, were not open on the 21st. All of the restaurants listed were open.

Disney Springs was empty. Almost like it is when you visit early morning when they are just getting ready to open for the day, but it was 2 in the afternoon.

No Disney owned stores or restaurants were open. I will say that without the ability to visit Disney stores, it seemed like I was simply strolling through an outdoor shopping complex. The “Disney” was missing. The most Disney thing I saw was the balloon cast member.

My grandson wanted to eat with the dinosaurs so we ate lunch at T-Rex. Checking in we were told we can remove our masks when we get to our table but must wear it if we leave our table for any reason to walk throughout the restaurant. Seating capacity was limited but it was still a great experience and decent food.

ReOpening of the Rest of WDW

If Disney Springs is an indication of what we can expect when the parks reopen, I imagine there will be many safety precautions and guidelines we will have to follow when we visit.

What we know for sure:

Sadly we know very little. We know WDW will reopen. We have no idea when. We know there will be guidelines and restrictions for entering the parks. We have no idea what those guidelines will be. Many Disney blogs and sites are offering all sorts of information. It is all speculation.

Disney will follow guidance from government and health care officials regarding how they reopen the parks and resorts in a responsible way. They will make real-time adjustments to booked experiences, park tickets and park passes, which means once they reopen things can change from day to day.

The parks and resorts will open with some form of limited capacity. What that capacity is and how they will control it, is still unknown. Disney is an expert in crowd control so I’m sure the plan will be one that works well.

It’s a very good bet that when the parks reopen visitors will be required to go through the same precautions as they do when entering Disney Springs: temperature checks and face masks required. I would imagine the timing of when they open will dictate what happens or what is required.

We also know that when the parks reopen, our first visit back will be a totally different experience from what we are used to, at least temporarily. If you plan to visit soon after reopening, start now having your younger children wear a mask when out so they are used to wearing one when your visit happens.

Walt Disney World executives are working to implement heavily modified guest experiences which could definitely change the way guests interact with attractions, shows and restaurants.

If you are trying to determine when the best time to plan your next vacation to WDW is – there is no way to judge that at this point. Personally, I would wait to see what the capacity limits and restrictions are before planning if these are of concern to you. Will Disney’s initial reopening limit capacity by only allowing locals/Florida residents and/or annual pass holders? Will they limit capacity by only allowing those in their resorts to enter the parks? No one knows. We have no idea how things will be. Many are speculating but again, no one knows. The only thing we know for sure – things will be different.

One of the official WDW statements reads in part:

“Upon reopening, theme parks, Disney Resort hotels, restaurants, attractions, experiences and other offerings may be modified and will be limited in capacity and subject to limited availability or closure, based on direction from health experts and government officials to promote physical distancing. 

Additionally, attractions, experiences, services and amenities may have limited availability or may remain closed. We will provide more information as it becomes available. We reserve the right to cancel any reservations, admission media or purchases and provide applicable refunds.”

Another statement made earlier by Chief Medical Officer Dr. Pamela Hymel indicates the possibility of virtual queues.

Physical distancing and capacity measures: As you can imagine, managing guest density in queues, restaurants, hotels, ride vehicles and other facilities throughout the park and across the resort is a major focus, as we implement physical distancing guidelines based on guidance from health authorities, such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and appropriate government agencies. This will likely include implementation of guest capacity measures to comply with state and federal guidelines. We’re also exploring ways to use technology to aid us in these efforts, like with our Play Disney Parks App and through virtual queues at Disneyland and Walt Disney World.

I know I’m looking forward to WDW reopening. I haven’t visited since January which is the longest I have gone in years without walking down the middle of Main Street USA!