Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Our July 2020 Walt Disney World Experience

Hello you guys!

I know that there are many of you still debating whether or not to take your 2020 Walt Disney World vacation, and I wanted to share my experience in Walt Disney World from July 7-14 with you all!

Our flights on Southwest Airlines were great! Middle seats were not filled, and so our family was distanced from other parties on the flight. Southwest is also doing fresh air exchanges every 2-3 minutes on every flight. Beverage service has been suspended, so we brought bottled drinks onboard, though packaged snacks are still being handed out. The boarding process has been changed as well, and so parties are able to keep 6 feet away from other parties. Of course, masks must be worn on the entire flight.

(At Indianapolis Int'l Airport)

Upon our arrival at the Orlando International Airport, it was apparent that things were going to be different. The crowds were LIGHT- basically non-existent. We arrived around 11am, and we only waited a few minutes before boarding our Magical Express shuttle to the Polynesian Village Resort (side note- others have had long waits to board, and so this seems inconsistent!). The bus loaded from the back forward, and our family was given a specific row to sit in, several rows away from the only other party on the bus.

(A very empty Magical Express)

(Enjoying our Magical Express ride to the resort)

Once we got to the resort, we were able to go straight to our room, as we had completed online check-in, and received a text that our room was ready, with the building and room number included, as well as a link to a resort map. All rooms have a sign in the room that touch on the enhanced cleanings that are taking place, including the sanitization of the TV remotes, which I was happy to see, as I have always been wary of the TV remotes in hotel rooms (I have always wrapped them in the ice bag in the room upon our arrival so that we wouldn't be touching the remote directly, but this time I didn't have to because I knew it was clean!).

(A fairly empty lobby at the Polynesian Village Resort)

(Signs in the rooms detailing the enhanced cleaning measures being taken)

We then headed to the quick-service restaurant at the resort, Capt. Cook's, which encouraged mobile ordering to minimize contact with cast members. Mobile ordering was easy to do, and our food was soon ready for us to enjoy, either inside of the restaurant, where tables were spaced very far apart, or outside on the patio to enjoy (or we could have taken it back to our room as well). Food was all packaged upon picking it up from the mobile ordering pick-up counter, and it was placed in a large brown bag.

(Thai Coconut Meatballs- my first meal at Capt. Cook's)

(Tonga Toast breakfast at Capt. Cook's)

(Turkey sandwich and Disney's famous homemade chips at Gasparilla Island Grill at the Grand Floridian)

Refillable mugs are still available to purchase, but the stations are no longer self-serve- there is a cast member who will ask to see your mug, and then fill a new cup with the beverage of your choice, which you can then pour inside of your mug.

(They're still selling these awesome insulated Star Wars mugs!)

Our experience at the resort pool was great! Pool chairs are spaced to allow for social-distancing. Masks can be taken off once at your pool chair, and social distancing in the pools is of course encouraged. There are still afternoon activities at the main pool, but only things like trivia, where social distancing can be performed. The activities cast member would often remind folks to stay 6 feet apart from others during the activities.

(Polynesian Village volcano pool)

(Volcano pool)

The water slide was open, and markers were placed in the queue 6 feet apart showing parties where to stand. Admittedly, social distancing was not as, shall I say prevalent, at the children's splash pad, and so I might recommend that you skip this area on your trip.

(Camden exiting the water slide at the resort)

As for transportation, we experienced the monorail, buses, and the ferry on our trip. We were easily able to social distance on all of these modes of transportation. Markers were everywhere in the queues, and we were told specifically where to sit on the monorail and buses so that we'd be spaced out from other parties. On the ferry, we were not told where to stand, but as they are so large and there are so few people taking them, social distancing was not difficult at all.

(The only one in our car on the monorail)

Table service restaurants utilized online check-in at the resorts, and we were notified via text when our table was ready. This minimized our contact with cast members. Of course, tables were spread out from one another so we were at least 6 feet from all other parties. Servers wore masks. As of July 27, guests will have their temperatures checked at all table service restaurants at Walt Disney World resorts and Disney Springs. Once we sat down at our table, we could take our mask off to enjoy our meal. A piece of paper was placed at our table with a QR code that we could scan with our smart phone camera, which revealed the menu for our meal (another pet peeve of mine- dirty menus!!). The paper was then discarded. Yet another feature that I have always hated about restaurants is the communal ketchup bottle and salt and pepper shakers (I never handle these directly, I always place a napkin between me and the item!)- these are all now given to you in single-serve portions, which- you guessed it- I loved!

(Enjoying a table service dinner)

(Fun at character breakfast!)

At the theme parks, our temperatures were taken quickly using a touchless thermometer (actually for the monorail resorts, our temps were taken at the resort), and our bags were sent through the metal detector with us so that security did not have to touch our bags. If we beeped when we went through the metal detector, then we were pulled to the side and security had us go through our bag while they watched. We were instructed before going through to take out items such as large metal water bottles, which were placed in a bin that was sanitized between each party.

(Animal Kingdom right after our temp checks)

As for our experience in the theme parks- we absolutely, 100% loved our time in the Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom, the two parks that opened during our visit. The 10 hours per day that each theme park is open is more than enough time to do each and every attraction if you like. We have never gotten to experience the theme parks with such low crowds- it felt like a special event just for us and a few select guests! Not every attraction was open, but this really didn't affect how we felt about our experience in the theme parks. We also didn't miss the nighttime fireworks shows- before we left, I thought maybe we might, but I didn't even realize until we got home and I was reflecting back on our trip that these weren't going on! But being able to literally walk onto some of the most popular attractions such as Flight of Passage, Expedition Everest, Space Mountain, and Peter Pan's Flight was SO. MUCH. FUN! It 100% reminded me of paid after-hours events that my family used to enjoy in the 90's.

(A very empty Animal Kingdom)

(Na'vi River Journey in Pandora was a walk-on)

(It's A Small World was a walk-on)

(A very empty Adventureland at the Magic Kingdom)

(Empty Fantasyland)

Attractions were down every so often for routine cleanings, but these were quick and efficient! We constantly saw handrails and other high-touch areas being sanitized. 

(Routine cleaning of Big Thunder Mountain Railroad)

Pop-up parades are frequent, and so if you are someone that enjoys parades, you will really enjoy this aspect of the parks! There are many different character parades, including Minnie and Mickey, the Disney Princesses, Goofy, and more! At Disney's Hollywood Studios, there is a Disney Junior pop-up parade that I am really hoping to see on our next visit as well!

(A fun pop-up parade during lunch!)

(The pop-up parades on the water at Animal Kingdom were fantastic!)

The only thing that we really missed on this trip was being able to hug the characters! Piglet, Rabbit and Eeyore were outside of Crystal Palace one afternoon, and we were able to take 'social distance selfies' with them, and we enjoyed a character breakfast at Topolino's Terrace at Disney' Riviera Resort one morning, where we were able to see characters from at least 6 feet away. They also had a fun parade throughout the restaurant which my kids really enjoyed! My thoughts are this: I don't know when, if ever, character interaction as we knew it will return. I think about all of the germs on these characters and I just don't know if being able to hug them will ever return. Perhaps it will... perhaps it won't... and so if your only reservation about visiting in 2020 or even 2021 is that you won't be able to hug the characters, I wouldn't base a decision off of that personally. Your mileage may vary.

(Social-distance selfie with Eeyore)

My last point that I want to touch on is the vibe and the feelings we got from being in Walt Disney World the week we were there. It was truly amazing. Everyone I saw (guests and cast members alike) was smiling, pleasant, and happy to be 'home'. The first few days before the park opened felt a little funny, as transportation was a lot different (even the resort monorail loop wasn't up yet), but once the parks opened, it felt back-to-normal. The vibe was absolutely incredible. When the Magic Kingdom opened to the public on July 11, walking down Main Street USA with all of the cast members welcoming us back was one of the most incredible feelings I have ever had. I still get goosebumps thinking of that walk.

(We absolutely loved our much-needed vacation!)

I don't have a lot to say about wearing masks- personally, I think that this is something that's going to become our new normal, and it doesn't affect me one bit (I am happy to wear a mask everywhere, as is my family)- again, your mileage may vary, but this is something that I personally wouldn't let stop you in regards to whether you visit in 2020 or early 2021. I can say that when it feels like 110 degrees, wearing a mask isn't going to make you feel 'hotter'- it feels like 110 degrees, mask or no mask. My youngest son and I tolerate the heat very well, whereas my oldest son and husband do not, and these two didn't have any issues wearing a mask in the heat (I also would like to mention that my husband and I both have asthma- again, no issues for us).

(Happy to wear masks!)

So would we head back, knowing now what we know about July 2020 and the reopening of Walt Disney World? Well, we loved our time so much that we are heading back in October! We are excited to once again experience low crowd levels and walk-on to some of our favorite attractions. We'll be splitting our time between an Epcot-area resort and a Magic Kingdom-area resort for maximum ease of getting to the parks, and we simply cannot wait!

Questions or comments? Please feel free to email me at Thank you for reading, stay well, and Happy Travels!

Monday, June 8, 2020

A Summer 2020 Modified WDW Vacation

Hi guys!

Wow- what craziness we’ve been living in, no? As a travel agent, I’ve been EXTREMELY busy… extremely busy cancelling reservations for cruises, all-inclusive resorts, and Walt Disney World and Universal Studios Orlando. It’s disappointing to my clients, and it’s disappointing for me, but I just keep the thought of ‘We’re all in this together’ (I cannot even type that out without singing the song from Disney’s High School Musical).

Disney's High School Musical

Slowly though, the world is opening back up. Cruising is looking to be returning later this summer, the Caribbean is opening back up within the next months, and the Walt Disney World Resorts will begin to reopen later this month, while Disney Springs entertainment center and Universal Studios Orlando have already resumed welcoming back guests.

Banner within Disney Springs

Disney Springs from the entrance of one of the parking garages

What I would like to focus on in this post is taking a modified Walt Disney World vacation. I know that for a lot of you, this is not something you want to invest in, and I COMPLETELY understand. There will be no character meets, no parades, and no fireworks shows. This will NOT be the Walt Disney World we have come to know and love. But with a little imagination, it can still be an incredible vacation. Please come with me as I tell you what there WILL BE to look forward to if you are considering a summer 2020 Walt Disney World vacation.

The pool at Disney's Polynesian Village Resort

Admittedly, my husband and I did discuss cancelling our July 2020 Walt Disney World vacation. We had a dream trip planned out- a week at Disney’s flagship resort, the Grand Floridian Resort & Spa, staying Club Level, pulling out all the stops- Signature Dining reservations, a poolside cabana rental at the resort, and some character dining opportunities for our two young children. This was a trip to celebrate my husband’s master’s degree graduation this summer, which he will graduate with top honors, as he was able to maintain a perfect 4.0 GPA. He did this while working full-time and raising his family- I am incredibly proud of him and wanted to take him on his dream trip. However, our dining and cabana rental were cancelled by Disney, and while our resort reservation remains intact, we wanted to discuss other options, as it has already been announced that the Club Lounges will not be open upon resort reopening.

Disney's Grand Floridian Resort & Spa

Club Lounge offerings

Unfortunately, as I am also a healthcare worker, we are not allowed to leave the country without self-quarantining for 14 days after our arrival back to the United States. This is understandable, as I would never want to jeopardize the health of my patients. After discussing other options, we decided that we would still be happiest at Walt Disney World, and so we are making other arrangements and do not plan to stay at the Grand Floridian this time around. We will still stay on property, though- that is an absolute must for us, as the Walt Disney World Resorts are truly a destination unto themselves!

In our happy place

What I would like to explain is that there are still a LOT of opportunities for fun at Walt Disney World this summer. We will be arriving a few days before the parks are back open, and so we will have a lot of time to soak up that hot Florida sun at the themed pool of whichever resort we stay at. Pool bars WILL be open for food and drinks (we LOVE eating lunch poolside!). We will not be staying at Disney’s Beach Club Resort, as their feature pool Stormalong Bay will not be open, and with that Hurricane Hanna’s, their pool bar, will remain closed, though guests staying here are welcome to visit the fun feature pool at Disney’s Boardwalk Villas. All of the DVC Resorts and Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground (these are the resorts that will be reopening on June 22) have waterslides, and so no matter where we choose, my son can enjoy the waterslide as much as his heart desires. Poolside activities will be available, though I imagine they will be modified to account for social distancing and cleanliness. Here is what else will be available:

·         Movies Under the Stars (a Disney feature film is played on a large outdoor screen in the evening)
·         Fitness centers
·         Sports courts
·         Fishing excursions at Disney’s Beach Club Villas and Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground
·         The Bike Barn, Trail Rides, and the Horse Barn at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground
·         Poolside cabana rentals at the Villas at Disney’s Grand Floridian

Poolside lunch at Disney's Contemporary Resort

The fun pool and waterslide at Disney's Boardwalk Inn

Enjoying that Florida sunshine with my oldest son

While not all of the restaurants will be open during the initial reopening phase, many Disney favorites will be! The biggest disappointment to us (besides character dining remaining closed, but that makes total sense to me!) is that you will have to have a dining reservation in order to visit a resort. We LOVE popping in to our favorite quick service locations, most notably Geyser Point Bar & Grill at Wilderness Lodge, and Bar Riva at the Riviera Resort, but these will be unavailable to us unless we end up staying at one of these resorts. Same with the Polynesian- we’ve been known to pop in to Pineapple Lanai for a quick Dole Whip, and unless you are staying at this resort (or have Kona Café reservations), this location will be unavailable to you.

Here are the Table Service Restaurants that will be open:

The Wave… of American Flavors (Contemporary Resort)
Whispering Canyon Café (Wilderness Lodge)
Sanaa (Animal Kingdom Lodge- Kidani Village)
Beaches & Cream Soda Shop (Beach Club)
Trattoria al Forno- no characters (Boardwalk)
Olivia’s Café (Old Key West)
Kona Café (Polynesian)
Topolino’s Terrace (Riviera Resort) **This is the only restaurant which suggests a modified character dining experience may still be available, but we know no further details
Grand Floridian Café (Grand Floridian)

Enjoying dinner at Beaches & Cream

Yummy shrimp pasta at Grand Floridian Cafe

My hope is to secure reservations at Sanaa, Kona Café, and the Grand Floridian Café, and possibly Topolino’s Terrace and Beaches & Cream (and maybe Olivia’s too for breakfast!). Resort restaurant reservations are not yet available, and we don’t know when these will open.

We do, however, have the option right now to make dining reservations at Disney Springs. There are so many wonderful choices here, it’s hard to choose, but we will certainly be visiting Chef Art Smith’s Homecomin’ for their famous fried chicken! We’ve also got some quick service favorites at Disney Springs, including Guy Fieri’s Chicken Guy, Earl of Sandwich, and The Polite Pig BBQ. Most of the stores here are open at this time, including my favorite, Lilly Pullitzer, and my son’s favorite, The Lego Store. The World of Disney Store is now open as well.

I LOVE Chicken Guy!

At the end of the day, this is NOT the Disney we have come to expect. And again, I certainly would not recommend this vacation for those looking for a ‘true’ Disney experience. We will be taking MANY breaks, as we are required to wear masks anytime we are out of our room, excluding in the pool or eating/ drinking.  But my take on this is that we can get away for some family time, enjoy the pool, eat at some of our favorite restaurants, and just take a really relaxed pace to our week. For me, Disney has always been about spending time with those that I love most, and that is what this summer will be about. We do hope to visit the Magic Kingdom, as we wait for further instructions on how to obtain theme park reservations. The Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom will open July 11, and Hollywood Studios and Epcot will open on July 15.

Treat case at Disney's Contemporary Resort quick service location, Contempo Cafe

Steak dinner at the Grand Floridian Cafe

One of our lunch favorites, Earl of Sandwich at Disney Springs

As always, if you have any questions, please feel free to email me at Thank you for reading, and stay well!

Saturday, March 28, 2020

Stay-At-Home Disney-themed Family Fun

Hello, my sweet readers!

I truly hope that you all are well, and that you are making the best of this situation and making fun memories with your families during these unprecedented times.

While we have absolutely no idea when the Walt Disney World Resort, Disneyland, and Aulani will reopen, and when Disney Cruise Line (currently slated to resume operations on April 13, but I expect that this will not happen) will sail again, we can be thankful that the Walt Disney Company is keeping a close eye on this situation to keep all of us safe!

It is absolutely no surprise that Walt Disney World is my family’s happy place. I say this often. Knowing that the resorts and theme parks sit empty right now is absolutely heartbreaking to me. I am longing to see Instagram photos of guests enjoying the property, and watch new vlogs of my favorite Disney YouTubers exploring the parks. I hesitate to say this because I know that there is a much bigger picture to take in here, but at the same time, mental health and happiness are important, too. See, to me, Walt Disney World is not just a place on a map. It is a place in my heart that contains 36 years of happy memories. Memories with my grandpa and uncle, who are now in Heaven. Memories with my brothers, my parents, my aunt and cousins, and friends, who all live states away from me. And more recent memories with my husband and children, where we enjoy family time without the stressors of our jobs on our minds (my husband and I are both essential employees, and we both are working many hours outside of the home right now). I truly look forward to the day when we can safely return to our favorite place on Earth.

I would like to share a few ways to bring Disney into your home at this time- most of these are things that my family and I do on the regular while we anticipate our next vacation to the Most Magical Place on Earth:

1) Download the app ‘WDW Today’ to listen to the music that is currently on the main TV Channel in the resorts at Walt Disney World. This app features fun, whimsical music that is sure to bring a smile to everyone’s face! When the parks are open, you will be able to view park hours on this app as well.

2) Another family favorite is ‘Sorcerer Radio’. As you can see, there are different channels that you can visit depending on what you would like to listen to at the time!

3) I have been loving Scotty Kilwein’s live shows on his Facebook page (‘Scotty Kilwein page’) at 10pm EST many nights. Scotty is a regular performer at Jellyrollls Dueling Piano bar at Disney’s Boardwalk Inn. Scotty has been performing both Disney music and non-Disney music, and it’s a very enjoyable way to end your evening!

4) The Disney Family website has many cute crafts for your entire family at One of my favorite crafts is creating a Practically Perfect quote- use one of your favorite Disney quotes, print out a family photo and perhaps a photo of a character, and have your children paint and/ or color around the quote to create a beautiful and meaningful piece of art!

5) Use some of your favorite family photos from your last vacation to create a one-of-a-kind scrapbook. Or, if you have not yet visited Walt Disney World, create template pages so that when you are able to take that dream trip, you’ll just have to insert photos and you’ll then have a beautiful keepsake!

6) Decide which Disney attractions your family would most like to enjoy on your next visit. You can watch point-of-view videos for almost every Disney attraction on YouTube, and be sure to keep a list of your sure-to-be favorites for each park!

7) Create fun Disney-themed Jello jigglers with cookie cutters! I am sure you can find Disney-shaped cookie cutters online, or I found this Frozen-themed kit at Wal-Mart which includes Frozen character cutters and jello mix!

8) Make homemade Disney treats like Dole Whips, Mickey pretzels, and fun cupcakes! I have yet to perfect a Disney-style Dole Whip, but there are lots of recipes out there so you too can try your hand at making some of your favorite Disney treats!

I hope that these ideas create some fun inspiration for your family, and I truly hope that you all stay well and happy! With love, from the bottom of my heart,