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)|
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)|
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 Dana_W@WishingOnAStarTravel.com. Thank you for reading, stay well, and Happy Travels!