I’m not sure there are words to accurately describe the size of the wrench that has been thrown into the Disney trip planning process this year due to all of the Coronavirus restrictions. One thing is for sure though, Disney will be very different when it begins to reopen on July 11th. Some of those changes we already know of, though there are certainly other changes yet to come in the future as we see how the initial reopening goes.
For a general overview, some of the most drastic changes coming to Walt Disney World when it reopens include: mandatory temperature checks and face masks, a new theme park reservation system, and the “temporary” elimination of FastPass. Disney has also eliminated the Disney Dining Plan, and there will be no park events that draw large crowds, like parades, fireworks, or shows.
So if you are planning an upcoming trip to Disney in 2020, keep reading as I have outlined all 14 major changes coming to the Disney parks after reopening. Keep in mind that no one knows how long these changes will stay around, and when the parks might go back to their pre-Coronavirus “normal.” It is also possible that Disney will add new changes, or revise previously advertised policies. I will keep this article updated as new information comes to light.
1. Temperature Checks and Face Masks
Disney Parks Blog announced on May 27, 2020 that ALL guests will be required to pass a mandatory temperature check before entering the parks. Temperature checks are also being required for Cast Members as well. Disney has already been doing mandatory temperature checks at Disney Springs since its reopening on May 20, 2020.
At Disney Springs, guests wait in a socially distanced line and take individual turns getting their temperature taken by a Cast Member with a “thermometer gun.” You’ll be required to have a temperature under 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit in order to be allowed in. Anything higher and you’ll be sent to a separate re-screening area, and if you fail again, you’ll be asked to leave.
In addition to temperature checks, face coverings will be mandatory as well for ALL guests ages 2 and up throughout all of Disney property. Disney has not made any official announcements about being able to provide free masks to guests who show up without one. So I would be prepared and recommend bringing your own masks to the parks (or anywhere on Disney property). Disney also sells their own masks, which you can grab right now via Pre-Order on the Shop Disney website.
2. Capacity Limits and Socially Distanced Rides, Dining Options, Lines, and More
While Disney has not officially announced the numbers for the capacity limits at Walt Disney World, it is safe to say it is drastically lower than normal. Most likely, it is comparable to the limits set at Shanghai Disneyland of around 30% capacity to start. These lower capacity limits are to support social distancing throughout the parks.
Social distancing will take over most aspects of the Disney parks experience when they begin reopening. Similar to Shanghai Disneyland and Universal Studios Florida, you can expect to see markers on the ground advising you to stay at least 6 feet from other guests. I expect to see these markers in queue lines for rides, and shopping locations.
There will also be social distancing measures set in place for the rides themselves, as seen at other already opened theme parks. This includes seating guests every other row (or even, every other other), and eliminating single rider lines. Dining areas are also socially distanced as well in a similar style, typically blocking every other table (perhaps more) in order to give guests more room.
3. Theme Park Reservations Will Be Required To Enter
In order to visit a Disney theme park after it reopens, you will NEED a reservation to do so. For example, you would reserve a spot at the Magic Kingdom, or the park of your choice, in advance. The theme park reservation system itself has not debuted yet, and right now there is no word on when it will, or what it will look like. But that information is forthcoming, so stay tuned.
We do know that right now theme park tickets (as well as resort reservations) are not currently on sale. And that goes for any date – even well into the future. Disney has also announced that it will give priority access to those who have BOTH a Walt Disney World Resort reservation, and have already purchased tickets (or have an annual pass). After those guests are accommodated, Disney will then open up to Annual Passholders without a resort reservation, and then to the general public. That is of course, if there is still room left, considering the new lower capacity.
4. No FastPass
Another shocking change announced with reopening plans is the cancellation of FastPass+ for an unspecified amount of time, though likely for the foreseeable future. It is possible that Disney will start to use more Virtual Queues like they already have done for Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance in Hollywood Studios, and Disneyland.
However, Disney also states that they will be using the standby queue of rides in order to fit more guests in the park overall. Because think about it, if 25% (or more) of your guests will be socially distanced out of the way in a queue, you can let in even more people into the park to roam around other areas.
In terms of Virtual Queues at Disney, I’m thinking you will see something similar to Universal Orlando’s procedures. That is, a handful of major attractions will utilize a Virtual Queue, while the majority of open rides will continue to use socially distanced standby only lines.
Is There Something More To Cancelling FastPass+…?
For Disney to cancel FastPass, while understandable, is very curious to me. The FastPass system at Walt Disney World has long been flawed. And I think there is a very good chance that Disney will use this as an opportunity to dismantle the current system entirely, and replace it with something else.
In fact, at D23 in August 2019, Disney announced they were developing a new App for Walt Disney World called the “Disney Genie” that was originally set to debut in late 2020. The App was supposed to revolutionize the way you plan your Disney vacations, and did include some FastPass elements already. So it is entirely possible that Disney might replace the current FastPass+ system with Disney Genie.
While this is just speculation, Disney Genie will most definitely be a big aspect of Disney’s plans going forward after reopening in some capacity. Whether or not we get that announcement during the initial reopening phase…well we will have to wait and see.
5. No Extra Magic Hours
Further theme park changes include the temporary cancellation of Extra Magic Hours. Extra Magic Hours, which are special park hours open only to WDW resort guests, will no longer be offered after reopening.
In years past, some guests have complained that EMH were not as valuable anymore as they were in previous years. Mostly due to the vast majority of them being super early morning hours, which are definitely less popular than evening EMH. So it will be interesting to see if Extra Magic Hours actually do come back, or what they will look like in the future.
6. No Parades, Fireworks, or Nighttime Entertainment
With all of the new social distancing measures put in place throughout the parks, it is a no-brainer that parades, fireworks, and other shows that draw large crowds have to be cancelled temporarily. Even the Electrical Water Pageant, which is a floating water parade that sails by several Disney resorts and the Magic Kingdom, has been temporarily suspended.
At Shanghai Disneyland, they replaced their fireworks show with a short castle projection show that runs on a loop. That way guests do not all have to view it at the same time, allowing for even more social distancing. It is possible US Disney parks might do something similar, or they might decide to do nothing. Time will tell.
7. No More Disney Dining Plan
The Disney Dining Plan, which allows Walt Disney World resort guests to essentially prepay dining expenses, has been terminated for the time being as well. This change was rather unexpected. Considering Disney previously offered a free Dining Plan to guests who had to cancel and reschedule their vacations back in March when the parks originally shut down.
The explanation for cancelling the Disney Dining plan is that with all of the new social distancing requirements, all dining locations are going to experience capacity limits. There would be no way for Disney to guarantee that they could fulfill all of the pre-paid dining and meal credits that come with the Dining Plan. So it has to go for now, but it should return sometime in the future.
8. Dining Reservations Now Booked Only 60 Days Out
Originally, guests could book dining reservations up to 180 days out into the future. But with these new policies, gone are the days planning half a year out! Now guests will only be able to book dining reservations up to 60 days in advance.
As a Disneyland Annual Passholder, I am very familiar with the 60 day dining booking window, as that has long been the policy for Disneyland bookings. In my opinion, there is not really much to be concerned about with this change. Yes, it is a big shake up to how Walt Disney World has operated in the past. And you will have to delay that planning gratification a bit longer. But this is one change that I think is for the better. You can share your thoughts in the comments below.
9. No Character Meet and Greets or Character Dining
Understandably, character meet and greets have also been suspended for the foreseeable future. Rather than being able to personally hug your favorite characters, meet and greets will take on a new fashion after reopening. You can look to the Stormtroopers spotted in Disney Springs as an example of how characters would be incorporated at the parks in a new way. That being – from a distance!
In addition to no meet and greets, character dining has also been cancelled, with one exception. Character dining will still be available at Topolino’s Terrace only, and will be a modified experience. Most likely the characters will just parade through the dining area, without stopping at individual tables at all. Topolino’s Terrace, the flagship rooftop restaurant at Disney’s new Riviera Resort, previously only offered character dining for breakfast. There is no word that will be expanding character experiences to other meal times.
10. Limited Disney Resort Services, And Possibly Limited Resorts Open
Disney resorts will be limiting their services and amenity offerings in order to maintain social distancing. Disney will be temporarily suspending the following:
- Minnie Van service
- Club Level
- In-room dining or child care
- Marina rentals
In addition to these services being temporarily suspended, Disney will also be limiting in-room housekeeping to every other day. This would ensure less contact with guests staying in the hotel room, and also give the housekeepers more time to be doing enhanced cleaning of common areas throughout the resorts.
Right now, we know for sure that only some Disney Deluxe Villa Resorts will be reopening on June 22. Those resorts including:
- Bay Lake Tower at Disney’s Contemporary Resort
- Boulder Ridge Villas at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge
- Copper Creek Villas & Cabins at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge
- Disney’s Animal Kingdom Villas – Kidani Village
- Disney’s Beach Club Villas
- Disney’s BoardWalk Villas
- Disney’s Old Key West Resort
- Disney’s Polynesian Villas & Bungalows
- Disney’s Riviera Resort
- Disney’s Saratoga Springs Resort
- The Villas at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort
However, Disney still has not given any word that hotels outside of those listed above will reopen. Although, Disney should be making an official announcement soon, so continue to stay tuned for official word.
11. Limited Monorail Usage – Resort Guests Only
Disney Food Blog reported on May 27, 2020 that “Magic Kingdom’s monorail, and the smaller Friendship boats, will be operating on a limited basis for resort guests only” after reopening. While EPCOT monorail usage is not mentioned, if Magic Kingdom’s monorail is limited, it is very likely that EPCOT’s monorail may not open at all. That is because EPCOT’s monorail is not connected to any resorts. For transportation options now, Disney did confirm that they will be providing bus transportation, with limited capacity on each bus to support social distancing.
12. Merchandise Delivery To Hotels/Front of Park Suspended
Prior to park shutdowns, when guests purchased a souvenir from a gift shop in the parks, they had the option of having Disney hold on to the package at the front of the park, or deliver it to their Disney resort hotel. Those merchandise delivery options are temporarily no longer available, as Disney confirmed in their reopening plans. However, Disney gift shops will still ship merchandise purchases home to you via UPS or FedEx, for a fee of course.
13. Pin Trading Limited To Pin Boards Only – No Direct Cast Member Trades
In keeping with maintaining social distancing, pin trading in the parks will be severely limited. Cast Members will no longer be wearing lanyards of pins to trade with guests. Pin trading will only be allowed at some pin boards in certain locations. Disney has yet to specify which boards, and where, and honestly, I doubt they ever will (there’s plenty of other bigger things they need to cover). You can check out my article all about pin trading for the scoop on the pin boards in the parks.
We still don’t know how exactly the process will go for trading on pin boards. Like, for example, will Cast Members be required to sanitize the whole board in between guests? But we do know that resort pin trading books, and Cast Member pin lanyards will be out of the question after reopening.
14. No Special Experiences, Tours, or In-Room Celebrations
The final change in this roundup today is the temporary termination of special experiences throughout the Walt Disney World parks and resorts. These services and experiences will no longer be offered for the time being:
- Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique
- Behind the scenes tours
- In-Room celebrations
- Private fireworks cruises
There’s no word yet from Disney about private VIP tours in the parks, but I imagine with their high price tag of over $600.00 per hour, they won’t be quick to get rid of those.