Walt Disney World has reopened, and things are much different than they were when the parks closed.
Of course, we’re talking about everything from the implementation of rigorous new health and safety protocols to the suspension of parades, fireworks, and traditional character meet and greets. But, we’re also talking about MAJOR changes to the way we plan and spend our days in the theme parks.
Disney has temporarily suspended park hopping, aka visiting multiple parks per day. That means once you choose your park (and you need a Park Pass Reservation to get in), that’s where you’re staying. So how can you make the most of your time in just one Disney park all day? We’ve got the tips!
Wander around and keep an eye out for characters.
Park hours are reduced across the board with the reopening, so your park days won’t be as long as you probably remember. Even so, if you’re not headed to more than one park each day, you’ll probably find yourself with more wiggle room in your schedule than if you had to account for hopping over to another park.
The bright side of this is that you’ll get MORE time in your day to REALLY experience the park you’re in! Sure, some of our favorite experiences are on hold — like the character meet and greets we love — but some of the new modified experiences being offered still involve our favorite Disney characters!
We’re able to spot our favorite Disney pals in new character processionals in lieu of meet and greets. These processionals are a way for us to interact with our Disney friends from a safe distance. From Donald’s Dino Boat Bash on the rivers of Animal Kingdom to the Mickey and Friends Cavalcade in Magic Kingdom, there are still plenty of opportunities to see your favorite characters.
With more time in one park all day, you can try to catch every new processional there is to see! Schedules aren’t posted for these character cavalcades, so you’ll need to be on the lookout if you want to spot your favorite princess or furry friend. Luckily, not having a Park Hopper means you’ll have the full day to make sure you don’t miss any of the characters!
Plan a mid-day break and more small breaks than usual.
We’re big advocates of knowing your limits when it comes to a park day. It might seem like a good plan to go rope-drop to close, but that doesn’t always end up being the best idea — even in normal times! Now, with the requirement to wear masks in the theme parks at all times except when eating and drinking, you’re going to want to plan a mid-day break plus frequent mini breaks.
We definitely recommend you test and find the most comfortable face mask to wear while you’re in Disney World. Face masks can make walking around the park feel a bit different than you’re used to — and in the Florida heat they can make you feel hotter. So plan some safe opportunities to take mask breaks and chill out for a few moments (especially if you have kids — this will be a big adjustment for them!).
Disney has designated “relaxation zones,” spots where you can safely remove your mask while social distancing. These are located around all four parks, and it’s a good idea to find out where these are when your park day starts and make sure you feel comfortable carving out some time to take a break in one of these zones. With no park hopping and no FastPasses, it will be a lot easier to take spontaneous breaks — but go ahead and plan to anyway. Want to know more about the relaxation zones? Click here!
You can also use dining as a chance to take a break! Masks can be removed when eating so use those snack times strategically!
Consider taking a break at your resort.
When park hopping was still around, we were big fans of going back to our hotel for a quick refresh or dip in the pool before moving on to the next park. Luckily, you can still do that! While park hopping has been suspended, guests with Park Passes are able to leave and return to the same park during the day.
So when you’re ready for a break, go back to the hotel and take a power nap, go swimming, or grab some lunch. You’ll feel refreshed and ready for more fun at the parks after you’ve had some downtime.
We know Disney park tickets are expensive, so it can be easy to feel like you NEED to squeeze every minute you can out of them. You will probably find that you have a better time getting your money’s worth though if you’re not exhausted and overwhelmed by too much time in the parks without a recharging break.
Pay homage to the suspended shows.
This one might sound kind of silly, but it’s a tip we wanted to share with the diehard Disney fans. As we mentioned, Disney World is going to feel pretty different. Many of us are disappointed about the loss of shows, parades, and fireworks. If you’re especially bummed you won’t be watching Festival of Fantasy or Epcot Forever, you can always pay homage to your favorite shows in your own way.
That extra time in your day means that you can do the parks on a less stringent schedule. So, if you’re missing your favorite show, try doing a little something to remind you of it. Walk the Magic Kingdom parade route and listen to the Festival of Fantasy soundtrack on your phone. Or, end your evening watching the lights on the castle and listening to Happily Ever After (or Wishes — you do you).
Of course, that’s not nearly the same as seeing our beloved Disney shows in person. Take a little time to let yourself feel nostalgic about those nighttime spectaculars, and think about how wonderful it will be when they come back. Then, head back to your resort room and maybe watch a video of your favorite show before you go to sleep.😉
Take some rare low-crowds pictures while capacity is limited.
One big bright side to these strange times for the Disney parks is that attendance at the parks is going to be capped at a dramatically reduced level. That means shorter lines and lower crowds. Disney CEO Bob Chapek said that the reopening days will be extra “magical” for this very reason so take advantage!
Of course, we always love shorter lines, but we’re REALLY excited to see what the parks look like with fewer people inside. Have you ever gotten what could be the perfect Disney photo — if only it weren’t for all the other guests standing in the way of your masterpiece? We know the feeling.
With lower capacity, you’ll have more luck finding people-free shots so that you can get some one-of-a-kind photos in the Disney parks. A trip to Disney World during this unprecedented time will certainly be an experience you’ll want to document.
Relax with the planning a little bit.
As we’ve already mentioned, now’s the time to chill out on the planning. Disney World’s reopening is taking a lot of the complications out of planning a Disney day. Since you’re not navigating FastPass reservations, park hopping, and Extra Magic Hours, you can leave more of your day up to chance.
We don’t usually advocate planning every minute of your trip, but a plan is important to maximizing your day when components like FastPasses and Extra Magic Hours are in place. Now, that’s less true. It’s pretty straightforward now: Which park are we visiting today? Remember your Advance Dining Reservation times and beyond those, you’re free!
Get into pin trading!
Without park hopping and fewer experiences in the parks than you’re used to, this is a great time to try something new — like pin trading! Pin trading is a beloved tradition for many a Disney guest. Whether you’re new to it or have been trading for years, now could be the perfect time to get your trade on.
Typically, you can pin trade with Cast Members who have their pins on a lanyard, but Cast Member trading is going to be suspended for a little while. Instead, you’ll be able to find pin boards at some shopping locations and you can swap pins with the ones there!
So, if you’ve got a little extra time on your hands, start hunting for pin boards. Kids especially love this activity. All you need to get started is a pin or two. But fair warning! It’s addictive!
Plan some low-key activities for the afternoons.
This is another tip that we offer even on average Disney days, but plan something more relaxed for the afternoon. Disney World tends to get more crowded in the afternoons and that means that lines will be the longest. Hint: Head to those big-ticket attractions first thing in the morning!
With shorter lines in general and a whole day in each park, you should have more time in the afternoons to avoid lines for the most popular attractions and instead do something low-key that you haven’t done before! The parks have some real hidden gems when it comes to walkthrough attractions and exhibits. Now’s your time to slow down and check these out!
Check out an exhibit like Walt Disney Presents in Disney’s Hollywood Studios; take some time to appreciate the less high-profile attractions like Hall of Presidents in Magic Kingdom; get interactive with something like the Animation Experience at Conservation Station in Animal Kingdom; or explore a walkthrough area like the gardens around World Showcase in Epcot.
One of our favorite ways to spend an afternoon is to wander the nature and wildlife trails — Maharajah Jungle Trek and Gorilla Falls Exploration Trail — at Animal Kingdom.
These no-line attractions are some of our favorites in the parks and can be a great way to spend an afternoon when you have some time on your hands or want to take a break from being around too many people.
Make an Advance Dining Reservation (or two!) in the park.
Many people prefer to stick with quick-service meals while they’re in the parks in order to maximize time for rides and attractions. If this is normally your strategy, now might be the time to break out of that routine and make some Advance Dining Reservations for your park days.
Typically, eating a table-service meal in the parks can be a big time suck and we don’t usually suggest planning more than one. But, times have changed. If food is your jam (we totally get it!), this might be just the way to add more enjoyment — and sanctioned mask breaks — to your park day.
When you don’t need to worry about heading to another park or getting to your next FastPass reservation, carving out the time for a meal (or two) is easier than it typically would be. In fact, your day may end up being SO flexible that adding the concrete dining time might help to give your plan some bones!
Plus, dining at a table-service location is a time that you can take off your mask for a pretty extended period. If you are concerned your party is going to need a big mask break, make that lunch res! This downtime can also help with combatting park fatigue or any nervousness about the health measures.
Even if you typically book Advance Dining Reservations, there might be some you avoid since the dining experience takes so long. Now you have the opportunity to kick back and enjoy your dining experience without feeling guilty! So book that meal at 50’s Prime Time Cafe, Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater or Tiffins. Try something new!
Break out of your routine and try something new.
Speaking of trying something new — the reopening might be the perfect time to break out of your routine. We’ve been to Disney hundreds of times, and there are still some things that we haven’t seen or tried. That’s the nature of the beast! Seize the extra time you have in your park day as an opportunity to finally experience those attractions, details, or meals that you never seem to get around to trying. You just might discover a new favorite.
One GREAT way to break out of your routine is to be a kid for the day. Play the interactive games in the parks! These experiences are designed for the younger crowd but we love Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom, Wilderness Explorers in Animal Kingdom, and Kidcot Fun Stops in Epcot.
These are activities that most grown-ups haven’t taken the time to experience and they’re a fun way for the whole family to team up and try them out. We love meeting with and talking to the Cast Members and these games can help you to find hidden gems all over the parks!
Don’t get us wrong, we’re definitely bummed that we can’t hop between the parks as we please, but we’re actually pretty excited to slow down, notice the details, and really enjoy our time at just one park a day. Take in those smells on Main Street, spot hidden Mickeys, and just enjoy being back at a Disney park after all this time. Put all these tips into practice and your Disney days will still be a blast!
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How will you be making the most of your Disney day? Tell us in the comments!