We’ve had a LOT of feelings about returning back to Disney World during the first round of reopenings this week.
Although we expected to see distancing measures and new places to spot characters, there were quite a few changes that Disney sprung on guests when they entered the parks. Whether you’re someone who really loves riding attractions or you’re all about the food, Disney World has really shaken things up when it comes to how the parks are working now.
While we may be Disney pros, there were plenty of things that we didn’t expect to see happen when Disney opened again. And, since nobody told us to expect them, we’re sharing some of the biggest changes we didn’t anticipate seeing in Disney World!
You Don’t Have to Get Up at the Crack of Dawn Anymore
It’s almost become a “normal” part of many of our Disney vacations that being “up and at ’em” first thing in the morning is essential to our visits. Most of us would make sure we were well on our way to the parks as the sun was rising (or even before then) to snag those early morning ride times or get a Boarding Group for Rise of the Resistance.
However, Disney as we know it has basically changed completely. You CAN’T get to the parks hours before opening at this time. It’s strange to say that now you don’t have to be up so early. As the parks start to re-open, Disney has made it pretty simple to take advantage of low wait times and (hopefully) grab a Boarding Pass for Rise of the Resistance when guests are visiting Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge.
What’s the reason behind this? Well, Disney doesn’t actually want there to be excessive crowding in the parks first thing in the morning as a health and safety precaution. Since distancing measures are so important right now, a bunch of guests waiting outside the gates sounds like a big no-no at the moment. However, Disney has started restricting the time anyone even arrives at the parks to reduce crowding.
Although Disney Buses previously started running from the resorts two hours before the parks opened, the hours have been reduced to a start time of only 45 minutes. While we were there this week, a Cast Member even stated that Disney Transportation may not even begin operations until 8:30AM each day (but the 45-minute guideline is a little safer to stick with).
The Walkways from Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort and most likely Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort (when completed) won’t be opening until 8:30AM for guests staying at the hotels (which happens to be one of the biggest perks of choosing these resorts).
Currently, the parking entrances only seem to begin opening up about 20 minutes before the parks’ opening. After that, guests still have to get through the long line of cars to park, which has been modified to a car in every other spot. Trams won’t be running during the initial reopening, so everyone will need to walk from their cars to the gates or Ticket and Transportation Center.
Many guests would get up extremely early in order to get a prime Boarding Group spot for Rise of the Resistance (we’ve been in the 5AM crowds. It’s a THING!). However, Hollywood Studios’ most popular attraction will be using a modified system instead of the previous version we’ve seen. While previously, guests needed to be in the park as it opened (and typically showed up hours before) to get a Boarding Pass, now groups aren’t doled out until 10AM, 1PM, and 4PM on the My Disney Experience app. Do keep in mind that Hollywood Studios is set to open at 10AM next week.
In order to allow everyone a chance to get on the ride, you’ll only be able to join Rise of the Resistance’s Virtual Queue ONCE per day. My Disney Experience will keep guests updated with what availability there is for specific windows and allow people to join back-up Boarding Groups. However, a virtual queue slot is not a guarantee — you still may not be able to ride the attraction, even with a Virtual Queue spot.
Overall, it seems like Disney has reduced the amount of time guests have to arrive and congregate at the entrances to maintain distancing guidelines. While a lot of this is due to concerns overcrowding, there are some perks to being able to take advantage of shorter wait times and more time to sleep in.
Mobile Order Would See Some Changes
Mobile Order has easily become one of our favorite tools to use during a trip to Disney World. Who wouldn’t want a quicker way to grab a Dole Whip or have lunch before hopping on the Haunted Mansion? Buuut, we were surprised to see that Mobile Order also received a few alterations during the parks’ reopenings!
Mobile Order would usually allow guests the ability to choose their designated time to return back to a quick-service location so they could waltz inside and grab their meals. However, the procedure has changed to promote social distancing.
Disney is really pushing for guests to use Mobile Order to order and pay for their food. While you are still able to order inside, it can sometimes feel like you’re not allowed to or that you’re doing something wrong. But do know that it is still an option, you may just need to explain your reasoning. For example, if you need to see an allergy menu or if you’re paying with cash, you’re welcome to order inside.
Although guests are able to still choose their return time, they will have to select “I’m Here. Prepare My Order” when they arrive. Guests can choose to wait outside or inside behind designated distancing markers before being given a notification that their food is ready along with a designated pick-up location.
Since there are health and safety measures in place at Disney’s restaurants, picking up your own condiments or refilling your own drink may not be an option right now. Some restaurants will have tubs of individually packaged condiments for guests to pick up. Or, you can choose your condiments and sides through Mobile Order instead.
Free water is still just as accessible at Quick-Service locations too, since Cast Members prepare the cups to hand to guests who want a drink.
All you have to do is ask someone working at the restaurant for a cup of water, and they will allow you to enter to get a free water cup!
Wait Times Would Be SO LOW
Before the parks reopened, Disney projected that its wait times would be low during the initial reopenings (hence the lack of Virtual Queues at attractions). But, we have to be honest — we did NOT expect them to see as low as they have been!
Disney’s Animal Kingdom operated with lines that were consistently only 5 minutes throughout the day (!!!) with the longest lines ranging from 15 to 20 mins that we happened to see. It’s WILD to think that we could literally walk on Tier One rides like Flight of Passage (that can typically have at least a two-hour wait!) in the parks without planning months in advance how to snag the best FastPasses.
Magic Kingdom also operated with so many low wait times that could range from 5 to 50 minutes, even during the peak times of the day. Both parks would temporarily close their attractions to clean them every 2 hours, according to Cast Members. During those times, the lines were dispersed even more, so you never really had to wait a crazy amount of time to get on an attraction.
The wait times could change when the crowds pick up (if they even pick up at all or if Disney increases capacity). However, it’s shocking that we’ve been able to hop MEGA popular attractions consistently at 5 minute wait times as opposed to possible 2+ hours or more of standing in the Florida heat.
We’re pretty sure we’ve been on Flight of Passage more times in the past few days than we probably have in the last few YEARS combined since Pandora opened!
Merchandise Is a HUGE Deal Right Now
Since it debuted, Splash Mountain has been a big part of the Disney Parks around the world. And, when Disney World reopened this weekend, Splash Mountain was the MUST-DO attraction of the parks. It had the longest wait time in Magic Kingdom (yes, even over the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train) with times reaching up to 45 or 50 minutes.
Since the ride will be experiencing a redesign from the classic story of Br’er Rabbit to a contemporary The Princess and the Frog bayou ride, people were set on getting Splash Mountain items to take home with them. This is why the line for the GIFT SHOP was the biggest line we’ve seen since the parks reopened (and possibly even before the closure!).
The line during Passholder Preview stretched to a 240-minute wait, while the reopening had a 180-minute wait (and then reached capacity) to get into Splash Mountain’s gift shop. And, if you think about it, the gift shop wasn’t super popular before the announcement that the attraction would see some changes. Now it’s THE place to be in Magic Kingdom!
Disney has also rolled out a “Together Again” collection to welcome guests back into the parks. Since guests were super psyched to be back in the parks, the line of tee shirts was selling out extremely fast (commemorative merchandise is typically a big deal with many guests, but for the historic re-opening, this merch was extra unique).
There wasn’t a high quantity of the shirts stocked in Magic Kingdom, so they were practically gone from the shelves at the end of the day.
We’ve seen a few styles of the shirts restocked today, but we’ll keep checking back in the parks to see if we can be reunited with more of the Together Again collection!
Temperature Checks Would Actually Be One of the Least Weird Changes
When temperature checks were first announced for Disney World, it seemed like a totally strange concept to fans everywhere. Many people were worried that it would add a bunch of additional time trying to get into the parks and that it could be invasive. In reality, it’s been neither of those things from what we’ve experienced so far.
The procedures are all conducted the same with AdventHealth team members conducting the temperature screenings before guests go through the bag check into the parks.
Since we’ve been back in the parks, the temperature screening portion of the entrance procedures actually goes by quickly as guests are moved along in an orderly fashion. While temperature checks being a part of the new normal may seem a bit weird to think about, they have been surprisingly simple to go through (and we don’t really mind them all that much).
Although there have been plenty of things that have surprised us about the parks reopening (and probably will continue to do so when EPCOT and Hollywood Studios open in just a few short days), it does seem like many guests don’t mind the changes. We’ve noticed that quite a few of the modifications in the park haven’t majorly affected guests’ visits or have even made them a bit easier.
While we continue to explore Disney World during its initial reopening, we’ll keep bringing you all the new and different things we see during our time in the parks. Let us know if you have ANY questions about what it’s like right now in Disney World!
What is one of the strangest things you’ve seen in Disney World so far? Let us know in the comments below!