There’s no question that Disney World is a different place than it was before the closures! While some of the changes we’ve seen can certainly cause an inconvenience, we actually think some changes were for the better!
Today, we’re sharing seven things we’ve noticed at a reopened Disney World that we actually PREFER now over the way things were before the closures.
Hardly any ride and attraction lines
The biggest change to Disney World following the closures was the limited guest capacity through the Park Pass Reservation System. Once inside the theme parks, this is most noticeable by how QUIET Disney World is these days.
You really realize just how empty the parks are when you see the wait times for rides and attractions. Granted some rides are still quite popular, like Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway and Rise of the Resistance, but when Flight of Passage frequently posts FIVE-minute waits, you KNOW Disney World is a comparative ghost town these days.
Gone are the days (for now) where you have to stress over getting on all the rides you want in a given day. Most of the time, riding just about whatever you please is easily achievable with the lower crowds in the parks. Disney’s Hollywood Studios seems to be the one park that feels closer to its pre-closure crowds, so you may need to plan accordingly on those park days.
Disney World opted OUT of implementing park-wide virtual queues. See how else they’re breaking the theme park reopening “mold” here!
Frequent character cavalcades
While we’re going to miss hugging Mickey Mouse and dining with some of our favorite princesses, we are LOVING the new “mini parades” and spontaneous character experiences happening at the parks throughout the day!
The frequency of the cavalcades is nice because there’s no pressure to wait in one spot to see it. If you don’t catch it the first time, there are plenty of other opportunities to watch!
The other “random” encounters we have seen with characters over the last couple of weeks have also been a nice touch and a great way for Disney to offer alternative character experiences for guests. Seeing and interacting with Anastasia and Drizella on the balconies of Cinderella Castle is super unique, and Pooh running around the fields of EPCOT with a butterfly net is probably the cutest thing we’ve seen in the parks ever.
It has been nice to interact with characters WITHOUT having to wait in a lengthy queue. We’d love to have some of these cavalcades and character encounters stick around even after the regular parades and character meet and greets come back!
After all, in “normal” Disney World, you usually have to book a character meal or a meet and greet FastPass to see these guys!
A little more elbow room in restaurants
While almost everywhere in Disney World seems a little quieter these days, the place where it’s perhaps the “nicest” is in the restaurants.
Some of those Disney restaurants like to REALLY pack people in, so the physical distancing between tables gives us all a little more elbow room!
Disney will likely want to get all of those restaurants filled to capacity with families as safely and as quickly as possible, so we don’t think this new-found elbow room will stay around forever. In the meantime, however, it’s a nice change.
Mobile Dine Check-In
One change we did NOT see coming but are super down with is the new Mobile Dine Check-In! Essentially Mobile Dine Check-In is a contactless way of checking in for your dining reservation. Skipping the host stand entirely, you simply check in on My Disney Experience when you arrive at the restaurant for your dining reservation, or you can scan a QR code located in the lobby of the restaurant.
This process is quick, easy, and allows guests to note any special celebration, dietary, or physical needs for their party upon checking in. While some of these changes we’ve mentioned so far are more than likely temporary, we could envision Mobile Dine Check-In being something that sticks around permanently! Only time will tell!
We’re more confident knowing everything is clean
Disney World has always been known for being a friendly, safe, and clean environment for guests of all ages. At the same time, however, Disney has historically ALSO been known as a sort of “petri dish” for germs, where you come into contact with thousands of strangers, and you’re pretty much budgeting being sick after spending a week there (at least WE used to!). This is precisely why Disney has been taking sanitation quite seriously since reopening.
While you are only as safe as the people around you, there’s no question that Disney has doubled down on cleaning and sanitizing throughout the theme parks and resorts. The peace of mind that comes from Disney doing everything in their power to keep the parks safe and clean is welcomed. If and when things return more toward “normal” we could easily see many of the new sanitation protocols hanging around. Going to Disney World and NOT coming home with a sore throat and sniffles sounds like a positive many would be on board with!
Things can be more spontaneous
Before the closures, a LOT of time and energy went into planning a Disney World vacation. Booking the best dining reservations meant waking up very early six months ahead of your trip. We also needed to know two months ahead of arrival precisely when we wanted to ride our favorite rides and attractions (which meant knowing which park you were in each day already…but you likely already figured that out months prior to book your dining!). We’re big-time planners but it’s hard to not enjoy the go with the flow vibes in the parks right now.
These days, a lot of that advance planning has been cut short, or cut out entirely. Dining reservation windows now open up 60 days ahead of time instead of 180 days, and FastPass+ has been temporarily suspended. Trips can be far more “spontaneous” without so much fear that all of the good reservations are gone.
There’s still plenty that can go into planning the ultimate Disney World vacation, but some folks may prefer this new model where your spreadsheet doesn’t have to be perfected months in advance!
Shorter park hours means more time to relax
The last thing we actually prefer that surprised us was the shorter park hours. We’re usually down for a 12-hour day (or longer!) in the parks from rope drop to close. Since the parks have reopened, however, we’re seeing park hours that are WAY shorter than before.
What this has given guests is much more time to kick back and relax. You can actually spend MORE time at your resort because, well, the parks are closed earlier! There’s hardly any pressure to wake up before the sun to arrive at rope drop, and we have more time than ever to relax and wind down at the end of the night. We’re checking off all of our must-dos in much less time than before, so we can typically fully tackle each of the parks even with their reduced operating hours! Relaxing in the pool or taking time for a bubble bath during a Disney vacation? Yes, please!
While it’s been hard to adjust to some of the changes made to Disney World’s day-to-day operations since the closures, there are just as many changes that we actually like MORE these days! Some of these changes are temporary and will likely go away once things return to “normal,” but we not-so-secretly hope some of these changes are a little more permanent! In these unprecedented times, Disney World has been forced to make big changes to the guest experience, but it has all been with the intention of making a vacation to Disney World as magical as possible!
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What changes do YOU like more than before the park closures? Let us know in the comments!