We typically consider Disney World a pretty magical place, but everything can’t be magical ALL the time.
In fact, there are a few aspects of a Disney vacation that are decidedly NOT magical right now. Especially with the changes made when the parks reopened, there are a few things that we would consider less than stellar. Without further ado, here are FIVE not-so-magical things at Disney World right now.
1. Difficulty Getting the Merchandise You Want
At first, the reopening brought an onslaught of merch, potentially due to the pause on physical releases during the park closures. (Did you happen to notice Disney released no less than 8000 styles of new Minnie Ears in the last 6 months? 😂) But now, we’ve noticed that there is sometimes very limited merchandise availability. We’ve had trouble finding some of our favorite items pretty soon after they’re released!
On top of that, entering a store is even more complicated than it used to be. Most shopping locations have limited capacity, so it’s fairly common to find yourself stuck in a line just to get into a merch store. More lines in Disney World? Not exactly what we were looking for. Popular spots, like World of Disney in Disney Springs, can even see LENGTHY virtual and physical lines, sometimes amounting to an hour+ wait.
But, that doesn’t mean shopping for your must-have Disney souvenir has to be a total headache. We’ve got some tips for dealing with the non-magical aspects of Disney shopping! First up, if you see something you want in a store, don’t wait to get it. You may not find it elsewhere!
Yep, we typically tell you to limit spending and give your impulse buys time to settle in your head before you decide if you make the purchase (and still keep your spending in check!). But now, it’s the Wild West of merch in Disney World and if you see it, you like it, you want it, you buy it. Cause it might not BE there when you come back later in the day. Ya feel us?
Some merchandise has been more limited than we thought and there’s nothing worse than missing out on a souvenir you were hoping to find later in the day.
Now, if you know in advance that you’re looking for a specific item, you may have the option to buy it online. If your must-have releases on shopDisney prior to your trip, consider purchasing your souvenir before you go and not risking it. Sure, you don’t get the joy of finding it in the parks but at least you get to buy it at all!
If you CAN’T find something you’re looking for once you’re in Disney World, talk to a Cast Member. They may be able to point you in the right direction. And when all is lost, have a back-up plan! Tell yourself something like, “If I can’t find the ears I want, I get to use that money towards a tasty appetizer at dinner or a glow toy for the kids.” This can really frame issues with merch in a way that feels a lot less disappointing.
As a note, you don’t want to wholly rely on My Disney Experience and other web offerings to tell you when something is in stock. Even prior to the park closures, we would sometimes see items in stock on the app only to hear from Cast Members in-store that they hadn’t seen that item in weeks. Cast Members can check stock more accurately so don’t hesitate to ask if they can help you find what you’re after!
2. The Reservation Game
We’re also not the biggest fans of playing the reservation game. What’s the reservation game, you ask? Well, it’s pretty much the norm when it comes to dining in Disney, getting into the parks, and even riding some attractions. Reservations have been causing headaches since before the park closures and they haven’t gotten any more magical now.
For one, dining reservations at your favorite restaurants can be tricky to snag. Sure, you might have an easier time getting a seat at Spice Road Table or other under-the-radar spots, but, boy, can it be hard to get into popular locations like Oga’s Cantina in Disney’s Hollywood Studios and Chef Mickey’s at Disney’s Contemporary Resort!
Restaurants in Disney World are operating at a limited capacity, so even though there are fewer guests overall, there’s still a limited amount of space available in any restaurant on any given day. Ultimately, getting a reservation feels pretty similar to the way it did before closure. It could have been not-magical then, and it can be non-magical now.
To contend with this, we’ve got some tips! Be on your game when it comes to the first chance you get to make restaurant reservations (typically 60 days out right now). Have a plan for the reservations you want and start with the most popular. They could go quickly! If you don’t get them, keep checking back — ESPECIALLY in the days leading up to your desired reservation. Folks cancel ALL THE TIME, so reservations can reopen sporadically and we often find what we’re after the day-of, so be prepared and be flexible.
As an alternative, you can still get table service meals WITHOUT a dining reservation now! In a pinch, and if your plans allow it, you can try out some of Disney’s new dining features! The Mobile Dine Walk-up Waitlist could help you snag a table at any restaurant with same-day availability, allowing you to check-in on the app and/or with a Cast Member at the restaurant — no reservation required! Plus, some restaurants are now offering table service to-go options through the My Disney Experience app, so you may be able to grab your must-have meal to-go to eat elsewhere.
As far as non-magical reservations NOT tied to food, there are a few big ones to keep on your radar. Not getting into the park you wanted on your vacation can be a pretty BIG hiccup. It’s possible you can miss out on the Disney Park Pass theme park reservations you needed. Disney has been good about releasing more Disney Park Pass reservations when they can, but we’ve seen all four parks hit capacity before. This may get even LESS magical when park hopping returns as an option in 2021. If you plan to park hop and a park hits capacity while you’re on the way, you could miss out on valuable time and your afternoon plans.
To avoid these issues as much as possible, always check Disney Park Pass availability BEFORE buying tickets, then book your Disney Park Passes RIGHT AFTER you purchase admission. If you still can’t get the one you wanted (or have other circumstances like an Annual Pass) keep checking back or keep an eye on DFB. We’ve seen TONS of restocks of Disney Park Passes even as soon as a week out from the park day.
On top of all that, these reservations (plus others like Boarding Groups for Rise of the Resistance) are typically made MUCH easier on your phone. The My Disney Experience app is your home for making and changing reservations, mobile dining check-in, and even Mobile Order at quick-service spots. This may add an extra layer of ease for some, but those with trouble using technology or who aren’t interested in being glued to their smartphones may have some serious issues navigating their plans.
Since reservations are so prevalent and Disney is seriously trying to reduce touchpoints, phones really are a necessity in Walt Disney World right now. You can get by without them but it won’t be as smooth of an experience. If you MUST go without your phone, Cast Members will be happy to help you with what you need. Be prepared for it to take a little longer though. And even if you DO have your phone, stay prepared with a portable charger or plan to get that battery charged back up in case it dies!
3. Missing Pieces of Magic
Due to the global health crisis, the reopening of Disney World has meant that a few of our favorite pieces of magic aren’t around right now. We’re still missing out on our beloved live entertainment (like parades!), some pre-shows, and even nighttime spectaculars. We miss you Happily Ever After!
Unfortunately, we can’t do too much about this one! Besides watching videos of your favorite missing experiences when your back in your hotel room for the night, there’s not too much option for replacing these magical experiences. But, we can find some CLOSE alternatives.
Keep an eye out for those close-seconds to missing entertainment! Character Cavalcades are a pretty good alternative to seeing parades and seeing distanced characters is ALMOST as good as a traditional meet and greet. For the holidays, Disney even introduced Cinderella Castle projections and some (small) fireworks as well as projection shows in other parks. So, we’ve got some options to hold us over.
Plus, on the bright side, the absence of these can mean more time to focus on other things too. Now, if any of these is a total dealbreaker for your Disney vacation, you might want to hold off on your trip until Disney announces their return.
4. Getting Around Disney World
Disney transportation can be a time-suck even in normal times. But with limited-capacity and zone seating on buses, some unavailable transportation offerings, and occasionally limited hours; we’re noting that it’s especially difficult right now.
When dealing with transportation, make sure to build in PLENTY of time. You might not be park hopping for now, but that’s coming back soon. It can take over an hour to get from place to place on Disney transportation. Right now, some options you remember might not even be running and others that are are loading FAR less people than what you might remember, so it can take time. When in doubt, ask a Cast Member what your best options are and leave MORE time than you think you need to get from place to place.
You can even consider driving to Disney World or renting a car. This gives you more flexibility when it comes to getting around, but you could rack up some extra costs when it comes to parking. Parking at the theme parks costs $25 unless you’re a Disney hotel guest and there are fees for parking overnight at Disney resort hotels. So you WILL likely save some serious time in your day, but you might have to pay for it.
On top of this, resort hopping is not really a thing right now. Typically, we LOVE spending a non-park day exploring Disney World resorts. In most cases though, you won’t be allowed into a resort without a room reservation, dining reservation, or Mobile Order. We miss the days of wandering through the lobby at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort, enjoying a Dole Whip at Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort, and taking in a geyser sighting at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge.
All in all, resort hopping is not the easiest thing in Disney World right now. If there’s a must-visit resort for you, book a dining reservation and make a morning or evening out of it, or make a Mobile Order at a quick service location in a resort if you’re not looking to commit to a full sit-down meal.
5. The Downside of Health Measures
Finally, we want to talk about the super not-magical downside of health measures. Disney World is following a lot of recommendations from health officials and that does give us and other guests a certain sense of safety in the parks, but there can be a lapse in that feeling when the regulations aren’t being followed or regulated.
We have certainly seen some situations that are decidedly not magical when guests around others don’t follow the health regulations. We’ve spotted some folks removing their masks for photos or wearing their masks below their noses, and social distancing isn’t always maintained in queues. Cast Members can only do so much to mitigate these issues, but they can’t be everywhere at once.
This one is another that is somewhat out of your control. As we mentioned when the parks first opened, Disney World is only as safe as you and as other guests around you make it. There’s a real risk that you may end up around someone who makes the experience a nerve-inducing or downright unsafe one.
You have the option to head away from someone who makes you feel unsafe, but that might inconvenience you from a planning perspective — especially if you’re in a line where you might not be able to step away as easily. And, if you feel uncomfy, politely let the guest know! In a lot of cases, they are just unaware they’re in your space. This is a new way of life for all of us and even the most health-conscious can be a little absent-minded sometimes. If you’re uncomfortable with talking to a fellow guest or they respond negatively to your request, simply alert a Cast Member. And remember, under NO circumstances should you EVER get hostile with another guest (or Cast Member for that matter!).
Ultimately, it’s not going to be completely unavoidable that someone around you doesn’t follow health guidelines. If this is something that will seriously impact your trip, consider holding off on a Walt Disney World visit until health concerns can be somewhat eased.
So, you can see that Disney isn’t 100% magical these days — but there have always been some issues of one kind or another. We’re just dealing with a unique NEW set of challenges, but with planning and realistic expectations, you can navigate the changes with relative ease. You can always look to DFB for help when it comes to dealing with not-so-fun times in Disney. If you have any questions or need any tips, we’re here for ya!