Disney World reopened to the public following its temporary closures on July 11th, 2020. A lot has changed since then, and that has meant learning how to adjust to many of the new protocol and health guidelines implemented over the past several months.
While we’ve grown accustomed to many of the changes and can go about our day as if these changes are second nature to us, OTHER changes still have us riding the struggle bus. Let’s take a look at the changes that we’re still having a hard time adjusting to, even months after they’ve been implemented in the parks!
The ride experience is modified, and in many ways, ruined.
One of the places where we consistently are reminded that Disney World looks and feels a bit “different” still is on rides and attractions. Some rides have little to no changes that remind us that we’re living in a modified Disney World, but other rides have made considerable adjustments!
One of the big changes we can’t seem to get used to is the modification or omission of many ride and attraction pre-shows. It STILL feels pretty weird just walking through the stretching room in Haunted Mansion, or the library on Tower of Terror. And if you weren’t among the few guests who rode Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway PRIOR to the park closures, you’ve only had half an experience because they haven’t been running that ride’s pre-show, either (which was a whole part of the ride experience we’ve now lost)!
Another huge bummer that really does take away from the ride experience are those plexiglass barriers. A few rides had them since day one when the parks reopened, while other rides have slowly added them in over time. These shields are added to increase ride capacity (the argument here is that they will help cut down on wait times), but it kind of totally ruins the view for anyone sitting behind them.
The plexiglass is especially bad on Frozen Ever After, but it’s also distracting on rides like Rise of the Resistance, Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway, and Na’vi River Journey. The last thing you want to experience after waiting in a long line is to have a totally obstructed view, so hopefully this is one change that DOESN’T last post-pandemic.
Disney World transportation is still difficult to navigate.
With limited park hours, Disney Springs is often a great idea for dinners later in the evening. However, it’s still a little tricky to get there. As of this writing, bus transportation between the Disney World theme parks and Disney Springs is STILL not available. If you want to head to Disney Springs for dinner after your day in the parks, you’ll have to hop on a bus to a resort and then transfer to a Disney Springs bus. You could also take an Uber or Lyft if you don’t mind paying the fees.
There are a myriad of other transportation issues that boil down to the fact that it simply takes longer to get from point A to point B with physical distancing protocol. With limited capacity, Disney can’t load as many parties onto the buses, the Skyliner, or Monorail as they used to (it’s still only one party per gondola on the Skyliner as of this writing). Barriers have begun appearing on the Monorail, allowing for additional capacity, but it’s still slower than it was to board pre-closure.
Speaking of the Monorail, the station at Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort is out of commission for the time being. That means if you’re a guest staying at the Disney Vacation Club villas there and want to head to Magic Kingdom, you have to either take the bus, go to the Transportation and Ticket Center and get on some transportation from there, or walk to the park thanks to the new pedestrian walkway between Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa and Magic Kingdom.
The EPCOT Monorail loop is still closed, too! We thought that this service might have returned with Park Hopping, but it looks like you’ll have to take a bus if you want to hop from EPCOT to Magic Kingdom.
The supply and demand of Mobile Order pick-up times.
Disney World’s Mobile Order service is more popular than ever, mostly out of necessity. The downside of the demand to preordering your meals on Mobile Order is that it has created LONG waits to get your food. Before, this was a cool option those “in the know” used often. Now it’s EVERYONE! When you place your order, My Disney Experience has you select a pickup window — but those times have been filling up earlier and earlier in the day, leaving many guests without a reasonable pickup window for their lunch!
Even after hitting “I’m Here” on Mobile Order, we’ve had experiences where we have still waited upwards of forty-five minutes to get our meal!
PRO TIP: If you know where you want to eat lunch, place your order as early as possible (we’re talking first thing in the morning while you’re still eating breakfast) to make sure you can select the pickup window that you want!
No eating or drinking while walking, especially in EPCOT, especially on weekends, ESPECIALLY during festivals.
While in some ways we’ve gotten used to the rule where you must be stationary and off to the side prior to removing your mask to eat or drink (no eating or drinking is allowed on-the-go!), there are a few instances where this is still particularly difficult.
In our experience, it’s been very challenging to quickly find a safe spot to eat our food around World Showcase in EPCOT, especially during festival seasons. As you travel around World Showcase, don’t hold a table while you wait for the rest of your party — you could be taking that spot away from a group looking for a table before their food gets cold!
Once you’re finished eating, be sure to move on to the next booth or experience as soon as you’re able, freeing that table up for another party to use.
Another tricky thing to navigate lately has to do with how it’s harder to stay hydrated because you have to be stationary to take a sip of water. Plan ahead for this and schedule in water breaks for your party.
Click here to look back on some of the times Disney World made MAJOR changes to the way you plan your vacation!
Lots of places are STILL closed.
Yup, months after Disney World’s phased reopening began, we are still waiting for many places across property to reopen. While MOST of Disney World’s rides and attractions have reopened (thank goodness the Tomorrowland Transit Authority PeopleMover FINALLY reopened!!!), there are still many hotels and restaurants that are still closed and have not been open since March of last year.
On the hotel side of things, we have yet to hear a reopening date for Disney’s Port Orleans Resort (Riverside and French Quarter). While Disney’s All-Star Movies Resort reopened on March 22nd, we haven’t heard any plans regarding All-Star Sports or Music. Other resorts that have reopening timelines announced include Disney’s Wilderness Lodge, Disney’s Beach Club, Disney’s BoardWalk Inn, and Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort (confusingly for regular resort guests, the DVC portions of these hotels are already open at this time).
In addition to not being able to visit some CLOSED resorts, in many instances you cannot even visit an OPEN resort due to the limitations on resort hopping. Currently, you can only visit a resort you are not an overnight guest at if you have a confirmed dining reservation.
Speaking of dining reservations, there are many popular Disney World restaurants we are still waiting to hear about their reopening plans. These include but are not limited to ‘Ohana at Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort, Casey’s Corner in Magic Kingdom, and Akershus Royal Banquet Hall in EPCOT. Tusker House in Disney’s Animal Kingdom is set to reopen later this summer, but an exact date hasn’t been shared yet.
What’s this line for?
There are long physically distanced lines all over the parks and most of the time guests have no idea what the line is for! If you’re looking to get in a line for a ride, restaurant, etc., it’s like a scavenger hunt finding the start of the queue you’re looking after! It’s a little weird knowing you have to get in line for Frozen Ever After in the China Pavilion, or knowing you have to hop in line for Haunted Mansion way back in Frontierland.
These lines are also incredibly deceiving, especially when it comes to attraction wait times. While a line may LOOK like it’s 90 minutes, you might end up waiting 25 — other times it might be 15, other times it may be 50 or more. Wait times can be misleading, especially if you’re caught up during a cleaning cycle for the ride vehicles.
Click here to see our DFB exclusive map to help you navigate the lines and entrances/exits in Disney’s Animal Kingdom (and you can see links to our maps for the other parks too)!
Disney Springs on weekends can be particularly tricky.
If you’re spending a week in Disney World soon, we strongly urge you to consider making your visits to Disney Springs Monday through Thursday. In our experience, just getting INTO Disney Springs on the weekends can be a nightmare. Between traffic around the Disney Springs area and difficulty finding parking, just stepping foot in Disney Springs is a bit of a task.
Once you’re inside Disney Springs, you may be faced with another set of challenges. Since Disney Springs is not a theme park, it’s not under the exact same guidelines and capacity limits that you’ll find in Magic Kingdom or the other parks. So crowding and lapses in social distancing can definitely be an issue!
Disney Springs has been open the longest (remember it opened two months ahead of the parks), and yet it can seem at times to be the most difficult place to navigate with all of the changes implemented. If you’re apprehensive about navigating the more wild crowds Springs can have, you’ll need to carefully consider your options here. Keep this in mind when building your vacation itinerary!
Human nature still creeps in — it happens to all of us!
Finally, we still catch ourselves having to remember to follow proper physical distancing protocol or to put our masks back on as soon as we get up from a table. Human nature still creeps in from time to time, and even those who follow the new health and safety guidelines to perfection can get caught up in the excitement of a Disney World vacation!
A big way you’ll often notice this is during character cavalcades. The minute many guests hear that music kick in signaling Mickey, Cinderella, or another character is coming, many guests tend to flood to the streets to sneak a peek. It’s easy to get excited to see a character and want a good view — forgetting you’re a lot closer than six feet to your neighbors. Keep in your head at all times the rules you simply can’t forget to follow.
Also watch the markers in those queues! When the person in front of us moves up, it still feels natural to fill in the space between you as you move up. Keep looking down and monitor those distancing markers. Especially in switchback queues it can be tough to see around corners and know where the party in front of you landed. If you do find yourself standing too close, don’t panic and back up into the party behind you — wait for a moment and the line should move again.
It’s as important as it’s always been to be mindful of your surroundings, have a little check-in with yourself and those around you when standing in line to make sure you’re observing proper physical distancing, take frequent breaks (even set times in your phone if you have to for planned water breaks), pack extra face masks, and as always, be kind to Cast Members!
We hope this list helped to shed some light on a few of the trip planning components that are STILL a little difficult to adjust to! Whether it’s figuring out how to grab your lunch in a timely manner or being aware of obstructed views on your favorite rides, visiting Disney World is still a bit different than what it used to be pre-closure! Through 2021, we recommend you pack an extra dose of patience and plan ahead so you can tackle the parks like a pro!
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Have you been to Disney World since the parks reopened last July? Share your experience in the comments!