Last month, I took a week to get away from it all at Walt Disney World and Universal Orlando Resort- and to see for myself all the changes put into place, due to Covid. Safety always has been, and always will be, Disney’s top priority when it comes to welcoming guests, so I was eager to see how much had changed, and how much magic was still there. Would all the safety procedures take away from the fun?

The good news: NO! While I spent time reviewing all the different ways the theme parks have introduced safety procedures, I still had plenty of fun, and experienced lots of magic, smiles and goosebumps. Here are the top 6 things that stuck out to me most, as the biggest changes. This is not a complete list of all the safety protocols- these are just the most noticeable changes. You can view the complete list of closures and safety procedures here.

*Masks– Masks are required at all times, in all public areas of the theme parks, hotels, and on Disney property. You are allowed to remove your mask if you are seated and eating (not walking around), swimming, or in one of their Relaxation Stations, which are designated mask-free zones with socially-distanced tables to sit at. While I didn’t love wearing a mask all day, I did love that everyone there was wearing their masks at all times.

Signs throughout the theme parks

*Park Pass Reservations– Now, you need a reservation to get into the theme parks, along with your valid ticket. The reservations are free, and easy to make, but do book up, or “sell out”. So, before you get too far into your planning, you will want to be sure there are still Park Pass reservations available for the days you are looking to go (one of the many planning services we offer). The nice part about Park Pass reservations is that they guarantee you entry into that park on that day. Disney knows you’re coming, and has counted you in their total for the day. So, if you like, you can sleep in and arrive later in the day. It also gives you the chance to leave and come back throughout the day, without worrying whether the park will reach capacity.

*No Fireworks, Parades, Shows, or Character Meet & Greets– Currently, there are no fireworks (but there were small, low firework bursts with the castle projections during the holidays. Those are not taking place right now.) While scheduled parades are not occurring, there are character cavalcades that come by throughout the day, in all 4 theme parks. There are also opportunities to see characters at a safe social distance- just no hugs or autographs right now. There is even character dining happening, at select restaurants. And while several of the stage shows are not happening (think Beauty and the Beast Live Onstage or Finding Nemo the Musical), Disney is already working to bring back live performances. The Frozen sing a long is open at Hollywood Studios, and Festival of the Lion King is set to return this summer at Animal Kingdom.

Rare characters are out more now- keep your eyes peeled!

*Socially Distanced Queues– My personal fave! Ok, I actually LIKE having social distancing in the queues. I’m not a fan of “filling in all available space”, especially after a long, hot, sweaty day in the parks. . .with other hot, sweaty people. 6 feet of space feels great! But it does make the lines very long- and that can get confusing. Look for a Cast Member (wearing the costume of the ride), holding a sign for the end of the line. Don’t be intimidated by the look of the line- they move quickly. Once in queue, expect floor markers, and plexiglass or other barriers installed where it’s difficult to keep 6 feet of distance. On ride vehicles, there may be plexiglass or other barriers installed to separate you from other groups.

Look for Cast Members holding signs to find the end of the line

*Mobile Ordering is King– This is done through the My Disney Experience app, and more locations than ever are offering this super convenient feature! A perfect activity for while you’re waiting in line, you can browse menus, place orders and select pick up times from anywhere in the parks. Once you arrive at the restaurant, click the button to let them know you’re here, and you food will be made fresh. You’ll get a notification when it’s ready. Save time by being sure your credit card of choice is already linked in your My Disney Experience app (you can change the card you use at any time), and place your order about an hour before you want to pick up, as restaurants get busy around meal times.

Mobile-ordered lunch at Satu’li Canteen in Animal Kingdom

*Crowds Feel Normal– Yes, the parks have limited their capacity. But every bit of that capacity is being used. All Park Pass reservations have been booked up, meaning the parks are “full” to their current capacity limits, for the last few holidays (especially around Thanksgiving and Christmas), and even some weekends as well. With fewer restaurants and shows open, there are fewer spaces for people to occupy, so you will still see typical crowds, lines and wait times. It’s still less busy than previous typical holiday crowds, but it is definitely not dead. Well, except maybe over at the Haunted Mansion. . .

Waiting in a socially-distanced queue for Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway at Hollywood Studios

It is every bit as magical as it was before. I was so grateful to leave the real world behind, and just relax and play for a few days- and boy, did I need it! Favorite sights, rides and foods still fill the Most Magical Place on Earth. And I am certain that Disney will continue to bring back more beloved experiences as soon as they can do so safely.

Travel right now is a personal choice. Whenever you’re ready to plan that next magical vacation, to see that shimmering castle, speed through the neon-lit streets of LA, soar on the back of a banshee, and stroll World Showcase, we’re here to help you plan, every step of the way. We have the most up-to-date information on all the safety protocols and procedures, and in a year when a lot will certainly be changing at Walt Disney World, we will have your back. We can help you make the best choices for your vacation time and money, and our planning services are completely free to use- when you book with Middle of the Magic Travel. So let’s chat! Simply complete the contact form below, and we will be in touch shortly!

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