Walt Disney World is moving forward with its previously announced reopening plan, and there are new details about the temporary reopening changes that will need to take place during this reopening phase beginning July 11, 2020. These changes affect both future and current reservations and will alter the overall guest experience and the planning process in some ways. We are breaking down these new changes below and discussing how these adjustments will affect visiting Walt Disney World for the time being:
As always, we encourage you to visit Disney’s website for all official information and to make sure that none of this information has changed since this article was written. We update our website and articles as often as we can, but it is always a good idea to double check Disney’s official website before booking any resort stays or visiting the Walt Disney World Resort.Last Updated on September 8, 2020
New Health and Safety Protocols
In keeping with Disney’s efforts to maintain as much of a healthy and safe environment as possible during this time, some new protocols will be implemented and required for all employees and guests until further notice. Some of these new reopening changes include daily temperature checks for cast members, as well as temperature checks for guests when entering the parks. Masks will also be required for employees and for guests (2 years old and up) in the parks and in resort common areas.
Given the nature of theme parks, it would be impossible to keep guests at a six-foot distance at all times. While physical distancing will be implemented in every possible area, there will inevitably be areas of the parks that are more cramped because they are smaller, or times when people will have to get closer in order to pass by each other. For this reason, we understand why Disney (and other large theme park venues) is taking every precaution they can.
Masks can be a challenge to wear, especially in extreme heat, but Disney is finding ways to help guests have moments of rest in which they will be able to remove the mask for a while, such as while eating at dining locations. Currently, Universal Studios is offering large rest areas throughout the park in which guests can physically distance themselves from others in order to take their masks off for a bit (see FAQ #19 on this Universal Orlando webpage for more info), so we hope to see something similar offered at the Disney parks as well.
Ticket Sales and Resort Hotel Reservations Temporarily Paused
Disney has stated that new ticket sales and hotel reservations have currently been paused in order for them to address the already existing ticket and resort reservations. Walt Disney World has had to change tentative plans several times over the last many months as the global health crisis progressed, causing the need for them to cancel or adjust existing guests’ plans during this closure period. Now that they can once again open their parks, more reopening changes will go into affect, including limited park capacity and an all-new reservation system for entering the parks.
Because of all of these reopening changes, it makes sense that they would need to focus on any existing reservations first in order to get all of these switched over to the new system and allow current ticket holders (including APs) to secure theme park reservations first before taking on new reservations. Once this process is complete, Disney has stated that new ticket sales and resort reservations will resume. More details are still to come on how the new park reservation system will work, so we will update our site once those details are released.
Temporary Suspension of Large Crowd-Gathering Activities and Entertainment
Another measure Disney is taking in order to maintain physical distancing is the temporary suspension of activities and entertainment that tend to draw the largest crowds. These include parades and firework spectaculars which can see some of the highest crowd levels each day. At this time we are unsure what other activities and entertainment will be affected beyond parades and firework shows, but we suspect that there will at least be some reopening changes to such things as the daily castle shows as well. While it is disappointing not to see all of the regular Disney parades and shows during this reopening period, we think it is a smart choice for the parks to put these activities on hold during this time.
With limited viewing areas and generally only one performance time per day, parades and firework spectaculars almost always result in packed crowds shoulder-to-shoulder down Main Street and in front of the castle. Even on less crowded days these times can be cramped and uncomfortable with thousands of people all attempting to get the best viewing spot available. It makes sense that Disney would need to set these parades and spectaculars aside for the time being with the health and safety of everyone in mind.
The crowds that these parades and spectaculars draw are something that we find to be an issue during normal times. We hope that perhaps Disney will find a solution that allows these entertainment options to come back in the near future, but with more permanent changes that offer a more comfortable experience for guests than they do currently. For example, implementing more mapped projections up and down Main Street and elsewhere like they often do in Disneyland may be a great option. Adding more show elements to other areas aside from the castle could greatly help to disperse crowds a bit more and is a change we’d love to see come to the Florida parks. There’s no indication as of yet that anything will change when these entertainment options return, but we are hopeful that we may see some updates to help remedy the normal overcrowding issue they usually have.
“High-Touch” Experiences Temporarily Unavailable
Other experiences that will be put on hold until further notice are what Disney refers to as “High-Touch” experiences. This includes such things as playgrounds, makeover activities like those offered at Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique, and character meet and greets. This also makes sense to us as this will limit interaction that brings people in close contact with each other, often without the ability to clean everything between every interaction.
Even though character meets will be unavailable during this time, Disney has confirmed that guests will still be able to find characters in the parks. This is something we are glad to hear since the parks just wouldn’t be the same without the presence of Disney’s iconic characters!
Previous Dining Reservations and Disney Dining Plans Cancelled
As Disney continues to figure out how to adjust their offerings to fit with their new health and safety measures, dining reservations and the Disney Dining Plan have currently been removed from guest plans and remain unavailable at this time. They have also stated that once in-park dining becomes an available again, guests will need a dining reservation in order to eat at the table service restaurant location of their choice. (UPDATE: You can now make Advanced Dining Reservations in the parks, resorts, and at Disney Springs. For more information about how to secure ADRs with all of the recent reopening changes, see Disney’s website).
Disney has also updated their website with new information regarding a change to the booking window for in-park dining reservations. Once restaurant reservations are made available, non-resort guests will have up to 60 days to secure the dining reservations for their chosen park days, while resort guests will have 60 days plus the length of their stay for up to ten days. For more info on this new dining reservation booking window, see Disney’s Frequently Asked Questions page.
Character Dining will be unavailable during the reopening period except for a modified dining experience at Topolino’s Terrace located at Disney’s new Rivera Resort. Dinner shows, private dining, and in-room delivery will also be unavailable at this time.
Other reopening changes to dining locations include increased cleaning measures, digital menus, and the temporary suspension of self-serve options, such as beverage stations. You can see all of the details Disney has released about these changes on their website.
FastPass Services and Extra Magic Hours Temporarily Unavailable
With the need for six-foot distances between parties and limited ride capacity, Disney World is temporarily suspending their regular FastPass+ services during the reopening period. According to their website, Disney states that they will be using the FastPass queues as additional space for standby lines in order to maintain physical distancing. (If you are new to the Disney World FastPass system, you can learn more about it in our complete guide to FastPass.)
FastPass+ is a service that we think works well overall and can often help guests experience more attractions in a day – especially since standby lines for popular rides are generally well over an hour or two. We are a bit unsure how the lack of FastPass will affect the guest experience, but we do understand why more space will be needed during this period. We suspect that significantly reduced park capacity should help cut down on wait times for most attractions, so perhaps FastPass won’t end up being as much of a necessity as it normally is for most guests. We can’t know for sure that this will be the case, though, and we will have to see how big the crowds are for the July reopening and how this change will ultimately affect ride waits. Either way, we do expect to see FastPass reservations and queues return in the future once crowds return to normal.
Extra Magic Hours have also been removed until further notice. These extra hours are normally available on select days at select parks for Disney resort hotel guests to visit the parks for an hour or so before park opening or after park closing. To learn more about Extra Magic Hours, check out our post comparing Disney World’s additional hours events and offerings.
Select Resorts Will Reopen Late June
Disney has yet to address when we can expect to see all of their resort hotels reopen, but we do know that select Deluxe Villa Resorts / Disney Vacation Club (DVC) Resorts will reopen first along with Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort and Campground on June 22, 2020. You can find the current list of resorts reopening on the 22nd on Disney’s website. New health and safety measures will also be implemented at resorts, including the use of masks by guests and cast members in all common areas.
At this time we do not know which resorts will open alongside those already listed or if certain resorts will remain closed until a later date yet to be announced, but we will continue to watch for updates and post about any new info that is released.
It is also important to note that anyone who wishes to visit a Disney resort during this reopening period will need a dining reservation if they are not already staying at that resort. This means that resort hopping as we are used to won’t be possible during this time, but we are glad to see that guests will still be able to dine at some of Disney’s resort restaurants even if they do not have a room reservation.
Disney will also be introducing a new Virtual Chat feature on the My Disney Experience app that will allow guests to speak with Resort Cast Members without visiting the Lobby. Guests will also be automatically checked out of their rooms on the last day of their stay (so long as their are no “unresolved charges”).
There will be quite a few reopening changes to resort amenities and offerings not mentioned in this post, including transportation services and cleaning services, so we recommend taking a look at the list and full details for each that Disney has provided on their website.
UPDATE September 8, 2020 –
According to Disney’s website, the following resorts will also reopen:
- Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa – September 21, 2020
- Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort – October 14, 2020
- Disney’s Art of Animation Resort – November 1, 2020 (postponed from original reopening date on August 12)
- Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort – Summer 2021 (This resort was originally rescheduled to reopen on August 12, then postponed to October 4, 2020. However, Disney has recently announced that Polynesian Village Resort will undergo a refurbishment, so its reopening has been further delayed until 2021.)
Disney has also updated their website to state that Beach Club Resort (previously set to reopen on August 24, 2020) and BoardWalk Inn (previously set to reopen on October 1, 2020) will now remain closed until further notice.
Disney Resorts currently open and accepting reservations include:
- Bay Lake Tower at Disney’s Contemporary Resort
- Boulder Ridge Villas at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge
- Copper Creek Villas & Cabins at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge
- Disney’s Animal Kingdom Villas – Kidani Village
- Disney’s Beach Club Villas
- Disney’s BoardWalk Villas
- Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort (Reopened on July 29, 2020)
- Disney’s Contemporary Resort (Reopened on July 10, 2020)
- Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground
- Disney’s Old Key West Resort
- Disney’s Polynesian Villas & Bungalows
- Disney’s Pop Century Resort (Reopened on July 10, 2020)
- Disney’s Riviera Resort
- Disney’s Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa
- Disney’s Yacht Club Resort (Reopened on August 24, 2020)
- The Villas at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa
As Walt Disney World and all theme parks around the world move in to uncharted territory in the midst of our global health crisis, we appreciate all that these companies are doing to try to keep their employees and guests safe while also trying to maintain as many of their fun offerings and atmospheres as possible.
Some of these reopening changes are understandably disappointing – especially if you have been planning for a once-in-a-lifetime vacation for the past several years or don’t get to visit all that often. It may not be the easiest of transitions into this new way of experiencing the theme parks (or everyday life in general), but we continue to look forward with the hope that it won’t be this way forever.
For the time being, we are very grateful that The Walt Disney Company and so many other organizations are doing the best they can to keep everyone safe and healthy while also trying to provide them with an enjoyable and meaningful experience for the whole family. While it may not be the Walt Disney World we remember or have come to expect, we are confident that Disney will continue to strive to offer Disney magic to all guests in as many ways as they possibly can. It has been a difficult year for us all, and we really glad we will once again be able to visit the parks and wave a big “hello” to our old pal Mickey Mouse!
We know a lot of people are looking forward to returning to The Most Magical Place On Earth, and we will continue to update our readers with all of the latest info. Be sure to sign up for our free email newsletter so you don’t miss a post!