I know that I promised I wouldn’t write too frequently, and I meant it. But two big things have happened since my last post:
- The day after I told you that 2020 was not open for reservations, 2020 opened for reservations. It’s now possible to book.
- I went to Disney to check it out and see what it would be like, and I’ve scheduled a Zoom meeting to share my thoughts with you – the invitation link is below.
Time to come clean. Last week, very quietly, my family and I snuck away from Iowa to enjoy some vacation time at Walt Disney World Resort in Central Florida. We were there for the very first moments of the re-opening of Epcot and Animal Kingdom, and the second day of business for the Magic Kingdom and Hollywood Studios. It was incredibly memorable.
I know, I know! The look of concerned shock I imagine on your face right now is exactly why I didn’t post about it in real time — unlike the dozens of other bloggers and YouTubers we encountered there, reporting on it as if they had just landed on Mars. We kept it quiet because we didn’t want to worry anyone, and I really wanted to see it for myself before I could recommend it to anyone else.
At the time we left, the news media was saturated with stories of Florida having the highest number of reported COVID-19 cases in a single day in the United States since the start of the pandemic. But to suggest that Walt Disney World was throwing caution to the wind by opening in the midst of it was a way-too-easy headline. Nothing could be further from the truth.
We had a lot of reasons to feel confident about our ability to take this trip safely, or we simply would not have done it. We are mask-wearing, physically-distancing, risk-averse people. We knew that since the whole place had been shut down for months and meticulously deep-cleaned while closed, the first days of re-opening would be incredibly sanitary, which proved to be the case. We also knew that Orange County was a bubble in which cases had been on a steady decline (the opposite direction, incidentally, of Madison County, Iowa), thanks in large part to a county-wide mask requirement that has been in place since June 20th.
Furthermore, as a travel agent with an Authorized Disney Vacation Planner, Platinum Annual Passholder and Disney Vacation Club member I had received a lot of advance communication indicating that many, many health and safety measures had been put in place in preparation for welcoming guests back to the World. We heard about intentions for distancing in lines, mask requirements, hand sanitizer stations, new mobile-ordering procedures at restaurants, and more. There was also a lot of public skepticism, though, especially around the idea of wearing a mask all day in the Florida heat. Would people really do it? Could a safe environment be maintained in a mass of humanity at a theme park, when a routine trip to a local store feels risky? We made a family agreement that we would not do anything that made any one of us feel unsafe. If it turned out to be less careful than promised, we would just hole up in our room and enjoy the view.
What we saw firsthand really underscored the fact that Disney is led by gifted Imagineers. The new safety measures were innumerable and I can’t explain them all here, although I will share some highlights and will continue to share photos from the experience over the coming days and weeks as I recall them. Suffice it to say they thought of everything, and the whole new World they created is still a lot of fun. We would do it again and recommend it to others.
With all the precautions, did it still have that Disney magic? Yes and no. I’d call it a mix of nervous excitement, relief, and joy. It was wonderful to be out of the house, out of town, enjoying some of our favorite family traditions. The crowds were so incredibly low that we were able to walk on to rides that normally have hours-long waits. Every cast member we encountered was incredibly happy to see us. At Epcot they actually lined the entrance to clap and cheer as the first guests entered the gates (I may have cried a little). Many talked openly about how glad they were to be back at work and welcoming people home. Some of our favorite restaurants and attractions were not available, like Ample Hills Creamery (best ice cream at Walt Disney World) and fireworks shows, but these losses felt like a small price to pay for the attention safety and cleanliness that was apparent everywhere we went.
Some of the cast members seemed to be still getting their legs as they grouped families in different ways in the queues, bypassing the pre-shows and sanitizing ride vehicles on a tight schedule. Mostly they all seemed to be delighted that it was working. They saw, as we did, that it is possible for people to live up to expectations when they are clearly set and communicated. Hopefully it won’t be a whole new world forever, but like the rest of society, I bet some of the new measures at Walt Disney World will continue because they are better, even though it took a pandemic to think of them.
So I know you’re asking:
Is now a good time to go? Really?
Here are some reasons you want to wait until the pandemic is fully passed:
It’s your first trip ever.
You’re in a high risk category and really shouldn’t be traveling.
And sadly, if you’re an EPCOT enthusiast. For now, there are very few international cast, the small shops are closed, some dining is closed, and there is very little entertainment.
BUT – here are reasons you might want to consider it:
You’re healthy, but also are very serious about safety precautions; everywhere you go, there will be masks and distancing. If you live somewhere where there isn’t much of that going on, Disney is a safety-precautions haven right now.
You enjoy hanging out at the resort.
You love small crowds and more individual attention, and don’t mind going to only one park per day.
Related to that: You are a Magic Kingdom or Animal Kingdom ride enthusiast; the wait times are very low.
Space is limited; hotels are running at about 25% capacity right now, and aren’t even allowed to be past 50% at the time of this writing; let me know if you’re interested.
I would love to answer your questions; consider hopping on to a Zoom meeting on
Saturday, July 25, at 9am.
Here’s the link:
Alan Feirer is inviting you to a scheduled Zoom meeting.
Topic: Disney Trip Report
Time: Jul 25, 2020 09:00 AM Central Time (US and Canada)
Join Zoom Meeting
Meeting ID: 818 0162 5444