A magical trip back to Disney
Kelly Roselle, Travel Planner
Pixie Dust Vacation Planners, LLC
Walt Disney World reopened in July of 2021 after nearly a three-month closure. There were mask mandates, physical distancing markers put into place, plexiglass barriers installed in ride queues, near registers, and on Disney transportation. Several restaurants did not open right away, and the nighttime spectacularsfor which Disney is known have remained dark. With Disney looking, and possibly feeling different, many potential travelers have put their plans on hold. Despite being a Disney lover, I thought I felt the same way. However, once my husband and I received our vaccine appointments in late winter, we decided to book a trip during spring break and it was one of our best trips yet! Yes, things were a little different, but the Disney magic is still all around you. Here are some of the tips I’d give anyone looking to travel in 2021.
Masks are Required
Masks are required for all guests age 2 and up. They are required indoors and outside unless actively eating or drinking, which you must be stationary to do. Cast members will remind you to have your face covering fully covering your nose and mouth. It was 90° during most of our stay, but we kept comfortable by using disposable masks and staying hydrated. We took a few more breaks than we normally would and in Animal Kingdom took advantage of a designated rest area where we were able to distance mask-free for a few minutes. Masks are not required inside the gates of a resort pool or when seated and actively eating and drinking at a restaurant. However, if you get up to use the restroom, they are required. As of April 8, 2021 masks are no longer required when taking pictures, so definitely buy that Memory Maker!
The mobile ordering system through select quick service restaurants was in place prior to the parks’ reopening, and has become an integral part of the dining experience right now. The mobile ordering system works by having you pre-order food that you will pick up during a designated time. All of your food will be hot and fresh as it is not prepared until you click “I’m Here.” Some restaurants book popular time slots, so if you know that you were planning on a meal at a specific location that uses Mobile Ordering, I’d encourage you to place the order early so that you’ll be able to eat when you planned to. Our favorite quick service locations with Mobile Ordering were Cosmic Ray’s (featuring menu items from Casey’s Corner and Columbia Harbour House as well), Flame Tree BBQ, and Docking Bay 7.
We traveled during spring break which was a particularly busy time. Pools have limited capacity and there are times when that capacity will be reached. Resorts that reach capacity at their pools have instituted an online check in where guests are given a return time when there is availability at the pool. Pool chairs are physically distanced and Disney is taking precautions to keep guests safe, unfortunately that means that during busy travel times and peak times of the day, the pools may reach capacity and there will be a little bit of a wait. This can be avoided by planning a pool day, particularly if you’re staying at a resort with a fantastic pool, Like Disney’s Yacht and Beach Club’s Stormalong Bay.
I have traveled with my family to Disney many, many times and we are scheduled to the 15 minute mark. This time was a little different. Without Fastpasses, it is important to factor in the times you may wait in lines for your favorite attractions. My suggestion is to “rope drop” parks (in fairness, this is my suggestion even pre-pandemic!) and go to the rides that won’t have as long of a wait and get several of them done THEN wait for the rides with long lines, like Seven Dwarves Mine Train, Avatar Flight of Passage, Test Track and Millenium Falcon: Smugglers Run. We did wait for some rides, but we had to wait for some rides even in “normal” times. I suggest looking at the wait times in the My Disney Experience app in the week leading up to your trip to get a feel for the wait times at various times of the day. If you book with me, rest easy, because I’ll already have that information for you, as well as a plan of which rides to do when!
When using Disney transportation, guests have always been advised to allot ample time to get to their destination; that suggestion is now 90 minutes. Busses run regularly, as do the Skyliner and water taxis, but there are lines due to limited capacity and spacing on the vehicles. To “rope drop” any park, you will want to arrive about an hour before the published opening time. Transportation begins running about one hour and 15 minutes prior to park opening. If you are traveling to a resort for a dining reservation, allow ample time to travel, or consider a ride share service. We never had a long wait for transportation and utilized the walking paths between the parks and our resort to get there and back quickly.
If you’re worried the Disney you know and love is not there, I assure you it is. Our last trip was full of family time, night swimming, and enjoying everything our resort had to offer, like Movies Under the Stars. If you have been to Disney before and are thinking of traveling in 2021, rest assured that the Disney you love is still the Disney you love. However, for some families, you will want to wait until you can have it all. In that case, I encourage you to book your 2022 vacation package soon! There are room categories already sold out for peak times, and with the 50th Anniversary Celebration lasting through 2022, you’ll want to be part of the magic!