**Updated June 19, 2020
It has been a few weeks since the Walt Disney World announced its initial plans for reopening. Since then we’ve seen a few details emerge about what that experience will look like and the measures that Disney is putting in place to create the safest environment they can.
Disney is preparing for a phased reopening with both the Magic Kingdom and Disney’s Animal Kingdom parks set to reopen on Saturday July 11th, 2020. Shortly thereafter, Epcot and Disney’s Hollywood Studios will reopen on Wednesday July 15th, 2020. Prior to these dates, Disney is planning Cast Member previews and a soft opening for select audiences. This allows them to ramp up their attendance strategy and allow them to launch, learn and adjust along the way.
Disney has also established significant limits on the number of guests that will be allowed to attend each park. This is similar to Disneyland Shanghai’s reopening strategy.
Disney Park Pass System
Disney will limit their park capacity with their new Disney Park Pass system. It’s a new theme park reservation system, which will require guests to obtain a reservation for park entry in advance. All guests with a ticket will be required to make a reservation in advance for each park entry (each day of tickets).
The online system will be available on DisneyWorld.com
Guests will need a My Disney Experience account and a valid theme park ticket or Annual Pass that is linked to your My Disney Experience account. It’s also recommended that if you have a Disney Resort reservation, that you link it to your MDE account before booking a park reservation.
After guests have logged into their MDE account, they can access a calendar of available reservation dates for each theme park. Guests with multi-day tickets will be required to make a park reservation for each date of their visit.
Family and Friends who are linked to your My Disney Experience account can look to arrange theme park entries at the same time.
Disney has noted that park reservations are limited in number and subject to availability. Availability can change until the reservation is finalized. At this time, guests will be able to select one park per day; visiting more than one park per day will be temporarily unavailable upon the reopening of the theme parks due to attendance limitations.
Guests with existing tickets that include the Park Hopper Option or Park Hopper Plus Option have options available to them for ticket modifications and cancellations, and can visit DisneyWorld.com/Updates for more information.
Disney is planning to bring back the ability to visit more than one park per day, but we do not have an official start date for the ability to park hop.
At the moment, Disney is temporarily pausing new ticket sales and new resort reservations so they can focus on the guests with existing reservations. Existing ticket holders and Annual Passholders will be able to make reservation requests in phases before new tickets are sold.
Guests wishing to attend a specific park, will now require both a park ticket and a reservation using the new park reservation system.
Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground will reopen to members and guests on June 22nd, 2020. In addition, the following Disney Deluxe Villa Resorts will also open on June 22nd, 2020:
- 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 Old Key West Resort
- Disney’s Polynesian Villas & Bungalows
- Disney’s Riviera Resort
- Disney’s Saratoga Springs Resort
- The Villas at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort
These are the Disney Vacation Club resorts. As a part of the reopening, plans to support required physical distancing as well as enhanced cleaning measures will be implemented. Guests (ages 2 and up) will also be required to wear masks in all common/public areas.
For the latest resort information, including Disney’s enhanced cleaning protocols, you can find it on the Disney Resort Hotels: Know Before You Go page.
New Park Protocols
Disney is also ramping up their health and safety protocols for the parks. During this phased reopening, guests (ages 2 and up) will be required to wear face coverings. There will also be temperature checks of all guests, prior to entry into the parks.
Inside the parks, there will be more frequent handwashing stations and hand sanitizing stations as well as barriers to facilitate physical distancing, where required.
Also, in an effort to reduce the number of guest & cast member touch points, “makeover opportunities” and playgrounds will be unavailable. This includes reservations at Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique.
Parades & Nighttime Spectaculars
In an effort to increase physical distancing, Disney is temporarily removing experiences that draw large group gatherings. This will include all of the parades and nighttime spectaculars.
These will return at a later date, but they remain some of the biggest draws for crowds in the parks. Without a safe way to maintain proper social distancing during these events, Disney has made the decision to temporarily close these events.
At the moment, Character meet and greets will be unavailable for the time being, in an effort to maintain social distancing within the parks.
Characters will still be seen in the parks, entertaining guests, but there will be no formal opportunity to meet these characters.
This also means that Character Dining will also be temporarily unavailable at Walt Disney World Restaurants, with the exception of a modified character experience at Topolino’s Terrace – Flavors of the Riviera.
In order to maintain proper physical distancing in attraction queues, Disney has temporarily suspended their FastPass+ reservation system and is cancelling all current FastPass+ selections. They require the extra space that the FastPass queue offers to manage the capacity of guests and spread them out within the stand-by line.
Disney unfortunately had to make the decision to cancel all current dining reservations. Select reservations at Disney Springs are still available. For all table service restaurants at Walt Disney World theme parks and Resort Hotels, reservations will be unavailable until a later date.
Disney has mentioned that when dining reservations return, they will be available at a 60-day booking window, instead of the previous 180 days.
Because dining reservations are in a state of flux, Disney also made the decision to cancel any existing Disney Dining Plans that guests had added on to their vacations. Guests with Disney Dining Plans are able to keep their existing resort and ticket reservations, but the dining plans have been removed and the price of their vacation packages will be adjusted to reflect the removal of the dining plan.
For the latest dining information, you can find it at the Disney Restaurants Know Before You Go page.
When dining locations do open up, Disney will implement a series of changes to help minimize contact with other guests and cast members.
Quick Service restaurants will have menus displayed on signage and Table Service restaurants will offer a scannable code that will bring up the digital menu.
Menu items at restaurants may vary during this period. All dining locations will operate with a limited capacity. There are also some dining locations that will remain temporarily closed during this initial opening phase.
Extra Magic Hours
In addition to FastPass+ and Dining Reservations being cancelled, Disney has also temporarily suspended Extra Magic Hours, reserved for guests staying at Disney Resort Hotels and select Disney Springs hotels.
Disney has confirmed that Disney’s Magical Express busses to and from the airport will return to operation upon the resorts reopening.
Complimentary bus transportation to and from Disney Springs and the theme parks will be available once the resorts and parks have reopened as well.
There isn’t any mention of boat, monorail or Disney Skyliner operations at this time.
Disney’s Mini Van service will not be available during this reopening phase.
With Universal and other theme parks announcing their plans to reopen sooner, we feel like Disney was forced to announce a reopening date. That being said, seeing the parks reopen in mid-July seems to show Disney’s commitment to promoting health and safety for everyone.
Yes, this does mean that everyone ages 3 and up must wear a mask in the parks and in common areas of the resort hotels. It also means temperature screenings for everyone entering a theme park.
Disney is doing this out of an abundance of caution because, unfortunately, we are not yet out of the Covid-19 pandemic. Phased reopening will help Disney make adjustments to their protocols without dealing with an onslaught of guests wanting to return.
The cancellation of FastPass+ reservations is not overly surprising. Disney needs the space in the FastPass queue to properly handle the crowd capacity at each attraction. This also allows Disney to implement a virtual queue system, similar to the one they used for Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance in Galaxy’s Edge.
While there’s no confirmation of that virtual queue system, we wouldn’t be surprised if we see it utilized at least for the more popular attractions. Otherwise, you’d have queues stretching far outside of the lands the attractions are in.
The other big announcement was the cancellation of Disney Dining Plans and dining reservations. We suspect that, with a number of Disney restaurants remaining closed, it’s not possible to guarantee that all guests with the dining plan would be able to use their full complement of dining credits.
In addition to that, Disney restaurants operating at a limited capacity would mean having to cancel some dining reservations. Rather than doing in arbitrarily, Disney has cancelled all existing reservations and will allow guests access to a new dining reservation system. Guests with Disney Resort Hotel reservations will get first crack at the new dining reservations, but we expect that you will also need a park reservation prior to making a dining reservation inside one of the 4 parks.
We are, however, quite excited about the new 60-day booking window for dining reservations. Yes, it means that more people will be clambering for those reservations, but it will hopefully prevent guests from making a ton of reservations, only to cancel them closer to the travel dates when park hours and plans are firmed up.
The Bottom Line
There are certainly lots of details still to be shared, but it’s the first step towards allowing guests to return to the Most Magical Place on Earth.
For Canadians, our border remains closed to non-essential travel, so we will still have to wait until those restrictions are lifted before considering a trip to Walt Disney World.
Thankfully, Disney does already have some of the infrastructure for social distancing in place. Mobile ordering for food will very likely be the new normal for the foreseeable future. Contactless payments will also be highly encouraged.
Something Disney mentioned was that “we all must work together to promote the health and safety of everyone”. That means that not only Cast Members, but guests as well. Whenever you are able to make your way to Walt Disney World again, it’s important to follow the guidelines that Disney has in place. The changes to operating procedures are for the health and safety of everyone, so if we want Disney to stay a safe place for everyone to enjoy, we all have to endure some minor inconveniences along the way.
It has been good to see guests responding well to the phased reopening of the Shanghai Disney Resort and Disney Springs. Hopefully that trend continues into the reopening of the Walt Disney World parks and resorts in the near future.
As always, Disney’s websites for the parks are going to have the most up-to-date information about their plans. You can find them all here: