The year is 2021. Nothing is normal and hasn’t been for almost a year. I am a firm believer in speaking things into existence so this is me speaking us getting back to normal. That being said, we just got back from 4 days in Orlando and Disney World is nothing like it has ever been before. I will write this blog from two perspectives, prior to the pandemic (and hopefully after) and during the pandemic (given we were only supposed to be locked down for two weeks and we are going on 11 months.
- PLAN. If you have never been to WDW (Walt Disney World) before or if you haven’t planned it as an adult, the key to anything is to plan- especially for such an event packed vacation such as WDW. It is highly recommend to plan AT LEAST six months in advance if your goal is character breakfasts and fast passes. Restaurants such as “Be our Guest” is usually booked out at least six months in advance as well.
- Download the WDW app. You can store all passes on the app, it has up-to-the-minute updates on wait times, you can mobile order food, find bathrooms, firework and parade times, park hours, etc on there
- Stay on property if you plan to ONLY do Disney while in Orlando. You do get special perks like additional hours, monorail stops, and no parking hassle. It is pricey and I have heard that the rooms are small, there’s also no gyms (we have never stayed on property).
- Stay off property if you plan to do more in Orlando, need a multi bedroom suite or condo, want access to a resort gym, and don’t mind paying $25 for parking each day you are at the park. We always stay at the Marriott World Center as it’s only two miles from the parks!
- As stated above, plan ahead. There are many cost saving deals if you order tickets in advance (you obviously will save time at the park by already having your tickets ahead of time). You also will save money by ordering multiple days together.
- I highly recommend deciding what you want to do at each park to determine if you park hopping is for you. Personally, if it wasn’t for the princess breakfast, I don’t think I would need to ever go to Epcot. The food tour sounds awesome but if you are with children, they more than likely won’t want to do that. On our two most recent trips (2019 and 2021), we spent a full day at magic kingdom and then did a park hopper pass for both animal kingdom and Hollywood studios. If you are a star wars nerd like I am, you may just want an entire day at Hollywood studios!
- Plan your vacation around your interests, the busiest park is obviously magic kingdom followed by Hollywood studios, animal kingdom, and Epcot as the least busy
- Buy ears off Etsy ahead of time, they are extremely expensive at the park!
- Plan meals ahead of time. If you are a foodie like we are, please reference my personal Disney Eats Blog or this Disney Foodie Instagram! This will help take the stress off trying to find things in the park when you are hungry. We plan everything out ahead of time to alleviate any and all stress
- Bring snacks! Disney obviously gets pricey quick. We always have snacks packed: protein bars and APEX. We also bring our own water bottles to save a ton of water was they do have water fountains throughout the park.
- If you are traveling with a newborn, reference this blog of mine!
- Budget is going to depend on how long you stay, where you stay, how expensive of food you are eating at the park, how many people / children are with you, etc. I would price everything out ahead of time so there are no surprises! Disney also offers gift cards if you want to ask for those to be gifted to you to help with the budgeting process
- WDW during the pandemic is obviously different but we absolutely loved it! Starting with the parks being filled at 30% capacity! You also had to reserve which days you would be at the park and if you are park hopping, you have to reserve each park you are going to that day.
- There are no character meet and greets, no parades, and no fireworks. I was not heart broken over any of this- parades slow down walking traffic, Oakley doesn’t know who the characters are since she is only six months old, and the fireworks would go off after her bedtime.
- Wait times were ALMOST nothing. The longest we waited in line was for the Falcon ride in Hollywood Studios and it was less than 30 minutes long!
- You have to wear your mask at all times, you cannot walk and drink or eat, you cannot remove it for photos. I would not have wanted to do WDW in the summer with the heat of the mask but going in February was perfect and I hardly noticed it.
- 6 feet spacing in all areas of the park, physical distance on all rides, hand sanitizing stations at almost every corner, plastic partition guards in all lines, and mobile dining only.
I personally would not recommend going to Disney (if you have older children) for the first time during a pandemic. I do feel a little of the magic was lost in certain rides as we walked through them so fast. Haunted Mansion was for example didn’t have the extending elevator because there wasn’t a wait for the ride. Just something to keep in mind!
I hope this blog helps plan your magical trip! There are so many more Disney tips but this is a very high level overview!