Taking the Kids After Disney Parks Reopening
When Disneyland closed on March 14, 2020 and Walt Disney World followed with a closure a few days later, all the questions started. When will Disney parks reopen? How will vacations be changed in the face of an ongoing virus? And of course, when will it be safe for my family to travel again? I don’t have the answers to all of these questions yet. Some of these questions can only personally be answered by you, as a family. These will be valuable issues to discuss before you book any travel.
With Disney parks being a solid family destination, it’s only natural for us to look for answers especially when so many of us have Disney vacation plans in the works. Should we cancel our Disney trips or reschedule (and when)? And should we even consider taking the kids when Disney reopens?
I will discuss some of the theme park guidelines that have recently been released with tips on what may happen when Disney parks open fully back up again. Taking the kids when Disney reopens is your own decision to make but I will offer some guidance and information to help you in your planning. As new information is released, I will continue to update this article.
Walt Disney World REOPENING DATES
Disney World parks have reopened to the public. Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom reopened July 11th, 2020. Hollywood Studios and Epcot, reopened July 15th. A new online theme park reservation system, called Disney Park Pass, has been implemented for entry. For specific details on how the reservation system works, read my friend Patty’s article, How to Make Disney World Park Reservations.
Ready to Book a New Disney World Vacation Reservation?
To book a 2021 Disney World Trip: Disney World resumed 2021 ticket sales and Disney Resort hotel reservations. All based upon availability, as the Disney World resort hotels reopen in phases. Guests are currently able to reserve and purchase new Disney Resort hotel packages, theme park tickets and make their park reservations for arrivals. Park reservation availability can be viewed online before you purchase tickets. I highly recommend working with a trusted Disney World travel agent like Get Away Today, and they offer complimentary concierge including price monitoring.
New Disney World Protocols and Guidelines
Field inspections took place before Disney reopening to see how the theme parks will be able to uphold these new safety protocols. The theme park guidelines were submitted to the Florida governor for approval before they could move forward. Announced protocols for Disney World include facial coverings, hand washing and sanitation locations, physical distancing measures and limited contact enhancements.
During this initial reopening phase at Walt Disney World, certain attractions will not be open. Makeovers (like Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique), character meet ‘n greets, play areas, fireworks, and nighttime spectaculars are not returning right away. Parades, some indoor shows and performances and other attractions that draw large audiences will also not be available. Signs and online materials will be available to inform guests of these new guidelines and changes.
Disneyland Protocols and Guidelines
Disneyland and Disney California Adventure park will reopen to guests April 30th, 2021. Park reservations open April 12th, first to those who hold a valid park ticket. New ticket sales will be available on April 15th. Capacity in the parks will be limited. Park hours will be 9 am to 7 pm. Park hopping will take place only after 1 pm. Advance Dining Reservations will be available for booking beginning April 22nd.
- Disneyland Resort hotels will have a phased reopening. Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa plans to reopen on April 29, with limited capacity. Reservations open on April 15th.
- Disney Vacation Club Villas at Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa will reopen May 2.
- Disney’s Paradise Pier Hotel will reopen on June 15th with limited capacity.
- The Disneyland Hotel will reopen at a later date (not yet announced).
- The Downtown Disney District shops and dining are currently open
The same protocols are expected including facial coverings, hand washing and sanitation locations, physical distancing measures and limited contact enhancements. A Guest Experience Team will be available all around the Disneyland Resort to help those who have questions or issues. Personal character meet ‘n greets, play areas, and attractions that draw large audiences (including fireworks, shows and parades) will not be available.
How Disney is Making Guests Comfortable in Their Theme Parks
Disney parks will be encouraging a three pronged approach to making guests feel comfortable with planning a Disney trip. Education in the way of “Know Before You Go” (ie: researching ahead of time so you know what to expect). Communication with signage in the parks to explain these protocols. Engagement between cast members and guests to explain and dissolve any issues.
Other Amusement Park Guidelines
Theme parks around the country (and the world) are beginning to reopen. We look to what has been announced thus far. What can we learn from these recently released guidelines and how might it relay to the Disney parks reopening?
The International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions (IAAPA) trade organization put together guidelines that the reopening theme parks including Universal (the Florida Parks and Universal Studios Hollywood), SeaWorld, Six Flags and Cedar Fair (Knott’s Berry Farm) will be following. It’s very important to note that ONLY California residents are permitted to enter these in-state theme parks at this time.
REOPENED with Modifications (not all locations have a firm date for full reopening):
- Disney California Adventure park is host to A Touch of Disney, a dining and shopping event inside the park. No rides but PhotoPass opportunities and special experiences.
- SeaWorld San Diego will reopen with rides and coasters April 12th, including their popular weekend SeaWorld Seven Seas Food Festival.
- LEGOLAND California theme park will have a partial park opening on April 1st, called Park Preview Days that will include some ride reopenings.
- No announced reopening date for Knott’s Berry Farm, though their website notes they plan to reopening in May 2021. They are operating their Knott’s Taste of Boysenberry food festival with great success.
- Six Flags Magic Mountain in Valencia CA plan to reopen with rides and attractions on April 1st, 2021.
- Universal Studios Hollywood will reopen April 16th, with some attractions open in phases at a later date. They are currently running A Taste of Universal food festival.
- Downtown Disney District shopping area at Disneyland
- Disney Springs shopping area at Walt Disney World
- San Diego Zoo and San Diego Safari Park
- Universal Studios Orlando
- LEGOLAND Florida
- SeaWorld Orlando
- Universal Hollywood City Walk (with complimentary self-parking)
- Knott’s California Marketplace shopping
- Shanghai Disney Park
Should Kids Be Traveling Yet?
As parts of the United States start lifting stay at home orders, many families are choosing to travel again. Of course, that often means bringing the kids along. Changes are to be expected in the upcoming school year with the continuation of distance learning in many households. Parents are looking for more normalcy in the fall season, vacations included. I asked this question of my readers in the Mom Rewritten Facebook group:
I know that so much is still uncertain but when do you think you and your family would be comfortable traveling again? Would you travel adults-only or would you take the kids? Flying or road trip? Where would you feel okay going?
The responses varied across the board, which is not surprising. Personal views on travel are going to depend on each individual family, during this or any other time. Vacation houses, where families can control their own space and prepare meals were a popular choice. Avoiding air travel and road trip driving within a reasonable distance was also mentioned. Others said they wouldn’t go anywhere without a vaccine or effective treatment. Some said they were comfortable going anywhere, via any method. And the big debate was whether to keep or cancel upcoming Disney vacation plans.
Responsible Family Travel
Currently in my home state of California, locations are reopening, including indoor dining restaurants and stores. My husband and I are fully vaccinated against the virus but our children are not. My kids are still full distance learning. We’ve only just started back into organized sports and allowing outdoor play dates.
My friend Leslie at Trips with Tykes shares tips on traveling safely and responsibly as America reopens. One thing she mentions is that you need to do what feels safe and comfortable to you. Only you as the parent know your children. You’re in full control to decide whether travel during this time is appropriate for your family.
Planning a family vacation in these times is absolutely a personal choice. Some adults may feel more comfortable dipping their toes into the travel pool by taking grown-ups only or a girlfriend trip at first. Navigating all the new changes in this world including personal spacing (“Stand here, don’t stand there), facial coverings, constant hand-washing, no face touching, etc. is confusing and exhausting enough for adults. You’ll need to think hard whether your kids are ready for these adjustments outside the house.
What is Disney Doing To Keep Guests Safe?
As previously mentioned, some of the guidelines have just been released for Disney World and Disneyland. The things noted that follow may be put into effect at other amusement parks, and are based upon what’s happening currently at Disney Springs, other theme parks and the Disney park in Shanghai, China. It’s an excellent idea to do your due diligence and vacation research, especially if you plan on taking the kids when Disney reopens.
Guidelines That Will and Might Happen at the Disney Parks
- Temperature checks. Unfortunately a fever isn’t always a proven indicator of carrying the virus. Asymptomatic carriers don’t always display a high temperature and even those with other virus symptoms may not run a fever. But nonetheless, many locations are planning this step of taking touch-less temperatures. Worth noting that if one person in your party displays a fever at 100.4 or higher, the rest of the group is not allowed admittance either.
- Limited park hours to include off-peak season type-closures.
- Spacing out riders to maintain social distancing, including physical distance in ride vehicles. That doesn’t mean you would be seated away your family. This is only to take effect in an attempt to separate different parties.
- A temporary elimination of single rider queues.
- Continued implementation of virtual queues (like what is currently used for Rise of the Resistance at Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge). This attraction’s boarding pass system faced a slight change when Disney Hollywood Studios reopened. Rather than a single “rope drop” opening of the virtual queue, it instead happens three times a day. At certain times guests are given the chance to obtain the required boarding pass for this Rise of the Resitance, via the My Disney Experience app or the Disneyland app.
- Additional physical barriers may include directional flow for foot traffic. Just like you might be seeing in the grocery stores, the Disney parks have added arrows on the ground to move guests in the same direction and allow for more personal space.
- Plexiglas barriers inside switchback lines and at restaurant & store checkout counters.
Will Masks Be Required When Disney Parks Reopen?
At the time of publication, all businesses in California are requiring facial coverings to enter stores and restaurants. It’s also mandatory to wear a mask in outdoor locations where you are within 6′ of a person outside of your immediate household.
When Disney parks reopen, masks will be required for all ticketed guests. Disney World and Disneyland have already announced facial covering are a requirement to enter the parks.
ShopDisney is selling Disney themed facial coverings in anticipation of those who will be traveling to their parks. These masks are also available for sale at the parks. Disneyland and Disney World reopening guidelines indicate that guests 2+ must wear a facial covering at all times within the parks, except when eating or in a “relaxation station”.
Guidelines indicate that guests eating or drinking must be stationary and maintain appropriate social distance when their mask is removed (ie: no walking around without a mask on). Disney World has just released new guidelines that will allow guests to briefly remove their masks for outdoor photographs.
One-year old toddlers and babies are exempt and not required to wear a mask.
What Kind of Facial Covering Can You Wear at Disney?
These are the specific details on what type of facial coverings and masks that will be permitted in the Disney parks. Reading the guidelines set forth here, masks must be cloth or fabric (no plastic face shields) and secure with ties or loops (gaiter-style facial coverings are not acceptable).
Face coverings are required for all Guests (ages 2 and up) and Cast Members. Please bring your own face coverings and wear them at all times, except when dining or swimming. All face coverings should: Fully cover an individual’s nose and mouth and allow the Guest to remain hands-free. Fit snugly but comfortably against the side of the face. Be secured with ties or ear loops. Be made of breathable material, either disposable or reusable. Costume masks are not considered appropriate and are prohibited from being worn, in alignment with our existing rules. The use of face coverings is not a substitute for physical distancing.
Yes, Masks at Disney Parks Are a Must
A large consideration to make is whether you’ll be taking kids when Disney reopens since everyone 2+ is required to a wear a mask. One thing that I’ve heard from my followers is that they don’t want to lose that “Disney Magic” by forcing kids to wear a facial covering all day in the parks. “Masks are too hot”, “They’re uncomfortable”, “I don’t want my vacation ruined forcing my kids to wear a facial covering”.
I can totally get that, wearing a mask isn’t fun by any means. But I still stand by the phrase that, “A day at Disney is better than a day at home”. It’s a personal choice for sure, holding off on the Disney trip or going on the vacation, despite having the inconvenience of these new restrictions.
Also important to note that while the process of the Disability Access Service (DAS) does not change, the guidelines note that all guests are required to wear a mask.
Changes We Can Expect to See When Disney Reopens
- Limited number of guests allowed inside the parks to encourage physical distancing.
- The implementation of a new theme park reservation system (announced for both Disneyland and Disney World). Guests with valid Disneyland tickets will have the first chance at securing a park reservation.
- Additional cast members will be available to answer questions or cover guest concerns. Additional employees will conduct cleaning measures and oversee that procedures are followed.
- Physical distancing including boxes and lines may direct guests where to stand and where not to stand. Expect to see these in queues, quick service dining lines and other locations.
- Temporary suspension of Extra Magic hours and Magic Morning.
More Confirmed Disney Parks Changes
- Dining options will have changes, especially those including Disney character dining experiences and buffet meals.
- Disney World has cancelled the Disney Dining Plan. WDW also changed their dining reservation system, amending the date to a 60-day booking window (instead of the usual 180 days). Disneyland guests may begin booking ADR beginning April 22nd.
- Full service dining may be limited and not all restaurants are expected to be operating.
- Those using quick service will be encouraged to use mobile ordering. This will minimize the number of guests waiting in line. Mobile ordering is a touch-less transaction made via the Disney parks app on your own smart phone.
- Park Hopping permitted after 1 pm for those holding a Park Hopper ticket.
- Use of cashless transactions may be encouraged including using debit, credit and gift cards only.
- Temporary suspension of the Fastpass+ reservation system at Disney World and FASTPASS & Maxpass at Disneyland.
Guidelines That May Affect Kids
These possible amusement park guidelines may affect your trip if taking the kids when Disney reopens. Particularly if you are planning a first Disney vacation, these new potential guidelines may affect the magical trip you’ve envisioned.
- Security checkpoints have become “touchless” at Disney World, where guests pass through security scanners. If something in your bag sets off the scanner, you’ll be asked to remove everything from your bags into trays for a visual inspection. When packing in baby and child care needs, parents will need extra diligence. You’ll not want to have to unpack your entire Disney diaper bag to clear security!
- Disney parks are already extremely clean when it comes to amusement park standards. Even so, you’ll experience elevated levels of cleaning procedures in the Disney parks upon reopening. This includes frequent wiping of physical barriers, railings in queues, and ride seats and handles.
- Children’s play areas with highly touched surfaces will be closed (think Goofy’s Playhouse at Disneyland’s Toontown or Laughin’ Place near Splash Mountain in Disney World’s Magic Kingdom).
- No intimate character meet n’ greets including photo opportunities and autographs. Characters will still be present in a way that allows for social distancing. At Disney World characters wave from a cavalcade of parade-type floats, atop horseback, from inside ride vehicles, or from attraction roof tops.
- Kids aren’t known for their cleanliness! An increased awareness of cleanliness in the parks will include additional hand washing and sanitizing locations around the parks. This is something I’ve always wished for in the past (and have always brought my own hand wipes and hand sanitizer with me). An encouraged culture of cleanliness, especially before guests eat, is always welcome!
Things to Consider Before Taking the Kids When Disney Reopens
Once you’ve read the above possible guidelines that may be implemented, these are additional thoughts to consider if you’re planning on taking kids when Disney reopens.
- So many things to touch at the Disney parks! If you have a youngster that can’t keep their hands to themselves or are constantly putting fingers in their mouth, you’ll have to decide whether your child is ready for travel yet.
- Keeping a child in a stroller can help minimize the amount of things they touch! Stroller rental companies, like from my recommended Disney World partner Kingdom Strollers already implement stringent cleaning measures.
- If bringing your own stroller, use a stroller cover when traveling by plane to keep the stroller clean and protected.
- Can your kids follow good habits in practice? If you can’t get kids to wear a facial covering when taking short errands in your own neighborhood, you might want to reconsider a multiple day trip in which they might be expected to wear a mask all day.
- In the case of adults who do not want to wear a facial covering, Disney parks will express the procedures in a polite but firm way through signage. It’s not been made clear yet how these guidelines be enforced if children don’t cooperate? It can be challenging enough with toddlers having a Disney meltdown on a regular day! Will you want to push the guidelines with your kids and how cooperative do you think they’ll be? As a parent, are you prepared to force facial coverings or leave the parks?
- Disney World has added “Relaxation Stations” in both indoor and outdoor locations. These controlled areas are where guests can remove their mask. This might be a positive for families who just want to soak in the air conditioning and take off their masks for a while. Read more about doing Disney Parks with a Preschooler.
More Travel Considerations for Families
Are you comfortable with air travel or will you stick to road trips only for a while? Depending upon where you’re coming from, this will determine where you’ll be able to travel. What hotel will you stay at? Do you feel comfortable with the cleanliness guidelines set forth by the hotel? My friend Becca at This Crazy Adventure Called Life offers some changes that hotels will have to make.
For instance the ability to skip front desk check in at Disney World has already been an option via the My Disney Experience and use of MagicBands. What will other hotels do to make these contact-less changes at their hotels and resorts? Don’t be afraid to ask about policies and procedures.
Large chain hotels including Marriott, Hyatt, Hilton and IHG (Holiday Inn) have released their cleanliness procedures and policies, which are impressive measures to provide safety and assurance to their guests.
Disney Resort Hotel Safety Guidelines
If you’re considering staying at a Disney Resort hotel, I will keep this post updated with possible changes. Of the WDW resort hotels, the dates for opening of each specific location has not yet been released.
For the Disneyland Resort, only the Disney Grand Californian Hotel & Spa has a reopening date. Guests may begin booking hotel reservations on April 15th for visits beginning April 29th. No information has been released in regards to a new reopening date for Paradise Pier or the Disneyland Hotel at this time.
Some of the New Guidelines for Disney Hotels
- A Disney World or Disneyland resort hotel reservation will not guarantee park entry.
- Online check in service will be available at select locations.
- Updated bell services for luggage transportation (more details to be released).
- Increased cleaning protocols in elevators, escalators, restrooms, on handrails, tables, benches, etc.
- Additional hand sanitizing stations around the resorts.
- Reduced capacity inside pools, fitness centers, restaurants, lobbies and other common areas.
- Enhanced cleaning procedures inside resort rooms, with light cleaning available every other day. Housekeeping will receive additional training on these updated practices). Certain in-room amenities (like the television remote) will be cleaned and wrapped.
Disney World Water Park Reopening
Blizzard Beach reopened on March 7th, 2021 with Typhoon Lagoon to follow at a future date. Water park reopening includes reduced capacity, temperature screenings upon entry, physical distancing markers and facial coverings. Face coverings are required for all guests 2+ at the park entrance & exit, shopping areas and all food/beverage ordering areas. Masks are not required in the water or on water slides. Guests may remove facial coverings while eating or drinking but they must be stationary and remain socially distanced. You can find more details in regards to taking kids to the Disney World Water Parks.
Why Flexible Travel Plans Are More Important Than Ever
If your vacation plans include taking the kids when Disney reopens, having flexible travel plans is key. Many families discovered the hard truth when Disney parks closed earlier this year. Not booking with a reliable travel agent became an issue. Guests have had to wait months before refunds on their cancelled trips. In addition, some travelers have faced fees for rescheduling when dates were cancelled that were out of their control.
As always, I encourage anyone booking a Disneyland or Disney World vacation to request a complimentary vacation quote from my trusted partner, Get Away Today. Not only do they offer the only refundable Disney tickets, Get Away Today also has a Peace of Mind Plan that allows for rescheduling and vacation changes without additional fees. The flexibility will help you book in confidence knowing you can make adjustments without penalty.
Should You Be Taking Kids When Disney Reopens – The Bottom Line
I recently had an honest conversation with trusted travel insiders and professionals and we discussed the issue at hand. Disney parks rely heavily on guest satisfaction. Many amusement parks, including Disney, are going to be attempting to win back your business. They are going to be taking all precautions necessary to make guests feel safe about traveling to their destinations. Special travel incentives including these excellent Comeback Offers may be enticement enough to book your next destination.
Disney is going to do all they can to avoid an outbreak at their parks and resorts. And they know the importance of taking your children with you on vacation. However the bottom line is your own personal comfort level. I encourage you to do your research (Jessica at The Happiest Blog on Earth has a great post about the things to know before Disneyland reopening). Know what to expect ahead of time. Determine from there whether traveling with your kids is the best option for you.