Taking the Kids When Disney Reopens
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 might happen when Disney parks open 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. This article will be updated with new information as it is released.
New Disney World Protocols and Guidelines
Disney World recently announced a reopening date. Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom will reopen July 11th, 2020. Hollywood Studios and Epcot will reopen July 15th. A new theme park reservation system will be implemented for entry, of which more details will be noted later. There will not be any new ticket sales or new hotel reservations, for a focus on guests who already hold tickets, Annual Passholders and guest with prior booked room reservations. These guests will be contacted first to book via the theme park reservation system.
Field inspections have taken place to see how the theme parks will be able to uphold these new safety protocols. The theme park guidelines will be submitted to the Florida governor for approval before they can 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, certain attractions will not be open. Makeovers (like Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique), character meet ‘n greets, play areas, fireworks, nighttime spectaculars, parades and other attractions that draw large audiences will not be available. Signs and online materials will be available to inform guests of these new guidelines and changes.
How Disney World is Making Guests Comfortable in their Theme Parks
Walt Disney World 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
Disneyland parks in California have not yet announced any details in regards to reopening, dates or even what their specific guidelines will be. 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 for 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. SeaWorld Orlando is expected to reopen to guests on June 11th, 2020. SeaWorld San Diego and LEGOLAND California are looking towards a July 1st reopening date.
Shanghai Disney Park opened in mid-May with touchless temperature screenings and limited capacity as just a few of the new reopening guidelines. The Disney Springs shopping area at Walt Disney World began phased re-opening on certain shops and dining on May 20th.
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. School distance learning is wrapping up and changes are to be expected in the upcoming school year. Parents are looking for more normalcy in the summer months, 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, stay at home orders are still in place, with some “lower risk” locations reopening. For my family, we’ve chosen to continue self-isolation for the time being. While my husband and I make minimal errands, our children remain home. They are not seeing anyone outside our house, going to stores or to any gatherings. I don’t even own enough masks for each of my kids yet.
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, guidelines have just been released for Disney World. No news yet in regards to reopening California’s Disneyland parks. These things noted as follows may be put into effect at other amusement parks, and are based upon what’s happening currently at Disney Springs and the newly reopened 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 May Happen at the Disney Parks
- Temperature checks will happen when Disney World reopens. 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 at Disney Springs if one person in your party displays a fever at 100.4 or higher, the rest of the group is not allowed admittance either.
- Possibly limited park hours. This would likely also include off-peak season type-closures that may include not having certain entertainment options inside the park.
- Could see a temporary elimination of single rider queues.
- Possibly creating additional implementation of virtual queues (like what is currently used for Rise of the Resistance at Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge).
- Additional physical barriers may include directional flow for foot traffic. Just like you might be seeing in the grocery stores, the Disney parks may add arrows on the ground to move guests in the same direction and allow for more personal space.
Will Masks Be Required When Disney Parks Reopen?
As of this writing, all businesses in California are requiring facial coverings to enter stores and restaurants. It is to be expected that when Disney parks reopen, masks will be required for all ticketed guests. Disney World has already announced this as a requirement to enter the parks.
ShopDisney is taking pre-orders on Disney themed facial coverings, likely in anticipation of those who will be traveling to their parks. Disney Springs and Disney World reopening guidelines indicate that guests 3+ must wear a facial covering at all times, except when eating. Toddlers and babies are not required to wear a mask. It has not been addressed whether those with mental disabilities or cognitive disorders must wear a facial covering in the theme parks.
A large consideration to make is whether you’ll be taking kids when Disney reopens if everyone 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.
Changes We Can Expect to See When Disney Reopens
- Limited number of guests allowed inside the parks to encourage physical distancing.
- Current hold on new ticket sales, with the implementation of a new theme park reservation system (announced for Disney World). Annual pass holders or those holding pre-purchased tickets that have had their expiration dates extended by Disney will be given first priority for booking.
- Additional cast members available to answer questions or cover guest concerns, as well as those employees conducting cleaning and overseeing that procedures are followed.
- Physical distancing measures including boxes and lines may direct guests where to stand and where not to stand. Expect to see these in queues and quick service dining lines.
- Dining options would likely have changes, especially those including Disney character dining experiences and buffet meals. Disney World has cancelled all dining reservations through the remainder of 2020. Full service dining may be limited and not all restaurants are expected to be operating. Those using quick service will likely be encouraged to use mobile ordering. This would minimize the number of guests waiting in line. Mobile ordering is a touchless transaction made via the Disney parks app on your own smart phone.
- Spacing out riders to maintain social distancing, including physical distance in ride vehicles. That doesn’t mean you would be seated away your family, but likely only to take effect in an attempt to separate different parties.
- Use of cashless transactions may be encouraged including using debit, credit and gift cards only.
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 may become “touchless”, with you placing your personal items into a clear bag for inspection. If this happens, it might make packing in baby and child care needs more of a challenge. Limiting the quantity of personal items allowed into the theme parks is still to be determined.
- 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 could include frequent wiping of physical barriers, railings in queues, and ride seats and handles. Children’s play areas with highly touched surfaces will not reopen right away (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 but it’s not be determined yet how guests will be seeing them.
- 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 rentals, like from my recommended 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 is discussing possible “relaxation zones” where guests can remove their mask so this might be a positive for families.
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 Magic Bands. 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.
If you’re considering staying at a Disney Resort hotel, I will keep this post updated with possible changes including community use areas like swimming pools. Of the WDW resort hotels, the dates for opening have not yet been released. Disney Vacation Club resort hotels and Fort Wilderness Campground will reopen to guests on June 22nd. Details in regards to Disney World Water Parks will be added as I find out as well.
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. As we know, 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. Know what to expect ahead of time. Determine from there whether traveling with your kids is the best option for you.