Walt Disney World is one of our favorite places to visit. Our love for the theme parks and resorts has stretched so far that we became annual passholders as out-of-state residents in 2019. Starting up this very website should speak to our level of dedication. But, even as Walt Disney World started welcoming back guests, we have elected to postpone any future trips for five key reasons.
The obvious issue of traveling to the theme park capital of the world during a pandemic goes without saying. Visiting Walt Disney World is a luxury and traveling from far and wide to visit increases health risks that could be avoided. With that point understood, our list below instead focuses on how Walt Disney World has changed in the wake of the pandemic, and why those changes alone are cause for delaying a trip.
No Park Hopping
Park hopping is not permitted at Walt Disney World’s theme parks as of the date of this article. Guests are required to make a reservation at one theme park – if there’s availability – and are only allowed to visit that specific theme park on that day. Park hopping has been temporarily suspended as Disney attempts to manage attendance.
We love to visit multiple parks in the same day. It’s rare for us to spend an entire day in the same location. A sample day from one of our trips may begin at Disney’s Animal Kingdom followed by a nice break at the resort during the hottest hours and then nighttime fun at Epcot. Separating the day into chunks can eliminate some of the fatigue that can set in quickly at Walt Disney World.
Unfortunately, the suspension of park hopping eliminates some of the spontaneity we have previously enjoyed.
Reduced Park Hours
Beginning September 8, all four Walt Disney World theme parks will shorten their hours. This is in addition to the reduced operating schedule that went into effect when the parks first reopened.
None of the parks will be open beyond 7pm. That makes sense from an operations and a budget perspective, but it’s disappointing because Walt Disney World’s theme parks feel totally different at night. There’s something truly special about wandering the Magic Kingdom at night or strolling around Epcot’s World Showcase after the sun has gone down. Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge and Pandora feel like a significantly different experience at night.
It’s difficult to justify a trip to Walt Disney World when the theme park hours are so limited. The only option after 7pm is Disney Springs. Epcot won’t even open until 11am. There just isn’t as much bang for the buck, so to speak, at this time.
No Nighttime Entertainment
Nighttime shows haven’t been held at Walt Disney World since the parks originally closed in March. With the current health precautions and reduced hours, there currently isn’t a feasible way to hold Happily Ever After, Fantasmic! or the other spectaculars. That’s a major blow to the entertainment schedule.
Your opinion may vary here, but we feel like the perfect Disney day ends with fireworks. There’s just something missing without them. Again, Disney’s reasoning for cancelling their nighttime shows is understandable and the correct move, but we still feel it leaves the day feeling a bit empty.
Dining Availability and Changes
Securing a dining reservation at a popular Disney restaurant used to be pretty difficult. Now it can be almost impossible depending on the location. Reservations have been tricky to nail down for some guests due to select locations remaining closed and seating capacity being significantly scaled back.
Previously, you might be able to get lucky and enjoy a popular restaurant without a reservation. We have been seated at Sci-Fi Dine-In on multiple occasions without a reservation even on the park’s busiest days. Now, walking up to a popular restaurant without a reservation is a recipe for disappointment.
Character dining has also been overhauled / cancelled due to the current safety regulations.
Popped Disney Bubble
The Disney Bubble is a very real phenomenon where the annoyances and stress of the outside world can disappear while on property. Disney provides everything for you while you’re on property – lodging, transportation, meals and fun – to maintain the feeling you’re somewhere special.
Unfortunately, and through no fault of Disney, COVID-19 makes escaping into a carefree vacation almost impossible. Masks, temperature checks, social distancing, plexiglass dividers and more are now apart of the Disney experience. Disney is absolutely doing the right thing here with their precautions, but the intrusions of the real world zap some of that carefree magic we previously enjoyed.
We would love to visit Walt Disney World. Seriously. But, spending a bunch of money on flights, hotel and food when the list above is in its current state is difficult to swallow.
We advise anyone planning on going to Walt Disney World in the near future to do their homework. While reduced crowds and shorter lines are tempting, the number of overall changes may be a bit surprising if you’re not prepared.