We returned from our magical Disney vacation about three weeks ago. My husband, myself, and our 6-year-old daughter spent six days in Orlando having a once-in-a-many-years Disney experience. The trip was originally planned for the spring of 2020… Like many other families, a small global event obviously changed our plans.
This was our first family trip to the House of Mouse, and it was an amazing trip. Everyone had a wonderful time, and made memories that will be treasured. Now that we are back, many friends and family have asked our thoughts on doing Disney in the new COVID times, since the operations of the park and some logistics are different than pre-2020. These are my biggest takeaways:
- Current crowd calendar predictions are inaccurate to say the least. Whether it’s everyone taking rescheduled trips from the past couple years, people feeling comfortable in general traveling again, or a combination of factors, there is no off-season at Disney right now. Every park we went to was crowded, which has been echoed by bloggers and more seasoned Disney travelers recently. We waited in lines for everything. We planned two full days at Magic Kingdom; even with that amount of time, we didn’t get to everything, and only rode two rides more than one time. Obviously, this happens at every amusement park or tourist location, but just be aware of how the crowds will impact your experience.
- You will pay extra for everything. And the convenience and overall enjoyment of your trip will be somewhat related to your willingness to spend money. Many things that used to be free now cost a fee (ex. no free airport shuttle to hotels anymore). There is a new system of ride booking / line skipping at the parks called Genie+. It will cost you $15 per day per person to use this system in order to book rides. You do not have to use it… but the wait times for most rides were at minimum thirty minutes – and popular rides like the newest Star Wars ride regularly listed wait times of 120 minutes. (Oh, and the most popular rides like that Rise of the Resistance attraction requires an additional fee ABOVE the basic Genie+ daily service fee…) A trip to Disney World has never been a cheap venture, but it feels even more painful when you realize the daily park ticket cost is the bare minimum to visit.
- This was not a “vacation” for Mom… although is any travel with kids really? ;).
The Genie+ and Lightning Lane system I referenced above becomes available at 7:00 a.m. for anyone staying on a Disney property. So my alarm went off at 6:45a.m. every morning in order to secure the first available booking of the most popular rides. Throughout the day I was constantly having to focus on my phone to get the most out of the Genie+ system, mobile order food, and other logistics. The Disney app is a huge help and allows you to maximize your time – but if you want a slow pace, or an unstructured, flexible trip with your family, Disney is not it.
- Several things are still closed / unavailable. If you have a young child interested in a princess makeover at the Bibbidi-Bobbidi Boutique, none of those locations are open. Characters are stationed at places for distanced meet and greets, and appear in short parades throughout the main areas of the parks. But if you remember hugging Winnie the Pooh as a child or getting Cinderella’s autograph, that is not going to happen currently. The indoor mask requirement was lifted right after our trip, but remains in place for some select spaces (mainly park transportation). Since our child had nothing to compare it to, she did not know what she might be missing; if your kiddos were at Disney pre-COVID, they may have a harder time with the new normal.
So should you plan a trip to Disney this year? My only firm answer would be that if you do want to go, book it as soon as possible. Disney World still has reduced capacity at the parks, and requires a specific park reservation for each day of your trip (so you need to know precisely which day you are going to Epcot). And if you go – definitely get a churro and a Mickey shaped pretzel!