Remember When… Thinking Back to a Walt Disney World Before COVID-19

Credit: Disney

Many changes have come to Walt Disney World during 2020.  Some of these changes are ones we enjoy while others leave us missing the days of old.  Come with us as we think back to a Walt Disney World prior to COVID-19.


1. Remember When…. We would make dining reservations six months before our vacation?

A trip to Walt Disney World used to include making dining reservations six months prior to arrival.  Guests were trained to set alarms to make sure they were up early in order to snag those highly sought-after dining experiences.  Now Disney has pushed these reservations to sixty days prior to check-in.  Guests are still encouraged to make reservations as limited capacity and social distancing limits availability.  Just recently Disney has also started to provide information on the My Disney Experience app to show walk-up options while in the parks.  This new change gives guests more flexibility in their food options.

Chef Mickey’s Pre-COVID

2. Remember When…. We would wake up early to make Fastpass+ reservations?

Another early morning alarm used to come at the 60-day mark when guests staying on property were allowed to make their fastpass selections.  Disney is currently no longer using fastpasses so this isn’t even needed.  The only reservation beyond food that guests need to make now is their initial Park Pass Reservation.  This books guests at a specific park on a specific day of their vacation.

FastPass Kiosk

3. Remember When….We would rush to rope drop?

Prior to COVID-19, it was strongly encouraged to get to the parks at rope drop in order to get to those highly popular rides such as Flight of Passage, Seven Dwarfs Mine Train or Slinky Dog Dash.  With limited capacity, it isn’t as important to get to the parks right at rope drop and with parks opening later there definitely isn’t the rush to get there right when they open.  It seems like park crowds are slightly higher right now in the mornings as guests are hoping to avoid the heat of the afternoons making coming in an hour or so after rope drop to be more ideal.

Morning Rush to Flight of Passage Prior to COVID-19

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4. Remember When….. We would find a spot for the parade an hour beforehand?

Disney parades are extremely magical and guests would line up hours prior to the start.  With Disney moving towards cavalcades that show up randomly throughout the day, guests don’t have to devote hours on the curb in order to participate in the magic.  Now guests can enjoy their favorite characters as they randomly travel throughout the park during the day.

Waiting for a Parade Pre-COVID

5. Remember When…. We ended our evening with fireworks?

A nighttime show of fireworks, lasers, music, projections and magic was how an evening at Disney seemed to always wrap up.  As Disney continues to enforce social distancing measures, nighttime entertainment is still not happening.  Although we hope to see this return sooner than later, right now Disney parks are closing before the sun sets giving guests more time in the evenings at their resorts or Disney Springs.

6. Remember When… We would leave the park for the afternoon?

Heading back to the resort for a quick nap, pool time or lunch was something we used to do a lot during our Disney vacation especially during the hot summer hours.  With shortened park hours, this is something that is harder to manage.  Now it seems like staying at the park the whole time it is opened is needed in order to fit everything in while the evenings and mornings are more a time for relaxing while waiting for the park to open or after the park closes.

Summer Crowd Pre-COVID

7. Remember When… There were character meet and greets?

A Disney vacation wasn’t complete without a hug from Mickey Mouse or a kiss from a favorite princess.  In order to keep guests and all cast members safe, these meet and greets have been paused.  Guests can still enjoy seeing their favorite characters during the cavalcades or randomly throughout the parks providing special experiences during this time.

8. Remember When…. We would eat at buffets?

Disney had numerous delicious buffets throughout the property that guests could take advantage of during their vacation.  In order to help keep guests safe, Disney isn’t providing the normal buffet options. Now, more former buffet locations are serving food family-style right to your table.

Crystal Palace Restaurant

Even though there are a lot of things in Walt Disney World that have changed and we can think back and “remember when”, there are also so many new, exciting and magical experiences being introduced and discovered daily.  Disney might be different, but it doesn’t mean the magic isn’t there.

About Jennifer Retzlaff

My name is Jennifer Retzlaff and I became a lifelong Disney fan during my first trip to Walt Disney World in 6th grade. From that moment, Disney became a big part of my life. I live in Iowa with my husband and two kids who are growing up too quickly for my liking. I started introducing my love for Disney early to my family with a Disney honeymoon and then trips when our youngest of 18 months. Since then, our family has been to Walt Disney World over five times and we continue to plan and dream for the next trip. I love the magic that Disney brings to people through the theme parks, cruises, adventures and movies they create. As a teacher, I try to bring that magic into my classroom to help kids believe that “If You Can Dream It, You Can Do It.” I recently reached a dream of mine as I joined Magic Vacation Planner as a personal travel advisor. With this team, I can now help others plan magical vacations. As a passionate writer, I also have my own blog at magicalvacationsbyjen which is also where you can follow me on instagram for trip reviews along with tips and tricks for your next magical vacation.