The Reopening of Walt Disney World: 20 Things You Must-Know Before Visiting

Credit: Disney

We are super excited that Walt Disney World is opened and welcoming guests back to the magic.  We know that not everything is the same, but we know that Mickey and friends will have the magic ready to go.  If you have a trip coming up to Walt Disney World, or are thinking about a trip, we have some things you must know before visiting.

1. Masks

One of the biggest things to be aware of when heading to Disney right now is the masks requirements.  All guests ages two and older are required to have a mask on at all times while in the parks and moving around the resorts.  There are specific requirements when it comes to types of masks so make sure to check out Disney’s official statement on this to see the most recent policies.  The biggest one to note is that neck gaiter of any kind is not allowed.  As many enjoy these during the heat of the summer, make sure to have a backup option when visiting Disney.

2. Touchless security

An exciting change that Disney has implemented during this time is a new touchless security system.  Prior to the changes, Disney security would physically go through guests’ bags one by one.  Now to keep security team members and guests safe, a new touchless system has been brought into the parks.  Guests now can walk through the security system with their bags (after removing metal items such as water bottles and umbrellas).  This makes security a lot faster for all and one change that we hope will stick around.

3. Temperature checks

Along with new security, comes temperature checks.  Guests of all ages will have their temperatures checked prior to being allowed into the Disney parks and Disney Springs.  Guests are required to have a temperature lower than 100.4 in order to enter the Disney parks and Disney Springs.  If temperatures are higher than this, guests are given the chance to drink water and cool down prior to having it checked again so rest assured that if the heat of the day gets to you, all is not lost.

Credit: Disney


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4. Park Pass Reservations

A major change that guests need to be aware of during this time is that a Park Pass Reservation is required in order to get into one of the four parks.  Guests are able to make these through the My Disney Experience website as soon as they have a valid ticket.  This system is allowing Disney to control park crowds and keep in place the social distancing measures that are required.  Although some guests might find this frustrating, if you made ADRs or fastpasses in the past we essentially were choosing our park previously as well it is just a different way of doing so.

5. No Fastpasses

As of right now Disney is not using fastpasses for any rides in Walt Disney World.  Guests do not need to schedule any rides prior to traveling to Disney.  All guests will be using the standby lines which allows Disney to help keep guests socially distanced while waiting in line.

6. No Park Hopping

As Disney continues to monitor park capacity and is using the Park Pass Reservation system, guests are not allowed to park hop.  As guests choose their park choice through the reservation system, this park is the one and only park they will be admitted to that day.  Guests can come and go throughout the day from that one park; however, they are not allowed admission into a different park that day.  

7. Advanced Dining Reservations

Disney has moved all dining reservations to being made 60 days prior to guests check in.  This used to be something that guests did six months ahead of time; however, with the ever-changing state of things, Disney has adjusted this to 60 days.  Keep in mind when booking dining that if you do so in a park you will need a park pass reservation as well as a ticket to get to your reservation.

8. No Evening Shows

When getting ready to head down to Disney, guests should know that there are currently no evening shows or entertainment.  These shows typically draw large crowds and to keep guests and cast members safe, Disney has temporarily paused all night time entertainment.  This means no fireworks at Magic Kingdom, Epcot or Hollywood Studios as well as no Fantasmic in Hollywood Studios.  

9. Shorten Hours

With lower capacity, no evening shows and high cleaning expectations park hours have been drastically reduced especially for summer.  Although we are seeing typical opening times for Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom, we are seeing a later opening at Epcot and Hollywood Studios.  Parks are closing closer to 7-9 pm right now which is a big change for summer hours.  Although this change in opening hours seems like guests are getting less time in the park, which overall, they are, we are seeing that guests can actually accomplish even more during these shortened hours due to the light crowds.  Make sure to check those hours prior to heading down so you aren’t surprised.

10. No Character Meet and Greets 

In order to keep Mickey and friends safe, Disney is not having typically meet and greets or character dining experiences at this time.  There are a few restaurants (Topolino’s and Garden Grill) that have characters during the meal, but these are at a distance.  This doesn’t mean that guests won’t see characters in the parks, actually the opposite as characters seem to be out and around even more.  Guests can catch the character cavalcades in most parks and even catch a few randomly like Winnie the Pooh catching butterflies in Epcot or the Country Bears in Frontierland.  These aren’t the normal meet and greets we are used to, but the interactions we have seen have been fun and magical.

11. Mobile Ordering is a Must Do

At each of the parks and Disney Springs, Disney is requiring guests to use mobile ordering when eating at quick service restaurants.  To help prevent crowding in the ordering and seating area, Disney is asking guests to order online, wait outside the restaurant until being notified that their food is ready before heading in to get food and find a seat.  This helps Disney control the crowds and keep everyone safe.

12. Limited Food Options

Another adjustment when it comes to eating is limited food options.  Not all food options are opened still in each park or at each resort.  Areas such as Casey’s in Magic Kingdom and Akershaus in Epcot are not offering food at this time.  At resorts, not all food options are open or have full hours.  Keep this in mind when planning food as guests might need to plan a little more than normal to make sure they aren’t caught hungry at the end of the night.

13. Rope Dropping Might Not Be Best

If guests have previously been to Disney or listened, read or watched planning videos they will know that rope drop is what is always advised.  This doesn’t seem to be the case anymore.  From what is being seen, park opening seems to be the most crowded at the parks and especially in the Magic Kingdom the hardest time for transportation.  It seems like if guests wait to head to the park 30 to 60 minutes after park opening, they can eliminate some of the crowds at the entrance of the parks but still take advantage of low crowds.  Also, evenings seem to bring lower crowds lately as well.  With no park hoppers and shorter hours, guests seem to be heading out in the late afternoons and not returning, giving lower crowds as the parks get closer to closing.

14. Transportation Can Take Longer 

As Disney strives to keep cast members and guests safe, Disney is socially distancing their modes of transportation.  This means that transportation can take longer as the days of packed buses, monorails and ferries are no longer a thing.  Instead we see limited families for each of these meaning that it can take longer to get onto transportation.  Be patient and know it is for the safety of everyone around.


15. Limited Entertainment

At the Disney parks there is limited entertainment throughout.  Although guests can find some live entertainment at the American Pavilion in Epcot, overall Disney has removed live entertainment.  These shows are known to gather crowds and Disney can’t ensure social distancing therefore they have removed them from the parks.  Keep an eye in the My Disney Experience app to see what pop up entertainment might be available.

16. Stationary While Eating/Drinking

Disney just recently announced that guests are now expected to be stationary when eating or drinking with their masks down.  Previously guests could move around the parks and eat and drink; however, this seems to be causing issues and confusion so Disney adjusted to the new policy.  If guests are wanting to eat and drink they are encouraged to step aside or find a rest area to sit.

17. Long lines Can Be Deceiving

Disney has implemented social distancing in all their queues.  Because of this, lines can seem extremely long.  Don’t be put off by this.  Typically, lines seem a lot longer than they actually are due to the social distancing requirements.  Check the wait times and ask cast members to double check but overall don’t be discouraged when you see long lines.

18. Pools are Available

As of right now, guests are able to use the Disney pools just like normal.  Games and entertainment seem to be provided at the main pools right now using social distancing methods to keep everyone safe.  It seems like guests are allowed on the pool deck without a mask, but make sure to talk to cast members for the most updated rules.

Riviera Pool

19. No MCO Baggage/Bellhop/Resort Check In

Right now, Disney is not providing luggage transportation through Magical Express.  Guests are being asked to retrieve their own luggage prior to boarding Magical Express.  Disney also has announced that bellhop can’t not bring bags to rooms unless guests are present.  Also, keep in mind that airline check in has been an on and off service right now.  Check at your resort to make sure this is available prior to your final day.

20. Things are Constantly Changing so be Patient 

Finally, things are constantly being adjusted and changed by Disney to keep cast members and guests safe.  Because of this, make sure to be checking the newest policy, talking to cast members and being patient.  This is something Disney and their cast members have never dealt with before so they are doing the best they can while changing in real time.  Give them some grace and understanding.

Even though there are many new changes in place from wearing masks and social distancing to limited hours and no evening shows, the Disney magic is still in full force for guests at all four parks and Disney Springs.  If you are headed down, pack your patience and masks and be ready for a great time.

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.