My First Vacation Since COVID-19 (Perks, Pro tips, & More!)
Meet Tori - A proud Dream Builder, wife, and mother to one lovely little girl, who (finally) embarked on her first family trip to Magic Kingdom and Universal Orlando since the COVID-19 pandemic.
Despite the uncertainty that comes with traveling just about anywhere on the globe right now, Walt Disney World fans have been anxiously waiting to get back to their beloved theme parks. While policies have changed and new guidelines have been introduced, Tori knew that this trip would certainly be different, but still could be enjoyable! Here is her recap complete with pro tips to help you make the most of your next vacation!
Part 1 - Universal Orlando
Throughout the duration of the trip, we noticed low crowd levels which, for many guests, equates to more social distancing and ensures comfort for our clients. Upon entering on our first day, I paid close attention to the effective changes put into place that made our trip more pleasurable.
Pros for Traveling Now
Low crowd levels in the theme parks
Express pass gets you even closer to the front of the line now!
We saw them cleaning handrails and cleaning off the water tubes, and before you get onto every ride vehicle, they give you hand sanitizer. Hand Sanitizer is required before getting into a ride vehicle or show. That made me feel comfortable.
Social distancing means less sweaty bodies near you.
You can take a break from the mask at the designated U-rest areas around the parks.
All inside rides (most rides at Universal Orlando) have A/C; we stayed cool for the most part.
New policies at Ollivander’s Wand Shop guarantee that someone from your party will get picked to have their wand selected for them, just like Harry Potter!
We were able to ride Hagrid’s Magical Creature Motorbike Adventure coaster multiple times with the virtual line queue (must get through the Universal app)
Short lines at the waterpark, even in July!!
You can take masks off for pictures and still take photos with select characters with social distancing.
It was so fun to be out and doing things we loved!
Although there are many changes, we know the new guidelines are in place to keep us safe which is in the best interest for us and other families!
Cons for Traveling Now
Low ride vehicle capacity = Longer loading time
To be honest, the masks do get old by day 3, but it is a small price to pay to be doing something we love!
When you get off the rides, it can be crowded. Be mindful to let others go ahead of you to make sure you are maintaining that 6 ft required distance.
Some restaurants and bars, entertainment, parades, and other character experiences are closed.
It can be hard to get into shows due to lower capacity. Give yourselves plenty of time to get in line for any show that is on your “must do” list.
Virtual line passes for Hagrid’s Motorbike coaster are easy to get but also tricky. Depending on the time of day, it may say “no times available.” Check back often, more times will appear throughout the day. We rode 3 times but could have ridden it many more times!
Mobile food ordering was also efficient. It was better than having to order at the counter and was highly organized! The one downside - low capacity in restaurants. We ended up getting caught in the rain waiting for a table.
Overall, the process of reserving before entering, whether it was a ride or restaurant, made us feel safe and secure. While employees constantly reminded people to keep their masks on their faces properly, we enjoyed every activity just as normal.
Check appropriate websites for policy updates & restaurant closures.
You need to make an in-person reservation for the wand experience at Ollivander’s. They will ask you who wants to be chosen ahead time for the full Harry Potter experience.
Get free cups of water at any counter service or snack stand to save a lot of money. ($5.50 for a bottle of water)
Pay attention to social distancing markers throughout the park.
Bring your own hand sanitizer or wipes too. I did not like the smell of theirs. Also, wash hands often to remove build up.
Keep checking virtual line app for open rides. They load more times throughout the day.
Wear mask as close to your eyes as possible to prevent fogging while wearing 3D goggles.
Bring multiple masks to change, wash, and alternate.
Wear flip flops/water shoes around the waterpark. The ground gets extremely hot!
Lanyards and fanny packs are the best way to avoid using lockers!! Lines for lockers were very long. Also, lanyards make express passes so easy to use!
Be aware that valet parking is not available right now at resorts.
In the end, we did not feel that the limitations were annoying. As a matter of fact, all the lines we waited in had distancing markers that were 6 to 12 feet apart. It was hot but not too overwhelming, and to have that extra space between people was a plus. It was nice to not be so close to other people in line like it has been in the past. The biggest perk for us right now was what felt like VIP access to Hogwarts Express and Ollivander’s. We had our own cabin on the Hogwart’s Express and our own room for the Ollivander wand experience. We loved that my daughter was guaranteed to be selected to have her wand “choose her” at Ollivander’s! Watching her enjoy that, especially since it was just the three of us together in the room, created such a special experience that we will never forget!
We loved that my daughter was guaranteed to be selected to have her wand “choose her” at Ollivander’s! Watching her enjoy that, especially since it was just the three of us together in the room, created such a special experience that we will never forget!
Part 2 - Magic Kingdom
Tori had another wonderful day visiting one of her all-time favorite theme parks: Magic Kingdom. Despite the sweltering heat and humidity, the decrease in crowd levels made the experience bearable, especially while waiting in line to get on rides. Since wait times were shorter, Tori and the girls were able to do most of the rides they wanted without feeling rushed. They waited anywhere from 5 to 30 minutes, mainly due to vehicle ride cleaning. Tori was more than happy to wait if it were for sitting in a freshly sanitized ride cart! Here is her recap of Magic Kingdom!
We loved the character cavalcades and other character interactions they had all around Magic Kingdom. The floats for the character cavalcades came out every 15-30 minutes. We were able to catch them all at random times throughout the day. We liked watching one at a time since it was so hot and standing out in the sun for more than a few minutes in one place is tough. Also, we were able to catch a few other random characters around the park. Chip n’ Dale were our favorite on a Tom Sawyer raft. They were so cute in their outfits!
Most of our encounters went smoothly. It was especially nice to see those familiar faces that we have grown to love throughout the years.
When you plan your visit to Magic Kingdom, or any theme park for that matter, there are things to keep in mind before entering. Some of the new measures made our lives easier and a lot less stressful; some made the experience more difficult. But like any other vacation destination that can attract large crowds, safety comes first!
Now is a great time to get family photos around the parks with iconic attractions. There were hardly any people in the background of our castle pictures! Although we do have to wear masks in the photos, we didn’t mind since it will be a day we will never forget.
Wait times and lines for rides are a lot shorter. We walked onto almost every ride and never waited more than 15 minutes. We did see some wait times get up to 30 minutes. Still not bad!!!
Mobile ordering makes for a more efficient meal pick up.
Low crowd levels in front of the castle - prevented overcrowding and gave us space for great photos!
The masks can be tough to wear for a long period of time.
Snacking and drinking while walking are no longer allowed in Disney parks.
We dearly missed all the character dining or meet and greets, fireworks, parades, and extra magic hours that we use to experience at the parks.
Unavoidable crowds/crowding. We noticed first thing in the morning that there was not much social distancing getting off the ferry boat and into Magic Kingdom. This happened a few times with rides or shows (ex: exiting Mickey’s Philharmagic).
Not enough time in the day. There were rides we wanted to do two or more times but felt a little time crunched. Magic Kingdom has more rides than the other parks, so it is definitely worth going back another day if you can.
Mobile ordering. This may be tougher for those who are no tech savvy, but cast members are there to help you.
Now that you know the details, here is a list of tips so you can know before you go!
Take advantage of the “relaxation stations” around the parks. You can cool off in the A/C, at some of the locations, and take off your mask. These are great locations to take a break from the heat and masks!
Make a dining reservation in the park to take a break from the masks and heat. You can make reservations 60 days prior and reservations are more limited now, with low capacity, make your reservations ASAP!
Bring multiple masks! You will want to change them throughout the day. (They get sweaty and you will want to change them out every few hours.)
Bring your own sanitizer wipes. They are great to wipe down phones or tables for extra sanitization.
If you love to go to the parks for the rides, now is a great time to go! The low wait times and crowds really do make up for the lack of experiences around the park.
If you want to avoid unwanted crowding near rides, hang back to let others off a ride or out of a show where social distancing is a bit harder to control. (We just let others in front of us until we felt it safe to move forward with lots of space around us.)
If you are planning to be in Walt Disney World for a week, with a minimum of 5 days in the parks, then I would highly recommend going to Magic Kingdom twice. This is the park with the most rides, and you will want to go back!
You have to mobile order or use your app on the menu at all restaurants. There are cast members there to help with mobile ordering and to help navigate where to go once you do mobile order.
All in all, we had a great time! We felt Universal Orlando and Walt Disney World did a great job with keeping everyone safe, healthy, and clean! Although there was an adjustment period to get used to wearing masks and abiding by the new guidelines, getting out and having fun was worth taking all the precautions! We will definitely be back soon!