This is a letter, we are share with our existing clients already booked at Walt Disney World, and thought only fair to post to our readers.
We understand that these are not our rules and regulations, and are created to make sure everyone stays safe and healthy, during our new “Normal”. Cheryl and Nelson Echevarria
Everything We Know So Far About Walt Disney World’s Re-Opening
I hope you’re staying safe and healthy!
As you’ve probably heard by now, Walt Disney World has announced that they will be doing a phased re-opening of the theme parks beginning on July 11, 2020. Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom will open on that day, with Hollywood Studios and Epcot opening on July 15. Now, that being said, even once they open it will not be “business as usual” for quite some time. Yesterday evening, Walt Disney World released some new protocols and operating practices that will affect the theme park experience for the foreseeable future.
There’s nothing you need to do at this time, but I do want to make sure you’re aware of these changes so you know what your trip may look like for later in the year. While Disney is doing everything they can to bring back the magic as quickly and safely as possible, the last thing I want is for you to be in Walt Disney World and it not be the magical vacation you have in mind. Therefore, I want to lay out as clearly as I can what the trips for the remainder of the year may look like. We’re learning more information every day as soon as it’s being released to the public, and I’ll be contacting you soon with more details, but here’s a rundown what we know so far.
**It’s important to note that all of this can be changed at any time. As I’m sure you’ve heard thousands of times from hundreds of companies, “this is a very fluid situation” and things keep changing from day to day.**
For now, Walt Disney World is not taking any new resort reservations. They are currently focusing on existing resort reservations, but modifications (moving to new dates, moving resorts, etc) are also currently unavailable even for existing reservations. I’m unsure when these will open back up again, but if you do wish to modify your dates or any other aspects of your trip, please let me know. Since Wednesday, May 27 at 1:00PM EST, the Walt Disney World booking engines have been completely shut down.
No New Park Ticket Sales
On top of pausing new resort reservations, Disney is also temporarily pausing new ticket sales so they focus on guests with existing tickets and reservations.
Theme Park Reservation System – Need Reservations to Enter the Parks
Walt Disney World will be introducing a new Theme Park reservation system. I’ll send you details on this new system once I learn more. Basically, existing ticket holders and Annual Passholders will need to make a theme park reservation before they can enter the parks. That means that in addition to valid theme park tickets, you will also need a reservation to enter a certain theme park on a certain day. Theme park reservations will be limited due to attendance limitations and will be subject to availability.
Disney’s FastPass+ is Suspended
Until further notice, Walt Disney World will not be offering their FastPass+ system. They plan to use additional queue space to manage capacity at their attractions and maintain physical distancing. *Any FastPasses we’ve already booked for your trip will automatically be cancelled.* I will share future updates on the service at a later date.
Extra Magic Hours are Suspended
For the time being, there will be no Extra Magic Hours offered for any of the parks.
Shorter Park Hours Through October
Theme park hours have been reduced from what they generally are during this time of year. For July, August, September, and October 2020, park hours seem generally follow this pattern:
* Magic Kingdom – 9 am to 7 pm
* Animal Kingdom – 8 am to 6 pm
* Epcot – 11 am to 9 pm
* Hollywood Studios – 10 am to 8 pm
Normally, during peak travel periods like this, parks will open earlier – around 8:00AM – 9:00AM, and stay open later, anywhere from 9:00PM – 11:00PM or sometimes even later with Extra Magic Hours.
No Parades, No Meet & Greets, No Nighttime Shows, Limited Rides
Until further notice, Disney will not be offering parades, character meet & greets, or nighttime spectaculars and fireworks shows. Anything that tends to draw a crowd will not be operating for the time being.
Masks Must Be Worn, Temperatures Will Be Taken, & Other Health & Safety Protocols
In the parks, Walt Disney World will be requiring guests and Cast Members to wear masks & they will be doing temperature screenings prior to admitting guests to the parks. On top of encouraging physical distancing, they will be enacting enhanced cleaning & sanitation procedures, and will do what they can to have a reduction of contact between Cast Members and guests (including encouraging Mobile Ordering, contactless payments, etc.)
All Existing Dining Reservations Have Been Cancelled
Yes, you read that correctly. As a result of limited capacity, Disney has made the difficult decision to cancel all existing dining reservations and experience bookings. Since we can book dining reservations 180 days in advance, that means that as of today, dining reservations have been made for arrivals through November 25, 2020 – nearly the rest of the year. They will reopen dining and experience bookings with more limited numbers closer to when the parks reopen.
Dining Booked at 60 Days in Advance
Generally we book dining reservations for Walt Disney World 180 days in advance. Moving forward, for the foreseeable future, we will be booking dining reservations 60 days in advance – normally the time when we book FastPasses. However, since Disney’s FastPass+ system is currently not being used, we won’t be making FastPasses on that date. I will contact you in the future on the process of re-booking dining and other experiences.
All Dining Plans Removed From Packages
For the foreseeable future, Walt Disney World will not be offering any dining plans. Guests who purchased a Disney Dining Plan with their package will receive an automatic cancellation and refund of their Disney Dining Plan. Some estimates have this new practice going through 2021, others think it will only be through the end of 2020. As of right now, anyone with a trip in 2020 will have their dining plan removed.
Guests who booked resort hotel reservations with a Free Dining package will receive an automatic cancellation of their Disney Pining Plan. These guests will be able to rebook their vacation for a later date with a 35% room discount instead.
Restaurants Will Have Less Capacity
Estimates range from 30% capacity to 70% capacity, but one thing is for certain – they will definitely have less tables available than what they used to have.
So what does this all mean? For starters, the Walt Disney World experience we’ve known for the past several years is not going to be what we find when the parks reopen, and we likely won’t find that experience again for some time. If you’re someone like me who travels to Walt Disney World a few times a year, it will not be as much of a burden. I’m not as concerned if I don’t get to ride Seven Dwarfs Mine Train or eat at Cinderella’s Royal Table, because I’ve done it before and I will do it again in the future. However, if this is your first visit to Walt Disney World, or visiting Walt Disney World is something you only get the chance to do every 5-10 years, then it may be better to wait until next year to visit. If you fall into this category, I don’t want you to visit Walt Disney World in this style, spend the money, and not have a true Walt Disney World experience. With no parades, no nighttime spectaculars, having to wear masks, limited park hours and perhaps limited rides and attractions opening, I fear you would only be getting part of the Walt Disney World experience, and as I obviously love Walt Disney World, I wouldn’t want this for you.
What’s the upside? I do think there are some upsides and benefits to all of this. First of all, over the last several years we’ve seen Walt Disney World vacations become more and more planned out, further and further in the future. If you’re not up at 6:00AM EST, 180 days in advance of your arrival date, chances are you might not get that coveted reservation at Be Our Guest! We have needed to plan out our days six months in advance, including knowing which park you want to be in and where you want to eat six months down the road. For some (including me, as someone “in the know, and you, as someone who knows someone “in the know!” Hah!), this is no problem, and can even be preferable! However, it has removed some of the spontaneity from a Walt Disney World vacation. With these operational updates, Walt Disney World will be operating closer to how Disneyland operates – where dining can be booked 60 days in advance, but you don’t get your FastPass+ or MaxPass reservations until you’re in the parks. There is some fun in not knowing exactly what you’ll do that day on your vacation!
Further, with less people around, that means less crowds, which means less waiting, which means less of a need for dining reservations and FastPasses. If you choose to keep your reservation as-is, this could be a wonderful way to see Walt Disney World with a lot fewer people than we’re used to seeing even in the “off-season” (which, doesn’t really exist anymore).
So what should you do? This is one of those decisions you will need to make for yourself. If you decide to keep your reservation, you could be in for a great treat, seeing Walt Disney World with less crowds, and potentially less wait times. If you decide to cancel, for most reservations, Walt Disney World will give you a full refund, and we can always look at going next year – which will actually be the 50th anniversary of Walt Disney World! Of course, this will vary case by case, and you can contact me to go over the specifics of your reservation.
Just know that no matter what, I will be here for you, helping you every step of the way in any capacity I can. I so appreciate your support, patience, and understanding during this time. Over the next few weeks we will learn more about what Walt Disney World will look like upon reopening, and I’ll be here to help guide you through your upcoming vacation.
As always, please let me know if you have any questions and I’ll talk to you soon!
For the Most Up-To-Date Information, See Walt Disney World’s Website Here: https://disneyworld.disney.go.com/experience-updates/?CMP=ILC-DPFY20Q3wo0528200008A