Disney World is reopening — Here’s what we know

May 28, 2020

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Editor’s note: This is a recurring post, regularly updated with new information. At TPG, we paused travelling to help slow the spread of COVID-19. Local and national governments around the globe are now debating the appropriate levels of isolation and distancing. Before booking that next trip, we recommend you talk to your doctor, follow health officials’ guidance and research local travel restrictions. TPG is continuing to publish deals, reviews and general travel news to inform and prepare you for that trip, whether it is next month or next year.

In mid-March, both Disney World and Disneyland closed their gates to guests because of growing coronavirus concerns. From the U.S. to Europe to Asia, all Disney parks around the world were indefinitely shuttered.

But now, on the heels of Shanghai Disneyland reopening on 11 May, and after 118 days of closure, the Walt Disney World Resort in Florida has announced a planned, phased reopening date of 11 July.

Disney World has presented a detailed reopening plan to the Orange County Reopening Task Force that outlines not only when it plans to reopen, pending necessary state and local approvals, but also how things will operate when it does again unlock the gates.

Disney, and likely all the major theme parks, will look very different in a socially distanced world when they reopen.

Here’s a look at when guests may again walk down Main Street U.S.A.

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Disney World targeting phased 11 July reopening

Walt Disney World has submitted a plan to reopen the Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom on Saturday, 11 July, with Epcot and Hollywood Studios to follow with a Wednesday, 15 July reopening.

In the task force meeting, Senior Vice President of Walt Disney World, Jim McPhee, elaborated that there would also be some soft-opening tactics utilized in the days leading up to the official openings for cast member previews and other select audiences.

Advance reservations required

Just like at the reopened Disney park in Shanghai, guests wishing to visit Walt Disney World will need to make a reservation before heading to the park. There will be capped attendance at the parks and within the individual restaurants and attractions, though exact numbers and details on the reservation system were not yet available. For reference, Disneyland Shanghai reopened with less than 30% of regular capacity.

(Photo by Hu Chengwei/Getty Images)
Disneyland Shanghai (Photo by Hu Chengwei/Getty Images)

No shows, no parades, no character meet-and-greets

Certain types of traditional Disney offerings that generally draw large crowds, or are considered high touchpoints, won’t be available when the magic restarts in mid-July. For example, Disney has said not to expect parades or the traditional fireworks displays to happen anytime soon, as those are intrinsically tied to theme park visitors congregating in a small portion of the theme park.

(Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)
(Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)

Character meet-and-greets will also be suspended when the park reopens, so prepare your kiddos that they won’t be getting a close-up with Mickey and friends anytime soon.

Temp checks and masks are required

Not only will there be a touchless temperature check required to enter the park, but face masks will be required for guests (and cast members) ages three and up. This isn’t just a suggestion, this is a rule. And yes, July in Orlando is hot even without a mask. Disney will have what they call “relaxation zones” where you will be able to temporarily remove your face mask, but start shopping for a mask you think could stand up to the Orlando heat if Disney is back on your summer travel agenda. (I expect a surge in the sale of neck fans.)

In terms of temperature requirements, anyone displaying a temperature of 100.4 or higher will not be allowed to enter.

Disney will also have a social distance squad that will work to help encourage and implement the new safety and distancing regulations for the parks, just as they are already doing in Disney Springs.

(Photo by Hu Chengwei/Getty Images)
(Photo by Hu Chengwei/Getty Images)

Contactless payments

When it reopens, not only will Disney reopen with an increased reliance on its touchless Magic Bands and online resort check-in, but it will further lean into other forms of contactless payments to encourage as much of a cash-free environment as possible.

Mobile food ordering was already in place at counter-service restaurants at Walt Disney World, but expect to see an expansion in reliance on this way of ordering and paying for food with minimal contact and human interaction.

Charge everything to your magic band (Photo by Melissa Ann Photography)
Charge everything to your magic band (Photo by Melissa Ann Photography)

It won’t all reopen at once

It’s now clear that Disney parks around the world won’t all reopen at once — just as they didn’t all close at once. Even within the U.S., California and Florida are just … different. Although the closure dates for Disneyland and Disney World were just a couple of days apart, the states’ governors are now approaching the pandemic in their own ways.

While we now have a planned reopening date for Disney World, Disneyland may well have its own unique reopening timeline. In fact, to date, while the park in Shanghai has reopened, we don’t yet have reopening dates for the other parks in Asia, such as those in Hong Kong and Tokyo. There is no announced reopening date for Disneyland Paris.

(Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)

In terms of hotels, the official Disney Parks Blog reports that the Disney Vacation Club resorts and Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground will reopen at Walt Disney World to members and guests beginning 22 June.

Bottom line

There’s no denying that theme parks are going to present many challenges for safe operation in a socially distanced world. It doesn’t matter if gatherings are slowly reopened to 10 people, 50 people, 200 people or more, theme parks bring together thousands and thousands of people with multiple shared touchpoints. From restaurants to shows, hotels, lines, rides, transportation needs and more, modifying a place like Disney World in a way that it can safely reopen will be an unparalleled challenge. But, it’s an unparalleled challenge that Disney is ready to tackle beginning on 11 July.

Featured image by Summer Hull/The Points Guy

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