Many changes are in store for the Disney World 2020 reopening so planning your Disney World trip looks a lot different now! Initially, not all attractions and restaurants will be open. A new Disney Park Pass system is in place to limit park capacity. Your Disney World trip planning timeline has drastically changed!
What modifications should you make to your Disney World trip planning in 2020 and 2021?
What Disney World changes after COVID can you expect?
This post is all about the big changes that will affect your plans and what you need to know well before arriving in Orlando.
Of course, there are going to be lots of changes. Little things like cast members serving at the previously self-serve beverage centers are not included here. A change like that isn’t going to affect your trip planning. These are the big changes that will affect your daily park experiences and planning strategy.
Remember that these 2020 Disney World reopening plans are constantly changing and the reopening situation is very fluid. We currently do not know how long most of these changes will be active and if any are permanent. When planning a 2020 or 2021 Disney World trip, plan on being flexible!
1. You must make Disney World park reservations
Perhaps the biggest change is the new Disney Park Pass system. You must have a park reservation for each day you intend to enter one of the four Disney World theme parks.
You can no longer show up to a Disney World park ticket counter and purchase park tickets for that same day. Gone are the days when you can wait until the morning to decide which park to visit that day or to change your plans at the last minute.
While Disney is allowing park hopper tickets to be purchased for 2021 arrivals, park hopping (visiting more than one park in the same day) will not be initially allowed. You can only visit one park per day and that park reservation must be made online in advance using the Disney Park Pass system. There is no official word on when park hopping will resume.
2. The parks won’t be open as long
All four Disney World theme parks now have reduced operating hours. Pre-COVID, the parks typically opened at 9:00 AM and closed in the evening at 8:00 PM or later.
The parks now all have 10-hour operating days with staggered openings through October 31, 2020:
- Magic Kingdom / 9:00 AM – 7:00 PM
- Epcot / 11:00 AM – 9:00 PM
- Hollywood Studios / 10:00 AM – 8:00 PM
- Animal Kingdom / 8:00 AM – 6:00 PM
Epcot opens the latest in the morning, so have breakfast plans outside of the parks on your Epcot day. Breakfast options would include your hotel’s restaurants, reservations at another Disney resort hotel, or ordering grocery delivery for your trip and eating breakfast in your room. While several Disney Springs restaurants offer brunch on weekends, your breakfast options there are next to nothing.
Animal Kingdom closes earliest in the evening. Either plan on an early dinner before leaving, or enjoy dinner elsewhere after the park closes for the day. Your Animal Kingdom days would be ideal for those Disney Springs dinner reservations or choose restaurants at other Disney resort hotels.
Obviously, food is the first thing I thought of when seeing these shortened, staggered park operating days! lol
3. No Extra Magic Hours
Extra Magic Hours, the extra hour or two each day when one Disney World theme park would be open only to Disney resort guests, have been cancelled for the moment.
The Extra Magic Hours not only provided additional park time for some, but also made planning your park days easier by either choosing to visit the park with Extra Magic Hours or avoiding that park if you weren’t going to take advantage of that extra park time or weren’t staying at a Disney hotel. Now, there are few reasons to choose a particular day to visit a park so planning your park days is really just a matter of preference and Disney Park Pass availability.
4. No fireworks, no parade, and other live-action entertainment cuts
Expect live entertainment and any event that draws large crowds to be closed. This includes Magic Kingdom’s Festival of Fantasy afternoon parade, all nighttime fireworks spectaculars, and most live action shows.
Disney is supplementing these cancelations with new character cavalcades which are essential mini-parades. Several different cavalcades will take place in each park every day.
Popular shows that won’t be open include Festival of the Lion King and Finding Nemo – The Musical at Animal Kingdom, Enchanted Tales with Belle and Monsters Inc. Laugh Floor at Magic Kingdom, and the new Beauty and the Beast Singalong at Epcot. Hollywood Studios has the most show closures with Beauty and the Beast Live on Stage, Disney Junior Live on Stage, the Frozen Singalong, Indiana Jones Stunt Spectacular, and Voyage of the Little Mermaid all closed during the initial opening period.
That said, nearly every ride will be open with the exception of a few rides like Primeval Whirl at Animal Kingdom which already ran only seasonally pre-pandemic. If rides are your family’s priority, this initial opening period could be an excellent time to visit Disney World and you’ll probably be the least disappointed group of guests!
All closed attractions are marked on my One Page Guides to Disney World Attractions. Download these simple worksheets for attraction operating status and more helpful information including indoor/outdoor configuration for rides and queues if you want to avoid indoor spaces as much as possible.
5. No More FastPass+
Forget everything you may have already learned about FastPass+! It’s not enabled and there is no confirmation when it will be returning.
6. Character meetings will be modified
Characters won’t be individually greeting, but they will be in the Disney World parks. Don’t expect to fill your autograph book with custom autographs or get a hug from Mickey Mouse. The characters will be around, but may be a little further away due to social distancing guidelines.
7. Transportation may be slow or unavailable
Before Disney World opens, only Disney buses are running between resort hotels and Disney Springs. The monorail, boats, and Skyliner are not available. Minnie Vans, Disney’s premium Lyft service, are also grounded.
There’s no official word on which transportation methods will be available once the parks reopen. Buses are definite and the Skyliner has resumed testing so it appears to be getting ready for occupants. When planning your days, know the transportation available and do not expect all forms to be running.
Physical distancing is being enforced on Disney buses which greatly limits capacity. Additional time is also necessary for cleaning between each route which adds more time to each stop. Consider driving your own car or renting a vehicle to be fully in control of your transportation around Disney World.
8. You must wear a mask and other health measures
Face coverings are required for all guests ages 2 and up on Disney World property. They must fully cover your nose and mouth, and fit snugly against the side of the face, secured with ties or ear loops. These face covers must be worn at all times when not swimming or dining.
To prepare for all-day face mask-wearing, practice at home with the kiddos to get them used to wearing a face mask for an extended period of time. And bring extra masks – more than one per person per day. Masks will get wet from rain and rides, and Florida humidity can be brutal year-round so you may want to change masks at least once per day.
You’ll be able to remove your face mask when seated at a restaurant and while swimming, so be sure to bring bags to hold your mask when you take it off.
Be prepared for touchless temperature screenings when entering the theme parks and Disney Springs. Those registering a temperature of 100.4 F or above will be denied entry along with their entire party. Consider bringing a thermometer to check yourself and your entire party before leaving for the day to avoid any surprise and disappointment at the park entry gate.
Disney will be wiping down surfaces all day long, but having wipes with you is certainly a good idea. Bring your own sanitizing wipes and hand sanitizer so you’re prepared in all places.
9. Not all Disney Resort Hotels are Reopening … Yet
Several Disney World resort hotels are not immediately reopening. Most Disney Vacation Club (DVC) resorts are already open, the exception being Animal Kingdom Villas – Jambo House.
Here are the reopening date for Disney resort hotels:
- July 10: Pop Century, Contemporary Resort
- July 29: Caribbean Beach Resort
- August 12: Polynesian Village Resort, Art of Animation Resort
- August 24: Yacht & Beach Club Resorts
- September 21: Grand Floridian Resort
- October 1: BoardWalk Resort
- October 14: Coronado Springs Resort
- TBA: Wilderness Lodge, Port Orleans French Quarter and Riverside, Animal Kingdom Lodge, All-Star Resorts
Note that several resorts still do not have reopening dates. Even when booking 2021 ticket packages, the TBA resorts are not available.
Visit Disney Resort Hotels: Know Before You Go for the latest official Disney resort hotel information.
10. Don’t expect to Hotel-Hop
Currently can only go to a Disney World resort hotel if you are an overnight guest or have a dining reservation. You cannot eat in a quick service restaurant at a resort you’re not staying at. If you enjoy simply visiting other hotels and enjoying the atmosphere, plan on getting a dining reservation to ensure entry.
11. No more Disney Dining Plan
All your dining expenses must be paid out of pocket now. Disney has not yet announced when the Disney Dining Plan will be returning.
12. Table Service Dining Reservations are Required
While you may have been able to show up to a Disney World restaurant and get a table without a reservation in the past, reservations at table service restaurants are required now. Walkups are no longer allowed.
Dining reservations can now be made beginning just 60 days in advance, far less time than the previous 180-day booking window. Dining reservations can currently be made at Disney Springs restaurants. Disney hotel and theme park restaurant reservations are not yet available except to guests who had active dining reservations on or before September 2, 2020 that were cancelled due to Disney World’s closure.
13. Limited character dining and other restaurant closures
Character dining is all unavailable with two exceptions – modified, socially-distanced character experiences at Topolino’s Terrace in Disney’s Riviera Resort and Epcot’s Garden Grill. Several character dining restaurants are opening without characters while most have not announced reopening dates yet.
Many other locations from all table service restaurants in Japan at Epcot to quick service Columbia Harbour House and Gaston’s Tavern in the Magic Kingdom are not initially reopening.
Restaurant status is updated on my Simple Disney World Restaurant List.
14. Hotel Dining is for Disney Resort Hotel Guests Only
Disney is currently requiring a valid Disney resort hotel reservation in order to make dining reservations at any resort restaurant.
15. Use your smart phone to access mobile menus and mobile ordering
Make sure your phone is charged at all times and bring a charger, because you’ll be relying on your smart phone now more than ever during your Disney World trip!
At table service restaurants, you’ll scan a QR code to check in instead of visiting the host stand. Once you’re seated at your table, you’ll need to use the QR code scanner on your phone again to view the menu. Some restaurants may offer paper menus, but expect to skim dining menus on your phone.
In other words, make sure you know how to scan QR codes with your phone! They can be scanned using the Camera app on an iPhone.
Plan on using mobile ordering at quick service restaurants via the My Disney Experience mobile app. While mobile ordering was available and recommended prior to the Coronavirus closure to avoid waiting in line, it’s being highly recommended by Disney now.
16. Restaurant Menus will be Scaled Back
Dining menus may be limited and possibly completely different. Check the menus at any time using the My Disney Experience app.
One example of a significant difference is Be Our Guest Restaurant no longer offering quick service breakfast and lunch. Only the prix fixe menu service will instead be offered, both at lunch and dinner.
Many buffets are changing to family-style service and some character dining locations are opening without characters.
17. Use Cashless or Contactless Payments
Disney is highly recommending the use of cashless or contactless forms of payment at restaurants and shops. Plan on using your credit card-linked MagicBand or mobile payments on your phone for all purchases.
18. PhotoPass Photographers Cannot Use Your Phone
PhotoPass Photographers will be out in the parks, but if you relied on them using your phone or camera to take photos in the past, that is no longer allowed. Photographers cannot handle guests’ devices. Likewise, if you often offered “photo for photo” with other families in the parks, this would be discouraged as well.
19. Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique and other experiences closed
Numerous tours, Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party, dining events, and special events are closed.
If you’re expecting to do anything extra that previously required additional payment, check Disney’s Enchanting Extra’s Collection: Know Before You Go page to make sure it’s available.
20. Many Shops are Closed
Expect many stores in the parks to be closed. This includes well over half of the small shops in Epcot’s World Showcase. Expect many closed doors if browsing the unique World Showcase shops is a favorite part of your Epcot experience.
You can check shops that will be open by park on Disney’s Parks and Tickets: Know Before You Go page.
21. New Planning Timeline
Many of these changes mean the general Disney World trip planning timeline has changed. Now that Advance Dining Reservations can only be made 60 days in advance compared to the previous 180, the timeline is much more condensed. Of course, planning as early as possible to secure those hotel rooms and park reservations is ideal, but you don’t need to be thinking 6 months in advance to get elusive dining reservations like Cinderella’s Royal Table anymore.
Without FastPass+, that attraction planning step disappears, too. No longer do you need to log into My Disney Experience 60 days before your trip (if you’re staying at a Disney resort hotel) or 30 days out (if you’re not) to get those standby queue-skipping FastPasses.
Hotel and ticket packages for 2021 through September 26, 2021 are currently open, so you can make you trip reservations at any time. Then, your next task is simply to make dining reservations just 60 days before the first day of your trip.
Are you planning a 2020 Disney World trip during this initial reopening period? Leave a comment below!