A Guide to COVID-19 Safety at the Walt Disney World Resort

This post is written by Lucy Hess, Outside the Lines Travel's Disney Consultant. If you are considering a trip to the happiest place on earth, enjoy this informative read! 

In October of 2020, my mom, sister, and I traveled to Walt Disney World to check out the safety measures that Disney has put in place during the COVID-19 pandemic. Safety is Disney’s number one priority, so there were lots of changes and precautions that we experienced on our trip. Here’s what we found!

Mask Policy

The first thing you should know about is the mask policy at Walt Disney World. They do not allow neck gaiters, masks with holes of any kind, bandanas, or costume masks. They have signage posted around the entire resort (theme parks, resort hotels, transportation hubs) that details the mask policies, and there are cast members around the parks that are ensuring guests’ safety and mask compliance. 

Masks are to be worn at all times unless eating or drinking while stationary and physically distanced. You are required to keep your mask on during all attractions as well. You are not permitted to take your mask off in line to eat or drink. We saw multiple cast members politely reminding guests to wear their face coverings properly over their mouth and nose. 

There are “Relaxation Stations” at every park. Here, you can take off your mask (while still remaining physically distanced!) and stay as long as you’d like. If you find that you need a break from wearing your mask for any reason, these stations are a safe place to do so.

Physical Distancing

All queues at Walt Disney World have been reworked to accommodate for at least 6 feet between parties in all directions. There are markers on the ground throughout every queue you can think of, even in the lines to buy a Mickey Bar! At restaurants, capacity has been drastically lowered and certain tables are not available for seating to ensure that you have a physically distant meal.

Indoor queues or queues with switchbacks have been outfitted with plexiglass barriers between each switchback to increase safety.

Ride and Transportation Safety

Following the reopening, Disney Transportation has seen a few updates for increased safety. Each Disney Transportation Bus has been outfitted with numbers on the seats. As you board your bus, a cast member will assign your party a number and you will then sit in the seats with the corresponding number. There are small barriers between each number set.

We actually had a bus to ourselves!

All modes of Disney Transportation also have decreased capacity. The Disney Skyliner is currently only seating one party per gondola (they normally hold 10 people), and the Disney Monorail has dividers in place between sections of seats. Guests on the monorail will be assigned a number (similarly to the buses) and then enter the corresponding cabin.

Disney has recently implemented plexiglass barriers on many of their ride vehicles. On rides like Kilimanjaro Safaris, Rise of the Resistance, and Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway, you will find plexiglass barriers in between rows, so you will be seated with other parties (separated by the plexiglass, of course!). Once every two hours, each attraction is halted and cleaned. These cleaning cycles last anywhere from 15-30 minutes, so if your line stops moving, it likely means that the vehicles are being sanitized for your safety.

Here is a lovely cast member on Pirates of the Caribbean beginning the cleaning cycle of the ride vehicle.

Mobile Ordering

To decrease waiting in queues and overpacking Quick Service locations around the parks, Disney is now strongly encouraging that guests mobile order any sort of Quick Service dining. The only exceptions here are if you have a dietary restriction or need for special assistance while ordering. Otherwise, be prepared to get very familiar with the My Disney Experience app and its mobile ordering feature. Guests can only enter the restaurant if they have proof of a confirmed mobile order that is ready for pick up. Once your order is ready, you’ll be sent inside to a specific numbered pick up window, and then you are free to sit at any available (adequately distanced) table and enjoy!

Temperature Checks and Security Screening

Before you enter a Walt Disney World Resort theme park, you are required to do two things: get your temperature checked, and go through a security screening. The temperature checks are conducted by friendly Advent Health employees and are located outside of where you enter the park.

Unlike Disney trips of the past, there is no bag check line anymore. To minimize cast members touching and going through guests’ bags, Disney has put a more hands-free security system in place. You walk through a metal detector with all of your belongings on your person (unless you are carrying something big and metal). It is nothing to stress about. In fact, it makes the park entrance process much quicker.

At any Disney Table Service restaurant, you will also have your temperature checked when you arrive for your reservation. For example, when we had brunch at Trattoria Al Forno, just as we walked in the door a cast member greeted us and took all of our temperatures. We chose to eat outside, which is a great option when in Florida in October!

Additional Safety Measures

At all of the theme parks, there is hand sanitizer available to you before and after all attractions and every 100 feet as well. There are hand washing stations all over the parks as well.

There are pre-recorded overhead announcements that play in the parks throughout the day that remind guests of the mask policy and the importance of physical distancing.

The Character Meet and Greets have seen some changes following the reopening as well. There are no face-to-face/one-on-one experiences available at the moment, but that doesn’t mean you won’t find characters! At non-scheduled times during the day, characters can be found on small stages or similar areas around the parks and are available for a physically distant selfie or photo. Here’s Stitch posing for guests in Tomorrowland!

There are also no parades or nighttime spectaculars available at this time in order to cut down on large gatherings. In place of the joy that parades and spectaculars bring, Disney has created Character Cavalcades that pop up during the day. Similar to the character appearances, these cavalcades aren’t scheduled. A few floats and lots of characters dance through the streets of each park (in Animal Kingdom they come by on boats!) and wave to guests. It’s like a mini parade!

Things are very different in the parks right now and that can be a bit jarring for some guests. The cast members are delightful and helpful, so don’t hesitate to ask one of them if you have a question. That brings me to my final point: PLEASE BE KIND TO THE CAST MEMBERS! Every day, they deal with guests who argue with them over rules they had no hand in creating, so just an extra wave and a sincere thank you goes a long way. Since we can’t see smiles right now, show that happiness in other ways. Lots of cast members have been placed into new roles since the reopening, so please be patient and kind; these changes are totally new to them as well.

Disney during a pandemic is different, but in my experience, the mask and new safety protocols don’t dull any of the fun or magic. I felt completely comfortable and safe on all of Disney property; more so than I do in my own hometown. They have worked hard to keep their guests safe and it really shows. Look at these resort hotel room guidelines from our room in Disney's Yacht Club!

Whenever a trip to Walt Disney World is right for you, use a travel professional’s help. Any of us at Outside the Lines Travel would be happy to assist you with all of your travel wants and needs!
-Blog contributor: Lucy Hess


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