I think we can all agree that COVID-19 and all that goes with it has put a major damper on the last year of our lives inside of the theme parks and out. While we were all so thankful when Walt Disney World reopened last summer, it was slightly bittersweet to have to adjust to so many changes that were implemented since the closure. Many of those changes were necessary for the safety of the guests, but a lot of them, like no nighttime entertainment or character meet and greets, left many Disney fans praying for the days when things can return to “normal.”
Although it may feel like the parks only have the “bare necessities” right now, I actually have a list of things I hope DON’T go back to normal after COVID. I have managed to find five things about Social Distanced Disney that I enjoy and don’t want to change! Let’s see if you agree.
1. Character Cavalcades/Pop Up Meet and Greets
I’ll admit, I am counting down the days until I can give my favorite characters warm hugs and take photos that aren’t socially distanced selfies. However, I love that Disney still gave us the chance to see and interact with our favorite characters in a safe way with the character cavalcades and pop-up meet and greets. Walt Disney World rarely had the option to have “wandering characters” like Disneyland so this has that feel to me and I love it. It’s more of a pleasant and magical surprise instead of staking your spot on the sidewalk of Main Street, USA an hour in advance for a scheduled 3:00 parade. My favorite cavalcades are the floating characters at Disney’s Animal Kingdom and I truly would love to see those stay after COVID. Some of my favorite moments on recent trips have been spent in the outside area of Nomad Lounge watching the boats float by with my favorite friends on board.
2. Single Party Occupancy inside the Skyliner
Social distancing requirements have obviously had a major impact on transportation at Walt Disney World. The days of buses and monorails packed full with guests are no more and that can mean travel to and from the parks can take twice as long. I honestly don’t mind not being packed into Disney transportation like sardines and my new favorite result of social distancing on transportation is the single party occupancy aboard Disney’s Skyliner! I absolutely LOVE not having to share a Skyliner with another party. You get an entire gondola all to yourself and don’t have to deal with awkward silence or feeling like you’re eavesdropping on someone else’s conversation for the entire ride. Does this mean lines are longer? Yes, but honestly I’ll take it so I can have my very own gondola and enjoy the extra peace and quiet on my journey high in the sky!
3. Quick Service “Mandate” of Mobile Ordering
This item on my list might be slightly controversial. I know there are plenty of people who don’t love Disney’s request that guests utilize mobile ordering at quick service locations. I completely understand the downsides of mobile ordering. Disney technology is notoriously prone to glitches and it feels like it takes away the option to use cash to purchase any food or beverages at those locations that use mobile ordering, but you can request to use cash and order inside if you speak to a cast member. However, I think the positives far outweigh the negatives. I love that I don’t have to wait in a long line surrounded by hangry guests to order my food. I love that I can order my food while I’m waiting in line for an attraction and notify them when I’m ready to pick it up and save even more time. I especially love that they’ve added an option to pay with Disney gift cards on the mobile ordering site, so I can use my most common form of currency on my Disney trips. The time saving and crowd avoidance factors are just way too convenient for me not to want this to remain after COVID protocols are gone.
4. Ease of Security Lines
In all honesty, this should be number one on my list but that just didn’t seem as magical! ;) If you were like me, bag check and security lines were a dreaded aspect of entering a Disney theme park that had to have been invented by villains in training. Long lines, cranky guests, and technical malfunctions were just a few of the dreaded things waiting for you at security before you were able to enter your “happy place.” I almost always got behind the family that had a million bags and were never prepared to have them checked no matter how long we had been standing in line for…BAG CHECK! It would make me crazy and put me in a mood that was not fit for a princess. The new contactless bag check system is one of the few things to come out of COVID that I am very thankful for. How amazing is it to breeze right through bag check without having to stop or open your purse? It definitely puts the princess in a better mood before she sees her favorite castle!
5. Less Focus on Planning Every Detail/Extended Planning Timelines
As a Disney Vacation Planner, what I’m about to say may be seen as blasphemy, but I kind of love how Disney trips during COVID have less of a focus on planning every minute of your day. Without Fast Passes, guests are freed up from meeting those three pre-planned attraction deadlines throughout the park day. Dining is now available to book 60 days out instead of 180 days, so you have a more current timeline in planning your reservations. Also, many guests do not enjoy the shortened park hours that Disney is allowing during this time, but I can find a positive way to spin that as well! Yes, I love my park time and sometimes I get serious FOMO (fear of missing out) about not being able to experience everything I want in the shortened park hours they are projecting, but I also am getting more time to visit and experience areas of the resort that I rarely see. With shorter park hours, I am able to spend my evenings at Disney Springs, The Boardwalk, or other Disney resorts.
Yes, COVID has impacted our beloved theme parks in HUGE ways but the magic is still there. Disney has found a way to provide a safe and magical experience for their guests during these unprecedented times and I applaud them for it. One day, things will return to “normal” and we will be able to experience our favorite nighttime entertainment and hug our favorite characters, but I hope a few items on this stick around for the long haul as well!
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