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Disney During COVID

You want to visit Disney World during COVID but you’re unsure how safe it is. Well, this blog is for you. In July 2020, Disney World opened its doors with limited capacity and many new safety protocols were in place to keep their guests safe. Temperature checks at entrances, social distancing in lines, sanitizer stations, partitioned stantions, and limited bus seating are some of the new experiences at Disney parks.

We arrived at Disney early evening. Since we were staying at the Yacht Club we decided to take a stroll on the Boardwalk over to restaurant Trattoria al Forno. The evening was warm with clearing skies, and the walk over was quiet. It was almost as if we had the Boardwalk to ourselves.

Empty Boardwalk

Our first full-day was a visit to Hollywood Studios to check out the newly opened Mickey and Minnie Runaway Railway and the possibility of getting a Boarding Group number for Star Wars’ Rise of the Resistance. 

On our walk to Hollywood Studios, we passed the Skyliner. This is where we first saw the new social distancing placards on the ground. The placards identified the safe waiting distances between guests, as was the case for this extended waiting line at the Skyliner. 

Please Wait Here

Before entering any of the Disney parks, guests must pass through a temperature check point. Wearing masks was mandatory. The only time you were not required to wear a mask was when you were eating or drinking while stationary…this rule was strictly, but politely, enforced.

Temperature Check Point

Masks Mandatory

Masks? Check.

Time to get our Mickey on, so we begin our wait for Runaway Railroad! Aside from the temperature checks and mandatory mask wearing, the most noticeable COVID protocol was the expanded social distancing measures. Remember those “Please Wait Here" placards? Well, they are everywhere. The placement of placards extended wait lines swirling down sidewalks and streets. The extended lines create an image that wait times are forever, but the lines actually move fairly quickly.

The image below illustrates the area where the Runaway Railway spilled out to the vast concrete areas in front of the former Chinese Theatre. There are patio umbrellas strategically placed to provide shade for waiting guests.

See placards on ground.

Once inside the Runaway Railway, the permanent stantions were outfitted with sturdy plexi-glass and metal framing.

Here we go! Notice the cast members are masked up with face shields.

If you haven’t seen or experienced the new Skyliner, here’s a quick pic. The Skyliner connects EPCOT, Hollywood Studios, and the resorts of Pop Century, Caribbean Beach, and Riviera. 

Once back at the Yacht Club, we decided to have some relaxation time. Even the pool area was COVID-proof. There were signs reminding guests of COVID regulations and plenty of space between lounge chairs for social distance….which we didn’t have to worry about because we had the quiet pool to ourselves!

Yacht Club Quiet Pool

Later in the afternoon we headed back to Hollywood Studios for our #42 Boarding Group (2:40 PM) for Stars Wars Rise of the Resistance. Social distancing was still in full effect.

Tammy was admiring the Stars Wars gear along the route to help the Resistance. Psst…she’s not a big Star Wars fan so this photo was staged.

Guests ultimately end up outside prior to boarding an escape pod. Everyone was assigned a numbers for proper social distancing. This was your number throughout the remainder of the ride.

I’m not easily impressed but Disney…WOW…you really impressed me with the Death Star hanger bay. It was stunning.

Death Star Hanger Bay

Even the storm troopers were masked up.

After Rise of the Resistance, we headed over to Rock’n Rollercoaster. My hair is proof I was obviously still shocked from my experience on the Death Star.

If you’ve ridden Rock’n Rollercoaster before, you know this scene is out of the ordinary. Never before has the line spiraled like this. With the heat index at 99 degrees, this was the hottest wait of the day. Everybody below was socially distanced in line.

The permanent plexi-glass closest to the boarding area really complemented the “city" feel.

After a long, hot, exhausting day, it was time to head over to Disney Springs for dinner. This was our opportunity to see the COVID measures on the Disney buses. All of the seats were numbered and dividers were added in between seats grouped together. Before stepping onto the bus, the driver would ask how many people are in your party, then assign you a seat number. The straps hanging from the overhead rails were zip tied unusable, so there is no standing allowed. The days of seeing 50 people crammed on a bus are over for now.

Well, that concludes our hot, late summer, visit to Disney’s Hollywood Studios. You can also check out our visit to EPCOT for the Food and Wine Festival. We hope our story and pictures help you feel comfortable and safe visiting Disney during COVID. If you’re excited and want to book a trip, you know the best person to call is my talented wife and Disney-expert, Tammy.  

Disney World’s Food & Wine Festival 2020

Hey traveling couples, Eddie here. I decided to give Tammy a break and handle this blog myself. In September, Tammy and I decided to take a quick trip to Disney World for the International Food and Wine Festival. COVID obvisouly made it a different experience from year’s past but it was worth it!

Safety first, so before entering every park, each guest must walk through a health tent.

Taking Temperatures at Entrance

Plenty of social distancing

We entered EPCOT via the International Gateway near Boardwalk, so we started our food and beverage tasting in France. What better way to start than with a drink!

Grey Goose Slushy

I’ll cut to the chase. There were several food favorites but Brazil has the best option: Crispy Pork Belly and Cheesy Bread. 

Crispy Pork Belly

A very close second was Morocco’s hummus fries. Morocco also has the Kefka Pocket (ground beef with carmalized onions, garlic, and spicy tomato).

Hummus Fries

My mother’s side of the family is Italian, so I crave pasta, cheese, onions, and ham. And what better place to taste all those food ingredients mixed together than in Germany. Germany? Oh yeah! Do yourself a favor and get you some Schinkennudeln. Delicious! 

Grubbing on Schinkennudeln

We originally walked past the Spain kiosk but my curiosity turned us around and we decided to try the Shrimp Paella. This dish was surprisingly delicious. The spices were subtle and flavorful. Wait, maybe this should’ve been my #1 option. Hmmm.

Shrimp Paella

The Festival Market used different kiosk spread througout the World Showcase. Several of the kiosk contained merchandise from the Flower and Garden Festival too.

Grape Themed Mickey Ears

Grab a growler

This year’s festival was great, even with the COVID limitations. The weather was warm the day we visited (99 degree heat index) but we made sure we stayed hydrated and paced ourselves accordingly. The crowds picked up mid-afternoon but there was plenty of space to socially distance, sit, and enjoy our food and wine selections in the shade. Always a must do!

Disney FastPass Options

Magic Kingdom1

Barnstormer 35″

Big Thunder Mountain Railroad 40″

Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin

Dumbo

Enchanted Tales with Belle

The Haunted Mansion

It’s a Small World

Jungle Cruise

Mad Tea Party (Tea Cups)

Magic Carpets of Aladdin

Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh

Meet Ariel in her Grotto

Meet Cinderella & Elena

Meet Rapunzel & Tiana

Meet Mickey Mouse

Meet Tinkerbell

Mickey’s Philharmagic

Monsters Inc Laugh Floor

Peter Pan’s Flight

Pirates of the Caribbean

**Seven Dwarfs Mine Train 38″

Space Mountain 44″

Splash Mountain 40″

Tomorrowland Speedway 38″

Little Mermaid:  Under the Sea

**Should be a priority – typically long waits

Epcot

Group A (Choose 1)

Test Track 40″

Illuminations 

Frozen Ever After

Soarin 40″

Character Spot

Group B (Choose 2)

Figment

Spaceship Earth

Seas with Nemo & Friends

Turtle Talk with Crush

Mission Space 40″

Living with the Land

Pixar Short Film 

Animal Kingdom

Group A (Choose 1)

Na’vi River Journey

**Avatar Flight of Passage 44″

Group B (Choose 2)

Expedition Everest 44″

Dinosaur 40″

Primeval Whirl 48″

Kali River Rapids 38″

Festival of the Lion King

Finding Nemo the Musical

It’s Tough to Be a Bug

Kilimanjaro Safaris

Meet Disney Pals at Adventurers Outpost

Rivers of Light

Hollywood Studios

*NEW 2019*

Group A (Choose 1)

Alien Swirling Saucers 32″

Toy Story Mania

**Slinky Dog Dash 38″

Tower of Terror 40″

Rock ‘n Rollercoaster 48″

Group B (Choose 2)

Star Tours 40″

Disney Jr. Live on Stage

Frozen Sing Along

Indiana Jones Stunt Spectacular

Muppet Vision 3D

Voyage of the Little Mermaid

Beauty and the Beast Live

Fantasmic

Once you use your first 3 fastpasses, you can then get additional fastpasses through the My Disney Experience app on your phone, or at kiosks stationed within the park.  The additional fastpasses can only be done one at a time (must be used before you can select another).  Popular rides are likely out of fastpasses, but sometimes you can get lucky with some openings!  

Typically shows like Indiana Jones Stunt Spectacular, Mickey’s Philharmagic, Beauty & the Beast Live, etc. do not require a fastpass.  The theaters are usually large enough that these attractions have low wait times, so I wouldn’t waste a fastpass on these attractions.  

As an Independent Travel Agent with Mouse Counselors, an Authorized Disney Vacation Planner, I offer concierge travel planning for Walt Disney World® Resort, Disney Cruise Line, Disneyland® Resort, Adventures by Disney®, Aulani and all other destinations at no cost to you.  Message me today if I can help book a magical vacation for you.  

#4Parks1Day Challenge!

Have you heard of the #4Parks1Day Challenge?  It was on my bucket list of Disney things to do and I finally got to experience it for my birthday girls’ only trip!

First off, if you haven’t been to Disney MANY times – don’t try this.  We have both been many times and knew what highlights we wanted to hit and knew how to quickly get around to everywhere we wanted to go.

Before our trip, we went a little crazy making shirts.  I think we made 4 or 5 shirts total?  We didn’t even wear them all!  Oh well – there’s always the next trip!   But these were the shirts we made for our #4Parks1Day.  I just love the way they turned out, and we got tons of comments on them!

#4Parks1Day Shirts!
The back of the shirt

For our birthdays, my friend and I decided to go on a 3-Night Disney Cruise!  We love everything Disney but even if you don’t – the cruises are amazing.  I will also be doing a trip report on the Adults Only Disney Cruise, so subscribe to my blog so you can be notified when it’s ready! 

We thought since we were going to be in Florida and so close to one of our favorite places, that we would fit in a day at the park as well.  Since we love all four parks, we decided to cram them all in one day and just hit some of the highlights!

I was able to secure us fastpasses to Flight of Passage – which, if you know anything about Disney World – you know this is the hardest fastpass to get.  So I was super surprised to find it available at less than 30 days out.  Disney sometimes adds extra fastpasses on when park hours change.

So our plan was:  First park – Animal Kingdom (Extra Magic Morning Hours), Hollywood Studios, Epcot and then end our day at Magic Kingdom.  I am a serious planner (I am a travel agent, so I guess that’s a given!) and I had planned out what we wanted to do and what time I thought we would be through with everything.  I’m very happy to say that my plan worked almost down to the minute!  Was it brilliance or just luck?  I choose the first, haha!

My husband and I are passholders, and Animal Kingdom was having an early shopping event for passholders on the day we visited for their 20th Anniversary, which meant we got into Animal Kingdom even earlier than everyone else!  The passholder line opened at 7am.  We had to drop our bags with bell services that morning (and pack up) as we also did a split stay.  Our first night was at All Star Music, and our second night at Saratoga Springs Resort.  So not only were we going for a #4Parks1Day Challenge, we also had to have everything packed and out of our room before we got on the bus!  Yikes!  We kept telling ourselves that this exhausting day would be followed by a relaxing, wonderful cruise, so we could do it!

After dropping our bags off, we hopped in line to get on the bus (I had packed granola bars and we bought a Coke the night before for our breakfast).  Our bus came pretty quickly and we were off to Animal Kingdom!  The passholders had a separate line entrance, so we walked in to a fairly empty park!  We headed straight for Island Mercantile where they were having the passholder sale and O.M.G. what a madhouse!  I went specifically for the special edition 20th Anniversary Pin that I had seen pictured on some other blogs (my husband and I are crazy over collecting Disney pins – he is worse than me though, lol).  It was so crowded in there we couldn’t get to everything we wanted.  I was also interested in the 20th anniversary Animal Kingdom Magic Band, but for one, I couldn’t get to them, and secondly they were $32.99.  That was a little more than I wanted to pay because I already own about 20 different magic bands!  The pins were up at the registers, so we hopped in the shortest line we saw and asked for the pin when we got to the register.  Well, they only had one available for purchase, and it was the passholder edition, which I actually wasn’t crazy about, but I bought it anyway.  

20th anniversary pins animal kingdom
I wanted the top 2, but all they had was the Passholder pin on the bottom right

After leaving the store, we got our pics made in front of the Tree of Life.  

#4Parks1Day Challenge
Park #1 – Animal Kingdom
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Love the frame!
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Cute magic shot

Then we headed to Kilimanjaro Safaris.  We were the some of the first in line so walked right on.  It was a beautiful (even a little chilly) morning.  We opted to put our sweaters on when we got on the ride.  The animals seemed to be out and about.  I just love this ride.  It’s a must do for me every time I visit Disney.

#4Parks1Day Challenge

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This was the first time I’d seen giraffes in the wooded area

After we left the safari ride, we headed over to Expedition Everest.  Our plan was to hop in the single rider line, but there was only a 5 minute wait so we got in the regular line.  We walked right onto that ride as well.  Early mornings are the BEST!!! 

#4Parks1Day Challenge
Our EE Ride Photo

By this time we headed over for our first (and only) fastpass I had scheduled – Flight of Passage!   Our fastpass time was for 8:55am – 9:55am and we were in line right at 8:55am.  We waited maybe 5 minutes, and were in!  After getting off the ride (seriously AMAZING ride), we took some pictures of Pandora before heading out to catch our bus to Hollywood Studios.  It is so pretty, they did a wonderful job.

#4Parks1Day Challenge

#4Parks1Day Challenge

#4Parks1Day Challenge

While we were on the bus to Hollywood Studios, I was able to score us a fastpass for one of our favorite rides – Rock ‘n Rollercoaster!!! We were on the bus around 10am and our fastpass was for 11:05am.  Also on the bus, a cast member was on there who noticed our birthday buttons (almost every cast member noticed our buttons and said happy birthday to us).  She got the whole bus to sing Happy Birthday to us.  Fun (although a little awkard?)  When we got to Hollywood Studios, we headed over to grab us a cupcake and found a table to enjoy it and wait for our fastpass time.  After finishing the cupcake (we split one), we walked over to see if we could catch a glimpse of the new Toy Story Land scheduled to open on June 30th.  This is what we saw:

This is why I love Disney.  Even the construction zone looks adorable!

It was time to head over to get in line for our fastpass, but first we stopped for our 2nd Park Picture in front of Tower of Terror, and also a couple in front of the entrance to the Rock ‘n Rollercoaster ride.  Our photopass photographer in front of Tower of Terror was great and had us do a couple of poses, and brought up the idea of holding up 2 fingers for our “2nd Park”  We wish we had thought of that while at Animal Kingdom, but we knew we would continue that for our last two parks.

 

#4Parks1Day Challenge
Park #2!
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Pointing at our birthday buttons
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Showing off our ears!

#4Parks1Day Challenge

We were in line for Rock n’ Rollercoaster right when our fastpass time opened.  We love this ride!!

#4Parks1Day Challenge
One of my favorite rides!

After finishing the ride, we walked into some of the shops before heading out.  We didn’t buy anything and went out to catch the boat to Epcot!!

The boat ride was a nice change from the bus and again, it was a BEAUTIFUL day.  Not humid at all, a little windy and sunny.

At Epcot our goal was to walk around and look at all the topiaries since it was Flower & Garden Festival time and to have a sit down lunch at Via Napoli.

We walked around just taking it all in – I absolutely LOVE just walking around Epcot World Showcase.  It’s perfect for an adults only trip.   

 

#4Parks1Day Challenge

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Another magic shot

Flower and Garden Festival

Check out the topiaries – aren’t they beautiful?!

Flower and Garden Festival
Snow White and the Dwarves
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Beauty and the Beast
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Captain Hook & Peter Pan
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Lady and the Tramp
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Bambi and Thumper
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Simba
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Anna and Elsa

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Entrance to the park

We walked around one half of the World Showcase and then headed back to Italy for our 1:15pm reservation at Via Napoli.  We split an appetizer (arancini) and an individual pepperoni pizza.  They also brought us out a dessert for our birthdays!  It was the perfect meal and just enough to fill us up but not make us miserable.

#4Parks1Day
Arancini (fried risotto)
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Individual Sized Pepperoni Pizza
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Birthday dessert!

After finishing up our walk around the World Showcase, we headed over to Test Track for the Single Rider line.  We only waited about 15 minutes – this is definitely the way to do this ride!

After the ride, we headed over to the Disney Visa Character Spot (a perk of the Disney Visa), and which characters did we see?  Minnie AND Pluto!!  We were kind of hoping for Minnie & Mickey, but hey – we were happy with any, especially with no line!!

Minnie and Pluto wanted to read my shirt…..

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Minnie and Pluto reading my shirt
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I love Minnie!

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After our character meet, we headed out to get our picture in front of the ball for our Number 3 Park!!

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Park 3!!

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We then hopped on the monorail (all modes of Disney transport checked off!) and were off to Magic Kingdom!

We got to Magic Kingdom around 4:30pm.  We stopped in front of the castle for our Number 4 Park pics (wanted to get them before we looked like walking zombies!).  Although we both were surprised that we were not exhausted at this point.   I really think that the great weather with no humidity helped, because usually in a typical one park day, my feet are hurting by this point and I’m ready for a break.

#4Parks1Day

#4Parks1Day
Park 4!!

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The lines for all of the rides were pretty long at this point in the day and no fastpasses to be had until later in the night (Magic Kingdom was open until 1am – we definitely weren’t staying that long).  So we went first to Hall of Presidents to see it after the recent refurbishment.  They changed it right much and we enjoyed it!  After leaving there we headed over to Mickey’s Philharmagic.  I just love this show and the smell of blueberry pie!  We then went to grab some dinner at Casey’s.  We both got the corn dog nuggets, plastic cheese dipping sauce and fries.  The line is always so crazy in there – that is probably the longest line we waited in all day!  We found a table over by Main Street Bakery and sat and enjoyed our view:

#4Parks1Day

After eating we headed over to Monsters Inc Laugh Floor, always such a cute show.  By the time we got out, it was almost time to find a spot to watch the fireworks.  But first we had things we wanted to buy in the gift shop, so we stopped to do that.  We had about 5 minutes to spare after shopping and grabbed us a place on Main Street right in front of the castle.  This was the first time either one of us has seen the Happily Ever After fireworks and we really enjoyed it.

magic kingdom fireworks

Magic Kingdom Fireworks

magic kingdom fireworks

I was thankful that it was an Extra Magic Hours night so everyone wasn’t rushing out at the same time.  As you can see, we look kind of tired by this point:

magic kingdom fireworks

We were on the bus around 9:30pm and were actually able to sit down!  When we arrived at Saratoga Springs, we still needed to check in!  Thankfully it was not busy and we were in our rooms by around 10:15pm.  Our original plan was to eat breakfast at Kona Café for some Tonga Toast, but we decided to cancel our reservation and just eat at the food court.  We wanted a little time to sleep in before heading off for our cruise on the Disney Wonder!!

We had an amazing time and although I wouldn’t do #4Parks1Day every time I’m at Disney, it was perfect for a one day trip to hit some of our favorites!

EPCOT FastPass Attractions

Choose 1 from this group:

Frozen Ever After

Soarin’ (40” Height Minimum)

Test Track (40” Height Minimum)

Illuminations Reflections of Earth Fireworks (Reserved Area)

Choose 2 from this group:

Living with the Land

Mission Space (44” Height Minimum)

Disney / Pixar Short Film Festival

Turtle Talk with Crush

Journey Into Imagination with Figment

Meet Disney Pals at the Epcot Character Spot

Spaceship Earth

The Seas with Nemo & Friends