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Last Updated on September 10, 2020 by Allyson
*Updated: May 30, 2020
It’s finally happening! Walt Disney World is reopening starting on July 11, Disney announced on May 27. Here are the reopening dates you need to know:
- July 11: Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom
- July 15: Epcot and Hollywood Studios
Once we’re allowed to visit the most magical place on earth again, it’s going to be a very different experience. It certainly won’t be like the old days, but this also doesn’t mean Walt Disney World will be like this forever. But, right now, this is what Disney understandably has to do in order to keep everyone safe.
As Disney said in a statement shared on the Disney Parks Blog,
“In preparing to reopen during this unusual time, we have to manage our theme parks in a very different way from what we’ve known before. As we begin to reach out to our cast members and call them back to work, they will be focused on operating our parks in a responsible way that continues to give our guests opportunities to create magical Disney memories.”
With that, let’s talk about everything you need to know so far about Walt Disney World’s phased reopening.
Health & Safety Protocols
There are several health and safety measures guests have to follow. They include:
Face Coverings & Other Protective Measures
- Anyone 2 and older must wear a face covering
- They’re currently discussing having “relaxation zones” for those who need a mask break
- Hand-washing and sanitizing stations will be placed throughout the resort
- Expect plexiglass barriers when purchasing retail and food and beverages
- Social distancing measures, like standing 6-feet apart in line, will be put in place
Enhanced Cleaning & Sanitation
- High-touch areas and surfaces in operating areas will be cleaned more frequently
- Must have temperature taken at each theme park entry point
- A contactless device will be used for screenings
- Contactless payment methods are encouraged, like MagicBands, Apple Pay, Google Pay
- Cashless transactions will be enabled at restaurant and retail locations
- Mobile Ordering will be available at more locations
Entertainment & Characters
Pretty much all forms of entertainment will temporarily be suspended to help with physical distancing, including parades and fireworks.
Character meet and greets also won’t be available for the time being, but characters will still make appearances at a safe distance.
Makeover opportunities, like Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique, and playgrounds will also temporarily be suspended.
Hotels & Reservations
When do resorts open?
Disney Vacation Club resorts at Walt Disney World and Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground will begin to reopen to members and guests starting June 22. It’s unclear when the remaining resorts will reopen.
DVC properties in Vero Beach, Florida and Hilton Head, South Carolina will be open to member and guests starting June 15.
Disney has also made it clear that Disney Resort hotels “may be modified, limited in capacity, and subject to availability or closure.”
What about making new hotel reservations?
As of May 27, new Disney Resort hotel reservations are temporarily paused to deal with guests who have existing reservations.
BUT, Disney Vacation Club members can still make new reservations.
If you’re an existing ticket holder or an Annual Passholder, you can make reservation requests in phases before new tickets are sold. Disney will reach out to you soon with more details.
New hotel reservations will commence after all of this is determined.
Purchasing Park Tickets
Currently, new tickets sales are temporarily on hold in order to manage guests who have existing tickets.
New ticket sales will eventually resume, but not until after all of this is handled.
New Reservation System
In order to limit park capacity, attendance will be managed with a pre-arrival reservation system. This means all guests must obtain a reservation in order to enter a park.
IMPORTANT: Guests with existing resort reservations will have priority access to the reservation system when it becomes available.
How does priority access work?
(The following was confirmed by theme park journalist Carlye Wisel on May 29.)
To obtain priority access, Walt Disney World hotel guests need to have already bought tickets. If you only have a hotel reservation but no tickets, you won’t have priority access and will be able to buy tickets once they go on sale to the general public.
Ticket sales for the general public will become available after existing ticket holders and Annual Passholders have been accommodated.
And don’t forget that guests will need both a park reservation and valid admission before they can rebook in-park dining and experience reservations.
What if I’m staying at a Walt Disney World partner hotel?
According to Disney Food Blog, those who have reservations at unofficial Disney hotels like Swan & Dolphin and Shades of Green “count as resort guests.”
If you have an existing resort reservation and already bought park tickets, then you have priority access to the reservation system.
Annual Passholders aren’t guaranteed park entry just because they have an Annual Pass. And due to limited park capacity, it might be hard for APs to get park reservations on certain dates.
Will I receive an extension on my pass?
Disney hasn’t said, but as they explained on a new webpage sharing the latest reopening updates for APs, “To help manage capacity, total reservation days held at one time will be limited.” More details are expected to be shared “in the coming weeks.”
There is a chance Walt Disney World will follow in Shanghai Disneyland’s footsteps by ensuring the validity period of a pass by extending the number of lost days that fall between the parks’ closure and the end of the park reservation system.
What about AP benefits?
Some AP benefits won’t be available due to limited capacity. Also, it’s important for APs to make sure their pass is valid (i.e. blockout dates) for park entry before making a park reservation.
Will there be a special preview for APs?
Yes, there will be some type of special preview for APs, but details are unknown right now.
For questions or concerns, you can call V.I.PASSHOLDER support at (407) 939-7277. Don’t forget, options to manage your pass remain available during the closure period.
The FastPass+ system is suspended for the time being as the parks plan to use an additional queue space to manage capacity at attractions and to help maintain physical distancing.
All existing FastPass+ selections will automatically be canceled.
Extra Magic Hours
Upon reopening, Extra Magic Hours will also be temporarily suspended.
Nothing has been announced about transportation just yet.
That said and depending on the type of transportation, limited capacity will once again come into play.
Will riding a bus, the Monorail, the Disney Skyliner or grabbing a Minnie Van, Lyft, or Uber even be worth it/difficult? Who knows right now, but you might want to consider renting a car.
My friends over at WDW Prep School have a guide all about renting a car at Walt Disney World you should check out.
Dining & Reservations
Effective immediately, all existing dining reservations and Disney dining plans included in packages have been canceled through the end of the year.
Can I still make reservations 180 days in advance?
The simple answer: no. Rather than the original advanced 180-day reservation window, you can now only make reservations up to 60 days in advance.
When can I start making reservations again?
Dining reservations will reopen with more limited numbers closer to when the parks reopen.
For park dining locations, guests will need both a park reservation and valid admission before they can rebook dining reservations.
When dining reservations resume, those who had exiting reservations will receive priority access to rebook.
What if I already booked a Disney dining plan?
Guests who purchased Disney dining plans and tickets through the end of the year will receive an automatic cancellation and refund of their Disney dining plan.
Those who booked a resort hotel reservation with a Free Dining package through the end of the year will receive an automatic cancellation of their Disney dining plan. They will also receive an automatic 35% room discount that will automatically be applied in place of the Free Dining plan and towards the active reservation. (Despite previous reports, you do not need to rebook in order to receive the discount. It will automatically be applied.)
Anyone who booked a Free Dining package for before the reopening on July 11, you’ll be able to apply the 35% discount on the future date picked for your trip.
Disney is reaching out to guests (via email) who are affected directly by these changes and will provide them with additional information and details about refunds.
What about character dining?
Unfortunately, character dining will temporarily be suspended.
What about third-party dining locations?
Select third-party owned and operated restaurant reservations may not be canceled.
Like dining, experiences will be limited in capacity and some experiences may even remain closed. Which exact experiences remains unclear right now, but most likely this means behind-the-scenes tours.
Have all experiences been canceled?
All existing experience bookings are automatically canceled effective immediately. Guests can only book experiences up to 60 days in advance instead of the regular 180 days.
Disney will reach out to guests (via email) affected by these updates with more information, including details about refunds.
Also, select third-party owned and operated experiences may not be canceled.
When can experiences be rebooked?
An exact date hasn’t been given, but when experience reservations resume guests who had existing reservations will receive priority access to rebook.
Note: At this time, Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party tickets will remain valid and won’t be canceled. Other bookable in-park experiences are still subject to cancellation. (This also was confirmed by Wisel.)
For park experiences, guests will need both a park reservation and valid admission before they can rebook experiences.
Disney Springs reopened in phases beginning on May 20. Only a select number of shopping and dining experiences owned by third-party operating participants and select Disney-owned shops and restaurants are currently open.
There are specific health and safety protocols that have been put in place, including:
- Limited parking and reduced entrances
- Temperature screenings before entry
- Face coverings are required for everyone
- Cashless and contactless payment options
You can read about the protocols and see what’s open in my Disney Springs reopening post.
There’s still so much we don’t know, including about water parks, park hopping, bag check, etc. Check out my complete Walt Disney World Reopening Guide for more information.