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When going pretty much anywhere nowadays, you have to be careful. And when it comes to traveling, especially to a theme park, you really have to make sure you’re doing what’s necessary to keep yourself and others safe. That’s why I want to go over some health and safety tips if you visit Walt Disney World (WDW).
Let me begin by saying that the safest option right now is to stay home. Traveling comes with risk, just like visiting a theme park. However, the reality is people are traveling — and to WDW. I want to help those who are traveling stay as safe as possible. If I can provide tips that will make your trip safer, then that’s what I’m going to do.
So, that brings me to those health and safety tips I previously mentioned. I want to go over what I did personally to not only make myself feel better, but that might also help you if you’re traveling to WDW anytime soon.
Before I share what I personally did, know that Disney has implemented many health and safety protocols to try to keep guests safer. Some of them include:
- Requirement of proper face coverings
- Signage to help guests maintain at least six feet from one another
- Only allowing mask removal when swimming or actively eating and drinking while stationary and physically-distanced from others, including at designated Relaxation Stations
- Hand-washing and hand sanitizer stations
- Temperature screenings prior to entry
- Limited park capacity and implementing a park reservation system
These are only just a few of Disney’s health and safety measures (read more here). In addition to those, what do you need to know?
I actually wrote what it’s like flying to WDW right now in a lengthy piece published in August for WDW Magazine. You can read all about what my experience was like.
One thing I want to note right away is that you will have to remove your face covering briefly when going through security so the TSA agent can verify your identity. So, keep that in mind.
Here are a few other things to think about while at the airport and on the airplane:
— Fly an airline that doesn’t book middle seats, enforces masks, and follows other health and safety protocols. I flew Southwest and they currently are leaving middle seats open through at least Nov. 30, 2020.
— Rent a car to avoid sharing transportation with others, like Disney’s Magical Express. If possible, try to rent a car that has a parking lot attached to the airport so you don’t have to take a shuttle.
— Avoid busy airport areas, like food courts. I packed my own snacks. (FYI: I didn’t eat my snacks until I was in the comfort of the rental car, since I didn’t want to remove my mask in the airport or while I was on the airplane.)
— If you pack snacks, put them all together in a bag (or multiple, depending), because you will have to place them in bins when going through security.
— If you’re not going to remove your mask like me, make sure you eat and hydrate prior to entering the airport.
— Pack sanitizing wipes to clean your area while waiting to board and on the airplane. Yes, airlines disinfect, but you can never be too safe. Plus, Southwest recently announced it’s no longer wiping down seat belts and arm rests between flights.
— Walking on the dirty airport floor through security creeps me out, so I wore two pairs of socks and removed the outer pair (and placed in a baggie in my carry-on) before putting my shoes back on.
— Book a non-stop flight and travel during the weekdays, when it’s less busy.
— When on the plane, if possible, skip a row and don’t sit directly behind someone. And if you’re traveling with someone, leave the aisle seat open so another passenger doesn’t bump you.
— Don’t crowd the aisles after landing! Some airlines board back to front and deplane front to back. Southwest does not do this. I waited until everyone was off the plane so I could socially distance.
— For my fellow hat lovers, I wore an old hat on the plane. Then, I sprayed it with Lysol and placed it in a disposable grocery bag in my hotel room so it didn’t touch any of my clean items.
— And, remember, the less airport time, the better!
At Your Resort
Similar to at the parks, Disney has implemented health and safety protocols at each of the WDW resorts. There are even “Enhanced Cleaning” procedures for the rooms, including:
- Thoroughly cleaning high-touch areas, like TV remotes and door handles (the remote and shower products are covered in plastic with a sticker reading “Clean”)
- Housekeeping tools are cleaned between rooms
- Floors are steam cleaned and vacuumed between guests
- Glasses are individually wrapped in single-use packaging and there are double-cased pillows
- Rooms will receive a light cleaning every other day (removal of trash and used towels, replenishment of towels and amenities, wiping and cleaning of the vanity and counter surfaces, and vacuuming, if needed)
Right now, Disney also strongly urges guests to check-in online or by using the My Disney Experience app. You can still check-in at the front desk, but try to avoid it.
- When checking-in: If you check-in online or via the app, you should receive a notification that your room is ready via text message or from My Disney Experience. You will then use your MagicBand or My Disney Experience’s digital key feature to unlock your door.
- When checking-out: Guests will automatically be checked out of their rooms. If you have unresolved charges to your hotel folio, you’ll need to visit the front desk.
You can also chat virtually with resort Cast Members through My Disney Experience. There’s also you room phone to use if you need further assistance.
As for myself, here’s how I made sure to stay safer during my hotel stay:
— I disinfected the room (every surface, door knob, light switch, etc.) with wipes and spray I brought myself in my checked luggage. I’m sure housekeeping does a thorough job, but you can never be too safe. Plus, this is a routine I did even before the pandemic, because hotel rooms aren’t 100 percent sanitary.
— I also disinfected all of my luggage as soon as I stepped inside my room.
— The first thing I did when I got back from the parks was wash my hands and then disinfected the door handles and whatever else I touched.
— Every time I came back from the parks, I wiped down my bag and its contents. I’d also use disinfectant spray on my hats and ears. If I placed my stuff on the counter pre-sanitizing, I would disinfect the counter too. Or, you can lay your items on a towel that you’re not using.
— I never sat on the bed in my dirty park or airport clothes. I showered, ASAP. If I sat on a chair, I disinfected it (because germs and I’m also paranoid).
— I ate in my room. I felt more comfortable in my private space without others around, especially when my mask was off.
— I declined housekeeping. You can still call for towels and whatever else you need. Each time housekeeping came to my door, they wore a mask and gloves. Remember to put on your mask when answering the door!
— Another thing if you decline housekeeping, you can put your dirty towels and garbage outside your door for housekeeping to take. I put my trash in an extra bag I brought or the bag provided when you Mobile Order to make it easier and less messy for them.
— I never walk barefoot in a hotel room. I always pack sandals for the room, which are also easy to disinfect! Speaking of, you should also clean your shoes after being at the parks and airport.
One more note: The only times you can remove your mask at your resort (just like at the parks) is when you’re in you room, swimming, or actively eating or drinking while stationary and physically-distanced from others. Even if you’re outside talking on the phone, keep your mask on!
At The Parks
Compared to being at your resort, you definitely have to be more diligent at the parks — and aware of your surroundings.
— I packed hand sanitizer, hand wipes, and disinfectant wipes. I also made sure to wash my hands whenever I was near a hand-washing station or restroom. I always used the hand sanitizer at the entrance and exits of rides. I even wiped off the outside of my bag and MagicBand throughout the day.
— Don’t forget to pack extra masks and a baggie to put your mask in when eating or drinking. You don’t want to set your mask down on a table or dirty area.
— If it rains, don’t run into a store or under an awning and crowd others. This might even be difficult, since shops have limited capacity. Keep your eye on the radar and if there’s weather in the area, plan ahead so you can remain at a safe distance from others.
— When exiting a ride or a show, be aware of your surroundings. Everyone will try to leave at once, but it’s important to maintain at least six feet.
— Eat outdoors. The science shows that being outside is safer than indoors, specifically when dining and riding certain attractions. If you feel more comfortable dining outside, I helped WDW Prep School create a guide that lists every dining location currently open with outdoor seating.
— Pack your own reusable or disposable silverware. You can even use the silverware provided at the parks. I was very careful about touching my food. Yes, I even used a knife and fork for my Mickey Pretzel. Just be cautious and make sure you to wash your hands before eating!
— At Table Service restaurants, you can remove your mask after you’re seated, but I always kept mine on until my food or drink arrived and then put it back on as soon as I was finished, especially if I was indoors.
— Don’t handle merchandise unless you’re going to buy it or if you truly need a better look. There are signs asking guests to not touch items unless necessary.
— When spotting a cavalcade or a character, don’t run and gather. Make sure you’re spaced out. At Magic Kingdom, they even put markers on the ground to help guests maintain at least six feet from each other during the cavalcades.
— You have to keep masks on for photos. And, PhotoPass photographers won’t handle your phone anymore to take pictures.
— When Mobile Ordering, don’t crowd around others or at the Quick Service entrance. Be sure to space out and also give the Cast Members working the entrances room to breathe. This also goes for at your resort.
Disney has also altered their transportation to ensure guests’ health and safety by limiting capacity, blocking off certain seats, and putting up barriers.
So, if you choose to use the complimentary transportation provided by Disney, keep the following in mind:
— You can’t take off your mask on a bus or the Monorail.
— Even though the Disney Skyliner only boards one party per gondola, I recommend keeping our mask on, especially because you never know who rode before (and whether or not they had their mask off ). Also, because it’s such a quick ride, I say keep it on, especially so you’re not fumbling to put it on when the doors open and you’re greeted by Cast Members.
What I Packed
If you have no idea what to pack, here are a few things I brought:
- Garbage bags (for dirty clothes and garbage, especially if you’re not getting housekeeping and your trash cans get full; I always use a garbage for my dirty clothes, so then I can just throw the bag in my suitcase)
- Paper straws that are also biodegradable. I have reusable metal ones, but didn’t want to wash them and was worried I wouldn’t get them clean enough
- Napkins, paper towels (especially if you don’t have a clean hand towel), paper plates, disposable utensils
- Disinfectant wipes and spray
- Travel-size disinfectant spray (for my hats and ears) and antibacterial wipes
- Hand sanitizer
- Antibacterial liquid soap
- Neck fan (a big help in that Orlando heat and when wearing a mask)
So, now the question you probably want me to answer: Did I feel safe at WDW? Only as safe as one can be during a pandemic.
Disney is doing all of the right things, but there’s still a lot to consider, including the fact that people are traveling across the country and state lines to visit WDW. Even though guests might be following the rules at the parks, that doesn’t mean they’re following them during their everyday lives.
All that said, I’d rather go to WDW right now than head to my local grocery store. The fact is that Disney is enforcing health and safety protocols, all while showing the right way to handle things during the current environment.
It’s also important to remember that as much as it is up to Disney to enforce the rules, it’s also up to us, as guests, to follow them and make sure we’re doing our part to keep ourselves and others safe.
And if you ever feel unsafe (let’s face it, there’s always someone not wearing their mask properly or who gets too close for comfort), remove yourself from the situation or speak up. Now more than ever it’s important to be your own advocate.
There’s a lot to remember in order to stay safe, which might deter many from going right now (and understandably so). But, the more we practice, the more comfortable we’ll become with the new health and safety rules.
Visiting WDW right now certainly is different. But, let me say that despite the ongoing pandemic, the magic is very much still alive — just in a different way.
For more on Walt Disney World’s reopening, be sure to check out my complete guide detailing everything from, dining, to hotels, to transportation, and much more.