Planning a trip to Disney World…during a pandemic

For over a year, we have been planning a Disney World vacation. Last Fall, we settled on going over Thanksgiving…in 2020. Yeah, who would have guessed we would be in the midst of a pandemic?  In January, I bought our park tickets just days before the rate increase. And I booked our hotel by renting Disney Vacation Club (DVC) points so we could stay at the Animal Kingdom Lodge (where we also stayed in 2016 – our last trip to Disney World.) Everything was falling into place.

That is until March and the orders to stay home to slow the spread of COVID-19. The kids didn’t go to school and for the first time, Disney World closed its doors.

Now booking under rented DVC points is a great way to stay at a deluxe resort for the price of a moderate resort. But the kicker is that the transaction is non-refundable and typically non-changeable. You could of course buy travel insurance that would let you cancel (receiving less money back the closer you get to your trip) but while I considered it, there was little reason to think we would need to cancel our trip so I didn’t purchase it. Yeah, if I knew what was coming then I might have done something differently.

In April, we decided we would just wait to see how things would go. Our trip was still 6 months away and we thought for sure all this pandemic mess would be over. Of course, it isn’t but at the time we hoped that would be the case.

In July, Disney World reopened. The parks and transportation were capped at 25% capacity, and masks were required. They set up social distance makers in the lines and added plexiglass dividers on some rides and on the buses. And there were hand sanitizer stations everywhere. Temperature checks and reservations (in addition to your tickets) were required.

The initial reports were promising. People felt safe. There was news about low crowds and often no waiting for any of the rides. It sounded great.

Then in September and October, more people felt secure to travel and more of them began going to WDW. The lines have gotten longer.  

But when we decided on a Thanksgiving trip, we were expecting crowds. This is after all one of the busiest times in WDW. Each day leading up to Thanksgiving typically gets more crowded. For a while in August, I had hoped we would see the sparse crowds of July and August. But reality set in earlier this month. It is going to feel crowded even though they are still at 25% capacity.

We are going with the expectation that this trip won’t be like any other. We will be wearing masks – even in the majority of our photos. We will have to wait in lines that we aren’t used to standing in because we have always used their FastPass system and bypassed these lines. Many restaurants are closed as are most shows. But there is always the pool (where you don’t have to wear a mask) and we will be at the Animal Kingdom with giraffes and zebras out our balcony.

Going with the right expectation, I think is key. It won’t be like it was last time. But we will still have fun. We have some great things booked such as building droids and lightsabers in Galaxy’s Edge, the Star Wars themed area (where we will also get to ride two new Star Wars themed rides). And the parks and hotels will be decked with Christmas decorations and characters in their Christmas outfits. Personally, I can’t wait!      

Holloween during a pandemic

The date, marked with a pumpkin on the calendar, has been staring at us since the month of October began. Who am I kidding? The kids have been asking about Halloween since August. They wondered if Halloween would even happen. At the time they knew that in-person school was being delayed because of the pandemic so it was easy to see why they were concerned. As September came, many of other events were cancelled – the high school Homecoming dance, the City of San Antonio’s Fiesta celebration, Oktoberfest and more.

For kids, Halloween is something they look forward. Who can blame them? Candy and dressing up in costume make this a popular holiday – probably coming in just behind Christmas. Heck, for some Halloween may be even better than Christmas.

And this year, Halloween lands on a Saturday (with a full moon). How perfect is that? You can stay out late without your parents reminding you about school the next day. So, yes, the fate of Halloween has been on their minds a lot. They were worried that the city would ban trick-or-treating.

The good news broke last week – it seems the city won’t be banning trick-or-treating. (Though I am sure that could change if we see a spike in the next two weeks.) But for now the City and Metro Health have released guidelines for a safer Halloween. Many of them are things that are already in place – wear a mask, stay home if your sick, limit the group that you travel with, if you host a party it should be outside (without a buffet or shared food).

They also suggested participating in distance trick-or-treating where children don’t have to come to your door. This might mean sitting at the end of the driveway with a table set up for kids to grab a treat and go. Or you could get creative like a few ideas I’ve seen online.

I haven’t decided how I will hand out candy but it might be just me sitting at the end of the driveway with my The Nightmare Before Christmas mask.

And of course the city and the CDC has listed a bunch of other activities you could do instead of trick-or-treating which include pumpkin carving, a scavenger hunt or a spooky movie night at home.

But you know that won’t be us here. The kids already have their costumes and will be going trick-or-treating in the neighborhood. And for those of you who read this blog every year you know my husband has been creating their costumes as he does many of the years.

Jase is going to be a Mandalorian warrior from the Star Wars franchise (not THE Mandalorian from the Disney + show but a totally unique Mandalorian warrior.) Here is an image for you non-Star Wars nerds…

Lexie is going to be a Witch/Mystic Sage character and carry a glowing staff. Here is an image of one of the pieces of her costume though hers is in an olive green.

I’ll post their finished costumes later as they are still a work-in-progress at this point. I’m just glad that trick-or-treating is on for this year. This along with them returning to school last week is making things feel a little more “normal.”