Over the Thanksgiving break (Nov 21 to Nov 28), our family went to Disney World. Yes, as COVID-19 cases rose, we took a vacation to Walt Disney World in Florida. It was a fun trip – and one which felt safe. Disney has taken a lot of precautions, and they are serious about enforcing them.
We left on a 6 a.m. flight out of San Antonio. The lines for checking in our bags or going through security tried to keep the 6 feet between groups but didn’t always work. But the seating areas in the terminal had chairs marked off and the airline stressed not lining up until your boarding number was called (they were calling them in groups of 10). Even though I checked in right at 24 hours before our flight, we were in the second boarding group – B8-B11. Usually, I would be worried about sitting together, but since they weren’t selling middle seats (so basically only two people to each row unless it was a family), we had no problem sitting together. Masks were worn pretty consistently both in the airport and on the plane. Now, our return flight from Orlando airport was almost the same though the food court area didn’t have tables/sitting marked off and seemed more of a free for all. The rest of the airport and experience was much like in San Antonio and I will say most people were wearing a mask.
When we go to Disney World, we stay on Disney property. We take the Magical Express bus from the airport to our hotel and rely on Disney buses to get to the parks. Disney has made many changes to the way they do things. Bus seats were primarily assigned with seats marked off and partitions between groups on the buses to the parks. With the reduced capacity of each bus, you would think lines and wait times would be long, but we never waited more than 15 minutes for a bus – most often under 5.
Masks are required whenever on property – whether you are outside or inside. So unless you are in your hotel room (or on your balcony), you will be wearing a mask as you walk anywhere. You could take your mask off when you were sitting in a restaurant, sitting on a bench to eat, while at a relaxation station, at the pool, and that is about it. Busses, rides, walking in the park or even the parking lot, they expect you to be wearing your mask. This means you can’t even take off your mask for a photo unless doing one of those few activities listed above. And if caught without a mask, you are reminded to put one on. If you refuse to comply, they will throw you out of the park.
I thought wearing a mask would be more of a pain since while I wear one at home when in the store, I don’t wear it in the car, the parking lot, or even longer than maybe an hour. Now, I was wearing one all the time. It wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. If it had been hotter (daytime temps were in the upper 70s/lower 80s), then I think the mask wearing would have been worse.
I do hate that all of our pictures are of us masked, but I understand Disney’s stance on this. If they let people take their mask off for a few seconds for a picture, then most people will walk around like they are always taking a picture. Don’t believe me? Originally, the rule was you could take off your mask while eating or drinking. Then people walked around with a bowl of popcorn or a bottle of water and no mask on. This caused Disney to amend the rule to you can only take off your mask to eat or drink while stationary.
They are also doing a great job with social distancing. All ride lines have markers on the ground putting you six feet or more from the next party. This means the lines look LONG – which they are only because you are so spaced out. Ride lines often spill out of the queues and wrap through the park. The good thing is that you never felt you were just standing in line as most of your line waiting time was spent walking. They even monitored how many patrons were in stores and you couldn’t enter a restaurant without either a reservation or mobile order placed. Yes, there were crowded points here and there, but overall, they were trying to keep people spaced out.
There were hand sanitizing stations everywhere – before you got on the ride, after you got on the ride, in front of stores and restaurants. There were even some handwashing stations set up.
Overall, everything felt safe – or no less than safe than it does here at home. And whether we had to wear a mask or stand in a socially distance line, we still had a good time and don’t regret going – even during a pandemic.