The following series of posts are by some awesome guests of mine who had planned a traditional Walt Disney World trip long before the pandemic, and ended up being able to safely travel after all. It is a different experience during these crazy times, and it is certainly not something everyone will feel comfortable doing, but I hope it gives you insight and guidance into the safety procedures Disney has taken and what to expect should you decide to visit Disney Resorts in the months to year ahead. Feel free to contact me with any questions or if you would like assistance in planning a trip.
By Mike L.
Thanks for reading Part 1! Part 2 will be about our stay at the Contemporary and Riviera Resort and going to Epcot and Hollywood Studios.
Our day began with us leaving Kidani Village and checking into Contemporary Resort. One big plus with Disney resorts is that they’ll transfer your luggage from resort to resort for you! In this case, they picked up our luggage at 11AM from Kidani and had it ready for us at Contemporary later that day. It is quite a nice perk, especially when you have lots of luggage!
Disney was great at allowing early check-in throughout our trip, and our stay at Contemporary was no different. We checked in early around noon. Contemporary is known as the monorail resort, as the monorail goes directly through the main A frame shaped building. It is also the closest resort to Magic Kingdom, and there is a walkway that takes you directly from the resort to the Magic Kingdom entrance, a short 10 minute walk. Our first day at the Contemporary, instead of going to the parks right away, we decided to do some resort hopping via the monorail. We stopped by the Polynesian resort to do some shopping and get some dole whip at Pineapple Lanai. We also did a brief stop at Grand Floridian before returning to our hotel. It was interesting to see portions of the Grand Floridian fenced off in order to separate resort guests from NBA guests.
Upon returning to our room, it was nice and relaxing to just sit in our balcony and enjoy the views of the Magic Kingdom castle and Seven Seas Lagoon. This was when we really missed the Disney fireworks! We had the perfect vantage point from our balcony, but due to COVID, all firework and nighttime entertainment shows are temporarily suspended in all the parks.
We had previously gone to Animal Kingdom and Magic Kingdom during the first part of our trip as those parks opened earlier. Epcot and Hollywood Studios both opened 4 days later on July 15. When we went to Hollywood Studios for the first time, we immediately noticed a difference from the first two parks. It was significantly more crowded. Since reservations started for park entry, it’s been known that Hollywood Studios has consistently been the most reserved park and has been booked to capacity. All the other parks still had openings for resort guests. This was mostly due to guests wanting to check in for Rise of the Resistance, the only ride at Disney World that currently has a virtual queue. Disney attempted to reduce crowding by opening up every part of the park early to enable social distancing throughout the park. The other strategy Disney employed is allowing guests to join the virtual queue for Rise of the Resistance at 3 separate time points: 10AM, 1PM, and 4PM. Each guest is also allowed to join the virtual queue only once a day. So if a guest was able to get on via the 10AM virtual queue, they couldn’t try again at 4PM for example. Despite the crowd, everyone was respectful and still maintained social distancing for the most part. At 10AM sharp, the virtual queue opened for Rise of the Resistance and we were fortunate enough to snag boarding group 22! Besides Rise of the Resistance, the rest of the crowd lined up early for Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway ,so that ride was already at line capacity by park opening. We ended up going to Toy Story Land and the kids got to enjoy Toy Story Mania and Slinky Dog Dash, both excellent rides. We then toured Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge and had lunch at Ronto Roasters and Docking Bay 7, both excellent food options and also available via mobile order. After lunch, it was our turn to ride Rise of the Resistance, and it definitely met all the hype. It is a very well thought out and fun filled ride! There are plenty of ride reviews for Rise of the Resistance so I won’t go into details and spoil the ride for anyone that hasn’t been before. Per our usual routine, we then took an afternoon break at our resort before heading back to the park that night. We ended the night going on Toy Story and Slinky Dog Dash a few more times, both with minimal lines. We rode Mickey and Minnie as our last ride of the day since the wait times were consistently over 1 hour for the entire day. We were pleasantly surprised because even though we joined the queue right before park closing, we ended up waiting about 35 minutes instead of the reported 60 min wait time. We did notice throughout our trip that wait times typically trended towards slight overinflation. We usually waited less than the posted wait time for the majority of rides. For example, during our second day at Hollywood Studios, Mickey and Minnie wait times had gotten shorter and usually posted a 30-35 minute wait. Each time we went on, it was actually closer to 20 minutes. Mickie and Minnie’s Runaway Railway turned out to be a really fun ride, too! The ride featured a runaway train going through various rooms filled with different adventures utilizing simulated movie screens and trackless technology.
Before going to Epcot for the first time, we checked out of Contemporary and checked into Riviera Resort. While waiting for our room at Riviera, we decided to visit Disney Springs. We got to go orders from Art Smith’s Homecoming and The Chicken Guy, in addition to getting some cupcakes from Sprinkles. Disney Springs is the outdoor mall at Disney World, similar to Downtown Disney at California. It is expansive and has more than 150 establishments, including shopping and dining. Similar to the parks, Disney also mandated safety measures for Disney Springs, including temperature checks, security screening, and mask wearing.
To get to Epcot, we were able to ride the Skyliner for the first time, and it was a great experience. It quickly became our favorite mode of transportation to the parks due to its comfort and efficiency. Our family got to ride in our own gondola each time, and the ride was smooth, quick, and surprisingly not too hot even in the Florida humidity! We also did not have to break down our stroller, which was a nice convenience. The gondolas are not air conditioned, but somehow due to design, the cabins never got too hot and actually felt well ventilated and breezy. The gondola also dropped us off right at the International Gateway entrance of Epcot, so it was quick to get into the park as well.
We really enjoyed Epcot, as it is a great family park, especially for our youngest! Like Magic Kingdom, there were multiple rides without a height limit for our 3yo, including Spaceship Earth, The Seas with Nemo and Friends, Living with the Land, Journey into Imagination with Figment, and of course, Frozen Ever After, one of her favorites. The Seas with Nemo and Friends was particularly memorable because the end of the ride leads into a real aquarium with several exhibits, including a manatee exhibit. Our boys also loved Test Track, a ride that uses a “Sim Car” you take for a spin through rough terrain and obstacles, including acceleration through a straightway path at up to 65 miles per hour. It is very similar to the technology used for the Radiator Springs Racers ride at Cars Land in Disney’s California Adventure. Most of the rides were nearly walk ons except for Frozen Ever After and Test Track. We also enjoyed the delicious food at the International Food and Wine Festival. It was such a great way to have dinner trying out the different small dishes from each international food booth. Our boys loved the steak tacos from the Mexico booth. My wife and I enjoyed several of the booths. Some of our favorites included the Piri Piri skewered shrimp from the Africa booth, Crispy Pork Belly from the Brazil booth, and the New England lobster roll and freshly baked carrot cake from the US booth. We also really enjoyed the boba milk tea from Joy of Tea in the China pavilion!
We ended our Disney World trip with one last visit to Magic Kingdom. We spent the day at Magic Kingdom riding some of our favorite rides for the last time, tried to take as many family pictures with the park photographers as possible (be sure to ask for the magic shots), and ended the night with dinner at Be Our Guest. We sat in the West Wing which had a projection animation of the enchanted rose from the movie with its falling petals. Beast also came out to greet guests every 20 minutes or so. The meal was excellent and we were also socially distanced from other guests around us. It was a magical way to end the evening and our Disney World adventure.
The following morning, we started our long drive back to California. When we came out, we made it to Florida in 3 days. On the way back, we planned to take it slower and enjoyed a few additional destination spots along the way. We also decided to take a COVID-19 test in Tallahassee at a CVS drive thru testing site just to be on the safe side! Thankfully, our testing came out negative! We are extremely grateful for an amazing trip, and that God blessed us with safety, protection and health along the way. Thanks for reading!