We’re inching slowly closer to a possible reopening of the Disney World theme parks, so we’re starting to think about what that might look like.
And we’re not the only ones! Florida put together the Re-Open Florida Task Force, with representation by Disney World president Josh D’Amaro, to visualize the sort of health and safety measures that will be necessary to reopen the state. Many of the already-discussed measures apply to Disney World and we’re looking at what these might mean for YOUR next Disney trip!
Keep in mind, most of these measures have simply been proposed, not mandated. So we’ll keep you posted as news develops from state government.
1. We Will See a Gradual/Phased Reopening
We now know that Disney World will be reopening in phases, with select restaurants and stores in Disney Springs as the first phase. But the Task Force has also discussed opening Disney World and other Orlando theme parks gradually, with Florida residents allowed in initially, then domestic guests, and finally a full reopen to international guests. We’ve already seen a similar process used in China with the phased reopening of Shanghai Disney Resort. Florida tourism officials have even discussed a marketing plan to encourage this process.
To date, Disney World has not specified that guests would have to be from a certain locale in order to patronize their parks, and this is not the case at press time with the Disney Springs reopening.
But if a process like this moves forward, this could have different implications for your Disney trip depending on what kind of guest you are. If you’re a Florida resident, you may see extremely low-crowds at the first phase of theme parks reopening. Similarly, around 20% of Disney World guests are international visitors at any given time, so until international guests are welcomed there could be fewer people in the parks.
2. Sick Guests May Not Be Allowed in the Parks
Another potential change that has been discussed by the group is the possibility of sick guests not being allowed in the park. This was initially suggested by Universal Orlando but could ring true for Disney World depending on state regulations and executive decisions.
The committees are not yet sure how this would work, but it echos Bob Iger’s mention of possible temperature checks at the park gates. This change could mean that if you’re sick during your trip to Disney World, you may be turned away at the gates to protect other guests and Cast Members.
3. In-Park Protocols Could be Extremely Different
In-park protocols could also see some serious changes to increase health and safety within the parks. Universal also made suggestions on this subject, including reducing unnecessary surface contact points, sanitizing rides and necessary surfaces during the day, using more technology (such as Mobile Order or Mobile Pay), increasing the use of virtual queues, using primarily outdoor queues, and staggering seating on rides and in shows.
Disney has since announced that Virtual Queues will likely be further implemented in their parks as well once reopened to maintain safety. This could have interesting ripple effects on the way our park-days look. Not only could these measures be apparent in the parks, but sanitation procedures and capacity regulations could even have an effect on wait times.
4. Restaurants Could Have Lower Capacities, Shortages, and New Protocols
New procedures could extend to Disney dining as well. The Task Force has made suggestions of lowering restaurant capacity through updated floor plans, having servers wear masks and gloves, and distributing disposable menus instead of reusable ones. They also recommended dining locations have stricter protocols to clean and disinfect everything between customers.
The committees have also discussed the potential for group suppliers to have some issues meeting demands when restaurants begin to reopen and place full orders simultaneously.
If some of these issues and protocols are the reality in Disney World, you may see notable changes on your trip.
With Disney Springs’ reopening, we know that the shopping and dining district will be operating with limitations on capacity, parking, and operating hours, and that guests and cast members will be required to wear face coverings. That, coupled with potential supply chain issues, means that it may be more difficult to get a reservation at many restaurants. Plus, locations may run out of specific menu items if there are shortages, resulting in possible substitutions.
5. Guests and Cast Members Will Be Required To Wear Masks
Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) has also been discussed at these meetings. One scenario has Florida residents being asked to continue wearing masks in public areas. In this instance, you may see Cast Members provided with and wearing masks and gloves in the park.
Universal has stated that they are considering for their employees to all wear masks once their parks open, and Disney will require both guests and cast members to wear face coverings when Disney Springs reopens.
If guests are asked or choose to wear masks in the parks, interestingly, this could mean that Disney would have to adjust a rule in its dress code for the parks. Masks that cover the face have previously been disallowed in the theme parks, but in the interest of health, guests may be allowed (or even encouraged or required!) to wear a filtered mask for their safety and the safety of others.
6. Spa and Salon Experiences, Like Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique, Might See New Safety Measures
One of the most popular experiences for children in Disney World is the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique, where kids can get a hair and makeup makeover.
But with salons and spas closed in most states due to health concerns, what will safety regulations look like in the salons and spas of Disney World when a reopening happens? The Task Force has floated some ideas for personal grooming locations such as a one-in, one-out policy to control capacity, contactless payment, and salon employees and customers encouraged to wear masks.
That could make your little princess’ magical makeover a little more problematic if they’re required to wear a mask the whole time. And locations like this are typically packed with eager parents snapping pictures — will it ruin the appeal if mom and dad have to possibly wait outside?
These regulations could affect other spa and salon locations like those found in some of the resorts as well as Harmony Barber Shop in Magic Kingdom. Our little ones got their first haircuts at Harmony Barber Shop and we have wonderful pictures to remember it by. We imagine the experience would have been VERY different if our squirmy toddlers had to wear a mask the whole time.
7. You Might Make Fewer Trips to the Front Desk at Your Resort Hotel
On the subject of Florida hotels, such as the Disney World resort hotels, the Re-Open Florida Task Force discussed the options of encouraging and expanding online check-in options and providing wipes and hand-sanitizer for guests and employees.
With these measures in place, it could be a good idea to get used to how Disney’s online check-in works in My Disney Experience! Disney has had this option in place for a few years where guests can set up a credit card tied to their room and check-in before arriving so that once they get to the resort, a room number is assigned to them and they skip the front desk entirely.
8. There Could Be Added Guidelines for Big Events
Finally, we may see guidelines for big events at Disney World like runDisney events, sports events, and even holiday parties in the parks. During a Task Force meeting, Len Brown from the PGA Tour spoke about wanting consistency across several industries that hold large gatherings including sporting events, theme parks, and convention centers. Larger events may still occur, but with some changes to capacity and health measures.
It’s unclear at this time what specific measures could be implemented in Disney World in this regard. But with events like runDisney races packing in thousands of people in close quarters, it is certainly a viable concern.
So, that’s what we’re looking at according to the Re-Open Florida Task Force. Again, very little has been officially announced form the Florida or California governments pertaining to the theme parks. At this point, most of what we’re dealing with are proposed ideas, so there’s a possibility for change. We’re keeping a pulse on all of the Task Force meetings on both coasts and will be here to share updates as soon as they drop.
What do you think of some of these potential Disney World changes? Share your thoughts in the comments!