Orlando’s theme parks have enjoyed a decades long reputation for providing a clean and safe environment for all guests. Over the years the theme parks’ security procedures have evolved, adding layers and new processes. In the past few months we’ve seen a significant change to all the major theme parks’ procedures. In hopes of helping you prepare for your visit, I’ve laid out some of the security measures you can expect to encounter.
Keep in mind, there are multiple layers of security at all the parks. There are efforts that go unseen and procedures we don’t know about. Additionally, out of respect for the theme parks, their staff members, and their security, I won’t go beyond what is already shared with the public and easily seen when visiting the parks.
Walt Disney World – Four Main Theme Parks
The Most Magical Place on Earth can’t hold such a title without having some solid security procedures in place. At the beginning of the year it was standard that all of Orlando’s theme parks conduct a bag check on any guest who had any bag of any kind, including strollers. Then a few months ago all three of Orlando’s major theme park destinations installed metal detectors at the security checkpoint. The rollout process and ramp up period varied for each destination.
Walt Disney World has proceeded with using their metal detectors for random checks. Although every single guest will go through a more-thorough-than-ever bag screening process, not every guest is asked to go through a metal detector. After the bag screening guests are selected at random to go through the detectors.
The metal detectors are off to the side and are manned by a group of Security Cast Members. I have been selected multiple times. Each time the Cast Members have been very courteous and it has only added a minute or two to my ability to get to the park entrance. You may also notice law enforcement personnel at a few posts throughout the front entrance area, as well.
Disney’s official park rules can be found here. Some of the highlights include statements that all persons, bags, parcels, and clothing are subject to screening, as well as stating that they reserve the right to not allow any item they deem inappropriate into the premises.
Guest that do not have bags have a separate area they can go through to bypass the bag screening area, but they are still subject to random metal detector screenings.
Of all the theme parks, you will most likely find that Walt Disney World’s screen process takes the least amount of time. Still if you arrive to the parks right around their opening time, be prepared for an extensive line at the checkpoints. It’s one of the reasons that we recommend arriving 30-60 minutes before any park’s opening time.
Disney Water Parks and Disney Springs
Currently, there are no metal detectors at Disney’s two water parks nor Disney Springs. At the water parks there is a bag screening, though not very extensive. There is no screening at Disney Springs, though there is a strong security and law enforcement presence.
Here you will find the most extensive screening process–and perhaps the most talked about process. Every guest will go through metal detector and all bags go through an x-ray machine. When you first approach the security checkpoint it really does resemble being at the airport. This security checkpoint is for all guests regardless of if you are visiting the theme parks or just CityWalk.
I have a slight concern with the location of this checkpoint, though it is difficult to think of an alternative location. During peak time, especially first thing in the morning, this domed area is extremely crowded. It can sometimes be an uncomfortable experience and when that feels like a bad bottle neck situation.
Universal Team Members who park in the main parking structure must also go through the same screening area, though they have a dedicated separate lane. A few friends of mine that go through this process on a daily basis have expressed concerns with some of the interactions they’ve encountered with Security personnel, as well as encounters they’ve observed with guests. I have had mostly good experiences, though there have been some rare occasion to the contrary.
If you head to CityWalk and the theme parks by walking along the garden walks from Hard Rock Hotel / Portofino Bay or Cabana Bay / Sapphire Falls / Royal Pacific you will come to a bag check and metal detector before entering the CityWalk area. Universal Orlando has also recently filed permits to install metal detectors at the resort boat docks as well. We can anticipate these metal detectors to be in place very soon.
The procedure here is somewhat a hybrid of what takes place at Walt Disney World and at Universal Orlando. While Universal uses metal detectors and x-ray machines for all guests and their belongings, SeaWorld used a manned bag check with Security Crew Members before sending each guest through a metal detector.
Screening every guest presents a challenge for SeaWorld because of how the front entrance is designed. In essence it is not big enough to handle all the extra activity. Anytime I have visited before 12:30 PM I have waited about 10-15 minutes to go through the bag check and metal detector. Thankfully once inside SeaWorld you will find a relaxed and lovely park.
Guest that do not have bags have a separate lane they can go through to bypass the bag screening area, but they are still subject to metal detector screenings.
— TouringPlans (@TouringPlans) July 31, 2016
Tips for all guests
- Have all bags, parcels, etc unzipped, opened, and off your body before you reach the Security staff member
- Make sure all kids are out of any strollers so that the Security staff members can more easily check your stroller
- Any item that can possibly be considered a weapon is subject to removal, including pocket knives – even if they are smaller than the cuttlery found inside many on property restaurants
- Selfie sticks are not allowed inside Walt Disney World’s theme parks and will be confiscated and returned to guests via Guest Relations
- Remove all items from your pockets before going through the metal detectors
- Keep your eye on your items as you go through the metal detector so you can retrieve these items quickly
- Once through the detector keep moving forward so the person behind you can quickly pass through
- If you need a few moments to reconfigure your belongings, or your family, please step aside so other guests can proceed ahead
It should also be noted that many security personal have metal detecting wands and you may be subject to being “wanded.” This can be done at random in lieu of going through the metal detector or in addition to the regular detector if deemed necessary. Furthermore, some security personnel are sensitive to photographs being taken in the security checkpoint area. Many guests have expressed concern with lack of signage and unclear official policy with regard to photography in the area.
The most important tip of all, something that I as an Orlando resident and frequent theme park visitor ask of you, is to be observant. If you see anything at all that concerns you, say something. Sure, you should alert security or any staff member, but more importantly call this number: 1-855-FLA-SAFE (1-855-352-7233). Please save this number in your phone.
Be alert and observant, and by reading this information I hope I have helped you feel more prepared. You’re visiting the most exciting, most fun vacation destination on the planet. Relax and enjoy your time in the parks!