Pros and Cons of Disney World Travel During COVID

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Walt Disney World has been reopened for business since July. While the super sparse attendance of those early days is long gone, there are other bright spots that make for a favorable travel situation for some guests. And of course, 2020 being 2020 there are also a number of drawbacks to Disney World travel. We’re here to break down the Pros and Cons, to help you come up with the course of action that’s best for you and your family.

PROS

  • Attendance caps are in place. While the socially distanced queues may make the WDW walkways feel packed, Disney is, in fact, limiting attendance to about 35% of capacity. This is particularly good news for guests planning to visit over the winter holidays, a time when 100% capacity is the norm. If you’ve ever been at the parks when they were full, you’ll understand that 35% capacity is comparatively a very light crowd.
  • You know you’ll be able to get into the park in advance. A corollary of the above point is that during some holiday weeks the parks might be so crowded that they temporarily stop admitting more guests. For example, you might have your heart set on New Year’s Eve at Magic Kingdom, but be prevented from entering (even with a valid park ticket) if the crowds are too heavy. With the current park pass system in place, you have a real reservation to get into the park.
  • There are plenty of hotel deals to be found. Disney is trying hard to attract guests, discounting many hotel stays in early 2021 from 10-35%. If you’re willing to stay off-site or roll the dice on a Priceline deal, you can save significantly more than that.
  • There are unique experiences. Sure, some old favorite Disney experiences are currently on hiatus, but there are also new activities that have come to fill in the gaps. Character cavalcades are one example of a lovely addition to the parks – a quick burst of fun without the need to plan or wait for it.
  • Disney is taking COVID precautions seriously. Disney has instituted strict cleaning and social distancing protocols throughout the parks and resorts. They’ve upped their already sound cleaning game. And masks are mandated everywhere. We’ve done our own counts and found that full mask compliance at Disney World is greater than 95%. Depending on where you’re coming from, that might make WDW a significantly safer spot than the supermarket in your hometown.
  • You might enjoy that some experiences are missing. For example, lots of folks bemoan the loss of evening Magic Kingdom fireworks, but if you’re someone with sensory issues that are exacerbated by the cacophony and flashing lights, you might welcome a reprieve from the melee.
  • Mental health boost. If Disney is your happy place and you’ve been struggling with mental health issues during the pandemic, a park-induced blast of serotonin could be a life saver.

CONS

  • Um, COVID. The Coronavirus pandemic continues to spread full force. For many folks, that alone is reason to pause any travel right now. Seriously, if you or your loved ones are immunocompromised, older than 60, or have any other medical contraindication, PLEASE avoid the parks until at least the summer when you, and much of the rest of the population, are vaccinated
  • You absolutely have to wear a mask. For many folks, this is a real pro of Disney travel, but if you’re someone who finds mask troublesome, then now is not the time to visit. If you can’t stomach having masks in your photos, then skip this trip.
  • Some activities are missing. Evening fireworks at Magic Kingdom, character meet & greets, Disney’s All-Star Sports resort, and Victoria & Albert’s restaurant are just a few of the things at Walt Disney World that are not currently operational. If you’re planning a once-in-a-lifetime trip, or if these omissions will make or break your visit, then you may want to postpone your trip for a year.
  • There are no FastPasses. The lack of FastPasses means that you can’t, say, plan to ride Seven Dwarfs Mine Train in the afternoon without a wait; it’s simply not possible. Some minor attractions rarely have significant lines.
  • Mental health challenges. If you’re someone who likes routine and knowing what to expect, or who finds worry about potential illness as troublesome as the illness itself, then going to Disney World during COVID could be more stress than it’s worth.

Only you can make the right choice for your personal situation. If you do decide to visit Walt Disney World as the pandemic continues, Touring Plans can help by reducing your time waiting in lines, helping you score difficult meal reservations, and by helping you find the best hotel room in your budget.

Let us know what you think the pros and cons of WDW are right now.

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Erin Foster

Erin Foster is an original member of the Walt Disney World Moms Panel (now PlanDisney), a regular contributor to TouringPlans.com, and co-author of The Unofficial Guide to Disney Cruise Line. She's been to WDW, DL, DL Paris, Hong Kong Disneyland, Aulani, DVC Vero Beach, and DVC Hilton Head. She's a Platinum DCL cruiser and veteran of 10 Adventures by Disney trips. Erin lives near New York City, where she can often be found indulging in her other obsession - Broadway theater.

28 thoughts on “Pros and Cons of Disney World Travel During COVID

  • December 4, 2020 at 5:19 pm
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    Another key item is that park hours are drastically reduced as compared to normal times. I think most would consider this a con, as you’re getting less value (i.e. park time) out of your tickets.

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  • December 5, 2020 at 9:46 am
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    We just returned from an 8- day trip last week. We have never been to WDW during the holidays (mainly due to cost and crowds) so this really was a once in a lifetime trip for us. We got good deals on travel and really enjoyed the lower crowds (and I don’t have pumpkins in my photos this year!) We got used to the masks and really appreciated all of the extra cleaning going on. This was definitely a different trip, and we considered canceling many times, but I’m so glad we decided to go!

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  • December 22, 2020 at 11:31 am
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    Thank you for this Cindy….I am so ready for a Disney trip and we are back and forth as well for a trip after the holidays….the virus is clearly out of control and now a new strain….wow….our reservations are still there….so we will have to decide very soon. So glad you and your family had a great time and are good to go. Stay safe

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  • January 5, 2021 at 10:29 am
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    Also, to consider… taking the plane there. We traveled back in the summer, and my oldest got Covid from someone that was sick in the plane and sneezing in the row infront. I’m certain that’s where he got it from.

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  • January 9, 2021 at 6:50 pm
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    In air covid transmission is so statistically low. If you keep your mask on, you are not getting covid. If the person sneezing keeps their mask on, Minaj chance of covid.

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  • January 11, 2021 at 7:26 pm
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    Given that capacity restrictions are in place, does this mean that weekends are no more crowded than weekdays?

    Ron

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  • January 12, 2021 at 10:49 am
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    We’ve been creating daily blog posts that show the crowd levels at each park. Disney continues to assert that they’re capping admission levels. The exact crowd cap is not published, but all evidence is that they’re keeping crowd levels under 35% capacity at all times. In general, we have not seen that weekends are significantly worse from a crowd perspective than weekdays. We did see crowds increase some during they holidays, but the day of the week is less important. Check the TouringPlans Crowd Calendar for daily estimates of future crowd levels.

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  • January 17, 2021 at 9:42 am
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    How do you expect a Two year old to keep a mask on the entire time.

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  • January 19, 2021 at 10:13 pm
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    We are traveling to WDW with our 2.5 year old in about 2 weeks. We have been practicing with her for months on wearing her mask. She now wears it when we tell her and keeps it on until we say to take it off. Keeping the mask on for more than a few hours at a time can be a little much at that age. We plan on going to the park first thing in the morning, have a lunch break, then head back to resort for a nap. After nap we will try to make another trip back out to one of the parks. We think this is the best, most practical plan with a toddler to WDW.

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  • January 20, 2021 at 11:25 am
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    Erica, how did your trip go with your toddler? We’re considering a trip in March. Baby is 2.5. Did they make a big deal about her keeping it on at all times?

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  • January 20, 2021 at 12:49 pm
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    Lucy, we haven’t gone yet. We leave in 10 days! Eek! I’m hearing that Disney is being very strict with wearing the mask. Only can take it off while eating and you must be seated. I will definitely share our experience after the trip!

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  • January 24, 2021 at 7:58 pm
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    We reside in Fl where covid is ridiculously high and have not eaten out since March of 2019. Our governor is at 100% occupancy with reference to resorts, restaurants, gyms, etc. He promotes covid. To travel to Fl, stay at a hotel, go to Disney, etc., you are taking your life in your hands.

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  • February 8, 2021 at 12:32 pm
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    I have been debating and wanted to bring my ten year old twins to Disney this year and have been a bit nervous because of the pandemic. Is Florida’s rates still extremely high? We were hoping to visit in April.

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  • February 8, 2021 at 1:19 pm
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    “Extremely high” is in the eye of the beholder. A rate that seems ominous to one person might be a worthwhile risk to another. That said, the COVID rates in central Florida are now coming down from their high point. I encourage you to check the CDC, John’s Hopkins, or another reputable site that tracks COVID data geographically. I look at the New York Times for COVID rates almost daily: https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/us/coronavirus-us-cases.html

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  • February 10, 2021 at 3:27 pm
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    We recently got back from our trip to WDW. It was great and would recommend it to anyone considering a trip during the pandemic. If you’ve been to Disney before within a few years, have realistic expectations that things are going to be different. If you don’t like the idea of wearing a mask all day, and some experiences not being available, I suggest going when the pandemic is over. My now 3 year old had a blast and that made the experience more than worth it for us. Yes, she wore her mask, but we’ve practiced with her for months. It’s definitely not as crowded as usual, which made for easier navigation through the parks. The longest wait for the most popular rides were about 40 minutes, but most rides were only about a 10 minute wait. Despite all the safety protocols and limited experiences, it was a very fun trip.

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    • March 12, 2021 at 2:51 pm
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      Which park do you recommend?! I have been to disneyland in LA and would like a different experience. After reading the park descriptions it seems Magic Kingdom is a beefed up Disneyland, am I correct?

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  • February 17, 2021 at 1:31 pm
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    Do they still have turkey legs available at WDW

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  • February 22, 2021 at 9:56 am
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    Were there any rides that were down that you were looking forward to? or anything you were bummed about not being able to do?

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  • February 22, 2021 at 10:38 am
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    Yes, there are still turkey legs!

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      • March 13, 2021 at 3:20 pm
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        Alcohol, including beer is readily available throughout Walt Disney World. You can buy beer at restaurants, bars, kiosks, and shops at all the Disney owned hotels, Disney Springs, Epcot, Animal Kingdom and Hollywood Studios. Alcohol is less available at Magic Kingdom. At Magic Kingdom you can only buy beer/wine at a handful of table service venues, and the alcohol must be consumed there. This is no different than the situation pre-Corona.

  • February 22, 2021 at 10:42 am
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    Most of the rides are operating. There are a few that are down for regular maintenance, but that happens all the time. What’s missing is many of the entertainment attractions. There are no character greetings; several of the shows are either on hiatus or have been permanently discontinued; there are no evening fireworks; there are no full parades. Some dining options are still closed and others have been substantially modified.

    If rides are your true priority, then you’re probably good to go. If other aspects of the park are more important to you, you might consider waiting a few more months.

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  • March 12, 2021 at 2:35 pm
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    Are they still serving beer?

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  • March 12, 2021 at 7:34 pm
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    I am planning a trip with my two boys ages 8 and 14. Although this is not ideal timing. This trip has become a once in a lifetime opportunity that became available to us under unfortunate circumstances. That being said we are planning to be in Orlando in June. I’m thinking many changes will probably happen between now and then. I have booked our flight, resort and car rental. I’m wondering if I should wait a few more weeks to purchase park tickets. Anyone have any advice?? The!

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    • March 13, 2021 at 3:24 pm
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      The main reason to purchase park tickets is to make Park Pass reservations. Currently, to enter a WDW theme park, you must have a park reservation in addition to an admission ticket. You can only make park reservations if you have purchased a ticket first. So, you can certainly hold off for several weeks in buying your tickets, but you do run the risk of the theme parks being unavailable during your trip. The WDW website has a page where you can check park reservation availability. I would keep an eye one that several times per week.

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  • April 4, 2021 at 9:55 am
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    Do the parks ever open up after they have been closed out to make a reservation? Planning on going at the end of the month. A member of our party bought her ticket but didn’t reserve in time and now can’t go to Magic Kingdom. Ever see them increase capacity?

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    • April 4, 2021 at 10:04 am
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      Sheryl, we think Disney holds back some reservations, so the member of your party should keep checking, especially around two weeks out.

      Reply

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