At TouringPlans, we’re obviously pro-theme park vacation and we’ve run many stories over the years about how to decide when to book your Disney vacation. Usually we ask you to consider things like your children’s school vacation weeks and the Crowd Calendar projections when deciding travel dates.
Now with COVID-19 as a factor in your trip planning, there are many more aspects to consider as you decide when, or if, you should visit Walt Disney World over the next year. Here are some things to think about:
- Am I willing to wear a mask? Disney has made it abundantly clear that guests entering the Disney theme parks will be required to wear a mask and keep it on. There will be some temporary relief zones and exceptions while dining, but otherwise you’ll need to wear a mask. We have been assured that this is non-negotiable. If you’re not okay with wearing a mask in the parks, you should likely postpone your trip.
- Do members of my party have medical issues? Just because the parks are reopening doesn’t mean the risks associated with Coronavirus have gone away. If your travel party includes family/friends with compromised immune systems, diabetes, chronic lung disease, or a number of other risk factors, you should probably stay home.
- Are there members of my family/friend circle at home who have medical issues? Even if they’re not traveling with you, if you have folks in your home life with medical issues, you may want to skip the trip to a high-density location like Disney World to avoid potentially bringing home germs.
- How old am I and the members of my traveling party? Even if everyone in your traveling party and home life is perfectly healthy, you still may want to skip the visit if these folks are age 65 or over. Age itself is a risk factor.
- Are any members of my party of the Grumpy persuasion? Many people have folks in their life who are just plain ornery. Take an honest look at your travel party. If you know in your heart that cranky Uncle Larry will balk at the temperature checks, sass the nice cast member who asks him to adjust his mask, and disregard distancing reminders, then you should probably postpone your trip or leave Larry at home. (Sorry, Larry.)
- How large is my traveling party? With social distancing measures in place, traveling parties can/should stick together and keep an appropriate distance from other parties. While there’s nothing inherently wrong with visiting WDW with a dozen family members, having a large group will make it difficult to keep away from others. Additionally, there may be limits on the number of people that can be seated together at a restaurant table, as well as limits on how many people can get reservations together for meals or attractions. A large group is almost always more difficult to manage, but even more so now.
- Where are you traveling from? If you’re visiting Florida from New York, New Jersey, or Connecticut, you may be subject to a quarantine period before you would be allowed out and about. We believe that the executive order which required folks arriving in Florida from the New York tri-state area expires on July 7, 2020, just ahead of the park reopening on July 11, but not ahead of the DVC resort reopening on June 22. (Though the wording on all this is murky at best.) So if you’re coming to Florida from the New York area, do your homework just prior to arrival. Quarantine measures are always subject to change. It might even happen that Florida institutes a mandatory quarantine for visitors from other states with virulent COVID outbreaks. These issues are compounded if you’re an international visitor. Other countries might institute prohibitions on travel to and from the United States. The moral of the story is that you should be as up to date as possible with legal issues related to travel during the pandemic.
- What’s the COVID situation in my home state? If you’re healthy, but traveling from a state that is the middle of a severe COVID outbreak, consider whether it might be challenging to get appropriate care at home if you were to acquire COVID while traveling. Would your home town hospital have an ICU bed available for you if you were to acquire COVID during vacation?
- Do I have strong feelings about which hotel I stay at? Given that the NBA and MLS seasons will now take place at Walt Disney World, those organizations will be quartered in several WDW hotels, making them unavailable to the public. The exact list of hotels is not yet public. Guests who had reservations at the commandeered hotels will certainly be accommodated elsewhere, so (assuming you have a reservation) you will have a place to stay–it just might not be your preferred venue. For most folks this will either be a non-event or a welcome upgrade, but some guests might have a particular attachment to a specific resort.
- Will my favorite attractions be unavailable? At least at first, many iconic Disney experiences will not happen. There will be no fireworks, parades, or character greetings, for example. If these are must-dos for you, you may want to wait to travel.
- Will my favorite restaurants be unavailable? As with attractions, some WDW visitors have intense feelings about their favorite restaurants. Not all dining establishments are going to be open. If this matters to you, perhaps rethink your trip.
- Am a strongly attached to the dining plan? The Disney Dining Plan will not exist when WDW reopens. (I assume this change is temporary, but you never know.) Some WDW guests rely on the DDP to keep their dining planning and budget in check. If not having the Dining Plan in place makes you uncomfortable, skip this trip.
- Am I strongly attached to the Park Hopper? During the initial phase of reopening, it is likely guests will only be allowed to visit one theme park per day. If you are strongly wedded to the idea of park hopping (visiting more than one of Disney’s theme parks in a single day), this could be a signal to wait to visit.
- Am I able to entertain myself during the evenings? This is a corollary of the Park Hopper question. Many guests choose to park hop because it gives them more options for things to do in the evenings. For example, they might tour the Magic Kingdom during the day, but have dinner and then drink around the world at Epcot in the evening. With no park hopping, this strategy will not be possible. The park hours will also be limited. Are you okay with having a trip with more downtime? Will you go stir crazy if you’re not constantly on the go? Will you feel like you’re getting your money’s worth if you can’t follow your usual schedule?
- How long is your trip? This is also related to Park Hopping. If your trip is only, say, three days, previously you could visit all four parks during that time period. This won’t be possible at the outset of reopening. Are you okay with skipping one or more parks? If you’re planning a long trip, are you okay with the possibility of Disney choosing which park you visit multiple times, if at all?
- Am I okay with uncertainty in the planning process? Disney planning right now is obviously a moving target. Procedures are changing. Rules are changing. There will be lots of glitches and making it up on the fly. If that makes you uncomfortable, perhaps you should consider postponing.
- What are the financial implications of this trip? It’s no secret that millions of Americans have been furloughed or fired, businesses have been shuttered, and the financial markets are volatile. It’s a rare family that hasn’t been impacted by the current economy. Yes, a vacation might be great for your mental health, but before embarking on your trip you should take a realistic look at your financial situation, the fiscal health of your employer, and the economy in general. Make sure that spending on a big-ticket vacation makes sense for you right now, or whether you should wait a bit to get more clarity on the real financial impact of the trip.
- Is this a once in a lifetime trip? If you are a frequent WDW guest, then these changes might be an interesting blip for you, but if your budget or constitution allow for only rare Disney touring, then this may not be the trip you want. Will you be happier if you can take in all that Disney has to offer, rather than being served a limited menu?
What are your thoughts about visiting WDW now? Are you having second thoughts or plowing ahead? Why? Are there other issues weighing on your decision? Let us know.