The Silver Lining of Disney’s Pandemic Precautions

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I’m loathe to say anything positive about a world health crisis, so let’s stipulate that almost every aspect of the Coronavirus pandemic is horrifying and heartbreaking. There is nothing good and everything awful about illness, loss of life, job loss, and forced isolation.

On a much more prosaic level, while theme parks are certainly not essential (unless, of course, they’re your employer), for fans of the parks, Disney World’s four-month shutdown has been a time of melancholy and worry. Would our beloved happy place be unrecognizable when it returned?

Now that the parks have reopened to all guests, there are a host of changes in place. Some are sad or frustrating, but not all the news is negative from a park touring perspective. There are some aspects of the COVID-era parks that, dare I say, make things better than “Before.” Here’s the silver lining in the new Walt Disney World procedures.

Princess Anna takes a drive through newly reopened Epcot.

The parks are clean. Like really, really clean.

Though Disney has always had a reputation for cleanliness, any frequent park-goer has seen more than their fair share of overflowing trash cans and sticky toddlers licking handrails. Now that extra sanitation teams have been dispatched throughout the parks, the facade of clean has been replaced with actual clean. The goo is gone!

Standby lines are shorter.

With park capacity now limited to an estimated 1/4 to 1/3 of previous limits, the crowds of yesteryear have vanished. Since the parks have reopened, the longest posted wait we’ve seen for any attraction is about an hour (with most at far, far less than that). The days of four-hour attraction waits have vanished.

Smaller crowds means less overall congestion.

In addition to reduced attraction wait times, the crush of crowds in walkways is now gone as well. You can get from point A to point B without bobbing and weaving. We’ve also seen fewer strollers, wheelchairs, ECVs, and other conveyances in the parks recently, so you’re less likely to get your toes crushed by wayward steering.

Pooh explores the natural elements of Future World.

You can sleep later.

Gone are the days of the 5:00 a.m. wake-up call to get you up for morning Extra Magic Hours. Some parks are opening as late as mid-morning, with no early entry for resort guests. You could wake up at something approaching a normal hour, eat a leisurely breakfast, and still make it to the parks at opening time.

There’s more opportunity for spontaneity.

FastPasses are gone for the time being. This means that there’s no pressure to run across the park in a mad quest to get to the ride you made a reservation two months ago that you maybe aren’t really in the mood for right now. You can do what you want, when you want, without pressure to guess in advance where you’ll be. That said, a good touring plan can still help you make the best use of your time.

The characters are having more fun.

With standard wait-in-line character meet & greets now paused, Disney has sent some characters into the parks for lighthearted adventures. We’ve seen Winnie the Pooh trying to catch butterflies, Merida on horseback, Anna riding in a carriage, Donald & Daisy on a boat ride, small cavalcades of characters on single floats, and a host of other appearances. These are charming, unpredictable, and just plain fun.

Ducks on the river at Animal Kingdom.

There’s less waiting for food.

Mobile order is the order of the day now. Rather than standing in a line to request food, guests now primarily request food via the My Disney Experience app. You’ll get pinged when it’s ready!

The food might be better.

Touring Plans’ fearless leader Len Testa has been raving about the quality of Disney’s food since the resort has reopened. The chefs are now able to give each meal more attention rather than just working to dish out volume.

There are incredible photo opportunities.

If you like taking atmospheric photos of the parks, there has rarely been a better time to do so. Fewer guests means more chances to capture wide exterior shots with no pesky people in the background.

This is also one of the few times you’ll easily get on-ride photos with just your party. For example, Disney is only loading one party in each Test Track vehicle.

And if you’re into cosplay or Disney-bounding, the mask mandate means you can now work characters with face coverings into your repertoire. I wanna see those Vader masks in Batuu!

There are fewer points of sensory overload.

We’ve heard many guests complain about the pause on evening fireworks, but for travelers with sensory overload issues, the ceased fireworks are a boon. There’s less noise and vibration to unsettle nerves before bedtime. The slower pace overall makes meltdowns less likely.

You might save money.

Many of the Disney World “extras” such as backstage tours, the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique, and the Halloween parties now on hold, there are simply fewer things to spend your money on. Additionally, with the parks less crowded, it’s likely you’ll be able to experience all the park attractions in a shorter amount of time, meaning that you might not need as many park days or hotel nights.

Though we certainly miss many aspects of pre-pandemic Disney World, in this brave new World, there might be an actual vacation within your vacation.

Photos: Christina Harrison

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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, 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.

15 thoughts on “The Silver Lining of Disney’s Pandemic Precautions

  • July 20, 2020 at 3:08 pm

    No amusement park—especially Disney’s—can function for much longer at these levels. It is simply not a viable business model. You may be having a nice, cleaner time right now (without parades, fireworks or many of the other things that make Disney special) but please do not conflate these extreme measures during a pandemic with some silly “silver lining.” It cheapens the hard work of an otherwise fine website and book. People are jobless, homeless and dying because of this. Shorter lines and clean railings for those who can still afford an expensive vacation is not something to crow about.

  • July 20, 2020 at 3:26 pm

    I appreciate this post and understand its intent. I’m trying to do the same in my personal life, to find what we’re gaining with so much lost and appreciate the little things. It feels very necessary to try to find the positives to make it through this time.

  • July 20, 2020 at 4:01 pm

    I’m definitely a “glass is half full” person, but this article really, really annoyed me.
    I’m very disappointed with Touring Plans for posting it.
    I’ll leave it there.

  • July 20, 2020 at 5:54 pm

    Erin, don’t worry about the negative comments. The article was perfect for the subject. I too always look for the positive in any and all situations. Some people are definitely feeling the crunch of not being able to get away……..

  • July 20, 2020 at 6:19 pm

    We appreciate the article. Thanks for the update. We are considering going to the parks at the end of the summer.

  • July 20, 2020 at 6:21 pm

    We were at Disney from 7/11-7/18 I agree with many of the comments made in the article however the mobile food ordering was a pain in the neck. Folks would crowd around the entrance to the restaurant waiting for the food. It seemed to go against the efforts that Disney was trying to make with social distancing. I also had trouble getting the verification that my order was ready Waited 20 minutes for 2 danishes and then I had to check with the attendant to learn my order was ready

  • July 20, 2020 at 7:50 pm

    Re: comments about going on vacation in a pandemic

    The world has struggling with the AIDS pandemic since before I was born. COVID-19 isn’t likely to come close to killing as many people as AIDS has–at its peak that was probably >2 million people a year while COVID-19 stands at 600k this year. If it isn’t acceptable to blog about Disney World “during a pandemic” and while people are homeless and jobless then you should have called out this blog when it started and every day since.

    Or maybe it’s ok for people to write a blog about makes them happy, pandemic or not?

  • July 20, 2020 at 9:45 pm

    I’m not surprised that this post garnered some negative feedback. It kinda rubbed me the wrong way, too. Though good points have been made in its defense: the information is useful, the intent is clear and positive, and people should be able to write about what makes them happy, even (and maybe especially) when they’re surrounded by things that make them sad.

    But still, there’s something about this article. There are LOTS of blog posts here about all sorts of things Disney and Universal that are NOT getting any negative response. So I think it’s worth asking what it is about this one that upset at least a few people significantly more than other posts have.

    For me, I think the disclaimer at the beginning was counterproductive. “I’m loathe to say anything positive about a world health crisis”… but that’s exactly the point of the article. “There is nothing good and everything awful about illness, loss of life, job loss, and forced isolation”… except for this list of things. I do think framing this as a “Silver Lining” is inappropriate. It feels like you’re saying “if you can ignore the medical, financial, and social strain everyone is feeling, here’s the trivial compensation everyone’s pain and suffering earned you.” Otherwise, Mrs. Lincoln, how was the play?

    To me, it’s the juxtaposition that can kinda come off as a slap in the face to people who aren’t in the highly privileged extreme minority that can enjoy these positive side-effects. To all of us who either can’t travel right now, can’t afford a vacation, or are dealing with truly life-and-death situations, it ALMOST seems like you’re gloating or reveling in the by-products of our suffering. (I’m sorry – those verbs are too strong, but it definitely CAN come off that way.)

    There’s also the point that Florida is a (the?) U.S. pandemic hotspot these days, and any medium that makes going there right now look enticing is suspicious. It’s frustrating to read about how the sacrifices I’m making are benefiting people who are not making those same sacrifices. But I can respect that that’s your job and that this is part of the balancing act our country (the whole world, really) is performing between public safety and financial survival. It’s a tough spot to be in, and I do appreciate your intent. I just feel like the tone you ended up striking might have ended up a little off from what you were shooting for – or at least it can be perceived that way.

    I’m not sure how that could have been avoided. It might have helped to mention that an open Disney World provides income for everyday cast members that have been struggling like everyone else. Maybe the post could instead of have been framed as “here’s how your Disney trip will be different,” leaving interpretations and subjective value judgements up to the reader. Or maybe just an acknowledgement: “I realize this only benefits a very few, and I’d happily trade all of these to know that all people can come and enjoy this happy place, just as Walt imagined.”

    I’m not mad. Again, I respect the difficulty of walking that fine line between optimism and sympathy right now, and I feel like your intentions were true. But in asking myself why I was upset by this post, I thought I might provide some thoughtful feedback for future work, and perhaps give a voice to others with whom this article didn’t quite sit right, even if they didn’t quite know why.

    Thank you Erin, and the entire TouringPlans team and community, for all you do.

  • July 20, 2020 at 10:46 pm

    I’m sorry, but if I’m gonna go that far, I’m going to make one more point to be a bit more specific and concrete.

    “Prosaic” was a strange word choice. It implies that your first paragraph – the only place you mention other challenges people are facing from this pandemic – was just poetic, and not in earnest. Of all the words you could have chosen – why that one? Especially when you follow it up by saying that the “melancholy and worry” park fans are feeling are about what changes will occur at a theme park. That seems very out-of-touch with what people are going through, especially when your first paragraph just seemed so disingenuous.

  • July 21, 2020 at 12:12 am

    I loved your article Erin! Thank you! 🙂 Even though our Disney trips are pushed back (indefinitely) because of the quarantines, I appreciate your positivity and it makes me hopeful and happy about when we can come back!

  • July 21, 2020 at 1:29 am

    To Steve’s comment,

    I think the difference here is that this article is finding positives that are a direct result of the pandemic, as if that somehow outweighs the negative. At the very least, it diminishes the negative (isn’t that the point of the post?), and people who have lost more than a vacation would understandably not appreciate the devaluing of their sacrifices by putting them up against duck costumes on a boat.

    To more directly use your reference, if someone said “The AIDS pandemic has killed tens of thousands of young, active gay men, which means there’s lots of opportunity to start that career in musical theater you always wanted,” wouldn’t that seem distasteful?

    The issue here isn’t writing about a vacation during a pandemic. It’s pointing out that something that has caused so much hardship for so many people is working out pretty darn well for a select few.

  • July 21, 2020 at 1:36 pm

    It was clear to me while reading that Erin is finding the silver lining of the pandemic “precautions,” not the pandemic itself. Perhaps it could have been more clear, but still this is a worthwhile and interesting article. Thank you, Erin!

  • July 21, 2020 at 2:15 pm

    I think Jeff expressed my feelings very well that “Erin is finding the silver lining of the pandemic “precautions,” not the pandemic itself”. A WDW trip is not possible for us right now, but I enjoy reading positive posts and living vicariously.

  • July 21, 2020 at 2:55 pm

    Exactly this–thanks Jeff, and thanks Erin!

  • July 22, 2020 at 10:14 am

    Well right…..why else would you be reading a Disney Blog if you didn’t want a bit of escapism from the reality of the world? And I 100% agree with all of Erin’s positivism.


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