Destination Disney

Returning to Disney: Magic in a Mask

After months of waiting and watching, I finally made it back to the happiest place on Earth! It felt so good to be back at Disney World! I am happy to report the magic is still there, just a bit different! Below I recap the whole experience. From park reservations to leaving the gates on my one day trip to Magic Kingdom!

Make sure you have your Disney mask! Check out our article on some of the cool masks Disney has put out, here!

The Reservation Process

The most important part of any Disney trip is planning. This has not changed! With the new park reservation system, you MUST plan ahead. If you are an annual pass holder, book sooner than later. Annual passholder spots sell out first! I have not seen a day where regular park or hotel guest tickets have sold out first! You need to think further ahead than just a week or two, dependent on the park you want to visit and on what day. Hollywood Studios appears to be the current favorite park so you may more lead time here!

Although the reservation system works, it is not great. Each time I attempted a reservation, I was told there were no reservations available on the first try. Once you get to the second calendar, there are always reservations available for your day. Unfortunately, it may not be the park you want. I find this to be slightly annoying/tedious but manageable. You can see a breakdown on how to utilize the Disney Park Pass Reservation System on Disney’s website here.

I also dislike that annual pass holders can no longer pick-up and go to the parks at anytime. Kyle and I use to do this a lot when we could find cheap off-property rooms. Unfortunately this is no more. In addition this, I think it is odd that Disney does not open the remaining reservations to all patrons on the day of. We will not get into that as it is a big soapbox.  

The one nice thing, you do not have any other work to do outside of booking your park reservation. Disney temporarily disbanded the Fast Pass System due to the capacity restrictions. This means you don’t have to stress-out about getting fast passes for rides. You simply get in the stand by lines, which move quite efficiently.

Dining Reservations ARE available but not all restaurants are open! I have not made a dining reservation yet, but I did look and it seemed most restaurants have lots of availability.

Hitting The Park

Pulling up to Magic Kingdom was outright weird! The typical long lines of cars waiting were non-existent. The parking staff was super helpful as always! Each of them were wearing masks. They are still scanning magic bands or annual pass cards so have those ready. My parking location was even better than the short lines.

I arrived at the parking lot shortly after park opening. To my surprise, I parked in the very first section. (About four rows back from the handicap parking.) Not only did I parked in a prime spot, Disney was also parking cars at a six foot distance, in every other space. (Disney went back and filled in the spots next to me with other cars but this was one of their ways of trying to social distance even in the parking lot.) I think this was a little bit of “going the extra mile”.

Pro-tip: Consider putting on your mask when you pull up to the parking booth with your pass or parking payment. These people also deserve the same respect that others are getting in the parks. 

Once I got to the main portion of the transportation center, I stepped right up to the temperature check station. Three women from Advent Health were doing temporal scans. This went quick without issue. Then, all guests got in various lines for bag check per normal. It’s a fact that bag check can be painful. However, there were more lines open than there were families, making it quick and efficient. After bag check, you can take the ferry or monorail to Magic Kingdom per normal. 

Disney worked diligently to ensure proper distancing everywhere. Once you got in line for the monorail, there are arrows and numbers to follow to ensure proper distancing between guests. They had a similar system for the ferry. There were various numbers on the ground for each party to stand on. The numbers correlated to which boat you were on. (the first boat to leave for the park, the second boat, etc.)

Our boat was then divided into two groups, those to sit on the top and those on the bottom. Those sitting on the top deck load first. The bottom floor is loaded after the stairs on the boat are roped off. The ferry even has dots for families to stand on to stop clustering. I felt extremely comfortable waiting in line for the ferry and on the ferry. Everyone kept their distance and worked hard to take note of the spots.

The ferry was unloaded in the reverse order when we arrived. Out of the whole experience, the only time distancing got difficult was with loading and unloading because you do have to get close to one another to get over the bridge. (People do start walking around you so there isn’t a way to avoid it truly.)

Welcome Home!

Scanning into the park was also very easy! You scan your magic band or park ticket! There is no finger print scanner due to Covid-19. Several park entry lanes were open, which made scanning a breeze! Again, it was almost weird how few people there were at the scanners waiting to get into the park. No one was using the passholder entrance when I walked up. 

As you walk under the train station and onto Main Street USA, the first thing you notice is the lack of park guests. It is almost a little confusing. There are people wondering around the square but honestly no more than 50. It was kind of nice because you could stop and really look at the square and take as many pictures as you wanted without having people in them. Turning down Main Street was even nicer! You can see all the way down to the castle with an almost unobstructed view. Seeing the castle for the first time since it was repainted is truly a gift. Make sure to enjoy the view!

New Cast Member Look

There are new cast members in yellow standing along Main Street and around the castle. These members act as “Safety Monitors”. Their job is to ensure everyone stays six feet apart and wears their masks appropriately. I did not see them anywhere else in the park and my guess is because these areas are the most photographed parts of the park.

Disney really does not want people taking off their masks unless you are actively eating/drinking and are doing so stationary. Even if you would like to take a picture, you must do so wearing a mask. These cast members, “Safety Monitors“, ensure people are abiding by Disney’s rules. They also try to keep you from socializing too much with other families as to respect social distancing. They are all very nice about it and are trying to ensure the parks can stay open, so be nice, courteous, and understanding. (Many of the “Safety Monitors” are part of the entertainment staff for kids at the resorts so this is not the job they were necessarily hoping to return to). 

I recommend reviewing Disney’s mask policy because they do have specific requirements on what kind of mask you can and cannot wear in the parks. If you would like to see Disney’s Mask policy you can view it here.

Characters In A New Way???

The best part about the new park set up, in my opinion, are the mini parades. These parades occur at various times, along Main Street, throughout the day. I was able to watch four different parades with some of our favorite characters! There were even some special characters on the parade floats that you cannot normally meet and greet with, making it a special mini-event. All the characters are excited to see everyone and wave and dance, making it a lot of fun. I hope they continue these mini-parades when things normalize because they really bring back a lot of the magic. I always loved the parades as a kid! Personally, I wish they would bring back the electric light parade, but one can only dream…

Let’s Ride Some Rides!

After a little bit of wondering, I started riding some rides. If you get to Magic Kingdom at open and were focused on riding every ride, you could. You could probably get all the shows that are currently open in as well! The wait times posted were not very accurate, but in a good way! Most lines took me about 5-10 minutes less than the posted time. In some instances, the wait time was half of what is posted. (It only took me 35 minutes to ride Splash Mountain instead of 65.) 

One of the nicest things I noticed, was how many sanitation stations were available while in line for rides. There is one at the beginning and end of the line and often times at least one more throughout the line. You also move relatively quickly through line, making it hard for you to touch too many things.

I think Disney did the best with the social distancing in line. You are always a minimum of six feet from another person or family. Wherever the line starts to curve or overlap with another line, they put in even longer stretches to ensure you do not end up standing next to a family/guest not in your party. In the parts of the queue where it is not possible to be 6 feet apart from another guest, Disney installed large plexi-glass walls.  The clear glass was almost impossible to notice and does not make you feel claustrophobic. I felt extremely safe standing in line with all these measures. Almost all families I saw were extremely compliant with the rules! Each one waiting to make sure they had space to move up before physically moving up in line. 

Lunch Time

After riding several rides, I was ready to eat and try the new food system. Getting food is a little more challenging than it was in the past. Since Disney sent home all their college program and international program staff members, they are missing a massive amount of employees. Many of these employees worked in quick-service food making it hard for Disney to re-open all the vending areas in the parks.

The other problem Disney faces is that each staff member counts in the capacity number the park can hold. So the more staff they have for restaurants, the less people they can let into the parks given the current Cover-19 conditions. I decided on Pinocchio’s Village Haus for lunch as I knew it was open after walking by earlier in the day. My recommendation is to either look on the app or keep your eyes open while in the park to see which places are open so you know where to go when you are hungry. 

Pro Tip: Make sure you mobile order well ahead of time and you won’t have to wait outside the restaurant very long before your food is ready.

Once you have decided where you want to eat, you are going to place your order through the app. Almost all food service areas with seating are requiring mobile orders. If you know you are going to eat somewhere specific, you can pre-order ahead of the time. This way you do not have to wait as long. Either way, once you have a mobile order in the queue, there are areas outside of each restaurant in which you wait to pick up your food. These areas are appropriately distanced and staffed with cast members. 

When my food was ready, I was able to pick-up my chicken nuggets and fries. (Yes I am a kid at heart.) There is hand sanitizer available prior to entering the restaurant so be sure to sanitize! They even make sure your order comes out at a space six feet away from the next family.

Pinocchio’s tables are very well spaced. I felt extremely comfortable sitting inside without my mask on. I couldn’t reach another table with family members if I tried. Staff members are sprinkled throughout the restaurant, to help you if needed and wiping down every table between families. All in all, my lunch exceeded my expectations with regards to Covid! The food was also good! I was not disappointed with my food either but would not say it is a Disney special. 

Back To The Park At large 

Being able to ride all the rides was actually personally difficult for me. I cannot remember the last time I spent the day at the park and really tried to ride everything in one day. I personally felt super successful in my crusade, riding over ten rides! Believe it or not, I did get tired of riding! I did not think it was possible but it did happen so I made a stop for ice cream before heading to my final park destination. 

Unfortunately, Plaza Ice Cream Parlor is closed. I was hoping to FINALLY get ice cream from one of the most iconic spots at the Magic Kingdom. This was not the case so I made my way into future world for a brownie sundae at Auntie Gravity’s Galactic Goodies. As much as I loved this, it was way too big for me. I wish I would’ve had someone to share it with! I should’ve known that a brownie sundae would also come with two brownie “ears” to make the perfect hidden Mickey!

Magic Kingdom Shopping

With my sugar rush on board, I headed for Main Street to check out the Emporium before ending my magical day. Getting into the stores is trickier as you can only enter and exit through specified doors. It was almost confusing that I could not walk into the Emporium at one of their many, many “normal” entrances! Once you walk through the entrance of a store, there is again hand sanitizer as well as an employee counting you. This ensures that they are not going over capacity in the store at any time.

Of all places, Disney stores are typically the most unorganized part of the parks because of how many people come through to look at items and shop. This was the first time I have seen the Emporium look so perfect. There was hardly an item out of place! I am not sure if that is because of how few people were in the store or if people were trying not to touch items unless they planned on purchasing them.

It was great to look around and see all the new merchandise but as I was not planning on buying anything, it was not as fun as before. I am guilty of making stores messy as I like to walk around and look at various items but I kept my hands to myself this time! As I said before, finding the entrance and especially the exit to the Emporium was difficult! When I was there, the only exits I found were at the end, closest to the park entrance/exit. 

So……Was The Trip to Magic Kingdom Worth It?

Overall, my trip to Magic was a wild success! I am extremely happy that I went for the day despite it being a little under 6 hour round trip! Wearing a mask was not nearly as difficult as I thought it would be. I typically get hot and sweaty during the summer at Disney and I thought I would have major issues. Honestly, I had no problems. I think knowing that you have to wear the mask makes it easier to be at the park all day and not obsess over it.

Even the kids in the park did amazing with masks! I don’t know if people prepped their kids before coming, but I did not see one breakdown over a mask! I was also able to stop and take my mask off to drink water and eat without any issues which I know was a concern for people with the new “no eating/drinking and walking” rule.  Disney really did a great job with the social distancing, sanitizer, and safety monitors. 

Pro Tip: Make sure to check out all of the new regulations in place before going to a Disney Park/Resort. You can view them here.

Outside of the concerns for Covid-19, being able to ride all the rides is a major plus! If you want to get the best bang for your buck regarding rides, now is the time to go! You can really do it all and still see some characters through the parades. I am sure a day at Hollywood Studios would be amazing during this weird time. Especially since almost every ride has a 50 minutes or longer line on a ” normal” day and is probably why it is the first park sold out in park reservations. I highly recommend a trip to the parks between this and the fact that resorts are nearly empty allowing for tons of fun to be had there as well!

Is Any “Magic” Missing?

Even though I say you need to go, there is something I do want to mention. Some of the Disney magic is missing at the park. A great deal of Disney magic is actually made by the guests visiting. Not having kids giggling and screaming when they see the castle for the first time does make the walk down Main Street a little lonely. It is what I have to imagine a half empty concert would be like. Tons of music without everyone screaming out the lyrics while dancing around. Disney is made to bring family and friends together so the limited number of guests, however great for your own agenda, does make it less magical. 

Be Comfortable With Your Choice

With all this being said, I do encourage all people considering attending the parks to be sure you are comfortable with your choice to go. With the current climate in the world, I believe everything has to do with personal comfort. If you are not comfortable traveling or being outdoors all day in a mask, my recommendation is to stay home until you feel ready to experience the magic again. You will not enjoy your return trip to Disney near as much if you aren’t 100% certain in your decision to go at this time. 


  • Casey Neer

    Hey Abby! Chels and I had our tip this October all but paid for when COVID hit. We actual bought the flight in March thinking this would all just pass and we’d hop on those cheap cheap plane tickets….Silly us….Any way this a great write up and I feel it truly speaks to those who are able to burn an afternoon or quick weekend at the parks. It seems like you miss out on a few things but nothing trip ruining. A quick trip to get your fix with really on little magic lost.

    However being from out of state we are extremely hesitant to book a full trip given we know what we want out of the trip ( park hoping, Food and Wine Festival, ease of entering parks and not having to worry about reservations ). Sure we can get the most bang for our buck now in terms of wait times and freely roaming the parks. But all things consider we just dont want to take the chance. We are excited for when things start looking up post-COVID but for now I think we will keep our butts in Ohio!

    • Abby

      Hey Casey!

      I totally agree with you! If I were in your situation, I would’ve bought my flights in March too! I thought this would have come and gone by now as well seeing as I had gone to Europe in March right before COVID became all that it did! For those of us that live this close to the parks, quick days or weekends are simple! Truth be told, if I couldn’t go every weekend like I practically do, I would postpone my trip as well. I would want to have all my options available to me so I could eat where I want and do what I want without thinking about COVID. Being able to ride everything in one day is amazing but it is about the whole trip, especially when you are paying for a once a year or every few years trip! PLus, postponing your trip just means you will be able to make it even better!

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