A lot has changed about visiting a theme park amid the novel coronavirus pandemic, and getting familiar with those changes will make your trip safer and more fun.
Like just about everything else in the world, visiting Orlando’s world-famous theme parks right now is different than it used to be. But it’s still possible to have a safe visit and a good time if you come prepared. And we’re not only referring to the things you pack in your suitcase (though we’ve got you covered on a few must-pack items).
Getting ready for your trip also includes getting familiar with the new safety guidelines at Universal Orlando Resort and Walt Disney World Resort and switching up your touring plan to allow for flexibility. These 10 tips will help you plan and prepare for your trip and ensure your trip is full of happy vacation memories instead of confusion and frustration.
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Know the Rules Before You Go
Visiting a theme park right now comes with a little more personal responsibility than it did in pre-pandemic times. Universal and Disney each have their own list of safety guidelines, and both have been firm in enforcing those rules.
At both parks, masks are required at all times for guests ages two and up, unless eating or drinking in designated areas. At Universal, you may be denied entry if the parks reach their limited capacity (yes, even if you have a ticket) and at Disney World, you need to purchase a ticket and make a Park Pass reservation ahead of time for the park you plan to visit.
Pack Extra Masks
Aside from Orlando being the humidity capital of Florida (they may not hold any official titles, but trust me, it’s humid), you’re going to spend the day eating, drinking, and possibly getting rained on. And even if the sun shines throughout your entire trip, you may get wet on Splash Mountain at Disney World or the Jurassic Park River Adventure at Universal.
When you’re packing up your necessities for the day, throw in an extra mask or two, along with a small bag to store dirty masks. When you get home for the evening, don’t forget to wash your masks and hang them to dry so you can reuse them the next day.
While You're at It, Pack These Extra Items
In addition to extra masks, there are a few other items that’ll come in handy, too. Clorox wipes can be used to disinfect tables, chairs, and lap bars on rides (though ride vehicles at both parks are cleaned often throughout the day). Even though Disney and Universal have plenty of restrooms for handwashing and ample hand sanitizer available, it’s also good to have your own hand sanitizer close by just in case.
Review What’s Open (and What’s Not)
Due to social distancing requirements, capacity limits, and the lack of demand that comes along with fewer people visiting theme parks right now, certain rides, shows, hotels, and dining locations are closed at both resorts.
If you have a favorite restaurant or must-do attraction, check the park’s website to be sure it’s currently operating before your trip.
Take Lots of Photos (With Your Mask on)
Most of us wish we could erase what’s happening in the world right now, but, for the time being, this is life. You may be tempted not to take photos or to remove your mask before taking one, but then you’d be missing out on vacation memories and the chance to set a good example for others. When friends, family, and strangers on the internet see your beautiful masked-up face, it’ll be a reminder that they should practice safe selfies.
Turn off Face Recognition on Your Phone
This is a lesson I learned the hard way while furiously trying to unlock my phone with my mask on at the Starbucks drive-thru. Your phone will not recognize your face while your mask is on, but that doesn’t mean you should remove your mask to unlock your phone every time you want to check ride wait times or pay for a bottle of water.
Before heading to Disney or Universal, turn off face recognition on your phone and switch back to the old-fashioned numeric passcode.
Like many of us, theme park employees probably have mixed feelings about being at work during a pandemic. Yes, they want you to have a good time, but their number one job is to keep you (and themselves) safe. And your job as a theme park-goer is to be respectful, cooperative, and nice to the people who are doing their best to give you a magical vacation.
Know Your Limits
Before you walk through those gates, it might be a good idea to discuss an exit strategy with your travel party. Comfort levels regarding things like crowds and indoor dining vary from person to person. If you go into the day with everyone on the same page about what you are comfortable with and what you are going to do if you get uncomfortable, there will be less room for surprises.
Don’t Over Plan and Stay Flexible
A Disney vacation used to mean booking your hotel upwards of a year in advance, making dining reservations six months in advance, and booking FastPass+ ride reservations a month or two before your trip. This stringent planning didn’t leave much room for flexibility.
Under current guidelines, Disney dining reservations can only be made 60 days in advance and FastPass+ is a thing of the past. Type A planners might see this as a bad thing, but use it as an opportunity to just show up without a minute-by-minute plan and see where the day takes you.
Sit Back, Relax, and Enjoy
Sure, you could look at all of these changes as a bad thing, but we much prefer a glass-half-full approach to life. Universal’s parks are closing much earlier than usual, but that leaves time for a relaxing nighttime swim at the hotel pool. Certain Disney World parks are opening much later than normal, so why not take that extra time to sleep in and have breakfast in that restaurant you’ve always wanted to try? Just because things are different right now doesn’t mean they can’t be fun.