How to Plan a Trip to Disney World in 2020 and Beyond

July 10, 2020, 6:53 PM · If you're reading this website, you're probably a theme park fan. And if you're a theme park fan, you probably think about visiting Walt Disney World from time to time. So whether you're ready to hit the road to visit theme parks right now or not, there's no danger in at least imagining your next theme park visit.

So what does a trip to Disney look like these days?

Forget everything you've read or know about planning a visit to the Walt Disney World Resort. Covid has changed everything. But that creates some opportunities for theme park fans who are willing to take advantage. Let's go through a step-by-step guide to planning a Walt Disney World Resort vacation in 2020... and beyond.

1. Find a date to go

The biggest change in Disney World planning today is the Disney Park Pass system. You need more than just a ticket to visit a Disney theme park now. You need a date-specific reservation, too. And you make that through Disney Park Pass.

Look on Disney's website to see the current availability for the dates you are considering. Keep in mind that there are three "pools" for reservations: one for people who have tickets through a Disney hotel package, another for annual passholders, and a third for everyone else using "normal" tickets. As the parks reopen, availability is tightest for annual passholders, who can reserve just three dates at a time. Hotel guests can book for every day of their stay, and other ticket holders can book for the number of days on their ticket.

Disney World tickets expire a certain number of days after their first use, so you can't just hold on to them for future visits, as you could many years ago. So make sure that you Disney has enough available days when you visit to use all the days you've bought.

2. No Park Hopping in 2020

Walt Disney World this year is not allowing people to use the Park Hopping option to visit more than one park in a single day. That trashes a lot of people's "attack plans" for the parks, which often took advantage of Park Hopping to maximize what you could do in the minimum number of days.

The upside is that, with lower capacities due to the advance reservation requirements, lines are much shorter right now, so planning a specific itinerary is no longer necessary to experience everything that's available in a park in a single day.

3. Once you have your dates, buy your tickets (or package)

Once you've decided when you want to visit, get those tickets ASAP (from Disney or an authorized reseller) because you'll need to...

4. Reserve your dates

To do this, you'll need to head back to Disney's website and create an account (if you don't already have one) and register your theme park tickets. Then you will be able to pick your parks and dates. It's first-come, first-served, so keep that in mind as you think about when to time your next trip.

5. The restaurant reservation window has changed

It used to be that you could make Walt Disney World restaurant reservations up to six months in advance. Now it's two months - 60 days, to be precise. The hotel guest loophole remains, which means that you can book reservations for your entire stay starting 60 days in advance of your arrival date. That gives you a head start on reservations for the rest of the days of tour trip. You make reservations the same way, though, starting at 7am each morning on the Disney World website.

Do this after getting your park reservations, though, and remember which park you are visiting on which date. A dining reservation won't get you into a park if you do not have a valid park reservation for that specific date, too.

6. Forget about Fastpasses

Walt Disney World has suspended the Fastpass+ program for now, so there's no need to log in early to play the Fastpass lottery. It's first-come, first-served in the parks. The exception? Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance is still using a virtual queue, but there are three times a day to enter it now, instead of just at park opening.

7. Get your masks

Disney will be requiring everyone over the age of two to wear masks when visiting the parks, so make sure you pack plenty of masks for everyone in your family. Bandanas and other face coverings are not acceptable. Everyone must have a mask that loops around the ears or ties behind the head, and that covers your mouth and nose completely. You can buy masks at Disney, but you should have some when you arrive, too.

8. Download Disney World's app

The My Disney Experience app was convenient before, but it is essential now. You will use the app for mobile ordering at quick-service restaurants and mobile check-in at table-service ones, both of which will be invaluable for your safety as you look to stay a safe distance from others while in the parks. (And who wants to wait in lines at restaurants anyway?)

9. Temperature checks

When you arrive, Disney will take your temperature whenever you enter a park, hotel, or the Disney Springs shopping and dining district. If you register 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit or higher you and the rest of your party will be denied entry, so if you're feeling bad, don't come.

Yes, people without fevers or other symptoms can carry and spread the novel coronavirus, so this is not a fool-proof system to keep sick people out of the parks. But it does help lower the number of people who might spread a virus at the parks, so I expect this change to become the new bag check and remain part of security screening at theme parks and other public places for years to come.

10. Note all the other changes inside the parks

Parking lot trams will not be available when the parks return, and capacity will be limited on buses, monorails, boats and the Disney Skyliner, so give yourself extra time to get to the parks. Some resort transportation options might not be available at any given time.

Once you are in, you will see that there are other changes inside the Disney theme parks... but a lot remains the same. Cinderella Castle is still there, after all. (Okay, it is pink now.)

You will find floor markings in queues, showing you where to stand to maintain safe physical distancing. You will find abundant Plexiglass in queues, at registers and on ride vehicles, in an attempt to stop the spread of virus-carrying airborne droplets. You will be encouraged to use Apple Pay or other contactless forms of payment so that you don't have to hand cash or credit cards to a cast member. You will find hand washing stations throughout the parks, as well as hand sanitizer at the entry and exit to attractions and shops. Use them.

Certain attractions also will not be available, including parades, fireworks and nighttime spectaculars that draw large, shoulder-to-shoulder crowds. Meet and greets are also not available, though Disney is putting its characters out in the parks for photo ops on stages, boats, buses and cavalcade floats.

And while lines in queues might look long due to those physical distancing markers, they move swiftly thanks to the lower number of people. Pay attention and keep up... while staying six feet behind the party in front of you.

Remember that you are safest when outside, where the air circulates, so if you need a break, try some of our favorite relaxing outdoors spots, such as the Tomorrowland Transit Authority PeopleMover and Tom Sawyer Island. Opt for outdoor dining when you can, too, while always respecting other parties by sitting only in designated, available seats at least six feet away from their tables.

Finally, as always, please show your respect and thanks to the Disney cast members who are out there in this mess of a situation trying their best to make it a magical day for you and your family.

Whether it will be real or imagined for now, we hope you have a great trip to the Walt Disney World Resort!

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