As quick and painless as our travel day was from New Jersey to Disney, the opposite could be said about our return trip, although I won’t go that far because our flight wasn’t delayed (like it was in November, holy moly that was brutal with a 2 year old…. because it was delayed for 2+ hours AFTER we boarded), so it definitely could have been much worse, but in regards to feeling safe and protected from coronavirus, it was not the same smooth experience as our arrival.
First I should note, we spent the morning in Magic Kingdom! Our flight home was scheduled for 2:15pm, due to extremely limited options from Orlando to Newark flying United right now, so we didn’t have a ton of time in the morning, but we got in another round on the speedway, Winnie the Pooh, the carousel, the Jungle Cruise, Aladdin’s carpet, and whatever the Ariel seashell ride is called. We also saw Mickey and friends at the train station waving to everyone so it was a great morning at the park. My son was thrilled with the rides, the characters, and the monorail rides, so it was a major success even with limited time. We also got one last popcorn bucket refill to go.
So here is where it becomes a bummer. We had scheduled the Magical Express in advance as always. They had our flight information as they always do. I will note that we gave them a slightly later flight time, which we always do with no issues to buy ourself an extra 30 minutes in Disney as opposed to at the airport because we have TSA precheck and aren’t inclined to sit around at the gate forever like some people are, which I get would stress some people out, which is fine. Everyone is different. We’ve had great experiences giving a later flight time and getting a slightly later ME and then only waiting in the airport for about 45 minutes at the gate before our flight instead of an hour and a half or whatever it would normally be after getting through security and everything. I will write a post specifically about giving later flight times for the Magical Express later. So we had given flight information for a 2:40pm flight (vs our actual 2:15 flight). The ME pick up time we received was 11:20. Not awesome. It’s usually 3 hours prior to flight time except at very busy times when it is 4 hours. This is not a very busy time. It is the opposite. The airport is dead empty and you fly through security right now. This is also the time where the last thing you want to do is spend any extra minutes in Orlando airport. As safe as we felt in the Disney bubble, we felt the opposite about MCO. So that pick up time made me a more than a bit nervous. I’m sure it was because they have so few guests right now and they are just running much fewer buses, so they didn’t have a lot of time options to offer us, but the prospect of getting to MCO at 12:30 and sitting at the gate easily for over an hour before boarding with a toddler touching lots of high touch surfaces did not make me feel too great. So, I figured I’d give Magical Express a call and see if there were any other options. I’ve never tried this, so i figured there was probably nothing they could do, but it couldn’t hurt to ask, right? Well shockingly, they said “yes of course we can move back your pick up time by 30 minutes!“ I didn’t ask if this was normal or just a covid exception because I was too shocked to think to ask that at the moment. So they changed our pick up time to 11:50! Hooray! So let’s conservatively say the ME took 60-75 minutes, security took 10 minutes, walking took another 10, etc, we’d be at the gate safely around 1:30 for boarding to start sometime around 1:45 probably. Perfect. That left a lot of room for ME delays as well, so that seemed pretty good and totally eased my mind.
So we left MK and headed back to wait for the ME at 11:40 for our 11:50 pick up. Waited. Waited. At 12:05 I finally asked if it was normal for it to be late lately since usually in my experience it was on time or early. The guy at bell services said nope definitely not normal. He got on the phone and after holding for quite awhile he said things got messed up and they had noted that we CANCELLED our Magical Express altogether! He said it was ok and not to panic because they’d get us on the next one because they come super frequently, whew. Well…. then he came back and said sorry actually with so few guests right now there isn’t another one coming for the next hour. So the General Manager of the hotel was nice enough to call their contracted taxi provider and get us a van free of charge to take us to the airport. This was with very minimal complaining, but I imagine the prospect of people sitting out in front of their resort with a two year old unable to get to the airport for their flight isn’t a great look, so they were pretty quick to help. Thankfully the taxi they ordered had a car seat. I wasn’t thrilled with this option because I didn’t trust it to be cleaned like the Magical Express. The GM insisted that this was the taxi company that Disney exclusively contracted with, so it would be cleaned up to Disney’s standards. I would have to strongly disagree unfortunately. The car seat clearly hadn’t been cleaned, never mind disinfected. The taxi driver didn’t wear his mask properly over his nose despite being confined in a small enclosed area with us for 40 minutes. There was no indication that any disinfecting procedures had been performed between riders. I quickly lost that Disney Magic feeling when I stepped into that taxi. Don’t get me wrong, it was the best solution available as far as getting us to the airport timely and for free, but unfortunately there are more factors to consider in a pandemic and offering a taxi or a ride share service just isn’t adequate in these times. That being said, we were at the airport by 1:15 and at the gate comfortably by 1:30.
Other things that weren’t totally magical at the airport: most of the food options were closed, which resulted in a massive crowd cramming into Wendy’s waiting in a super long line with no social distancing whatsoever. Similarly, there was a long line at the convenience store, also with no social distancing. It seemed as though the general public within the airport wasn’t familiar with the concept of standing six feet apart. In Disney everyone got it. In the airport, it seemed like a foreign concept. At the gate, none of the chairs were blocked off and people sat in every available seat, including next to other parties. I did not see any hand sanitizer stations throughout the airport either.
When we boarded, we were seated immediately next to another party, unlike on our very empty flight from NJ to Florida. We also were not given wipes to wipe down our seat area like we were on our other flight. I asked the flight attendant after a few minutes and then she came around and gave everyone wipes, but by then we were all seated and had touched multiple surfaces.
These are not things I would normally care about… at all. I’m not a germaphobe. On our last trip, my son licked the window at MCO and inevitably got sick the next day at home, duh, oh well, that is to be expected after a trip to Disney with a toddler. However, in these times we are trained to be hyper aware of all of these things in New Jersey and it seemed like everyone in Disney was just as aware of every germ avoidance measure as well. MCO felt like they were living in a different time. It honestly felt like we undid a lot of our precautions from our time in Disney and it made me feel a lot more strongly about strictly following our “voluntarily self quarantine” for 14 days upon our return to NJ.
For anyone curious, no paperwork was distributed when we arrived in NJ. There was no mention of a quarantine although there is information posted everywhere at this point like on signs on the roads and there are QR code’s you can scan to get quarantine information as well. So you kind of have to seek out the information, but it’s out there. Governor Murphy calls it a voluntary self quarantine. When you fly into NY I think there is mandatory paperwork. We did not experience that flying into Newark. We quickly picked up our car, made our way home, and have been staying at home since (also see my post about my negative covid test ! Woohoo good job disney!!)