August Trip Report – Day 2 – Hollywood Studios, Topolinos, Monorail, Caribbean Beach

August Trip Report – Day 2 – Hollywood Studios, Topolinos, Monorail, Caribbean Beach

What a weird list of things to do in one day right ? Just to clarify, we stayed at the Boardwalk for our whole stay. I’m not a big fan of switching resorts. We sure visit a lot of them for meals and just to stroll through though! As a family that typically hops from park to park, we are improvising and still hopping from place to place, while only visiting one park per day now.

So our park reservation for day 2 (Monday) was for Hollywood Studios, which is open 10am-8pm currently. Kiddo wakes up at the crack of dawn in Disney, asking for the monorail or to “go on a walk,” despite tossing and turning with excitement all night after a late bedtime, so his sleep deprivation is totally going to build up and turn him into the stereotypical cranky theme park toddler. We had some cereal/pouches/juice in the room to get us to nearly 8am just hanging out snacking and watching Mickey on TV (we did a small Amazon grocery order on day 1… no issues, timely delivery, held by bell services until we were ready to go pick it up). Then we went for a stroll in our PJs down to the Boardwalk Bakery for some muffins. He wanted to go for a walk afterwards so we went over to the beach at the Beach Club. I thought we could walk a lap around the lake, but you’ll see in my “Partitions” post, that there were walls up blocking the walkway because the NBA was staying at the Yacht Club. As of today, the Yacht Club is open, so this should no longer be an issue. Let me go back to the bakery though…. am I the only one who thinks it has gone downhill over the years ? Back in the day there were GIANT fresh made cookies and these amazing black and white pretzels. Everything was huge and freshly baked. Now things almost seem prepackaged. It’s weird. The cookies aren’t really particularly soft. Sadly, this trip they did not have my breakfast staple … the doodle muffin. They said it is probably temporary and hopefully it will be brought back. Dear god I hope so. What the hell sort of abomination is that ?! (This is about as heated as I get about a Disney World change …. don’t mess with my snacks man!) Anyway, we enjoyed our chocolate chip muffin on the beach and went back to the room to get ready for the park.

We left the Boardwalk to walk to HS around 9:30, figuring we were in no rush. Lots of people were heading over at that time on the walkway. HS is really the place to be right now. Everything you see online is true. It gives off a vibe of people frantically rushing to beat crowds still. So many people were there before the park opened. Everyone made sure to be well situated to be on their phones in the park at 10am to try to get a Boarding Group for Rise of the Resistance. Since we weren’t doing that ride (so bummed, I was so excited to ride that with the non-fiancé if he came) because it would be too frightening for Copper after the Soarin debacle, we just took advantage and walked onto Toy Story Mania while everyone was on their phones. The plan was to go on Mickey and Minnies Runaway Railway first thing, but the posted wait time was an hour when we got there before 10am and the line looked so, so long. In retrospect, I’m sure it wasn’t really an hour, but I wasn’t going to stand out in the sun in line with a toddler for an unknown length of time when we could just try again in the evening when the line would hopefully be much shorter.

I still can’t believe that Toy Story Mania was a true walk-on. Absolutely 0 people on line. The cast member was doing exercises because she was bored. We rode it a total of 4 times during our trip. 3 times were purely walk-one. One time we waited a minute or two. There were times during the day when the line appeared long outside, but that is because it cannot wrap around inside currently for social distancing reasons. This ride totally changed my sons “no more rides” tune. When we got off he hesitated and then shouted “THAT WAS REEEEEAAALLLY FUN!!!” Whew. That absolutely made my day. I’m so glad he found a ride he loves, and we are in a weird freak scenario where we could just keep going on it without ever standing in a line. There was one time we were getting off that they actually asked if we wanted to just stay on it and ride again, but we were rushing off somewhere so we couldn’t take advantage.

After Toy Story Mania we walked around in the middle of the park hoping to catch some characters. Again no luck, just like in Epcot, which was pretty discouraging. I tried to stall by going shopping in a gift shop near the front of the park, which just resulted in our buying a slinky dog toy…. which I would complain about …. but it was his favorite thing of the trip. He carried slinky around everywhere. He even had to bring slinky over to “meet his mommy” aka Slinky Dog Dash, the roller coaster lol. I love my little weirdo.

We were so ready for our Pixar day.

At this point he just wanted to ride on the Skyliner, so I figured we’d head over to Topolinos for our 11am reservation a little early. We left HS feeling like it was totally disappointing compared to MK in July where we saw non stop characters and rode a dozen rides in a couple hours. It wasn’t really the crowds that were the problem, it is just the lack of rides for little kids. Don’t worry, my attitude towards HS does a full 180 on day 4 of our trip, so bear with me. The plan at this point was to go to lunch and then go back to HS in the evening for a couple hours to see all the characters and ride MMRR at a minimum.

Another fabulous easy breezy Skyliner ride. It did not stop at all. It was running full speed (sometimes it seems to be running at half speed, has anyone else noticed that?). We transferred to the Epcot line at Caribbean Beach, and then got off at Riviera. For anyone who is unfamiliar, there are basically never any lines for the Skyliner, and it takes about five minutes to go from one place to the next, so five minutes from HS to Caribbean Beach, then another five to Riviera. I had a chance to ask some questions of some cast members at the stations and they explained that they get a 10 mile warning before thunder and they start “cycling people off” at that point before shutting down, and then a bus service between all the Skyliner resorts and Boardwalk pops up. So if you are at the back of Epcot trying to ride the Skyliner and it shuts down, you walk to Boardwalk and there is a bus there to take you back to your Skyliner resort. We saw this bus several times in the rain during our stay, even when the Skyliner was not shut down. I think they have it as an option any time it rains.

I checked in to our Topolinos reservation while we were getting off the Skyliner at Riviera, which resulted in our table being ready a minute later, and my speeding through the grounds of Riviera with the stroller rushing to the elevator, lol. When you check in to reservations on the app, in my experience, your table is ready within a couple minutes. It never takes long at all. Granted we were a party of 2, and it was extremely not busy, but this held true at Topolinos, Garden Grill, and Sana’a during our stay.

In case you didn’t see my July review of Topolinos, we consider this a must-do at this point, regardless of the lack of options during the pandemic. When things go back to normal, this will be at the top of our list of character dining locations. For reference, we typically love Chef Mickeys and Cape May Cafe. We have had neutral experiences at Tusker House and Crystal Palace. Bon Voyage was pretty awesome but my son is pretty princess-shy, so we skip that one for now. So Topolinos has catapulted up into the top 3. It is also super convenient from the Boardwalk area since you can take the Skyliner from the back of Epcot and be at Riviera in 5 minutes. Even with the Epcot Skyliner technically opening at 10:30am these days, don’t be phased, you can show your Topolinos reservation and get on the Skyliner much earlier, at least as early at 8 or 8:30am. No need to panic and try to find alternate transportation because of the reduced park hours.

My son lives for the Mickey waffle dippers at Topolinos. He is a good eater at home, but in Disney he take a few bites usually and is ready to move on to the next adventure. Not the case with the waffle dippers. At Topolinos he feasts. He eats waffles, eggs, fruit, everything. I should add that he eats for free because he is “2” …. 😬. Don’t judge me. I fully planned on him turning 3 when he turned 3… but then a cast member mentioned it would be ok that he didn’t have an annual pass (they aren’t for sale right now!) because no one would ever check his age as a newly 3 year old, and a bunch of moms confirmed on social media that they said their kids were 2 for as long as they could. My son is pretty big so I think we will only stretch this out through our December trip when he is just under 3.5, then he will be an honest 3+ year old on all subsequent trips.

The characters come out frequently at Topolinos. No waiting around for characters. They all come out before you are done with your meal, easily, definitely no worry about that. They do a lap around the room, stopping and waving to the tables, and then the next one comes out. The characters are Mickey, Minnie, Donald, and Daisy, in their Riviera artist attire.

After lunch I asked Copper if he wanted to go back to the park, but he said “back to our Boardwalk,” so we took the Epcot Skyliner to the back of Epcot, and walked back to the resort. It was only a little after noon, but he was pretty sleep deprived, so we played in the room for a bit and then he took an absolute marathon nap.

After napping, as anticipated, we opted for a monorail evening. If you saw my pre trip planning post, I planned to take a bus to MK, ride the monorail, and eat quick service at one of the monorail resorts. He wasn’t quite hungry for dinner yet though, so we just rode the bus to MK (no wait for the bus at all at the Boardwalk, woohoo, and it was totally empty), and rode the express monorail around the loop. Then we took the resort monorail to the Contemporary, and took a bus from there back to HS to finish our day there. We waited about 15 minutes at the Contemporary for the HS bus, but my son loves sitting at that bus stop watching the monorails go by, so it was perfectly fine. The bus wasn’t particularly crowded, but there were a couple groups on it.

So back to HS for the last couple hours of the day ! The hope was that the line for MMRR would be gone by the end of the day. This was not the case when we arrived, so we snacked on popcorn and a pretzel (stalling for characters unsuccessfully again), and rode Toy Story Mania again. While we were riding, we apparently JUST missed the last character cavalcade which must have been around 7pm FYI. So still no characters. Grrr. Two days. 0 characters. This kid literally brought Woody, Jessie, Buzz, and Slinky Dog all in his stroller, just to see no one.

“There’s your mommy!!”

Mickey and Minnies Runaway Railway

At this point Copper was saying he was nervous we would “miss the Mickey choochoo,” so we got in line for MMRR. The sign said the wait was 40 minutes at this point, and it was wrapped around quite a bit outside, but it moved SO fast because of all of the distancing in the line. Within 15 minutes we were inside. Another 5 minutes and we could see the train boarding. There is no pre show right now… I assume there usually is… but it probably doesn’t work with distancing and keeping things moving. So we waited maybe 20-25 minutes all in. Copper had a grand old time hopping from distancing line to distancing line like a crazy little frog. He was in such a good mood because he loves trains, and everyone in the line seemed to have been on the ride before and LOVED it.

So we got on board, in the front row. No one was in the row behind us, as is the norm these days. They lowered the lap bar nice and tight, making me realize that this ride has a bit of oomph to it and would be a bit more exciting than most of our toddler-friendly rides probably. So then we were off. Spoiler: there’s not much of a train feeling to the ride. You board the train, but then Goofy “loses” the train cars, and your car goes off on its own adventure. The adventure includes a semi intense (for a toddler) thunderstorm. Fan-effing-tastic, after our Soarin debacle the day before. There’s a brief spell that has a motion simulator feel to it, that, if longer, would have given me motion sickness, because I get the worst motion sickness on rides. I was absolutely totally fine on this though, so you shouldn’t have motion sickness concerns. Ultimately Mickey saves the day and everything is happy, and of course they celebrate with fireworks (ugh). When we got off, Copper wasn’t even crying… he was MAD. He said “NO MORE THAT RIDE!!” He was honestly just mad that after the Soarin experience, he got talked into another ride that scared him. I think if he rode it again, knowing there would be thunder and fireworks, he would enjoy it, but he was expecting a normal train ride, so he was pretty disappointed. If you have a train lover, maybe don’t play it up as a train ride, like I did. As a side note: I thought it was a totally cute, fun ride. I hope he warms up to it and will ride it again every trip. I don’t feel like we have to avoid it like Soarin at all. I hope it will be something we ride every trip.

That concluded our day at HS. Kind of a disappointment. The whole point of HS was supposed to be a super fun Mickey train ride and tons of Pixar characters. He didn’t enjoy the train ride and we didn’t see any characters. Such a bummer. I texted home saying it was a huge failure of a day, despite the Skyliner, monorail, and Topolinos being so fun.

I didn’t want to have another night of pizza window pizza (we had pizza in bed after Epcot on our first night, which I think I omitted from my prior post… the pizza is always fine, the wait time was a bit annoying, but I get that it’s basically the only option for quick service food on the Boardwalk right now, so they are busy). So we got creative and stopped at Caribbean Beach on our way back on the Skyliner. We mobile ordered quick service dinner at a place called … the Marketplace (I think??)… it was a bit of a walk from the Skyliner station. Caribbean Beach is freaking huge man. That was a lot of walking after a long day ! We got to see a nice (and quite crowded) pool on our way. We had a nice quick bite to eat… chicken fingers and fries and whatnot. Nothing fancy, but nice and kid friendly. Felt safe and socially distanced. We refilled our (July) mug while we were there with no issues. From there we opted to walk to the Riviera Skyliner station, which was actually a quicker walk. Then we had a five minute ride “home” and were off to bed.

If anyone was curious (which no one is, I’m sure) we took showers/baths every night just to feel safe and clean after a day of “exposure” to germs and whatnot. We felt pretty dang safe and clean all the time in Disney, but it was just the icing on the cake to end the day feeling totally clean, to have a little extra peace of mind.

Quick opinion of August vs July crowd levels

Quick opinion of August vs July crowd levels

I’m a lucky duck that has gotten to go to Disney World now twice since they have reopened, and I can compare how to the crowd levels have changed since the initial opening a month ago (in my apparently not so humble opinion according to my non fiancé).

I should clarify that our July visit started literally the second day that MK and AK were open to the public, and the other two parks weren’t even open yet, so the crowd levels were at their absolute lowest. I’m sure anyone who visited even a week later experienced a significant increase in crowds (which still probably felt extremely empty) because people waited for all 4 parks to be open before planning their trips. That being said, I would say crowds on this trip were easily triple the crowds in July, which isn’t saying much, because the parks were absolutely empty when we went in July. We felt like we honestly had a private park experience those 3 days. We walked onto nearly every ride, with no wait greater than 15 minutes for Jungle Cruise. We also saw a ton of character cavalcades, which again felt like they were private showings for us. When we walked down Main Street USA, we felt like we were alone in the park. It was eery, but amazing.

Main Street USA on our visit in July
Empty Animal Kingdom in July

Fast forward to this week, and I’d say the crowds have really picked up. That being said, if I hadn’t gone in July, and this was my first trip back, I’d say the parks were the emptiest I’d ever experienced and it was amazing. It is all relative. They only felt crowded this time because I had experienced the emptiness in July. Honestly, MK still felt super roomy and empty everywhere we went. We were never right on top of anyone. We went right at park opening and were there off and on until the park closed (on a weekday), and it never felt crowded at any point. We walked onto all of the little rides. We don’t do big rides (I have a 3 year old), but I saw that the Mine Train said 25 minute wait in the morning, and I’m sure that was generous. Space Mountain said 10 minutes in the afternoon. I think Splash Mountain is the mountain with the longest waits lately, probably because it is so hot, and because no one knows when it’s going to close.

Main Street USA in August

Epcot actually felt pretty crowded when we went on Sunday afternoon/evening, but I think the construction walls and the nature of Food and Wine Festival contribute to that. People tend to hang around in the World Showcase eating and drinking, so it feels like there are people everywhere. The World Showcase was definitely crowded. Wait times for all of the big rides (Frozen, Soarin, Test Track) were 40 minutes and up (at least that’s what they said… I’ve learned that those times are quite inflated lately). Garden Grill and Seasons were both really busy in The Land. It just felt busy overall, compared to life nowadays, not compared to normal Disney World of course.

On Monday, Hollywood Studios felt similarly crowded. We went at park opening and the Main Street (Sunset Boulevard?) was full of people. We were able to immediately walk straight onto Toy Story Mania though. Everyone was very busy with their phones because it was Boarding Group time. The line for Mickey and Minnies Runaway Railway was over an hour when we arrived (again, it probably was more like 30 minutes I have subsequently learned, but they were saying it was an hour and the line looked overwhelming wrapped around outside – spoiler : it moves really fast and there isn’t much of a line inside). Slinky Dog also had a 40+ minute wait right off the bat. So my point is just that there are definitely a lot of people out at the parks. Obviously this is nothing compared to a normal time. When you think of all the attractions that are closed that normally fill up with tons of bodies at a time, all of which are sitting empty right now (in HS for example : Frozen, Indiana Jones, Beauty and the Beast, the Little Mermaid, the character meet and greets), it is clear that the parks are at extremely low capacity, probably still under 20%… who knows, but everything just feels more full than it did in July. It honestly made me happy because it felt a little closer to normal. The crowds and lines can be deceptive though because of the six feet of spacing between everyone, and the lack of weaving lines around inside ride areas. So while the parks might FEEL a little more crowded right now, they definitely are still super empty in the grand scheme of things.

Walking into Hollywood Studios on August 17th (Monday)
Posted wait times in HS at mid day on Monday (actual wait times were usually much lower)

Outside of the parks it felt the same in July and August. The resorts feel empty because you don’t really have to spend much time in places like the lobby because you can go straight to your room. The Boardwalk pool in August wasn’t as busy as the Polynesians pool was in July. The Boardwalk itself was empty all day every day. At night it got a little busy with everyone getting pizza at the pizza window and then sitting at the tables on the Boardwalk to eat. Otherwise it was a ghost town. The Beach Club beaches were super empty. All of the walkways in the area were empty enough that you almost felt ok removing your mask briefly. It felt safe removing your mask walking from Boardwalk to HS because that’s a longer walk and the walkway was completely empty the whole way. The lake is so quiet and empty with no Friendship boats running right now too.

Empty Boardwalk
Quiet empty walk to HS

We ate at Topolinos for character dining for breakfast both in July and August and it felt the same crowd-wise both times. They kept tables empty, had plastic dividers between booths, used mobile check in, took temperatures, etc. It felt safe both times. You can see my rave review in an earlier post. That review still stands. We love love love Topolinos.

We had quick service for dinner at Caribbean Beach one night and noticed that that pool was Super busy in the evening just past 8pm. The quick service place was busy too, but not crowded at all.

Busy Caribbean Beach pool in the evening

Verdict: if you go now, it’ll feel like the emptiest WDW has ever been, I can promise you that. You’ll walk onto rides for sure. You will wait less time than the app says for the big rides. You’ll encounter areas with lots of people, but you will be able to keep plenty of distance to feel safe all the time definitely. As more attractions open, the slightly increasing crowds will have more places to spread out (hopefully some shows will open soon since the actors union reached their deal with Disney).

Skyliner Availability for Breakfast Reservations

I wanted to separate this from my general trip report because this would have been super helpful to me in my trip planning this time around, so maybe it will help others. (This is based on our experience this week at Disney while staying at Boardwalk and frequenting the parks/other resorts via the Skyliner).

With such limited park hours lately, and even more so in upcoming months, I realized that the modes of transportations between hotels for dining reservations would be impacted as well. We stayed at the Boardwalk this week, which typically offers super easy access to a lot of transportation since you can walk to the Skyliner at the back of Epcot, walk through Epcot to the monorail, walk to HS for buses to any resort you need to go to, etc. Unfortunately, as I sat there all happy with my 9am Topolinos reservation, thinking I was filling time before HS opened at 10am (and Epcot opens at 11am), I realized “mother effer, I was planning to take the Skyliner from Epcot to Riviera for breakfast, but it won’t be running at 9!” Typically they say transportation runs to and from parks starting an hour before park opening, however the Skyliner hours as officially posted right now show the HS line opening at 9am and the Epcot line opening at 10:30am. Based on my experience today, these times are extremely accurate. We woke up and walked over to HS, figuring maybe we could get on that Skyliner a little before 9 and then walk from Caribbean Beach to Riviera, but they did not let anyone board the Skyliner at HS until after 9am. They wouldn’t even let anyone in the area near the Skyliner prior to 9am, regardless of breakfast reservations.

When we got to Caribbean Beach, we learned that we could show our Topolinos reservation and get on the Epcot Skyliner line immediately, even though it was not technically open until 10:30. So we rode that line at about 9:10 this morning with no issues. All we did was show our reservation information on my phone. I asked at the Riviera station if we could have ridden it from Epcot directly and they said yes, we would just show our reservation information. So basically it would appear that starting at least as early as 8 or 8:30am, if not earlier, even during these times with the super late park openings, you can access the Epcot Skyliner line with a breakfast reservation. This does NOT apply to the HS line, because there would be no reason anyone would need to use it for a breakfast reservation right now as far as I’m aware (at least they would not allow anyone to board AT HS, maybe you could board at Caribbean Beach and go to HS if you had a reservation in the park, if there are breakfast locations there …. are there?).

Additionally, when we were leaving Topolinos at about 10:15, there was a long line waiting for the Skyliner to Epcot from Riviera, which wasn’t open yet (still not 10:30). We foolishly waited in this line, although I asked at the station later and they said I again could have shown that we were staying at Boardwalk and had breakfast at Topolinos and were just taking the Skyliner back to our hotel, and we would have been allowed on before it opened at 10:30. So basically we should have gone around the line and up to the front. This feels like cheating, but we aren’t even going to Epcot, so why should we be waiting in a line for Epcot?!

Moral of the story: book those early Topolinos reservations freely if you are staying at Boardwalk, Yacht/Beach, Swan/Dolphin, Pop Century, or Art of Animation, because the Skyliner will take you there and back even though it is outside of the official operating hours. This is similar to my understanding of the monorail. I’m not totally sure about how the buses work for breakfast reservations, but I know they run at least an hour before park opening. This makes life SO much easier. We could have just walked quickly over to the back entrance of Epcot and taken the Skyliner directly to Riviera this morning at 9 instead of walking to HS, waiting for that Skyliner line to officially open, and then transferring at Caribbean Beach.

Update: I’ve heard from more people that the Epcot line has been open for breakfast reservations early over the past few weeks (September), specifically saying it opens for guests with breakfast reservations around 8:50 or 9am lately. Before that it may be running empty, so don’t quote me on the 8am opening time ! 8:50 opening is great for the Epcot line instead of the normal 10:30 opening time for guests going to Epcot. If the line opens at 8:50, you could be at Riviera easily before 9:05 for breakfast.

Partitions at Yacht Club

This is super late and about to be irrelevant when the walls come down and Yacht Club reopens on August 24th (woohoo!), but I hadn’t seen this posted anywhere, so in case this matters to anyone …. here is where the Yacht Club is blocked off while the NBA is staying there. I’ve seen numerous photos of the partition (blue fence) at Grand Floridian where other teams are staying, but not sure if anyone has posted any Yacht Club photos.

Walkway fully closed before the slide for Stormalong Bay when walking from Epcot. Signs say “Resort closed”
We didn’t walk around the other way, but it looks like similar signs are up near the base of the bridge from the Swan/Dolphin to Yacht Club. So the whole marina area is off limits.

It is actually a bummer because the walkway is completely blocked so you can’t do a lap around the lake if you are staying at the Boardwalk or Beach Club Villas and want to take a stroll or a jog or whatever. We like having the option to walk this loop with the kiddo in the stroller to calm him down at night or just to entertain him as needed. I was going to do it this morning since he was up at the crack of dawn and HS isn’t open until 10, but no such luck.

I imagine these signs and fences will come down in the next few days since Yacht Club’s opening is only a week away.

And we’re back !! (Newark to Orlando travel day) – July vs August Comparison

And we’re back !! (Newark to Orlando travel day) – July vs August Comparison

So since we had two little mini getaways cancelled in March and June respectively, we are back again super quickly after our July trip, which I don’t hate at all based on how the parks were last time. Can’t wait to walk onto more rides!

We are yet again sitting on the back row of the Magical Express waiting for everyone to board as I write this. We have had two unlucky Magical Express experiences in a row now, where we are the only ones in our line inside and we wait awhile and then they board us first onto a bus (which means we are assigned the back row) and then they board a ton of other random unrelated resorts which will presumably get dropped off before us.

But back to the beginning…. yet another seamless travel day. We took the exact same flight as last time: Sunday morning at 8:05am on United (direct from Newark to Orlando). The airport was more crowded, but mostly at the baggage check in area, which we walked past since we aren’t checking bags. The security line (TSA pre check) wasn’t completely deserted like last time, but it still took less than 5 minutes (with a toddler, a stroller, two carryons, and two personal items … and one me). We raced over to our gate since we were running late, and were able to walk right on the plane. Boarding ended about five minutes later. Boarding was about 20 minutes again. This flight was about 75% full. I think it is the only direct flight to Orlando from Newark today (or maybe one of only 2 flight options), so that may be why it was more crowded, as opposed to more people traveling now vs a month ago. I had selected seats in advance in a particularly empty looking section and I had picked a window and an aisle seat for me and my son, figuring no one would pick the middle (this is what we did when traveling as a couple during normal times by the way, the logic is that if someone does pick the middle, they will gladly trade so you can sit together, otherwise you end up with a full row to yourselves). Surprisingly the whole area around us, including the middle seat was full when we arrived, so definitely don’t go off of the seat maps when checking how full the flight is. I had checked last night at midnight and the flight looked less than half full. So there must have been a lot of Basic Economy people with unassigned seats that got seat assignments at the gate, that is my best guess for the discrepancy between the seat map and how crowded the plane actually was. Anyway, the flight attendant saw me trying to squeeze my toddler in past a stranger and whispered “follow me” and brought me up to a nice big empty row in what must have been the Economy Plus section that people avoid since it costs a tiny bit extra. So that was amazingly nice and made our trip 100% better. We were able to spread out and play with lots of toys, watch the iPad comfortably, etc without being right on top of a stranger. I think they are happy to spread people out whenever possible now FYI. They seem more than happy to move you to a more empty section if available. The goal is to spread people out, so definitely ask if you can move once you’re on board your flight if you feel like you are in a crowded section.

So much room for activities ! 😆

Fun fact: they gave out little prepackaged snack baggies in Economy that were totally better than the snack boxes in First Class on our July flight. Literally nothing was edible in the First Class snack box (I have cheap taste). These little baggies today had bottles of water, sanitizing wipes, pretzels, stroopwaffles, and Oreos! I’d take all of those any day. Major upgrade lol. So if anyone is debating first class on United, maybe consider Economy Plus for the legroom and since it’s emptier, but still has the good snacks haha.

Our flight landed 15 minutes early in Orlando and we were quickly allowed to de-board (is that the term?). They let us off in groups by row again, which still seems ineffective to me with regards to social distancing, but I guess there isn’t much of a solution that is better. They ask everyone to remain seated until their row was called, and people listened somewhat this time, as opposed to last time when everyone stood up simultaneously when the plane reached the gate. Again our stroller was already waiting for us when we got off the plane, which is amazing. They are so speedy in Orlando. This time there were 2 other strollers, which shows that more families with kids were on board. In July we were the only family with a child on the plane, which is SO WEIRD for a flight to Orlando.

Do you think he likes Toy Story?

The entrance to the Magical Express was completely empty again (we didn’t have to go to wait for any checked bags, so maybe we just beat people there). We waited in a completely empty line for about 10 minutes before they boarded us onto a bus. We were assigned to the back row again. Every single group that came on after us made the same exact comment about not knowing which row to sit in because they were told a row number and there are no numbers on the seats, you have to actually count the rows. I imagine the seats will be numbered in the upcoming weeks. Groups are assigned to sit in every other row. I thought in July we were more spaced out than that. I thought it was every third row, but I may be crazy. I believe they try to cap the buses at 21 guests. Also worth noting: the video was different on the Magical Express this time. They had clips about the “Incredicrew” and safety procedures like wearing masks, hand washing, etc. We did not see this video in July. Our bus stopped at Pop Century, Riviera, Boardwalk (our stop woohoo!), and then somewhere else I couldn’t quite decipher. The ride didn’t feel exceptionally long. It was pretty average. It still feels weird stopping at Pop Century, but being the 3rd stop is better than being the 4th, so this trip is already winning 🙂

I got a text that our room was ready while we were on the Magical Express. I had requested a higher floor, but I selected the option to prioritize having the room ready early over any other room requests. It was ready early and is on the 4th floor (of 5), so double win. It’s a Boardwalk view studio. I was hoping for some of the pixie dust I’ve been hearing about endlessly where everyone is saying they’ve gotten upgrades left and right lately from studios to one bedrooms and whatnot, but that’s never happened in my life, so why start now lol. So just to rain on that parade for anyone reading: we booked studios in July and August and neither were upgraded. Both were awesome views and were ready upon arrival though! That’s all you can really ask for !

So that’s the end of our travel. We are off to melt on our way to lunch at Garden Grill with Mickey. I’m sure we will take a detour to ride the “gondola gondola!!” and I’ll let you know if it’s boiling hot in the summer, because that has been my big question since it opened.

Stormalong Bay reopening

Ha ! I just feel the need to gloat about the fact that I totally called that Stormalong Bay would be opening August 24th when Yacht Club opens to the public, and for some reason people on Disney pages have been completely shooting this down in the past couple weeks saying they don’t anticipate it opening until “next spring probably”…. which to be fair is based on Disney being completely unpredictable lately and erring on the side of cutting costs/saving money. The fact that the website now officially confirms what some of us have been guessing about an August 24th reopening date is a solid boost to my Disney guessing confidence at this point lol. I just couldn’t comprehend everyone panicking and cancelling beach club villas reservations throughout the Fall (i agree with switching resorts if the pool is closed because that pool is the whole reason to stay at BCV). There’s no way they would open Yacht Club without a feature pool though. No resorts are open without feature pools. After going in July and seeing how popular the pools were at Poly and how they had every part of the pools open (kids splash pad included), I was sure they wouldn’t open a resort with only a quiet pool. With Yacht Club and Beach Club Villas both open, there would be no reason to keep Stormalong Bay closed. I really think it was closed partially as a cost saving measure and partially as an option for the NBA players staying there, but I have no concrete basis for either theories, just what makes sense to me. 🤷🏼‍♀️

Hooray for everyone with upcoming beach club reservations that they weren’t talked into cancelling ! You are going to have so much fun at that pool, especially with it only half crowded!

Strategizing for our upcoming mini trip

Now that we’ve gotten the feel for Disney in a covid world, we are ready and raring to go for this next little mini trip next week. I originally was supposed to go for a quick trip in March with my mom and my son, which was moved to July, then I was supposed to go for two nights in June with my non-fiancé because things had been going semi well and we were trying to have some alone time to salvage our relationship, but alas coronavirus laughed at my near happiness and that trip was postponed to August. Since we are now (yet again) not doing so great, plus he is much more nervous about travel right now than I am, I’m going with my kiddo again! Woot woot! It’s actually my birthday week also, and I’m sure my 3 year old will make me feel extra special, so it’ll be great. Super hot and humid, but great lol.

We are doing 3 nights at the Boardwalk Villas (home sweet home) and are arriving pretty dang early on day 1 and leaving relatively late on day 4, so we should get a solid 4 park days, which is where the strategizing comes in. It is so tricky now with being limited to one park per day. If given the choice, with how my son is right now, I’d spend each morning in one park, then nap in the afternoon, walk through Epcot to the monorail, and ride the monorail to MK or an MK resort for dinner each evening. He is so monorail obsessed that that would 100% be how we would spend every single evening, I’m sure of it. That isn’t an option right now for several reasons. Most notably, the Epcot monorail isn’t running, but also because we can’t go to one park in the morning and then walk through Epcot in the afternoon and also potentially go over to MK in the evening. So my poor little monorail lover will have to get his fix on specific monorail days LOL.

This is my tentative plan:

Day 1: land in Orlando around 11, take the Magical Express, drop off our stuff at the Boardwalk. Park reservation at Epcot for the day (for a couple reasons: we aren’t around for the morning so it’s a good day to do the park that opens latest and also we will be tired of transportation so it will be nice to walk to Epcot from BWV). Late lunch at Garden Grill to see our first characters of the trip and get some air conditioning and relax a little after a long travel day. Then hopefully we can do Frozen, Spaceship Earth, Nemo, Imagination, or see a character cavalcade before heading back over to the hotel for a late nap at like 3:30 at this point probably. If he naps for a couple hours we should still be able to get back over to Epcot and do quite a few fun rides and have a late evening there since the park closes late (it is sad that 9pm is “late” these days…although with a toddler it was always late). That’ll be great since he will be all wound up and excited to be in Disney that night, so a late evening will be fun. We also will probably ride the Skyliner because he was bummed it wasn’t running when we went in July. He likes the “gondola gondola” almost as much as the monorail.

So I feel pretty good about day 1. Doesn’t feel like too much. Feels pretty flexible and yet well planned so we can get food and rest when we need it. Whew. Don’t need to worry about that day.

Day 2: Park reservation for Hollywood Studios. Disclaimer: I grabbed a couple HS days for this trip because non-fiancé loves Star Wars and I was really hoping he would come on this trip and we could go ROTR for the first time, but it’s not in the cards this time. I hung on to the HS reservations because we did MK and AK last month and my son has spent the past year becoming OBSESSED with everything Pixar. Rumor has it there are character cavalcades that include the Incredibles and Monsters Inc right now, so he will be elated with that, on top of Toy Story Land. We also had planned our initial March trip around the opening of Mickey and Minnies Runaway Railway, so we are exciting to get on that finally. So I guess we will get breakfast at the bakery on the Boardwalk when he inevitably wakes up at 6am eager to go to the parks on ride the monorail, neither of which will be a possibility for hours. If he is up super early I may stall by having us go to the pool for a bit. Otherwise we will eat in the room and watch some Mickey on the TV before getting on the Skyliner and heading to HS from the back entrance of Epcot (I know we can walk, but again, he loves the Skyliner…plus alone in the Skyliner will be a great break from masks). We will hopefully do the Mickey Railway ride at park opening, see some characters, then take the Skyliner to Topolinos for a late late breakfast reservation (basically lunch). We love love loved Topolinos last time. I had to take whatever time was available for this impromptu trip. Lunch is actually my preferred character dining time. You get the breakfast pricing, but when my son is actually hungry at mid day. It’s perfect. After that we will probably go back to HS for awhile, then back to the hotel for a nap. I guess in the evening we will go back to HS again, or there is a significant chance that my son will have reached the point where he is like “dude we’ve been in Disney 24+ hours with no mention of the monorail… what the hell lady” and I’ll have to improvise an evening on the monorail. That would be pretty simple. From the Boardwalk we would take a bus to MK and then ride the monorail resort loop. We’d probably get quick service dinner at the Contemporary so we could watch the monorails ride through the resort while we ate. Two birds, one stone. Then we could take a bus from there to HS and walk back to the Boardwalk, or take the monorail back to MK and a bus back to the Boardwalk. Lots of options!

Day 3: Park reservation for Magic Kingdom. This is my birthday and it feels right to spend your birthday in the actual Magic Kingdom, right? Feels right to me. Plus, two Disney days with no MK is a lot with a toddler. MK is the place to be when you are in Disney with a little one. So day 3 will be an MK day. We will take the bus over in the morning, for lack of a more exciting option I guess. I have a feeling we will end up riding the monorail before we enter the park, but maybe that’s because my son’s toy monorail has been saying “please stand clear of the doors” on repeat 24/7 for weeks now and I’ve lost my mind. Nothing specific planned for this day. No dining or anything. Park in the morning, bus back for afternoon nap, then we will see what he feels like doing in the evening. We can do the pool or see if they have a movie out on the grass. Maybe we can go sit on the beach over by Yacht/Beach Club. We could go get dinner in the Swan/Dolphin. They have a pretty good quick service type place in there. I am naming all of these options, and I know that there is a 97% chance we will do the monorail loop again and quick service at GF or Contemporary for dinner. The kid likes what he likes and he sticks with it….

Day 4: This is the day I’m a bit nervous about. I’m going to call and ask about late check out, which I’m sure will be futile. DVC is notorious for never ever allowing late check outs. They actually try to get you out before check out at 11 usually. I’m hoping with all the availability lately maybe they will be more flexible. I’m also hoping if I communicate that I’m nervous about being without a room all day and having a late flight and I say the magic “nervous about coronavirus” phrase, they might be accommodating. I’m just worried that we will be out in the heat all day and our only options for AC and mask-free time will be in public places. When you add that on top of a travel day with the airport and airplane, it is just a bit of a nerve-wracking day, pandemic-wise. Lots of “exposure” as they say. So I will mention this to member services and see if they can be a little flexible with letting us keep the room until the early afternoon maybe (this is unheard of, but worth a try). Regardless, park reservation is tentatively for HS. Logic is that it’s nearby BWV and he probably will want to see all of his Pixar buddies again. We will play it by ear and see which park he wants to go to though and we can change the reservation the morning of. I figured HS is the hardest to get, and the others won’t be a problem to switch to in the morning if he wants. MK could make sense since it opens earlier than HS. He may also notice that we skipped AK and ask to go there. I’m flexible about which park we do on the last day. I’m mostly nervous about our lack of nap time in the afternoon. I’ve never flown later in the evening with him (our only options were 11am or 6:45pm), and I know how cranky and miserable he can get on no sleep. The last think I want is a tired and hangry toddler on a flight home. We had trouble getting food at MCO last time since Wendy’s was the only place open and it was packed. No social distancing. Super long line. Hoping maybe in the evening the airport will be a little emptier. Fingers crossed. Maybe I will get lucky and he will sleep on the Magical Express and then he will be in a good mood for the flight.

Other things on my mind while planning the trip:

-Making sure we have a fan/mister for us to carry around to cool off – going to go pick a cheap one up from Target today (the Disney ones are nice….but Disney priced)

-Getting a clip fan for the stroller potentially – I wish Amazon had normal two day shipping times…

-Which stroller should we bring on this trip? Typically we bring the small umbrella stroller to Disney, but we’ve also brought our normal Chicco one before, and it might make more sense since it has a good canopy to offer shade and some privacy if he takes his mask off. The downside is that it is pretty heavy to push around for 10 miles per day in the heat (woof). I am probably going to go with the bigger one because the shade is worth it for him. I’ll get a workout and feel less guilt about all my bakery visits 🙂

-Should we do a mini grocery order? We order groceries for our big trips each year and have them delivered to the resort with no problem. This always makes sense when in a one bedroom or bigger at DVC since there is a full kitchen and we can cook breakfast/lunch. We are staying in a studio though this time (just a mini fridge basically). I would just really order milk/juice probably. Not sure if Amazon has reasonable grocery delivery times these days…. My son wakes up and instantly asks for a drink in the morning. If we are buying juice all day it really adds up $ wise. Airport security won’t let juice through, although we did get quite a few Gerber pouches through in July in our carryons.

Biggest Changes in WDW right now … and whether they really decrease the magic

Biggest Changes in WDW right now … and whether they really decrease the magic

I’d say 95% of people I talk to these days make comments about how Disney is “totally not worth it without XYZ.” 9 times out of 10 people say it isn’t “worth it” without parades and fireworks. I assume when they say “worth it” they are referring to the cost of traveling to and staying at Disney. Just to play devils advocate, airfare has never been cheaper … I just booked a round trip flight for later this month for $27!! Holy moly!! $54 total for me and my son to go back again in a couple weeks! That is our entire cost because we are staying with our DVC points and have already purchased and activated annual passes (for me at least…. he still doesn’t have one because he juuuuust turned 3 and a lady at member services said “they won’t ask for a birth certificate” when I tried to order his annual pass last month 😳… so we are still figuring that situation out). Damn near anything is worth $54 at this point, especially given that we’ve spent the last several months doing absolutely nothing remotely fun or entertaining, so they could have 2 rides open in each park and it would be a 1000% improvement over our lives at home right now. I digress though…

Here are the notable changes Disney has made since reopening the parks in July subsequent to the Covid closure:

1. No parades or fireworks: this seems to be everyone’s big concern when they talk about changes at the parks. Disney has indefinitely done away with parades and fireworks since they inevitably result in massive crowds. It makes a lot of sense given the typical parade crowds that you’d be dealing with. Social distancing would be completely impossible. If Disney wants to keep everyone safe, which it appears they seriously do, there is no way to have scheduled parades or fireworks right now.

So as an alternative, they have introduced “character cavalcades” in each of the parks. These basically consist of 1-2 floats with characters and music, similar to a parade but with much less fanfare. They are unscheduled, so no crowds form (literally no crowds, see the photo above). When we were in Magic Kingdom we saw one probably every 15 minutes. There was one with Piglet, Eeyore, and Rabbit from Winnie the Pooh (no Pooh or Tigger). There was another with Tinkerbell. There was another with a bunch of princesses…. Merida, Jasmine, Tiana, Sleeping Beauty, Belle, Ariel, the Fairy Godmother, and some Princess I didn’t recognize from a TV show I think (I feel so old). Lastly, we saw Mickey and friends in a cavalcade multiple times. We also saw Mickey and co up in the train station waving at the start of the day and the end of the day (Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Daisy, and Pluto… no Goofy). In Animal Kingdom we saw boats going by the bridges with characters. We saw a boat with Mickey and friends and then another with Rafiki and Timon I believe. I’m very excited for our August trip when we head over to Hollywood Studios to see all the Pixar characters in the cavalcades. I’ve heard the Incredibles, Toy Story, and Monsters Inc characters are all there, which will be enough to blow my son’s mind. Lastly, in Epcot I believe you can see Anna and Elsa, along with other princesses.

By no means are these cavalcades up to the standards of a Disney parade or a Disney fireworks show. I live for Fantasmic. Disney fireworks are the best in the world. Unfortunately, my kiddo is terrified of them, so no real loss for us there. I also tend to avoid parades because I hate the crowds and I see them as a prime time to get on rides with less wait time, so again, I don’t view either of these temporary losses as a huge tragedy. They are quite unfortunate but they are temporary losses. I will listen to the soundtracks on my phone and that will suffice for the time being.

2. No fastpasses: as an OCD planner, I cried when they announced no more fastpasses. I was legitimately heartbroken (well… not Disney wedding cancelled heartbroken….💔) and kept telling myself that hopefully they will be back on time for our December trip. However, for the time being, I’m just happy to go to the parks at all. So we went for our little July mini trip, not knowing what to expect, but feeling completely unprepared with no fastpasses to help us plan our day… and GASP…. it was BETTER!!! I’m not saying in general life would be better without fastpasses. Hell no. But right now, with crowds at these insanely low levels, we literally walked onto every ride. The longest line we stood on was a 10 minute line for Jungle Cruise. We also waited 3 minutes for Kilimanjaro Safari (posted wait time was 25 minutes). Other than that, we walked onto every single ride and could have stayed seated to ride again, that is how empty it is. There is absolutely no need for fastpasses right now. The loss of fastpasses will be a huge loss once crowds increase, but right now, the standby lines are all SIGNIFICANTLY shorter than any fastpass line I’ve ever experienced.

This was the posted wait time for Peter Pan when we were able to walk right on with absolutely no wait.

3. No character meet and greets: Again, this one hit me hard. With a two year old, our park experience has shifted from riding all the big ticket rides to hunting down characters for meet and greets anywhere and everywhere. We spend our days meeting dozens of characters and riding only a handful of rides typically (oh to be a childless millennial…). Fortunately, we can improvise for the time being and piece together enough character time to satisfy our kiddo completely. There are actually a ton of characters out that you don’t necessarily always get to see. I already listed all of the cavalcades up above in the parade section, but I will report back in a couple weeks for a concrete list of which Pixar characters are able to be seen in Hollywood Studios currently. We are really excited for that. I don’t think my son will necessarily notice that he doesn’t get to shake their hand or hug them, because he will be so thrilled to see them in person. Plus, there are absolutely no crowds for these cavalcades, so you get good photos with the characters and it feels like you are up close and personal with them. On top of the cavalcades, we saw Mickey and friends waving at the train station multiple times and made sure to get breakfast at Topolinos, which was AWESOME. It definitely was enough to carry us over until things get back to normal. We miss the hugs and the high fives, but my son still came home and was ranting and raving that “Mickey waved at me!” and “Mickey made me waffles!!”

4. Limited character dining options: Limited is an understatement right now. Typically there are DOZENS of character dining options available for any given meal. You can normally eat with any character your heart desires. Our favorites are Chef Mickeys and Cape May Cafe, but we were eager to try Ohana this trip since we have a new Lilo and Stitch fan in the house. There are also typically many options where you can dine with princesses at the resorts and in the parks, which I imagine is a must for all the princess fanatics out there (our son loves Anna and Elsa, but is quite nervous around them, HA). All of these are not operating as character dining currently. As far as I am aware, the only two character dining options currently are Topolinos (at Riviera Resort with Mickey, Minnie, Donald, and Daisy) and the Garden Grill in Epcot (Chip and Dale, Pluto, and Mickey typically). We went to Topolinos in July and absolutely loved it. You can see my whole review in Part 3 of the Magical Return spiel a couple posts ago. It is a must do for us from now on. Right now it is not normal character dining where each character visits each table for photos and autographs, but instead they each do a lap around the room and pose at various spots near each table. They do interact with you to some degree. Donald acted offended that we had a Mickey stuffed animal for example. We plan to go to the Garden Grill in a couple weeks and will report back. We went last fall and loved it, so we will be able to compare the new and old experiences. Key takeaway here: if character dining is important to you, jump on reservations at one of these two locations. I believe the Beast has also been spotted walking through Be Our Guest on occasion as well FYI.

5. No park hopping : of the items listed here, this is the one that I think people should consider a potential deal breaker if this is their one big trip of the year. I personally could never comprehend paying for a park pass without the park hopper feature, and I cannot remember the last day I spent in Disney without visiting 2+ parks. Part of the main appeal of staying in the Boardwalk area is the quick access to Epcot for a bite to eat or a quick ride in between other plans. We also typically walk through Epcot to ride the monorail to MK. My strategy with a little kid is also to go to one park first thing in the morning, take an afternoon nap, and then head to another park for an evening of less hot fun and dinner in another park. Obviously none of these things can happen currently. You can only pick one park per day, and you need to pick them in advance. This is a huge downer. For me, it isn’t necessarily making me not go on my trips, but it is changing where I plan to stay and how I plan our trips entirely. We stayed at the Polynesian in July instead of the Boardwalk because the close proximity to multiple parks wasn’t a major priority (granted HS and Epcot also weren’t even open yet on the dates we visited, so that made the decision easy). Using a park hopper typically is the best way to truly get your money’s worth and maximize your time in Disney. You can go absolutely anywhere you heart desires at any time, with no limitations. If you have a free hour, you can head to the closest park and do whatever you can. The lack of ability to do this really takes away your ability to fully maximize your time on your trip, so if you like flexibility and maximizing your park time, now is not the time to travel to Disney unfortunately (this goes hand in hand with park hours being reduced and extra magic hours being removed as well).

6. Park reservation system: At this point, everyone has presumably heard that in order to manage park capacity, Disney has implemented a park reservation system. So on top of having a park pass (annual pass, regular park ticket, whatever), you need to go onto mydisneyexperience and make a park reservation for your designated days. The good news is, this has been a complete non issue as far as parks reaching capacity. There are a small handful of days that reached capacity for annual Passholders at Hollywood Studios, but otherwise all days are showing availability for all parks. There is separate “inventory” for annual Passholders, resort guests, and neither of the above (people with park tickets but no resort stay), and only annual Passholders have been having issues with capacity apparently, and that is only at Hollywood Studios in the month of August so far. So availability is not a concern. I was quite distraught at the thought of anticipating what parks I planned to be in every day of our December trip already, but at this point, it looks like we will have the flexibility to revise our park days during our trip if needed. Also to answer a common question: you are allowed to enter, leave, and return to the park during the day if you have a reservation. We left MK, took a nap, and came back later. No issues. The huge downside right now, as noted above, is that you can only have a reservation in one park each day. I pray this is adjusted by our trip in December, in effect allowing the return of park hopping, but for now, one park per day.

7. No dining plans: When Disney announced their reopening, they added a lot of disclaimers. Not all of the restaurants are open. There is practically no character dining. The restaurants that are open have limited menus (some are very limited). As a result, Disney is not offering dining plans right now. My best guess is that this is to avoid people paying full price for the dining plan and then complaining that they didn’t get their money’s worth due to such limited offerings. This isn’t an issue for us because we never get the dining plan. It just doesn’t suit our eating style. I’m an all day snacker. One day I’ll make a post analyzing the pros and cons of the dining plan, but i think there have been countless analyses that have shown tables in wonderland works out to save you more money if you qualify to get that discount. Regardless, you still have the ease of using your magic band to pay for food, there just aren’t prepaid food credits loaded onto your account unfortunately. Obviously this is a bummer for people who love the free dining promotions Disney runs sometimes (although I’ve always thought they were somewhat foolish because it was always free dining with a full priced room, whereas for the rest of the year you can get a discounted room…. so it basically nets out to be the same ….). This also means no free refillable mugs included with dining plans. You can still buy the refillable mugs at the resorts, but they won’t actually let you refill them anywhere. You show them to a cast member and they give you a free drink in a paper cup. This is for sanitary reasons. No one is allowed to touch the drink machines except cast members for the time being.

8. Temperature screenings: this is an absolute non issue. It’s debatable what value it adds, given that people can be asymptomatic carriers, but it is a common screening practice that offers comfort to people, so I respect that Disney is doing it. Fortunately it causes no delay whatsoever at this point. During our recent trip we never experienced a line at any screening. They have tents set up at park entrances and the TTC, as well as at the monorail resorts, similar to security screenings. There were no bottlenecks whatsoever. I personally didn’t see anyone get a temperature that caused them to not be allowed to enter, but I’ve heard that if that happens, they ask you to step aside and they recheck you a few minutes later. Again, we experienced no issues and no delays whatsoever.

9. Mask wearing: this is a big one. This is a pervasive part of your every day experience. If you hate wearing masks, this should be a deciding factor for you, because you have to wear a “face covering” at all times on Disney property, indoors and outdoors. You are only allowed to not wear a mask in your hotel room, at the pool, while dining (stationary, not walking around the parks eating or drinking), or in designated mask free relaxation zones in each park). That being said, we are from NJ where masks have been mandatory indoors for many months now, but we are in the habit of taking them off outdoors, and we survived ok during the July heat on our Disney trip. I wore mine at all times as required, except in empty monorail cars, completely deserted walkways at the resort, etc, but my almost 3 year old probably wore his about 50% of the time. I thought that was a huge success. Cast members seemed to agree because he didn’t get any comments, outside of one cast member at the TTC temperature screening reminding him to put it on when he was done with his sippy cup. For the most part, when he was in his stroller and we were outdoors, he wasn’t wearing his mask, and no cast members had any issues. I think they aren’t going to focus on toddlers in strollers if you are maintaining appropriate distancing. That was my experience. Again, he did his best. He always wore it indoors and when we were on line near people. Just for more background, he was one week away from turning 3 and he is 39” tall. He’s a big guy.

I tested the no neck gaiter policy and was told almost immediately that I needed to wear a normal mask FYI, so that is definitely being enforced. I went with disposable masks 95% of the time because they were the most breathable in the heat and I could just throw them away after sweating through them. I did make a post about the Disney masks though, and we officially have about 20 of them, so feel free to look at that other post if you have questions about sizing or anything.

10. Not all resorts open: Disney is reopening the WDW resorts on a staggered basis after closing them all for an extended time period for the first time ever. Since there are such severe capacity restriction in the parks, and even less demand than expected right now, there is no need for every resort to be open fully unfortunately. The first resorts to reopen in June were all of the DVC resorts (except Jambo House) so as to quickly get some DVC points back to use and try to mitigate a huge inventory problem in the future with a flood of points in the system due to expiration extensions and whatnot. They’ve subsequently opened a few non DVC resorts so that the list below reflects all resorts currently open.

Additionally, they’ve released the following timeline for opening additional resorts. There are still a few resorts with no reopening dates sadly. They must be waiting to reassess whether attendance picks up over the next couple months. The virus has been so unpredictable that they unfortunately have to keep taking a wait and see approach with some of these things.

This is a huge disappointment for people with reservations at resorts that aren’t open for the dates they had reserved. I had a trip planned in March when everything closed, so I get it, it’s sucks. At least there are a ton of other options though. Hopefully you’ll be offered a comparable resort to switch to if your resort isn’t open, or you’ll be allowed to cancel entirely and rebook by renting cheap DVC points (seriously they have never been so cheap). Thankfully all of the most amazing resorts are open in some capacity (I’m a big fan of the deluxe resorts, plus they made sure to throw in a value and a moderate as options), so everyone should have an option that suits their needs and has availability. Availability should not be a problem for the near future ….

11. No water parks open: at this point, I’m just taking what I can get. A month ago, all of Disney World was closed. I’m elated that all 4 parks are open, along with all the DVC resorts and a handful of regular resorts. The water parks are an after thought at this point. I don’t really understand why they are closed, given that the pools are open, as well as Universal’s water park, but maybe since mask wearing isn’t possible in pools, it is too much of a risk to open a water park right now. It might also just be a cost cutting measure. They are barely making a profit from the parks as-is, so maybe they don’t think opening the water parks would be worth the expense right now. Typhoon Lagoon is my favorite WDW park by the way, so this is a huge bummer…. but all of 2020 is a huge bummer. This isn’t a deal breaker for me… just a disappointment. We rarely get to go to the water parks during our November trips anyway due to the weather being chillier so I’m used to missing out on these.

12. Mobile ordering required for quick service meals: at this point in society you basically have to embrace technology and get on board with mobile ordering. If you were holding out for some reason, I think coronavirus is kind of laughing in your face right now. I’ve commented at home that mobile ordering is no longer the best kept secret at places like Starbucks and Panera. Everyone has come to embrace these things and they will be more prevalent in the future as people have realized how awesome mobile ordering really is. I swore by mobile ordering for quick service meals at Disney before this, so no complaints here. The only real change for me is that they don’t let you into the restaurant to find a table or sit down until you can show that your order is ready on your phone. This keeps people from clogging up the tables and making it more crowded than necessary, which is great. I love process improvements and I think mobile ordering is super efficient when you have a hangry toddler. I highly recommend it to anyone who has been resisting it, whether you travel now or when it goes back to being optional.

13. Miscellaneous safety measures on property: None of these should really impact anyone’s decision to visit Disney, but I thought I should at least mention these other changes Disney has made which help make the parks feel so safe. I’ll include photos of things I remembered to take pictures of while I was there. Items not photographed include: hand sanitizers EVERYWHERE and dividers on the monorails.

These social distancing lines are EVERYWHERE
When it is not practical to load groups with spacing between parties, rides have dividers installed, like here on Kilimanjaro Safari
Ride vehicles are sprayed down/sanitized regularly
The buses have dividers between parties. They are also “aired out” for four minutes every time they arrive at a park to pick people up.

Disney Face Coverings

So we now possess an excessive amount of Disney face masks (or “face coverings” as they call them in the parks). We had ordered a couple on Etsy back in April because the shopDisney ones were pre orders, and now we went overboard and bought a whole bunch in the parks.

This is a medium on a large headed 2 year old.

Fun fact: in the parks you can mix and match any 4 for $20, while online there are pre determined sets of 4 that you have to order together for $20 all in the same size. When I was in Magic Kingdom I bought a large Forky mask, large Toy Story characters, medium Mickey face, and medium Goofy face. Then later I ended up also getting a medium Toy Story characters one and a large Minnie Mouse one, as well as a large Yoda one, putting me at the extremely foolish number of 7 masks, don’t ask me why, I blame the heat for melting my brain.

With regards to sizing: the medium masks fit my 2 year old (now 3 actually, happy birthday to him) pretty well. He has a massive head for a toddler though. They fit him well straight out of the package and are actually a little small/snug after being machine washed on delicate and dried on low. I probably will air dry his from now on. The large mask fits me very comfortably. However, my boyfriend/baby daddy/wedding canceller tried on the large Yoda mask and it was much too tight. I ended up pre ordering him a Star Wars set of 4 masks on the website in extra large last week when they were released. So we will have approximately one million Disney masks by the end of July, which seems about right.

He was so cozy in his mask that he fell asleep in it on the plane (in retrospect, is that even safe? Yeesh now im second guessing that…)

They have a ton of options in the parks, design-wise. Of course the register I went to didn’t have Forky in a medium for my son and didn’t have the red Minnie style I wanted for me, but there were a ton of other options, as listed above, so we are quite adequately stocked up.

I agree with what I’ve read others say, that the sizing seems a bit inconsistent. One of the medium masks fits my son perfectly, while another is a bit loose. Similarly some of the larges fit me perfectly, while others are loose. It isn’t a huge difference, and for only a few bucks per mask, I think the quality and sizing is pretty good. They are pretty soft and cozy. With regards to breath-ability, I’m fine in the Disney masks in NJ, but in Disney I pretty much stuck with disposable paper masks because they were the most breathable. I didn’t get my Disney parks masks until the last day of our trip though so I probably would have worn these a lot more if I had gotten them sooner, if not just for pictures. They are soft and stretchy enough that you don’t really mind sweating in them a bit. Plus, if you have a set of 4, you always have a spare clean one to replace your sweaty one with (or in my case, we have 57 spares in the center console of my car now and don’t sweat at all in the grocery store, so we just use one…).

Verdict: get them in WDW if you can. They sell them at all the resort gift shops and in every park. You can mix and match sizes and styles and use them towards your 4 for $20 instead of being stuck with the predetermined sets of 4 for $20 online.

Update: we just got a set of medium Pixar masks in the mail for the kiddo. The size discrepancies between the four mediums is pretty noticeable. Photos included for reference. Also including a photo of my son wearing one so you can see that one of them is huge on him, while all the other mediums tend to fit perfectly.

Negative covid test

We interrupt your regular programming to bring this totally excessive announcement, but in this day and age, with all the crap people get for traveling and “not caring about other people” and yada yada, I figured to be thorough I would post that I had a nasal swab done on Saturday and got a negative result today, woohoo! I waited the recommended 5-7 days post potential exposure (in this case travel), to get tested. I still intend to mostly remain at home for the remainder of my 14 days, but at least have the peace of mind to make a quick masked run to the grocery store if necessary, or go for a very socially distanced trip to the park with my son. We only planned to get our son tested if my test was positive and he had symptoms, otherwise we have no intention of subjecting him to that brutal q-tip up the nose (whew this one hurt a lot more than the last one I had done, but Disney is worth it!).

I’m not sure if I had previously mentioned this, but I did also have a negative rapid test result 2 days prior to traveling to Disney. I tried to cover all bases with confirming our health beforehand and had no intention of traveling and exposing anyone else to our germs if there was any risk that we had been exposed to the virus. We have been quite quarantined up here since March and I’ve also now had 4 negative covid tests at this point just because…. why not? So I take this virus very seriously and we took every precaution for everyone’s safety prior to our travel and upon our return. I think our lack of contracting the virus is a testament to Disney’s procedures in place right now. To be able to fly into a coronavirus hotspot, spend 3 days at a hotel and in theme parks, and fly back home without being exposed to the virus is pretty amazing, and Disney deserves a lot of kudos for keeping us all safe. Thank you Mickey !