What You Should Know Now That Parks Have Reopened
By Yvette Armendariz
At last! Disneyland and Disney California Adventure parks open to non-California residents June 15. So, is it time to load the car and go?
Maybe. Disney is a favorite destination for many Arizona families during the summer and school breaks. And many of us are feeling the withdrawals from the extended closure created by the pandemic. Plus, the new Avengers Campus just opened on June 4. Gotta see that, right?
But first, understand the changes made in these pandemic times; they could potentially wreck your trip. Park capacity is reduced, so you must plan ahead and reserve your spot online –impulse trips are iffy at this time.
If you hope to visit in July, before the kids return to school, well… single-park tickets for both parks were sold out several dates in June (as of June 8), and Disneyland was sold out on several dates in early July. If you upgrade to a Park Hopper, ticket you have more options. But if your heart is set on a specific park and date, then check back. Availability might open up.
Also, keep reading if you are opting to fly out to Florida for a Disney adventure there. The rules are slightly different for those 4 parks. I will share what I learned from my Walt Disney World vacation in early May.
Seven things to know if visiting Disneyland:
- Face coverings are required inside both parks for all guests aged 2 and up, even if you are vaccinated. The only time you are allowed to take off your mask is when actively eating or drinking in designated dining areas. Guests are asked not to eat or drink while in attraction lines. If that bothers you, then it won’t be fun.
- Some experiences, such as parades, fireworks, character greetings, magical makeovers at Bibbidi Boddidi Boutique and single rider queue are temporarily unavailable to help with physical distancing. But you will see characters in the parks.
- Online park reservations are a must or your trip could end up a bust. Check park availability before booking your trip – a hotel reservation doesn’t guarantee park entry. Once you book a room and buy tickets, immediately reserve your park(s) for everyone in your party. If buying just tickets, you can make a park reservation at the same time.
- FASTPASS and MaxPass services are temporarily out, but virtual queues are in. Using the Disneyland app on the day of your park reservation, you can try to join a boarding group for select rides starting at 7 a.m. from anywhere. You may only join once. Rides with virtual queues are Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance and Indiana Jones Adventure in Disneyland and Web Slingers: A Spider-Man Adventure in Disney California Adventure. Spots fill up quickly. If you don’t get in early, you have another opportunity at noon inside the park.
- Not all dining experiences are available, and mobile orders are highly recommended.
- Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa and its Disney Vacation Club Villas are both open at limited capacity. Disney’s Paradise Pier Hotel is expected to open on June 15, and the Disneyland Hotel is scheduled to open July 2 – all at reduced capacity. Extra Morning and Extra Magic Hours are temporarily unavailable.
- You will need to agree to terms and conditions – not exactly new – but this includes a Covid-19 liability waiver. Disney reserves the right to escort you out if you don’t comply with park rules – this means masks, too.
Note: Disney is updating park rules as situations change – and a lot has in the last few weeks – so definitely check out the website to learn more the latest: https://disneyland.disney.go.com/experience-updates
- Read all the rules about masks and other changes online before visiting.
- Download the Disneyland app – it is essential. You can see ride times, order food, purchase and download photos, and join a virtual ride queue.
- Pack a few masks for each day in case they get dirty, wet or fall on the ground when eating. Disney sells many adorable masks, too.
- Bring hand fans or cooling towels to help you beat the heat.
- Automated hand sanitizer stations are all over the place, but bring your own if you have a brand preference.
- Make reservations for dining experience up to 60 days in advance. But check leading up to your trip, in case others cancel, opening up a spot for you.
- Mobile orders are awesome. Select your food and pick up time while in a ride line, so you can maximize your time!
- Bring cashless forms of payment, as they are strongly recommended.
- If staying on property, online check-in is recommended. Read up on the updated cleaning protocols, so you aren’t surprised by changes in service.
FYI: The State of California recommends guests be vaccinated or obtain a negative Covid-19 test prior to visiting theme parks.
The scoop on Walt Disney World
If heading to Florida, planning ahead is equally important. Walt Disney World theme park availability is posted online as green (good), yellow (one or more parks sold out) or gray (no availability). As of June 8, August showed all green, and July was half green, half yellow. But check back, as availability fluctuates.
Some experiences are not yet available. Fireworks and parades remain on a pause as of press time. But we loved our time there – celebrating a child’s milestone birthday!
Be sure to check the latest rules online before your trip: https://disneyworld.disney.go.com/experience-updates/
What we learned on our visit:
Airports still require masks. Even if you are vaccinated. That rule was recently extended through Sept. 13.
Just like in California, tickets don’t guarantee entrance. You need to reserve your park well in advance for best options. Disney’s Hollywood Studios and Magic Kingdom often reach capacity. We made reservations about 2 months before our trip and had only one option for visiting Disney’s Hollywood Studios during our travel dates.
Masks for ages 2+. The restrictions we dealt with (masks all the time except when actively eating and drinking) have changed. Masks now are optional in outdoor common areas. However, you still need your mask for the rides, indoor theaters and park transportation.
I will say wearing masks was almost unbearable with the heat and humidity – and not all parts of the lines had fans or shade, making the rule rough.
We brought fans and cooling towels, which helped. Hats and sunscreen are a must. Cast members didn’t harp if you took off your mask briefly for a drink of water in line. I only heard a few visitors reminded that masks need to cover nose and mouth.
Security Screenings. We had to pass through metal detectors. I kept setting it off with my portable battery for my phone. Clear bags are recommended, but not required.
Physical distancing. At the time of our visit, the marked lines were 6 feet apart. We liked this because we didn’t feel crowded. But this is evolving, so check the website for the latest. The lines also looked crazy long, but every single line went faster than the posted time – sometimes 10-15 minutes less – with one exception: Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway.
My Disney Experience app. This was a must download! Not only can you see wait times, you can make restaurant reservations, order food online, open your resort room and more!
Virtual Queue. If you want to experience the newest Star Wars ride/theatrical show – Rise of the Resistance, you need to wake up super early or be in the park at 1 p.m. to try for a chance at a boarding group via the My Disney Experience app. We didn’t get in when we tried at 7 a.m. (4 a.m. Arizona time). I set my alarm a few minutes early, but my cell service disappointed. We tried again at 1 p.m. and were assigned Backup Group 100, to be called if space was available. There was, but pay attention to your alerts to return on time. We barely made our window about an hour before the park closed.
Mobile orders. Some restaurants require them. I learned that after trying to get some water. Luckily, in a few clicks, I was set. The pickup window was only 15 minutes, but it can be much longer during busy times.
Character encounters. Well, they aren’t the same, but it was good to see a few out. We saw Rafiki and drummers on flotillas (boats) along Disney’s Animal Kingdom’s Discovery River. We also saw a cavalcade featuring the Incredibles while in a ride line at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. You also might see others in a motorcade or procession in the parks.
Yvette Armendariz is a former award-winning business journalist and mom of two young adults. She remains a kid at heart and regularly sets off on Disney vacations.
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