Let’s face it as hard as it may be our whole world changed in 2020. I am not sure travel will ever be quite the same again and traveling in 2021 is sure to come with plenty of new changes. If you are planning a Disney World vacation in 2021 I wanted to share with you some of the ways it has changed as well as some handy tips for your Disney World vacation.
Be Prepared for Your Hotel to Change
We have seen the reopening of several hotels get pushed back already. With attendance remaining rather low it is only to be expected they are taking their time opening up more resorts.
The following Disney Resort hotels are now open and accepting new reservations:
- Bay Lake Tower at Disney’s Contemporary Resort
- Boulder Ridge Villas at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge
- Copper Creek Villas & Cabins at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge
- Disney’s Animal Kingdom Villas – Kidani Village
- Disney’s Art of Animation Resort
- Disney’s Beach Club Villas
- Disney’s BoardWalk Villas
- Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort
- Disney’s Contemporary Resort
- Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort
- Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground
- Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa
- Disney’s Old Key West Resort
- Disney’s Polynesian Villas & Bungalows
- Disney’s Pop Century Resort
- Disney’s Riviera Resort
- Disney’s Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa
- Disney’s Yacht Club Resort
- The Villas at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa
Of course with the opening of these hotels, Disney has taken a measured and deliberate approach to implement a number of health and safety measures based on guidance from various governmental authorities and health agencies.
Limited Park Availability
Yes, Disney is still taking park reservations for each park every day. The calendar is open for the entire year of 2021 so we expect this service to continue.
Park reservations means you have to go online in advance and pre-book the park you want to attend. You need reservations regardless of what kind of ticket you have and even if you are staying at a Disney World resort. Availability is limited every day so parks do sell out of availability. Most commonly we see Hollywood Studios completely booked. This especially holds true for upcoming holidays.
How to See Disney Park Availability
In order to plan out your trip and to pick which days you want to book your stay you can see the entire park availability calendar here.
This calendar is based upon which ticket type you have, and yes the availability does change. So be sure you are on the calendar that applies to you! In total you have three different calendar views to choose from:
- The default loads for guests without resort reservations (this is your calendar if you are staying offsite)
- The second calendar is for guests with resort reservations (including Annual Passholders with resort reservations)
- Last but not least is the calendar tab for Annual Passholders without resort reservations
Note you must have some sort of valid Disney ticket in order to reserve any day. This is why getting your tickets as soon as possible is absolutely essential.
For some good news as of the beginning of 2021, you are now allowed to park hop once again. Even better they made it super simple to do, no bookings required. You do need to have an initial morning park booked and enter that park (your ticket must get scanned at entry). After 2 pm you can park hop to the park of your choice as long as they are not at capacity. So far the system has worked out just fine and we have yet to be stopped due to capacity restrictions.
Book a Disney World Vacation Package
Not sure which route to go when it comes to booking your vacation this year? Well I have one big money saver for you! If there is an inkling in your mind that you may have to cancel, which really isn’t on all of ours?
What if you get sick, or a family member? What if work restrictions change and you have to quarantine and can’t take the loss of pay? What if case numbers get too high and you don’t feel comfortable? What if policies changes or your must-dos end up closed at the parks?
There are a lot of what-ifs these days and having flexibility I find is essential in 2021. If you go the route of booking a vacation package you can easily get all your money back in the event you need to cancel. When tickets are purchase separately, they cannot be canceled or returned.
While purchasing rooms and tickets separately often works out to be a cheaper deal you should factor in this cancellation loophole that could effectively save you on the need to buy travel insurance.
Book Your Trip Via a Travel Agent
If you made it this far, you realize wow things have changed so much with Disney World these days. Plus there are a lot of last-minute changes, hotels not reopening, capacity sizes changing and parks bookings to make!
This is why to me it’s a no-brainer that a travel agent is more handy and helpful than ever. Of course, travel agents authorized by Disney are 100% FREE and should never charge you a penny for their services. Disney pays them so you don’t have to stress all the ins and outs of booking and managing your trip. We have long toted how handy it is to use a travel agent but I stress it even more in 2021.
Our inboxes have been flooded with questions more than ever this year. You guys have loads of questions about how your trip will be in 2021. A Disney Travel Agent will be able to answer all of your questions, plus they will also keep you in the loop if and when changes happen.
We book with the fantastic folks over at Magical Travel and recommend them to anyone looking to book a Disney World vacation in 2021 and beyond!
Before entering any of the Disney World theme parks or even Disney Springs you will first have to go through a temperature checkpoint. Then of course you still have the classic metal detector security check as well.
To enter any Disney park you must pass a temperature check, your temperature needs to be below 100.4 degrees. If you don’t pass, you will be directed to a rescreening tent where you can sit and cool off. If your temperature is still 100.4F when they test you again, you and the rest of your party will not be allowed into the park.
I highly recommend bringing along your own instant read themomater for your hotel room. This way you can keep track of your temperature and you will know ahead of time if there are any issues.
Not Every Attraction will be Available
Even though Disney World has been back open for many months now not everything at the park is open. Some of the attractions are closed for maintenance and some are closed for safety concerns. For a full list of what is closed please read our closures and refurbishment guide.
In general, you can expect character meet and greets and most shows and entertainment to be gone. In the summer of 2021 the Festival of the Lion is announced to make a return. Currently there are some mini concerts at Epcot’s American Gardens theater.
Also note at this time there are no nightly firework show or parades running at the parks.
A Different Kind of Character Meet and Greet
All of the traditional character meet and greet opportunities are no longer open at Disney World right now. Sadly, gone are the day you can hug Mickey and Minnie Mouse. However, that doesn’t mean you won’t see any characters while you are there.
Now you will spot characters up and out of the main area of traffic waving you on as you go about your day. This includes over the train station as you enter the Magic Kingdom. Also in Animal Kingdom keep an eye on the waterways as characters will float by in boats.
Social Distancing Markers
An important part of keeping everyone as safe as possible is to maintain proper social distancing (and wear your mask of course!) A new addition to the parks is markers all over the ground to help everyone with knowing just where to stop so you are leaving that 6 feet between you and the party in front of you.
No Disney Dining Plan
The Disney World Dining Plan was a popular draw for many. It was essentially a deal where you book your room at full price and in turn you would get a dining package for free.
The Disney Dining Plan is no longer for sale and also is not able to be used in the parks as well.
Dining Reservation Policy Has Changed
All dining reservations for the immediate future will only be up to 60 days in advance (instead of the previous 180 days). Personally, I thought 6 months out was a lot and I am glad Disney has made this closer to people’s trips. There are a lot more last-minute vacationers coming to Disney World and this policy really helps them out.
Also note when you are in the park they now show walk up availability for the dining that is open. Believe it or not that is actually a thing again! It used to be previous that pretty much all restaurants were so full with pre booking walk ups were next to impossible to snag.
Pack Plenty of Face Masks
Face masks are the new norm around Disney World and yes, they are required no matter what. There are no doctor notes, no exceptions, and they have even stated if you have been vacinated for COVID-19 you will still be required to wear a mask.
Now get your glasses out this policy is a long one with lots of specifications as things have evovled in the last year.
Face coverings are required for all guests (ages 2 and up) and Cast Members, including those who have been vaccinated. Please bring your own face coverings and wear them at all times, except when dining or swimming. You may remove your face covering while actively eating or drinking, but you must be stationary and maintain appropriate physical distancing.
All face coverings (whether disposable or reusable) must:
- Be made with at least 2 layers of breathable material
- Fully cover the nose and mouth and secure under the chin
- Fit snugly but comfortably against the side of the face
- Be secured with ties or ear loops and allow the guest to remain hands-free
At this time, based on guidance from health authorities, neck gaiters, open-chin triangle bandanas and face coverings containing valves, mesh material or holes of any kind are not acceptable face coverings. Costume masks are also not considered appropriate and are prohibited from being worn, in alignment with Walt Disney World’s existing rules.
Face coverings may have an integrated transparent plastic panel to aid in viewing the wearer’s mouth. These face coverings must:
- Be a fabric face-covering featuring a solid plastic panel containing no openings that are attached to the fabric on all sides using tight knit stitching
- Meet all face coverings requirements listed above
The use of face coverings is not a substitute for physical distancing.
Whew okay, you made it through! Really the rules above are using your common sense and following along with CDC guidelines and recommendations. If you are looking for recommendations on the best face masks to wear to Disney World we put together a whole list for you!
Fastpasses are No More
FastPass+ still has yet to return to Walt Disney World. And while this isn’t available and the overall crowd-level capacities are reduced, you’ll still want to have a plan to tackle the parks. Yes, there are long waits for the popular rides at times. On the weekends we see in general just about every Magic Kingdom ride reach a 60 + minute wait.
Is Disney World Worth the Trip in 2021?
Well isn’t this the million-dollar question? Okay maybe it isn’t worth that much but this is DISNEY we are talking about! I say it depends on your situation.
Diehard fans, come on down and enjoy your most magical place on Earth. The smell of walking down Main Street USA will make your soul just feel good again. (Yes, Disney smells can make their way through you mask via special Tinkerbell pixie dust). Things have changed the magic is not the same and the reality of our pandemic creeps in and spoils some fun but it’s still Disney at the end of the day.
If this is your ONCE IN A LIFETIME trip, please please reschedule. You need the fireworks, Ohana, and so much more that is closed right now. If you just don’t think you are ever coming back again I recommend going when the parks have more experiences back open again.
I have been visiting the parks annually since my parents first brought me at just a year old. Recently I was able to fulfill my life long dream of being a Florida local and moved from the wintery Northeast to the sunshine and fun of central Florida. Now I am hoping to share my Disney knowledge with you so you can have the best vacation possible!