Over 65 Ways Disney Parks Are Keeping You COVID-19 Free
We are answering the question: Do you feel safe visiting the parks? Having spent two days in the Magic Kingdom and Disney’s Animal Kingdom, I look at over 65 examples of how Disney has worked to keep you COVID-19 free. Is Disney perfect at this? No, but there may be no organization on this planet more intentional in their efforts to do this, and indeed, it may be an example to every other business and organization for how to stay open and do it safely.
This is both a post and podcast. The list and images follow, but for play-by-play commentary of all of this, be sure to listen to our podcast. You can find our podcast here on Podbean, iTunes, Spotify, MyTuner, and ListenNotes. Make sure you subscribe as we have more coming this week.
Let’s start with the arrival experience:
- Low Numbers. The biggest thing Disney has done is lower the number of guests who can attend. They moderate this by requiring a reservation system for entering. The attendance is dramatically low. Disney has said that it will do this only if they can cover their costs. That may be why some offerings like the water parks or some hotels like All Star are not being utilized at this time.
2. Know Before You Go. Media messaging in a multitude of forms have communicated up front what you can expect from a visit at a Disney theme park, and what Disney expects from you as a guest. Those messages are available in the app, on blog posts, and in e-mails.
3. Wait to Open. It’s best to spread out the flow of guests into the park. That’s why they open up the parking plaza, transportation, ticketing and other services prior to the stated time. But on Magic Kingdom’s first day, they didn’t want crowds gathering too soon in front of the the Magic Kingdom entrance. So the guests waited for the toll plaza to open.
4. Car Spacing. When you park, cars are separated out so you are not bumping into and having close contact with the person next to you. If needed, they can fill in the spaces between later on, because the first groups have already exited.
5. No Tram. You are on your own for walking up to the park. Disney wants to make sure that the tram isn’t a first-point of contamination. If you think this is simply a budget cut, know that Disney has also stopped the priority parking program, where guests paid a premium to park in the front of the parking lot. Those spaces are now the ones guests are using as they arrive.
6. No Mask–No Worry. It’s hard to imagine that anyone in a thousand mile radius of Disney doesn’t know their mask requirement, but just in case you “forgot”, Disney has provided a vending machine at the front of the park for you to purchase one. And there is a hand sanitizer you can use before you touch the vending machine.
7. Fever Check. This has been one of the most noted activities. But also be aware that the same requirement is made of Cast Members. In fact, they are not only give a temperature check when they arrive, when they were being trained for this, they were given complimentary thermometers to take their temperature before they left for work. These temperature checks occur in makeshift tents before going through security.
8. Plastic Bags or Large Objects Removed. Park security is trying to make sure there is as little handling of objects as possible. Originally, the thought was to have the guests put their objects into clear plastic bags. But either they ran out of bags, or came to the realization that they really need to simply see any large metallic objects. Everything else can go through the scanner with the guest.
9. New Security/Fever Check Technology. Disney is currently testing at Disney’s Animal Kingdom technology that could simplify both the fever check and the bag check experience, combining both into one fairly quick walk through. More to come as they test this further, but you can find out more here.
10. Wide Queues Separated. Note this monorail queue. Usually it is filled with guests. The center indicates that you must only stand only on the different sides of the path. Also, stickers separate you from parties in front and behind.
11. Monorails Partitioned. Recall that each individual train has two guest holding areas. Those two areas have been divided by a partition so guests sitting back to back will have a barrier between them. Parties have the row to themselves, even if it’s a party of one. And there is no standing on the monorails.
12. Bus Separation. Because monorails and ferries now carry smaller loads, more buses are needed between TTC and the Magic Kingdom park. When boarding a bus you are assigned a number. When you’re number is called, you are assigned to sit in that section with that number. There is no standing on buses, and many seats go unclaimed because individual parties didn’t require all of the available seats.
13. Finger Identification Sensor Removed. This has been capped and is not a requirement for entry into the park. Unfortunately, it may be causing some struggle for guests getting in.
14. Signs & More Signs. There are signs all over the parks reminding you of what you need to do and how to do it. You cannot leave the parks without understanding that you must wear a mask, social distance, and so on.
15. Announcements. Occasional announcements are made throughout the day over the intercom. Again, they provide reminders of what is expected of you throughout the day.
16. Everyone Wears a Mask. Did we mention masks? Yes…and everyone wears one. I found only one instance of someone removing a mask after two days, and that was when they were riding Big Thunder. Everyone else was doing it.
17. Face Shields For Cast Members. Cast Members in Guest interactive areas are not only required to wear a mask but also a face shield.
18. Friendly Reminders. Welcoming you as you enter the park are cast members whose shared history was probably being a cheerleader. They are throughout the parks reminding guests in a friendly way to wear their masks. Now if they sold those “Mickey on a Stick” they hold.
Attraction & Entertainment Accommodations
19. Please Wait Here. Stickers are spread throughout queues and in anticipation of crowds, well out into the public areas to let guests know how to space themselves so they are socially separated from others.
20. Lines staggered. It’s not just socially spacing the line, but making sure adjacent lines are such that parties are not lined up across from each other.
21. Separated Parties on Elevators. The big challenge for the Astro Orbiter has always been loading guests up and down from the top platform. Now they will only load intact parties. So if you’re a party of one, you get the elevator to yourself.
22. Attraction Moments Forfeited. Certain attraction events, such as the stretching room in the Haunted Mansion, is forfeited and turned into a walking space, again with stickers on the ground to help your party socially separate.
23. Plastic Queue Barriers in Queues. In some instances, where queueing is especially needed, plastic barriers have been placed between adjacent queues.
24. Spreading Guests Between Vehicles. In situations like omnimover vehicles, guests are being seated every 2-3 vehicles rather than one after the other.
25. Interactive Games Removed. In the case of Seven Dwarf’s Mine Ride the entire interactive screen activity of sorting diamonds has been removed. So has the water play feature. You can rotate the barrels (if you know they do that), but they no longer project onto the ceiling. Again, removing objects that could frequently be touched.
27. Children’s Playgrounds Closed. It may be your child’s “Laughin’ Place, but a contagion is no laughing matter. That’s why small children playgrounds, and even big ones like at Dinoland have been shut down.
28. No Shooting Gallery. Too much handling of guns, the spread of which not only impacts other hands touching them, but when shot properly, are placed up around the face.
29. No Games of Chance. Taking away carnival style games practically makes Chester ‘n’ Hester’s Dino-Rama look like a ghost town. But truth be told, it kind of looked like it to begin with.
30. Assigned Carousel Rows. When you line up for Prince Charming’s Regal Carrousel you will be assigned a row number. Look for it when you go to find your horse. You can choose any horse in that row, knowing that no one will be sitting directly in front or behind you.
31. Distant Character Greetings. There are no meet ‘n’ greets, but the characters try to get out and say “howdy”–well at least at the Country Bear Jamboree. At other places it’s just a friendly wave.
32. Character Cavalcades. No parades are in the parks, but the characters will come dancing through. Those events are more intimate, and they happen at random and frequent intervals. That way guests don’t plan on them (and thus sit around in close proximity waiting) and they are more likely to see them because they come more often.
33. No Shows. Certain theatrical shows are not provided. This is primarily for the benefit of the actors, who need to work in close proximity without masks both onstage and offstage.
34. Removed Water Features. These are simply not running so as to discourage physical contact.
35. Theater Separation. When in theaters every other row is marked off so you cannot sit there. Then, there is separation of parties with stickers on the seats indicating where you cannot sit. Know that these theaters are often cleaned between shows.
36. Staggering Seating Rows. In one instance they may take two parties and seat them in rows 1 and 5 of a ride vehicle. In other instances, they may seat them in rows 2 and 6. The staggering allows no single row to bare the entire burden of possibly being contaminated. I saw this really play out at Pirates of the Caribbean.
37. No Physical Trail or Spotting Guides Want to know the birds found in Maharajah’s Jungle Trek? Well those are no longer available since they are typically shared. Instead, there is an exhibit of the birds you can see. Better yet, a QR code takes you to a listing on your mobile device.
38. No Squirting Guests. At Kali River Rapids those water guns you got to use to squirt down the guests have been capped. For that matter, all additional water elements on the ride other than the river itself have been turned off.
39. Theater Partitions. In the case of “It’s Tough to Be a Bug”, plastic partitions have been inserted between the guests in each row. Also, again, every other row is left empty.
40. Clean 3D Glasses. Actually, this has been happening all along. But most people don’t know that all of the 3D glasses are cleaned in a facility behind the Journey Into Your Imagination pavilion at Epcot. This is an industrial dishwasher of sorts that gently wash and sanitize all 3D glasses.
41. Partitions on Ride Vehicles. This is especially seen on Kilimanjaro Safaris, where each row has a plastic partition between it.
42. Ongoing Cleaning of Ride Vehicles. Depending on the vehicle type and usage, ride systems are brought down temporarily so Cast Members can go and clean the vehicles quickly for the next set of parties. So a contaminated ride vehicle cannot be contaminating others throughout an entire day.
43. Rejected Ride Photos. Should you choose to take your mask off during the ride so that your photo will look really great, it will be rejected.
Food & Beverage
44. Mobile Ordering Encouraged. Not only is the mobile ordering map encouraged, but it’s almost a necessity. And you can’t enter most counter service restaurants until you show that your order is ready to be picked up. Once you enter, you’ll be assigned a row to pick up your meal.
45. Reservation Windows on Mobile Orders. Furthermore, Walt Disney World implemented a system they started at Disneyland, where you have to identify which window of time you want your order. If it’s the noon hour, you may not be able to get into your favorite restaurant if that window isn’t open.
46. Check In Online. Do you have a dining reservation? If so, you’ll be invited to notify the restaurant that you are ready to check in. They in return will let you know when your table is ready so you aren’t standing around.
47. Spacing or Removal of Tables. To make sure guests stay socially separated from others, tables have either been removed or signs placed on certain tables to keep guests separated while they dine.
48. Scan the Menu. In sit-down dining locations you are provided a QR-Code that will send your mobile device directly to the menu for you to order from. No need to handle and/or re-handle a menu touched by others.
49. Buffets Closed. Many restaurants, particularly those utilizing buffets are not being utilized at this time. Others have become more of a family style seating.
50. Removal of Open Bar Condiments. Need ketchup with those fries? Well you won’t get it from a pump handle. All condiments like mayo and mustard are in separate packets. You can only obtain one utensil at a time, thus preventing contamination of other utensils.
51. Restaurant & Other Space Being Reutilized. You miss that restaurant? It will reopen someday, but know that it’s being put to good use. In order to provide a well-needed break for Cast Members, many of these spaces have been re-utilized as break rooms with tables set apart so they can take off their masks and face shields and have a break of their own.
52. Mobile Reservations for Gift Shops. Especially in use for more boutique stores, Disney has implemented a system similar to reserving your space in line when you visit a popular restaurant. This was especially useful at Splash Mountain’s gift shop, which has seen a high interest in character merchandise before the attraction is changed. The end result is fewer people crowding into tighter spaces.
53. Masks for Sale. A variety of Disney masks are for sale, with different character images and themes. They also come in different sizes.
54. Shop Enter. Shop Exit. When you visit retail locations, you’ll be asked to enter from one side of the building and exit from another. That way, people moves in a similar flow, reducing traffic clutter.
55. Help Us Protect the Magic. Signs are throughout all retail locations inviting guests to limit their handling of any products, and to ask a cast member for assistance if needed.
56. Point of Sale Plastic Partitions. Whether it’s a counter service facility or a retail location, plastic partitions are put up at point of sale registers. In some cases, they’re not even providing a cashier at the location.
57. Cashless Payment Encouraged. Even from the moment you are going through the parking toll, the parks are encouraging guests to use cashless options.
58. Pin Trading Revisited. New processes are in place so that your pin hasn’t been touched by just anybody when you select it. And the one you’re trading won’t carry any contamination when it’s selected by someone else.
59. No Merchandise Pickup or Delivery. A key service offering from Disney was to have your merchandise taken for you to your Disney hotel room, or be picked up at the front of the park at the end of the day. Disney has discontinued this for a while so as to reduce the number touching product and packaging.
60. Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique & Pirates League Closed. In truth, Pirates League was scheduled to be removed, but at this time it’s a definite, and for both. Like a hairdresser, Disney doesn’t want to have that kind of close contact with young children.
61. Ongoing Cleaning of Key Surfaces. From rails, to counters to tables, custodial cast members are out in force to make sure that oft-touched surfaces are kept clean.
62. Trash Cans Opened. Trash receptacles are pushed open so that you don’t have to push it open yourself. In many instances, additional signage reminding guests of safety requirements is posted.
63. Bathroom Doors Opened. As long as privacy can be maintained, restroom doors are left opened so that guests do not have to get their hands dirtier opening and closing the doors.
64. Hand Sanitizers Before and After. There are very few if any attractions that do not have hand sanitizers before you get on an attraction, and after you get off the attraction.
65. Wash Your Hands on the Go. Portable washing hand stations are set up throughout the park. It makes it easy for you to wash your hands as you move throughout.
66. Clean Restrooms. For the last couple of decades someone has stood up in the shareholder meeting and complained that the restrooms weren’t as clean as in “Walt’s day”. Well, Walt’s day has returned and these restrooms are kept cleaner than anything I’ve seen in a few decades.
67. Relaxation Areas Identified. In each park there are spaces where you can stop, drop and let go of the mask. These spaces have chairs and tables that are separated from other parties so you don’t need to worry about social distancing.
Still Want to Visit
As you can see, there are a lot of changes. The work here has been substantial, and all with the intent to keep you safe as a guest. But other than wearing a mask, there really isn’t anything that is too big a hassle. Moreover, the lines are incredibly low, at least for the short term.
May I suggest that the best person to consider a vacation to Disney right now is David Zanolla, owner and agent of Out The Door Travel, LLC. There’s no cost–but it could save you a lot of time–and even money–especially when you put it in the hands of someone who really knows Disney and travel. Call today at 309-863-5469 or reach out to him via firstname.lastname@example.org