Author’s Note: This was what I had planned to post last week but just didn’t have time. I am well aware this is controversial. I have already caught hell over this topic from family. I stand by our decision. Now on with the show.
Last year, after much scrimping and saving, I planned a trip to Disney World. It was planned, then booked, then thanks to Covid 19 was canceled and rebooked a few other times. We were finally able to rebook and go on said Disney World trip during Thanksgiving week. A lot of people questioned this decision. My family and I questioned this decision but ultimately decided to roll the dice and go. I know a lot of different states and cities have a lot of different rules right now. And, the ability to make the same decision to go would be different for every person reading this. However, this was without a doubt the best trip we’ve ever had to Disney World (and we’ve had a few). I’m about to give y’all an honest look at how we did it, what we liked and what I would or wouldn’t do differently.
Transportation: We drove instead of flying. I have heard from many that flights are incredibly safe right now with the added cleaning protocols and social distancing. However, with reduced flights and travel rules seemingly changing every few days, we did not want to purchase four plane tickets to have the flight get canceled or restricted due to travel rules. The drive was grueling. Don’t let anyone tell you that no one traveled this Thanksgiving. The roads were jammed. Every city, small and large, had ridiculous traffic. We wanted to use the vacant roads as practice for our oldest who still has his learner’s permit. The kid barely drove because the roads were so jammed. The drive was supposed to take at least 16 hours took more like 20 thanks to potty stops and an overnight at a Holiday Inn Express. It took us three hours to leave our city the Friday before Thanksgiving.
Food on the road: We went super old school and packed lunches and snacks. After observing a worker wearing a mask like a chin diaper months ago at a fast food place, we’ve sworn off eating at those kinds of places. We brought food from home and just ate out of our cooler.
Lodging: On the way to Disney World, we stayed at a Holiday Inn Express in Louisiana. It was extremely clean – like I don’t think I’ve ever seen a Holiday Inn Express be so clean. Although the room was musty (smelled of mold) it was super clean. We all felt very safe and they had a grab and go pre-packaged breakfast.
Gas Stops/Potty Breaks: These were the places I felt the most unsafe and where we saw the most no mask wearing of the whole trip. We kept these to a minimum but sometimes you just have to stop. The no mask wearing was almost universal at gas stations and welcome centers/rest stops a like. I would say the percentage was about 50/50. Many people wore the masks but most did not.
Disney Hotel: The Disney World hotel was phenomenal. If you have stayed at a Disney World hotel since around 2014, you are familiar with Magic Bands. They act as your hotel key, your park ticket, on property credit supply, and before Covid, your Fast Passes. The day of our arrival, around check in time (3 p.m.), I received an email stating our room was ready. When we got to the property (almost midnight) we went directly to our room and used our Magic Band to enter. We didn’t have to go to the front desk. It was ridiculously easy. The hotel room was exceptionally clean. Mousekeeping (Disney’s version of housekeeping) only came a few times during our stay and that was to empty the wastebaskets and replenish our towels.
We asked for more coffee a couple of times and they brought it directly to our room and hung it on our doorknob. We interacted with almost no one.
Masks: Currently, at Disney World, masks are required at all times for ages 2 and up except when actively eating and drinking, in a pool, or in your own hotel room. If you are outdoors, walking in the parking lot, you are required to have on a mask. If you are in the parks or on the on-site transportation like a monorail or bus you are required to wear a mask. People were exceptionally good about wearing a mask. If a person wasn’t wearing a mask a cast member seemingly came out of nowhere to remind that person to wear their mask properly. It was nothing short of amazing.
On Site Transportation: Since we drove, we also drove ourselves to the parks on occasion – especially when we wanted to be there for rope drop and we knew on site transportation would be crowded. However, we did utilize the ferry boat at the Magic Kingdom, the buses, and the new Skyliner gondola. They were all clean. Spacing was amazing. We were never within six feet of anyone and it was not crowded. There were partitions and spacing in bigger vehicles like the bus and ferry boat. We were the only family in our gondola.
Parks: I felt safer at the Disney World parks than I do at my local grocery store. To enter the park, we had our temperatures scanned. Our bags were x-rayed for contraband. We used touchless Magic Bands for entry (no fingerprints). Everyone was required to wear a mask. Hand sanitizing stations were everywhere. Handwashing stations were plentiful. Lines were spaced out six feet apart and in many cases partitioned. In busy walkways, most everyone was respectful. The only time things went sideways was in lines. We noticed some big groups did not heed the six foot rule. They encroached on our space in line but usually giving them the stink made them back off. Occasionally, we asked if they would like to go ahead of us just to keep them off our tail. Workers wore both masks and shields. This made it hard to understand them sometimes but not always. It just depended on the speaker. Crowds were kept to 35% capacity. I realize, this is still a lot of people but since we were so spread out, it never felt truly crowded. I don’t think I’ve ever been to a Disney park when it was that empty. Wait times were wonderful and were never as long as posted. The longest we waited for anything was for the Frozen ride in Epcot. It was posted at 110 minutes. We waited for 70. Lines seldom stopped moving and many rides were just walk on. Because there is no park hopping or fast passes, we were forced to slow down and take the day as it came but we never missed out on anything. We didn’t even miss the fast passes.
Food on Property: It was strongly suggested that one use mobile order if not at a sit down restaurant. This was seamless. You picked items on an app. You received a notification and you picked it up at a window surrounded by plexiglass. We chose to eat all of these meals outside. Tables were spaced and it was very safe and not crowded. We did eat one sit down meal a day inside a building. We waited outside to be sat at our table inside – again at least six feet from any other party. The tables were very spaced out. The menus were on the app. We never touched anything but our food and utensils. And, again all cast members wore both a shield and a mask.
Shopping: Stores were limited in capacity. There was a distanced line to get in. Honestly, we waited longer to get into some stores than we waited for some rides. Every store had signs asking for limited touching and most prices were clearly marked.
The Trip Home: Much like the trip to Florida, the trip home included packed roads, a makeshift lunch of items pre-purchased from a grocery store, and a stay at a Holiday Inn Express with minimal stops for gas and potty breaks.
The Takeaway: This was the most laid back, relaxing trip to Disney World we’ve ever had. We weren’t rushed going from park to park and ride to ride. We took our time and rode everything, saw everything, and did everything we wanted except for one ride, which was broken. I would turn around and battle that 20 hour trip in the car right now to return. The only place I feel safer is at home. There is no doubt we are more exposed at work, school, and the grocery than we are at Disney World Resort. There are many out there that think we should not have traveled and that we shouldn’t have exposed ourselves. That is fine. They can think that way and live their lives the way they choose. I know my day to day exposure level and I am confident in my choice.