This story isn’t exactly air travel related, except for the fact that Florida governor Ron DeSantis is asking for tourists to please start flying back to Florida for their vacations. Seeing as the theme parks are nearly empty, this might be the best time to go. Remember that if you are flying into Orlando, MCO is the airport code.
Last Sunday (8/30) we went to Disney World’s Magic Kingdom. A friend of ours has been telling us how empty it has been and how we’ll likely never see it like this again. We used to go to the theme parks all the time but the coronavirus has changed all that. I was skeptical and still nervous but as Florida’s cases have recently dropped dramatically we decided to give it a go.
Summer is the worst time to go to the theme parks. Usually they are packed with tourists here on summer break and there is no escape from the relentless sun, heat, and humidity. Sunday’s forecast was high 80s, high humidity and a 60% chance of rain. It was actually much nicer than that. The skies stayed overcast all day which dropped the temperature down to more reasonable low 80s. The rain only really affected us once for about 10 minutes (we got soaked). For a summer day outside when you didn’t want to be a hot sweaty mess it was close to perfect.
We left home at 8:30 and pulled into the parking lot 40 minutes later. Here was the first indication that this was going to be nothing like we had ever experienced before. Every single time we’ve come to Disney you park, try to remember which lot you parked in, and follow the throngs of people to the trolley that will take you to the monorail. Often you have to wait in line for the trolley, just to wait in line again for the monorail. There was no trolley. We were parked directly in front of the monorail station. This parking is normally reserved for VIPs and anyone who pays extra for “preferred” parking. Now it is just the general parking lot. And there really weren’t any throngs of people, at least not like we were used to.
As we walked the short distance toward the station there was an employee telling everyone to make sure to wear their masks at all times. No one needed to be told this as everyone already had their masks on. Before we could line up for the monorail we had our temperature checked and then the usual security check. The line for the monorail was spaced 6 feet apart and only one family was allowed per car. But the trains were running every 2 minutes so the line went much more quickly than usual.
Social distancing reminders were constant and everywhere. Every line had clearly laid out marks on the ground letting you know where to stand. Employees were all over the park walking around holding signs asking guests to wear masks and keep 6 feet apart. Everyone followed the rules. The only exceptions were standing in one place eating or drinking and children under 2 (we couldn’t keep the mask on our 22 month old).
Wearing a mask was probably the worst thing about our whole day but it was our own fault. We didn’t test out our masks in advance. We used the nice masks we already had been using which were great for short shopping trips where we stayed inside air conditioning. We didn’t realize just how hot they would make our faces outside. Although the weather was otherwise perfect for us, our nose and mouths were dripping in sweat all day long. My advice would be to test your mask beforehand or buy masks that advertise that they keep you cool.
Now this is where the story gets even more surreal. I’ve been to Disney more than 100 times. The last time I was there it was so packed we only rode 2 rides all day (and spent the rest of the time watching shows and other attractions). I’m used to waiting an hour and a half for a 90 second ride but I hate it. As much as I love taking the family to the theme parks I dread all the time wasted standing in lines. Theme parks = long lines.
The longest line of the day for us was the Seven Dwarf’s Mine Train at a claimed 35 minutes (Big Thunder Mountain Railroad had a claimed 40 minute wait but we didn’t do it). Otherwise 5 – 15 minutes was average. Many of the rides had no line at all. There were mazes set up to enforce social distancing that meant it took a couple minutes just to walk up to the ride, but once you got to the front you just hopped on the ride.
The Disney app showed 24 attractions open. We got to do 16 of them. In 1 day. And because of the child swap our 2 older girls did 4 of the rides twice. The park closed at 7 so even though we were there all day it was really just 9 ½ hours. Take 30 minutes out for lunch and that means the kids rode 20 rides in 9 hours. If you have ever been to Disney you know just how absurd that number is. On a good day you might be lucky to average 1 ride per hour. If we didn’t have the baby we could have done every single available ride in one day.
Before you go there is only 1 thing you need to know (besides the mask rule). The number of guests are limited so you have to make a reservation online. Before you can make a reservation you have to have confirmed tickets. This means you can’t just show up, but you can decide to go that same day as long as the park is not sold out. Even with the limits on guests most parks are not selling out. The only exception is Hollywood Studios because of Star Wars. But it wasn’t sold out on Sunday and even when it does you can usually still make a reservation 2 days in advance.