Last night, it was announced that Walt Disney World is closing through the end of March 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic. The COVID-19 closure press release provided scant details and that, unsurprisingly, raised a ton of questions from guests.
This in turn crashed Walt Disney World’s official website and caused a call volume so high that the phone lines rang busy. To proactively address some of the simpler and more straightforward questions that were being asked, Walt Disney World has posted a short frequently asked questions page.
This answers some of the most common questions, but leaves many others we’ve been seeing from readers unaddressed. As such, we’re posting Walt Disney World’s official FAQ (top) followed by our own below that, which is based upon a mix of speculation, past precedent (to the degree that even exists), and calm educated guesses…
We understand that many of you are absolutely crushed that the once in a lifetime or dream vacation to Walt Disney World that you’ve been planning for literal years is not going to happen. We cannot even begin to imagine how that feels, and you absolutely have our sympathies.
We would also encourage you to be as calm and patient as possible. For one, Disney is prioritizing public health and safety above short-term profits, which is quite laudable even if it stinks on a personal level. Disney is also paying Cast Members during this closure, which is a huge relief for a ton of families that rely on the largest single-site employer in the United States.
Finally, this is a rapidly evolving situation. Closing Walt Disney World was undoubtedly a tough decision reached after much deliberation and consultation with public health experts, government authorities, and so on–but that does not mean that every single particular detail was ironed out before the announcement was made.
Moreover, it does not mean that every relevant stakeholder within the Walt Disney Company has been apprised of what to do. Disney is a complex organization with a ton of moving parts, business units, etc. Much of this they will be figuring out on the fly. For your own sake, we would stress patience and calmness. For the sake of those with whom you interact, kindness will be the ultimate virtue.
Enough prefacing, here’s Walt Disney World’s official FAQ…
May I get a refund on my ticket?
Unexpired multi-day theme park tickets with unused days, or date-specific theme park tickets with a start date on or before March 31, 2020 will automatically be extended to use any date through December 15, 2020.
If you are unable to visit by December 15, 2020 you may apply the value of a wholly unused ticket toward the purchase of a ticket for a future date.
Will the spring special Florida Resident Discover Disney Tickets be extended?
Florida Resident Discover Disney Tickets may be used through July 31, 2020.
What about tickets for special events slated to occur during the closure?
Guests who have purchased tickets for Disney After Hours, Disney Villains After Hours and Disney Early Morning Magic from March 16, 2020 through March 31, 2020 will be automatically refunded.
Will Annual Passes to Walt Disney World be extended?
Walt Disney World Annual Passes will be extended by the number of days the parks are closed.
Resorts & Hotels
I have a future stay at a Walt Disney World Resort hotel while the park is closed. What does that mean for my vacation?
Guests who have not checked in for stays between March 16, 2020 through March 31, 2020 may modify or cancel their Disney Resort room reservation or Walt Disney Travel Company package up to their original check-in date.
If no action is taken, Disney will automatically process a refund to the original form of payment within seven days of the original check-in date. If you did not book through Disney directly, please contact your travel professional.
What if I want to cancel a Disney Resort hotel reservation after the parks reopen?
Disney will waive all Disney imposed change and cancellation fees up to the date of check-in through June 30, 2020.
DINING & OTHER EXPERIENCES
I have a pre-paid dining reservation or experience reservation like Droid Depot or Savi’s Workshop while the parks are closed. Will I receive a refund?
All pre-paid dining and experience reservations will be automatically refunded if scheduled between March 16, 2020 through March 31, 2020.
What happens to FastPass+ reservations made during the closure?
They are automatically canceled without replacement.
What happens to dining reservations that required a credit card at the time of booking?
Reservations made at locations impacted by the closure will not be charged a cancellation or no-show fee.
[Our note: It is unclear whether this includes hotel or Disney Springs restaurants. While these will not be closing, they absolutely will be “impacted by the closure” given that all of Walt Disney World is impacted by the closure.]
Our Answers to Other Frequently Asked Questions
What follows is not official information that Walt Disney World has provided, and is instead our editorializing based upon speculation and various assumptions. It should be treated as such.
Will the Walt Disney World theme parks reopen on April 1, 2020?
That remains to be seen.
While the official FAQ answers are treating this as everything magically returning to business as normal come April 1, 2020, we would caution you against having that expectation. It’s simply a matter of Disney wanting to be cautious and not triggering a wave of cancellations beyond then.
It’s moderately instructive to see how this outbreak has played out elsewhere, particularly in countries that have not engaged in aggressive early-stage containment. Japan is a decent example, and original 2-week closures there were just extended another 2 weeks, to be reevaluated at that time.
If the closure is extended, expect Walt Disney World’s official answers above to be modified in accordance with any subsequent extensions.
When do you think Walt Disney World will reopen?
I don’t have the slightest idea. This such a dynamic and evolving situation–and one that remains in its early stages in the United States. I’m hopeful it can be resolved as quickly and safely as possible with aggressive measures and diligence, but I’m skeptical.
With all of that said, my personal best case scenario is Walt Disney World reopening at some point in mid to late April 2020. If I had a trip planned in or before May 2020, I’d begin processing the very real possibility that it might not occur.
Will Disney Springs remain open during the closure?
However, that’s because the vast majority of businesses there are owned and operated by third parties. Expect those to independently announce closures in turn, effectively rendering most of Disney Springs substantively closed.
What about the resort hotels?
Officially, those are remaining opening for existing bookings–primarily guests who have already arrived. Walt Disney World cannot exactly kick guests, many of whom came from literally all over the world and cannot instantly rebook return international flights, to the curb with two days’ notice.
Depending upon the actual duration of this closure, we anticipate resort operations to wind down at some point.
What about Disney Vacation Club points?
As DVC members are not doubt aware, there are a lot of intricacies and nuance (for lack of better terms) governing the rules of DVC point use years, banking, holding accounts, and so forth.
We aren’t going to even begin speculating on all of that. Disney Vacation Club will release an FAQ outlining its policies in due course.
We have a trip starting in 4+ days and I have a unique question, what should I do?
Wait and see.
The above FAQ was posted as Walt Disney World scrambled to address common questions because they’re website went down last night and call volume was so high that the lines were literally busy. Unless your trip is starting in the next 2 days, we would encourage patience (and we know that’s difficult).
You’ll save yourself stress and headaches in calling, waiting on hold for 5 hours, only to find out the answer is “I don’t know yet.” Everything we’ve seen thus far indicates Disney is going above and beyond to make things right here, and your answer will probably come to you if you’re just patient.
We have a trip slated to start during the closure but continue when the park is slated to reopen in April. What should we do?
Wait and see. (Are you spotting a trend here?)
As noted above, there’s no guarantee that the parks will reopen at the beginning of April 2020. Moreover, you have some time before you “need” an answer, so we’d encourage waiting for more info–it’ll be released as it becomes available.
We have a vacation scheduled for April 2020 or beyond, what should we do?
Wait and see.
There’s truly no benefit to acting preemptively. If Walt Disney World reopens and you’re comfortable to travel, great. If the parks do not open or you’re not comfortable to travel, you will certainly have the option to cancel or postpone without penalty at a later date.
UPDATE: The Walt Disney Travel Company is requesting that anyone with a check-in date after March 2020 not call right now so the lines are clear for more urgent travelers.
Should I call Walt Disney World now for [insert question or concern]?
Phone wait times in the next couple of days will be measured in hours, and will put Free Dining release day to shame.
Before calling, ask yourself what your time is worth, what the likelihood is of receiving an answer that satisfies your question, and the chances that Disney won’t proactively address your concerns at some point in the near future.
I spoke with a clueless customer service rep after waiting on hold for 6 hours, should I scream at them?
There’s a good chance that “clueless” customer service rep was totally in the dark about this (and to a large degree, still is) until arriving at work. There’s an even stronger probability they’ve been dealing with not-so-patient customers all day, and that they are overstressed, underpaid, and overworked.
Finally, there’s 100% certainty the person at whom you’d be yelling did not personally and unilaterally choose to close Walt Disney World or craft the policy you dislike. If the idea of kindness for its own sake is too much to grasp, just remember that (selfishly!) you can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.
We booked tickets/hotel/etc. via a third party, what is their refund policy?
We’d recommend contacting them directly. No third parties were consulted or notified about Walt Disney World’s plans to close, meaning all of them were caught off-guard and left scrambling to come up with policies.
This is an unprecedented and already catastrophic event for businesses–they’re figuring it out on the fly. We’d stress patience.
Will Walt Disney World fix Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance, the Yeti, etc. during this closure?
I’m not quite sure if this common question is serious, in jest, or a mix of the two.
Either way, don’t count on it. Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance has been receiving overnight work and test & adjust for the last several months. Its problems go far deeper than what can be addressed by simple maintenance. Same goes for the yeti. (Also, we have zero clue what construction/maintenance schedules will look like during all of this.)
What happens to previously announced or rumored projects as an indirect result of this?
Obviously, the most pressing concern here is public health or safety.
With that said, this is a valid long-term concern. It’s hard to say right now what the fallout from this will be, but it’s possible that anything that has not yet commenced work will be put on indefinite hold. It’s even possible projects that aren’t too far along will be paused. Anyone remember Pop Century’s Legendary Years? Yeah.
I have a conspiracy theory about this, want to hear it?
No, but I’m guessing that was a rhetorical question and you’ll be sharing it anyway.
Consider pumping the brakes before posting any comments that might not age well in ~7 days and come across as, at best, callous and self-centered. If we are on the same trajectory as Italy, things could get really bad. Maybe we will get lucky and that won’t happen, but it’s probably best to err on the side of not being an ass.
As for Disney’s decision being driven by dubious ulterior motives such as [insert your favorite conspiracy], just remember that at the end of the day, Disney’s “bias” is to the almighty dollar. To my knowledge, that’s fairly non-partisan. The company’s stock has already taken a huge hit, and Disney is poised to lose ~30% of their operating income due to the outbreak. That doesn’t even account for other divisions beyond Parks & Resorts that will also be impacted, nor does it include the long-term damage this is going to cause to the travel sector.
Do you really think one of the world’s most measured and contemplative companies is making decisions with such ramifications in a thoughtless panic or pursuit of some agenda?
What will you [Tom & Sarah] do with all of your free time now?!
Whenever we have downtime, we always tell ourselves we’ll do something ambitious like becoming fluent in French or Japanese (we have the audio lessons for both!), learning to play an instrument (I’d love to play the lute), or taking up amateur beekeeping (Sarah).
In reality, we’ll probably just watch HBO, finish a few books we’ve been meaning to read, and join the professional parkour circuit. (Seriously though, if anyone has good film or television recommendations, we’re all ears!)
I also have over one dozen restaurant reviews to catch up on and post, so we’ll continue with posts as normal here. It’s a stressful time, but the world will ultimately resume normalcy. I feel like continuing to share random Disney stuff will provide a lighthearted escape–for me personally as much as for you.
Have any questions we didn’t answer with the above FAQ? Do you agree or disagree with our advice? Any questions we can help you answer? Hearing your feedback–even when you disagree with us–is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!