Disney World Reopening FAQ & Info
Walt Disney World’s theme parks will reopen in July 2020 with new health safety protocol, modified operations, limited capacity, reservations for park entry, and more. A lot of these changes were announced without detail, and have raised more questions than they’ve answered. In this FAQ, we’ll attempt to clarify, share everything you need to know, and speculate on some of the unknowns. (Updated June 15, 2020.)
Let’s start by bringing you up to speed on everything that has happened in the last week. First, Walt Disney World announced that Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom will reopen on July 11, 2020, with Epcot and Hollywood Studios reopening on July 15, 2020. Prior to all of the parks reopening, Disney Vacation Club properties will reopen on June 22, 2020.
Following those bombshells, Walt Disney World Announced All Reservations Will Be Cancelled—Free Dining, Restaurants, FastPass+ & Dining Plan. We’ve also seen Park Hours Cut Significantly for Reopening. Additionally, WDW released “Know Before You Go” Resort & Restaurant Info. These are just a handful of changes—with many more likely to come. Against that backdrop, let’s dig into the Walt Disney World reopening FAQ with answers to some of the most common reader questions. (Fair warning, there’s a lot of “we don’t know” here.)
When will advance reservations for visiting the parks open?
Walt Disney World has not yet announced an official date for this, or any details about how it’ll work. Our expectation is that Disney IT is scrambling to build a system for it, and the website will quietly debut early one morning (like release day for deals) with no official announcement until it’s been live for hours, and some days are potentially already fully booked. (In Disney’s defense, this practice is done to prevent its servers from crashing…and they’re still often overwhelmed.)
We are closely watching this, monitoring the official app and website for the slightest changes and will immediately send our subscribers a heads up when the new theme park reservation system launches. (Sign-up for our free email newsletter here!)
Who will receive priority for booking reservations for park entry?
Initially, guests with existing tickets (including Annual Passholders) who purchased before the reopening date was announced.
Going forward, we suspect on-site resort guests will have an earlier booking window–similar to FastPass+ or Advance Dining Reservations in the past.
What does this mean for Park Hopper tickets?
We don’t know.
Intuitively, an advance reservation system would seem to be incompatible with Park Hopping unless organic demand is regularly capacity for all four parks. The problem with that is Walt Disney World won’t know it’s the case until the parks actually reopen. Our expectation is that Park Hopping will temporarily be halted during the first phase of reopening, and guests who have already purchased Park Hopper tickets will be refunded the difference. However, this is just a guess.
Will the parks have capacity limits?
Walt Disney World has not released official numbers, but in an interview, CEO Bob Chapek indicated the first phase of reopening would limit attendance to 20-30% of normal capacity. Queues, restaurants, and attractions will also operate at 50% or less of their normal numbers.
Will being a resort guest guarantee access to the parks?
Per Walt Disney World, no.
As a practical reality, we believe it will. Resort guests have never been guaranteed access to the parks, but it’s always been the case that phased closures applied to everyone else before applying to resort guests. Our expectation is that the park reservation system will work similarly, and that Disney’s answer here is a CYA response.
What will that do to crowds?
In theory, they should be lower even with reduced capacity on rides, restaurants, etc. After a brief period of pent-up demand, there’s also the possibility that fewer guests than the capacity limit will want or be able to attend Walt Disney World.
This is something we discuss in part 1 of our Dawn of a Temporary Disney Era.
Will there be soft openings of the parks?
Walt Disney World has announced a soft opening period for affinity groups (Annual Passholders, Disney Vacation Club Members, Florida Residents, Club 33, Golden Oak, etc.
How will those work & when will they begin?
We don’t know.
We assume these dates will likewise require advance online registration. Our “wishful thinking” start date would be June 22, as that would give DVC members with resort reservations a chance to use the parks during their stay. However, that’s a very long soft opening period, and might be a bit far-fetched.
When will the clock start ticking again on Annual Pass expiration dates?
We don’t know.
Shanghai Disneyland is not restarting the clock during its Advanced Reservation Period, which means any dates an AP visits during that period are essentially a bonus. This approach makes sense given that registration is required and access is not guaranteed, nor is it unlimited or available per the original terms of the purchase.
The new policies are arguably a unilateral contract modification that goes beyond what’s contemplated by any reasonable change of terms provision or disclaimer. Accordingly, our expectation is that Walt Disney World will not restart the clock until after the reservation period has ended. That’d be the legally prudent and guest-friendly course of action, but we truly do not know what Disney will do.
Are ticket refunds being offered?
No, and that’s a pretty firm (and controversial!) no.
Partially used multi-day theme park tickets with usage window impacted by park closure, or date-specific theme park tickets purchased through June 6, 2020 with a valid use period beginning March 12, 2020 or later, will automatically be extended to use any date through September 26, 2021. If you are unable to visit by September 26, 2021, you may apply the value of a wholly unused ticket toward the purchase of a ticket for a future date. Florida Resident Discover Disney Tickets may be used through September 30, 2020.
When will DisneyWorld.com accept new bookings?
We don’t know a specific date, but it’ll be after the new theme park reservation system launches.
Our guess is sooner rather than later. Vacation packages and resort bookings are Walt Disney World’s primary revenue generator, so there’s every incentive to reopen reservations for packages ASAP.
Will guests be required to wear masks?
Yes. Per local public health expert guidance and CDC recommendations, guests are required to wear masks for the safety of other guests and Cast Members. Same goes for Cast Members.
This applies to all guests ages 2 and older. Walt Disney World plans to offer “relaxation zones” where guests will be able to remove their face masks for relief from the summer heat, away from crowds and foot traffic.
What if you have a disability that prevents you from wearing a face covering?
Walt Disney World has not yet addressed this specifically. Disney is likely to allow modified face masks to the extent feasible (think face shields).
However, the ADA requires no “reasonable accommodation” for face masks, as doing so would pose a direct threat to the health or safety of others. This comes directly from the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
When will the mask requirement end?
We don’t know. The ‘safe’ answer is when the CDC and local health agencies lift the requirement or revise it.
The earlier possibility is that the mask requirement is loosened for outdoor and open air spaces at some point, while masks required in queues and all indoor spaces. Either way, our guess is that the mask requirement will remain in place, in some form, through the end of 2020.
Why isn’t Disney letting guests choose whether to wear masks?
Probably due to the latest CDC guidance, which strongly encourages cloth face coverings or masks in public, at events or gatherings. Per the CDC, cloth face coverings are meant to protect other people in case the wearer is unknowingly infected but does not have symptoms.
Cloth face coverings are for the benefit of others, and are mutually beneficial when worn by both parties to an interaction–which means that guests wearing masks help protect Cast Members. Moreover, recent research by the University of Cambridge shows that even homemade masks can prove 90% effective at preventing transmission, and a policy of total face mask adoption can still prevent a second wave.
When will fireworks, parades, and other entertainment return?
We don’t know.
As with the mask requirement, this largely hinges upon CDC and health expert guidance. With that said, these are quintessential components of the Walt Disney World experience for many guests, so even though eliminating entertainment saves money, our suspicion is that Disney will be eager to reinstate this offerings as soon as it’s safe to do so.
What’s the status of meet & greets and character dining?
As we’ve previously reported, character dining has been canceled, as have meet & greets. Modified character experiences, likely in the form of smile & wave shows, will supplant direct character interactions for the time being.
Additionally, Topolino’s Terrace will offer a modified character dining experience–the only one at Walt Disney World.
Will big discounts be offered for the reduced experience and shorter hours?
That remains to be seen.
For more, read our recent Dawn of a Temporary Disney Era – Crowds & Discounts. In short, we strongly believe aggressive deals are on the horizon…but it might take some time.
Which reservations are being cancelled?
All restaurant, FastPass+, Disney Dining Plan, and other experience reservations are in the process of being cancelled.
Existing resort hotel reservations are not being cancelled.
For as far out as bookings have been accepted. Since these all have different timeframes (60 days out for FastPass+, 180 days for ADRs, etc.), the end dates vary.
Some Disney Dining Plans have been sold via international sites and group bookings for next year–those are being cancelled through September 2021.
What I haven’t received a cancellation email?
Check your spam folder–you might’ve already received it.
If not, you probably will. Walt Disney World has a huge backlog of cancellations to process, and it takes time to process. It’s also possible your reservations were cancelled and you didn’t receive notification, so check My Disney Experience.
What if my reservations are still in My Disney Experience?
Then they haven’t been cancelled…yet. Again, Walt Disney World has a ton of cancellations to process. Throughout the closure, Disney was cancelling reservations for a week or two at a time, and even that was hit or miss timing-wise. Now, months of cancellations are occurring simultaneously.
There’s also the chance your third party restaurant reservations will not be cancelled.
When will regular hotels reopen?
Previously, Walt Disney World issued a statement that resorts would begin to reopen on July 11, 2020.
That has since been removed from the official site with no word on when hotels will actually reopen. We would expect hotels to begin reopening around or shortly after when DVC resorts open.
Will all hotels operate?
Per CEO Bob Chapek, no. This has not yet been confirmed by Walt Disney World officially, but he’s the boss, so…
Our expectation is that several resorts will not reopen immediately. Likely candidates for extended closures include Coronado Springs & Gran Destino, Animal Kingdom Lodge, Port Orleans, and the All Stars. This is not an official list, nor is it exhaustive. Demand will dictate a lot.
What happens to my reservation if I’m booked at a resort that remains closed?
Walt Disney World’s longstanding policy when moving guests due to overbooking, refurbishments, etc. is to offer a lateral or better option.
This means that you’ll receive a resort of equal or greater value when being relocated. This is what happened when resorts were closed post-9/11, and we’d expect it to again be the case.
Will hotel pools be open?
For the most part.
Not all resort pools will reopen right away. Most notably, Stormalong Bay at Disney’s Yacht & Beach Club will not reopen on June 22.
When will Typhoon Lagoon and Blizzard Beach?
We don’t know.
Walt Disney World hasn’t released any info about the water parks. Universal reopened Volcano Bay with fewer restrictions than its theme parks, so this could be more a matter of demand and/or staffing than safety. We wouldn’t be surprised to not see Disney’s water parks return until the 2021 season.
Has Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party been cancelled?
Given that the main draws of Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party are a parade, fireworks, and stage shows–entertainment Walt Disney World is cancelling during normal hours–we suspect that, at minimum, August and early September party dates will be cancelled. It’s also possible that the event will be heavily modified.
What about other special events?
Other events have been cancelled.
Guests who have purchased tickets for Disney After Hours, Disney Villains After Hours, Disney Early Morning Magic and Disney H2O Glow Nights will be automatically refunded.
When will the Disney Dining Plan return?
We don’t know.
We suspect it’ll be back long before September 2021 (the date through which it’s currently cancelled), and we fully detail why towards the beginning of this Disney Dining Plan Info post.
Lots of “we don’t know” answers here…when will we know?
We don’t know.
Just kidding. Answers should come in three phases. First, when Walt Disney World makes additional announcements about the online reservation system for park entry, etc. Second, when Disney starts accepting new vacation package bookings. Third, when soft opening previews begin and we can see how things work in practice. Finally, a couple of weeks after official reopening happens and we can see how things ‘settle’ into place and actually operate after pent-up demand is exhausted and the system has allowed for test and adjust.
In other words, we should know more between mid-June and late July 2020. If you’re traveling in August 2020 or later, have some patience and let the answers come to you. That’s difficult right now as everyone is craving more certainty and details, but these are unprecedented times, and if you’re wanting to visit a popular theme park in the midst of a pandemic, some degree of flexibility and understanding is going to be necessary.
This should answer most of the questions that readers have been asking about the reopening of Walt Disney World. In some cases, those “answers” are simply our best guesses and speculation, but in a lot of cases that’s the best we can offer. There have been a lot of questions in the last week, so if we didn’t address yours, we apologize. Please post in the comments below and we’ll answer more as they’re asked!
Planning a Walt Disney World trip? Learn about hotels on our Walt Disney World Hotels Reviews page. For where to eat, read our Walt Disney World Restaurant Reviews. To save money on tickets or determine which type to buy, read our Tips for Saving Money on Walt Disney World Tickets post. Our What to Pack for Disney Trips post takes a unique look at clever items to take. For what to do and when to do it, our Walt Disney World Ride Guides will help. For comprehensive advice, the best place to start is our Walt Disney World Trip Planning Guide for everything you need to know!
Have any questions we didn’t answer with the above FAQ? Do you agree or disagree with our speculation? Other thoughts or concerns? 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!
What is status of Magical Express bus from MCO and regular disney bus service within WDW?
That’s my biggest question too, Sea Dog. I’ve seen some photos of Universal’s passholder opening yesterday and they appeared to be running buses with people just distancing but I’m curious to know if there will be more buses to accommodate less people and ESPECIALLY about Magical Express and how that looks for the time being
I chatted with a Disney person via their website to ask about those things as well as the skyliner. The agent told me that the Magical Express and regular buses would run when Disney reopens, but they couldn’t say for sure about the skyliner. But as always, they could be wrong so take it with a grain of salt.
First, thanks Tom for all the updates.
Disney is doing their best in a very difficult situation. Everyone was caught off guard with the pandemic. We had to cancel and change plans for a girl scout community of 65 troops and over 400 girls. Now we are trying to hold things together, keep the girls involved and plan for an uncertain future. I cannot image multiplying this by hundreds of thousands or more. I also understand disappointment. I am an AP. Have trips planned for September, October and November, but we have to wait to see what happens. We also have a choral group that was going to sing in Disney’s Preforming Arts program in August 2021, but that will probably have to be cancelled also. We will start planning for 2022. Give Disney a break. I am sure they are doing the best they can.
If you are thinking, “what a Pollyanna she is”, you are right. I try to look for the best in everything. Otherwise, I would spend more time being unhappy than enjoying the present.
We keep hearing that character dining is canceled… Does anyone know if this means that restaurants that have characters are closed or if characters just won’t be circulating around the restaurant? Also, was it ever determined how they are handling buffets? Will those restaurants be modified or complete closed?
Unfortunately they have not really said if those restaurants will open and just not have characters walking around or if buffets will still open but just be full service instead of self serve. Right now, you can’t book a reservation for any restaurant at an of the theme parks at all. I think they are still trying to decide what to open and what should remain closed for the time being.
Thanks for the word on the water parks. “We don’t know” is still more info than I’ve seen to this point. They’re heaven, on a hot day (meaning all of summer and much of fall at WDW).
My own take is that it’d be odd for WDW to not have at least one water park up and running when Universal is going to have Volcano Bay up from the start.
The Disney World page operating hours currently shows hours for both Blizzard Beach and Typhoon Lagoon starting on July 11. What is interesting is there are hours for both water parks from July 11 til September 12th, but only shows hours for Typhoon Lagoon after September 12th. Not sure if this means the water parks are going to actually open on 7/11 or not. The sad thing is if the park hours are correct it means that Blizzard Beach will be closed during our trip in late September. Since we spend several days at Blizzard Beach we will probably cancel September if they are closed.
Thank god you guys are giving out info because I haven’t heard a peep out of Disney since the automated emails telling me without explanation my dining was cancelled.
Since Disney hotels aren’t taking new reservations we booked at the Dolphin for the first week of August. Fingers crossed we get reservations!!
I don’t understand all of the stringent requirements. Many people in Florida are not even wearing masks anymore. Even more importantly, considering the current sad situation in our country, if Coronavirus were still such a threat, shouldn’t we be seeing a huge fallout? Why not just limit the number of people and area(s) they are coming from? Is this Disney executives’ decisions solely or is it at the insistence of unions and/or recommendations of lawyers? I do understand the desire to protect cast members, but can’t imagine ALL cast members are happy about wearing masks. Those of you who want to give me the “stay home” lecture, please refrain. I’m not asking for your opinion, just insight from those in the know.
There are 1,419 new cases in Florida reported today. Highest since March, 40 new deaths. Just because no one wants to adhere to the new safety rules doesn’t mean it’s not still a pandemic!
I completely agree with you. I feel like telling people that say that, that they should stay home if they are afraid of getting sick. Going to Disney World is a choice its not essential.
I also hate when people say it worked in Shanghai. Wearing masks to protect others from illness is something they have always done.
I also don’t understand how they think toddlers will wear the masks. I can’t even get my niece to wear 3D glasses for a 90 minute movie because they hurt her eyes and she’s 9.
The 2 year old will be sitting in their stroller pulling at their masks because they’re hot. Whoever they are with will put it back on.
The poor kid won’t be able to stand it and as soon as they get the chance they will throw it down on the ground.
Not to mention everyone will be constantly touching their face to adjust their mask. Or taking it off to wipe the sweat with a wet cooling towel. Then putting that germ filled mask back on.
Then go into a shop. And touch everything. Especially if you don’t go to Disney very often.
Because that’s sanitary. Finding damp, used, cloth masks laying all over the park. And all of the shops being essentially a breeding ground for germs because people are constantly touching their face then touch merchandise. Lather, rinse and repeat for most of the guests.
Disney can only ask so much of its guests and cast members.
This is interesting.
I am a cm. I have been trying to get medically accommodated so I can breathe at work. Its been very difficult. I have a harder time breathing and I am very worried about passing out while working. They do not want accommodations and are making it hard. I know I can’t be the only one but most of my co workers with issues breathing won’t even try. They can’t breathe but plan to just deal with it.
I guess once respiratory injuries start happening just wait for the lawsuits? I think masks should be optional and maybe give option to wear a face shield. This is safer for health reasons.
It feels like medical tyranny.
I know, it the last 2 weeks I have seen mask-usage drop out in public from nearly 100% to like 20% in my area. My kids started dance camp this week, masks required…it lasted one day. All the kids were miserable, including mine, and when I called to withdraw them I was told masks are no longer required. Of course they can get away with this because they are a small business, but Disney can’t just because of all the bad press they would get. They will probably be the only place in the country still requiring masks in September unfortunately.
Right! I am not dissing Disney’s right to do what they want to do. And perhaps with the increased number of cases, it says something??? But didn’t the CDC also say it’s much less deadly than originally thought? I am pointing out that there are both practical and legal ramifications because of decisions made at the top, and not to be political, but the current messaging from city and state leaders is very confusing and inconsistent. And it affects all of us.
I have a resort stay booked for December (DVC renter) but I delayed on purchasing tickets. Any insight on when ticket sales might resume? Am I at risk of my trip arriving with resort only options since I didn’t purchase tickets before all of this?
Can you give any updates or “we don’t know” for Disneyland? We have a trip planned for the first week in Dec. Wondering your take on a Christmas parade and other entertainment. Love your blog. I read it every evening to calm down after a draining day.
I don’t know if this is helpful to anyone, but my dining was all cancelled a couple of weeks ago and I was allowed to rebook at T Rex today. Not sure if it was a fluke and they will cancel again, but if you had dining in DS that got canceled you might try rebooking and see what happens. Of course it didn’t allow me to rebook my park dining though.
Thanks for sharing! I was permitted to rebook a STK reservation and Homecoming at Fisney Springs yesterday. No dining plan, but a few Disney Springs restaurants were available for the 60 day timeframe. I saw T- Rex and a few others listed.
Fisney…. my fingers are missing the magic and apparently can’t type.
Sorry! I didn’t mean to make to sound like I was blaming cast members. I’m not. I know they know just as much as we do and sometimes less.
And they are getting all of the anger and frustration of the guests when they are just doing what they are told.
That’s why I started posting on places like this. I just need to vent. They don’t deserve that. Another reason upset with Disney. They make all of the decisions and their employees get blamed for it.
Tiana- no worries!!!! You didn’t sound that way at all, I didn’t take it as such! This is definitely a judge free zone, an you’re fine. The poor cast members are just reiterating what they have from the higher ups. Every one I talk to is kind and I apologize for even calling ( again lol). There’s just a lot of questions that Disney has left us scratching our heads about, as Tom has covered thoroughly.
This blog is a great place for us Disney folks to ‘vent’ and be informed. We’re all saddened, confused, and hoping to get back to our happy place in a healthy way soon. Goodness knows we all need some light in this world…
Thank you Tom for trying to decrease all the anxiety. You didn’t mention anything regarding transportation. And if your booked in a resort that is not open yet, what if they move you to a resort that only has Skyliner? I would not under any circumstances use the Skyliner especially on a scooter.
Hi Joyce, I have been staying at Skyliner resorts since the Skyliner opened, and all skyliner resorts also have busses. If busses work for you, you would be fine. Hope this helps!
Joyce- My father uses a scooter on the skyliner last visit and it was a breeze to load and unload! He literally drove it right into the skyliner adapted for those mobility devices. The cast members directed us to one that was accessible and it was so easy- faster than the bus! He even mused at the ease. Hope that helps!
Thanks for the update, Tom! Like you said in a previous post, “Disney doesn’t want to impose these restrictions. They have to comply.”
We only visit WDW every couple of years, so we are waiting until things are somewhat normal before planning our next trip. We were supposed to go next month. Until then, we’re enjoying the free pics and game access on My Disney Experience. Thanks again!
ps. Sarah has the best hair ever. Just beautiful!
We have 4 five day any day park tickets that were purchased in February. We were planning our trip in October but assuming no fireworks and no character meet and greets (we have 3 children under 7) we likely will postpone. My question is Disney has addressed day specific tickets but has not addressed any day tickets (our tickets currently expire 12/31), do you expect these tickets to be pushed out until September 2021 as well? Also, is it true that if you use expired tickets to purchase new tickets that you must do so at the box office this missing out on being able to book FastPasses?
Will you have a post on the Shanghai reservation system? I just read an article on it, but still an very unclear how it’s intended to work. (It seems possible that something similar could come to WDW.)
This is a great summary of the facts, Tom! Thanks for being clear and honest about what is fact vs speculation.
When talking to two different cast members yesterday they both informed me that Halloween tickets are being refunded.
I know this isn’t your fault, but Disney needs to start giving answers. The I don’t knows is frustrating. Like we had just made our dinning reservations and got some prepaid experiences and it wasn’t even a week later that they canceled.
They shouldn’t have even taken them. I know it’s been hard for everyone lately but Disney keeps playing yo-yo with their guests emotions.
The fast pass thing also doesn’t make sense to me. So there will be less people in the park. But the rides will also be at lower capacity and they need to clean them more. How will that make wait times shorter?
Disney needs to answer our questions so we can try to salvage our vacations.
Agreed. We are set to arrive the end of June. We had to pay off our trip last week which we couldn’t modify our park hopper tickets. We still want to go to the resorts, but our resort ( Coronado) doesn’t look like it will open. I just wish when I called that I would get a form answer, not a ‘wait and see’.
* Firm answer. Sorry! It’s not our castmembers fault, but Disney made the announcement a week ago. Decisions should have been made prior to making an announcement that just created more confusion.
Exactly! We have our anniversary trip set for July 15 through the 20 and really would like to know what is going to happen.
Disney Fan, I hope you get answers soon, too! Happy anniversary! Here’s hoping you’ll be in Disney .
What will happen to all the Flower and Garden Merchandise? What will happen to the distribution of the Flower and Garden Magnets?
These are the questions inquiring minds want to know!
I really wanted that Donald F&G magnet. This is my first year as an AP, and Donald is the family favorite!
On a serious note, I realize that in the overall picture, the magnet issue is small. I’m truly just happy to be going back and I’m hoping and praying we are all safe!
I am sitting on the fence — I live in Windsor, Ontario Canada and I am supposed to fly out of Detroit however the borders are still closed. I am leaning towards cancelling my trip for the end of August — My final payment is not due until August 1 and I would hate to pay it and then don’t end up going — what are the chances by July 15 we will know what resorts are going to be open and if they will have the reservation process for rides in place by then? Any thoughts…..