This guide to face coverings at Walt Disney World offers info & tips, our recommendation for the best masks, rules & policy changes, and answers to frequently asked questions on wearing masks at Magic Kingdom, EPCOT, Animal Kingdom, Hollywood Studios, and Blizzard Beach water park. (Updated February 3, 2021.)
The question of “are face masks required at Walt Disney World?” has been a controversial topic among fans for months, since before the parks reopened or the rule was even announced. We are not here to relitigate the topic. If you want to argue about the mask policy, join a local debate club. If you want your voice to be heard about Disney’s rule in a meaningful way, contact Walt Disney World.
Our view is: what’s done is done. In this time of “temporary abnormal,” significant health and safety measures have been implemented and no amount of guest feedback is going to change the rules. Walt Disney World, along with every other Disney theme park in the world, Universal Studios Florida, Islands of Adventure, SeaWorld Orlando, and Gatorland all require face masks. Some parks do have more flexible policies (like Tokyo Disneyland) or exempt outdoor areas (like LEGOLAND), but every major, non-regional theme park has a mask policy of some sort.
It is totally understandable if you don’t want to visit Walt Disney World while the face mask policy is in place. You’re certainly not alone, and it’s no secret that Americans are divided on the topic of face masks. If the comments on various blog posts (like this one and this one) are any indication, many Walt Disney World fans will avoid the parks so long as the temporary rules and restrictions are in place.
Even if you are willing to visit Walt Disney World while the mask rule is in effect, be aware that wearing face coverings is just one of the many compromises you’ll have to make in the near future. The downside is these new policies, reduced entertainment, and a lack of discounts. The upside is lower crowds and shorter waits. Additionally, discounts are slightly better than normal–and we’re expecting more aggressive deals throughout 2021.
Now let’s take a look at Walt Disney World’s rules concerning masks; here’s the official face covering policy from DisneyWorld.com that applies everywhere (except water parks & pools–see below for relaxed rules at each):
Face coverings are required for all guests (ages 2 and up) and Cast Members, including those who have been vaccinated. Please bring your own face coverings and wear them at all times, except when dining or swimming. You may remove your face covering while actively eating or drinking, but you must be stationary and maintain appropriate physical distancing.
All face coverings (whether disposable or reusable) must:
- Be made with at least 2 layers of breathable material
- Fully cover the nose and mouth and secure under the chin
- Fit snugly but comfortably against the side of the face
- Be secured with ties or ear loops and allow the guest to remain hands-free
At this time, based on guidance from health authorities, neck gaiters, open-chin triangle bandanas and face coverings containing valves, mesh material or holes of any kind are not acceptable face coverings. Costume masks are also not considered appropriate and are prohibited from being worn, in alignment with Walt Disney World’s existing rules.
Face coverings may have an integrated transparent plastic panel to aid in viewing the wearer’s mouth. These face coverings must:
- Be a fabric face covering featuring a solid plastic panel containing no openings that is attached to the fabric on all sides using tight knit stitching
- Meet all face covering requirements listed above
The use of face coverings is not a substitute for physical distancing.
We’ve worn masks extensively at Walt Disney World in the ~8 months since the resorts and theme parks reopened, including several full summer days in 95º heat with feels like temperatures in the triple digits. There’s no sugarcoating it–masks are definitely not fun. I also can’t say they’re any worse than the norm this time of year. Instead of fixating on my back-sweat soaked shirt and swamp as…uh…sweaty bum, I pay more attention to the mask. It’s a six of one, half a dozen of the other situation.
Oppressive heat and humidity are uncomfortable regardless, and I can’t say it’s appreciably worse due to the masks. To that point, a lot of people returning from Walt Disney World have shared in the comments to other posts that wearing masks wasn’t as bad as they expected. That seems to be the general consensus.
Next, let’s address some of the more frequently asked questions about masks…
What’s the best mask for Walt Disney World?
We have bought many masks. As of February 2021, health experts are recommending better face masks. Accordingly, I’ve switched to using the Powecom KN95 Face Mask in the parks. The CDC has provided guidance on their use and testing results for over 120 KN95 masks.
After doing some research, I opted for the Powecom masks due to their high performance (over 99% filtration efficacy in testing results) and scratch-off anti-counterfeit label on the package that provides codes to verify authenticity on the company website. Additionally, they’re comfortable, offer a snug fit, and are relatively inexpensive by KN95 standards.
Any other face mask recommendations?
Prior to switching to the KN95 masks, my favorite more breathable option was from Suay LA. These are still a great, breathable option, especially for hot weather when the KN95 mask might be more uncomfortable. These are constructed from medical grade non-woven polypropylene surgical wrap and have a nosepiece. They should offer a degree of protection to the wearer. Both of us prefer the small. It’s a snugger and cleaner fit, especially above the nose and under the chin.
Those are our favorites, but we also carry disposable 3-ply face masks. These are great as a back-up, or if you opt to double mask to give you a more secure fit or better filtration. (This is what Sarah does now with the Suay, since the KN95 is slightly too big for her.) Additionally, the Auliné Collection Mask is a good reusable option for adults. If you have other recommendations, we’d love to hear them.
Why can’t the mask policy be optional?
The United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevent recommends use of masks, specifically non-valved multi-layer cloth masks, to reduce transmission rates. Masks are primarily intended to reduce the emission of droplets (“source control”), which is especially relevant for asymptomatic or pre-symptomatic infected wearers who feel well and may be unaware of their infectiousness to others, but who are estimated to account for over 50% of transmissions.
This source control is the basis for universal face mask rules, and why an optional mask policy is ineffective. (Hence the mantra: “my mask protects you, your mask protects me.”) If I’m worried about transmission, it does me little good to wear a mask; you are the beneficiary of that, not me.
When will Walt Disney World’s mask policy end?
The short answer is that we don’t have a specific date.
The longer answer is covered in our post: When Will Walt Disney World Stop Requiring Face Masks?
How well are guests complying with Walt Disney World’s mask rules?
It varies by park, area, and even time of day. Magic Kingdom, the park largely devoid of alcohol sales, is the best. Our observations have been that 98% of guests have adhered to the rules and are properly wearing masks (meaning no exposed noses).
Animal Kingdom and Hollywood Studios are around 97% compliance, with Epcot lagging behind at 96% or so. Obviously, this is entirely anecdotal. It’s also worth noting that this gets “worse” as the day goes on–evening in World Showcase is probably closer to 93%, whereas morning in Future World is around 99%.
However, a couple of things are worth noting there. First, these numbers are all at least 30% higher than any given day at our local Publix or literally any other business we’ve visited (aside from Universal, which is also doing a stellar job). Second, when compliance drops in the evenings, so too do crowds, making physical distancing significantly easier to accomplish.
I’ve had past success breaking Disney’s rules…isn’t the guest is always right?!
No. There have been a handful of high profile incidents with guests getting kicked out for repeated rule violations, and trespassed from property for refusing to wear face masks.
With the latest in-park announcement and signage additions that “guests not properly wearing an approved mask will be asked to leave,” Walt Disney World wants you to know they aren’t playing around. As the kids say, FAAFO.
Can we remove masks for photos?
No. Cast Members carry signs in areas of the park where this rule was being broken with regularity (such as around Cinderella Castle).
Moreover, per Walt Disney World policy, PhotoPass photographers are not allowed to take your photo while mask-less.
If I walk around all day with a Starbucks latte or premium Mickey ice cream bar, can I keep my mask off?
No. In response to guests attempting to exploit this “loophole,” Walt Disney World has updated the text of its official policy, updated in-park audio messages & signage, and deployed Incredi-Crew Cast Members to enforce the ‘no walking and eating/drinking’ rule.
This is especially noticeable in World Showcase, where drinking around the world and the Taste of Epcot Food & Wine Festival increases the likelihood that guests will let their guard down or attempt to bend the rules. It happens, but it’s usually ‘corrected’ quickly.
Where in the parks can masks be removed?
Each park has three official ‘Relaxation Stations’ where guests can sit with their masks removed. Most of these are outdoors, but in covered locations. Perplexingly, a few are indoors–we strongly recommend avoiding those and question the judgment of those locations. Our favorite Relaxation Station is Tomorrowland Terrace, which offers views of Cinderella Castle and a nice breeze off the water.
It’s also worth noting that you can remove your mask whenever you’re stationary, physically distanced from other guests, and eating or drinking. Essentially, any table or isolated spot off the main thoroughfares can be a private Relaxation Station if you bring a water bottle. This is typically our approach.
Can masks be removed while waiting in line?
No. Additionally, there are new signs up (see below) plus an in-park announcement indicating that you cannot eat or drink in line.
Are we allowed to remove masks on rides?
No. In fact, if anyone in your ride vehicle’s mask is removed during an on-ride photo, you will not see or receive that photo.
What will be the face mask rule at the water parks when those reopen?
Blizzard Beach reopens on March 7, 2021 and Typhoon Lagoon will likely return in Summer 2021. Ahead of that, Walt Disney World has released its new face mask policy for the water parks: “Face coverings will be required in designated areas for each Guest age 2 and up, including but not limited to the park entrance and exit, retail areas, and food and beverage ordering areas. Face coverings will not be permitted while experiencing water slides or in the water. You may also remove your face covering while actively eating or drinking, but you should be stationary and maintain appropriate physical distancing.”
The “including but not limited to” language means face masks could be required on lounge chairs on the beach itself. We suspect that this is unlikely. Although the policy is unpublished, no hotel pool at Walt Disney World requires guests to wear masks while lounging. Our expectation is that the water parks will have lax mask rules out of necessity, given that they’re almost entirely outdoors with only fleeting encounters among guests, this should not present any issue whatsoever from a health safety perspective.
It’s also worth noting that this is the first official relaxation of Walt Disney World’s face mask policy. While water parks are their own beast entirely, Disney’s willingness to drop the mask requirement in lines and outdoor areas of the park is itself significant. In our view, it’s only a matter of time before Walt Disney World follows suit with the theme parks and hotels, and masks stop being mandatory in all areas of those. (Again, see our post: When Will Walt Disney World Stop Requiring Face Masks?)
What are the mask rules outside the parks?
Masks are required pretty much everywhere at Walt Disney World. In addition to the parks, Disney Springs requires masks for entry. Resort hotels require masks in all common areas, including while entering and exiting restaurants.
Essentially, you are allowed to remove the mask when seated at a table service restaurant, in your hotel room, or while actively swimming at a pool. Masks are required while strolling around the hotel grounds, using the elevator, walking through the hall to your room, etc.
Is Walt Disney World offering any medical exemptions on the mask policy?
No. It’s worth noting here that 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.
The basis for this is that cloth face coverings protect other people from a wearer who is unknowingly infected but does not have symptoms. Meaning that these masks are not PPE, but rather 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.
When wearing a face mask, can I walk really close to strangers?
Although “please fill in all available space” is a favorite catchphrase among Cast Members and walking uncomfortably close to strangers is a common guest pastime, neither of these things are encouraged/allowed right now. Thankfully.
The use of face coverings is not a substitute for physical distancing. Don’t let masks give you a false sense of security; they are not 100% effective and don’t make you invincible.
Does Walt Disney World sell masks?
Yes. Numerous stores around the parks, resorts, and Disney Springs sell a range of character designs and Disney patterns. These are $10 each. Keep in mind that you’ll need to wear a mask to enter any of the retail locations to purchase these masks.
If you arrive without a mask, there are vending machines outside of each park that sell generic ones for $2 each. We view these masks like FuelRods, nice to have as a safety net in case something happens, but not our first, second, or 38th choice.
Are the masks sold by Disney any good?
They’re actually not half bad! Still not our favorite option, but if you want something reasonably comfortable and cute, they’re a decent choice.
Plus, the Baby Yoda mask is the official “basic millennial” accessory, following the storied legacy of the blue Monsters U hat and Spirit Jersey. If you don’t Instagram yourself wearing a Baby Yoda mask, gazing off into space, and standing in front of a colored wall, did you really even visit Walt Disney World?! 😉
Do these cloth masks provide any protection to the wearer?
The CDC has updated its guidance several times, and the latest update is that masks can help reduce droplet inhalation by the wearer (“filtration for personal protection”). Studies demonstrate that cloth mask materials can also reduce wearers’ exposure to infectious droplets through filtration, including filtration of fine droplets and particles less than 10 microns.
Efficacy varies by mask. Multiple layers of cloth with higher thread counts have demonstrated superior performance compared to single layers of cloth with lower thread counts, in some cases filtering nearly 50% of fine particles. However, it’s worth noting that in real world settings, nothing is 100%, which is why multiple measures to reduce (not prevent or eliminate) transmission are recommended.
Any other mask-related accessories that are worth carrying?
Essentially anything that will help cool you down. Another absolutely necessary accessory is the Frogg Toggs Chilly Pad. We’ve been praising these things for years, as they’re basically some sort of mix of science, technology, and magic. Great for keeping cool–but staying dry.
Another must-have accessory is the Life Straw Go Filter Water Bottle. Drinking fountain water at Walt Disney World is sourced directly from the swamp, and is actually 3% alligator urine. This bottle filters out the pee, and it’s BPA-free! It also uses a 2-stage activated carbon filter to reduce odor and chlorine, leaving zero aftertaste! (If you’re looking for a cheaper alternative, Brita Filter Water Bottles are great, too.)
Another accessory we recommend is this USB-powered travel fan. It’s small, lightweight, and can plug into your external battery charger. This is one of the main recommendations in our Unique Disney Packing List, which is where you can find our all-purpose top picks for things to pack for a trip to Walt Disney World.
How many masks should we pack?
Our recommendation would be to carry at least two reusable masks per person each day. Perhaps 3 if you sweat a lot.
Many reusable masks, including the Suay LA ones, can be hand-washed and dried overnight in your hotel room. In addition to whichever reusable masks you choose, we’d recommend some disposable ones. Failing that, you can always buy the Disney masks in the parks if you need more in a pinch.
Didn’t Florida fully reopen and end mask enforcement?
Yes and sort of. Florida suspended the collecting fines or fees for mask ordinance violations. This effectively renders local mask ordinances in public spaces, like the one in Orange County, toothless and voluntary.
However, private businesses can still operate with any self-imposed restrictions under Florida’s executive order. That means Publix, Walt Disney World, or any other business in the state can still deny entry to those not wearing masks, or following any other rules. This really isn’t anything new or novel. Those same businesses could deny entry to potential patrons not wearing shirts or shoes, despite there being no state-wide law requiring either of those articles of clothing, either.
Is there any chance that Walt Disney World will loosen the mask policy?
Anything is possible–what’s likely is another story entirely. Relaxing the face covering policy would require both Orange County modifying its mandate and Walt Disney World receiving new guidance from health experts. Both could conceivably happen–there’s a lot of fluidity to Disney’s rules and our collective knowledge evolves on a daily basis.
It’s also worth noting that there is precedent for this. Tokyo Disneyland’s policy allows guests to remove their masks when outdoors if sufficiently physically distanced from other guests. The critical distinction is that mask culture was ubiquitous in Japan prior to this and courtesy reigns, so guests won’t attempt to abuse this. Walt Disney World might be reticent to offer the same flexibility, as guests could view it as another loophole to exploit.
What are less-obvious downsides to wearing masks?
Hearing and recognizing others!
Masks muffle sound, and between that and some of the plexiglass barriers, it can sometimes be difficult to hear Cast Members. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve said, “I’m sorry, can you please repeat that? It’s difficult to hear with the masks!”
Are there any less-obvious upsides to wearing a mask?
Not having to smile, not having to wear makeup, and pretending to be an old-timey bandit all come to mind.
Masks are a great way for me to conceal my “resting scowl-face.” Adding in sunglasses and a hat actually makes me less self-conscious and nearly invisible, which I also like.
Is Walt Disney World still magical despite face masks and all the changes?
We thoroughly address that common question in our post: Is Walt Disney World Still Magical?
Do you want to hear my mask conspiracy theory?
I thought you’d never ask!
In fact, you should start your own blog to spread the good word and get the real facts out there that the man doesn’t want anyone to see. To start a blog, open a Word document on your computer, type www.creedthoughts.gov.www/creedthoughts at the top, and jot down your suspicions and deep thoughts on the matter. I’ll be sure to check it out–no need to comment on this post.
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!
Do you have any questions this FAQ failed to answer? If you’ve visited the parks since Walt Disney World reopened, what was your experience wearing masks? Do you think there’s anything else guests should know before visiting in during this ‘temporary abnormal’ time? Do you agree or disagree with any of our advice or answers? Please keep the comments civil. This is not the place for arguing about efficacy, politics, and so forth–all such comments will be deleted, irrespective of perspective. Not only are you not going to change anyone’s mind via the comments section on this blog, but you’re not going to change Disney’s policy.