This guide to face masks at Walt Disney World offers info & tips, recommendation for best masks, rules & policy changes, and answers to frequently asked questions on wearing masks at Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Animal Kingdom, Hollywood Studios, plus traveling to and within Florida. (Updated December 2, 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.
It’s understandable if you don’t want to visit Walt Disney World while the face mask policy is in place. (If you’re looking for our predictions as to when rules will change, see When Will Indoor Mask Rules End at Walt Disney World?) No matter where you stand on the issue, you’re not alone. It’s no secret that masks are polarizing Americans–even theme parks are divided. At present, Walt Disney World is the only major theme park in Central Florida with a face mask rule: SeaWorld Orlando, Gatorland, Islands of Adventure and Universal Studios Florida all only “recommend” face masks rather than having actual rules.
If you’re planning a trip in reliance on Walt Disney World’s face mask rule, we should warn you that even Disney has gotten lax on enforcement. As of December 2021, it seems that the company’s unofficial policy is to allow Cast Members to decide whether to say something or not to guests who aren’t wearing masks–or aren’t wearing them properly.
It’s hard to fault Disney or Cast Members for this more hands-off approach; policing face masks had become incredibly stressful, confrontational, and resulted in many employees quitting due to burnout.
With that said, if you’re against wearing face masks, don’t read the above as Walt Disney World now effectively having a face mask recommendation rather than rule. That’s not accurate. If you’re not properly masked where required, you almost certainly will have problems (except in the restrooms, where a majority of guests don’t wear masks).
They’ll just occur ~50% of the time rather than 100% of the time as before. Setting aside personal opinions about having a face mask rule when vaccines are widely available and this is becoming endemic, our view is that the rule is the rule. Don’t visit if you’re not willing to comply with it. Don’t make things more difficult for Cast Members.
Additionally, whether you visit Walt Disney World or not, you’ll have to wear a mask just to arrive in Central Florida. The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) currently has a face mask requirement for individuals across all transportation networks throughout the United States, including at airports, onboard commercial aircraft, on buses, and rail systems.
On December 1, 2021, the federal government announced an array of new, extended, and tighten travel rules to and within the United States due to the Omicron variant. Most of the major changes apply to international travel and are thus beyond the scope of this post. However, there’s one domestic change that will impact you: the TSA mask mandate was extended until at least March 18, 2022.
That’s not the only way your trip will be impacted. Even if you are willing to visit Walt Disney World right now, be aware that there are many compromises you’ll have to make through at least Summer 2022. See our updated Walt Disney World Vacation Planning Guide for other important planning info.
Now let’s take a look at Walt Disney World’s rules concerning masks; here’s the official face covering policy from DisneyWorld.com:
Face coverings are required for all Guests (ages 2 and up) while indoors and in Disney buses, monorail and Disney Skyliner, regardless of vaccination status. This includes upon entering and throughout all indoor attractions and indoor queues and in Disney buses, monorail and Disney Skyliner, regardless of vaccination status. Face coverings are optional for Guests in outdoor areas.
All face coverings (whether disposable or reusable) should:
- 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
Face coverings should not contain valves, mesh material or holes.
Costume masks are not considered appropriate and are prohibited from being worn, in alignment with existing rules.
Face coverings may have an integrated transparent plastic panel to aid in viewing the wearer’s mouth. These face coverings should:
- 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
Here’s a chart to help understand where masks are and are not required at Walt Disney World for all guests:
Next, let’s address some of the more frequently asked questions about face masks at Walt Disney World…
What’s the current status of face mask rules at Walt Disney World as of December 2021?
Walt Disney World partially reinstated the face covering rule at the end of summer as cases in Florida spiked to the highest level in the United States. Since then, the state’s numbers have been plummeting, and Florida has the lowest numbers in the United States–literally 50 out of 50.
The most recent rule change occurred with Walt Disney World dropping the mask rule for outdoor lines, rides, and theaters.
When will Walt Disney World’s indoor mask policy end?
We don’t have a specific date.
Since Disney didn’t drop the rule when Orange County, Florida entered the “moderate” tier on the CDC’s hotspot map, we suspect the company is waiting to see whether a holiday surge happens. Accordingly, it might be until Spring 2022 before the mask rule is dropped again. We cover the bases for the rule change in When Will Indoor Mask Rules End at Walt Disney World?
Should we cancel our vacation because of the indoor mask rule?
That’s obviously a personal decision. For us, masks outdoors were the big thing, and not having to wear those outdoors during the hottest part of the year in Florida is a huge relief. This means you’ll be able to get normal family photos and enjoy the atmosphere of the parks without face masks.
With that said, a lot of time is spent in line, so you will be wearing masks often. There also are now indoor meet & greets, and you’ll have to wear masks–and be distanced from characters–for those. That’s also not ideal.
Conversely, some reading this might be concerned about the lack of masks outdoors. There have been countless studies demonstrating that the risk of transmission is dramatically lower in outdoor settings, with the single biggest risk factor being time spent indoors. In one database of over 1,200 coronavirus super-spreader events, just one incident is classified as outdoor transmission. In another systematic review of outdoor transmission, researchers concluded that less than 10% of reported cases occurred in outdoor settings and that the odds of indoor transmission are 18.7 times higher than outdoor transmission.
What’s the best mask for Walt Disney World?
We have bought many masks. The one we’re using now is the Powecom KN95 Face Mask. 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?
My other favorite option is 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.
How do we know when to put on a face mask at Walt Disney World?
The chart above should help, but it still can be confusing.
Earlier this summer, Walt Disney World dropped its outdoor mask rule and only required masks indoors, so the good news is we’ve already seen this policy in place.
From a practical perspective, above is the most relevant sign at this point. These are positioned at the entrance of almost every queue at Walt Disney World, and serve as a reminder that guests need to put on face masks even in outdoor queues.
The greeter at each attraction entrance also reminds guests of this.
Can masks be removed while waiting in line outdoors?
In most cases, face masks are required while in line from the actual entrance of the attraction–when you go inside a building. In the outdoor portion of the line or an overflow area outside the main entrance (or attraction marquee), you are not required to wear masks.
Are we allowed to remove masks on rides?
Only if the attraction is entirely outdoors.
This means that on Dumbo, for example, masks are not required at all. By contrast, they are required on Splash Mountain, which is a mix of indoor and outdoor.
Do many guests wear face masks outdoors?
In outdoor common areas, we’d estimate that roughly 20% of all guests are wearing masks as of December 2021. We’ve noticed that this number fluctuates depending upon local case numbers. It was higher in August, significantly lower in June-July, and lower now once again.
During our time at Walt Disney World over the course of the last week, we didn’t observe any discernible differences among the parks. Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Animal Kingdom, and Hollywood Studios are all more or less the same.
What are the mask rules outside the parks?
Masks are required pretty much everywhere at Walt Disney World. In addition to the parks, shops and restaurants at Disney Springs require masks indoors. Resort hotels require masks in all indoor common areas, including while entering and exiting restaurants, using the elevator, walking through the hall to your room, etc.
If you venture elsewhere in Central Florida, you’ll find almost no face mask rules at this point. However, the scars of the summer surge are still fresh, as we’ve found around 50% of customers at local stores still mask up. (It varies depending upon the business and what side of Orlando you’re in.) At other theme parks, the number is lower.
Is the face mask rule being actively enforced on transportation?
That’s hit or miss.
You should absolutely bring a face mask with you to Walt Disney World if you’re relying on enclosed Disney transportation, but don’t be surprised if you see other guests not wearing masks. If that’s a concern, we’d recommend renting a car.
Are face masks be required on boats, ferries, and other watercraft?
What are the face mask rule at the water parks?
Same as above, with one notable exception.
Face coverings are *not* permitted while experiencing water slides or in the water.
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 now on clearance, and prices should continue to drop.
For now, there are still vending machines outside of each park that sell generic ones for $2 each.
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?! 😉
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.
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? Keep the comments civil, as this is not the place for politically-charged arguing, antagonism, personal attacks, or debating the efficacy of NPIs. We will be heavy-handed in deleting comments that cross the line, even if it’s only a single sentence. You are not going to change anyone’s mind via the comments section on this blog, nor are you going to change Disney’s rules or public policy. If you wish to shout your opinions into the internet abyss, that’s why Facebook was invented.