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 April 6, 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 the near-term, 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 (see our Face Mask Guide to Universal Orlando for examples of their relaxed rules) or exempt outdoor areas, but every major theme park has a mask policy of some sort.
It’s 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. Many Walt Disney World fans will undoubtedly avoid the parks so long as the health safety 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. See our “Temporary Abnormal” Guide to Walt Disney World 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 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 temporarily remove your face covering while actively eating, drinking or taking an outdoor photo*, but you must be stationary and maintain appropriate physical distancing during this time. (*Beginning April 8, 2021)
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 ~10 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. The one we’re using now is 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?
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.
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.
When will Walt Disney World’s mask policy end?
The short answer is that we don’t have a specific date. However, it will loosen up in April 2021 (see below) and we expect that to continue through Summer 2021.
The longer answer is covered in our post: When Will Walt Disney World Stop Requiring Face Masks?
Can we remove masks for outdoor photos?
Yes, beginning April 8, 2021 if stationary and physically distanced from other guests. (That’s pretty much the only kind of photo guests are taking–that is, until “photos while hopping at Walt Disney World” becomes the next dumb trend.)
This is the first significant relaxation of Walt Disney World’s face mask rule, and puts the parks in line with Universal Orlando on that rule. It addresses one of the biggest guest complaints, sources of rule-breaking, and conflict between Cast Members and guests. This outdoor transmission being incredible low risk, this is a common sense solution that should make things a little more pleasant for everyone.
We’ve already seen some pushback against this that it’s a slippery slope or creates a loophole guests will exploit. While that’s entirely possible to some degree, most of those guests would’ve found a different excuse (like eating & drinking) to push the envelope. We are of the belief that, at this point, reasonable rules are better for ensuring compliance than heavy-handed ones. As more people are vaccinated, fewer are going to be okay with strict rules–especially as they’re going away everywhere else. Walt Disney World needs to comport with guest expectations, at least to some degree, if they want to maintain a high degree of compliance.
While we don’t know yet for sure, it should be possible for PhotoPass to take photos of mask-less guests now. Presumably guests will simply need to remove their masks after interacting with the Cast Member and getting positioned for the shot and put them back on again before leaving the location.
Can we remove masks for indoor photos?
That one is still a no-go.
Our expectation is that the mask rule will continue to be relaxed outdoors before being relaxed at all indoors.
What’s the face mask policy at table service restaurants?
There’s a stricter new rule for table service restaurants. The language of the old rule on DisneyWorld.com Dining: Know Before You Go page was that face masks “must be worn in all public areas of the restaurant—including while entering and exiting—and can be removed while eating or drinking.”
The rule requires: “Face coverings for each Guest age 2 and up, which must be worn in all public areas and can only be removed while actively eating or drinking. Face coverings must be worn while standing, waiting or sitting in dining locations.”
In practice, literally nothing has changed (in our experience). Guests can remove their face masks upon being seated, and leave them off for the duration of the meal, so long as they are at their table. Some guests chose to leave their masks on while waiting or when interacting with Cast Members. It would appear that this was simply a semantics change for CYA purposes and nothing more.
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 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 at EPCOT, where drinking around the world and the various festivals increase 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 signs up 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 are the face mask rule at the water parks?
Blizzard Beach is now open, and the official rule is that face coverings are 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.”
In practice, you basically just wear a face mask when entering and leaving the park, plus when going to get food. All of the areas that require masks are in the front of the park; they’re not required anywhere else. It’s very laid back and feels downright normal once you find a lounge chair and start enjoying the park. (See our Blizzard Beach Reopening Report for more photos and thoughts from our visit.)
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 within the gated pool areas. Masks are required while strolling around the hotel grounds, using the elevator, walking through the hall to your room, etc.
I’ve had past success breaking Disney’s rules…isn’t the guest is always right?!
No. Every single day guests are denied entry or kicked out of Walt Disney World for repeated rule violations, and trespassed from property for refusing to wear face masks. (Same goes for Universal.)
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.
But 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.
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.
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.
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.
How well are guests complying with Walt Disney World’s mask rules?
It varies by park, area, and even time of day. As of April 2021, we’re definitely noticing a lot more fatigue with the rules than even a couple months ago, but adherence is still pretty good. It’s typically around 95-98% compliance at the parks–a bit lower at night in World Showcase and at Disney Springs.
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). Many places in Florida have already abandoned mask rules or at least enforcement of them.
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?! 😉
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.
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.