Walt Disney World parks closed March 15 and began a phased re-opening on July 11, 2020. After careful consideration, we decided to visit. We have been Annual Passholders for the better part of 2 decades and moved to Florida a little over three years ago. Visits to Walt Disney World has been a constant part of our lives. We reviewed ‘Know Before You Go’ leading up to our visit to make an informed decision. With the current reduced park capacity and the extensive safety measures that Disney has implemented, we made the decision to give it a try. We visited 3 of the 4 Walt Disney World Parks and Disney Springs during our stay. While our decision to visit may not be right for everyone, we made the decision that was right for my family.
My oldest son has Fragile X Syndrome, the leading inherited genetic cause of intellectual impairment. He has significant delays and sensory processing challenges. To be completely honest, we were unsure of how he would tolerate many of the changes. We visited Disney Springs a couple of times prior to our planned visit to the parks. The requirement of wearing a mask was our biggest concern. Sensory defensiveness and becoming overwhelmed are a part of the biological challenges he faces. For a few weeks, we have been saying “Masks at Disney” over and over. We also capitalized on one of his inherent strengths, his ability to imitate. Modeling and imitation of wearing facial coverings, constant hand sanitizing and washing, and adhering to the physical distance ground markings were integral in our visit.
Visiting Walt Disney World in the summer is hot, no way around that. We were prepared with a few mask options, all compliant within the face-covering guidelines posted in the ‘Know Before You Go’. We had a disposable paper option, several of the Disney masks (available online and throughout retail locations at Walt Disney World), and a couple of handmade options. There are 5 in my family and we all had different preferences. We did take advantage of the ‘Relaxation Stations’ in each park. This is an area that allows you to temporarily remove your mask. We can also remove our masks while eating or drinking and while remaining stationary. There are frequent audio announcements, signage, and Cast Members reminding you about wearing face coverings.
There were hand sanitizing stations prior to and following each ride, including other numerous locations throughout the park. There were also free-standing hand washing stations, not to mention multiple restroom options to frequently wash your hands. We were prepared with hand sanitizer in our bags but never needed to use what we personally brought.
The social distance ground markings were also found throughout the resorts and parks. Not to mention the amazing Cast Members who were present to also ensure that social distance was maintained. We never felt our safety, or our ability to maintain social distance was compromised. The wait times were low, but one of the major challenges we have faced, prior to the current safety measures, was my son’s struggle to wait in the crowded lines. He can become overwhelmed quickly by crowds of people surrounding him in a standard line. We have utilized the Disability Access Service (DAS) in the past and we did renew it for this visit, as we were unsure if we would need it. We had the option to utilize the DAS, but due to the lower crowds and physically distant queue’s the need was simply not there.
Our overall impression of our short visit was incredible. Yes, it was hot, and the masks made it feel a bit warmer. The low crowds, the constant cleaning we observed, the ability to enjoy attractions we have not in years because of the typical extensive wait times, made this feel like a new park experience. There were also frequent character cavalcades and appearances. While this was definitely a different experience, different is not less. We honestly felt more comfortable and safer at Walt Disney World than a visit to a grocery store or other big-box retail locations. While this may not be the right time for everyone to visit, I can personally say, we cannot wait to visit again.
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