Visiting Walt Disney World in 2021 and What You Need to Know

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The Walt Disney World Resort began its reopening on June 22, 2020 with just as much magic, but some changes, so here’s what you need to know about visiting Walt Disney World in 2021!  If you’ve visited in the past, you’re used to 6-month dining windows, the 3 o’clock parade, and hugging your favorite characters.  All these experiences look a little different right now, but we are seriously liking many of these changes. Keep reading for more info!

Booking Your Vacation for 2021

Available Resorts

Let’s start with the planning process for visiting Walt Disney World in 2021.   Two of the first details you want to confirm are when you are traveling and where you are staying.  Many of the other planning details are a little more fluid and you can make changes, but locking in your resort stay is key so that can book the accommodations you want as well as the dates  you want.  About two thirds of the Walt Disney World Resort Hotels are currently open, with a few more scheduled to open in 2021.  You still have fantastic options in all the resort categories – value, moderate, deluxe, and deluxe villa resorts.   Is your favorite resort one of the few not scheduled yet to open?  This is the perfect time to try out another resort!  We recommend checking out a resort on the Skyliner route or perhaps near Disney Springs!  Check out the the most up-to-date list of What Walt Disney World Hotels are Open  and this blog post lists everything that is open at each of these resorts.

Some Disney Resort hotel services will be modified or unavailable during the initial reopening period, based on physical distancing and health guidelines. The most notable changes include:

  • Bell Services will deliver luggage to rooms, but will not escort Guests
  • Club-level service is temporarily unavailable
  • Deliveries may only be made to occupied rooms
  • In-room celebrations are not available
  • In-room dining is not available
  • Dry-cleaning and valet laundry services is temporarily unavailable; self-service laundry is available
  • Shipping services are temporarily unavailable
  • In addition, the resort airline check-in service is no longer available

Theme Park Reservations

Once you secure your stay with a fully refundable $200 deposit, the next step is to make theme park reservations with Disney’s new Park Pass System.  This is a change and one you won’t want to overlook!  You’ll need both valid park admission and a theme park reservation to enter any of the four theme parks.  We have all the details with step-by-step video and printed instructions to walk you through this process, and of course, let your Magic For Less Travel Counselor know if you have questions!  Theme park reservations are required to enter the theme parks.

How to Link your Walt Disney World Reservation and Use the New Park Pass System

Park Hopping

Are you a park hopper?  Or maybe you’re a first-time visitor and want to see all that the Walt Disney World theme parks have to offer and want the flexibility of park hopping – visiting more than one theme park in the same day.   The good news is, park hopping will be available again beginning January 1st for those visiting Walt Disney World in 2021!  How do you park hop with the theme park reservation system in place?  We’ve got the details right here for you!  Resort guests can really benefit from park hopping – starting at one theme park, maybe enjoying lunch, a nap, or a swim at your resort – then wrapping up your day at another theme park!

Dining Experiences

If you’ve visited Walt Disney World before, you know the significance of the number 180.  Dining reservations had to be made a half a year in advance.  Disney has now shifted to a 60-day booking window which guests are really liking!  It allows them to make plans closer to their visit.  One of the other most notable changes to Disney dining is that dining plans remain unavailable at this time.  There are other changes to the guest dining experience that revolve heavily around the use of your My Disney Experience app.  You’ll use the app and/or your mobile device to:

  • Mobile order at quick-service locations (required)
  • Check-in to table service locations that you have a reservation at
  • Scan a QR Code to read the menu at your location
  • Get on the walk-up list for a table service location

Character dining is available at some select locations.  These experiences are modified but guests are loving them!  You’ll get to see your favorite friends and take some physically distanced photos and selfies!  Of course, characters are up to the challenge of entertaining you and you may see some dancing and fun antics!  Here are the best tips and info on all the the details on Disney dining changes.

Dining Locations Open at Walt Disney World

Getting Around

One of the perks of staying onsite is the complimentary transportation Disney offers!  We’d have to argue that some of these forms of transportation double as our favorite experiences!  Have you ridden the new Skyliner?  It’s so fun, you’ll be sad that the trip between points is so quick & efficient when you have to debark!  The monorail and friendship boats are operating in a limited capacity so be sure to check out these Disney Transportation Tips and Tricks After Reopening.

Attractions, Entertainment, and Character Interactions

Character Interactions are Still Available

The new character interactions and appearances may be our favorite thing to come out of all these changes!  There are so many more opportunities to see characters around the parks.  Character cavalcades are not scheduled so that crowds don’t gather waiting for them, but boy are they plentiful!  There are multiple cavalcades occurring in each of the four theme parks and you’ll see some characters that make rare appearances!  Several are also located throughout the parks in areas that allow physical distancing like the Train Station, Cinderella Castle, Galaxy’s Edge, and many other buildings.  There are even special cavalcades to celebrate the holidays!

Physical Distancing Continues

Throughout attractions, dining locations, and other areas like shops, you’ll find there are often markers on the ground to assist in physical distancing.  As a result of the space between parties, lines for both checking out or riding an attraction may seem a lot longer than they are – because of the actual space needed to accommodate.    Ride vehicles that can accommodate multiple parties may have clear, plexiglass partitions between rows as well queues that circle back, buses and monorails.  There are contactless ways to purchase items too.

Visiting Walt Disney World in 2021

Disney is Celebrating the Holidays!

Who does the holidays better than Disney?  And there are great discounts available for 2020 travel still!   Even though Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party isn’t taking place this year, Disney is bringing so much of that Christmas magic straight to the parks to celebrate everyday! You can Celebrate With Holiday Magic at Walt Disney World by completing the Christmas Tree Stroll at Disney Springs, attending the EPCOT International Festival of the Holidays, trying one of the many holiday treats available in the parks, or visiting the resorts to see the gorgeous trees and décor they boast! You can even see Santa Goofy at Hollywood & Vine during Minnie’s yuletide gatherings.

Characters are dressed up for the holidays and get this – you can see the Toy Soldiers march down Main St. in one of the holiday cavalcades.  The big guy in red (sorry Mickey, we’re talking about Santa himself!) also spends his days making special appearances to guests in all the parks!  Sometimes his sleigh even puts on water shoes to dash through the water!

Water Parks are Opening in March of 2021

Speaking of water, while Disney’s Blizzard Beach Water Park and Disney’s Typhoon Lagoon Water Park remain closed at this time, pending government approvals, Disney currently plans to reopen one of the two Disney water parks on March 7, 2021. They may adjust our proposed reopening date, and if that happens, we will let guests know what to expect in a future update.

Safety Enhancements & Protocols

Safety is Key

Did you know Disney has four key principles in which they operate their entire company and every cast member is aware of?  You may or may not be surprised to know that safety is Disney’s first and foremost service principle.  While this principle has been the company’s #1 priority for over 60 years, you can imagine the focus on it during this unprecedented year.  Here is what you need to know about these changes and what to expect when you visit.  

Rooms and Public Spaces Are Cleaner than Ever!

Throughout the parks, you’re going to find hand-washing stations with soap, water, and paper towels as well as plentiful sanitizer stations!  Another change that we are all about and don’t want to ever see go away is that all trash containers are propped open so you can easily throw things away – no touching!

When you stay at a Disney Resort hotel, enjoy peace of mind knowing that your room will be thoroughly cleaned prior to your arrival and serviced during your stay. Plus, common areas will receive increased cleaning.  This thorough process is detailed in the resort section of Everything You Need To Know About New Reopening Walt Disney World Health & Safety Protocols.

The Magic For Less Travel Pro Tips for Visiting Walt Disney World in 2021

Special Discounts for 2021

Early 2021 Disney discounts are now available and you can save up to 35% on rooms at select Disney Resort hotels for stays most nights January 3 through April 17, 2021. Make 2021 the year to remember when you create memories that last a lifetime  on your Walt Disney World vacation! Additional offers available to Disney Visa Cardholders, FL residents, and Annual Passholders so be sure to let your TMFLT Travel Counselor know what you qualify for!

Book As Early As Possible

There are several reasons to plan your vacation as early as possible – not limited to  the best availability – and now more than ever, you’ll want to book early so that you can secure your theme park reservation.  A theme park reservation in addition to valid park admission, is required to visit a theme park.  These are limited so book early to secure the parks you want to visit when you want to visit!  Remember, Disney will celebrate a big milestone (hint: it’ll be the 50th anniversary in October) this year so you want to secure your park passes now.

Your Travel Agent Will Help You Plan

The Magic For Less Travel Counselors give you the expert guidance and tools to move beyond the one-size-fits-all approach to vacation planning – at no charge!  There are  a lot of changes right now to consider and we understand how overwhelming it can feel. Planning with The Magic For Less Travel will ensure you make the most of both your time and money, to invest in your future memories.   You’ll have access to experts with insider information, tips, and first-hand knowledge.  You will also have peace of mind knowing you have the best price as our team monitors your reservation for the best price for you.

Star Wars Fans 

If you’re a Star Wars fan, we know you want to ride Rise of the Resistance for the first, fourth, or fortieth time!  It’s like nothing else you’ve experienced.  But how do you get one of those coveted boarding groups?  Your travel counselor will keep you updated on the most up-to-date boarding group processes to position you with the best advantage.

My Disney Experience App

It’s worth repeating that we strongly recommend that you have the latest version of the My Disney Experience app on your mobile device, with location services and notifications enabled.  You’re going to rely on the app to mobile order at quick service locations, scan codes for menus, check into your resort and dining locations, get that boarding group for Rise, and even open your resort door!  Yep, you actually won’t even need your MagicBand to open your door for you  – but it still can!  For 2021 reservations, MagicBands will only be available to guests to purchase.  Disney is moving toward use of the app for the functions the bands serve.  Existing MagicBands will still work and you will be able to buy new ones.  We’re excited to see what the app will do going forward!  

Visiting Walt Disney World in 2021

Travel Insurance

Travel protection is something you should consult with your Travel Counselor about.  It’s a non-refundable option 14 days after purchase, but can be purchased up until the final payment date.   Many guests assume this is a “cancel for any reason” type of policy but Disney already offers a lot of flexibility with modifying and cancelling your reservations so it’s important to know the terms and limitations of coverage.  We’ve seen our guests take advantage of travel protection for accidents, lost luggage, and/or hospitalization while traveling, as well as a host of other reasons.

Since we are not licensed insurance agents, we always advise guests to speak directly to the company that provides the coverage so that your questions can be answered accurately.   Currently you can Book with Confidence!  Disney’s temporary policy  allows that if your plans change, any Disney-imposed change and cancellation fees will be waived up to the date of check-in for reservations with arrivals through April 30, 2021.

There is Still So Much Magic Visiting Walt Disney World in 2021

There you have it!  The magic is there!  It’s new and fresh and exciting and familiar all at the same time!  And who can’t use a little magic right now?  If you have any questions at all about your next Walt Disney World vacation – or any other destination for that matter – reach out to The Magic For Less Travel today.

Visiting Walt Disney World in 2021
Visiting Walt Disney World in 2021
Visiting Walt Disney World in 2021

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