Disney World Right Now: Step by Step Vacation Planning Guide

We get it, planning a Disney World trip under normal circumstances can be overwhelming but going to Disney World right now looks even more different than usual! The good news is that going to Disney World right now is easier than ever once you become familiar with all the new policies which allow for more last minute trip planning. Keep reading our article for easy, step by step instructions on how to tackle your vacation to Disney World right now.

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Step One: Make a Park Pass ReservationEpcot Spaceship Earth- Disney World Right Now

Once you've selected your dates for your Disney World vacation and have your tickets in hand you should make your Park Pass reservations. These are the reservations that ensure you get into the theme park of your choice for each day of your trip. This is essential for planning a Disney World trip right now!

Pro Tip: Weekends tend to be more popular than weekdays currently for Disney World, try to pick weekday visits if you can. Weekdays are also more quiet in Disney Springs so if you want to avoid larger groups of people, visit on a weekday.

When you're picking your trip dates, be sure that you have your airline travel all figured out (if you're flying) so that way you know your dates all line up. Some airlines might have more limited options for travel right now so it's good to double check all your dates before you commit to your park plans.

The most popular theme park at Disney World right now is Disney's Hollywood Studios since it holds not only Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge and Toy Story Land but the new Mickey's Runaway Railway attraction. Since this is the park that ‘sells out of capacity' more than the others, it doesn't necessarily matter if you pick a weekday or weekend for your park pass for this one. Save your weekday plans for the other parks to take advantage of the lower capacities. But of course, everything is still really low capacity regardless so it really does not matter all that much!

How to Make a Reservation 

  1. Link your park tickets/admission to your Disney account. You will need valid park admission to make a reservation.
  2. Create your party. Before you make a reservation, you'll be prompted to create a party from your Family & Friends list on your account. This ensures your group has the same reservations for your trip.
  3. Select a date and park. Choose the date and time you'd like to visit from the available reservations.
  4. Review and confirm your plans. You will also be prompted to agree to a COVID-19 liability waiver.

Pick your date and then pick the park you want to visit. We had no issues getting reservations.

To help yourself prepare for making reservations you should make sure to:

  • You’ll need a My Disney Experience account, as this is where your Walt Disney World Resort plans are stored and managed.
  • You’ll also need a valid theme park ticket or Annual Pass that’s linked to your My Disney Experience account.
  • If you have a Disney Resort hotel reservation, be sure to link it to your My Disney Experience account beforehand, as well.

Important Details for Making Reservations

Everything looks a bit different right now for visiting Disney World so it's important to be aware of these new policies for the reservation system and the state of the parks when they open.

  • Reservations are limited and subject to availability and are not guaranteed until a reservation is finalized.
  • At this time, Guests will be able to select one park per day; visiting more than one park per day are temporarily unavailable due to attendance limitations.
    • Guests with existing tickets that include the Park Hopper Option or Park Hopper Plus Option have options available to them for ticket modifications and cancellations.
  • A park reservation must be made for each day of entry. If you have a multi-day ticket, you will be required to make a park reservation for each date of your visit.
  • It is highly recommended that you make your park reservation as soon as you complete your ticket purchase, as availability can change until the reservation is finalized.

You can also change your Park Pass reservation, as long as there's availability to switch things around, once you arrive. Most guests, especially those staying on-site, have had good luck doing this if they change their mind at the last minute.

Step Two: Pick Your HotelArt of Animation Pool- Disney World Right Now

Your next step should be picking your Disney World hotel although you would likely do this is conjunction with purchasing your park tickets. If you plan on staying on-site at Disney World right now, you have a lot of options even if some resorts are temporarily closed at the moment.

Disney World Hotels Open Now

Here are the staggered reopening dates for the other hotels: 

Some of these hotels, like Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort and Disney’s Art of Animation Resort, were revised recently to open later. Guests with stays booked before their opening dates can be accommodated by calling Disney. We've heard reports of free upgrades to higher cost resorts for guests impacted by these delayed openings.

October 16, 2020Disney's Coronado Springs Resort
November 1, 2020Disney's Art of Animation Resort
Summer 2021Disney's Polynesian Village Resort

Disney previously released reopening dates for Disney’s Beach Club Resort and Disney’s BoardWalk Inn but now these Disney Resort hotels will remain closed until further notice as Disney reevaluates their reopening timeline.

Disney’s Hilton Head Island Resort and Disney's Vero Beach Resort are now open to Members and Guests.

Pro tip: don't forget to take advantage of your complimentary Magic Bands if you're visiting in Disney World right now! Disney is phasing out the free Magic Bands in the beginning of 2021 (you still have the option of purchasing them) so get the free ones while you still can. You will get a link to customize your Magic Bands with your Disney World hotel confirmation.

Not much has changed with the resort hotels aside from the typical advanced cleaning measures and limited activities that we've come to expect as a result of the current pandemic. I recommend you read through our Walt Disney World Hotel guide to get an idea of which hotel from this list will be best for you. Keep in mind transportation is a big deal at Disney World right now and some of the hotels are on the route for the popular Disney Skyliner which is a great way to get around the resort. And even better now as your party will be put in a gondola alone reducing health risks greatly as you get around!

Step Three: Make Dining ReservationsBe Our Guest Restaurant

One of the biggest changes to Walt Disney World has been to the dining policies at the theme parks and hotels. Since the restaurants are all in limited capacity, this means that it might be more difficult to get those sought after dining reservations for your trip.

Pro tip: Use the Touring Plans Reservation Finder if you end up missing out on a dining reservation you want. The reservation finder automatically searches for cancellations for your dining picks and sends you a text message when it finds an option! We've used this to great success for our trips.

Popular Theme Park Dining Options Right Now

To help get you an idea of which dining options are the most popular right now, here's a list of restaurants I witnessed having much lower availability when we booked our Disney World dining:

  • Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater at Hollywood Studios
    • This is a popular option on a typical day and even more so now that Hollywood Studios is the most popular park at the moment.
  • Hollywood & Vine at Hollywood Studios
    • Note: this is largely because this is one of the few places offering modified character dining (themed for Halloween and the holidays)
  • Oga's Cantina at Hollywood Studios
    • This was always a popular spot but now with the limited capacity, especially with Oga's Cantina being on the smaller side than most restaurants, it's harder than ever to get a reservation.
  • Garden Grill at Epcot
    • Note: this is another restaurant offering modified character dining.
  • Be Our Guest at Magic Kingdom
    • The availability for this isn't too tough, if you can be flexible with your day you can usually find a reservation time. Weekends tend to be trickier for this restaurant.

If any of these restaurants are on your ‘must do' list- plan ahead to book your reservation right at the 60 day window when dining opens up to all guests. If you miss out or you're booking a trip past that 60 day window (like my family was!) then use the Touring Plan Reservation Finder. It managed to find us a spot at Hollywood & Vine for the holiday character dining which I had assumed was going to be a long shot. Don't give up hope!

Quick Service Availability

I recommend reading through the list of open restaurants on the Walt Disney World dining page to help you plan your dining itinerary for your park days. Not all quick service options are open right now nor are all the typical snack carts available. Especially if this is your first time making a Disney World trip, it's good to know ahead of time what is open and where it is inside the theme park. For instance, my son is obsessed with Mickey pretzels so I looked ahead of time for each theme park and made a note of where I could find them in case there's not as many standing food carts as there usually is at Disney World right now.

Step Four: Reserve Your Magical Express SpotMickey Mouse Magical Express- Disney World Right Now

The Magical Express is a free transportation option to/from the Orlando airport and your Disney hotel. This is the easiest reservation to make since limited availability isn't an issue like we see with Park Pass or dining reservations. But it's such an important step that I wanted to make sure it didn't get set aside!

Pro tip: if you're nervous about being in an airport again, I don't blame you, then take a peek at the map of the Orlando airport so you have an idea of how to quickly get from your terminal, to baggage, and to the Magical Express quickly. Disney's website has detailed instructions to navigating the airport and finding the Magical Express bus.

If you've booked with a travel agency, like our trusted partner Get Away Today, they will make this reservation for you. All you have to do is provide your flight information. If you're booking on your own, all you have to do is call the Disney Magical Express number at (407) 939-1936 and they will make your reservation. Either way, take advantage of this cost saving option!

New Policies for Disney's Magical Express

  • Disney’s Magical Express service will no longer be providing luggage delivery for those arriving to and departing from Orlando International Airport.
  • Resort airline check-in service is also no longer available.
  • Face coverings required for everyone two years of ages and older. No gaitors/bandanas or masks with holes or valves of any kind. Face coverings must have ear loops or ties.

How to Use Magical Express

Guests will be responsible for picking up any of their checked luggage from the airport’s baggage claim area, so that it can be loaded onto the motorcoach to their Disney Resort hotel. Your luggage will travel with you to your hotel. Once you pick up your luggage, proceed to the Magical Express to board and be on your way to Disney World! Again, review the details on the Disney World website for Magical Express to view a map of the airport and instructions for finding the Magical Express.

All you have to do is scan your MagicBand to board the bus. If you have not received your MagicBand, please be prepared to present your Disney’s Magical Express confirmation letter—mailed separately to you—to board the motorcoach. You will receive your MagicBand upon arrival at your Disney Resort hotel. If you have a Disney’s Magical Express reservation, but do not have the confirmation letter, be ready to present government-issued photo identification and a Cast Member will assist you.

Step Five: Get to Know Your Disney World Transportation OptionsDisney World Skyliner Disney World Right Now

Transportation tends to be the more intimidating part of planning a Disney World trip for many folks visiting for the first time. Especially for those that normally go to Disneyland where the transportation is pretty simple in comparison. Remember that the Disney World resort is massive, hence why it's always referred to as the ‘Disney bubble' and with that comes the need for transportation to get around the resort.

Transportation Choices

You have a range of transportation choices at Disney World and making those decisions usually weighs cost vs. convenience. And now, you might even factor in safety if you want to avoid any transportation options that bring you into contact with more people. I would not worry too much about this though because Disney World has greatly reduced their capacity on all transportation options as well as integrating plexiglass and other strategies to keep parties isolated from each other as a health precaution.

  • Buses
    • All of the on-site Disney World hotels are bus service so this is a transportation option that most groups will experience at least once during their visit
    • If you are looking to get to the parks and be in line for when they open, I recommend being at your resort bus stop at least 90 minutes prior to park opening.
  • Skyliner
    • The skyliner connects Epcot and Hollywood Studios to these four Disney hotels: Art of Animation Resort, Pop Century Resort, Caribbean Beach Resort, and the Riviera Resort.
    • The skyliner lines at the resorts will always be longest in the mornings, especially going to Hollywood Studios, so plan on arriving at least 90 minutes or more before park opening.
  • Boats and Monorail
    • Disney's Grand Floridian Resort and Spa, Disney Contemporary Resort and Disney's Polynesian Resort have monorail access.
      • There are 2 different monorail routes. The first route makes stops at the following locations: Magic Kingdom park, Disney’s Contemporary Resort, Transportation and Ticket Center (adjacent to Magic Kingdom parking), Disney's Polynesian Village Resort, and Disney's Grand Floridian Resort & Spa.
      • The second monorail route stops at 2 locations: Transportation and Ticket Center and Epcot.
    • Boat access is currently available to Magic Kingdom from Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground, Disney's Grand Floridian Resort & Spa, and Disney’s Wilderness Lodge. Other boat access is currently not in operation.
  • Uber/Lyft
    • Minnie's Van Service is temporarily unavailable with no known return date.
    • Uber/Lyft continue to be available throughout the resort. Keep in mind that Uber/Lyft are their own service separate from Disney.
    • Uber/Lyft is also held to the same parking lot restrictions as those who are parking in the theme park lots- cast members are limiting early access to parking lots to control capacity.
    • If your goal is arriving to Hollywood Studios prior to park opening, many guests have had success getting dropped off at Disney's Boardwalk and walking to the park from there.
  • Driving
    • If you plan on renting a car, you can park for free at any of the Disney theme parks if you're on an on-site resort guest. You will have to pay for parking at your Disney resort hotel and at the theme parks if you're not staying on-site.
    • Access to parking limits before park opening is controlled by cast members to allow for proper social distancing and not all parking lots will open prior to park opening.
    • Keep in mind that many of the park trams are not in operation so you will have to walk from our parking spot to the theme park entrance.

Pro Tip: Regardless of what transportation system you use, make a plan for what you will do to get around the resort before you arrive. This will help you avoid any last minute confusion and ensure you get to your destination at the time you want to.

Step Six: Create a Park Strategy Rise of the Resistance

This is where things get a bit tricky as the parks are quite different since their reopening. Disney World's health policies have changed the way guests tour the parks but that's not necessarily a bad thing! Many guests are nervous to hear that FastPass+ is temporarily suspended but the good news is that this has created much faster moving lines in the parks. Plus with limited capacity in each theme park, there isn't quite as large of a need for FastPass+. This doesn't mean you won't have to wait in lines- that may be unavoidable but there's a way to minimize that time spent in line.

Hollywood Studios Park Strategy 

Hollywood Studios is by far the most popular park with Park Pass reservations often running out more than any other park at Disney World right now. This is due to this park being home to some of the most popular new attractions like Rise of the Resistance and Mickey & Minnie's Runaway Railway. This is really the park you should have a game plan for based on what your priorities are.

Priority Option #1: Get a Boarding Pass for Rise of the Resistance and Avoid Long Waits

If your main priority is beating the morning rush so you can be one of the first groups in the park, this is the strategy for you. A once familiar term called ‘Rope Drop' looks a bit different these days but the idea is the same. Disney will let guests into the park early, varying from 15-45 minutes early, before it opens to alleviate any congestion by the entrance gates.  This is even more true now as Disney does not want people lined up for too long or congesting areas. But now that social distancing is a priority, guests are now longer held back by the ‘rope' that blocks off the main walkways to attractions. So now when you arrive, once you are let into the park you can go get in line for your favorite attraction. Most of the time cast members won't start the ride until the park officially opens but we've heard reports that sometimes they start them early.

Pro Tip: Most guests will go right for Mickey & Minnie's Runaway Railway when the park opens, if you're not one of the first groups through the gates you're better off going to Millennium Falcon Smuggler's Run or Slinky Dog Dash.

Arrive early so you can be in this first group. This way you can be in the park before it officially opens, hopefully in line for Mickey & Minnie's Runaway Railway, with time to spare to grab that first boarding pass at 10AM for Rise of the Resistance. Another chance to get a Boarding Pass will happen at 2PM if you miss the first one. I recommend being in line to enter by at least 8:45AM for a 10AM opening. Rather than use the Skyliner or bus system, many guests have had success taking a rideshare to the nearby Boardwalk and walking to the entrance.

Read all about how to get Boarding Pass for Rise of the Resistance in our guide!>

Priority Option #2: Avoid Morning Congestion to Allow for Optimal Social Distancing 

You don't have to show up in the midst of the morning fray to enjoy the attractions at Hollywood Studios. Some guests might argue that by arriving early and waiting to enter that the end result is still being in a long line. Hollywood Studios has a tendency to feel more congested in the morning because everyone is invested in getting a Boarding Pass for Rise of the Resistance when the park opens at 10AM and getting on Mickey and Minnie's Runaway Railway before the line builds.

Pro Tip: As long as you are in the line for a ride at park closing time, you will be allowed to stay until you board regardless of how long the wait is. This is a popular strategy right now as the parks are closing earlier- save one of those longer wait times for the end of the day to maximize your time.

If you show up even 20 minutes later than the official park opening time you will beat most of that morning congestion. People will be considerably more spread out inside the park as well so when you enter you will have much more space to feel comfortable. If this is your plan, I recommend heading towards Toy Story Land when the park opens or looking for wait times that are lower than others to go to first before riding the most popular attractions. Rise of the Resistance will release another set of boarding groups at 2PM so you will get another chance to try and ride!

Keep in mind that even if you arrive in the morning, Disney has done a fantastic job ensuring that park goers effectively social distance with their new safety policies which you can read about in our Disney World reopening guide. I just know that some people might feel more comfortable arriving when there are less people entering the park, even if they are social distanced, so I want to provide you with the most optimal information!

Planning for Magic Kingdom, Epcot, and Animal Kingdom

These theme parks don't require the same level of strategy as Hollywood Studios mainly because they are more spread out and have more attractions/options for guests to do creates just generally more space for everyone. There are three facts that seem to hold consistent since the park reopened:

  • Weekends are busier since more locals come visit on those days
  • Early mornings offer more chances to get on the most popular rides with lower wait times
  • End of the day wait times go down as people leave

For each theme park, if you want to arrive early and need a ride to go to first: pick your top choice of the most popular ride and go straight there. If the wait time is already high for that ride, go somewhere else and circle back before closing. This seems to be a good rule of thumb for maximizing your time!

Plan Your Walt Disney World Vacation!

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