Sharing all the details on Disney World in 2021 with covid-restrictions, toddlers in masks, and what’s open and closed.
On Christmas morning my husband surprised our family with big news: we were heading to the Dominican Republic (should I share about that too?!) for a few days and then Disney World! I’ve had a lot of questions on our Disney experience with two toddlers in tow so I thought I’d dish what’s the latest with Disney World in 2021.
Disclosures: None. This post wasn’t created in partnership with any product or brand.
Our Experience at Disney World 2021 with Two Toddlers
Overall, we had a great experience at Disney World, despite a global pandemic, and we would do it again! We limited our experience to one day at Magic Kingdom because we weren’t sure how our two year old would do with a mask, or how long two toddlers could last, but they did awesome. If we did it again, we would have either done one to two more days, or have gotten Park Hopper passes go to back in the evening after a nap recharge for the kids. While we were there, there were no Mickey Mouse shows at Magic Kingdom, but there were at Hollywood Studios, so that would have been our choice of park hopping since our little loves Mickey!
Disney World Covid Restrictions
Disney World has enforced a number of covid restrictions. Capacity is capped at 35%. Upon arrival, all guests have required temperature checks and strict social distancing and mask-wearing are in full enforcement. No, you cannot pull your mask down for a picture. Hand sanitizer is available at the beginning and end of every ride. I found on rides with bench seats the workers kept empty rows between passengers. Plexiglass was also in place on many rides.
Do Toddlers Really Have to Wear a Mask at Disney?
If your kid is 2 and up, yes they really have to wear a mask. And they are actually very strict.
One time our one-year-old pulled our two-year-old’s mask down in the stroller without us knowing. Moments later she was reprimanded for not having her mask on properly and the enforcer waited for us to help her put it back on. If your kid is not actively eating or drinking, they must wear a mask. I did hear enforcers asking people how old their kids are.
Helping Your Toddler Keep a Mask On
Get a character mask, stay positive and give lots of mental prep!
Tessa actually did pretty fantastic at wearing a mask, which was shocking because she hasn’t really worn one before this trip. We got her some Minnie Mouse character masks from Gap (affiliate link) which she was really excited about. We prepped her repeatedly until the day of Disney that she, “…has to wear a mask when we go see Mickey. If you don’t wear a mask, you don’t get to see him.” That was overall adequate incentive for her. We did the same prep for the airplanes, “You have to wear a mask while we’re on the airplane so we can go (to the beach, to see Mickey, to go home).” The mental guidance I think was helpful! If all else fails, give them something to eat or drink so they don’t have to wear it that moment, hah!
Before You Go to Disney World in 2021
Before you go to Disney World, you need both a theme park ticket and a theme park reservation for that day. Purchase your ticket then set your reservation.
Also before you go, download the “My Disney Experience” app by Walt Disney World and do your homework:
- Make any restaurant reservations in advance. Reservations can be booked up to 60 days in advance and they completely book up.
- For quick bites, place your order on the app and set pick-up time first thing in the morning. No need for advanced reservations for casual dining, just make sure your order is in. Pick-up windows are 30 minutes.
- See which parks have shows, etc. you want to see. You can also check these out here. Magic Kingdom had no shows on the weekend we went. We wish we would have either gone for two days or gotten a Park Hopper pass to go to Hollywood Studios and see Mickey shows. We weren’t sure the kids could hang for more than one park and one day, but we think they would have been fine!
Fast Passes and Park Hopping in 2021
As of January 1 this year, you can use a Park Hopper pass or annual pass with Park Hopper benefits. Make a reservation for first park you want to visit. You have to go to that park first, and then you can enter a second park without a reservation. More on Park Hopping here.
Fast Passes+ are not available at this time. Sorry Charlie! Go early!
What we wish we would have done differently: We did not have a Park Hopper pass (we didn’t have that much faith in two toddlers and masks – hah!) but in retrospect, we wish we would have gotten Park Hopper passes to see shows at Hollywood Studios, or planned for a second day.
Arriving to the Disney World
You can take shuttles to Disney from some Disney hotels, but we drove our rental car so we could go earlier than the shuttles run. Be aware that when you arrive you will have to each get temperature checked.
We went to Magic Kingdom, which opens at 8 am. We were parked by 7:05 am, and in the park by 7:30 am. Before 8 am hit, we had already gone on two rides.
Yep. You heard that right. You can go in the park and start riding rides before official opening time. I highly recommend you go early. We went on the Saturday morning after New Years and never waited more than 20 minutes for a ride until mid-morning hit. By 11 am, lines were long. Fortunately, we had hit all the rides we really wanted before about 10:30 am. Evidently, “opening time” is very loose.
Using the My Disney Experience by Disney World App
The app is mission critical, as mentioned earlier. Aside from housing restaurant reservations, My Disney Experience shows you shows and showtimes for each park, current wait times for every ride, and is where you you place food orders. It’s not super-user friendly at the beginning, but you get used to it.
Disney World Parades and Fireworks in 2021
Disney World is not doing full parades or fireworks right now. Instead, they are doing doing mini “cavalcades” – small floats of Disney characters, dancers and musicians.
Almost every employee told us that the cavalcades were “random” and “nobody knows when or where they are.” Finally we got the real scoop. The Disney World cavalcades start at Frontier Land and run their normal course down to Main Street. Cavalcades start at 9 am and run through 6 pm, and run about every 15 minutes.
If you want to see a certain character, go wait on Main Street! I made the mistake of thinking the floats were exactly every 15 minutes, and ended up having to wait another hour to see Mickey because I ducked into a store to burn some time between floats. Just go ride all your rides, then hang on Main Street.
Seeing Characters at Disney World 2021
Unfortunately, you are pretty limited on seeing characters right now at Disney World! There are no character meet and greets right now.
Here are your options:
- Eat at a restaurant that’s currently offering character dining. Check out all the restaurants here then filter for “Character Dining” under “Dining Experiences”.
- Check for any shows that are currently available here.
- See them in the Mini Cavalcade floats. While we were there, they were running six cavalcades.
Where We Stayed
We stayed at Hilton Orlando Bonnet Creek and it was very nice! It was super up to date and clean. If you forgot your Minnie Mouse shirt (or you already wore yours earlier on your trip – cue my toddler), there’s a Disney store inside the hotel. (Actually if you have time, GAP, Target or H&M usually have really tasteful kids Disney character clothes!). Hilton Bonnet Creek also has a heated pool and lazy river, and hot tub which were fun to take kids swimming!
All in all, we had a great time at Disney World! I would say it was still worth it to have gone. We also tacked it on as part of a trip, so if you are concerned how your kiddos will do you could always just do a Disney stop. For us we made our returning flights to Austin from the Dominican Republic through Florida (book one-way flights). It could also be fun as part of a beach trip or South Eastern US road trip. Whatever you decide