During 2020, we saw lots of changes made at Walt Disney World that could totally alter the way you plan for your trip.
2021 has brought its own changes as well. If you’re planning to visit Walt Disney World in 2021, there are quite a few things you should keep in mind that you might not be thinking about at all!
Here’s our list of over 20 tips that you might not have thought of yet as you plan your 2021 trip to the Most Magical Place on Earth.
1. Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance
Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance continues to be one of the most popular rides in Disney World, but if you want to ride it, there are a few KEY things you need to be aware of. First, if you want to try for your chance to get on this ride, you will NEED to have a valid Park Pass reservation for Disney’s Hollywood Studios. You cannot start your day at another park and hop to Hollywood Studios to ride this attraction. You’ll want to plan out carefully which day you want to try and get on this ride.
Second, keep in mind that you can’t just get in line for this attraction. Instead, you’ll need to sign up for a Boarding Group. There are two distribution times. You’ll get your first chance to score a Boarding Group at 7AM. You can sign up for a Boarding Group at this time from outside of the park.
Then, at 1PM, Boarding Groups are distributed again, but you MUST be inside of Hollywood Studios in order to try to sign up for groups at this time. You’ll definitely want to get your phone ready and plan out your day carefully to set aside time for this attraction if it’s important to you.
2. Stay Hydrated
You might already know that Florida can be very hot and humid and that it’s important to stay hydrated. But now that masks are required to be worn at Disney World, it can be easy to forget to pick up that water bottle, since doing so would require you to step aside to a socially distant spot and take off your mask. It’s not as simple as just sipping on your water as you walk around, as walking while eating/drinking isn’t allowed.
It’s really important to make sure to remember to stay hydrated during your trip. You can still get free cups of water in the parks, but you might have to walk a bit more to find it. At some Quick Service restaurants, you won’t be able to simply walk up and get free water during busy times, particularly in the spots where Mobile Order is being heavily encouraged. At times, those Cast Members will send you to other spots nearby to get a cup of free water. So that’s something to be aware of.
We’d also recommend you bring a water bottle that you can easily keep with you and refill throughout your day. And, since it can be a bit easier to forget to drink water nowadays, consider setting a timer to remind yourself to stay hydrated or set some markers on your bottle so you’re aware of how much you’ve already had to drink.
3. Bring Lip Balm
In addition to drinking water, you’ll want to remember to bring chapstick. Your lips can get dry on vacation, especially after wearing a face mask all day. Be sure to bring some lip balm with you, or buy some at the parks and reapply throughout the day as necessary.
4. Bring Back-Up Face Masks
Another thing you’ll want to do is bring back-up face masks. Your mask can get dirty or sweaty throughout the day — or wet on water rides.
You’ll want to carry a few extra masks with you in the parks, and have some others back at the hotel so you can clean them as necessary and rotate your masks throughout your trip to keep things clean.
5. ALL the Park Hopping Thoughts
Park Hopping returned to Disney World on January 1, 2021. But it’s not exactly the same as it used to be. Under this modified version of Park Hopping, you must have a Park Pass reservation for the first park you want to visit, AND you must actually enter that first park before hopping. You also can’t start hopping to other parks until 2PM each day (although that time is subject to change), and whether you’ll be able to hop at all (and to what parks) all depends on capacity and availability.
Under this modified system there are a few things you need to think about. Are you going to hop? If so, where would you like to hop to if there’s availability? Where are you going to start your day? There’s an argument that perhaps you should start your day at Disney’s Animal Kingdom because it closes earlier in the evening, but that park can also be quite empty in the afternoon, making it a potentially good time to score short waits for attractions.
All in all, there’s a lot to consider! You’ll definitely want to think through what rides you want to hit and how to best see what you want within the days you’ll be there.
Want our advice? Check out our recommendations on the best Park Hopping combos for your Disney World trip!
6. Early Entry Coming Soon
Extra Magic Hours have not been available to Disney hotel guests since the parks reopened in the summer of 2020. But as part of Disney World’s 50th Anniversary Celebrations, Disney has announced a new Early Theme Park Entry offering that will be coming soon for Disney hotel guests.
With Early Theme Park Entry, guests of Disney Resorts and specific other hotels will be allowed to enter the four theme parks up to thirty minutes early every day of the week. This offering is different than Extra Magic Hours as it will provide guests with more flexibility, but it will also offer less extra time in the parks.
We don’t know when Early Entry will begin, but it’s something you’ll want to be aware of for your upcoming trips throughout 2021 and beyond.
7. 50th Anniversary
Disney World will celebrate its 50th Anniversary on October 1, 2021, and things are already getting busy for that anniversary date. Park Passes for Magic Kingdom have already filled up entirely for that date.
Although Disney hasn’t shared a lot yet in terms of their 50th Anniversary celebrations, the fact that the anniversary is taking place later this year is something to consider. Do you want to be in the parks around the anniversary? Then you may want to consider cancelling your earlier trip and postponing it to a date closer to October 1. If you will be there during that time, be sure to get your Park Pass in advance.
On the opposite side, you might want to steer clear of the parks during that time as there could be some bigger crowds for the anniversary — that’s something to think about as well.
8. Don’t Forget to Mobile Order
At most Quick Service restaurants in Disney World, Mobile Order is essentially required or heavily encouraged. You’ll often find signs like the one below reminding guests to place their mobile orders. To prepare, in advance of your trip, you’ll want to download the My Disney Experience app and fully set it up, with your credit card linked, etc., so you can be prepared to place your Mobile Orders in the parks.
Using Mobile Order can be extremely convenient, but if you are visiting during a busy time, you might want to consider placing your mobile order earlier in the day and scheduling it for a later pick-up time. If you wait until the peak ordering time to place your food order, you might find that your return time to pick up your food may be later than you would like.
9. Disney Transportation
If you’re planning on using Disney transportation — including Disney buses, monorails, ferries, boats, etc. — to get around the parks and hotels, keep in mind that seating arrangements have changed for social distancing. Additionally, capacity on these forms of transportation have all been reduced to maintain social distancing.
For example, on the Disney buses, there are specific zones that guests are placed in. Depending on the size of your group, you may be split between multiple zones. Additionally, several seats are marked as unavailable to maintain distancing.
For the monorails, many have received new distancing barriers to help increase capacity after the initially very restrictive capacities these vehicles had when the World first reopened.
Each of the forms of transportation have their own seating rules and arrangements, so it’s important to keep that in mind.
Due to limited capacity on these forms of transportation, you’ll want to give yourself some extra time to get places on property. Because guests can’t all stand up and pack the buses like in the old days, you may have to wait for an extended period of time before you’re able to get on the bus, monorail, etc. yourself. Plan for Disney transportation to take a bit longer than you might be used to.
10. Resort Hotels
While some Disney Resort hotels have reopened, others are still closed. This year, quite a few hotels are set to reopen. Disney’s All-Star Movies Resort, Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort, Disney’s Beach Club Resort, and Disney’s Wilderness Lodge are all set to reopen later this year.
Of course, these opening dates are subject to change. But if you’ve been hoping to stay at one of these spots, be sure to check their opening dates, and consider whether you want to stay at them instead of whatever hotel you are set to stay at currently.
The guest rooms at Disney’s Contemporary Resort will be under refurbishment later this year. Check out the details here.
11. Blizzard Beach
Disney World’s water parks have been closed since the beginning of Walt Disney World’s closure last year. On March 7, 2021, Disney’s Blizzard Beach is set to reopen.
If you want to make sure that you’ll be able to visit this water park during your stay, consider delaying your trip until after its reopening date.
Starting January 1, 2021, Disney discontinued its practice of giving free MagicBands to Disney hotel guests. If you want to use a MagicBand during your upcoming Disney trip, you could dig through those closets to find one of the MagicBands you obtained from a previous trip; you can link current plans to an old MagicBand.
You can also get a special pre-order price, and purchase MagicBands as a Pre-Arrival Exclusive in My Disney Experience. These range in price from $5 to $20, which is discounted from the full price you would pay for the same bands online or in Disney World. You will see these offers after you’ve booked a trip.
13. New Stuff is Coming — But When?
Disney has already confirmed that Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure and La Creperie de Paris will both be opening at EPCOT in 2021. We don’t have a set opening date or even month for these new offerings, though. If these are MUST-DO items for your next trip, you might want to consider postponing your trip for a bit until we get more news.
There are also other projects being worked on all around Disney World including the TRON Coaster at Magic Kingdom, which has reportedly been delayed. So, while there are quite a few new things coming in the future, we don’t have exact opening dates for them yet. If these are MUST-DO items for you, then you might want to consider delaying your trip as it gets closer if there is no news yet about these offerings being open.
14. Park Hours and Disney Park Pass Availability Changes
Park Hours and Disney Park Pass availability can change a LOT. One day, Park Passes may seem totally full, and the next day they’re replenished. Park hours can get extended or reduced. If you’ve got an upcoming trip, you’ll definitely want to check back with us here at AllEars as well as Disney Park Pass and Park Hours calendars frequently to see if your trip has been impacted.
Another tip: book your Park Passes as soon as you are able to do so. You can always decide to change them later depending on availability, but it’s best to at least have something booked than to run the risk that one or more of the parks you wanted to visit totally fill up in terms of Park Passes that day.
15. Changes in Park Hopper Hours
At the moment, Park Hopper hours begin at 2PM. That means that starting at 2PM, you can begin your Park Hopping adventure and get into other parks (as long as they haven’t reached capacity). But Disney specifically noted that Park Hopper hours may change in the future. You can see these hours on the Disney World park hours calendar online or in the My Disney Experience app.
We’ll definitely be on the lookout for any changes, but be sure to check as your trip approaches and throughout your trip so you can take full advantage of Park Hopping.
During 2020, a number of new features were added to My Disney Experience, with several impacting the way guests dine at Disney World restaurants. One of the newest changes made was the introduction of Table Service To Go. Through this new service, you can place a mobile order for some delicious dishes at select Table Service restaurants in Disney World. Just like with regular mobile orders at Quick Service spots, you can stop by the Table Service restaurant and pick up your food when it’s ready. Then you take it back to your room, house, a socially distanced bench, etc. to enjoy it wherever you’d like.
So far we’ve seen six Disney hotel restaurants available on this Table Service To Go option, including Sanaa at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge, The Wave…of American Flavors at Disney’s Contemporary Resort, and Kona Cafe at Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort. If you don’t want to sit down for your meal or you feel safer eating it in your room, keep in mind that this is an option!
17. Mobile Check-in & Waitlist
Two other features available on My Disney Experience are Mobile Dine Check-In and Mobile Waitlist. Through Mobile Check-In, you can now check-in online for many of your Disney World Table Service restaurant reservations. This allows you to skip the host/hostess area altogether and can help you maintain some more distance from others.
With the Mobile Waitlist feature, you can try to join a Walk-Up Waitlist at Table Service restaurants in the parks and resorts. Popular spots may have all their Advance Dining Reservations booked up for the time you’re looking to visit, but, if there’s availability, you might be able to join the Walk-Up Waitlist virtually to wait for the next available seating.
These features can help make things a bit easier during your trip or help you potentially eat at spots you couldn’t get a reservation for before. Be sure to keep these features in mind throughout your trip and use them when you can.
When you think of Florida, you might think of heat and humidity, but Florida’s weather can be a bit more complicated than that. There can be afternoon thunderstorms one minute and beautiful blue skies the next. And if you visit during “winter months,” you may experience colder weather than you might expect if a cold front comes through.
Our advice is to check the weather often, but especially right before you leave for your trip and throughout your time there. And because the weather can change even during your trip, you’ll want to make sure you’re prepared for anything. Even if the forecast doesn’t show rain, consider packing a light umbrella or poncho. If the forecast shows warm weather, pack a sweater and some pants just in case.
19. Consider Taking a Break
You may have been used to getting up before the sun and staying in the parks until late into the night without any breaks. Now that guests must wear masks at all times in the park except when stationary and actively eating/drinking or in a mask-free Relaxation Station, you might find that you want to just take a break, put up your feet, and take off your mask for a few minutes.
Consider scheduling in some down time during your day. Whether that means going all the way back to your hotel or simply getting a cold drink and sitting at a Mask Relaxation Station for a few minutes, that break could help everyone stay happy and get them reenergized for the day.
20. Consider “Training” for Longer Mask Use
Again, you might be used to wearing your mask to go to the grocery store or when you head out for a walk, but some might not be used to wearing a mask for a whole day while outdoors in the heat. Especially for the kiddos, it might be a good idea to consider “training” for long mask use by wearing masks at home.
If you can get the family used to wearing masks essentially all of the time except when eating/drinking, when everyone has to do that in the parks, it’ll seem like just another ordinary day. Especially with little ones, it can help get them accustomed to that situation and make it a whole lot easier once your vacation begins.
21. Disney Park Passes
Although Park Hopping has returned, Disney’s Park Pass theme park reservations system hasn’t gone away, and it doesn’t seem to be going anywhere for now. If you’ve got a trip planned for 2021, don’t forget to make your Park Pass reservations as soon as you can.
Park Pass availability can fill up at some of the parks on certain days, particularly around holidays and sometimes weekends. If you make your Park Pass in advance, you won’t have to worry that the park you want to visit later gets booked in terms of Park Pass availability. And,if you want to change your Park Pass later, you can always take a look at the availability and determine whether you can cancel yours to book a new reservation. Until Disney announces that this system is going away, you should be prepared to use it for upcoming trips.
22. Lines Can Be LONG
Due to social distancing rules, lines for your favorite attractions at Disney World can sometimes get VERY long in terms of length but not necessarily in time. In the past, for example, we’ve seen the line for Splash Mountain stretch all the way close to Adventureland. We’ve also seen the line for Peter Pan’s Flight go all the way through Columbia Harbour House.
These long lines don’t always mean that the wait will be hours long, but because guests must be spaced out from one another, even a somewhat shorter line can appear to be quite long in terms of length. If you’re headed to a very popular attraction, keep an eye out for a Cast Member with a “Line Starts Here” sign, and be prepared to see lines start or wind through unexpected places at times.
23. Masks and Photos
Face masks are required to be worn at Disney World at all times, except when actively eating/drinking while stationary or when you’re at a relaxation station. That means masks must in fact be worn when you’re taking photos in front of Cinderella Castle or by Spaceship Earth, whether that photo is taken on your phone or by a PhotoPass photographer.
You might not exactly love your “masked” smile, so if getting good photos is important to you, consider doing one of these things. First, you could buy a mask with a smile on it. There are a few Disney masks that have character smiles on them, or you can search for others online or near you. That way, even though you can’t see your smile underneath, it still looks like you’ve got a cheerful face.
You could also look into getting or making some signs to hold up that have a cute smile on them. You can then hold these up to your face to give you the appearance of a smile. We’ve even seen some guests take photos of themselves smiling at home without a mask on, and print those out onto large pieces of hard paper to hold up in front of their faces when taking photos.
If getting your smile in a photo is important, consider doing one of these things to get that look while still staying in line with all of Disney’s rules.
If you’ve been to Disney before the park closures, you may have parked your car at one of the theme parks and taken a tram all the way up to the front. The trams can be really convenient and help you save those steps for later. At the moment, these trams are NOT running in the Disney theme park parking lots. That’s something you’ll definitely want to be aware of.
You may need to park quite far in some of the parking lots, so be sure to bring a good pair of walking shoes and mentally prepare yourself for a little bit of a morning trek. If you don’t want to do that much walking, and you’re staying on property, consider using Disney transportation to get to the parks, as those will drop you off near the front.
If you must drive and you’re used to moving your car from park to park during the day, think about whether it might just be best to leave your car at one park, use Disney transportation to get between the parks, and then come back to get your car when you’re ready to leave.
These are some of our planning trips for 2021! Things are constantly changing at Disney World, so we’ll always be bringing you more tips as changes unfold. Be sure to check back with us here at AllEars for all the latest Disney updates.
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Are you planning to visit Walt Disney World during 2021? Let us know in the comments.