If you're planning a trip to Walt Disney World, chances are good that you've considered staying in the Disney "bubble." Close to the theme parks, with fun theming and complimentary transportation, many guests hopping to Walt Disney World opt to stay on-site at a Walt Disney World Resort hotel ... then you never have to leave the magic! In March, Disney World hotels were closed temporarily alongside the theme parks due to COVID-19. And much like the theme parks, they've slowly been reopening, starting with DVC properties June 22, 2020. In 2021, we can look forward to a new-and-improved Disney's Polynesian Village Resort reopening July 2021 after a refurbishment, as well as the reopening of Disney's Wilderness Lodge and Disney's All-Star Movies Resort. Additionally, there's some hoppy news for guests staying along the Seven Seas Lagoon and Bay Lake — the Electrical Water Pageant has returned!
Walt Disney World implemented increased health and safety measures all across the resort, including its hotels, theme parks and dining locations, to keep cast members and guests safe. Those measures also mean that your stay may look a little different, and there are some things to be prepared for in advance of your vacation. Here's everything you need to know, from Disney World hotel reopening dates, to changes to housekeeping, transportation, amenities and more!
Reopening Dates for Walt Disney World Resort Hotels
Disney Vacation Club resorts at Walt Disney World and Disney's Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground reopened June 22. Disney Vacation Club resorts at Vero Beach, Fla., and Hilton Head, S.C., reopened to members and guests June 15.
Walt Disney World Resort hotels that are currently open include:
- Bay Lake Tower at Disney’s Contemporary Resort
- Boulder Ridge Villas at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge
- Copper Creek Villas & Cabins at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge
- Disney’s Animal Kingdom Villas – Kidani Village
- Disney's Art of Animation Resort
- Disney’s Beach Club Villas
- Disney’s BoardWalk Villas
- Disney's Caribbean Beach Resort
- Disney's Contemporary Resort
- Disney's Coronado Springs Resort
- Disney's Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground
- Disney's Grand Floridian Resort & Spa
- Disney’s Old Key West Resort
- Disney’s Polynesian Villas & Bungalows
- Disney's Pop Century Resort
- Disney’s Riviera Resort
- Disney’s Saratoga Springs Resort
- Disney's Yacht Club Resort
- The Villas at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort
Disney has also announced that the following hotels will open on these specified dates:
- March 22, 2021: Disney's All-Star Movies Resort
- May 30, 2021: Disney's Beach Club Resort
- June 6, 2021: Disney's Wilderness Lodge
- Summer 2021: Disney's Polynesian Village Resort (now accepting reservations, starting July 19, 2021)
As the current health environment evolves, these dates are subject to change, and guests' reservations could still be modified to other Disney Resort hotels. Opening dates for the remaining Disney Resort hotels have not been scheduled yet at this time. If you booked your hotel stay with Undercover Tourist and your arrival dates are impacted by the resort's phased reopening, please contact us by phone at 1 (800) 846-1302 or by email at Info (at) UndercoverTourist.com — we're hoppy to help! If you're looking to reserve your hotel, know that you can do so with complete confidence through Undercover Tourist — all Walt Disney World Resort hotel reservations are fully refundable when cancelled at least five-days prior to check-in.
Walt Disney World Hotel Health and Safety Policies
Before traveling to Florida, be sure to review any travel restrictions in place. Guests who are under self-quarantine orders may not enter Walt Disney World Resort. Those who are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 or have been in contact with someone with confirmed or suspected of having COVID-19 symptoms without completing a 14-day quarantine may not enter Walt Disney World Resort (including its resort hotels). By entering Walt Disney World Resort, you are confirming that your party understands and will abide by these health and safety requirements. (You will likely see a similar message either by email or in My Disney Experience prior to your trip.)
Much like the theme parks, hotel guests are subject to additional wellness screenings, including temperature screenings. Overnight guests will need a confirmed room reservation. You'll need a confirmed dining reservation to hop to a particular resort for a daytime visit. Face coverings are required for each guest age 2 and up in all public areas, except while swimming or seated for dining. To enter a theme park, both a park reservation and valid admission for the same park on the same date is required. It's important to note that a Disney Resort hotel reservation does not guarantee you entry to the theme parks.
Cleaning Measures in Place at Walt Disney World Hotels
Prior to guests' arrival, rooms undergo thorough cleaning, with special attention to high-touch areas such as remotes and door handles. Housekeeping tools are cleaned between rooms, and floors are steam cleaned and vacuumed between guests.
Guests can find extra linens and towels wrapped in single-use packaging, as well as individually wrapped glassware and double-cased pillows in their room. Housekeeping performs a light cleaning service every other day, including removing trash and used towels, replenishing towels and amenities, wiping and cleaning surfaces and vacuuming. Guests, of course, can decline this ever-other-day service. (DVC Members will receive service on the fourth and eighth days of their stay, unless declined). If you have more than one room on your reservation and you choose to decline housekeeping, that selection applies to all rooms on the reservation.
At the Disney World hotels themselves, common areas are also receiving enhanced cleaning measures at this time, including high-traffic areas such as elevators and escalators, handrails, benches, handles, restrooms and more.
Transportation and Parking at Disney Resort Hotels
Disney's Magical Express Service remains available to Disney World hotel guests, as well as complimentary resort transportation. However, Disney’s Magical Express service does not currently provide luggage delivery service for those arriving to and departing from the airport. Guests who choose to use Disney’s Magical Express service are 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 Walt Disney World Resort hotel. Additionally, Disney's Magical Express service will no longer operate as of Jan. 1, 2022.
Bus transportation continues to run between Disney World hotels, Disney Springs and the theme parks. Each bus can hold up to six or 10 separate parties, depending on the size of the bus (larger groups may be split into multiple smaller groups). Handrails are cleaned every 20 minutes, and the entire bus undergoes a deeper cleaning every two hours. The emergency roof hatch is lifted to provide additional airflow.
Overall, Disney transportation operates with physical distancing measures in place, including reduced capacity, so give yourself a little extra time when hopping around the resort. Also keep in mind that the EPCOT monorail line is not currently running, so if you're staying at a Magic Kingdom area resort, you need to take a bus to EPCOT.
Minnie Van Service is not currently available. Self-parking is available at resort hotels, though valet service is unavailable (with the exception of guests with disabilities who require parking assistance). Parking fees still apply. For the full scoop on what Walt Disney World transportation is like right now, hop over to our full guide.
Changes to Walt Disney World Hotel Services, Amenities and Recreation
Based on physical distancing and health guidelines, some Disney World hotel services may be modified or unavailable, including:
- Bell Services will deliver luggage to rooms, but will not escort guests.
- Club-level service is temporarily unavailable.
- Deliveries will only be made to occupied rooms.
- Dry-cleaning and valet laundry services are temporarily unavailable; self-service laundry remains available.
- Shipping services are temporarily unavailable.
- Resort airline check-in service may be temporarily unavailable.
You can expect the following changes to amenities and recreation at Walt Disney World Resort hotels:
- Select dining locations are available at Disney World hotels, following the same general dining guidelines established resort-wide. You can find a resort-specific list of the restaurants available here.
- Feature pools may operate with reduced hours; leisure pools will be open 24-hours a day.
- Pools operate with reduced capacity to allow for physical distancing.
- Select poolside activities may be available at select resort hotels.
- Fitness centers are open in alignment with state and county regulations, and may have reduced hours and capacity.
- Instructor-led fitness classes are unavailable.
- Fitness and sports courts are open, and guests must maintain physical distancing.
- Activities and schedules will vary. The schedule of activities for your Disney World hotel will be shared during your stay.
- In merchandise locations throughout Walt Disney World Resort, guests will continue to discover favorite Disney items, with some modifications to the shopping experience that will help in managing capacity and fostering physical distancing.
- New collection product launches and limited-edition merchandise will not be available for in-person purchases at Walt Disney World Resort until further notice. As always, guests can find these items on shopDisney, subject to availability.
- Pin trading will be available with cast members through the use of pin boards in select locations. Cast pin trading with lanyards will not be available at this time to maintain physical distancing.
- Package delivery to the front of the theme parks or to Disney World hotels is currently unavailable. However, shipping merchandise to guests’ homes continues to be available.
- For the time being, dressing rooms are unavailable.
- In-person returns are available upon the reopening of merchandise locations.
The following Disney World hotel amenities and experiences are currently unavailable:
- Character experiences (expected to return very soon, with social distancing measures in place — keep hopping back for updates!)
- Marina rentals
- Spas, salons and Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique
Additionally, the following special offerings and childcare services will not be available during the initial reopening:
- Fireworks voyages and tasting cruises, including the Pirates and Pals Fireworks Voyage
- Fun runs
- Wonderland Tea Party at Park Fare
- Hula lessons
- In-room childcare services
- Mermaid school
- Special classes and programs — including culinary, cultural and animal programs
My Disney Experience Enhancements for Disney Resort Hotel Guests
Before you go, don't froget to download the My Disney Experience app — the same handy-dandy app that helps you make dining reservations can also provide you with the most up-to-date policies around the resort and provides you with a mobile check-in option. We recommended checking in the day before, as you submit your contact information and expected arrival time. You can select a time before the normal 3 p.m. check-in time, but there is no guarantee that your room will be ready before then. On the day of your arrival, once your room is ready, you'll get a notification, including your room number. Then, you can proceed straight to your room and enter either using a MagicBand or the digital key feature straight from the app. On your scheduled checkout day, you'll automatically be checked out of your room.
You can skip a visit to the Front Desk unless you have a question about your folio. If this is your first visit to a Disney Resort hotel, you can create a PIN number during the mobile check-in, so you're able to make purchases using your MagicBand. However, if you don't remember your PIN number from a previous visit, you'll need to visit the Front Desk to reset it. Guests are also able to chat directly with a resort cast member in the My Disney Experience app for virtual assistance during their stay.
In 2021, Disney World plans to bring the features of a MagicBand to guests' smart devices via the My Disney Experience app, building on the app’s existing digital key feature. That said, Disney will be retiring complimentary MagicBand distribution to Disney Resort hotel guests for new reservations with arrivals beginning Jan. 1, 2021. Disney Resort hotel guests will be able to purchase new MagicBands at a discount, but guests who choose not to purchase a discounted MagicBand will be able to use the My Disney Experience app or a Key to the World card during their visit instead. MagicBands will remain available in retail locations and on shopDisney.com, and guests will be able to continue using the wearables throughout Walt Disney World Resort. In fact, it's recommended as a contactless payment option!
The Frog Family's Experience at Disney's Contemporary Resort
Disney hosted our recent stay at Disney's Contemporary Resort. We utilized the Direct-to-Room service by starting the mobile check-in process through the My Disney Experience app. We checked in the night before our arrival, and it only took a few minutes! Our room ended up being ready an hour before the 3 p.m. check-in time, so we were able to drop off our stuff in the room and hop over to EPCOT earlier than we expected! We used our MagicBands to open the door, but as we mentioned, the My Disney Experience app has an "Unlock My Door" feature (which requires Bluetooth to be turned on).
We noticed that everything in our room was individually wrapped or packaged, including the TV remote and coffee cups. For our reference, there was an infographic on display about the enhanced cleaning measures that take place. Instead of large, refillable shampoo, conditioner and body wash dispensers, the bathroom had small individual bottles and toiletries.
When swimming at the pool, we did not have to wear our face coverings — only as we entered and exited the pool area. The lounge chairs are appropriately spaced, and there were signs asking guests not to move them. Poolside activities, such as hula hoop contests, still hoppened, and the feature pool's waterslide was available. Splish, splash!
The table-service restaurants required a quick temperature check before being seated. Chef Mickey's was not offering character dining during our stay, but guess what? Mickey and his pals returned Dec. 16! Meanwhile, the quick-service restaurant, Contempo Cafe, offered mobile ordering. The gift shops had designated entrances and exits. Using the escalators to get to the second and fourth floors from the main lobby were highly recommended, as the elevators are limited to one family (or four individuals) at a time.
If taking Disney transportation, we recommend traveling during off-peak times if you don't want to wait. On our way to EPCOT, we were the only frogs on the bus because we hopped over in the afternoon. However, when we left EPCOT shortly after closing time, we had to wait about 30 minutes for a second bus (the first one reached capacity). The monorail line to EPCOT was not running, so taking the bus was the only option, aside from using a non-Disney, ride-share service. The next day, we took the monorail to Magic Kingdom! In addition to the normal security screening, we had to pass through a quick temperature check. Easy peasy!
Have any questions about the new changes and procedures at the Disney Resort hotels? Ask away in the comments below!