Mission Save More

EXTRA $5 OFF SELECT CA & FL TICKETS

Get My Tickets

Offer applied in cart. Expires midnight 8/3/21.

Get My Tickets

Offer applied in cart. Expires midnight 8/3/21.

Florida

Walt Disney World® Resort
Universal Orlando Resort
SeaWorld® Orlando
LEGOLAND® Florida Resort

California

Disneyland® Resort
Universal Studios Hollywood™
SeaWorld® San Diego
LEGOLAND® California Resort

Planning a Disney World Trip in 2021? Here Are 18 Key Things to Know

by Leap on June 9, 2021 24 Orlando

Planning a Trip to Disney World in 2021? Here Is What You Need to KnowIt's been one crazy roller coaster of a year! There have been lots of twists and turns these past 365 days, and understandably, most of us are ready for things to "just get back to normal." We were hopeful that with the new year, our biggest worries would be whether we snagged FastPasses for Seven Dwarfs Mine Train and Avatar: Flight of Passage precisely 60 days in advance of our upcoming Walt Disney World vacation. While things aren't toadally back to "normal," more and more continues to open up at "The Most Magical Place on Earth" ... and there's so much to look forward to in 2021 and beyond!

While there's lots of excitement on the horizon, including the return of nighttime spectaculars (yes, fireworks!), EPCOT International Food & Wine Festival, Disney Boo Bash, Disney Very Merriest and Walt Disney World's 50th Anniversary Celebration, it's important to note that there are still changes in place around the resort that you should be aware of before your trip. Here are the key things you need to know!

Key Things to Know Before You Visit Disney World in 2021 - Cinderella Castle

18 Key Things to Keep in Mind If You're Visiting Disney World in 2021

1. Safety measures are still in place, but changing.

Princesses Wearing Masks at Walt Disney World

Recently, Disney World amended its policies a bit — masks are back to being mandatory for all guests ages 2 and up, regardless of vaccination status, in indoor locations across the resort (including transportation and throughout all attractions). Masks remain optional for guests in outdoor common areas. Temperature checks have been phased out recently, as well, and distancing measures are being reduced or eliminated across the resort (say goodbye to plexiglass partitions on rides!). That said, you should read up on all of the health and safety protocols in place before you go.

2. You can "reach out and find your Happily Ever After" once again — nighttime spectaculars have returned!

Both "Happily Ever After" and "EPCOT Forever" have returned to Magic Kingdom and EPCOT as of July 1. Hip, hop, hooray! In October, two new nighttime spectaculars, "Disney Enchantment" at Magic Kingdom and "Harmonius" at EPCOT, will debut for Disney World's 50th Anniversary Celebration. (Be sure to catch the nighttime spectaculars before they retire — Sept. 28 for "EPCOT Forever" and Sept. 29 for "Happily Ever After"!) Also, beginning Aug. 1, "Wonderful World of Animation" will return to Disney's Hollywood Studios.

3. Entertainment, shows and character greetings are returning in modified form.

Girls Meeting Alice

Parades and other mass shows that typically draw big crowds are not hoppening right now. While character dining experiences are continuing to reopen, including Chef Mickey's, Hollywood & Vine and Tusker House, typical character meet-and-greets are not taking place. Instead, the parks have debuted character cavalcades that run at select times throughout the day, as well as pop-up greetings. While things are different, we’ve found them to be no less magical. While we’re physically distant, Disney has mastered character interactions not being socially distant. Likewise, a modified "Celebration of Festival of the Lion King" has returned to Disney's Animal Kingdom! In August, "Beauty and the Beast — Live on Stage" will return Aug. 15 at Hollywood Studios, along with Monsters, Inc. Laugh Floor Aug. 8 at Magic Kingdom and Turtle Talk with Crush Aug. 21 at EPCOT.

4. More and more restaurants are reopening, but they're still operating at lower capacity.

While more and more restaurants are reopening, and capacity is increasing, there still isn't quite as much availability as there was pre-COVID-19. For this reason, you should absolutely make dining plans in advance and reservations for table-service restaurants, so you're not left with tired, hungry tadpoles. Advance Dining Reservations can be made 60 days in advance. And don’t froget about Disney Springs (where we’ve spied the most dinner availability when we’ve checked). More options are slowly rolling out, so keep an eye out!

5. Mobile Order is a must-do. 

While it's not required, Mobile Order is all but a must-use for quick-service restaurants — and some restaurants exclusively use Mobile Order. With the limits mentioned on the table-service restaurants, quick-service restaurants are in more demand than ever and wait times are up since the parks have reopened. No one wants to spend more time in line for a hot dog than for a ride! Thankfully, with Mobile Ordering at Disney World, you don't have to. It's pretty easy to set up mobile ordering using the Disney World app, and we've got a full guide to walk you through it. (Psst ... on the app, you can also check table-service restaurants near you for walk-up availability!)

6. Capacity is going up in the parks.

Rock'n'Roller Coaster Crowds at Disney's Hollywood Studios

When the resort reopened, Disney World initially capped its park attendance at 20 percent. That limit has continued to increase, as more and more guests hop back to the parks.

7. Park reservations are still required.

To manage individual park capacity, Disney World implemented a Park Pass reservation system wherein you needed to reserve the park you plan to attend on each day of your vacation. As more people have returned to the parks, it has become more and more important to book your park reservations earlier, especially if you want to visit around holidays and weekends OR you want to visit Disney's Hollywood Studios. We cannot stress this enough — Park Passes are filling up quickly, so it's essential that you purchase your tickets and reserve your Park Passes as early as you can. At this point, the Disney Park Pass reservation system is set to be in place until early 2023.

8. Events are still hoppening, with some modifications.

While Disney's two biggest events, Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party and Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party were canceled for 2020, many more events did take place in 2020 and will be taking place in 2021. The first EPCOT festival in a year without modifications is hoppening this summer — EPCOT International Food & Wine Festival. Disney World is also planning "The World's Most Magical Celebration" for its 50th anniversary, which will run for 18 dazzling months beginning in October 2021. New After Hours events will take place during the Halloween and holiday seasons: Disney Boo Bash After Hours and Disney Very Merriest After Hours.

Keep in mind that Park Passes may fill up early for special events. For example, Park Passes for Oct. 1, 2021, are already full for annual passholders, who have a separate "well" of Park Pass availability. Hotels are also filling around this date, so we'd highly recommend booking if you plan to attend.

9. Park hopping has returned — with some modifications.

Park hopping has returned as of Jan. 1, 2021 — with some stipulations. You need to make a reservation for the park you plan to start the day in, but you're free to hop to another park at 2 p.m. (provided there's availability, but this hasn't been an issue yet, even during the current busy summer season).

10. Some resort hotels remain closed. 

Disney's Pop Century

Not all of the resort hotels have reopened yet, but the remaining closed hotels will reopen by the end of 2021. Disney's Polynesian Village Resort is the latest to reopen with its new Moana-inspired rooms. The last of the hotels to reopen include:

Additionally, some resort hotel services have been suspended. Club-level service is temporarily unavailable. While Disney is offering its Magical Express transportation to and from the airport for resort hotel guests through the end of 2021, guests must now transport their own luggage.

Again, we highly recommend booking as soon as you have your dates set, especially if it's during a traditionally busy time such as holidays, summer and spring break.

11. Water parks are slowly reopening.

Disney's Blizzard Beach reopened March 7, 2021, with health and safety measures in place (read all about the experience in our Blizzard Beach guide). Disney’s Typhoon Lagoon water park remains closed until further notice.

12. Extra Magic Hours are going away and a new Early Theme Park Entry benefit is coming.

Early Magic Hours haven't been hoppening since the parks reopened, and now Disney has announced that a new Early Theme Park Entry benefit will debut in time for the 50th Anniversary Celebration. The new Disney Early Theme Park Entry benefit will allow on-site hotel guests and guests at select off-site hotels to enjoy 30-minutes of early entry to ANY theme park, EVERY day, beginning Oct. 1, 2021.

13. FastPass+ is not currently hoppening.

With expanded queues and physical distancing on rides, Disney has disabled FastPass+, its skip-the-regular lines service. The FastPass+ queues are still being used for guests with disabilities and Rider Swap, but for now, there is no way to make advance reservations for rides.

14. MagicBands are no longer free, but you will have less need for them in 2021.

As of January 2021, MagicBands are still available for purchase to all, but they are no longer provided free for resort hotel guests. Disney has brought some of the functionality of MagicBands to an all-new service called Disney MagicMobile. Disney MagicMobile provides a contactless way to access MagicBand features such as theme park entry through your iPhone, Apple Watch or other smart device. Guests can create a Disney MagicMobile pass through the My Disney Experience app and add it to their smart device’s digital wallet. Just like a MagicBand, MagicMobile works by holding or tapping your smart device near an access point. Digital room keys will continue to be available through My Disney Experience.

15. Now, more than ever, you need to plan your time in the parks.

In this interim time without FastPass+ and the full return of entertainment, it is perhaps more important than ever to have a plan when visiting the parks. At least have all of your family members decide at the outset which rides are most important so that no one is left disappointed. If you want more direction than that, we frogs have added new Disney World park plans that take into account these changes to help you plan your best day.

16. You need to know the latest ways to make reservations for Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance.

Rey at Star Wars Rise of the Resistance

A virtual queue is the only way to ride Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance ... and it's not always easy to do. Disney has added some capacity back to the attraction by adding clear plastic dividers to separate parties, but reservations for the most popular ride in all of its parks remain hard to come by. If riding is a priority, consider making Disney's Hollywood Studios park reservations for multiple days and make sure to read up on our tips for securing a boarding pass on Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance.

17. As soon as you know you're going, you should book the trip!

This goes for hotel reservations, park reservations and tickets. It's doubly true if you will be visiting during a holiday, peak times or major events, such as Disney World's 50th anniversary. With limited capacity and demand increasing, you need to book as soon as you feel comfortable doing so.

18. Consider travel insurance. 

While Undercover Tourist has a generous refund and modification policies, in these times, you may want even more peace of mind. Our travel insurance offers reimbursement up to 100 percent for pre-paid, non-refundable tickets if you cancel or interrupt your vacation for a covered illness, injury and more. You'll find it as an easy add-on in your cart before you purchase!

Here's to better times in 2021! While this is a lot to consider, we think the benefits of a fabulous Disney World family vacation are toadally worth it. Have a tip you think other vacationers would benefit from knowing? Share it in the comments below! 

Related: Best Time to Visit Disney World

Keep hopping!

Keep hopping, Leap!
View Comments
<<  Newer Posts | Older Posts  >>
Jun 29, 2021 at 4:09 p.m. Robyn Says...

Normally, the beginning to mid-December is an ideal time to go because there are less crowds. Do you anticipate that will be the same for this year?

Reply
Jun 29, 2021 at 12:48 p.m. FrogBlog Says...

Hi Robyn!

It's hard to say for sure what the crowds will look like for the remainder of the year. With things returning to normal and pent-up demand for travel (plus, the 50th Anniversary Celebration going on), it could very well be busier than usual. But it will still likely be less crowded than the week of Thanksgiving and the second half of December.

Keep hopping!

Leap

Reply
Jun 20, 2021 at 10:36 p.m. Tammy Baumann Says...

We are going to WDW for the first time September 13-18, 2022. We are looking for a recommendation for dinner that will allow us to watch the fireworks. Thank you.

Reply
Jul 18, 2021 at 1:35 p.m. Terry Says...

Just came back two weeks ago. My wife and have been going to WDW for over 30 years. There are now only FastPasses for people with medical conditions in which they can not stand for long periods. This is the first time that we have been to WDW without the FastPass system for everyone. Until Disney returns or puts in a new system sadly we will not return. With 2 and 3 hour wait times for the most popular attractions it makes for a very long day. We calculated that we spent 71% of our time in line at the parks. Even Disney Springs .. 1 hour to get into The LEGO Store and 2.5 hours for The World of Disney. For mask only required on Disney transportation..boat, bus, monorail or skyline ( love the skyline a game changer). But waiting in line for attractions, restaurants or shopping no need. On the 4th of July at Disney Springs there were so many people you could not move.

Reply
Jun 21, 2021 at 8:43 a.m. FrogBlog Says...

Hi Tammy!

For Magic Kingdom fireworks, three popular restaurants for fireworks viewing are California Grill (Disney's Contemporary Resort — temporarily closed but could reopen after fireworks return), 'Ohana (Disney's Polynesian Resort) and Narcoossee's (Disney's Grand Floridian Resort). Though they're outside of the park and you wouldn't be able to see the castle projections, the music is usually piped in. If you'd like to dine inside the park, then your best options would be Plaza Restaurant, Crystal Palace or Casey's Corner (temporarily closed but could reopen after fireworks return). At EPCOT, we'd suggest Rose and Crown Dining Room, La Hacienda de San Angel (or La Cantina de San Angel) and Spice Road Table.

Keep hopping!

Leap

Reply
Jun 15, 2021 at 4:04 p.m. Steve Says...

Any chance the dates on previously purchased tickets will be extended again? We planned on going in April 2020 and had a 4 day park hopper (purchased thru UT), but obviously that didn't happened. We are going in early Jan 2022 and was hoping they would just extend the date, or should we just use the value and pay the difference in price now? Thanks.

Reply
Jul 19, 2021 at 10:44 a.m. Kibi mackay Says...

how are the two girl name

Reply
Jun 15, 2021 at 1:04 p.m. FrogBlog Says...

Hi Steve!

Please give us a call at 1 (800) 846-1302 — we're hoppy to help!

Keep hopping!

Leap

Reply
Jun 15, 2021 at 12:08 p.m. Stephany B Says...

Hello! We drive out June 25th For WDW. We are staying at all star movies. Any transportation advice? We will have our own car. Should we use resort buses or drive our car? How early should we arrive at each park? Thanks!

Reply
Jun 15, 2021 at 1:41 p.m. FrogBlog Says...

Hi Stephany!

Usually the parking lots open and transportation services begin an hour before each of the parks open, so if you want to be one of the early birds, we'd suggest leaving for the parks as early as then. We like the convenience and reliability of having our own car — though if the line isn't too long, we prefer bus over personal car when going to Magic Kingdom because the bus station is much closer to the park entrance (if you drive, you have to park at the Transportation and Ticket Center, and then take the monorail or ferry boat). Hope this helps!

Keep hopping!

Leap

Reply
Jun 13, 2021 at 9:10 p.m. Scott Seal Says...

My wife and I will find ourselves in Orlando June 24-28. We don't have Disney tickets or reservations, but were hoping to be able to ride the monorail around to some of the resorts as was possible in years past. Is this possible anymore? Will we need dining reservations or something to pull this off? I really hope this is still a thing that can happen.

Reply
Jun 14, 2021 at 2:12 p.m. FrogBlog Says...

Hi Scott!

Anyone can still ride Disney transportation. The issue lately has been the inability to park at a Disney Resort hotel unless you're an overnight guest or you have a dining reservation at the hotel. So if you're not entering and parking at the theme parks, you would need alternative plans for parking.

Keep hopping!

Leap

Reply
Jun 7, 2021 at 4:06 p.m. Tiff Says...

Hey! We are headed to Magic kingdom this weekend and was wondering if y’all knew the times for the character parades?! Where is the best place to see characters?

Thanks!!

Reply
Jun 7, 2021 at 11:15 a.m. FrogBlog Says...

Hi Tiff,

The cavalcades don't have any set times, as they hoppen sporadically throughout the day. (In the My Disney Experience app, you can use the search function to look up each cavalcade, and it will show the timeframes of when they may appear.) They still go down the normal parade route, so you can see them in Frontierland, Liberty Square, Main Street, U.S.A and in front of Cinderella Castle. There are also some characters that can randomly pop up anywhere. For instance, you may see Stitch and Buzz Lightyear at the stage in Tomorrowland or the Country Bears atop Country Bear Jamboree, so keep an eye out!

Keep hopping!

Leap

Reply
Feb 17, 2021 at 10:41 p.m. lydia zappia Says...

stopped going to disney a while back, but LOVE

Knotts Berry Farm!!! They are really trying hard to keep their guests happy!!! KNOTTS ALL THE WAY!!!

Reply
Feb 13, 2021 at 4:12 a.m. Amanda Says...

I agree with the magic being gone. The cast members have gone from saying “we hope you have a magical day” to “your mask is slightly sliding down on the left side. Correct it or we will throw you out. “ Everybody is doing the best we can with trying to keep the masks on the little ones.

Reply
Feb 3, 2021 at 11:40 p.m. kami p Says...

February 3, 2021

I am not sure if we are the only ones, but with a recent visit to Disney 1/25/21 to 1/29/21, we have discovered the disillusionment with Disney. We are avid Disney travelers, and feel that Disney had “it” for several years. But this year was different. I understand the abnormal normal, but what I do not understand is the greed Disney has…especially in the times where they are depending on their consumers to keep them out of the hole. Not only have we lost all of the entertainment, but the magic was gone. We stayed at Art of Animation and were hugely disappointed. The main pool was down, dining was poor at best (we had to order a coke and cupcake and wait for over 20 mins to have them bring it to us), the food choices were terrible, the staff was minimal, the cleanliness was questionable, the transportation was awful, the prices were raised and were exorbitant, and the experiences were minimal.

What I do not understand is why the public keeps allowing Disney to operate this way, and not only allows it, but flocks to Disney. The prices go up and up every year, and people keep paying it. We are heading down to the Disney area the end of Feb for a pool weekend of relaxation, and we were ready to stay at a Disney resort, however, has anyone checked out the prices of Disney resorts lately? Since when did Pop Century have a min. of a $200 a night charge? I would never pay $200 a night to stay at a value resort, especially that has no amenities and terrible food!! When are we going to say enough is enough? I think my family is finally saying enough is enough. We will put our money elsewhere to serve the economy better, not a greedy company who keeps giving less and less, but charging more and more for it. The magic of Disney is wearing off fast, and I hope others start to see that… then maybe changes may be able to be made. Disney has no way where the consumer can constructively give criticism. There is no way to voice the publics opinion. Since when did paying $4 for a bottle of water become right?

I am waking up!!

Reply
Feb 14, 2021 at 10:37 p.m. CGFNE Says...

Agreed! Our last encounter with Disney was a Disney cruise in Sept 2019. We had to cancel our 2020 Disneyland plans and just rebooked a stay at WDW for 2021. While I understand that things are different, restricted, and entertainment is curbed right now for the safety of all, I don't understand why Disney would charge for services that they do not have right now. We always stay in concierge level rooms at Disneyland, their cruises, etc. so I know what the prices usually are and the fluctuations through peaks seasons, etc. I would think since there are ZERO club level services right now that the prices for those rooms would reflect that, but they do not. Why would I pay for a service that I'm not receiving? I love Disney and would go just for the rides alone, but, not at the same price as pre-COVID, when you also had the ambience (which is really what made things magical), the wonderful Disney cast members (also part of the magic), and the rest of the magic (close encounters with characters, fireworks, the shows, etc.), with ALL of that gone, why pay the same price? If I'm only going for the rides then I expect the cost to be on par with other amusement parks that we used to frequent, Knotts, Six Flags, Universal, Sea World, and any other parks where the primary draw is the rides. I was always willing to pay more for the Disney "magic" factor, but once that's gone, what are we paying for? Again, I don't mind paying, but the pay should match the service and that is not the case right now. I see the business side of the coin, they want to stay open, keep the cast employed (some at least), help the economy, but this isn't the way to go, at least not for fans. I feel like for Disney fans, it's not worth the decrease in quality. It's like having to watch a pro-athlete come back to play too soon from an injury just to sell some tickets and gravely underperform. I'd rather just wait and shell out the bucks when they're back to 100%. I don't want the 50%, sub par, non-magical Disney, I don't want the disappointment of that after so many years of "the magic". I want the magic back just as much as the next Disney fan and I would pay handsomely for it, like I always have, but not like this. After literally growing up with Disney (minutes away from Disneyland), what they're putting out right now is sad. I'm disappointed but also sad for Disney. My daughters quinceanera event was planned at Disney for 2020 and we had to cancel it, that was disappointing, but I don't think I would have wanted her to have an experience any less magical than all of her previous Disney experiences, especially not on such a special day for her. My apologies for the long reply, but I can't wait for Disney to return to the Disney that we all know and love.

Reply
Jun 22, 2021 at 7:22 p.m. David Says...

This is going to sound like I work for Disney but I promise I don't. What I do understand is the world of hospitality as a former executive member at a high end country club for five years. The world and everything in it is SO tough right now and complaining about all of these things like waiting 20 minutes for a soda, which could happen with or without Covid, really goes to show your privilege. Every single restaurant, hotel, airline, etc. is dying for labor right now - it's just simply not there. Then once you hire, it's a rush to train and get them on the floor, ride, hotel, etc. It's NOT easy by any means. It's a process - especially for Disney as I'm sure their training is much more significant in order to keep that "magic" that you talk about. For example, did you know that Disney staff is trained to never point with one finger? It's always two or more. It's literally the smallest details that they train their staff for. The ones that are working are doing their very best, I am sure of it. So please just be considerate of the world around you and maybe think about how people are really trying, and Disney, who employs tens of thousands of people globally, if not hundreds of thousands, are trying their best to keep their doors open and provide the jobs that also help keep the economy going and people like YOU who are traveling and trying to enjoy your privileged life while they're trying to put food on the table for their families. That is all.

Reply
Jun 25, 2021 at 4:27 p.m. Lisa Says...

Very well said David!

Reply
Dec 7, 2020 at 1:38 a.m. Stephanie Embry Says...

Good to know information. Thanks!

Reply
Dec 7, 2020 at 1:38 a.m. S embry Says...

Good to know information...thanks!

Reply
Dec 2, 2020 at 8:56 p.m. Christie Madsen Says...

I'm looking forward to the 50th celebrations!

Reply
Dec 2, 2020 at 4:52 p.m. Amy Gardner Says...

Great information! Undercover Tourist is my go-to site for Disney planning!

Reply
Leave a comment
Name is required. Email is required. Please input a comment.
About Us
About Undercover Tourist

Undercover Tourist is the leading supplier of online discount tickets to Orlando, Florida-area attractions, including Walt Disney World Resorts®, Universal Orlando Resort™, SeaWorld® Orlando, LEGOLAND® Florida Resort and more.

Sign up for our newsletter!
Please enter your Name
Please enter your Email address

Contact:  1 (800) 846-1302 (USA)  |  
1 (386) 239-8624 (Worldwide)

Let's Plan a Better Family Vacation Sign up for Our Newsletter

Monthly news, planning tips and special deals

Please enter your Name
Please enter your Email address

Newsletter logo

Sign Up for Our Newsletter

monthly news, planning tips and special deals from the Frog Family

Please enter your Name Please enter your Email address
×

Thank you for joining our email list!

Joined email list logo

You should be receiving your first email soon!
Thanks for being a part of the family.

×
Create an account

Create An Account

In order to save your favorite items, you'll need to create an account. Already have one? Sign in.

An Undercover Tourist account allows you to:

Join The Frog Family
No, thanks. ×