Some days we get to talk about the yummiest theme park treats or our favorite roller coasters. Today, we are uncovering a topic that makes everyone a little nervous — masks. Not the fun costume masks, but the face coverings to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Many theme parks and hotel properties require employees and all guests to wear face coverings to keep everyone safe during this period. Whether you currently wear the mask in your daily outings or will be gearing up to wear the masks on vacation, there’s still a lot to learn. Wearing a mask for a quick trip to the air-conditioned store is not quite the same as wearing a mask all day in heat and humidity and on rides. Hop along to learn some of the updated guidelines and tips for wearing masks at theme parks.
Hopfully, we answer any questions you have. We’ll discuss individual theme park rules for face coverings and help you navigate this new territory. We might even share a few tips to make this necessary step a little more fun. We have a toddler, Lily, and a niece with autism, so we had to turn over a few lily pads to find out what works best for them too. Plus, this situation is fluid, with theme parks making minor adjustments to their mask policies on an ongoing basis. We are continually updating what we learn here. Let's jump in!
Our Top Tips for Wearing Masks at the Theme Parks
Having to wear a mask is good news for keeping everyone safe, but we get it. In a perfect world, we wouldn't be wearing them to theme park or for any fun activity. They aren't going away anytime soon. Even once you get vaccinated, you'll still need to comply with the parks' face covering policies.
Disney CEO Bob Chapek says he expects mask rules to remain in place through 2021. However, Disney World's tight mask policy just got a little bit looser, allowing guests to temporarily remove the mask to take an outdoor photo (while stationary and maintaining appropriate physical distancing). So we see theme parks making small steps towards a return to normal. Do not try this at Disneyland though, as its mask rules do not allow for a mask's removal for photos.
Do your best to keep a sense of humor about the masks. Let's take a look on the bright side! Ladies can save money and effort by skipping lipstick and some makeup. The makeup makes your mask dirty quicker, so you might want to skip it. You can make faces at people who annoy you and they will have no idea (no eye rolling, though!). I think I will stick out my tongue for all of the photos and my wife will be none the wiser. You can save on sunscreen, but don't froget to apply sunscreen to the top half of your face or you'll have telltale mask lines! And you will never have to guess what year your vacation photos were taken. Ahh! This one is from 2020-2021! Remember that crazy time?
We are making history here, folks. And another positive: You can still scream in delight on thrill rides or shout "hello" to Mickey through your mask! So there's that.
Here’s all you need to know about wearing a face covering at the theme parks, along with some tips for finding the right mask for you. (Psst ... Some of these tips will also come in handy for other places, too, like if you are flying on a plane and must wear a mask during your flight.)
Which Theme Parks Require Masks?
We expect this to be a fluid subject as time goes on, especially since government rules on masks keep changing. In California, facial coverings are required in most settings outside the home by state order. Florida recommends (but does not require) face coverings for the general public, but the theme parks are maintaining strict guidelines.
As more parks open, the situation will continue to change and evolve. The bottom line is to check with each theme park before visiting to uncover the latest news on face coverings because park policies and laws can vary. Some parks, such as Universal, Disney World and SeaWorld require face coverings. Disney World updated their statement on facial coverings: "Acceptable face coverings must be worn over your nose and mouth at all times except in designated areas. If you are unable to do this, please reschedule your Walt Disney World visit to a later time."
LEGOLAND Florida, on the other hand, does not require face coverings when outside (although LEGOLAND does require guests 8 and up to wear them indoors). Legoland has a looser exception policy, stating face coverings should not be placed on people who have trouble breathing or on anyone who is unable to remove the face covering without assistance. A theme park’s mask policy might fit your family’s needs and even sway you to visit their park if your goals or family's needs are more aligned with their policy.
The theme parks in Florida are open before than the ones in California, so we we have more specific "deets" on those Orlando theme park policies. If you'll be visiting Southern California, here's a look at what to expect when the California theme parks reopen.
Mask Requirements in Florida
Here are the Disney World reopening requirements for face coverings:
- They must fit snugly but comfortably against the side of the face.
- Face coverings must be secured with ties or ear loops.
- Mask must be made with at least two layers of breathable material.
- Masks may be disposable or reusable.
- Masks must fully cover the nose and mouth and secure under the chin.
- Neck gaiters, open-chin triangle bandanas and face coverings containing valves, mesh material or holes of any kind are not acceptable.
- Face coverings must allow the guest to be hands-free.
- Face coverings required for age 2 and up.
- People who have received the COVID-19 vaccine are still required to wear a mask.
- Costume masks are not appropriate and all masks must be compliant with existing rules and dress code guidelines.
- Face coverings are not a substitute for social distancing.
- Keep an eye out for the high-energy squads that will keep guests compliant (we spotted them in bright yellow shirts at Disney Springs).
- You must keep the mask on during all rides (including water rides). If you remove your mask, your on-ride PhotoPass photos will be removed and you won't see them and neither will other guests in the photo. Don't ruin it for others!
- As of April 8, 2021, you can briefly remove your mask for outdoor photos, but you must be stationary and maintain physical distancing.
- If you arrive without a mask (or in a non-compliant face covering, such as a gaiter), you can purchase a $2 mask from a vending machine before you enter. Some stores also sell disposable masks.
- If you remove the mask for eating or drinking, you must be stationary (or seated at a restaurant with food and beverage) and physically distanced from others.
- Face coverings must be worn while standing, waiting or sitting in dining locations. When dining at a restaurant, continue to wear your mask unless you are actively eating or drinking.
- Do not eat in lines. An announcement reminds guests not to eat while waiting in queues.
- Signs in the theme parks indicate "Guests not properly wearing an approved mask will be asked to leave."
- Guests who cannot wear a facial covering are asked to reschedule their visits to a later time.
Here are the Universal Orlando reopening requirements for face coverings:
- Masks must cover the nose and mouth and be secured under the chin.
- Two-ply material is recommended.
- Mask must be secured with ear loops or secured around the head.
- The following are not allowed: face coverings with exhalation valves, masks that are not secured with ear loops or straps around the head, coverings with mesh or holes of any kind, veils and costume masks (per costume guidelines)
- A gaiter is considered an appropriate face covering as long as it covers your nose and mouth.
- Masks are required for ages 3 and up.
- Face covering are available for purchase in various sizes.
- You may remove the mask for eating and drinking while seated.
- Hop into Guest Relations if you have a disability that prevents you from wearing a mask.
- You can remove the mask once seated for water rides.
- You may briefly remove the mask to take a photo as long as you are adhering to social distancing guidelines and are at least 6 feet away from other guests, employees and characters.
- Signs in the parks and at entrances say, "Guests not properly wearing an approved face covering will be required to leave."
At Universal's Volcano Bay water park:
- You must wear a mask when going through security, entering the park, and when at restaurants and in gift shops.
- It is encouraged to wear a mask when walking around the water park.
- Remove the mask when swimming and on slides.
SeaWorld Orlando requires face coverings on guests ages 2 and up. The covering should cover the nose and mouth and must be secured under the chin. The mask must be secured with ear loops or around the head. Bring a backup mask for rides and in case your mask gets sweaty or wet. Unsecured masks, masks with exhalation valves, masks with mesh or holes of any kind and costume masks are not permitted. If you froget a mask, we noticed an employee was handing out free disposable masks before you entered the temperature screening tent.
LEGOLAND Florida requires guests ages 8 and up to put on a face covering when inside buildings and attractions.
Mask Requirements in California
All theme parks in California (including LEGOLAND) require masks per state law. California generally has more stringent rules than Florida. Most theme parks have not fully reopened (although a few have reopened without rides). Each park (and zoo/aquarium) offers its own rules for face coverings on its website.
The San Diego Zoo and Safari Park reopened June 20. Both require cloth facial coverings for guests 2 and up at all times except when seated at a restaurant for eating and drinking. No holes or vents allowed.
At the Disneyland Resort, including Downtown Disney, all guests and employees must wear face coverings. The facial coverings must cover the nose and mouth and fit snugly against the sides of the face. The breathable covering must be secured with ties or ear loops and allow the wearer to remain hands-free. Be aware that gaiter-syle coverings, open-chin triangle bandanas, and face coverings containing valves, mesh material or holes of any kind are not allowed. People who have received the COVID-19 vaccine are still required to wear a mask.
Guests may remove masks to eat or drink when physically distant and stationary. When dining at a table-service restaurant, continue to wear your mask while ordering and wait until you receive beverage or food and are actively eating or drinking to remove it. Face coverings must be worn while standing, waiting or sitting in dining locations.
Guests may not remove the mask for photos. As a cast member reminded us, "Make sure we can see only your smiling eyes in photos!" Pick up fun Disney masks at shops. New styles pop up all the time! If you froget a mask, you can purchase an inexpensive disposable mask from a vending machine outside of security.
At SeaWorld San Diego, the park has reopened as a zoo and aquarium with animal exhibits and shows. Guests ages 2 and up must wear face coverings. The covering should cover the nose and mouth, and must be secured under the chin. The mask must be secured with ear loops or around the head. Bring a backup mask in case your mask gets sweaty or wet. You may not wear unsecured masks, masks with exhalation valves, masks with mesh or holes of any kind, or costume masks. Hop into the gift shops for cute themed SeaWorld masks.
At Universal Studios Hollywood, CityWalk is open. Guests 2 and up must wear facial coverings that cover the nose and mouth. No exhalation valves are permitted. People with disabilities can talk to Guest Relations about alternative accommodations, such as a face shield. The face shield will not be permitted on certain attractions once the park reopens.
At LEGOLAND California, the hotels, aquarium and areas of the park have reopened. Guests ages 2 and up must wear facial coverings that cover the nose and mouth and is secured to the head. Masks with mesh, holes or exhalation valves are not allowed. LEGOLAND does make exceptions for parties who are deaf and have medical issues that prevent them from wearing a mask. The LEGOLAND California site states, "All guests will be required to wear a face covering unless they produce a note from a physician or qualified health care provider that they have medical or mental health condition or developmental disability that prevents them from wearing a face covering. Those exempted from the requirement will be asked to remain at least six feet away from guests not in their party and to wear wristbands while in the Resort so that LEGOLAND personnel know not to ask them to re-apply face coverings."
A note from a medical professional is not required for persons who are hearing impaired, or communicating with a person who is hearing impaired, where the ability to see the mouth is essential for communication.
Wearing Masks on Rides
We can't have masks flying all over the place, so we make sure our masks are secured and ready for roller coasters and water rides. Having a tight fit or an option of a mask that ties behind the head seems like a frogtastic plan. Bobby pins or clips can help secure a mask.
If you lose your mask on a ride, you'll have to hop into the nearest shop to buy a new mask. We've already seen a mask fly off someone's face on Hagrid's! On that note, it probably doesn't hurt to bring a few backups. (You may also want an extra if you're caught in a thunderstorm or just want to switch it out with a fresh mask midday.) At Universal and SeaWorld, you may remove your mask once seated for water rides. However, it's important to stow it well so you do not lose it during the ride. Bring a plastic bag to keep it dry.
Where Can I Take off My Mask?
All of the theme parks that require face coverings allow guests to remove them for actively eating and drinking and while sitting at dining tables with food and beverage. The masks are required for dry activities at certain hotels and theme parks, but you can remove them when swimming. Disney World, Universal and SeaWorld all have mask-free relaxation zones in each theme park.
Look for U-Rest Area Signs at Universal. At Islands of Adventure, the U-Rest Area is in front of the park and at the former Sinbad's Theater. At Universal Studios Florida, take a breather in the Central Park area and Fear Factor Theater. Guests can take a break and get a breath of fresh air in these zones. You can stay with your party and remember to stay at least six feet away from other guests. Seating is available and there is no time limit.
At SeaWorld Orlando, there are three relaxation areas by Wild Arctic, the Sea Lion & Otter Theater and across from Shark Encounter.
The mask relaxation areas at all parks are great for catching your breath and cooling off. Definitely take advantage of them and use them as an opportunity to stay hydrated.
Tips for Using Masks
Based on our recent outings, we've compiled some tips to make your jump back to the theme parks while wearing a mask as easy as possible:
- Try a variety of styles to find the best fit for you.
- Consider mask accessories such as ear savers, mask cord adjusters, headbands or hats with buttons sewn on to take pressure off the ears and get the best fit.
- Have fun with the mask by choosing a fabric or style that is in theme with your favorite character or series.
- Plan outfits or other wearable accessories that go with your mask.
- Consider whether your mask is secure enough to stay put on a roller coaster. (Our ear loop masks did not hold up to the task, unfortunately, but we're on a mission to find what works best!)
- Cover your mouth and nose with the mask.
- Make sure there are no gaps between your face and the mask.
- Avoid touching the mask while using it.
- Replace a damp mask.
- Remove mask using the straps and from behind.
- Properly dispose of a used disposable mask.
- Bring backup masks on your trip and to the parks.
- Guests who wear glasses (and sunglasses) may have extra concerns about getting that perfect fit so the glasses do not fog up upon exhaling.
- Use a mask with a nose bridge that fits over the nose.
- Get a good seal over the nose to avoid fogging up glasses.
- Place your glasses over the top of the mask.
- If you still have issues with fogging, try sports or medical tape to seal the top of the mask to your nose and cheeks. Test this at home before using at the theme parks.
- Check with your optometrist before using any anti-fog products, soaps or shaving cream to make sure they will not damage protective coatings on the lenses and void any warranty. Some optometrists sell a glasses-safe spray to prevent fogging.
- Bring a resealable bag to keep your mask dry on water rides or store your mask for washing.
- Remember that wearing a mask is not a substitute for social distancing.
- Chew some gum to keep your breath fresh.
- Slip straws under the mask to drink when you cannot locate a safe area to remove the mask to drink.
- Take joy in getting to remove the mask at the end of your day! Ahhh!
- Take extra time in your skin care routine to prevent breakouts from masks. Wash your face before and after wearing a mask, and use moisturizer.
Tips for Children and Masks
If you plan to visit Disney World or Universal, your tadpoles will need to be masked. You might be able to understand why you need to wear the mask at this time, but your small tadpole might need some help with this concept. (OK, a lot of help in some cases!) Try your best to make it fun and positive (and keep your real opinions to yourself if you are not a fan). Model positive mask attitudes and your tadpole will hopfully get on board with it.
Our toddler, Lily, really struggled with wearing a face covering at first. But she agreed to wear a mask if it had Minnie Mouse on it. She helped pick out some Disney masks and practiced playing in them at home. Now that she understands that the mask allows her to go to theme parks to have fun, she's on board. It's not always easy to manage kids and masks, but we know to take frequent mask breaks in appropriate areas to drink or have snacks. That makes it easier to keep the mask on when we need to.
Here are a few tips for getting your children to wear masks:
- Try different fabrics and styles (ear loop vs elastic bands or ties that go behind the head).
- Use kid-size masks for tadpoles.
- Consider kid-size mask accessories such as ear savers, mask cord adjusters, headbands or hats with buttons sewn on them to take pressure off the ears and get the best fit.
- Got ears? Here's a hopful hack. If the ear loops begin to bother you or your tadpole, loop them around an ear headband to take pressure off your own ears.
- Practice wearing masks at home.
- Find fun fabrics that display favorite characters.
- Make a story about wearing the mask.
- Make the mask part of a game of pretend, such as a secret identity.
- Get your tadpole's doll or stuffed animal a matching mask.
- Help your tadpole teach their doll or animal why it's important to wear the mask.
- Choose a breathable material.
- Consider the weather when choosing the mask.
- Have back-ups in case you lose the mask or get it dirty.
- Teach children to dispose of the mask safely when using a disposable mask, or where to put a reusable mask for safekeeping until it can be washed.
- Keep a close eye on your kids and utilize frequent snacks and water breaks to allow them a moment to breathe freely.
If you are not able to make your own masks, you can find many toadally cute masks online. You can purchase fun, themed masks in the parks. But definitely arrive with your own or you won't make it through security at most parks. Plus, you may want to match your outfit to the mask! It makes wearing a face covering so much more bearable if you look good.
What About Special Needs?
We’re seeing a lot of questions about tadpoles with special needs and masks. We do not yet have all the answers, but we know that exceptions can vary per park and new guidelines pop up all the time. Contact the parks and hotels you plan to visit to get specific answers to your questions.
If someone in your party has a disability or medical problem that prevents them from wearing a mask all day, you can request accommodations at Universal. You must arrive in a face covering and bring a face shield with you. Hop into Guest Services or Guest Relations. With accommodation, you may wear a face shield, although shields are not permitted on certain attractions. You would have to switch into a face covering to ride. Guests who receive accommodations will receive a wristband at Universal. Face shields must cover the nose and mouth, wrap around the sides of the face and extend to below the chin.
Disney World requires that all guests 2 and up wear a face covering. There is no accommodation for people who cannot wear masks. Guests who cannot wear a mask are asked to reschedule their trip for a later time.
Masks are required for ages 2 and up and all California theme parks once they reopen. At LEGOLAND California, exceptions are made for people who are deaf or hard of hearing, and companions who are communicating with them. No note is required.
If you have a disability that prevents you from wearing a face covering and have questions about the policies and how they may impact you or those in your party, please contact LEGOLAND Guest Services prior to your visit. You must bring a note from a physician or qualified health care provider stating that the party member has medical or mental health condition or developmental disability that prevents them from wearing a face covering. Those exempted from the requirement must remain at least six feet away from guests not in their party and wear wristbands while in the resort so that LEGOLAND personnel know not to ask them to re-apply face coverings.
At the San Diego Zoo, talk to an employee at the screening tent if a member of your party cannot wear a mask. People with a disability may wear a face shield with a cloth drape at the bottom instead.
Part of planning a vacation in an uncertain time means recognizing that we may have to make hard choices during this period. If someone in your party has breathing issues without the mask, is immunocompromised or in a high-risk group for complications related to COVID-19, it may not be the right time to hop to the theme parks just yet.
If you or someone in your party is hearing impaired and reads lips, you can find masks that have clear panels so the mouth is visible. At Disney, the face covering may have an integrated transparent plastic panel to aid in viewing the wearer's mouth. The face covering must be made of fabric with a solid plastic panel that contains no openings. The panel must be attached to the fabric on all sides using tight-knit stitching. The covering must meet all other face covering requirements.
Wearing a Mask with Sensory Issues
In terms of autism or sensory issues, the best way to prepare for wearing a mask is to model that behavior, explain that it is a rule, take baby steps and practice, practice, practice. Be sure to find the most comfortable mask for the individual. Each person is different. But many people with ASD like to know the plan and what to expect. In this case, you'll need to make the unfamiliar — wearing a mask — a more familiar and expected part of the routine.
Look for a mask with a preferred character on it. If you cannot make one, you can find a large selection online. Choose a mask made from a soft, comfortable fabric. Try a jersey knit (T-shirt) material (even if you are choosing a different material for other family members). A mask that ties in the back may be more comfortable than one with elastic ear loops. Use mask accessories that take the pressure off ears, such as ear savers or a soft headband or hat with buttons sewn on it to wrap the ear loops around.
You may need to start with just holding the mask and slowly work up to wearing it for short periods of time. It can help to wear the mask while distracted with a fun activity.
Make a mask-wearing social story. You can even find some free examples online to explain that we need to wear a mask when we go places because of COVID-19. Basically, your social story can cover these points:
- People in our family and community are wearing masks.
- My mask keeps me safe.
- My mask keeps you safe.
- Your mask keeps me safe.
- There are many different masks.
- We can buy a mask or make our own.
- We can decorate the mask.
- It's important to wash our hands before putting on the mask and when we remove it.
- The mask covers our nose, mouth and chin.
- The mask might not feel comfortable at first.
- With practice, we can get used to the mask.
- We can wash the fabric mask.
- We can throw away a disposable mask.
- Next time, we can wear a new mask.
- Wearing a mask keeps everyone safe.
If you are anything like us frogs, you are hopping excited to visit the theme parks. Do you have any other questions about our tips for wearing masks in theme parks? Please let us know in the comments section below. Don't froget, your favorite froggy friends can help you get a jump on saving money on discount theme park tickets and hotels in Orlando, Los Angeles, San Diego areas (plus many more!).