Thursday, March 11, 2021

Disney Trip 2021: How Things Have Changed There this Year

Our trip to Disney this year was a last minute decision. 
We are part of the Disney Vacation Club, which for those of you who don't know, is a point system Time-Share through Disney that you can use not just in Disney, but with places all over the world that partner with them. You are allotted X amount of points a year depending on what you purchase. We had a trip planned for 2020 to Hawaii....but when COVID happened, that was put on hold. We accidently forgot to bank our points and we ended up losing a lot of them! We begged Disney to give them back to us and after quite a few phone calls and waiting on hold a bunch of times through the unknown Corona days, they finally allowed us to use them before March 2021. So we picked Feb and decided, we're doing it!! With not knowing what states would be open, Disney World in Florida seemed like the best bet.

Yes, we were still unsure what it would be like, how safe we would feel or how things have changed. It was the first vacation we have had in a long time so we were happy to just go someplace together outside of the house and hope for the best. 

This time we stayed at the Beach Club Resort for the 2nd time in our Disney trip history. We love this location because of the beautiful sand bottom pools, waterslides, lazy river and it's walking distance to Epcot. It is also just a boat ride to Hollywood Studios. 
Currently, the water parks are closed. But all the rest of the parks are open. 
We went to Epcot on Monday since it was the last day of the Arts Festival and I did not want to miss all of the tasty food and drinks. Epcot has some construction going on but we were pleasantly surprised that the lines weren't long and the park was pretty empty! I myself, enjoyed this park the most. We walked around the world and ate and drank using our "food passport" to check off things we had tried. We rode Frozen (Which was a mistake to bring Maxwell on first because after that, he was scared of every single ride, including the bus lol). We also did my favorite ride, Soarin! Because we stayed at the Beach Club Resort, we could walk over to Epcot at night and sneak in some rides. Scarlett and I did this one night and had a fun little girls evening, grabbing crepes in France and then running to Soarin' to ride a couple times. 

Tuesday we did Magic Kingdom which surprisingly, the kids were not about this year. It was definitely busier and the wait times got pretty long.  I guess this is because we are used to Fast Passes which they currently are not doing. This is when I started to miss the Fast Passes. We did a few things there, Dumbo, It's a Small World, which Vera LOVED,  and a few other rides. The Mine Train was just too long of a wait. We ate at Be Our Guest (Beast's Castle)  again for the 2nd time as well. I will say this experience is very cool! Last time we got to meet Beast in person in the Library. This time, we did not. Apparently he had to social distance. But he did make an appearance very 15-20 minutes walking across the dining room.  Make note that I think this restaurant is very overpriced for what it is. Yes, they do some cool paint your own desserts, have the "Grey stuff" (it's delicious!) and it's all about the experience, but I would say one experience here is enough. Expect to shell out some moula if you eat here. I didn't think the food was super impressive this time around. Either way, the kids loved it. We ended up leaving the park around 3pm because the kids wanted to go back and swim! Ha! 

Animal Kingdom was on Wednesday and the kids LOVED this park the most this year. I would say it was my other favorite as well. Lots of things to do including the kids collecting badges in all of the areas of the park. Shows and rides were still going on and we enjoyed ourselves thoroughly. Also, drinks are served here and if you want some good ones, go to the Nomad's Lounge near Tiffins Restaurant. They have the BEST to-go drinks that not many people knew about so while everyone was getting overpriced beers and watered down drinks at the other stops, Ty and I got some really well-made cocktails from here. He was excited about their delicious whiskey cocktail. Also, eat at Yak & Yetti! It's inexpensive and very good. Get the fried won-tons for dessert!! 

The wait times in Animal Kingdom were not bad at all and we actually ended up going here a second day because the kids enjoyed it so much. My kids love animals so if your kids do as well, this is the place to be! 

Thursday we met my mother at Hollywood Studios. We rode the boat over from our resort. One thing I regret....we didn't get up early enough to get there before opening. If you do, you can get in 30 min early and get on most of the rides with no wait. It's a little secret that they do open the park a bit early. We hadn't been here since they did renovations. Star Wars and the new Toy Story Land are now there. Although there were some fun things, I am not a huge Star Wars fan so it wasn't super enthralling to me. Ty and I did experience the blue and green milk from the Milk Stand and we went on a few rides. However, the wait times were REALLY long and the park was packed by 12. I'd say this one is more suited for adults and teens. Most of the kid shows were not happening. The Sci-Fi Drive-in Diner is always one of our favorite experiences there for dining. We headed back early this day as well to do the pool again. If you want to do the new Star Wars ride here, it is the only ride that you need to do a digital queue for, day of.  

On Friday we did a pool/relax day and did Epcot again in the evening. Saturday we finished up our trip with Animal Kingdom again. We didn't even go to Disney Springs this year. There are some good shops and restaurants there. 

So my thoughts on this trip and for those planning soon....

Overall, I felt very safe at the parks. They were strict with the mask policies for anyone 2 or older and they did a good job of keeping people spaced apart when standing in lines. I probably wouldn't bring my 2 year old as I feel like that might be challenging to keep them masked up. The lines always looked super long but it is because they had everyone in line all spaced 6 feet apart. The lines went really fast. Lots of new barriers were put up. Plastic dividers between all seats in multiple party rides that had lots of people in them- like boats, safari trucks etc. They also put plastic barriers up on inside waiting lines. 
I was impressed by what measures had been put in place. 
The changes were: no Fast Passes, no character meet and greets (instead they did these little convoy parades periodically with characters driving around) and quite a few restaurants were closed. I will say that I do miss all of those things. But we still had plenty of fun and many eating options. There are also currently no dining plans. Which after going this time, we realized that dining plans are really not worth it anyway. For the restaurants, all of the quick services are now order on the app and then pick up. Which I liked better because then you could pick up your food and not have a wait in line at all. Then grab a table and eat outside wherever you wanted. I love this new feature. Make sure to download the "My Disney Experience" app. It's such a huge help when at the parks and I also use the desktop website when planning my trip. 

The biggest thing that I was bummed about was the missing "magic".  What do I mean by that? In Epcot, they used to have people from all over the World working there. Norway, France, Mexico, Germany, UK etc....when Covid happened, they were all sent home. So going around the world in Epcot was different. Also, the staff didn't seem as friendly. In past times, everyone would call Scarlett "Princess" or if they saw you were celebrating an occasion, they would give you pins to be aware of this and to not one opportunity was missed to say "Happy Birthday" or "Happy Anniversary" as you passed. This "magic" was gone. No one was as friendly as past trips. I imagine Disney, just like the rest of us, went through some very stressful times during this past year. I cannot imagine how much it took to make some of the quick changes they had to make. Not to mention, all the layoffs and then rehiring. Despite that, we really did have a good time. 

If you are going to Disney soon, I would say to be prepared. Disney is one of those places that you are on the go nonstop. It's better enjoyed when you are prepared and have a plan for the week. Meaning, pick the days you will go to each park, how you will get there and what rides and restaurants you want to eat at. Currently, you need to reserve what park you will go to on which day. They do offer Hopper Passes but they are currently not worth it in my opinion. You can only swap parks after 12 and only if there is available capacity in the park. That is a big chance during busy times. 
Make reservations for restaurants ahead of time. No need to for Quick Services. Just use the app to order for those. Get to the parks early to ride on the rides with less wait time. Go during a time that isn't "Spring Break" or a "busy time. Google can help you with that.  Get food/snacks and waters delivered to the hotel/resort so that you don't have to buy the $5 bottle of waters and can do quick breakfasts in the room before you head out. Research what transportation you will take to get to what parks from your resort. Bring strollers for the little ones of course (gate check on the plane) and make sure to have a "relax day". You need one with all of the busy that Disney is. You certainly don't have to take a whole week like we do. You could do a couple parks over a long weekend. Again, just be prepared for them. You can also stay off of Disney property but then remember you do have to plan your transportation to the parks and to and from airport. We like the free Disney transportation. We really did have a good time despite the few things we missed.

If you want more tips, just search "Disney" in the search bar over on the left of my blog. I've done a few and had my sister who is a prior Disney Planner, do a post. overload coming up!!! But I don't want to forget these memories. 

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