Should I go to Universal Studios or Walt Disney World Now?

What are the parks like right now?

I wanted to take a few minutes to tell you about my two (2) trips to Florida recently.  A few weeks after Universal opened I went with a few other agents to see how things were going at Universal so I would have firsthand knowledge for my clients.  I did the same thing a few weeks ago when Disney World opened as well.  I was there for passholder preview and then for the opening of Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom. 

So what did I experience?  I experienced two places that are doing everything they can to make sure guests feel safe in returning to their happy place and have a great time.  Both parks are constantly cleaning.  I saw cast members at both Universal and Disney World along with the resorts cleaning many surfaces.  I believe the parks are cleaner now than they have been in years.  I felt very comfortable being there.  Universal has cast members that give everyone hand sanitizer before getting on the rides.  They also have hand sanitizer available when you get off as well.  Disney has hand sanitizer available at the entrance and exits of the rides and periodically they will shut the ride down and clean the vehicles and then start them back up.  The queues have markings on the floors so you know where to stand to help with social distancing.  They have barriers up in the lines as well if the queue is a little more compact.  For the shows they are seating every other row and they have at least 3 chairs between parties.  The restaurants have spaced tables so they are socially distanced as well.  Ride vehicles they are spacing you as well.  Both places will take your temperature before you head through security.

So what is it like to wear a mask?  I was at Universal mid June and at Disney World about a month later.  Universal did allow the use of gaiters which I found those to be pretty comfortable.  They have since changed their policy to follow along the lines of Disney and said that you must wear a mask.  July in Florida is pretty hot even without a mask.  So keep in mind that even without the mask, it is HOT.  I had a few days that I did better than others with a mask on even in the heat.  Animal Kingdom is a pretty hot park.  So if you plan on going to that park, go early and take a break and come back later.  I also wore a fan around my neck.  It worked better than I thought it would.  Yes it blew warm air but just having some air stirred up around my face was actually pretty nice and then when I would hit the air conditioner from the rides or the stores, it was super cool air circulating which cooled me off quicker.   Also know that I have hot flashes so that made things worse for me as well.  My 15 year old actually fared pretty well with his mask and no fan (his choice not to have his fan going).  I would suggest that you hit the rides going in a logical order in the parks and not walk from one side of the park to the other to hit up something with a low wait time.  This makes things a little more bearable if you are hitting ride after ride and then even walking into some of the stores to look around and cool off before going to the next ride. 

Both parks have relaxation zones where you can sit and take your mask off as well.  They are throughout the parks – they have a few in each one.  You can take your mask off to eat or drink but you are not allowed to be walking around eating and drinking without your mask on.  So be sure you have stopped when you eat and drink.

Disney World does have a small parade every 20 minutes or so.  It is usually one float with a few cast members that are dancing/cheering/singing.  They do the quick parades because it won’t draw a big crowd and you can still social distance and see your favorite characters.  They have these in all of the parks – princesses and characters come through at different times.  Universal actually has meet and greets still – they do them at a distance but they will talk to you and take pictures with you.  Universal even allows you to take your mask off to take pictures – at least they did when I was there in June.   So you will still be able to see the characters and take pictures.  Disney World does have 2 character meals – Garden Grill in Epcot and Topolinos at Riviera Resort.  We did the breakfast at Topolinos and it was really good!  Food was excellent and the characters were great.  They socially distanced but everyone of them made their way around the restaurant several times.  They would even stop so you could get a distanced selfie/picture with them as well.  I would HIGHLY recommend asking if you can sit by the windows there – that way you are on the outskirts of the restaurant and will get better pictures with the characters.  Garden Grill is set up really well for them to walk around and every table would have a great view. 

Both places require you to do mobile ordering for the quick service locations.  There might be a few that do not have mobile ordering but a good majority do.  Even the resorts at Disney want you to do the mobile ordering.  They have it ready for you and packaged up at the resorts for you to take to a table and eat in if you would like.  You can do the mobile ordering through the app.  In the parks at Universal they have you sit down and they bring the food to you.  At Disney the mobile app tells you your food is ready and they will allow you into the restaurant then to go pick up your food.

Transportation at both places encourage you to social distance.  Disney will assign you seats – they ask you how many in your party and tell you where to sit on the bus.  Neither park packs the buses so they have several buses going to pick up guests. 

Disney World is allowing guests into the parks about 30 minutes early to avoid crowds at park opening.  They do start the buses picking up guests at about 30 minutes prior to opening.  So they don’t run an hour early like they did in the past.  If you are on the monorail you might be riding the monorail around a few times if they think that Magic Kingdom is getting crowded at the gate before they let you off.  We did have that happen.  For the most part they are getting in the groove of things and tweaking things as they need to. 

If you are heading to Universal, be sure to get that virtual queue ride for Hagrids before you even enter the park.  Login to the app while you are in your room and grab your ride time.  Keep refreshing if you don’t get it right away.  You do not have to be in the parks to get one. 

For Rise of the Resistance in Hollywood Studios, you do have to be in the park to get the virtual queue for that ride. 

How are the crowds?  The crowds at Universal are a little more because it has been open a little longer but both parks are WELL BELOW normal capacity and both are being limited.  The crowds at Disney World when we were there were the lowest I have ever seen them.  If you have been to an After Hours party or a Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party from YEARS AGO, it is even lower than that.  I am talking wait times of 30 min or less for most every ride.  And the later you do in the day, the less the crowds seem to be too.  So take that break in the middle of the day when the heat starts to really increase and chill at the pool and head back later in the evening.  Would I go again?  Absolutely!  My all time favorite time to go to Disney is when the crowds are low.  I will be back again in late October myself.  Do I recommend you going?  Well that is going to have to be your decision.  I just hope that this gives you a little more information on how to make a well informed decision for your own family.  You have to be the one that is comfortable with going.  I, myself, was very comfortable and we have stayed healthy.  I am a germaphobe anyway so this was just natural for me, keeping my hands clean and being cautious as always.   If you want to chat with me about anything, please feel free to give me a call.  I would love to give you even more info on our trips. Contact me at Tabitha@pixievacations.com.