This has been an astonishing week across the United States and around the globe as the reality of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) has finally begun to sink in. Disney announced late this week that the theme parks at both Walt Disney World Resort in Florida as well as Disneyland Resort in California would close through the end of March.
If you’re like me, and you probably are since you’re reading this blog, you probably have a trip planned to Walt Disney World in the near future. So Disney World is closed, now what? Do you wait and see, reschedule, cancel…cry? In this post, I’ll cover what Disney has to say, what I am doing about my upcoming trips, and where we go from here.
DISNEY WORLD IS CLOSED
Well, here’s what we know so far, everything is changing. Every time you turn around, there seems to be more information, restrictions, cancellations, and things to worry about being shared across social media. Hopefully, I can put your mind at ease, at least where your Walt Disney World vacation is concerned.
Let’s begin here…Disney is a strong, reputable company that has been around over 100 years. It is resilient, and I have no doubt, will bounce back from this situation, better than ever. The Disney Company cares about the health and safety of its employees as well as its guests, so I am sure that the decision to close its theme parks didn’t come easily. However, top officials knew that it was the right thing to do given the severity of the situation. Disney’s unprecedented decision to continue to pay its theme park employees during this time, should hopefully give you some reassurance that they will take care of you and your vacation plans, too.
WHAT DISNEY HAS TO SAY
For now, if you have a trip that does not begin within the next 3 days, please wait to call Disney. The phone lines and cast members are currently overwhelmed helping guests that were scheduled to travel during the closure. If you can wait patiently to call closer to your travel date, you will help everyone out. Remember you can access the Disney website 24 hours a day, and many modifications and cancellations can be made there without calling. If your travel dates are within the 3 day window, please call (407) 939-5277 for help, and be prepared to wait on hold for several hours.
In the meantime, if you have a question, here are some common ones that cast members have been receiving, and the official answers from Disney:
May I get a refund on my ticket?
Unexpired multi-day theme park tickets with unused days, or date-specific theme park tickets with a start date on or before March 31, 2020 will automatically be extended to use any date through December 15, 2020. If you are unable to visit by December 15, 2020 you may apply the value of a wholly unused ticket toward the purchase of a ticket for a future date.
What about special event tickets?
Guests who have purchased tickets for Disney After Hours, Disney Villains After Hours and Disney Early Morning Magic from March 16, 2020 through March 31, 2020 will be automatically refunded.
How does the closure impact Walt Disney World annual passes?
All Walt Disney World Annual Passes will be extended by the number of days the parks are closed.
I have a future stay at a Disney Resort hotel while the park is closed. What does that mean for my vacation?
Guests who have not checked in for stays between March 16, 2020 through March 31, 2020 may modify or cancel their Disney Resort room reservation or Walt Disney Travel Company package up to their original check-in date. If no action is taken, Disney will automatically process a refund to the original form of payment within seven days of the original check-in date. If you did not book through Disney directly, please contact your travel professional.
What if I want to cancel a Disney Resort hotel reservation after the parks reopen?
Disney will waive all Disney imposed change and cancellation fees up to the date of check-in through June 30, 2020.
DINING & OTHER EXPERIENCES
I have a pre-paid dining reservation or experience reservation like Droid Depot or Savi’s Workshop while the parks are closed. Will I receive a refund?
Yes. All pre-paid dining and experience reservations will be automatically refunded if scheduled between March 16, 2020 through March 31, 2020.
What happens to dining reservations that required a credit card at the time of booking?
Reservations made at locations impacted by the closure will not be charged a cancellation or no-show fee.
What happens to FastPass+ reservations made during the closure?
All Fastpass+ reservations during this time period will be automatically cancelled without replacement.
WHAT I AM DOING ABOUT MY UPCOMING TRIPS
So if you’ve read this far, I am guessing you have a trip planned to Walt Disney World too. I understand this is extremely disappointing, and my heart goes out to you and your family. Hopefully, you’re planning to reschedule for a future date, and if so the silver lining might be that one of the new attractions you were going to just miss like Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure, TRON Lightcycle Run, or Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind will be open by your new travel dates!
I have a few trips scheduled for the remainder of this year, and I am trying to adjust them one at a time. I have a slightly different approach for each that I will share with you, in hopes that this information will help if you are on the fence as to what to do next.
My next trip is a short three night onsite stay near the end of April. I really want to go on this trip, as I am sure you feel about your trip too. It’s been a long cold winter here in Colorado, and I haven’t been to Florida since December. I was looking forward to some sun, flowers, palm trees, and Mickey Mouse to celebrate my birthday. Realistically, it’s looking more and more like I will need to cancel this vacation. The Disney parks in China and Japan have been closed almost eight weeks now, and have not yet reopened. If our situation here in the US tracks similarly, we could be looking at a closure through mid-May, at a minimum.
I have airline tickets on Frontier for this trip. While I love flying Frontier for its cheap rates, it is definitely no frills, and often has hefty change and cancellation fees. Because of COVID-19, they are allowing passengers to change or cancel flights during my travel dates with no penalties and giving a credit that must be booked within 90 days and flown on by November 2020. So as long as I reschedule and use the credit by November of this year, I’m not out any money.
I have an annual pass, so I am not worried about tickets for this visit.
I have a reservation at Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort in a pirate room. I booked this room with an unbelievably good bounce back offer, so it might be hard to get that rate again in the future.
It’s a gamble, and I am normally a risk-averse person, but I am not cancelling or rescheduling yet. I was able to make arrangements for my kids in case I get stuck in Florida, or have to be quarantined when I arrive home, since they aren’t traveling with me on this visit. I have no risk of money loss on my admission ticket or hotel, and Frontier will give me a credit on my flight, so I think its worth the gamble. This is normally how I roll with trips scheduled during hurricane season. Last year for one of my visits, I didn’t know until just a few hours before take off, if the Orlando airport would reopen and if I would be able to fly out. So for this visit, I am going to be cautiously optimistic, hoping that something turns around, and that I will be able to travel, but understanding that the odds aren’t great.
My next trip is much more complicated. It is scheduled for early summer with the entire family, and whenever there are more people involved, it always get exponentially more complex.
Again I have cheap, no frills tickets on Frontier. I am currently outside the 60 day window, so I could cancel my flights now for a full credit for future travel. Same rules apply, I would need to book within 90 days and use by November of this year.
While I have an annual pass, my kids don’t. I purchased each of them 7-day, 1 park each day tickets that are non-refundable which cost me over $1000. If I have to cancel this trip, it is likely that they will not be able to travel with me for a full week until summer 2021.
For this trip, our plan was to stay offsite at a Magical Vacation Homes rental in the Reunion Resort. I love to do this when traveling with my kids. We usually stay at a huge vacation home with multiple bedrooms and bathrooms, its own private pool and hot tub, game room, pool table, theatre room, and more, for less money per night than a one bedroom villa at a deluxe Walt Disney World resort hotel or a family suite at Art of Animation. The only thing with this type of rental, is that their policies aren’t as flexible as staying at a Disney resort hotel so there is a risk of money loss if we need to cancel or reschedule.
Because we were planning to stay offsite, we had a car rental booked for this visit. There is no risk of money loss with this since I booked without paying in advance.
Even though this trip is further out, I have already had to make some difficult decisions and modifications. Hopefully, Walt Disney World will be back up and running sooner rather than later, but it’s impossible to predict exactly when with any degree of accuracy at this point. I am optimistic that my kids and I will still be able to go this summer, so I don’t want to cancel until the very last moment unless I have to, similar to my plan for my spring trip. However, I want to minimize the amount of money I could be out, if a last minute cancellation does need to occur. So even though it was difficult, I let my kids in on what is going on with the vacation plans, telling them I had made some adjustments for now, but that there is a chance that we might have to postpone until summer 2021.
For the flights, I am just going to wait and see what happens. Even though I could cancel now and receive a full credit with no cancellation fee, I am going to take the gamble that if I need to cancel closer to my travel date, Frontier will still have in place their special cancellation fee waivers due to COVID-19. For the park admission tickets for my kids, if Walt Disney World is closed, the same rules will probably apply to my tickets allowing me to use them through December 15, 2020. Even if I can’t reschedule before that date, I will be able to apply that $1000 I spent on the tickets towards new ones to use next summer if I need to move my trip to 2021. The car rental was also an easy decision, I just went ahead and cancelled it this weekend, for no cost.
The most difficult decision was cancelling the vacation home. It cost me a non-refundable 20% deposit (ouch!), but if I don’t cancel now, the amount of money that I could lose just continues to go up from here. Magical Vacation Homes does not allow rescheduling and they do not refund money under any circumstances which is all clearly spelled out in the rental agreement that you sign at the time of booking. Their company is not making an exception due to the Coronavirus. I decided rather than taking the chance on losing the full amount of the rental if I had to cancel closer the to trip dates, I would rather have the flexibility that Disney offers. So after cancelling the vacation home, I rebooked onsite at a Walt Disney World resort hotel for my summer vacation with my kids. Although it is a little more expensive and a lot less space, it gives me the peace of mind that I need knowing that I won’t lose money and that Disney will work with me to modify or cancel my reservation if necessary.
LATE SUMMER AND BEYOND TRIPS
For my trips in July and beyond, I am going to continue to take them one day at a time. I would hope that by mid summer we as a country and as a world are in a much better place both health-wise and economically. I imagine it will take some time to recover, but as things start to calm down and begin looking up, I would expect the parks to reopen and crowds to slowly pick up as people become more comfortable traveling again.
WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE
In the meantime, while we wait for things to get back to normal, I will continue to share Walt Disney World information here. You can still expect to see several posts a week, updating you on the latest news and filling you in on all of the fun things coming up at the most magical place on earth for the rest of the year and beyond!
Please stay safe and well, and I will see you in the parks real soon!
Heading to Disney World?
If you are planning a vacation to Disney World, be sure to check out these valuable resources to help you save time and money:
- Check out my book UPDATED FOR 2020 501 Ways to Make the Most of Your Walt Disney World Vacation for secret insider tips and tricks that you won’t find anywhere else!
- View the latest Disney World discounts currently available!