Are you considering a trip to Walt Disney World for your family? Are you concerned with the level of crowds for the 50th? Are you worried about COVID safety precautions in the parks? Maybe you are wondering, is there enough to do with so many shows and attractions still closed. Do you have questions about Genie+ or Lightning Lane access? My family and I just returned from a 6-day trip to Walt Disney World, and these are some of our experiences. I hope this article will answer a few of those questions and maybe help you feel better about planning your next trip.
First off, let me get a few things out of the way. 1) I am not a medical professional. If you are concerned for your health and safety, please talk to your doctor or consult the CDC website for more information about health and safety as a public place or event. 2) I am not a professional travel agent. I am a podcaster sharing my thoughts and personal experiences. I would recommend for statistics or questions about travel, contact TouringPlans.com or MouseFanTravel.com. Neither of these services is a sponsor of the show (I’d be glad to have them if they want 😉). Beth at Mouse Fan Travel provided me with excellent service, and I have been a paying subscriber to TouringPlans services since 2006.
With that out of the way, let’s talk about our trip to Walt Disney World from December 12-17, 2021.
Question 1: How did Walt Disney World look for the 50th?
Short answer: AMAZING! Cinderella’s Castle in Magic Kingdom was stunning. Disney’s Hollywood Studios at Christmastime gives me chills. Spaceship Earth and the entrance is Magical. And Disney’s Animal Kingdom is still the best immersive experience of all the parks. Oh, and the new fireworks shows are so fun and festive. I loved it all.
One caveat: the construction walls at Epcot did ruin it for me. That park has always been such a wide-open space with such great sightlines. With all those construction walls everywhere, it completely ruined that feature of the park. This is unfortunate because it often taints your first impression as you enter, and your last memory as you exit through them. I can’t wait for Disney to finish it though, because I’m sure it will look amazing.
Question 2: How were the crowds at Walt Disney World for the 50th?
Let me first say, my family is very fortunate and has been able to visit Walt Disney World in some of the quietest times (first week of September and the end of January). We have also been there at the busiest times too (days after Christmas). This definitely falls somewhere in between. The good part though was we got to do pretty much everything we wanted to do when we wanted to without too much of a hassle. There were a few times where the crowds were almost unbearable, things like the fireworks in Magic Kingdom (that’s a madhouse! those poor castmembers), or when attractions broke down like on Flight of Passage, or for the festival food stuff in Epcot drawing in all the locals each evening. But for the most part, we could move from attraction to attraction, make food purchases when we wanted, and not have to stake out a spot for a show or fireworks hours ahead.
To add a little perspective, TouringPlans.com, which tracks actual wait times in the parks, placed the crowd levels pretty much between 3-4 out of 10 all week long. For details on how that translates to rides, see their post: https://touringplans.com/walt-disney-world/crowd-levels
I have a theory of my own. Each of these parks was missing major people eaters. These are rides, shows, or parades that can hold thousands of people at a time. So it felt more crowded than it was because people were in the walkways or moving from attraction to attraction a lot more. I have a feeling, as more of these shows like Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular and the Magic Kingdom Daytime Parades return, the crowds in lines and walking around will go down… but that’s just my theory.
The bottom line, the crowds were not bad for a 50th celebration. Disney does a great job of managing it, and we look forward to returning again someday and maybe enjoying the more regular experience in Walt Disney World.
Question 3: What do you think of Genie+ and Lightning Lane?
I guess I need to first say, we did not use Lightning lane at all. And after spending minutes trying to set up Disney Genie on my phone, I could see it’s not ready for primetime and helping me plan my day. The folks at TouringPlans.com have an excellent app called Lines that uses statistical analysis to help you plan your day based on science and research, and they actually did some research on how those plans differed from Genie+, and who got to do more. https://touringplans.com/blog/genie-testing-genie-and-touringplans-head-to-head/
I will say though, it wasn’t always 100% perfect. There are a few times where the lines at bigger attractions tended to be closer to Disney’s predictions than those of TouringPlans. Maybe because they knew how many Lightning Lane folks were scheduled to come in, or hadn’t redeemed earlier because of technical problems. In general, Lightning Lane made things more difficult and created a feeling of frustration for those of us that couldn’t or didn’t want to shell out the extra hundreds of dollars each day per person just to gain that access. Still, TouringPlans got us through most of the crowds and helped us make the most of our time in the parks, for a small fraction of the cost.
So bottom line, I don’t like Genie+ for planning my trip. I’ll stick to TouringPlans for sure. And unless the crowds are insane, I’ll stick to a good plan from TouringPlans over the extra money for Lightning Lane access.
Question 4: How was dining in the parks?
This was our first time using the mobile ordering experience, and I will say this part of Disney Genie worked amazing. We only had 2 sit-down meals while in the parks, 1) our favorite Biergarten in Epcot’s Germany Pavilion, and 2) Boma in Animal Kingdom Lodge after a day in Disney’s Animal Kingdom. I was able to make reservations ahead of time for Biergarten, and while standing in line for Flight of Passage, I managed to get a reservation at Boma through the app. So that worked perfectly.
As for quick service, we loved the fact that we could stand in line, browse through the menu, put together our order, and schedule it for a time to pick up. The timing wasn’t always perfect for pickup, in Epcot we waited for 20 minutes to get notified our food was ready at The Regal Eagle, but for the most part, it worked as we hoped. We had no problems eating a little more healthily and not just grabbing something because we were starving, and it allowed us to plan a little better.
The bottom line here, we loved mobile ordering and will be glad to include that in all future trips for sure.
Question 5: Did you have enough to do in the parks?
I won’t lie, I did miss some of those still closed attractions. And the new changes to those shows that have re-opened kind of make you laugh a bit. But I never felt we didn’t have enough to do. In fact, in each park, there are things we didn’t get to do at all or as many times as we would have liked. And since there are new exciting attractions that are opening in the next few years, we will just have to plan another trip to the parks so we can catch those rides too. I did miss the streetmosphere characters and various artists who performed. I wish more Epcot World Showcase cast members were from their respective countries. But I was very glad for all that we were able to do and didn’t feel cheated.
Question 6: Did you feel safe from COVID or other diseases?
One short answer, YES! Disney doesn’t dance around this one at all. From the moment you buy your tickets and establish your travel plans, you are notified about Disney’s policy on masking and isolating if you don’t feel well. When you walk up to the parks, guests are reminded before entering the tapstile that you will need a mask to enter buildings inside the park. Then at each attraction or show, there are signs posted stating you must have a mask, and it must be properly worn over your nose and mouth. There is also a cast member stationed at those doorways reminding you to put it on. In fact, they watch you in the queue also, and will not hesitate to remind you to properly wear it and that they can remove you from the queue if you fail to comply.
The best part is, people did comply. I never saw an altercation with someone who refused. I don’t think I need more than one hand to count the number of times I saw someone without a mask inside a building/queue. Disney did an outstanding job of making sure I felt safe.
The bottom line again is my family spent 6 days in Walt Disney World as the Omicron Variant of COVID-19 was beginning to escalate, and we never got sick. I think that is a testament to the work the Cast Members and the company have put into safety protocols, and I am thankful to all of them for their diligence.
I hope this gives you an idea of our trip to Walt Disney World. Did I answer your question? Do you have one you’d like me to add? Place your question in the comment below and I’ll try to add it in this post also.
Oh and don’t forget, I will begin releasing audio from this trip very soon, so make sure you are subscribed to the podcast so you can listen along as we spend 6 days in Walt Disney World. Bye!