Whether it’s your first or thirty-third time planning a trip to an Orlando-area theme park like Walt Disney World or Universal Orlando Resort, you may realize there’s a lot involved. For theme park pro Jenn Vernon, she’s been visiting the area for decades.
"My first trip to Disney was when I was about eight weeks old," says Vernon. “I don’t have memories from that trip, but my parents always took us once or twice a year, and now I do the same with my family. The best part is my parents join us now, so all three generations travel together, and we’ve made a lot of memories.”
GETTING ON THE ROAD TRIP TO FLORIDA
But getting to Florida is a challenge, even for a seasoned veteran like Vernon, who lives in the Philadelphia metro area.
“We always leave at 4 a.m. just to beat the D.C. and Virginia traffic, but there’s an added bonus of the kids normally falling asleep at that hour, so it’s a few hours of not hearing ‘Are we there yet?’” says Vernon.
Jenn Vernon and her family at Walt Disney World
Photo courtesy of Jenn Vernon
Other tips for traveling to Florida by car include making stops with multiple offerings (gas, food, restrooms) and making sure there are plenty of games for the kids to play on the way.
“We play Cash Cab, where my dad will play the theme song over the car radio, and my mom asks questions for the chance to win prizes. The questions are usually built around our trip, and we can win things like candy or lottery tickets.”
PLANNING YOUR TIME AT THE PARKS
Planning time at any Orlando theme park can be daunting. With so many rides and attractions, it can be hard to prioritize. Vernon makes sure the kids are involved in the planning process to ensure everyone is happy with the trip.
"We have the kids look at the park map and have them each give us their top two "must-dos," and we make sure those are the rides we definitely hit during our visit,” says Vernon. “I do my best to organize the list of attractions and determine the best route to experience the park, so we aren't doing a lot of backtracking."
Temperature checks are now a part of visiting Walt Disney World.
Photo courtesy Walt Disney World Resort.
But Vernon's dad may have developed the best method to get the kids involved in picking which rides make their top two "must-do" lists.
“My dad gets all the on the floor in a straight line in front of the TV and puts [a ride] on the screen. The kids put their hands up and pretend to ride the ride,” says Vernon. “If you’re not sure what rides your family might like, I’d recommend Googling them and watching them on TV or YouTube. It’s a great way to get the kids excited about their upcoming trip.”
WHAT’S DIFFERENT AT THE PARKS
According to Vernon, most Orlando-area theme parks are open and operating at a limited capacity in terms of the guest experience. Masks are required for guests ages two and up unless you're actively eating or drinking. However, there are areas designated where you can remove your masks for a short break.
Parks have also added additional cleaning measures, including the addition of hand sanitizing stations before and after rides. Social distancing markers have also been added throughout the parks.
Disney is frequently wiping down high-touch surfaces.
Photo courtesy Walt Disney World Resort.
At Walt Disney World, due to limited capacity, guests should book their theme park reservation immediately after purchasing tickets to guarantee you'll be able to plan the trip the way you want. Guests interested in visiting the new Star Wars Galaxy's Edge at Disney's Hollywood Studios are encouraged to make this reservation first due to the attraction's popularity.
For those seeking the popular character meals, the dining experiences are still available. However, the characters practice social distancing and work their camera angles to accomplish the important "selfie" photo.
Finally, while limited capacity at parks leads to shorter lines, there are fewer admissions per day than most guests may have been traditionally used to. While ride and attraction lines may still look the same as a result of social distancing measures, Vernon recommends booking your reservation as soon as possible if you want to secure your travel dates.