How Walt Disney World Parks® has evolved in 2021

Guest written by Felicia Troy, AAA Travel Advisor in Massachusetts.

My name is Felicia Troy, and I am a AAA Travel advisor, plus a Disney enthusiast! I visited Walt Disney World back in October 2020 to see how the travel landscape had changed. You can watch a video about my experience then, and refer to several articles regarding Disney dining, what to expect in Florida and other insider information about Disney during COVID-19.  

In February, I traveled again to Walt Disney World with a few other AAA Travel advisor colleagues so we could experience the magic personally to help sell the magic when our clients are ready to return. Below you can read about some of the changes that have occurred in the last four months.  


The first clear difference from October was the increased foot traffic. Part of this was choosing a popular weekend (Valentine’s/President’s Day) to travel. But it was also significantly busier as capacity had increased since the fall of 2020. But not to worry, it was NOT the shoulder-to-shoulder crowds of pre-COVID. In bottlenecked areas, it is best to be conscious and maintain social distancing. For example, Aloha Isle (Dole Whip stand) was very busy, so it took some effort to make sure we were properly spaced.  

AAA Northeast Travel advisors enjoying parks together.


The process of mobile ordering is still super easy. However, with this, my biggest tip is to plan out when you’re going to order. Due to the crowds, there were times when we were ready to eat but the next available pick-up time was not for another 30 minutes. If we had decided an hour earlier when to eat, we could have put through the order for that desired time and not had to wait. My suggestion is to order about an hour before your desired eating time (picking your pick-up window an hour later) so that you can get your food when you want. 

Sit Down Dining 

We ate at Be Our Guest in Magic Kingdom and Tiffin’s in Animal Kingdom. At both restaurants, our seating was adequately distanced from other tables. We felt that the food was excellent and COVID has not affected the quality of the food at all. At Be Our Guest, the Beast still came out and walked around. You could snap a picture of him but could not go up to him while he was walking about.  

Dining at The Swan was fabulous. The to-go café had awesome quick service options. You did not need a mobile order; you just walked up and chose what you wanted. It was perfect for breakfast, with sandwiches and pastries to choose from. We also enjoyed a buffet breakfast at The Dolphin. The buffet was served to us with plexiglass barriers covering all the food, so it was very safe.  

The Dolphin resort at Walt Disney World.

“The Disney app was easy and efficient to place mobile food orders. Selecting an arrival time helped us know when tables were available, so when we received our food, we could sit right away.”

AAA Travel Advisor, Wendy Marley


There seem to be more character opportunities than when I visited in October. Characters would randomly pop up in different places. For example, when in line for the Figment ride in Epcot, Joy from the hit movie “Insight Out” was playing on the lawn right next to us. At one point we were caught in the rain and experienced the ‘Rainy Day’ Parade. During this, Mickey, Minnie, and friends rolled through the Magic Kingdom with dancers in rain apparel. Super fun! 

Characters are still socially distanced, and you can only take pictures with them from 6 ft apart.  

In the fall, rides were seated by every other row for distancing purposes. However, rides are now mostly filled up. To do this, plexiglass dividers have been installed to help with the distancing. The Frozen ride has done this, but not all rides have those dividers.  

Lines are still strictly socially distanced and there are plexiglass dividers where necessary. Lines are still shorter than normal times. The longest time we waited was around 60 minutes for the popular rides like Flight of Passage and Splash Mountain. I can’t stress enough that lines look much worse than they are. For example, the Frozen ride stretched all the way through to the next country in Epcot and looked extremely daunting. However, the wait only ended up being about 45 minutes! 

Felicia Troy in front of the Festival of the Arts entrance in Epcot.


During our visit, the Festival of the Arts was also happening. The same booths and food opportunities were still available from pre-COVID. I did not feel like the Festival was changed at all, except for socially distanced lines when waiting.  

The food at the festival was incredible… so many amazing bites! There were many options available, everything from beef wellington, to risotto, to sushi and more. The festivals at Epcot are a MUST if you are a foodie. They also have some amazing drinks to complement the flavors.  

Epcot was at capacity when we were there, but there was still plenty of space to distance and not feel caught in a crowd.  

“I was impressed with all of the safety measures Disney has put into place. Starting with the strict enforcement of their mandatory mask policy, temperature checks, socially distanced markers at each ride, plexiglass barriers and hand sanitizer stations throughout.” 

AAA Travel Advisor, Wendy Marley
From left to right: Felicia Troy, Wendy Marley and Athena Mcgrath.

Park Hopping 

This is the first time I have park hopped since all the changes. Park hopping starts at 2 p.m. for all the parks. When you are looking do so, the first step is to call the park hopping number and confirm that the park you want is not at capacity. If so, you will need to choose another park. There are not reservations for park hopping so you are subject to the availability that day. Admittedly, this made it a little tricky to plan. However, on both days that we park hopped, all the parks were available. From the hearsay of other park goers, it is rare that you will not be able to hop to the park of your choice.  

The Swan 

LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION. It is truly a fabulous location right near the Boardwalk and Beach Club. You can take a boat ride right to Epcot and Hollywood Studios, or you can choose to walk to them. You have the amenities of the Boardwalk right next to you without paying the premium of staying at one of those resorts. They have buses running to Animal Kingdom and Magic Kingdom as well. Currently the Disney buses are not in use, but you will be dropped off with other off-site buses when going to those parks.  

There were a variety of pools open, with plenty of space to have your own area. The size of the pools was much larger than we even expected. I recommend this resort if this amenity appeals to you and your party. 

For sit-down breakfast at the Dolphin, we did not need a reservation. There are multiple dining options, and it was a nice relief to just walk up to a restaurant and get a table! 


When you are ready to embark on a Disney vacation, contact one of our own AAA Travel advisors to make the magic a reality.