I am so excited to finally have a trip report to do! Even though I do live in FL and can drive to the theme parks this is still a trip since we did stay in one of the resorts and spent 2 days playing in the parks.
I will admit I have put off visiting the parks mainly because for me it was just too hot to be wearing a mask. My birthday is in November and usually it actually gets a little cool here in FL around that time of year. This year being what it has been of course we are still in the upper 80s in November. I had already booked the hotel and it was my birthday so we were going anyway. At least it wasn't feeling like 100 like it had been all summer.
First I will start out saying I chose Universal Orlando for my birthday for a few reasons but mostly because it was easier than Disney. Universal is not requiring you to make an advance reservation for the parks and they still allow park hopping. I also chose Universal because I hadn't ridden Hagrids yet and knew that staying at a Universal resort would really help make riding that easier. Staying at a Universal resort meant I could get into Islands of Adventure an hour early which was key to avoiding a long line for Hagrids. We got up and were at the park entrance before opening. They did a good job of keeping everyone spaced out and in the right lines based on if they were resort guests with tickets or not. As soon as the park opened we walked directly to Hagrids along with pretty much everyone else but still never felt crowded or too close to anyone. The line sort of formed naturally at first with everyone going in the same direction anyway and then as we got closer they did start a queue but it was long enough snaking through other parts of the parks that you pretty much just kept walking and it helped avoid any long time standing. When we got to the lockers we did have to go in and do that before we could continue in the line since we did have a bag with us. It only took a minute to do and they were keeping everyone well spaced out in there as well. One thing I realized too late was that these lockers used your park ticket not your finger to open and I had already put my bag with my ticket in it and shut the locker before I realized that. No worries you can get a cast member to open for you when you get back. You just need to describe what is in the locker to prove it is yours.
You might be wondering what it is like to visit a theme park now. There are of course some changes due to Covid and I will admit I wouldn't mind if some of them stuck around. All in all I felt very safe during my stay and wouldn't hesitate to go back. I do highly recommend staying at an on-site resort for the added conveniences.
By now we have all gotten pretty used to the idea of social distance. There are markers placed all around the parks and hotels reminding people to keep a 6 ft distance.
It was nice to be in line and not feel squished in with 100 other people breathing down your neck so I wouldn't mind if that stuck around. Everyone was good about respecting social distance in lines and pretty much all around. Even better are those attractions where you would normally be packed into a pre-show room with what feels like a 1000 other guests, thanks to social distance that doesn't happen now. Those pre-show rooms now have boxes marked out on the floor where each party will stand to watch and then go on to enter the attraction. That also means if there are attractions where you would normally be seated with other parties that doesn't happen either. For example if you ride the Simposon's attraction you will have the car all to yourself. The drawback to this is that it can make wait times a lot longer with less people experiencing each attraction at a time. Again this was when being a resort guest with Express Pass included was a nice bonus. You can also purchase Express Pass if you are not a resort guest.
Yes masks are required to be worn and they are being strict enforcing the masks are worn correctly. I will just say it isn't the most comfortable thing but you do sort of get used to it after a few hours. I recommend bringing multiple masks and also testing out your masks before traveling to be sure you find it comfortable for long periods. There are places around the park designated as rest zones where you can take your mask off even if you are not eating or drinking. Speaking of eating and drinking you really are not encouraged to wander around eating and drinking wherever you want. They really do try to keep you in the eating areas to finish if you buy food. Depending on where you choose to get food some counter service locations might require you to sit at a table they assign to you for eating - so that might mean you cannot take it outside to find an outdoor table or walk with your food. I get that they don't want people using food as an excuse to walk around without a mask but making people stay inside isn't great either.
As a resort guest our temperature was taken as we arrived at the resort and we were given a colored band to wear that showed we were clear for the day and no more temperature checks needed. The color changed each day so you do need to have your temperature checked each day but being able to get that done at the resort was quick and easy.
There were plenty of places pointed out for hand washing and sanitizer. Plus before boarding any attraction you are required to get a squirt of santaizer. While I understand the idea that this way they are not having to wipe down each attraction between riders I wasn't a fan of always being slathered in sanitizer.
You will notice that there are places that didn't used to have plexiglass that now do. Again I get it for safety but on some attractions it takes away from the experience.
Crowds were not bad but probably more than I had expected. You notice more people mostly in the Harry Potter sections. We also popped over to Disney Springs for dinner one night and quickly realized that with all parks pretty much closed by 7 pm means a lot of people flood into Disney Springs. I would highly recommend avoiding Disney Springs after 7 pm.
I was so happy to get in some park time and see how things are being handled first hand. If you have any questions about my visit please let me know.
I don't know about you but I cannot wait to be able to travel again. I will of course use commonsense and caution when we are given the green light to move about the world again. Travel is something that won't go away but it will change after all of this. Just like after 9/11 some changes were made in order to keep us safer and most are still with us today. As we slowly start to reopen in phases we will start to see some of these changes and ideas come out and some will work and some won't. Some of these changes may end of being permanent while others might be just around until there is a vaccine. No matter what the key is to start getting back to somewhat normal.
Here are 7 changes to the way we used to travel:
#1 Face Masks
JetBlue was first to announce that as of May 4 all passengers will be required to wear a face mask in order to fly. I have a feeling other airlines will follow and Canadian authorities have already mandated that anyone flying through Canadian airports must cover their nose and mouth. As much as I am not a fan of the face mask I would wear it if it means I can travel. Here is a link to each airline's current policy
#2 Social Distancing
This one could get tricky at places like theme parks but there are already talks of how the theme parks could start using virtual lines and then when you do have to actually enter the attraction line there will be places marked on the ground showing you where to stand so that you are staying far enough apart.
Another way to distance will be allowing less people into the parks or onto cruise ships. I have heard that when cruising starts again the ships will be sailing with a lot less guests in order to give everyone more room. I have also seen theme parks talking about limiting the number of guests per day.
Airlines are saying they plan to do things like leave the middle seats open and try to keep passengers as spread out as possible. I have even seen an idea for how airplanes might change seating configurations so that the middle seat faces the other direction and there are some sort of plexiglass partitions. I don't know if I see that happening anytime soon but maybe flying will somehow become a little more comfortable after all this.
#3 Relaxed Cancellation and Change Policies
This is one I would like to see stick around but doubt it will. At least for now the airlines, cruise lines, and most hotels are offering much better cancellation and change policies. This way you are able to book now and if things are not better or you are feeling sick you can cancel or change without losing all your money. Cruise lines have already said that if a guest is not feeling well even the day the cruise is to start they can cancel and won't lose everything. They would rather people didn't travel while sick just because they don't want to lose their money. I really like this change because it allows us all to plan something to look forward to but at the same time know we are not going to be severely penalized if it doesn't work out.
#4 Temperature Scans and Health Checks
Before the cruises stopped sailing many had started to take guest temperatures at boarding and would deny anyone with a fever. I have heard that most will continue this practice when cruising starts again. I have even heard plans for the ports to be set up with a scanning feature that you walk through as you enter to check in for the cruise. Both guests and crew will be checked before boarding. I have heard this could be something that goes beyond just cruising but also to the theme parks and maybe even the airports. We might also have to fill out a heath questionnaire similar to what we had to do before boarding a cruise but that could now apply to all forms of travel.
#5 More Cleaning and Sanitizing procedures
Everything from cruise ships, airplanes, theme parks, hotels, and really anything where people will come and go needs to step up sanitizing plans.
I think we will see a lot of high touch points changed into something like guests using an app or something on their own phone to do certain things like check in and even opening their room door. Princess Cruise was already ahead of the game on this with their Ocean Medallion, which I tested out in December. It really allows guests to avoid a lot of high touch things and even avoid standing in line for food. I am sure we will start seeing new technology for other things too.
Airlines and hotels are already using things like electrostatic sprayers or ultraviolet-light technology to clean. Hilton has started placing a seal on room doors that will tell when a room was clean and that it hasn't been opened since. Hyatt is planning to add a hygiene manager to each hotel to oversee cleaning and make sure everything needed is available to both employees and guests.
#6 More Hand Sanitizer and Hand Washing Stations Everywhere
Let's face it a big key to this virus is we touch something that has the virus on it and then we touch our face so if both surfaces and our hands are cleaned often that is a big way to get rid of this. Hand sanitizer and hand washing stations will be much more readily available. I can see things like these popping up all over and can see many places requiring guests to wash before they can enter a line or something like that. Cruise Lines were already ahead on this one as they have had hand washing stations and wipes set up before any place you would eat or when you would return to the ship from port for a long time. I can already picture the sanitizing stations being added to Theme Park entrances just the way security bag checks were added. I can even see it added at airports in the same way TSA check was added. Who knows maybe someone is working on the new airport scanning machine that both looks for the bad things people might be hiding on themselves and at the same kills any germs that might be hiding too.
#6 Bye-Bye Buffets
I have never really been a fan of the way most buffets work where anyone and everyone is touching everything so I will be glad to see this change. In places that will still be sort of like a buffet I think we will see more servers taking over all parts for us so the only thing we do is hold our plate and food is placed on it.
#7 Immunity Passports
This is one I really do not agree with but some countries have started what is pretty much an immunity passport which says you already had the virus and recovered so they are assuming you are now immune so you are free to travel. I think there are too many variables in this one for it to make sense so I hope this one doesn't happen.
Some of these are already happening and others are my speculation. Some might stick around for good and others might not but either way I am glad to see us making steps to get the world back open!
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