family walking into Disney's Hollywood Studios

Visiting Walt Disney World During the Pandemic

Our family has been Annual Passholders to Walt Disney World for five years. Before the pandemic, we went all the time. The boys were pumped when we surprised them with a few days at the park.

(I went a day before to Magic Kingdom to check out procedures and make sure I felt comfortable going as a family. Click the button to read that article.)

Magic Kingdom

Packed and Ready

Even when we aren’t doing Disney during a pandemic, we need water. It’s customary to pack a small cooler if we know we will be in the park for 3+ hours. As long as it isn’t glass or alcohol, Disney will let you bring in your family’s favorite snacks and drinks. But this time I made sure we had all of the following in our bag:

First Impressions

Let me address something right off the bat- yes, my kids are way too big for that stroller. But, we went in thinking our kids would complain A LOT with the heat and the stroller might alleviate some that.

Now onto our experience.

We arrived just before the 10am park opening to make sure we were inside and able to get into the virtual queue for Rise of the Resistance.

Lucky us, we got group 1! My kids- and especially my husband- were pumped! I quickly snapped what the crowd looked like as we made our way down Hollywood Blvd.

This park overall felt more crowded than what I experienced a day before at Magic Kingdom. I was already a bit more on edge because I knew touching would be an issue with my kids all day, but now we had to be hyper diligent about keeping our space.

COVID-19 Extras

My article from Magic Kingdom goes over a lot of the signage and procedures that are the same for every park.

While at Hollywood Studios I noticed a few “new” touches that I didn’t pick up on the day before because I didn’t need them being kid-free and with only a few hours in the park.

The trash cans are all propped open so you don’t have to touch the doors.

Hand-washing stations are present near Relaxation Stations and all sit-down food areas.

While at Magic Kingdom I only rode one ride that had sanitizing stations at the line entrance, just before boarding the train, and then upon exit.

Many rides at Hollywood Studios had more frequent stations. Rise of the Resistance probably had the most with at least two available during every transition in the experience.

As for character interactions, we must have had very poor timing. We saw some Stormtroopers perched high in Batuu, but none were walking around on ground level. I asked a Castmember in Batuu about whether characters would be coming through like at Magic Kingdom, and she replied, “not on this planet.”

Outside of that “planet” we had even less luck. I’ve seen reports in social media about Pixar characters making appearances, but in the four plus hours we were there we didn’t stumble upon anyone. Our family doesn’t usually do too many character visits, but they always like seeing Buzz and Woody, the Toy Soldiers, and The Incredibles. It would have been a nice, if it happened.

Masks + Kids =

Out of the things I was most worried about with the kids, masks were the least of our problems.

I was honestly shocked because we had tried going out a few times around Winter Garden with the boys and they couldn’t stop playing with them. During our previous attempts we tried the simple wrap around the ear or the tube (gaiter) styles. This time we used ones that I made following this video tutorial.

They were so comfortable that my youngest forgot he was wearing it when he went to take a drink of water. You’ll find the picture of the wet mask included down below.

The Struggle is Real

Our biggest struggle was touching and distancing while in line.

In Batuu ride queues there are a lot of display items throughout that aren’t an activity for kids, but still encourage touching. I’m talking about all the buttons and switches. I was hoping I would see more “Not Available” signs here, but they weren’t always present.

Our five year old had a tough time with this, and I went through a ton of sanitizer. During the worst of the struggles my husband would put him up on his shoulders for a bit or we would each take a hand and refuse to let go.

Most of the queues at Hollywood Studios have a lot of indoor/covered weaving areas and then a large portions of open sun where the line extends beyond the ride entrance.

It was tough keeping a family of four on (or as close to) the distancing sticker. If our family wasn’t guilty of this, one of the ones next to us was.

Inside areas used plexiglass at the narrowest points, but other times they spaced the “Please Wait Here” stickers a lot further from one another (and sometimes around corners). A couple of times this caught us off guard and either we or the people in front of us were caught in limbo between the two “wait here” points. It’s best to take it a little slower while moving from point to point indoors.

Outside areas utilized umbrellas and trees in many areas for shade. Depending on the time of day though, the “Please Wait Here” stickers were just outside of the shaded areas. Most of the time we found that people would use the shaded area closest to their sticker and would even skip moving ahead to stay in the shade.

Timing is Everything

We ended up spending about four and a half hours at Hollywood Studios. It was a hot, summer day with lots of sunshine. Under normal circumstances we would last about that long. With the masks on and (my) increased anxiety, we were ready to call it a day.

We were able to ride a lot considering there weren’t Fast passes. Most of the rides we chose had a minimum wait time of 30 minutes. We rode Rise of the Resistance, Slinky Dog, Toy Story Mania, Alien Saucers, and Runaway Railway.

Our youngest was upset we left without riding Tower of Terror, but the wait time was consistently 75 minutes all morning. We normally won’t wait in line for more than 30 minutes (thanks to fast passes), and we weren’t ready to test our their patience.

When we decided we had reached their limit we were actually in line for Smuggler’s Run. The wait time said 45 minutes, but the line was curling around the Millennium Falcom and almost out of that plaza (a lot of it wasn’t shaded). It was a tough call to make, but the fact that we have done it so much already made it a bit easier.

If you’re a local and heading to Hollywood Studios, you might want to consider not being there for the park’s opening. The park definitely started thinning out around 2pm. With park hopping not being an option, I’m guessing most locals come for opening to make sure they can get on Rise of the Resistance and (like us) are ready to go by the mid-afternoon. The virtual queue opens back up at 2pm, so you still have a shot at reserving a spot if you arrive later.

EPCOT Spaceship Earth

EPCOT Experience

I think I can sum up EPCOT pretty quickly, so I’m adding it to this post rather than starting a new one.

The five months without Disney must have weakened us. We were not able to last long out there today. IT WAS HOT!!!

The good news is that the crowd was the smallest I’ve seen over these last few days and we were able to walk up and get right on most rides!

COVID-19 Specifics

Everything that I saw at the other parks was present here: plexiglass dividers, propped open trash cans, “Not Available” signage in certain areas.

All of the playgrounds and post-ride play areas were closed. The kids were a bit upset about this. They also weren’t able to design their own car for Test Track. We told them that Mickey designed the very best car for the ride, and it seemed to put them a bit at ease.

A lot of the attractions had oneway areas where arrows guide you in the right direction. This was also the first time I took notice of the signage in the gift shops asking to please limit touching of items.

Soarin’ used plexiglass dividers so that each row was separated into three groups of three. I wasn’t able to snap an image of this since I had my camera packed in my bag for the ride.

Rides & Characters

We have three ride MUSTS when we come to EPCOT: Soarin’, Test Track, and Mission Space. The boys also love seeing Figment, exploring the aquarium, going on the Frozen ride, and Spaceship Earth.

Our longest wait was luckily in air-conditioning. We caught the cleaning procedures at Test Track that resulted in a 20 minute addition to the 20 min wait time. The second longest wait for us would have been Frozen (at approximately 35 minutes), but the sun was beating down and the boys were ok about skipping it.

As we were heading out of the line, the Frozen soundtrack started to play and all of a sudden the boys laid eyes on Elsa coming their way. The character escorts kept us really far back- assuming for the safety of the unmasked princesses, but it was an unexpected surprise for them- especially since was the only character sighting in the last two days aside from the Stormtroopers.

We initially had planned to stay longer and actually work our way through the Food & Wine Celebration, but it wasn’t in the cards for today. We will need to try to make it a date night in the near future, if we can still snag another reservation into EPCOT.


June 15, 2021 – Masks requirements are mostly optional, fireworks are returning in July, and things are starting to feel a little less like we are living through an historic pandemic.

Click the link above to see my favorite images made over the last year with masks on.