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10 Things to Know About Staying at a Disney-Owned Resort Right Now

Ready to head back to Disney World and stay on property? Read this first so there are no surprises.

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Staying at Disney World?

Walt Disney World is finally getting ready to start their phased park reopening after being closed since March in an effort to stem the spread of coronavirus. Starting July 11, the Magic Kingdom and Disney’s Animal Kingdom will reopen. Then on July 15, Epcot and Disney’s Hollywood Studios will open their doors to guests. Currently, some Walt Disney World hotels are open, but with modified experiences and new operational standards; others are scheduled to open later this year.

If you’re planning a Disney vacation for any time now through the end of the year there are some things you’re going to want to know about staying at a Walt Disney World resort. Find out the things that were happening in Disney World even when it was closed.

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There are new check-in and check-out procedures

You no longer need to visit the front desk of a Walt Disney World resort to check-in or check-out; it can all be handled virtually when you have the latest version of the My Disney Experience app downloaded on your smartphone. You can check-in via the app a few days before your trip. On the day of your arrival, you’ll receive a text message when your room is ready with your room number and your reservation status within the app will change to have a room number listed. To enter your room all you need is your MagicBand, or you can use the digital key on the My Disney Experience app. You can, of course, still opt to check in the traditional way at the front desk.

To check-out of a Disney-owned hotel on your departing day all you need to do is leave your room. You’ll be automatically checked out, and you won’t have to visit the front desk of your hotel unless you have a discrepancy in your bill you would like to discuss with a hotel representative.

If and when you do go to the front desk, you’ll be separated from the front desk staff by a plexiglass barrier, says Len Testa, co-author the Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World series, who recently stayed at Bay Lake Tower at Disney’s Contemporary Resort. He also noted that hand sanitizer stations near areas of high touchpoints, including doors and elevators. You may be hesitant to travel to a Disney park right when it reopens, but find out some ways you can still get away this summer.

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Couple travelers with medical masks just arrived in hotelSouth_agency/Getty Images

Masks are required inside hotels

Each guest over two visiting a Disney hotel will be required to wear a mask or face covering in common areas including lobbies, outdoor walkways, hallways, and restaurants. This also goes for park guests and employees throughout the resorts and parks. You will not be required to wear a mask in hotel pools or in your own room.

If you don’t have a mask, Testa is a fan of the Disney face masks, “They sell four for $20, are better than average, and are available in all the gift shops.” Along with wearing masks, find out the 9 other things that will change at Disney World.

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Merida's Royal CelebrationGerardo Mora/Getty Images

Disappearing amenities

During the initial reopening of the Disney-owned hotels some activities and amenities will remain closed. These include character experiences, the Electrical Water Pageant, playgrounds, in-room childcare, arcades, campfires, dog parks, and marina rentals. In addition, spas and salons will be closed, and, yes, that means princess makeovers are currently unavailable at Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutiques at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort and Spa, Disney Springs, and Magic Kingdom. Find out 10 things you won’t see in hotels anymore.

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Walt Disney WorldJoe Raedle/Getty Images

Available hotel amenities

The good news is that many hotel amenities are still available, albeit with certain restrictions. Pools at most resorts are still open but may have reduced hours, with reduced capacity. Poolside activities like Movies Under the Stars and trivia games may still be available as well. However, some pools remain closed, including Stormalong Bay at Disney’s Yacht and Beach Club Resorts. Guests at the resort are able to use the pool at Disney’s Beach Club Villas or Disney’s BoardWalk Villas as an alternative.

Fitness centers are open but also have reduced hours and capacity. Basketball and tennis courts are also open, but guests must abide by Disney’s physical distancing rules. Find out the 10 ways gyms will change forever after lockdown.

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The Toy Story Land Preview At Walt Disney WorldGerardo Mora/Getty Images

FastPass+ is on hold

A traditional perk of staying at a Disney-owned resort is the benefit of being able to schedule FastPass+ selections well in advance of other visitors to Walt Disney World is temporarily suspended for the time being. That’s because the Walt Disney World theme parks as a whole will not be utilizing FastPass+ during reopening to have extended queue space for social distancing purposes. Extra Magic Hours, the time in the morning or evening when only people staying at a Disney-owned resort could be at the parks, have also been canceled.

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In the early morning a member of the cusJIM WATSON/Getty Images

Amped up cleaning protocols

Disney’s staff will be wiping down high-touch surfaces such as countertops, elevator buttons, and handrails many times throughout the day and cleaning throughout the lobbies, restaurants, and other common areas will happen more frequently.

New cleaning procedures are also being instituted in guest rooms, including: Prior to guest check-in all high-touch areas including TV remotes and door handles will be thoroughly cleaned and floors will be steam cleaned and vacuumed. The TV remote will be individually wrapped as will glassware and bathroom toiletries and pillows will be double cased. During your stay, housekeeping will lightly clean your room every other day or you may decline it altogether. Find out how professional cleaners can tell if a hotel room is clean.

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The Walt Disney World Dolphin is a resort hotel designed by...John Greim/Getty Images

Hotel dining looks a little different

Throughout the Walt Disney World Resort hotels dining will be available at select restaurants with limited capacity and reduced menu items. (Before picking a place to eat you might want to consider looking at the online menu to see if your favorite dish is still being served.) Once you get to your restaurant, you can virtually check in via the My Disney Experience app or scanning a QR code just outside the restaurant and following the prompts. Note that you can check-in early before your reservation time to let the host know you are there and willing to take an earlier time if a table becomes available.

If you plan on dining at a different Disney-owned resort other than the one where you are staying, make sure you make a reservation ahead of time. Before you can enter the resort, security at an outside gate will check that you have a reservation along with the IDs of the passengers in your car.

On the upside, Testa says, “I’ve had some of the best dinners in years in Walt Disney World over the last week, because there are only a couple of people in the restaurant with me, and the kitchen staff has nothing else to do but ensure that our meals are perfect.”

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Walt Disney World Main Street USAabalcazar/Getty Images

Plan for extra time to get around

Getting around Walt Disney World as a resort guest can be challenging during “normal” times, and during the phased reopening of the parks, it won’t be any easier. Disney’s buses are still operational, but can only take six parties at a time due to capacity restraints. That means that if there are six solo travelers going to a destination, that’s all the bus will take.

Disney’s Magical Express from the Orlando International Airport to a Walt Disney World hotel can still be accessed. This complimentary service must be booked in advance of arrival. Minnie Vans, Disney’s private ride-share service, will not be available for the time being, though Uber and Lyft are still operating.

You can still drive your own car throughout the Walt Disney World Resort, with self-parking available. Valet parking will only be available to guests with disabilities who require assistance with parking.

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man using smartphone at home - close upEMS-FORSTER-PRODUCTIONS/Getty Images

You can virtually chat any requests

Need some fresh towels or want to know what time the pool opens during your stay? You can chat your request to a Disney cast member via the My Disney Experience app and have your request attended to almost immediately. This helps prevent the need for face-to-face interactions at the front desk or with the concierge. Before your trip, check out the 11 things you must know if you’re planning a trip Disney World after its reopening.

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These are the dates of Disney-owned hotels reopening

Because of Disney’s emphasis on social distancing and limiting crowds, some hotels will remain closed through the end of the year, including Disney’s All-Star Resorts, and Disney’s Port Orleans Riverside and French Quarter.

At press time some Disney resorts are open including:

  • Bay Lake Tower at Disney’s Contemporary Resort
  • Boulder Ridge Villas at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge
  • Copper Creek Villas & Cabins at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge
  • Disney’s Animal Kingdom Villas – Kidani Village
  • Disney’s Beach Club Villas
  • Disney’s BoardWalk Villas
  • Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground
  • Disney’s Old Key West Resort
  • Disney’s Polynesian Villas & Bungalows
  • Disney’s Riviera Resort
  • Disney’s Saratoga Springs Resort
  • The Villas at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort
  • Disney’s Pop Century Resort and Disney’s Contemporary Resort

Throughout the rest of 2020, Disney will gradually open more resorts with limited capacity. The planned dates are as follows:

  • July 29: Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort
  • August 12: Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort and Disney’s Art of Animation Resort
  • August 24: Disney’s Yacht and Beach Club Resorts
  • September 21: Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort and Spa
  • October 1: Disney’s BoardWalk Inn
  • October 14: Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort

Get your Disney fix now by “taking” your favorite Disney World rides from home.

Megan duBois
Megan duBois is a regular contributor to's Travel and Culture sections, where she writes about theme parks, pop culture, and food. Her articles have also appeared on Buzzfeed, Popsugar, Insider, Orbitz, The Daily Meal and more. duBois has been quoted as an expert on theme parks for Forbes and other outlets. She earned her BA in Communications from The University of North Florida. Follow her on Instagram @MinglingwithMickey and Twitter @Megand315.