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Visiting a Disney park for the first time since COVID-19? PlanDisney can answer all your questions

  • May 06, 2021

The sound of the Disneyland train and the conductor ordering, “All aboard.” The whistle of the Mark Twain Riverboat. The “It’s a Small World” song echoing from the ride. Giggles from children experiencing Disneyland for the first time.

All are among the sounds that echo throughout Disneyland once again, giving life to the theme park that stood silent for 412 days due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

Mixed with all the familiar sounds and sights are the new safety requirements that include temperature checks to get into Disneyland or California Adventure, masks and distancing of at least 6 feet.

State public health mandates also limit capacity to 25% for now, and only Californians are presently allowed to visit. 

With the new rules come many questions, and that’s where planDisney panelists, such as Andres Villa Jr., can help.

PlanDisney is a website where guests can go and get tips and advice when planning a trip to Disneyland Resort, the Walt Disney World Resort, on the Disney cruise line, or with the Disney Vacation Club, Villa said.

Deal with fellow Disney fans, not salespeople

Panelists are not Walt Disney Co. employees, marketing representatives, or theme park cast members, but guests themselves. The group is recognized by Disney as an official resource for people looking for tips and advice in planning their vacations.

“We give our honest opinions, tips and tricks on things we’ve experienced ourselves,” Villa said.

The group was originally called the Disney Parks Moms Panel, but now panelists include dads, grandparents, aunts and uncles, millennials, “we have everyone,” he said.

Because they are not Disney employees, they can offer their own opinions and recommend hotels and restaurants outside the parks that meet the needs of guests with and without small children.

Villa is a husband and father of two and a full-time special education teacher at an elementary school.

Among the most common questions being asked is how to make a reservation for Disneyland or California Adventure, which is done online at Disneyland.com, Villa said.

He went through the steps: First, check the availability calendar and once you find a date that works you can purchase your tickets, Villa said.

Once that is done and you have created your party, tickets will be linked to the Disneyland app and guests can show that to gain entrance at the gate, Villa said.

“It’s very convenient, you don’t have to worry … about losing your ticket. Once it’s linked to your account, it’s there,” Villa said.

People are also asking about the safety protocols and opinions on whether it is safe to bring kids to the parks, Villa said.

“Me, as a dad, I feel very safe here,” said Villa, who had been in Disneyland since Thursday. “Enhanced health and safety protocols are in place and if you want a full list of everything Disney is doing, you can find that at Disneyland.com.”

Mobile food ordering was available before the parks were closed, but guests are now encouraged to order meals this way to help promote distancing, Villa said.

Ordering is through the Disneyland mobile app – just find the restaurant you like, place an order and select a pickup time.

“Once that time approaches, you can say, ‘I’m here’ and it’s ready for you. You don’t have to wait in line, you pay for it through the app, it’s just very convenient,” Villa said.

Some stores also have virtual queues to promote social distancing, he said, especially if the store is getting crowded and running out of capacity.

“So, if it is too full at any given time, you give them your phone number and they will send you a text message once it’s time for you to come back. So, not only does it promote that social distancing, but it’s also very convenient because you can go do something else and then come back,” Villa said.

Here are a few things to know if planning a trip to Disneyland:

5 things that haven’t changed at Disneyland

The light in Walt Disney’s apartment above the Main Street fire station is on and remained on as a beacon of hope throughout the park’s closure.

Baby Care and the First Aid centers are both open.

Most rides are open, though Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance at Galaxy’s Edge requires reservations to board which can be made on the Disneyland app starting at 7 a.m. the day you are going to be in the park. Many rides that aren’t open, such as the Matterhorn, are down for routine maintenance which often occurs ahead of the busy summer season. A few rides, such as Finding Nemo submarines, are closed indefinitely. Be sure to check the Disneyland website or app for updates.

Locker rentals: Lockers are available in the esplanade, however, not inside either park. 

Strollers, wheelchairs and scooters are still available for rent at the kiosk just outside the Disneyland entrance.

5 things that are different

Temperature checks, masks and social distancing are the new norm and strictly enforced. Hand sanitizing stations are placed throughout the park. Masks can only be removed for dining at designated areas; no more snacking while strolling or standing in line for rides. Tip: Bring extra masks to change throughout the day, especially when it is hot.

No character dining, hugs, or other encounters closer than 6 feet. Characters can be found at various locations throughout both parks, and in Toontown where Mickey and friends each have homes. They will wave and selfies can be taken from a distance.

Parades, fireworks, World of Color at California Adventure, Fantasmic at Disneyland, and other events and performances that draw guests together in masses are suspended indefinitely. 

Long lines: With the parks at about 25% capacity, waits even on the most popular rides ranged 5 to 45 minutes where normally they would be an hour and longer. FASTPASS and Disney MaxPass are suspended until further notice.

Indoor dining: More tables and chairs have been placed outside on the sidewalks and elsewhere throughout Disneyland, but spread apart, to accommodate more outdoor dining. There is some indoor dining at select restaurants by reservation only which can be made on the Disneyland app.

More information: For Disneyland and California Adventure tickets and reservations, updated hours and lists of rides, restaurants and attractions that are open, visit Disneyland.com.

Desert Sun and USA Today Network reporter Sherry Barkas can be reached at sherry.barkas@thedesertsun.com. Follow her on Twitter @TDSsherryBarkas

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