runDisney Race Calendar for Late 2024 and 2025

Late 2024-2025 runDisney Schedule
Late 2024-2025 runDisney Schedule

For people like us who are planning our races for the next couple of years, Disney has put out the late 2024 and 2025 race calendar. Elyssa and I are most concerned about the Disney World races, which are:

  • Disney Wine & Dine Half Marathon Weekend – October 31 – November 3, 2024 (Registration: March 12, 2024)
  • Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend – January 8 – 12, 2025 (Registration: April 9, 2024)
  • Disney Princess Half Marathon Weekend – February 20 – 24, 2025 (Registration: July 30, 2024)
  • runDisney Springtime Surprise Weekend – April 3 – 6, 2025 (Registration: August 27, 2024)

See y’all in the corrals!!

Moana – Journey of Water Now Open

The interactive water exhibit, Moana – Journey of Water, is now open at EPCOT. We did the AP preview when we were down a couple of weeks ago and loved it. It’s going to be such a great addition to the park.

Here are a few photos from when we were there:

John and Elyssa with Tafiti
John and Elyssa with Tafiti
Moana Logo at the Journey of Water Entrance
Moana Logo at the Journey of Water Entrance

Relatedly, this new video of the attraction from Disney might be one of my go-to background noise choices while I am working:

Starcruiser Shutting Down in September

As has been widely reported, Disney is going to shutdown its Galactic Starcruiser hotel / experience in September. Elyssa and I are bummed. We had a fantastic time (as recounted in this write-up Elyssa did about our experience last year.)

It really is too bad something like this was not sustainable. It was a truly unique and (to use a Disney word) magical experience. Unfortunately, when the goal is cut 5.5 billion dollars, the pet-project of the former CEO always seemed likely to get the axe.

Here’s hoping the fantastic cast members that brought this experience to life end up somewhere else bringing magic before too long.

Friends aboard a Starship
We would have just sat at this bar all day.

A Few New Things I am Looking Forward to at Disney World Next Month

The current plan is that I will be heading down to Disney World in just about a month. It’s been since Elyssa’s and my February trip for Princess Race weekend since I have been down, so I’m excited about a few things that are “new”:

  • TRON! – TRON was in some early previews while we were there, but I was not able to do any of the AP previews due to my recent trial. I’m really looking forward to trying this out.
  • Flower & Garden – This actually started the day we had to fly home so we did not get to see it in “full bloom” (so to speak.) We saw a few of the topiaries, but I am ready for a nice easy stroll around Epcot (with the occasional stop at a food booth.)
  • New California Grill Menu – We went during the 50th celebration but have not had a chance to experience the new menu. A lot of the entrées look really tempting (as does the Peanut and Banana Torte.)

That should keep me busy for a couple of days (especially when I throw in some old favorites.)

Last Trip...back when the Castle still had its 50th decorations!

Big Disney News Today: Happily Ever After Returning and TRON Opening

Some big Disney news today (especially for people who are going in early April.) On April 3, Happily Ever After will be returning as the fireworks show at the Magic Kingdom, and EPCOT Forever will be coming back to EPCOT. (Also, the fireworks barges in World Showcase Lagoon are going to glow away…)

Then, on April 4, TRON Lightcycle / Run will be opening.

Overall, a pretty solid start to 2023. (Now…if they will just bring back California Grill brunch…)

My Last Time viewing Happily Ever After
My Last Time viewing Happily Ever After
My Last Time viewing EPCOT Forever
My Last Time viewing EPCOT Forever

Late 2023 and 2024 runDisney Events

runDisney has posted the dates for upcoming runDisney events occurring later this year and in early 2024:

The events at Disney World are:

  • 2023 Wine & Dine Half Marathon Weekend – November 2-5, 2023 (Registration: March 21, 2023)
  • 2024 Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend – January 3-7, 2024 (Registration: April 11, 2023)
  • 2024 Princess Half Marathon Weekend – February 22-25, 2024 (Registration: June 20, 2023)
  • 2024 Springtime Surprise Weekend – April 18-21, 2024 (Registration: August 22, 2023)

And there is also the return of a runDisney event to Disneyland in 2024:

  • 2024 Disneyland Half Marathon Weekend – January 11-14, 2024 (Registration: February 14, 2023)

As a reminder here are the early 2023 runDisney dates:

  • 2023 Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend– January 4 – 8, 2023
  • 2023 Disney Princess Half Marathon Weekend– February 23 – 26, 2023
  • 2023 runDisney Springtime Surprise Weekend – April 13 – 16, 2023
runDisney Race Schedule 2023 and 2024
runDisney Race Schedule for 2023 and 2024

REMINDER: Magic Kingdom Boat Service and Grand Floridian Walkway Unavailable around NYE Fireworks Time

A quick reminder that Disney shuts down the Magic Kingdom boat service and Grand Floridian walkway about 30 minutes before the NYE fireworks and they remain unavailable for 30-40 minutes after the show. In other words, don’t think you can make a quick exit from the park immediately get back to your resort via one of those methods.

Have fun out there tonight. Happy New Year!

Disney World Updates from D23 2022

Today was Disney’s D23 panel on “Disney Parks, Experiences and Products”. If you are the type of person who follows Disney news, there were no real surprises.

The first group of updates all concern the Magic Kingdom:

  • TRON: Lightcycle / Run is going to open in Spring 2023. There had been some rumblings recently that Disney wanted TRON open for the holiday season (and testing seemed like, maybe (?), this was a possibility.) The safer bet was that Disney would open TRON next year, and that is precisely what it did.
  • There will be an “updated” nighttime spectacular that involves the Happily Ever After song in 2023. (In other words, it does not seem like the original Happily Ever After show will be coming back the same as before.)
  • Disney fan favorite The Hat Box Ghost is coming to Disney World in 2023. I’m excited to see this longtime Disneyland-only character arrive at Disney World.
  • The Princess and the Frog re-theme of Splash Mountain is targeted for late 2024. The major voice actors from the original film will be back to voice their characters on the attraction.

There was also a group of updates involving the re-imaging of Epcot that is supposed to be done by late 2023, specially:

There were no actual updates for Animal Kingdom or Hollywood Studios (characters outside of Episodes VII-IX time frame like Mando and Grogu still seem only available at Disneyland…I guess for Star Cruiser reasons ??) There were also no updates on the scheduled re-opening of fan-favorite show FANTASMIC!.

I give the “actual updates” qualifier since there was a segment near the end of the presentation where Josh D’Amaro brought out an imagineer and representative from Disney’s animation department and talked about “Blue Sky” projects that could eventually come to the parks. It was a strange presentation that, essentially, said, “we are considering these things, but are not committing to them.” In summary, the proposals were:

  • A revamp of Dinoland at the Animal Kingdom to be some kind of Zootopia and/or Moana land or lands.
  • Developing the area “behind” Big Thunder Mountain to be some kind of combination of Coco, Encanto, and Disney Villains.

I am not sure how to comment on something when it is presented this way. Would I like a huge new expansion of Magic Kingdom that involves a Coco section, an Encanto section, and a Disney Villains section? Yes. Yes, I would. Would I prefer that Dinoland actually have attractions instead of the area that used to be Primeval Whirl just sitting vacant? Again, yes. Unfortunately, it is anyone’s guess as to how long it will be before Disney gives us more clarity on these plans.

At the end of the presentation, Josh D’Amaro showed a slide that broke down all the actual announcements (not the Blue Sky stuff) and the timing of things through 2024. He said that there is more stuff he “wished he could share”, but if there is something else in the pipeline, why not announce it now? My guess: The press release for whatever comes next is already written, and we’ll all get to read it the same day that Universal gives its next major Epic Universe update.

Let’s hope whatever comes to Epcot is as great as this.

Animal Kingdom Closing at 7:30 pm on March 31 for nighttime runDisney Event

With the Expedition Everest 5K starting at 10:00 pm on Thursday, March 31 in the Animal Kingdom parking lot, Disney has announced the Animal Kingdom will close at 7:30 pm that day.

This makes sense as the previously set 8:30 pm closure would make it harder to clear out the park for the runDisney event. It also makes sense given transportation from Disney Resorts to the race is starting that night 8:30 pm. The more Disney can clear out the park and the parking lot before the event, the better.

RunDisney Springtime Surprise Course Maps 2022

runDisney has posted the course maps for the upcoming Springtime Surprise race weekend, taking place March 31 to April 3, 2022 at Disney World. This will be the first runDisney event Elyssa and I have run since 2019, and we are super looking forward to it.

NOTE: At the time of posting, the full Weekend Event Guide has NOT been posted

Expedition Everest 5K

The 5K course takes place all at the Animal Kingdom. It starts in the parking lot, and you appear to run through the entrance about three-quarters of a mile into the race. Mile 3 has a long out and back along the water, so it will be interesting what Disney has for entertainment there. The 5K is also part “scavenger hunt”, so that could also help us get through that last mile, too.

Expedition Everest 5K Course Map 2022

Race for the Taste 10K

This 10K seems to cover the same ground as a lot of Disney 10Ks, but in a slightly reversed order. In the past, we’ve run into Epcot around Norway to finish with the run around World Showcase Lagoon and Crescent Lake. Here, we seem to get into Epcot about mile 3 (after looping the backside of the Land Pavilion) and the head to Crescent Lake before finishing with a run around World Showcase Lagoon and back to the front of the park. I figure the construction in the middle of the park forced this change.

Race for the Taste 10K Course Map 2022

Tower of Terror 10-Miler

This course has been getting the most coverage because it is the first runDisney course to go through Galaxy’s Edge and Toy Story Land. Even setting that aside, I really like this course. You start pretty early in Epcot at just over mile 1, before going around World Showcase and then along Crescent Lake. The super narrow walkway between the Boardwalk and Studios takes place between miles 2 and 3 (instead of near the end of the race), so—hopefully—people can move through that more quickly while they still have early race adrenaline. Miles 4.5 to 8.5 will be the roughest part (similar to those miles after leaving the Magic Kingdom during Princess Race Weekend), so that is where Disney will need to step up the entertainment. Hopefully, having Spaceship Earth in view as you make the turn just about at mile 8 will be a good motivation for those last 2 miles.

Tower of Terror 10-Miler 2022 Course Map

NOTE: If you like this course, there were still registration spots available for the 10 miler at the time of posting.

runDisney Events for 2022 – 2023


I like to have this post on the site since I frequently reference when the various runDisney events are taking place. Below you’ll find upcoming 2022-2023 runDisney events that either (a) still have spots open for registration on the runDisney website or (b) have not had registration open yet.

  • 2022 Disney Princess Half Marathon Weekend – February 24-27, 2022 (Only the half is available)
  • 2022 runDisney Springtime Surprise Weekend – March 31-April 3, 2022 (Both the 10K and the half are available, but the 5K and Challenge are sold out)
  • 2022 Wine & Dine Half Marathon Weekend– November 3 – 6, 2022
    • Registration Date: March 22, 2022
  • 2023 Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend– January 4 – 8, 2023
    • Registration Date: April 19, 2022
  • 2023 Disney Princess Half Marathon Weekend– February 23 – 26, 2023
    • Registration Date: June 21, 2022
  • 2023 runDisney Springtime Surprise Weekend – April 13 – 16, 2023
    • Registration Date: August 23, 2022

Maybe Elyssa and I will see you out on the course!

Mid-Race Selfie
Mid-Race Selfie

runDisney Announces 2022 “Spring Surprise” Race Theme

Earlier today, runDisney announced the theme for its “Spring Surprise” race weekend (March 31 – April 3): Celebrate Yestermorrow. The event has 3 races that are themed around Disney attractions:

  • Expedition Everest 5K – a 10pm nighttime race and scavenger hunt on on Thursday, March 31
  • Race for the Taste 10K – a “Ratatouille”-inspired course Saturday morning, April 2
  • The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror 10-Miler – 10 miles through Disney World on the morning of Sunday, April 3

There is also a Challenge that includes all three races (in the past, the “challenges” have normally involved just the Saturday and Sunday races.)

I admit, the “theme” seems a little lackluster, but the idea of a 3-race weekend WITH A NIGHTTIME RACE has me excited.

General registration opens on December 9th at 10am, Eastern.

Lightyear Movie Trailer Released

Earlier today Disney released the trailer for next summer’s Pixar movie Lightyear. If you don’t remember, this movie is about the “real” Buzz Lightyear (who inspired the toy), not the Buzz Lightyear toy character from the Toy Story movies. Disney got Chris Evans to voice Buzz, so I cannot help get Captain America vibes from this trailer. It looks fantastic, and right up my alley. I am so excited for this:

A Couple Photos from the Preview of the Magic Kingdom’s New Nighttime Fireworks Show, Enchantment

It’s kind of a bummer to have an event like this be media-only. It is especially weird when Bob Chapek comes out to thank “the guests” for their support over the last 50 years, when said guests were all shuffled out of the park 2 hours before the preview took place.

That said, here are a couple of pictures I took from the balcony of my room at the Contemporary of the preview Disney showed of “Enchantment,” the new nighttime fireworks show at the Magic Kingdom.

Enchantment at the Magic Kingdom
Enchantment at the Magic Kingdom

New Magic Kingdom Resort Boat

This morning I got to ride on the beautiful, orange, new Magic Kingdom resort boat: Tradewinds.

It’s like the Wilderness Lodge boats, but brand new and with more comfortable plastic seats.

I dig it.

Tradewinds passing the Grand Floridian

Poster for Star Wars Resort at Disney World Released

Earlier today, the Disney Parks Blog released the poster for the Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser hotel. Unsurprisingly, it looks pretty amazing:

Star Wars: Galatic Starcruiser Poster

The blog post also included a few details about the poster that preview some stuff about the experience, including:

  • There are four people at the center of the poster – a youngling wearing Jedi robes and wielding a lightsaber, an adult dressed in the uniform of a First Order officer, a Twi’lek adult, and another youngling who appears to be holding a piece of technology of some sort. These figures are meant to represent you, the travelers, because Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser is about your choices and how you live your personal Star Wars stories
  • In front of those central figures is an R-series astromech droid – but one that seems to have a few extra bells and whistles. Hmm … I bet there’s a story there, too.

But the one I am most excited about is:

The image in the lower right is something I’m incredibly excited for – lightsaber training! That’s right, as part of your experience, you’ll face off with a training remote similar to how Luke Skywalker once did and learn the lightsaber’s ancient ways.

I imagine this will involve the new lightsabers Disney previewed earlier this year.

I cannot wait for this place to open.

Thoughts on the End of Magical Express and the Replacement of Extra Magic Hours

Earlier this week, Disney announced that it will be ending Magical Express at the end of 2021 and that Extra Magic Hours will be replaced with “Early Theme Park” Entry. Both are pretty substantial changes to Disney’s offerings, though I think the Early Theme Park Entry for onsite guests will probably have a more significant impact on Elyssa and me.

Before I dig into Early Theme Park Entry, a few quick thoughts about Magical Express. Ultimately, Magical Express was not for me. I did use the service a couple of times for very short (about 48 hour) trips, however. I appreciated the convenience of not having to worry about my transportation but found some of its details frustrating. I disliked the amount of time it took for me to arrive at my resort (which was never the first stop), or that I had to be back at my resort 3 hours before my flight to catch the return bus (instead of leaving directly from a park, Disney Springs, etc…) That said, for the trips I used, it made sense. I was traveling solo while Elyssa was working photography jobs, and my biggest concerns were minimizing some expenses on the trip and was making sure I made my flight. (For the various issue I had with Magical Express, I did have confidence that if I made my bus, Disney would do whatever was necessary to get me home, even if there was an issue with the bus or something else unforeseen.) On trips where I wanted to maximize my time in the parks, however, I would simply rent a car. That allowed me to get from the airport to my destination (hotel, Disney Springs, or park) much faster. For example, one time, Elyssa and I were flying down to go to After Hours at the Magic Kingdom, and our flight was severely delayed. In our rental car, we could drive straight to the Magic Kingdom, and we ended up getting to the Magic Kingdom just as the event was starting. If we had been taking Magical Express, that would have been impossible (setting aside some kind of “hacks” like taking a bus to the Floridian, etc… which may or may not have worked.) There are negatives to car rentals, though, especially now that Disney charges parking. People are going to have some decisions to make regarding car rentals v ride-share v other options in getting from MCO to Disney World, and they all have cost/convenience trade-offs that might not align with people’s values as much as Magical Express. I am bummed for those people.

On the other hand, replacing Extra Magic Hours with Early Park Entry has the potential to have a significant impact on our touring, especially for trips where we stay off-site. For example, a typical day for us might start with some Tonga Toast at 7:30 am before heading over to the Magic Kingdom for a 9:00 am opening. We would probably arrive at the tapstiles around 8:30-8:40 am, stroll down Main Street, and then post up around the entrance to Adventureland to watch the Welcome Show. After Mickey opened the park, we would then head over to catch one of the first boats for the Jungle Cruise. Now, with Early Park Entry, if we are offsite guests, all onsite guests would have a 30-minute head start of getting into the park. This change has the potential to eliminate quick rope drop rides on things like Jungle Cruise, Flight of Passage, or Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway if you’re staying offsite. On a recent Disney Dish episode, Len Testa estimated that this 30-minute delay to getting into the park would result in at least an extra 1 hour of waiting. We’ll have to see how things play out, but I imagine he’s not that far off, and that is a major bummer for us. (It will also be a bummer if there is no general extension of park hours later into the night, as we will definitely miss those 1am nights in the Magic Kingdom.)

It seems likely that Early Park Entry will increase the importance of Fastpass+ (if that comes back, or whatever it is replaced with) for offsite guests looking to avoid long waits and it might end up otherwise changing our touring strategy. For example, if we know we cannot get in at rope drop at Animal Kingdom since we are staying offsite, maybe we plan to have a later breakfast at Ale & Compass and then head into Epcot for the AM / early PM before heading over to Animal Kingdom at night, including trying to get in line for Flight of Passage right about park close. Again, these things will have to be evaluated once the new procedures go into effect, but it seems likely that Elyssa and I will have even more of an incentive to stay onsite as a result of this change. In the end, I guess that is exactly what Disney wants.

What will the line for the Falcon be if we are in line 30 minutes after all onsite guests?
What will the line for the Falcon be if we’re in the park 30 minutes after *all* onsite guests?

Disney, Gift Cards, and Clemson Football

There have been a couple of stories over the past week that sit at the intersections of my interests and previous Disney writing.

First was the announcement that in January 2021, Disney will be replacing its existing Disney Gift Card website. As someone who has written articles about the ways to use the current website to you manage your gift cards, I have my fingers crossed that the new website will provide more functionality and be easier to use. In preparation for the transition, though, Disney emphasizes that you should keep your physical gift cards and make sure you have them available to re-add to the new Disney website when it launches. Similarly, I would probably avoid maxing out any of your gift card balances in January. If there is a technical glitch in Disney’s gift card system, it would be better if you had just a few dollars on the gift card than if you had multiple hundreds.

Second was the trailer for something I knew was in the works, but I did not realize was so close to release. IT IS A DISNEY MOVIE ABOUT CLEMSON FOOTBALL!. People who know me or follow my social media know that I have a strong allegiance to my alma mater and am an especially big fan of their football program. This movie tells the story of Ray Ray McElrathbey, a Clemson football player who had to face a near-impossible situation and what he did to try and make the best of it with the help of his teammates and the Clemson family:

I hope Disney does this story justice since it seems like a perfect, uplifting movie for a year that has been less than ideal.

The Mandalorian Returns this Friday, October 30

One of my favorite tv shows of the last year, The Mandalorian, returns to Disney+ this Friday. As a lead up to the show, I have re-watched Season 1 (it is at least my fourth re-watch, and it is still great), but I have not completed my rewatch of Star Wars Rebels. Why Rebels you ask? Because of the Darksaber. (See also, Wookiepedia.) I am really interested in seeing how they tie The Mandalorian in with Dave Filoni’s animated shows. There are already the strong (confirmed?) rumors that Rosario Dawson will be playing Ahsoka Tano and that Katee Sackhoff will be playing Bo-Katan (along with the reports that Timothy Olyphant will be “wearing Boba Fett’s armor” and Temuera Morrison will be playing Boba Fett), so how about we get an appearance from my favorite Rebels character, Sabine Wren. (And, no, I do not think Sasha Banks is Sabine.)

I guess we can all see what happens starting this Friday (October 30) and every Friday through December 18th.

Sabine with Darksaber
Sabine with Darksaber

Five Years of Rope Drop dot Net is (Hopefully) Just the Start

It was five years ago today that Elyssa and I launched this site. I had written some blog posts at the TouringPlans blog that I was proud of, including:

But there were other Disney things that I wanted to write about and—frankly—I wanted to have more control over how my writing was presented.

I had a goal when writing the site to integrate things like our podcast listener community and have people from that community and (my corner) of DisTwitter make guest appearances. One of the launch posts was my interview with award-winning podcaster and all-around great guy, Dutch Lombrowski.

I wanted to avoid copying and pasting Disney press releases (I don’t have the time nor interest for that), but I still wanted to give me comments on at least some of the news coming out of Disney World. This led to the birth of the News Nuggets, where I would give brief comments on various news stories.

I also did some in-depth and opinion pieces, with the most controversial being me dunking on FuelRods. (I stand by everything I said in that one.)

My frequency of posting on the site ebbs and flows based on what is going on with my caseload in my day job (the more intense writing I’m doing during the day, the harder it is to put something together for the site at night.) The number of weddings that Elyssa needs help on at any given point can also be a factor that might take up some or all of my “free” time.

All of that said, I have no intention of “stopping” with new articles and updates. I recently moved the site to a new host to make it more reliable and take some of the backend maintenance off of my plate. I doubt I’ll ever post daily on the site, but I am hopeful that I’ll continue to have periods of more activity in between the lulls. I also hope I can think of some new concepts or bring back from old favorites. Like most things in 2020, we will just have to wait and see how things play out.

Thanks for reading.

We’re ready to get back to hang out with Mickey and Minnie​
We’re ready to get back to hang out with Mickey and Minnie

Disney World is Open

Disney World began the re-opening of its theme parks just over two weeks ago. The process has been a long one, with the original announcement taking place back in June. It involved many enhancements to the cleaning at the resorts and the parks, but—for least two weeks—Disney seems like it has succeeded. Disney World is open.

Disney World has been a significant part of Elyssa’s and my life. From our engagement, honeymoon, and, of course, the discovery of her brain tumor, quite a few of our major milestones have either involved or taken place at Disney World. After the parks were closed for four-months as a result of the pandemic, I had hoped that Disney World’s reopening would again be a milestone. Specifically, I hoped that the opening of Disney World would signify that things were a little more “normal.” After these two weeks, I am not yet sure if I feel that way.

With any luck, Elyssa and I will visit Disney World in the next month or so. I know there are differing opinions about whether or not the parks should have opened. I do not intend to get into that debate. Disney World is open, and we may visit in the semi-near future. To prepare for that visit, I have been reading a lot (all?) of the coverage of the reopening. Here are some highlights of that coverage, along with some of my thoughts about them and the reopening.

Safety Measures

Disney has been making a lot of posts about safety.  Both CEO Bob Chapek and Chairman of Disney Parks, Josh D’Amaro have given interviews explaining the safety-related changes and justifying Disney’s decision to reopen its largest and most important theme park resort. Even before people saw how these changes were implemented, the commentary about Disney’s steps was positive, including from the local hospital community.

The first set of announced changes addressed specific risks associated with COVID-19, such as allowing payment via Apple Pay and Disney Gift Cards when placing heavily encouraged mobile orders,  and adding plexiglass to cashier stations where mobile ordering is not possible. The next announcements were that certain seasonal entertainment would not take place, that there would be no character meet and greets or nighttime spectaculars,, and that certain attractions and restaurants would not be part of the initial reopening. Disney also eliminated Fastpass+ to permit ride queues to be re-configured to allow for social distancing between parties on all attractions.

The biggest change, however, was the announcement of the new Disney World Park Pass system. This system requires Disney World guests to pre-select a single park for each day of their visit (no park hopping is allowed during this phase of the reopening) in order to ensure that the parks do not exceed their limited capacity on a given day. Each park gets a limited number of Park Passes per day, and the passes are broken up between resort guests, regular guests, and AP holders.

Initial Reopening Reports

Originally, Elyssa and I had a trip booked that would have put us at Disney World for reopening weekend. After some discussion, we decided we were going to wait and watch how things played out from afar. Though we have only been following other people’s coverage, it looks like the reopening experience went pretty smoothly

Here is a sample of the reopening reports that I read and found interesting:

Guides for Planning a Trip this Summer

Planning a Disney World trip this year will be a very different process from the process that has evolved over the past few years. This new process involves planning a trip based on visiting only one park per day, with no Fastpass+, and with limited capacity at restaurants. After only a couple of weeks, the recommendations for putting together the best version of this type of plan appear to be still in flux. Thankfully, the usual suspects have been putting together resources to help figure things out, including Disney World itself:

After selecting your lodging, the first major step in planning your trip is to secure your Park Pass reservations. Josh over at easyWDW has a comprehensive guide on how to use the Park Pass system. You should pay attention to all the details in the guide, but the main thing to keep in mind is that reservations for Disney’s Hollywood Studios seem to go the quickest (in fact, AP holders cannot get a reservation through all of August). There are different theories about why this is true, but I believe it is likely a combination of The Studios having two of the newest, headliner attractions (Rise of the Resistance and Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway), along with  The Studios having a limited possible capacity due to the inability to run live shows (Indiana Jones, Beauty and the Beast, etc…) that are normally places to “hold” people when they are not in line for other attractions. Whatever the reason, though, Hollywood Studios is the toughest park reservation to get and you should factor that into your planning.

If you are someone who wants to simply be at Disney World, and is less concerned about any particular attractions, Disney’s decision to—essentially—start Food & Wine now has made EPCOT a particularly interesting option. EPCOT gives guests a chance to walk around, in the open air, and enjoy something that is normally reserved for the fall season. Of course, being at EPCOT also does involve being outside in the Florida sun during July and August, but—if your main goal is to be in Disney World, while staying outside and generally away from people—Epcot might be worth a look.

The lack of any Fastpass+ system give the potential for spontaneity on the day you are actually visiting a park, especially with the overall lower wait times. Personally, I thought Disney would implement a broader virtual queue system, but—to date—the only virtual queue is for Rise of the Resistance. The lack of any virtual queuing allows you to roam the parks more freely and otherwise evaluate wait times dynamically throughout the day. One thing to keep in mind, Disney shuts down its attractions about every 2 hours to clean them thoroughly. This cleaning-related delay does cause a longer wait (and may result in a visibly longer line), but reports are that things move pretty quickly once the ride re-opens.

There is a lot new about planning a Disney World vacation during 2020, and I anticipate the advice will continue to evolve over the next couple of weeks. If you want singular resources right now about planning your trip, I suggest you check out these guides from easyWDW and Blog Mickey

Predictions for how the Summer will Play Out

Early predictions are that there might not be a lot of demand at Disney World this summer. I agree with these predictions. For me, the most significant indicator of continuing low crowds is that Disney is offering large merchandise and hotel discounts through at least Mid-August and sometimes into September. Discounts of this kind are an indicator that Disney has looked at its upcoming bookings and determined that it needs to do something to try and convince people to book a vacation. With the nature of this pandemic, however, I am not sure if there is any financial incentive that will persuade some people to travel to Central Florida in 2020.

Summary and Final Thoughts

A lot has changed since mid-March, when Elyssa and I sat in an auditorium with Bob Iger and Bob Chapek. Mr. Iger explained that Disney had weathered uncertainty before, but I am confident that he did not anticipate that Disney’s crown jewel theme park would be closed for four months (and that its original theme park would have no re-opening date even announced for that same period.) Now that the parks are open, I am starting to feel the pull to get back down there and visit. My expectations are tempered due to the necessary limitations that Disney has put on visits as a result of COVID-19. However, I am hopeful that there is still enough “Disney” left in the experience that I will be able to enjoy being back at Disney World, even while everything else goes on. Ultimately, I think I am just going to have to see for myself whether the Disney magic really is back.