For better or worse, theme parks are not the same as they were two and a half years ago. Following short- and long-term park closures and ever-changing guidelines, the average theme park experience has changed. The theme park experience in 2022 and beyond, is not the same as it was in 2019. If you happened to visit a theme park in 2020 or early 2021, your experience going now would also look drastically different. It is important to be prepared so that you can have the best theme park experience possible. Therefore, we offer you 5 Tips for Tackling Theme Parks in a Post-Pandemic Era.
1. Manage Crowd Expectations
This tip is especially true when it comes to Walt Disney World, but I have noticed increased crowd levels at other parks as well. As restrictions and guidelines regarding the pandemic have eased, many more people are taking the time to travel, as they may have put it off for the last couple of years. This is causing higher than “normal” level crowds. Pair that with Walt Disney World’s 50th Anniversary Celebration and you have A LOT of people visiting the parks. If you are someone who likes to research crowd calendars, please realize that they may not be as accurate as they are based on previous years, and the last 3 years have not been typical. Manage your expectations and go in knowing that it might be busy.
There are a couple of things you can do to help when visiting busy parks. One of the best things you can do is to research what “fast pass” programs that park might have. Many theme parks have some type of pass that you can purchase that can decrease the time you wait in attraction queues and maximize the number of things you can get done during your visit. Weigh out the options for you and your family. You can also try visiting the parks when school is in session and avoid visiting the parks during school breaks and holidays. Finally, always try to take advantage of a park's early entry or extended evening hours. These will generally be your best bet to hit a couple of rides with much lower crowds.
2. Monitor for Changing Policies
A pandemic is unpredictable, and so are theme park policies lately. Most theme parks will follow suit with the CDC guidelines, and in the event of a surge, these guidelines can change. This might mean masks are required again or specific experiences are temporarily unavailable. One such policy that you want to be sure to check is if a park reservation is also required to visit a park. Most parks are no longer requiring this, but Disney parks still do. You do not want to show up to a park and not be able to get in. While we hope we have reached the end of park restrictions, it is always a great idea to check each park’s guidelines and be flexible when it comes to possible changes.
3. Expect That Some Attractions, Experiences, and Merchandise May Be Unavailable
Sadly, some attractions and theme park experiences either still have not opened following the pandemic closures or won’t be returning at all (RIP Rivers of Light at Disney’s Animal Kingdom). Check to make sure your favorite restaurant or experience is opened before you head to the park.
Additionally, supply chain issues are affecting theme parks. It is possible that a park might run out of a particular piece of merchandise quicker or may not even receive certain merchandise at a time previously expected. This also goes for food items as well. We have seen certain menu items become unavailable due to supply chain issues. It is important to be patient and polite with cast members and employees at the parks as we all navigate these issues.
4. Familiarize Yourself with New Payment Options
Many theme parks, such as Cedar Point and Hersheypark, have moved to cashless payments. This means the cashiers at the parks do not accept cash. They accept cards, Apple or Google Pay, or a pre-paid card that you can purchase with cash at a kiosk in the park.
Other parks like Six Flags parks, Disney parks, and Universal parks have introduced mobile ordering. This allows guests to order from certain dining locations straight from their phones. This usually requires guests to download that park’s mobile app. Many parks have their own mobile apps and some, like Walt Disney World, even allow you to check out at some merchandise locations using the mobile app. Check to see if the park you are visiting has an app, download it, and become familiar with it before your visit. Using the mobile app for a theme park can help you to save time and know what is going on at the park.
5. Take Appropriate Precautions for You and Your Family
While this article is called Tips for Tackling Theme Parks in a POST-Pandemic Era, we are still living through this current pandemic. All theme parks now advise that there is an inherent risk of exposure to COVID when attending. Take whatever precautionary actions that feel best for you, whether masking, vaccinations, boosting your immune system, or simply washing your hands more frequently. And of course, it is best to avoid visiting a theme park if you are sick. However you decide to tackle theme parks in these unprecedented times, we hope you enjoy it and stay safe!