My Corona Life-Long Dream: Kicking off Re-Opening Weekend at Disney

My Corona Life-Long Dream: Kicking off Re-Opening Weekend at Disney.

When the coronavirus first starting making news in the US I, like most people, didn’t feel a cause for concern. Surely it’d be another random virus to just pass on through. A quick blurb in the news for a few days that would be quickly forgotten.

Things snowballed rather quickly and the moment I heard that Disney World was shutting its doors? THAT is the moment it got REAL for me.

I wasn’t raised on Disney. I did live about 45 minutes from the parks as a small child and we did visit Disney World a decent number of times while I was a kid. But we weren’t like hardcore Disney people.

I enjoyed it. But wasn’t INTO it.

Heck, even when we took our first child to the parks for the first time we didn’t wear Disney themed clothing. I mean that’s craziness πŸ˜‰

My love for Disney is something that has developed over time. When life gets hard, Disney is a beautiful escape from the “tough stuff.” A place that fills my heart with happiness even when it seems like joy isn’t possible.

I became an annual pass holder a few years ago and just KNOWING I can go to the parks at any moment is like it’s own therapy πŸ˜‰ Knowing my happiest place is just a few hours away is a gift to me!

So when Disney closed? I was in disbelief and faced with devastation.

I know we all have our “things” that hit us the hardest when the world started shutting down. But I knew Disney making that call was MAJOR. It’s how my husband felt when sports went away πŸ˜‰

I told Zach that day that I did not care WHAT I had to do in order for it to happen but that my “Coronavirus Life Long Dream” was to be AT Magic Kingdom the day it re-opened. I didn’t care about the other parks. I didn’t care about any of the details. I just wanted to be there on that day.

I never thought it’d become such a LONG goal. The fact that the length of time was “indefinitely” was crazy! Who knew it’d be over 100 days before it reopened!

During the closure I stayed up to date on all things parks-related. Any gossip or rumors, I was right there for them all. I wanted to be sure I knew exactly what I needed to do when the time came to make sure I was walking down Main Street on that special day.

I felt pretty confident in my ability to make it happen – 1) I’m an annual passholder and 2) I’m a Florida resident (we own a vacation rental home close to the Disney parks!)

The morning of the press release for Disney’s reopening plan I tuned in live to see what they proposed. THE second they announced the opening date I jumped on and booked a Disney resort stay. That way I had all three basis covered.

If they only allowed passholders, I was in. If they only allowed Florida residents, I was in. If they only allowed resort guests, I was in.

The resort stay reservation ended up being super clutch as Disney shut down their reservation system within an hour of me grabbing my booking! The actual resort where I had booked my stay was not going to be opened for reopening weekend so I did have to call (I waited on hold one day for over 10 hours and then still didn’t get through!) and have my room switched.

They upgraded me from an All Star resort to Pop Century which was a first stay for me!

When I made the room reservation Zach very sweetly offered to come with me. I politely declined his offer. I know it sounds crazy but I just wanted to GO ALONE.

The first reason I wanted to have a solo trip was that I wasn’t sure how getting the actual park reservation would go down and I knew I had the BEST shot at getting a reservation if I was by myself rather than if I was trying to book multiple people.

The second reason I wanted to go alone was that I wasn’t sure how it would GO. Rumors were all over the place regarding what may be open, what may be closed, what safety measures may or may not be in place.

No matter what changes may be in place for the parks there was one thing that was guaranteed in July at Disney – it’d be MISERABLY HOT.

I knew a husband or a child in the heat alone would be a complaint filled experience. Let alone adding in masks, social distancing, the first day bumps in the road that cast members would surely be facing.

I know myself and the way I operate when it comes to Disney is that I’m just SUPER HAPPY to BE there. Not everyone feels that way and that’s okay. But man it steals my joy so fast when others seem to not be enjoying themselves at the parks. I take it personally for some reason. I feel like I should be able to somehow possess the Disney Magic myself and be able to singlehandedly spread that magic to everyone else too.

So knowing myself and the fact that I didn’t marry someone who feeeeeels that Disney magic in their soul like I do, I declined Zach’s offer to come with me. I also didn’t feel it was wise to bring any kids along as I wanted to get a feel for things and a good handle on the guidelines and such prior to adding children in the mix. I visited Disney Springs with a couple of my friends and just didn’t feel too secure about the kids all wearing masks and still enjoying the parks!

I have visited Disney alone a few times now. My first solo trip I went to the PARK alone for the day but went down with friends, my second I drove down the morning of then drove home that evening, and my third I stayed one night on property to attend an annual pass holder event.

This time? I booked myself two nights at the Disney Resort (which, as mentioned, ended up being Pop Century).

As Disney made more and more announcements I learned about the annual passholder preview days and debated if I should cancel my resort stay and instead go for the passholder preview. We LOVED attending the passholder preview event for Galaxy’s Edge last year but I didn’t want to preview. I wanted to have that FULL “it’s legit open” experience. So I didn’t even try to secure a spot for the preview days.

Instead I was one of the many who was on my computer the second they opened the park reservation system. I had my desktop going, my lap top going and my phone all trying to connect to the system and secure my spot. It was a frustrating several hours but it paid off and I was able to get a park reservation for myself for both the opening day of Magic Kingdom as well as a spot the following day at Animal Kingdom.

It really felt like a dream and like I’d wake up at any moment. Everyone knows – this pandemic is crazy and we’re having plans change at the very last second now on a regular basis. So I was excited, but nervous to get TOO excited too.

Thankfully the opening weekend was just 2 days after we got home from our beach trip so I wasn’t home to even really focus on it much!

I headed down on Friday, July 10th and it was an eerie feeling to be back on Disney World property. I visited while the parks were closed and it felt so great to be seeing vehicles again and to know, at least some of the area, was open again.

I know people living in certain areas may have been used to wearing masks by mid-July but I wasn’t. So the whole mask element of everything was very strange and foreign to me and felt like I was living in some movie or something rather than it being real life. I wasn’t sure if I needed to put it on right as I got on Disney property or just once I got into the building.

The parking lot was EMPTY. Very few cars at all at Pop Century and when I walked up to the entrance of the resort I was greeted by so many cast members, one of whom took my temperature.

I walked through a totally vacant lobby and checked in. I opted NOT to do online check-in as I did that before on a solo trip and had a super, mega far away room. I wanted to get the best room possible so I did the in-person check-in.

I didn’t realize prior to checking in that Pop Century was just opening that day for the first time since the shutdown. I was actually the cast member’s very first guest on their very first day back! Pretty awesome to be a small part in such a big day!

There were markers for social distancing (in the event of there actually being a line) and a partition to talk through to the cast member at check in.

The first really annoying thing about the safety measures was that there weren’t any resort maps to show me where to go to my room or where to best park to be as close to my room as I could be. Instead I had to pull up the resort on the Disney app and zoom in to figure it all out. Anyone who is at all familiar with the My Disney Experience App knows what a pain it is!

I headed back to the car to get my stuff and took some photos of all the signage. It felt so strange having NO ONE around.

My room was located in the area between the 70s and 60s I guess? I don’t know a whole lot about this particular resort. Personally? I’m just not a fan of staying on property at Disney World (here’s why you shouldn’t either!)

In order to secure my park reservation I had to have a resort stay so I don’t regret staying on property for this situation by any means and I do stay on site occasionally and I also do want to someday have the opportunity to stay at a monorail resort! But just overall it’s a very “meh” experience to me on property.

The rooms have recently been redone and I thought the changes all looked great! Very modern while still having Disney touches and the pull-down Murphy bed was super cool! The resorts are doing extra cleaning safety measures for the room as well.

I wanted to walk around the resort a little bit, as a first timer it’s always fun to take in the vibe!

I saw VERY few people out walking around and it was a weird feeling to pass everyone wearing masks. It felt less friendly. I know that’s probably more in my head that what was actually the case but yall know I am a PEOPLE PERSON. And I do think the masks minimize interactions with people (which is kinda the point I guess haha).

Obviously Pop is an older resort but some of the touches were still really neat to see in person. I especially enjoyed seeing the Mickey phone since Spear has the exact same one in his bedroom AND we have one in the Disney Rental House!

Had to get a selfie with Goofy since it’ll prob be the closest I can get to a character for awhile πŸ˜‰

I had planned to hang at the pool for a bit but it started raining so I decided to go into the gift shop. They are really trying to get rid of the 2020 merchandise and had everything buy one get one free so I grabbed an ornament to put a picture in of us with a mask on at the parks because HOPEFULLY it’ll be a 2020 “thing” and not extend to 2021 πŸ˜‰

As I walked back to my room I randomly started talking to these two lifeguards who were hanging out waiting on the pool to open. I ended up talking to these kids (and I say kids because they were def in their early 20s) for an HOUR haha. Clearly I just don’t do well being by myself. I can’t hide my extrovert!

I def think part of the reason I’ve been able to do okay traveling alone is because I am so connected to my community on Instagram. Chatting with yall via my IG Stories makes me feel like I’m never REALLY alone, ya know?

Anyway it was really interesting to hear their stories about how they ended up working with Disney and they gave me some GREAT insight for the kids too in case any of my crew are interested in a life at Disney (I mean at least one of them will be, right? Right?). They said the Disney College Program you still pay for your own school AND live in their dorm type things at Disney but the rent comes out of your paycheck. If you just get a full time position at Disney (harder to get though) and stay on fora certain amount of time (I can’t remember how long) then Disney will pay for your tuition at college!

Hope that some of these options are still available to my kids someday. One of the lifeguards said his mom was super into Disney when he was a kid and that it really stuck with him and he’s ALL ABOUT IT. I’m crossing fingers that my kids will keep being Disney Kids on into adulthood too and talking to him gave me hope!

He also told me a fun fact about Pop Century…there are hidden mickeys ALL over the resort and there is at least one at each of the decorative areas of the room sections.

Can you spot the one located behind Baloo and Mowgli?

It finally stopped raining with about 15 minutes left before the pool closed so I went and sat by the pool just to have the experience. I wished it had stopped earlier so I could have relaxed a bit but at least I did get to check it out.

I was allowed to remove the mask in the pool area so it was the most normal feeling experience of the evening for sure!

I headed back to the room and got ready for the next day. I knew I’d have trouble sleeping. For me the night before ANY Disney Day is like the night before Christmas. So much excitement and anticipation that I never sleep well. Especially on THIS night with such a HUGE Disney Day the next day!

I did my nails and had some unwind bingewatching time and then did my best to fall asleep.

I am doing separate posts for my days at the parks on this trip but wanted to do an intro to the weekend post to explain all the back story πŸ˜‰

So let this post be the anticipation post for the ones to come haha!

A video should auto play in this post with a room tour of my room at Pop Century.

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Emily Parker

Hey Y’all, I’m Emily! I’m a stay at home mom and consider parenting to be my passion. Disney is my happiest place and I love making memories as a family together. I’m a big believer in transparency and share all of my real-life moments as a mother of four.

My work has been featured on Love What Matters, Today Parenting and Babywise.Life. I’m also honored to be a member of the Babywise Friendly Blog Network.

You can read more about our family on my About Me page. Also be sure to follow along with me on Instagram, FacebookΒ and Pinterest!

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