Travel Tuesday: Florida Theme Parks are open and here’s what to consider before going

(Photo by Alex Menendez/Getty Images)
(Photo by Alex Menendez/Getty Images) /

Florida theme parks have welcomed back guests but is a visit right for you?

From Universal to Disney, the Florida theme parks have opened their gates to guests. While many people will debate whether or not this situation is the best option, the theme parks are open and people are visiting. If you are considering a visit this summer, here are a few things to consider before walking through those turnstiles.

While many people have seen reports on television or have read other articles, I have personally visited both Universal and Disney in the past several weeks. Based on what I saw and how people reacted, one sentiment seemed to be clear. People wanted to be back at their happy place, therefore they were willing to follow the rules.

For a moment, think back to kindergarten. There were some very specific rules. From standing in a straight line to raising your hand before you spoke, all those rules were simple, clear, and had to be followed. There was no room for discussion or debate.

In a way, that concept applies to a theme park visit. If you don’t like the rules that are in place, it is best that you do not attend. Yes, it can be that simple.

From wearing a mask to social distancing to using common sense, all those rules apply to a visit. It doesn’t mean that the day won’t be filled with fun. In some ways, a visit this summer might even be more fun than you realize.

According to the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions (IAAPA) offered six topics that theme park guests should expect on a visit this summer. While these topics are broad, they make sense and were part of the experience from my visit.

IAAPA tells theme park guests to expect temperature checks, face coverings, and keeping distance. In addition, some theme parks, like Disney, require advance reservations. Also, guests should wash their hands often and avoid touching their faces.

At both Universal and Disney, guests’ temperatures are checked before stepping into the theme park. It was fast and efficient on both of my visits. It was no different than getting your pass or Magic Band checked.

Regarding face coverings, it can be different depending on the theme park in question. While Universal allows various types of face coverings, Disney requires a face mask with ear loops. It is important to know the requirements.

Also, it is not a game to see how you far can pull the mask down and get away with breaking the rules. While the theme parks have places to rest and relax with a mask, people are expected to follow the rules. There are cameras all around and staff will remind you to keep your face covered.

For Florida theme parks, the heat does become a factor during a visit. With the mask, it might be a good idea to have some disposable face masks on hand. It can help to switch masks during the day.

Also, it is really important to remember to hydrate during the day. Usually, everyone is carrying water bottles and drinking as they walk around. The face mask makes it different. Still, it is important to take a break and drink.

While there is much talk about masks and distancing, one big change that people might not know is guests need a smartphone. Many of the restaurants prefer mobile ordering, which helps to minimize contact.

Whether it is ordering lunch or even getting a drink from the Coke Freestyle Machine, a smartphone is more than reserving a virtual time on Hagrid’s Motorbike Adventure. If you have space to bring a charger, you might want to be prepared.

While this summer at Florida theme parks is different, it is still fun. People who know the parks well will see little differences in the queues and a few special events that are missing. Characters might not be giving hugs and the pictures might need a little photoshop.

Still, the biggest takeaway from my visits isn’t the changes or the requirements. It is the attitude that the guests have towards all the team and cast members. There is a sense of being grateful. Even with all the chaos, those people are working to bring a little piece of normal to an otherwise chaotic world. Sometimes that sentiment needs to be celebrated.

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Are you considering going to a Florida theme park this summer? Do you think that the requirements are changing the experience?