Rescheduling a Disney trip due to COVID-19
Updated: May 17, 2020
I have mentioned several times that we were planning a couples' trip to Disney this July. We had even booked Fast Passes, reserved all dining, and were saving up for incidentals, etc. However, the more we thought about the uncertainty of the opening, what our summer would look like, and the fact that even if the park was opened by July, it might not be as enjoyable due to social distancing, masks, etc.
Part of me wanted to explore what a phased reopening would look like and experience it firsthand; however, the other part of me felt like the cons were staring to outweigh the pros. For me, Disney is a vacation destination that requires a lot of planning and intention. For that reason, I am going to stick to travel over the summer that allows for more spontaneity.
So, we re-booked...and here's EXACTLY how it went down. I know many folks are curious about this process right now. I had never done any type of reschedule with Disney, so I definitely called nervously as we have invested a lot of time, money, and emotion into this trip. I know so many folks are experiencing disappointment and grief about SO much right now, and I feel ya! For our family, postponing travel is a really hard choice as we love it SO much.
I knew that wait times can be long when you call Disney customer service, so I was prepared to wait as I shut myself in my office with cell phone and computer open. I like to have my laptop open to the My Disney Experience website so I can see things like reservation numbers, etc. as the cast member is speaking. Even though I was nervous, I knew I could count on Disney customer service as it's always excellent. That did help ease my nerves a bit.
I called the Disney customer service number with sweaty palms...you can locate that number at the top or bottom of the "my plans" section of the My Disney Experience App. After a few automated telephone system questions, I was on the line with a cast member. All in all, I was on the FIRST phone call for only 20-30 minutes, much better than I was anticipating. **Note I said first haha, I did have to call back a few times about a few technical issues with our Park Hopper tickets.**
Remember those travel planning sheets I referenced in previous posts? Yup, those came WAY in handy too...because I had already mapped out a 6 day trip, I had somewhere to start for re-booking. As I was on hold, I was looking at that with my calendar to determine how this trip would be tweaked. I also had that document opened as the cast member spoke to me so I could edit the planning sheets to be correct. You might think this sounds nuts, but I assure you, your Disney vacation will be better if you are on the meticulous side.
My husband and I had already decided on the new dates before I called, so when the cast member picked up, I first asked her how the prices would change by staying at the same resort we had originally booked for our new dates (Caribbean Beach, a moderate resort). Because of the time of year we are now planning to go and because our new trip didn't fall under any new offers from Disney, our trip price did go up. Not terribly, but enough that I was glad I had been putting money into savings this whole quarantine to prepare for things like this.
Just for fun I asked how much it would be to upgrade our stay to a Magic Kingdom deluxe resort (Polynesian, Contemporary, or Grand Floridian) and NOPE not in the budget for this year :) I will definitely save in the future for one of those stays. For the last 5 months, I have merely been saving $100 a week to go towards our travel budget. That simple step has allowed me to save a lot rather quickly.
Our new dates are November 28-December 4...getting into the holiday season, but not the ultimate rush, as kids are still in school at that time. We knew that was a pretty good week to anticipate for due to our blended family custody schedule and both our work schedules. Also, I have had the dream of traveling to Disney at the holidays for years...why not now? It might be EVEN more magical!
When I called, I knew I needed to talk to the cast member about our resort stay, dining plan, park tickets, rescheduling special ticketed events and experiences, and our transport (flights, Magical Express etc). My first item was our dates and resort stay, so we then moved on to dining.
We had booked under a free dining promo that was offered in January (I need to do a post about those..as I know many have questions). Thankfully, that offer was still valid and we retained the dining plan we had booked (1 quick service or fast food meal, 1 sit down or table service meal, and 2 snacks a day per person). So I was happy that food and resort stays were still pretty much the same.
We had a new booking date of June 1 for advanced dining reservations (ADR) so I knew I had lots of time to hopefully get all the places I wanted from the first itinerary plus a few others that I wanted to try! I did have to go into the app and clear out all our existing dining reservations to be ready for 6 am on June 1st when I am ready to book new ones!
I also had to go in and clear out all the Fast Pass Reservations we had made for July. Honestly, we weren't extremely jazzed about the rides we hadn't been able to snag for summer, so we are both relieved that we can re-book ride and experience Fast Passes by the end of September and maybe have better luck.
Again, because I had already created the trip planning sheets, it was very easy to rethink our park hopper plans and dining plans for the future trip. All I had to do was tweak the days.
We moved on to our theme park tickets. We had originally paid for 7 day Park Hopper tickets and for Memory Maker (a photo service that I LOVE and will post about soon.) We wanted to keep everything in tact with those tickets, just changing the dates. We knew we could potentially change our last day of departure a little bit and get the most value out of our Park Hoppers. Everything seemed ok there until I checked the My Disney Experience app and noticed...NO PARK HOPPER TICKETS on our profile.
So, I called back quickly for the second time that afternoon to inquire. I did NOT want to pay twice for these tickets or get to Disney with this screwed up because of a tech glitch! I got in touch with a very helpful cast member who ended up having to go into the website on the back end to find the Park Hoppers to restore them to my app. PHEW huge sigh of relief there when they showed back up in my app.
Special Ticketed Events and Experiences:
After I finished securing our Park Hoppers, I asked the cast member about the process of rescheduling for our ticketed events...the Villains After Hours Party and the Highway in the Sky progressive dinner. Both were pretty straightforward. For Villains, she told me to not cancel the tickets yet...when I do I will get a full refund; however since we want to attend Mickey's Christmas Party for our new trip, she recommended I wait and see if tickets are released in June and then I could do an exchange. If tickets aren't released by July 6 (when we had booked the Villains Party), I will get an immediate refund and put it towards my purchase of Christmas Party Tickets.
For the Highway in the Sky dine around (an exclusive, small group progressive dinner on the monorail resorts), I did have to cancel the original booking fully. I will get a full refund from the original booking and put it towards a re-booking on June 1st when I am able to book all our ADR's. Again, I just wanted to make sure I wasn't losing money on things I had already pre-saved for, paid, and booked.
Flights and Transport:
My last step was adjusting our flights. This also made me a little bit nervous, as I knew they had been booked in January before the COVID no change fees policies from airlines went into place. We had booked discount airlines because we just aren't that picky about a two hour direct flight.
We didn't face much difficulty with re-booking (I was able to go online to the airlines we are using and easily change our tickets, but we did have about $130 worth of change fees as I had suspected.) It wasn't a big deal, but it does kinda stink when you have already paid once for a plane ticket.
Our flight down was basically the exact same flight time we would have had on the Saturday we were going to fly out in July...however; I noted when I was trying to change times for our return flight that the airline had cut its direct flight to Orlando. There was now only one flight offered a day and it had to go through a hub city. It also left early in the morning. I wasn't wild about the time, so we decided we would stay on in Orlando an extra day (Friday Dec. 4) and use our Park Hopper which still had 2 more full days of use left and then take an Uber to an airport hotel.
I researched and Disney will hold luggage for you after you check out. You just have to come back and get it. So, we can park hop for another full day, return to resort, call an Uber, and go straight to the airport hotel we booked for that night. Then, Saturday Dec. 5th will be our travel day. We will be right at the airport so we won't have to be on the Magical Express (Disney's transport service) SO dang early! We can just take an airport shuttle.
Speaking of which..that was my LAST step. I called Disney for a third or fourth time, now that I had flight info, and set up Magical Express for our pickup on 11/28. We didn't need return service because we have worked out our plan for our last day.
All in all, the experience of changing our trip wasn't half as bad as expected. It probably took me about 4 hours total of time and a few phone calls to Disney customer service. If you have questions, don't hesitate to reach out to me via email or message.
All of that being said, I would NOT repeat a trip reschedule again this year due to the countless variables that have to be considered when rescheduling. We have both agreed that if the trip later this year is postponed or cancelled, we will just take advantage of Disney's no penalty refund policy due to COVID, and put the money in savings for a future trip.