Disney Travel In Unpredictable Times

Given the current uncertainty about when Disney will resume normal operations in 2020 due to the coronavirus, we have put together some information and advice for booking future vacation plans and what to do if you need to cancel or move a trip or cruise.

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Making Future Disney Travel Plans

Disney has started to announce reopening dates for Walt Disney World, and we think it’s likely that a reopen plan for Disneyland will come relatively soon. Given that, we think it’s reasonable to start planning for future trips. If, hypothetically speaking, Disney has to change their reopening dates in reaction to the virus and they end up closed on your travel dates, they will refund your money. The key thing is that reopening means that they feel confident they can deliver a safe and relaxing experience. Below we have some specific advice about planning and booking to ensure you have a smooth experience if you need to change your plans.

When buying tickets and booking room-only (non-package) Disney Resort Hotel reservations, our recommendation for the general public and Florida residents continues to be to use Undercover Tourist. (Members of the US military are eligible for special rates directly from Disney.) Seeing how Undercover Tourist has handled this unprecedented disruption to the travel business has only reinforced our opinion. Undercover Tourist’s customer service team has been working incredibly long hours to help people make changes to their tickets and hotel reservations or, when necessary, issuing refunds within 2 weeks (faster than almost any other travel vendor right now). Their commitment to going above and beyond for their customers confirms our decision to recommend them as the go-to source for park tickets and room-only hotel bookings.

Likewise, when booking a Disney vacation package or Disney cruise, we can’t stress enough that using Small World Vacations is the right choice. Having an expert travel agent during a crazy situation like the one we’re in now makes a big difference. All their agents have been working overtime, spending hours on hold and dealing with Disney’s balky website to get their client’s vacations re-booked. When you work with one of their agents, you get a professional advocate who will help online or on the phone, adjusting your travel plans, resolving problems and just generally going to bat for you, and you pay nothing for it. The extra personal service is FREE.

Beyond both of those recommendations, when handling your travel arrangements, obviously it’s more important to make refundable bookings wherever possible. Be sure to read the fine print! Checking the terms and conditions is important, really, all the time, but extra important if you are worried about the possibility that you’ve have to change your plans.

You may also want to consider travel insurance, though read the fine print carefully before purchasing a policy. Most of the time, the closure, bankruptcy or service interruption of a travel provider is a core, fully covered reason for the policy to pay out. But, in some cases, certain kinds of “acts of God” may be excluded, and those exclusions could include a pandemic. Some insurance that used to cover pandemic-related cancellations may have been rewritten so new policies no longer do so. Also keep in mind that travel insurance does not generally cover cancellations that you initiate unless you get a “cancel for any reason” policy or policy rider. “Cancel for any reason” policies generally only pay back a percentage (75% is typical) of the full nonrefundable cost of the trip, and must be purchased within a short time (14 days is typical) of putting down the initial deposit on the trip. So if you think there’s a possibility that things will be back open and running, but you’ll be unwilling to travel because of your personal risk tolerance, you would need a “cancel for any reason” policy if you want full coverage.

Adjusting Existing Travel Plans

If you already have a Disney trip planned and need to change it, please review your options below.

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Changing Walt Disney World Tickets

All Walt Disney World tickets retain their value if unused, no matter where you purchased them, even if they expire. That said, you have more options if you don’t let your Walt Disney World tickets expire. The self-service options for changing tickets are only available if the ticket is unexpired, and a handful of changes are very difficult to do without actually being physically present at Walt Disney World. With FastPass+ selections needing to be made 30-60 days in advance of your trip, you really don’t want to have to wait to get to the park to trade in your old tickets, so if possible keep them from expiring. Walt Disney World will automatically extend the expiration date for tickets that were purchased for dates they are closed, but that may take some time to happen. So if you know you won’t be able to travel on your original dates, see our suggestions below.

If you have decided on the new dates for your Walt Disney World trip and your tickets are still valid, simply change your current tickets to the new dates in the MyDisneyExperience app on a phone or tablet. If that’s not possible, try the website, but so far it hasn’t had the same availability of upgrade options. If you have to call, try to call as early in the morning as possible: phone lines open at 7:00 am ET.

If you have tickets that are going to expire in the next month or so, and you aren’t sure what future dates will work, you should still take the time to move the dates out into the future. Specifically, find some dates a year or more away that are approximately the same price as your current tickets. If you have to pick tickets with fewer days to keep the price close, that’s OK; you can add days back again when you move the tickets to your real trip dates. If you have to pay a dollar or two more per ticket right now, go ahead; we think it’s worth a few dollars to give yourself more time to make a decision. You can make this change yourself through the MyDisneyExperience app. You do not have to have purchased the tickets directly from Disney; you can also make changes to discounted tickets from Undercover Tourist through the app.

For more details about specific rules regarding Walt Disney World tickets, read our guide to Disney World ticket expiration and upgrades.

If you purchased your tickets from Undercover Tourist, they may be refundable, depending on how you purchased them. There will be a restocking fee – check your confirmation email for terms and conditions. You will need to call Undercover Tourist to process the refund, and keep in mind they’re getting a lot of calls now. You should wait until it’s about a week before your original trip dates so they can work with their customers who have the most immediate issues first. Don’t worry, they will be able to help.

Changing Walt Disney World Resort Hotel Reservations

From Disney’s perspective, all Walt Disney World Resort Hotel room-only bookings are fully refundable up to 5 days before arrival, no matter whether they were booked through Disney, Undercover Tourist, or another online travel agent. Undercover Tourist has the same terms as Disney and has no special cancellation fees of their own. Some of the big online agencies, like Expedia and Priceline, may add their own cancellation fees; check your confirmation mail for details.

Because of Disney’s generous refund policy, there’s no specific reason to change your Walt Disney World Resort Hotel reservation until you have firm dates you know you want to change to, or until it’s about 10 days before your arrival. If Disney extends their closure to include your trip dates, they’ll cancel your reservation themselves and likely offer you some kind of special bonus for your trouble. If it gets to be 10 days out and there’s still no clarity on whether the parks will be open, you may want to get online and try to move or cancel the booking. Only call in if you can’t deal with the booking online. There will likely be long wait times on the phone.

Changing Walt Disney World Vacation Packages

If you need to cancel a Walt Disney World vacation package, there is normally a fee if you cancel less than 30 days out. For the time being, Disney has reduced that cancellation window to 7 days out. But if the parks are going to be closed, Disney will probably waive any cancellation fee (and may offer you a bonus offer for your trouble). If you have a travel agent, they will be up on the latest policies and processes; keep in touch with them and let them guide you. If you’ve booked your package yourself and don’t have any clarity about whether the parks will be open, the time to make your go/no-go decision is at about 15 days from arrival, assuming Disney is still keeping the 7-day window for cancellations. If you are feeling like you wouldn’t go even if Disney reopens, then go ahead and cancel or rebook. Try to use the web site if you can; the phones will be very busy.

Changing Disney Cruises

With Disney cruises, the cancellation fees start much earlier than other kinds of travel, so if you have a cruise booking that’s currently in the penalty period (where you’d lose money if you cancelled), the best bet is to sit tight. If Disney Cruise Line cancels the cruise, you’ll get your money back and very likely a nice offer for onboard credit or a discount on a future cruise. If you cancel your cruise before Disney Cruise Line does, you lose your deposit (or possibly more, depending on how close you are to your sail date). If you have a travel agent, keep in touch with them and let them guide you; they are in contact with Disney Cruise Line and know the best options.

If you have a cruise that’s far enough in the future that it’s not in the penalty phase, but you’re just worried that things may not be settled by then, honestly our feeling is Disney Cruise Line will not sail until they feel it is safe. Disney is a very customer-focused company and they are not going to run cruises if they think it’s going to expose their guests to significant danger either on the cruise, or the flight to the port. However, if worrying about your cruise is going to keep you awake at night, do what you need to do. There’s nothing wrong with choosing to reduce your stress level. But there’s not much downside with taking a “wait and see” attitude. 

Changing Disneyland (California) Tickets, Hotels and Packages

Tickets for Disneyland will retain their value forever, even if they expire. If they expire, you can trade in the expired tickets for new tickets. It’s not really necessary to do the trade in advance, since Disneyland doesn’t have FastPass+. You don’t need tickets until the day you arrive. So if you have tickets, just hang on to them (or print or save the code numbers for e-tickets) so you’ll be prepared if you need to trade them in when you reschedule your trip. You can read more in our regular advice about making changes to Disneyland tickets

Room-only hotel bookings at the official Disneyland resort hotels are fully refundable up to 5 days before arrival, so there’s no real urgency to re-book or cancel until you’re about 10 days from arrival, or you know your new dates. If possible, try to re-book or cancel online through the website, because the phones are, of course, very busy.

Disneyland vacation packages are fully refundable up to 30 days from arrival. Disney has reduced that window to 7 days before arrival during the current pandemic. If the parks are going to be closed, Disney will automatically cancel the booking and refund your money even if you’re inside the cancellation penalty window If you’re not sure about travelling, but might want to go if the parks are open, there’s no real risk in waiting until about 15 days from arrival. Once you’re at that 15 day mark, you should consider what your particular tolerance for risk is, and consider cancelling if you don’t think you’ll want to take the trip.