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Catching COVID on Vacation

Last month I went on my first summer trip to Walt Disney World since the pandemic began. I was looking forward to checking out the new attractions, and tinkering with Genie+ to give our UNIGLOBE clients first-hand experience and tips. Alas, those inherent risk of COVID warnings all over Disney World’s communications are there for a reason. With so many gathered and masking restrictions removed, it stands to reason that the risk is fairly high. For the last 2 years I have been a very cautious person, but as a vaxxed, boosted and masked individual, I admit I got complacent and caught up in the excitement of being back “home” at Disney World. Well, you guessed it! COVID got us. We can’t say for sure WHERE we picked up the virus. It is still a pandemic after all, and we were in airports, Orlando grocery stores, a Florida college campus and restaurants all outside of Disney World. At any rate, here is how it went down.

We flew into the Orlando airport, masking the whole time, and had rented a minivan for the duration of our trip. We had arranged a college tour for my teen before beginning our stay at Disney’s Beach Club Resort. We visited a park, followed by a resort day that we spent at the pool, and then on our next park day, after just a short time there, we suddenly felt extra fatigued. That “I’m so tired I don’t even want to be here in my favorite place” fatigue. We returned to our room mid-morning, and slept for hours. We woke feeling overall terrible and achy. The friends we were with recently had covid and did not have symptoms, so they went out and got us covid tests and a thermometer. Very quickly our tests showed the dark pink line indicating positive. Our friend called up the front desk and Disney immediately asked if we needed medical attention. We were “fine”, very flulike and miserable, but not requiring medical care. Next, they instructed us on current CDC guidelines. We were instructed that we must quarantine for 5 days. After those days, we were free to leave our room but must mask for the following 5 days. We were informed that our tickets would be frozen and unable to be used at the parks (in other words- a warning to not even try to enter, not that we would have anyway.) As “luck” would have it, we were there for a lengthy stay of 10 days. We had split the resort portion of our trip, 5 days at Beach Club, and 5 days at Animal Kingdom Lodge. Our quarantine began on our 3rd day at the Beach Club. We were advised that they did want us to go ahead and move to the other resort, but we were not allowed to leave until they had a room ready for us. We were called when this was ready, and we loaded up our rental car and headed over.

At Animal Kingdom Lodge, we continued our sleep while our friends handled our luggage. We inquired about how we would receive necessities such as food. Surprisingly, we were told they DO NOT deliver anything to the rooms at all, even for those in quarantine. Our friends were amazing, masking for the safety of all while fetching our meals for us, etc. We were very thankful to have a view of the savannah and as we recovered; we enjoyed having the animals to watch to help pass the time. After all, one can only watch so much Netflix. I suppose there are much worse places to have to quarantine! After our 5th day of this, we were more than ready to be sprung! We were feeling back to normal and had been fever free since Q day1. We masked up and visited the pool just to get out of the room. We avoided the humans.

Both hotel managers were wonderful about checking on us and making sure we were doing ok. Park tickets in general are non-refundable and expire after 1st use, but we were told they would gift us our unused portion for a future visit. We did, indeed, receive complimentary 3 day tickets WITH PARK HOPPER (our originals were base, one-park-per-day, tickets). These complimentary tickets do not expire until 2027, which is incredibly generous giving us plenty of time to make a return visit. As far as food goes, I am a tad baffled on how we would have gotten meals had we not had friends that were allowed to help us out, but I suspect we would have been provided alternate options if the situation were different. They said cases are handled on an individual basis.

Again, while we aren't certain where we caught COVID, the unmasked crowds, hot temperatures, constant wiping of our sweat and touching our masks up and down didn't help to keep us from getting infected. We “mostly masked” indoors but did forget at times. We carried hand sanitizer but did not remember to use after every single touch of all the handrails and attraction seatbelts. It is no wonder Orlando a current hotspot with so many exciting destinations and travelers from all over to visit them. Given our recent experience, my suggestions would be to absolutely mask indoors and on transportation even though you are not required to do so. Carry sanitizer and use often, avoid touching your face as much as possible. It's also not a bad idea to bring rapid antigen COVID tests in your luggage. If you are not vaccinated and/or are in the high-risk category, you may also want to reconsider a “hot Florida weather” season vacation . Postponing for the less intense temperatures of late fall/winter may be wise for these guests.

All told, I felt Disney handled our situation well, and I look forward to returning at the end of September!

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