Yesterday was the first time the Universal Orlando Resort theme parks re-opened to the public. I went with a friend, to enjoy the parks from 8 a.m. until 7:30 p.m. Universal Orlando, along with many other locations in Florida, require guests to wear face coverings in the parks. While many of us have worn a mask in a grocery store for about 30 minutes, this endeavor was entirely different. And, somewhat more difficult than I originally anticipated. Here’s what we experienced wearing masks for almost 12 hours with the temperatures in the 90s most of the day.
Choosing a mask is vitally important, as there are many different kinds of face coverings to choose among. Most use the ear-loop kind, as show by my friend in the image above. I personally use the wrap around, over your head style, also known as Neck Gaiters, and can be seen below. Masks are different for everyone and it is highly recommended to try a few styles until you get one that feels comfortable.
Throughout the day, we never had problems with our masks being uncomfortable, even on high-speed coasters like Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit. Getting a soft mask that doesn’t pull on your head or ears is essential for all day usage. While at Universal, we noted that many guests were purchasing them there. One guest who bought the new Universal Pass Holder mask said it was much softer and sat on his face better than the one they had before.
For most of the day, breathing was easy. Again, we had little-to-no discomfort on major rides like the Incredible Hulk Roller Coaster. We were allowed to take our masks off for the Jurassic Park River Adventure. Guests can keep their masks on or take them off for water attractions at Universal Orlando. The distance between guests is much greater on this attraction than in others. That, combined with the chance of getting the mask very wet, is why guests are allowed this exception. Universal team members will explicitly tell you if you can take your mask off.
We did have issues later in the day though. Heavy rains poured down in the park, getting both of our masks very wet. We got rained on while riding Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure. The rain, combined with the launch speeds and the soaked mask, made it hard for me to catch my breath. I did, at one point, have to slide a hand in my mask to make a gap in-between my nose and the fabric. I was never panicked by a difficulty to breath, but I felt safer at that point to make that gap with my hand instead of forcing myself to breath much heavier than normal.
Everyone in our party was in their twenties, but the Florida sun and heat can be overwhelming to anyone at times. (Our 50-year-old publisher was there for three hours mid-day and said he had no problems with his mask.) I felt my own mask was alright for most of the day. But the black cloth, combined with the fact that it covers my entire neck, made me sweat on my face and neck in the mid-afternoon. I’m not usually a fan of water attractions, but we did head to the Jurassic Park River Adventure ride specifically to cool off.
During our visit the temperature reached 91º Fahrenheit and there were times with little-to-no cloud cover. Times like this weren’t an issue except when we had to walk extended distances. 91º in the sunlight is hot, with or without a mask. I think the masks made it feel a bit warmer, but honestly it didn’t make a huge difference. I personally never felt faint or worried the mask would dangerously increase my temperature.
When to take masks off
While we mostly wore our masks for the 12 hours, there were periods where we did take them off. There are, of course, times that masks are simply not possible. One of those times is when walking around with a snack or drink. Guests are encouraged to take a sip or bite, then return their masks until the next sip or bite of food.
At the Universal Orlando Resort there are U•Rest locations where masks are not required . These large areas have seating and ample room to social distance. The particular U•Rest location pictured above is located in the Central Park area that guests go to watch Universal Orlando’s Cinematic Celebration (which isn’t currently running).
We also took our face coverings off when seated in dining locations. Many quick service locations that normally give out free water now require guests to be seated first. Even if you just want water, you must be seated. While this may take more time, it does allow a spot to rest, cool down and take the mask off. All of the team members always leave their masks on.
Tips to improve your day
These new rules will not last forever. But for now, masks and social distancing are a part of visiting most of the major theme park destinations. If you decide to come and enjoy the attractions, food and shows, here’s what can help:
- Take extra breaks throughout the day.
- Drink water more often.
- Look for rides or areas that allow you to take your mask off.
- Break your day into sections with an extended mid-day meal or rest.
- Find a mask that is most comfortable to you before you visit.
- Have patience with employees and fellow park guests.
- Read over posted rules before arriving and follow them. (Remember, the masks must cover your nose as well as your mouth.)
- You can also bring extra masks to switch out during the day in case the first set gets wet, sweaty or dirty.
Will you be heading to major theme park locations when they re-open? Are you willing to wear a mask all day long? Have any other tips? Let us know in the comments below.