Twelve Tips to Avoid Waiting in Line at Disney World

Updated on December 3, 2018
leahlefler profile image

I'm a mom of two, super-powered by a degree in biochemistry and a lot of first-hand experience!

Preparation is crucial to avoiding long waits at Disney World. We used the extra magic hours to experience the rides before the park was open to the general public.
Preparation is crucial to avoiding long waits at Disney World. We used the extra magic hours to experience the rides before the park was open to the general public. | Source

Have a Strategy

While some people do not enjoy planning, the payoff at Disney is worth the pain of researching and planning out the trip. A fly-by-night person may decide to go to the Magic Kingdom two days before Christmas and find, to their dismay, that the park is packed and the fast passes are “gone” for their favorite rides, leaving them with excruciatingly long waits and a sense of frustration.

It is far, far better to understand which rides generate the lines and to know where you want to go first when you get into the park. Our family once made the mistake of getting to the park at rope-drop and riding the Haunted Mansion and Pirates of the Caribbean prior to riding the Jungle Cruise. Due to the loading capacity of the Jungle Cruise, our wait was a painfully long 90 minutes for this ride (the marquee outside the ride stated 25 minutes: it was dreadfully wrong). We now know to ride the Jungle Cruise before riding some of the other, faster-loading rides!

Your strategy will vary depending on your personal preferences and “must-see” attractions. If you have small children, Peter Pan is likely to be a highly coveted ride and you may choose to go to Fantasyland first. If you have teenagers, Space Mountain might be a priority and you will run to Tomorrowland first. Having a strategy will allow you to get the most out of your time and will prevent you from running from place to place, randomly searching for the lowest waits.

Having children old enough to use the single rider line allows your family to experience favorite attractions without a wait. My 12 year old son was able to ride Test Track repeatedly without any wait by using this line.
Having children old enough to use the single rider line allows your family to experience favorite attractions without a wait. My 12 year old son was able to ride Test Track repeatedly without any wait by using this line. | Source

Use the Single Rider Line

One of the easiest, free ways to cut wait time down in a Disney Park is to use the single rider line strategy. The single rider line is often located near the exit to most rides. Where available, there will be a sign indicating the location of the single rider line – if unsure, simply ask a cast member for guidance. While not every attraction has a single-rider line available, many of the major headliners offer this option and it is a way to get multiple rides on a favorite ride. On a recent visit, our family noticed the wait time for Test Track was 70 minutes long. We entered the single rider line and waited a total of 15 minutes for the ride. The disadvantage to the single rider line is that you will not be in a ride vehicle with your family, but placed next to a stranger. The single rider system will not work for those with very young children for this reason, but for those with older kids and teenagers who want to re-ride Rockin’ Roller Coaster, the single rider line is an excellent strategy.

The rides at Disney World offering a single-rider line include:

EPCOT

  • Test Track

Hollywood Studios

  • Rock N Roller Coaster

Animal Kingdom

  • Expedition Everest

How to Use Single Rider Lines

Use the Fast Pass System

Disney World uses the “Fast Pass +” system, which allows guests to book up to three fast passes in advance of their stay. The fast passes are linked to the ticket for each guest and can be viewed (and managed) from the Disney World app. The fast passes are also stored on the Magic Band, which is a bracelet that stores guest information (including park tickets, ride photo download information, and fast pass reservations). Resort guests obtain a magic band for free, but any guest may choose to purchase a magic band and link it to their ticket information.

Fast passes allow a guest to “skip the line” for many attractions. They may also be used to guarantee seating to popular shows and to obtain prime viewing for fireworks. While three passes may be booked in advance for each park, some parks have tiered systems to prevent three headliner rides from being booked on the same day.

EPCOT, for example, will allow a guest to book Test Track or the Frozen Ever After ride in advance, but not both. Many guests will opt to book one of these rides in advance, and then get to the park early and ride the other headliner as soon as they enter the park. Decide which headliner you would like to ride in your early planning, and book that fast pass as soon as it is available. Plan to use extra magic hours or a rope-dropping strategy to ride the other headliners.

Staying On-Site Has Many Benefits

We often choose to stay at a Disney World Resort property, which gives us access to early fast pass bookings and extra magic hours.
We often choose to stay at a Disney World Resort property, which gives us access to early fast pass bookings and extra magic hours. | Source

Stay at a Disney World Resort Hotel

Staying on site at a Disney resort is advantageous for several reasons: you have access to the parks for extended times (extra magic hours), you have priority for park entrance during crowded seasons, and you are able to book fast passes 60 days in advance of attending a park.

The general public (staying off-site) may book fast passes 30 days in advance, but many of the fast passes for the most popular rides will not be available at this time point. By staying onsite, a guest has the ability to book fast passes for the most popular attractions 60 days in advance. In addition, off-site guests must book each day of fast-passes as the window opens for each day they plan to attend. For those staying onsite, the window opens at 60 days for the entire length-of-stay.

Extend Your Stay

Visiting Disney World for one or two days may be enough for someone who lives locally, but the presence of four separate theme parks in the area makes a visit of longer than a couple of days advisable. For those staying on-site, the fast-pass window opens at 60 days from the first day of check in. This means that you can book some fast passes at more than 60 days from your stay. If you are staying for 7 days at the resort, for example, you can book all of your fast passes the moment your window opens. For some of the most popular rides, the only way to get a fast pass is to book a fast pass at more than 60 days in advance.

For example, it may be impossible to get a fast pass to the Flight of Passage ride at Animal Kingdom at 60 days out. For a guest staying onsite, it would be best to visit Animal Kingdom later in the week – perhaps on Day 4 of the trip rather than on the first day. Obtaining fast passes for the ride might be possible 64 days prior to the trip when there are none available at 60 days.

Extra Magic Hours and Rope Dropping to Avoid Lines

Understand Extra Magic Hours (EMH)

If you are staying onsite, you will have access to extra magic hours. Designated for a specific park each day of the week, these hours are available to those staying onsite at official Disney World resort hotels. Morning extra magic hours will let you into the park to enjoy select attractions approximately one hour prior to the official opening time. Evening hours will allow you to stay in the park for one to two hours after the general public has left.

Magic bands and/or park tickets are scanned at the entrance to each ride, preventing those who are not staying onsite from gaming the system. Be aware that some parks may not have all rides operating during morning extra magic hours: the Magic Kingdom opens Fantasyland and Tomorrowland, but the rest of the park remains closed until the park opens to the general public.

Even if you are not staying onsite, paying attention to the park that has extra magic hours is important. The designated park with morning hours will often have higher-than-normal crowds that day, as resort guests flock to that park and often stay most of the day. A wise strategy for those staying off-site is to avoid the park with EMH and enjoy a different park that day.

Likewise, resort guests who do not have park-hoppers may find the park becomes unbearably crowded on a morning EMH day. Those with park-hoppers may simply leave the EMH park and move to a different park after the park is open to the general public.

Evening EMH is excellent for those with older children or adult parties. Many families leave the parks after an early start and a long day of walking. We enjoyed evening extra hours at EPCOT during a holiday week and did not wait for any of the major attractions during that time period.

Having a character breakfast inside Animal Kingdom allowed us to enter before the park opened - and also allowed us to be first in line for the safari ride.
Having a character breakfast inside Animal Kingdom allowed us to enter before the park opened - and also allowed us to be first in line for the safari ride. | Source

Book a Breakfast in the Park

Obtaining an Advance Dining Reservation (ADR) at a restaurant inside the theme part you intend on visiting that day will allow you to enter the theme park before the official opening time. Our family has successfully used this method to get into the Animal Kingdom theme park prior to opening. While the rides are not open when you enter the park, you are already inside the park and close to several attractions before the general public makes it through the ticket scanners.

One caveat: if you are planning to be inside the park early to enjoy a highly popular attraction, make sure your breakfast location is within that area of the park. It does little good to get into a park early, only to find yourself farther away from the attraction you want to queue for than the people at the ticket scanners. Our family’s general method is to obtain a fast pass for the popular ride later in the day and use the early entrance to see other attractions with no wait.

Watch the Calendar

If possible, visit during off-peak times. It is often said that Disney World no longer has an unpopular time, and this is partly true as tiered pricing strategies have helped to even out crowds. Even so, there are some times of the year where the park is crushingly crowded: Christmas to New Year’s Eve, Easter, and Thanksgiving weekend are extremely crowded times to visit. One of the lowest-crowd seasons to visit is in early to mid September, just after school has started.

It is not always possible to visit at a time of year with lower crowds. Our family is limited to school-break times, which often generates higher crowd levels in Orlando. Paying attention to the calendar is still important, especially during school breaks and holidays. The Magic Kingdom is typically the most crowded park, since many families consider that park to be the epitome of the Disney experience. We avoid this theme park on weekends, Mondays, and Fridays in general. We tend to visit this park Tuesday through Thursday of our vacation week.

Festivals, marathons, 5K races, and other events also affect the crowds at specific parks throughout the year. Specific events that influence crowds include:

Hollywood Studios

  • May: Star Wars Days
  • Star Wars 5K
  • Festival of Lights

EPCOT

  • Disney World Marathon
  • Food and Wine Festival
  • New Year’s Eve Celebration
  • Festival of the Arts
  • Flower and Garden Festival
  • Candlelight Processional

Magic Kingdom

  • Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party
  • Mickey’s Merry Christmas Party

Animal Kingdom

  • Earth Day

Festivals may draw more guests into specific parks when they occur. While some do not have much of an impact, such as the Festival of the Arts pictured above, some will cause considerable crowds to form.
Festivals may draw more guests into specific parks when they occur. While some do not have much of an impact, such as the Festival of the Arts pictured above, some will cause considerable crowds to form. | Source

Be There at Opening (or Stay Late)

A common strategy for getting a lot of attractions done in a short period of time is to arrive at the theme park prior to opening. Disney used to hold up a rope and slowly walk the public through the first part of the park at opening, so this practice became known as “rope dropping.” Most people who are on vacation do not want to get up early, and will sleep through the parks’ first few hours. Many rides will have little or no wait in the first couple of hours after the park opens. Also note that the marquee above many rides will state a falsely elevated wait time just after park opening: the Haunted Mansion recently stated a 40 minute wait time when there was no wait at all and we simply walked onto the ride.

Some headliner rides may be ridden without a fast pass and without a wait by rope dropping a park. For the newest rides, this strategy is well-known enough that getting to the park just before it opens is not enough. Being in front of the pack may require being at the park an hour prior to park opening. When rope dropping, pay attention to which park has extra magic hours – this park will already be quite busy by the time it opens to the general public.

The Seven Dwarf Mine Train Ride is only 3 minutes long, but often has a wait over an hour long. Get a fast pass for this one!
The Seven Dwarf Mine Train Ride is only 3 minutes long, but often has a wait over an hour long. Get a fast pass for this one! | Source

Know the Rides With the Longest Waits

Some rides never generate long lines and do not merit a fast pass. Obtaining a fast pass for a ride like “Finding Nemo” at EPCOT will not get you onto the ride any faster, as this ride typically has no wait to begin with. Some rides also have seasonal popularity. Splash Mountain has a much shorter wait in the winter than it does in the hot summer months.

Rides which continuously load people tend to have shorter waits than rides which must load, run, and stop. An example of a continuously loading ride is the Haunted Mansion, which has “doom buggies” on a continuous conveyor belt through the haunted house. An example of a load-run-stop ride is Dumbo, which fills a set of ride vehicles and must run through the entire ride before more guests may be loaded.

Despite being continuous loaders, some rides have extremely long waits due to the number of people that want to ride and the loading capacity per hour. An example of this is the Peter Pan ride. It’s iconic nature prompts extremely long waits despite the continuous movement of sailing ships along the track.

New attractions are frequently being added to the theme parks and any new ride generates a lot of buzz and excitement. As a general rule, expect a long wait for any new attraction.


Rides With Consistently Long Waits

Magic Kingdom
EPCOT
Hollywood Studios
Animal Kingdom
Peter Pan
Soarin' Over the World
Tower of Terror
Flight of Passage
Space Mountain
Test Track
Rock N Roller Coaster
Na'vi River Journey
Jungle Cruise
Frozen Ever After
Toy Story Midway Mania
Expedition Everest
Thunder Mountain
Guardians of the Galaxy coaster (anticipated 2021)
Slinky Dog Dash
Safari
Splash Mountain*
Ratatouille (anticipated 2021)
Star Wars Millennium Falcon Ride (anticipated 2019)
 
Seven Dwarf Mine Train
 
Star Wars Battle Escape Ride (anticipated 2019)
 
Tron Coaster (anticipated 2021)
 
Mickey and Minnie Runaway Railway (anticipated 2019)
 
These rides often generate the longest waits within each park. *Splash Mountain's wait time varies seasonally, and is often short during the winter months.
We hopped in line for Flight of Passage 10 minutes before the park closed. While the stated wait time was 180 minutes, we waited for less than an hour to experience the extremely popular ride.
We hopped in line for Flight of Passage 10 minutes before the park closed. While the stated wait time was 180 minutes, we waited for less than an hour to experience the extremely popular ride. | Source

Get In Line Just Before the Park Closes

A trick we have successfully employed is getting in line for a major attraction just before the park closes. Be aware the park marquee will state a long wait time for the ride, generally to discourage people from joining the line just before park closing.

If the park closes at 9:00 pm, get in line at about 8:50 pm. The line will appear to be extremely long, but as soon as the clock strikes 9:00 pm, a chain is secured to prevent anyone else from joining the line. Since no additional fast-passes are in operation after park closing, the line moves much faster than during the day time.

Our family employed this strategy for Flight of Passage at Animal Kingdom. While the sign stated the wait was 180 minutes long, we waited for approximately 55 minutes before getting to enjoy our second ride of the day.

Get a Party Ticket for the Magic Kingdom

For those visiting from August through the end of December, getting a party ticket for Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party or to Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party is a unique way to visit the parks. Tickets are limited, which helps to control the general crowd levels. The parties typically start around 4:00 pm, so these are evening events. Fast Pass is not available during these events, but is not typically needed as the capacity is controlled and many attendees are enjoying the entertainment on offer.

Nearly all of the major headliner rides are open during the parties, and some are transformed to have a special “spooky” effect during the Halloween party. Purchasing a ticket to one of these events is a fun way to experience the Magic Kingdom with significantly reduced wait times for rides.

Knowing the dates of the parties during this season is also important, even if you do not plan on attending. The park closes to the general public early on party days, significantly reducing the amount of hours you have to enjoy the park on your regular ticket. On the other hand, non-party days experience higher crowds because guests prefer the longer park hours for the (considerably) high cost of their general day ticket.

If you are a resort guest with a park-hopper ticket, you can take advantage of the lower crowds on party days by attending the Magic Kingdom in the morning and hopping over to another park for the evening hours.

Parades offer spectacular entertainment, and also offer a spectacular opportunity to get on rides while the masses are distracted by the festivities!
Parades offer spectacular entertainment, and also offer a spectacular opportunity to get on rides while the masses are distracted by the festivities! | Source

Take Advantage of Parade Times and Fireworks

If getting on rides is your goal and you don’t mind missing the evening fireworks or the afternoon parade, then use these times to your advantage to get on rides. Check the park app or website to take note of the times for the evening fireworks show in each park and make haste to get in line during this time!

Planning, Strategy, and Patience Lead to Success!

Planning and using a smart strategy will help most guests avoid long waits at the theme parks. Patience, however, will always be needed as wrinkles are inevitable. A ride may undergo unexpected maintenance and not be available on the day you plan to visit, or a ride may go down just as you are preparing to board. In most cases, any fast pass you had for the ride that goes down will be converted to a "multiple experience" fast pass, which means you can use it on almost any ride you wish. Patience, a solid plan, and a little flexibility will lead to a wonderful time at Disney World!

The Best Strategy of All

What is your favorite strategy for skipping the line at Disney World?

See results

Questions & Answers

    © 2018 Leah Lefler

    Comments

      0 of 8192 characters used
      Post Comment
      • leahlefler profile imageAUTHOR

        Leah Lefler 

        10 months ago from Western New York

        We really love going to Disney World, though I have to admit we avoid the holiday season, Dianna! I would love to go once during the Christmas season, but even with strategies the crowds are impressive from Christmas to New Year's Eve! Expectations are so important during that time frame - in addition to patience and flexibility!

      • teaches12345 profile image

        Dianna Mendez 

        10 months ago

        Everyone here in south Florida is heading up there for the Festival of Lights. I would love to go again after seeing your post.

      • leahlefler profile imageAUTHOR

        Leah Lefler 

        10 months ago from Western New York

        How did you handle the heat in August, Claudia? I have been in August, but haven't been in the summer for a very long time. We typically go in February now during our boys' President's Day break. It is crowded, but we use these strategies and manage to have a fantastic time. The single rider lines are a must! My kids love Test Track and we rode it about 4 times back-to-back with almost no wait. It is true that you skip the "creation lab" portion of the queue when you do the single rider line with that attraction, but we were happy to get repeated rides and didn't mind skipping it that much. I wish they had a single rider line for Soarin'! We used the one at Expedition Everest repeatedly, too - it really saved a lot of time and my kids could continue to ride after I was done (my stomach was done, too)!

      • Glimmer Twin Fan profile image

        Claudia Mitchell 

        10 months ago

        We just went this past August and had a wonderful time. We didn't stress too much, were flexible about changing passes on the days we were at the various parks and it worked out perfectly, except for the heat. We will never be going back in the summer! My family absolutely swears by the single rider lines. There was practically no wait at all and it's not that big a deal to sit next to someone you don't know for a 2 minute ride! We were there the first night of the Not so scary party, but it was the night before we were leaving and it was really hard to get tickets so we passed. I wish now that we had gone.

      • leahlefler profile imageAUTHOR

        Leah Lefler 

        10 months ago from Western New York

        We met a family who had been at the Animal Kingdom park for the entire day, and had only managed to get on three attractions, total, for the day. The cost of admission is so high that it is a shame to spend the day sitting in lines! They were day guests and had no idea how the fast pass system worked. I felt so badly for them, especially since (as day guests) obtaining a fast pass for the most popular rides was so difficult. I actually prefer the system in California, as you cannot pre-book fast passes. There is a $10 fee to obtain the fast pass system on your phone, but everyone is on a level playing field and all fast passes are booked that day, in the park.

      • Eurofile profile image

        Liz Westwood 

        10 months ago from UK

        Yes. It definitely pays to have a good strategy and plan in place. Our son used to use the single rider to good effect.

      • leahlefler profile imageAUTHOR

        Leah Lefler 

        10 months ago from Western New York

        I am glad the strategies worked for you at your local theme park, Liz! We visit Disney parks on a fairly regular basis and knowing the planning required for the parks in Orlando really does help make a vacation go smoother. I was saddened to meet a family at Animal Kingdom on our last trip who only rode three rides - total - due to a complete lack of knowledge about the fast pass system. The single rider line is probably one of the lesser known strategies to enjoy some rides without a wait!

      • Eurofile profile image

        Liz Westwood 

        10 months ago from UK

        I recall adopting some of these strategies when our family were younger and we used to regularly visit a theme park in the UK. This is a valuable tool for anyone planning a visit to Disney.

      working

      This website uses cookies

      As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, wanderwisdom.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

      For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://wanderwisdom.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

      Show Details
      Necessary
      HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
      LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
      Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
      AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
      HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
      HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
      Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
      CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
      Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
      Features
      Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
      Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
      Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
      Marketing
      Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
      Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
      Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
      Statistics
      Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
      ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
      Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
      ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)