WRITTEN BY MATTHEW KRUL, JUNE 19, 2019
As a former Cast Member and frequent visitor to Walt Disney World, one of the most common questions I am asked is how Guests can minimize their wait times at the most popular attractions. Open the My Disney Experience app on any given day and you’re bound to notice some long standby wait times for attractions like the Magic Kingdom mountains (Splash Mountain, Space Mountain, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, and Seven Dwarfs Mine Train), Peter Pan’s Flight, Test Track, Frozen Ever After, Slinky Dog Dash, Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster: Starring Aerosmith, Flight of Passage, and many more. Especially if you’re visiting Walt Disney World during the peak season, you’ll find wait times can often exceed 120 minutes for the most popular rides and shows.
Fortunately, I have several strategies that will help you to reduce your wait time on some of the most popular Walt Disney World attractions.
1. Visit during the off-peak season.
I’ll admit this isn’t always feasible. Especially if you have children in school, vacations typically align with the busiest times of year. Nevertheless, if you have the flexibility to choose when you vacation, I strongly suggest visiting during Disney’s quieter months: late January, early February, early May, September, early November, and early December. Not only will you find your wait times reduced, but you’ll also find cheaper prices to stay and play at Walt Disney World (Disney uses a dynamic pricing model similar to airlines, providing higher discounts on resort stays, park tickets, and vacation packages during the off-peak season).
2. Stay at a Walt Disney World Resort hotel.
There’s a tremendous advantage to staying at an official Walt Disney World Resort hotel. In addition to being surrounded by the magic 24/7, enjoying complimentary Walt Disney World transportation, and having access to Extra Magic Hours, you also are able to book your FastPass+ reservations sooner than everyone else. As long as you have already purchased your park tickets, you can book all FastPass+ reservations for your vacation 60 days prior to your check-in date. For example, if your Walt Disney World resort vacation is scheduled for September 1 through September 6, assuming you have purchased a 6-day ticket package, you’ll be able to book all your FastPass+ reservations (for September 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6) on July 3 at 7:00am Eastern Time. In the case of your last day, that’s 66 days in advance!
3. If you’re not staying on property, book your FastPass+ reservations as soon as possible.
Even if you’re not staying at a Walt Disney World Resort hotel, you still have the opportunity to book FastPass+ reservations. As long as you have purchased your park tickets in advance, you will be able to reserve FastPass+ 30 days prior to each park day. For example, if you have purchased a 2-day park hopper for September 1 and September 2, you can book your September 1 FastPass+ reservations on August 2 and your September 2 reservations on August 3 (each as early as 7:00am Eastern Time).
4. If you didn’t initially get the FastPass+ reservations you wanted, keep trying.
Plans often change, and so do FastPass+ reservations. While the most popular attractions typically remain full, there is always the chance of a change or cancelation. Keep an eye on the My Disney Experience app to see if your favorite attraction has any new availability. You never know when something can open up (and it often does when you least expect it).
5. Get to the park before it opens.
One strategy that still works well is arriving at the park before it opens for the day and lining up for the attraction of your choice. For instance, let’s imagine that Disney’s Animal Kingdom is scheduled to open at 9:00am and you have been unable to find an open FastPass+ reservation for Flight of Passage. If you show up at the park entrance 30 to 60 minutes before the park opens, you can line up for Flight of Passage before the attraction even opens for the day. In some cases, the Cast Members may surprise Guests and open the attraction a few minutes early, although this is not an official Disney practice and will only happen if Cast Members have completed all the morning safety and show procedures. In either case, you’ll notice your wait time will be dramatically reduced.
6. If you’re not an early bird, stay late.
One of Disney’s best kept secrets is its policy about park closing: the line closes at park closing but the attraction stays open until the last Guest in line gets to ride. For example, let’s imagine that it’s 8:55pm at Epcot and the park is set to close at 9:00pm. You look over at Test Track and notice that the wait time is still displaying 90 minutes, which means you won’t be on the attraction until 10:25pm. Don’t fret! As long as you are in line before 9:00pm (assuming the attraction doesn’t break down), they’ll keep the attraction running until you get to ride. The added benefit? The FastPass+ queue closes with the park, too, which means that after a few minutes (once the last FastPass+ Guest gets on the attraction), the only people in line will be those in the standby queue. You’ll notice the queue pick up quite a bit of speed, and that 90 minute wait might actually end up being 60 minutes instead.
7. When all else fails, try a VIP tour.
One of the best ways to minimize your wait time at Walt Disney World is to go with a guide! Disney offers private VIP tours for Guests, and while the tours will certainly add to your budget, they will also add tremendous value to your Walt Disney World vacation, including giving you the ability to skip to the front of the line at many Walt Disney World attractions.
Are there any additional strategies you recommend? Let me know in the comments below or reach out to me on any of our social media channels, and be sure to listen to the Imagineer Podcast for more Disney content!
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