Avoid Long Lines at Disney World - Our Top Tips.
No! You Don't Have to Stand In Long Lines at Disney World.
We've got some proven tips to help you spend more time on the rides and less time in line at Disney World. Our advice for avoiding Disney theme park lines comes from years of research and experience as Disney focused travel agents. We don't just tell you to go when the crowds are low - these suggestions work even if you visit Disney World during peak travel seasons.
All photos are my own. (c)Stephen Johnson.
Tip 1: Arrive At Least 20 Minutes before the Disney World Theme Parks Open
Getting to the head of the line starts at the front of the park.
The Disney theme parks are always least crowded for the first 1-1/2 to 2 hours of the day. Arriving 20 minutes prior to park opening (typically at 9:00AM) lets you ride the most rides in the least amount of time. Arriving early is especially important at the Magic Kingdom because the Fantasyland area of the park has a lot of short duration rides - you really don't want to spend an hour in line for Dumbo when the ride only lasts a couple of minutes. The Soarin' ride at Epcot and Toy Story Mania at Disney's Hollywood Studios always have long lines of an hour or more - even during slow / low crowd seasons; in fact, two and three hour waits are not unusual. Arriving early and hitting these attractions right away will immediately free an hour or more in your day. It is far better to arrive early and take a mid-day break than to arrive late.
Security check-point: Remember that you'll have to stop at security before entering the park to have your bags - including camera bags - inspected. You can speed up the process by having all compartments unzipped and open.
Driving to the Magic Kingdom? You'll have to take the monorail or ferry boat from the parking lot to the entrance of the Magic Kingdom so allow extra time for this extra step. The monorail is almost always the fastest option so save the ferry boat for your trip back to the parking lot. The Magic Kingdom has a cute welcoming show at the entrance, about 15 minutes prior to park opening.
Getting to the gate: When you arrive at the park gates, skirt the edge of the crowd to go as far forward as possible before the park opens. You'll get closer to the entrance by going around the edge than if you try to weave through the crowd.
Tip 2: Be Aware of Extra Magic Hours - Especially if you are NOT staying at a Disney Resort Hotel.
Don't Get Stuck In Line Behind People Who Got In Early.
Disney offers a special perk called "Extra Magic Hours" to guests of the official Walt Disney World. Each day, one of the 4 Walt Disney World theme parks opens one hour early or remains open up to 2 hours after regular closing time and the Disney Water Parks offer Extra Magic Hours during select times of year. It is really important for you to know which Disney theme park is offering "Extra Magic Hours" on each day of your Disney World vacation for three reasons:
1) The Extra Magic Hours park is the most crowded Disney theme park of the day. There are over 30,000 hotel rooms at the Disney World hotels and no one goes to Disney World alone. Encouraging that many people to go to the same place at the same time is going to cause a spike in the crowd levels. More people = longer lines. You'll enjoy more attractions in less time by going to a less crowded park.
2) You'll loose the advantage of being at the park before it opens to the general public if you arrive on a day where the park has been open to Disney hotel guests for a whole hour before you're allowed in. The last thing you want to do is get in line behind those people. Pick a park where everyone - Disney hotel guest and the general public alike - are allowed in at the regular park opening time.
3) Disney theme park hours are sometimes shorter or have less entertainment on the evenings that they're offering Evening Extra Magic Hours to the guests of the official Disney World hotels. For example, Magic Kingdom may only have the Wishes Fireworks but not the Main Street Electrical Parade on a night that the Magic Kingdom has "Extra Magic Hours". Check the Disney park hours so that you're going to each park on the nights that give you the most hours and the most entertainment.
Tip 3: Save Character Meals & Photos with Characters for Later in the Day
Morning is the time for rides, while the lines are short.
The theme parks will be at their least crowded and coolest when the parks open so I don't want you sitting in a restaurant when the lines are short, only to leave the restaurant to get in lines that have been forming all morning.. It is far better to book a character lunch or character dinner reservation when you're ready for a rest in an air conditioned space a little later in the day. If you're really looking forward to a character breakfast, try a resort character breakfast before going to the water parks or on your departure day. Another option is to book the latest possible reservation and treat it like brunch, rather than breakfast.
There might be Disney characters near the front of the park in the morning but avoid the temptation t stop for a photo and autographs. Enjoy the rides and attractions when the lines are short and see the characters later in the day. We want you to do everything you want to do - we just want you to do it in a way that keeps you ahead of the crowds.
Tip 5: Eat at Non-Typical Times to Avoid Restaurant Lines
You're going to wait in longer lines and have a tougher time finding a clean table if you eat at the same time everyone else is eating at the Disney World Quick-Service restaurants. Have lunch at 11:00AM or eat dinner at 4:00PM and you'll have a much easier time.
Want to eat at a Disney World table-service (full service) restaurant but don't have a reservation? You can stop at any of restaurant podiums in the park early in the day and the person there can check for openings at any of the restaurants in that theme park. Having a reservation will let you get to the table a lot faster than if you show up at mealtime and try to get a table on the stand-by list.
Be Our Guest is a new "Beauty and the Beast" themed restaurant in the Magic Kingdom. It is a table-service location at dinner and reservations regularly fill 180 days in advance but it is a quick-service location at lunch, with no advance reservations accepted. This restaurant is extremely popular with the line to get in at lunch regularly exceeding 30-minutes to an hour. The restaurant typically opens for lunch at 10:30AM and we strongly recommend that you have a light breakfast before arriving at the park and then head over to Be Our Guest to get in as soon as they open at 10:30AM when the line is typically 10 minutes or less.
Have some time to plan ahead? You can book reservations for the Disney World table-service restaurants up to 180 days in advance by calling 1-407-WDW-DINE (939-3463).
Our Most Valuable Tip!
Tip 6: Use A Good Theme Park Touring Plan!
Why Wait 80 Minutes When You Don't Have To?
You will see more at Walt Disney World and avoid lines with a good itinerary.
Did you know that people who use theme park touring plans generally cut their time spent in line by 3 - 4 hours per day during the busy travel season? A touring plan is simply using expert research and good information to see and do everything that is important to you in a way that minimizes lines and long waits. During busy times, a good plan will absolutely keep you ahead of the crowds and out of the lines - our clients typically wait less than 20 minutes for rides, even thrill rides and headliners. During less crowded times, a good plan factors in shorter park hours and fewer performance times. But the most important benefit of a good plan is that everyone gets to ride and see the things that they are looking forward to because everyone's priorities are included in a plan that tours the parks efficiently and effectively.
We are so convinced of the value of a good touring plan that we provide them free to anyone who books their vacation through Build A Better Mouse Trip, our Disney-focused travel agency.
There are two sources for Disney World Theme Park Touring Plans that we feel are the best, readily-available options on the market today.
1) The Unofficial Guide To Walt Disney World - a printed guidebook full of excellent information about the Disney World hotels, restaurants and theme parks. They have touring plans that you can just pull out and carry into the parks with you. (More information below). This is the best option for people who prefer a printed book over online resources.
2)TouringPlans.com- The online version of the very popular Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World guidebook. The online version is excellent because it includes printable touring plans, crowd calendars, park hours, smart phone line apps, and the latest information concerning changes due to the Magic Kingdom Fantasyland Expansion. The online version has more touring plan options than the printed guidebook - including plans for late starts and personalized plans - that you can print and take with you or access using their smart phone app. At only $11.95, it is the cheapest way to add to the value of your vacation because less hours in line means more fun for your money.
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Did these tips help you? Do you have another tip to share? We'd love to hear from you.