One of the biggest complaints I usually hear about Disney is wait times. Sometimes the wait time is consistently short for a ride. For example, you’ll probably never have to wait more than 10 or 15 minutes to get on “it’s a small world”. However other big ticket rides, like Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, will have heavy wait times pretty much all day, every day.
So how do you cut back on your wait times? Believe it or not, it IS possible to shave precious minutes off your wait time without being a cast member or knowing someone behind the scenes! Here are some tips I have personally used to be able to experience a TON of attractions. Yes, even the popular ones, and often multiple times!
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Extra Magic Hours/Head to the Parks Later in the Day
Extra Magic Hours are a great benefit for those guests who are staying at a Walt Disney World resort property. Each day, one of the parks opens early, and one closes later – but ONLY for those staying on property. You have to scan your Magicband as proof that you’re staying at a resort. Once you do, you’re free to enjoy all the attractions for an extra hour – and often without the wait!
If you’re traveling with older kids or just with adults, your best bet to save on wait times may be to head to the parks later in the afternoon. Check out the Extra Magic Hours schedule on the Disneyworld website before you leave and, depending on Fastpass+ reservations and dining reservations, see if there are days you can stay in the parks late. During the summer, parks will be open to the late hours of the evening – or in the case of the Magic Kingdom, the wee hours of the morning!
Why Late Nights as opposed to Early Morning?
I recommend this for adults because chances are, you won’t have families with little kids taking advantage of the late nights. This is the perfect time to get all your thrill rides in – not only are the lines shorter, but you’ll get a great view of the park at night! Staying late at the parks has been great for me and my family. We usually get to do all our favorites with minimal wait! One trip, using Extra Magic Hours, we rode Star Tours FOUR TIMES in a row! (I don’t recommend doing this, I was super nauseous afterwards!)
Some of the rides will still have longer waits. Seven Dwarfs Mine Train or Space Mountain will probably still have waits that are about 45 minutes to an hour. However, that’s better than 2 hours during the day! Plus, as long as you’re IN line by the time park close comes around, you’ll be guaranteed to ride. Just please be considerate to the cast members who have to stay until all the riders are done, they’re exhausted! 😉
So if you’re a night owl who was going to be up late anyways, why not spend that time at the parks? Have a nice, relaxing morning at your resort, hit the pool, then head out to the park around noon. Families will be headed to lunch and lines will be short!
Obviously the easiest way to decrease your wait to time is to take advantage of Fastpass+. I have a post outlining each and every ride included in this system here, but the quick rundown is this – Fastpass+ allows you to skip the line and board rides with little to no wait. You get 3 Fastpasses per day, so use them wisely!
I recommend using them for the popular rides like Space Mountain, but they can be used on a number of other rides as well if thrill rides aren’t your thing. One thing a lot of people forget is that if you use all your Fastpasses, you can get more! Once you’ve redeemed all 3, you’re able to book one additional Fastpass. This can be done on the My Disney Experience app, or via Fastpass kiosks in the park. Once you use THAT Fastpass, you can use another – up until the park closes or they run out of Fastpasses!
Ride during shows, parades, and meal times
If you’re strategic about your ride planning, you can head to popular rides while everyone else is headed to someplace else. The best time to do this is during parades or shows, or during meal times. Check out the daily schedules when you get to the park. If you see Festival of Fantasy is heading out at 3 PM that day, you’ll know that between 2:30 – 3:30, lines will likely be shorter because people will be camped out for the parade. If you avoid the parade route, you’ll also be able to avoid crowds and get from ride to ride without much hassle. This also helps you know which rides to AVOID and when – for example, once FoF makes it’s way through Frontierland, people may make a made dash towards Splash Mountain, so best avoid it!
Additionally, meal times are a great time to get thrill rides in. Around noon, everyone is going to head to lunch, and around 5 PM, the dinner rush begins. You can start heading to thrill rides around this time and hopefully find a shorter wait time!
Get There at Rope Drop!
Not too thrilled with my earlier suggestion of going to the parks late? Then head there early! Even if you don’t take advantage of the morning Extra Magic Hours (which I still highly recommend) getting there about 30 minutes to an hour before official park time is also a good idea. You will be able to witness the “Rope Drop” – Disney’s official ceremony starting the day at the Magic Kingdom. Be careful, as it can sometimes be a mad dash to the big ticket rides after the lands are all opened to the public. If you’re there at rope drop and managed to power walk your way to Splash Mountain, you’ll be rewarded with a very VERY short wait time!
Why do I suggest getting there so early when nothing is open? Remember that you have to get through security. In addition, MANY people will be trying to get to the Rope Drop. Getting there early assures you’ll be IN the park by the time Rope Drop comes and be able to scope out your first target.
It’s all about the kids
Let’s face it – Disney is primarily geared towards families and children. If you plan your trip around when families will be taking breaks or heading back to their resorts, you’ll find wait times are much more manageable. Families with kids are often at the parks in the early morning and in to the afternoon, usually heading back to the resort shortly after dinnertime. Naturally, Fantasyland will be PACKED during this time. If you’re like me and enjoy meeting characters, the waits for character meet and greets will also be insane.
However, crowds will often start to thin after dinner. After the fireworks show, they will DEFINITELY start to thin out as many people leave for the day. This is the time to get in line for those thrill rides you didn’t want to waste two hours riding during the day!
Side Note – Waiting isn’t the WORST thing in the world!
Personally, I have no issues with waiting in line. I have been going to theme parks all my life – I know what I’m getting myself in to. In the day and age of smart phones, there’s no reason you can’t keep yourself occupied during your wait! So don’t despair – grab a portable charging bank like this one, load up some games on your phone, and before you know it, it’ll be time to board! You WILL have to wait for some things, so be prepared and it won’t seem that bad at all!
What are some of your favorite time saving tips when it comes to waiting in line at Disney?! Let me know in the comments below!