Whether it’s your first trip to Disney World or you have been 100 times, you would probably like to get the most out of the time and money you’ve invested in your visit, right?!
Disney World is continually growing and changing, so we are always looking for ways to help you maximize your trip in the time leading up to, and of course during, your visit. Today we’re exploring some of the BIGGEST time wasters in Disney World and what you can do about them!
It is a small world and Disney World is a theme park, after all (see what we did there!). So when you have so many people in one place trying to experience the same thing, you are bound to be faced with lines and queues. While a deep breath and your morning coffee can give you an extra edge, we know a few extra ways to waste less time in lines or avoid them altogether. Let’s take a look.
Bag Check Line Strategies
Before you enter the parks, all guests are required to go through security screening. We are super thankful Disney takes the time to keep guests safe, but add in some Florida heat or crowds and it can be a rough start to the day. But there is still hope!
If you’re looking for an easy way to bypass the lines and crowds, consider traveling without a bag. There is often a separate line for guests without bags that is less a line and more of a “welcome to the park” type situation.
Security will still likely ask you to remove your phone from your pocket and pass through a metal detector. BUT, these ain’t your airport metal detectors! Most will allow you to leave your sunglasses or pin lanyards on with no issue. You’ll be through to the other side before you know it!
But traveling without a bag or stroller may not be feasible for all families, so if you’re in the bag check line, the name of the game is strategy. It can be as simple as walking a few extra feet to the shorter lines further away. Or you can load up one member of the crew with the bag and/or stroller, and send the others through the no-bag line. This hack may not save time, but you may save some sanity by giving the kids a break from waiting in a line before you even get in the park.
In bag check, they will want to go through all compartments of your bag or stroller. You can save time by opening zippers and making sure you’re ready when it’s your turn! Seriously — unzip it all; including bags that you have INSIDE your bag. (Or plan to use see-through bags like ziplocs to compartmentalize inside your main bag.) That second it takes to close everything up after getting on the Monorail or in the gates is better than the minutes spent doing it all with the security guard.
Keep in mind they’ll always want to see UNDER your stroller, too, so if you’re stashing a week’s worth of snacks, cups, and bags under there (guilty), ye been warned! They’re gonna dig even if junior is sound asleep in said stroller.
It is also important to note that one security guard at a bag check table may be responsible for working two lines. They are often stationed at one table and alternate back and forth between two lines on either side of the table. This also means that if you see the two lines by one table but with two security guards, those lines can move twice as quickly as the double lines run by a single guard.
Only see one line on one side of a table, it’s likely that folks just don’t know there are supposed to be two lines. So you can be the first in line on the other side!
Attraction Line Strategies
With new or popular attractions like Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run and Flight of Passage, wait times can get preeeeetty lengthy — especially on busy days. Your best bet for securing a spot on these hot-ticket rides is by taking advantage of Disney World’s FastPass+ system.
FastPasses allow you to bypass some of the wait on Disney World attractions. Guests can pre-book three attraction FastPasses per day! (After you’ve used those initial three, you can get more one at a time!)
If you’re staying at a resort hotel on Disney property, you can grab your fast passes 60 days before your visit. If you’re staying off property and have a ticket to the parks, you can book FastPasses 30 days out!
Picking your ideal FastPasses can require a bit of strategy (especially if you aren’t familiar with the most popular rides). We have plenty of tips here at DFB to help you optimize your choices! For starters, aim to grab your first three FastPasses for earlier in the day. Once you’ve used those up, you can get another one — use that one — then get another — and so on!
Didn’t get that sought after FastPass? All is NOT lost! Plan an early morning or a late night you don’t mind waiting a bit and attack the line for these hot rides then. We’ve jumped on Seven Dwarfs Mine Train or Smugglers Run RIGHT at park closing and waited 15 minutes — IT HAPPENS!
If you don’t score a FastPass+ to one of the top rides, you can still have fun in line! Take advantage of the Play Disney Parks App! This app allows you to play games and unlock digital achievements in the queues of many popular attractions (including Rise of the Resistance)!
Merchandise Line Strategy
Disney shopping locations can feel like an attraction of their own! They can seem never-ending because there are so many things to see, and the options are always changing!
But here’s an AWESOME tip: even though they may have different storefronts, many of the shops are actually connected to each other on the inside. Because of this, you don’t have to use the register closest to where you picked up an item.
Say you entered the Emporium in Magic Kingdom to buy a set of Minnie Ears, but then you saw majorly CUTE Mickey cookie cutters in the other room. You can wander the store as you wish then pick a register — any register — when it’s time to pay (even if it feels like you’ve entered a different store). It’s like a department store in that sense! Nobody’s stopping you from purchasing women’s shoes in the men’s clothing department — the cash registers all work the same!
We always beeline for the jewelry department cause there’s rarely a line compared to the registers at the middle and front of the store! Same rules apply at World of Disney in Disney Springs, Mouse Gear in Epcot, and more! So it may be worth making a loop around to find a less popular register!
Guest Relations Line Strategies
Disney World has Guest Relations locations at each park, Disney Springs, and the ESPN complex, where Cast Members are ready and willing to help with a number of concerns like tickets, reservations, and disability services. Since they are at the front of the park, they can become a “catch all” for all types of guest questions.
Although Guest Relations can be the primary resource for ticket and accessibility concerns, there are plenty of other Cast Members in the parks and at the resort hotels ready and willing to answer many of your questions if the Guest Relations lines are out of control (which they often are).
The parks’ Guest Experience Teams can be found in bright blue shirts, often under blue umbrellas.
These Cast Members can assist with general park questions, FastPass+ selection, attraction wait times, lost and found, and more. So if you want to see if you can swap out your Space Mountain FastPass+ for an earlier time, or you were looking for a First Visit button, you don’t need to wait in the line at Guest Relations — head over to the team in the blue shirts and they’ll get you updated in no time!
Or if you’re simply looking for directions, the nearest bathroom, or other park basics, Cast Members around the park are usually more than happy to point you where you need to go! If you’re staying at a Disney resort hotel, the Cast Members at the front desk can be a WEALTH of information, so don’t be afraid to ask!
We are called Disney FOOD Blog, so you know a lot of our time in the parks is spent tracking down the latest foods and returning to our old faves.
Table Service Strategy
If you’re planning out your vacation itinerary, you can make Advance Dining Reservations up to 180 days ahead of time (and for hot-ticket restaurants, you SHOULD — they fill up FAST!).
Everybody’s gotta eat, but when hunger strikes, there’s no time to wait in lines or for a table to open up.
Quick Service/ Fast-Food Strategies
Not everyone knows what they want to eat six months in advance, so don’t fear — there are plenty of ways for spontaneous guests to get delicious Disney food, too! These “quick service” locations let you order at the register and pick up your food at the window!
But to make quick service even faster, many of these dining locations have started offering Mobile Ordering. This allows you to order your food early via the My Disney Experience App and pick it up at the designated window WITHOUT WAITING IN LINE.
Word is starting to get out, so more and more people are taking advantage of this option; but we have found that even on the busiest days, Mobile Ordering is typically faster than the regular line (sometimes with no line at all!).
You’ve heard about the iconic Dole Whip, right? This can be a popular item and draw crowds, but why wait 30 minutes for Dole Whip when you could order on your phone and pick it up minutes later? You can even stand in the shade the whole time!
If you’re looking for another way to avoid lines for food, pick up your snacks or meals at “off times.” You can avoid wasting your time in long lines by eating between normal meal times (late morning and early afternoon). This may end up happening naturally if you start your day early for rope drop!
Beyond the Parks
If you’re visiting Disney World during a popular time, you can escape the park lines (and have a little afternoon rest in the AC) by dining at a Disney Resort. You don’t even have to move your car! ‘Ohana noodles and avoiding the late afternoon sun — sign us up!
Jump on the monorail or a bus and hit up one of the MANY restaurants throughout the resorts. You can try to grab a last-minute reservation, try out one of the quick service locations, or head to Disney Springs for even more options!
Or if you just need some time to chill, consider hitting up Disney World lounges in and out of the parks! These lounges are full of delicious drinks and often have no wait but the same menu options as their adjacent popular restaurants! Can’t score a reservation to ‘Ohana? You can get the SAME noodles and MORE at Tambu Lounge without a reservation (plus a Lapu Lapu because VACATION, right?!). Now that’s what we call Disney magic!
Visiting at Peak Times
Sometimes you don’t have much say on when you can take time off, but visiting Disney World at peak times can cost you a bunch of your precious time if you’re not prepared!
Much like any vacation, the time you visit Disney can make a WORLD of difference in your overall experience. Spring break, Christmas, New Year’s, and long weekends can bring big crowds to the parks. Hey, we admit it — we love to spend our long weekends off at Disney World too!
So if you have flexibility in your vacation schedule, it may be best to avoid these dates altogether. But don’t fear — even a busy day at Disney is still a day at Disney! If you have a specific date in mind or just want to make the most of your Disney vacation at any time of the year, you can beat major crowds by taking advantage of times each day where crowds are at their lowest. Let’s take a closer look!
Take Advantage of Rope Drop
A good rule of thumb for not wasting your time in Disney World is by switching up what would be a “normal” schedule. We mentioned how eating at off times can be a key to shorter waits for food, and the same goes for spending time in the parks.
Many families take their time getting to the parks, which means that around noon and early afternoon can be some of the busiest times of the day. It can be tricky to get your family up and out the door in time for the park to open, but rope dropping can make a HUGE difference in wait times.
“Rope Dropping” is a term to describe arriving to the park right at (or before!) the park’s scheduled opening hours and being among the first to enter the park when the metaphorical (or, in some cases, REAL) “rope” drops.
You’ll need to account for travel time, security, and scanning your ticket at the entrance when planning out exactly when you’re going to hit up the parks. Yes, it can lead to some early mornings, but, when done properly, it can be a major game changer! You can ride some of the park’s top attractions all while other guests are slowly working their way into the park. Don’t knock it till you try it — especially if you’re looking to avoid lines!
Don’t Sleep On Extra Magic Hours
If you’re staying on Disney property, Extra Magic Hours can be an added bonus to rope dropping or staying up late! During these hours, the park is only open to Disney Resort guests — meaning you are part of an exclusive crew of park goers!
Resort guests get an extra hour each morning or several hours each night in select parks, so check My Disney Experience for Extra Magic Hour times! You may be surprised just how much you can pack into an extra hour or two in the park when the crowds are thinned out. Make sure to plan ahead and check which parks are offering Extra Magic Hours each day so you’ll be ready to wake up early or party all night!
Remember To Check Park Hours
Please, we beg of you, check the parks’ hours before you go. You could have your whole Magic Kingdom day planned, only to find out the park is closing early for a hard-ticketed event like After Hours.
Don’t waste your time scrambling or missing out on the fireworks you hoped to see! Double-check the park hours!
Consider Early Morning Magic Events
Speaking of extra hour events, if you aren’t staying on property or just want to go all-out to avoid crowds, you can grab a ticket to Early Morning Magic. This special ticketed event lets guests in the park before opening to ride a selection of rides and enjoy an included breakfast, typically with much smaller crowds than normally are in the park!
You’d be shocked how much you can ride in an hour if you’re ready to rock! It is an added expense though, so you’ll need to consider whether this option could be worth it to you and your family!
Consider After Hours Events
Or, if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em! After Hours events are similar to Early Morning Magic by allowing you to stay in the park later than regular guests. Tickets can cost you some dough, but it may be worth it to you and your group since you can ride many of the most popular rides in a shorter period of time — and enjoy party-exclusive treats, shows, and parades!
Given a choice between the two, we prefer After Hours (what can we say, we’re night owls!) because we like the extra, extra time, and unlimited Mickey Bars are never a bad thing!! 😉
Getting around Disney World can be one of the biggest time wasters because first-time guests may not realize just how big the property is. Guys, Disney is the size of San Francisco. It’s BIG.
Although it’s possible to make it around to all four parks in one day, keep in mind that you may need to plan at least a solid hour to make your way between parks.
If you are staying on property, you will have the advantage of using Disney transportation from the resort. Whether you’re using the buses, boats, Monorails, or the new Skyliner, you can’t always bank on catching a ride at the exact moment you were hoping for.
We made this mistake long ago so you don’t have to. We heard the buses were running every 20 minutes, so we made our way down to the bus stop 20 minutes before Hollywood Studios opened. Well, a lot of other guests had the same idea, so we were far enough back in line that we didn’t make it on to the first bus. Rats! Needless to say, we weren’t at Hollywood Studios for rope drop!
So don’t make the same mistake we made and plan extra time to wait to get on whichever transportation you choose.
If you aren’t staying on property, you may need to plan a lil extra time to purchase your parking voucher, park, and make your way to the front gate — especially if you’re visiting Magic Kingdom. Guest parking for the Magic Kingdom is at the Transportation and Ticket Center, so after you park, you’ll need to take a boat or the monorail to the front of the Magic Kingdom.
We often see large crowds flocking to the monorail because it’s straight ahead after security, but don’t be afraid to take the boat, too — it may save you time in the long run!
Before you get bummed out having to take an extra transportation step, we actually really look forward to this experience when we aren’t staying on property. It truly immerses you in having to journey to a kingdom far away. It’s a great moment to imagine yourself making your way to an exclusive land that can “only be accessed” by sea or air!
Plus, we’re still suckers for the free Transportation Cards. 😉
Camping Out for Shows
Several of the parks have shows, parades, and fireworks spectaculars each day! Many of these special shows (especially parades and nighttime spectaculars like Happily Ever After) are so popular that you’ll see families camping out at their spot hours in advance.
This may be the way to go if the show is your top priority, but don’t forget you’ll use up a LOT of your park time staking out that spot. You can try to score a fireworks view by making an Advance Dining Reservation at a restaurant with fireworks views or by going all-out with a fireworks dessert party.
If you’re not looking to cash out any more dough, you can try to snag a last-minute FastPass+ for the nighttime shows at Epcot, Hollywood Studios, or Animal Kingdom and gain access to a reserved viewing area. If you don’t book an advance reservation or a FastPass+, you can still catch the show — but unless you have time to stake-out for a bit, don’t expect to have the perfect view.
For the parade in Magic Kingdom, consider catching the show AWAY from Main Street, where most guests congregate. You can usually catch the afternoon parade much more easily from Frontierland, then continue your day unobstructed!
For the fireworks, when we’re not dead set on seeing the castle projections, New Fantasyland is a great viewing spot with WAY fewer crowds. OR you can ride attractions during the fireworks! The lines are MUCH shorter… .
Because Disney World has so much to offer, it can draw some pretty big groups of people looking to get in on the magic! But at DFB, we want to help you prepare so that you can navigate crowds or lines like a Disney pro! Following the masses may not lead you where you want to go, so simply taking a few extra steps if you see an open line or register can save you a load of time.
Do your homework (we’ll be here to help at every step!) and plan your days so you can best take advantage of when crowds will be at their lowest. By using these tips to avoid wasting your precious time, you’ll have more time and energy to discover all the magic Disney World has to offer!
What are some of your favorite time-saving tips at Disney World? Let us know in the comments below!