Tips and Tricks to Maximize Extra Magic Hours
Did you know that guests staying at official Walt Disney World hotels receive extra benefits? It’s true! Disney wants to reward the tourists who are giving the company a lot of their vacation budget. One of the best incentives is Extra Magic Hours. When you stay onsite, you’ll want to use this benefit to maximize your park time. Here are a few key tips about Extra Magic Hours.
Understand How Extra Magic Hours Works
Disney theme parks open and close at a set time each day. You can read the official park calendar to see the official hours of operation for each park. With Extra Magic Hours (EMH), Disney either opens the park an hour early or closes it an hour late. This amount of time may seem insignificant; however, with a clever amount of planning, you’ll discover that you can ride several attractions before the park officially opens.
For example, let’s say that Disney’s Hollywood Studios opens at 9:00 a.m. and closes at 9:00 p.m. When EMH is available, guests at Disney resorts will gain an extra hour over the competition. Disney parks have morning or evening EMH opportunities but rarely both, at least not at the same place.
On certain days, one park may have morning EMH while another has evening EMH, though. Should you feel adventurous, you can attend both. In doing so, you’ll have an incredibly productive day at Walt Disney World. You’ll certainly be tired, though.
Presuming that EMH are available in the morning at Hollywood Studios in our example, guests staying onsite can enter the park at 8:00 a.m. Since it’s a relatively small park that’s easy to navigate, you can visit several major attractions early in the day.
For example, you could turn right off of Hollywood Boulevard to Sunset Boulevard. You’d then have your pick of either Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster Starring Aerosmith or Twilight Zone Tower of Terror as your first attraction. Since both rides are relatively brief, you could feasibly do both of them within half an hour of your park visit.
That plan may seem ambitious, but here’s the great thing about EMH. Your only competition in the line queues is other Disney resort guests. Only a few thousand guests utilize it each day, and they’re spread out across four parks. So, you shouldn’t have much of a wait during EMH.
In the example above, it’s entirely possible that you could ride three different attractions before the park officially opens. Alternately, on days when you don’t have a FastPass to any of the Toy Story Land attractions, you could head straight to at the new themed land when EMH opens.
You’ll face more of a crowd, as this is a popular tactic currently, Still, you’ll have a rare opportunity to ride Slinky Dog Dash or Alien Swirling Saucers before the park is technically open. How great is that?
Be Ready When Your Window Opens
Now that you understand the concept of EMH, let’s talk about a few tips to maximize your extra park hour. The most important one is to be at the park and ready when the EMH window opens. Obviously, that’s easy to do for evening hours. When everyone else is exiting the park, you simply get in line for another attraction.
The only requirement is that you must show your Magic Band when you’re in line. It’s proof that you’re authorized to utilize EMH. Otherwise, the process is exactly the same as when the park is open for everyone, only the crowds are only a fraction of what they were earlier.
In the morning, you need to be a bit of an early bird. To get to a Walt Disney World park at 8:00 a.m., you will need to leave your resort no later than 7:30. That’s a lot of yawning in exchange for a few extra rides. It’s also why many Disney resorts guests never use EMH. They’d rather sleep.
Have an Extra Magic Hours Strategy
Presuming that you’re at the park when it opens, you still need to know how to proceed. For example, if you get up early to go to Magic Kingdom during EMH, you don’t want to get in line at It’s a Small World or The Barnstormer. Both of those rides are fine, but they have reasonable lines throughout the day. During EMH, you want to target attractions that have prohibitive lines throughout the day.
At Disney’s Animal Kingdom, you should pick Pandora – The World of Avatar, Expedition Everest or Kilimanjaro Safaris. As mentioned at Hollywood Studios, you should either try the Aerosmith/Twilight Zone double-bill or head straight to Toy Story Land.
At Epcot, your options are limited since the World Showcase technically doesn’t open until 11 a.m. I recommend Soarin’ and Test Track as target attractions. At Magic Kingdom, you should pick your favorites from the rides with longer lines such as Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, Peter Pan’s Flight, Jungle Cruise, Space Mountain, and Big Thunder Mountain Railroad.
The most important point is that you should do enough research to understand which rides require more wait-time when the park is open to everyone. In the evening, you mainly want to target any attraction that intrigues you that you haven’t ridden yet. Alternately, ride your favorite(s) over and over again while nobody else is around.
Plan for After the Park Opens (Morning Only)
A morning-only tip is applicable toward the end of the hour. What you should recognize is that when guests first enter the park at the start of the day, they need a few minutes to get where they’re going. So, you can stretch your EMH window a bit by planning for these first precious minutes when the park is open to everyone.
Have a plan for where you want to go after your special hour is over. You know which attractions you’ve already checked off your list. Now, you should strategize what you want to do now that the crowds are arriving. This situation is fluid at each park and depends on your original choices during EMH. The one suggestion I’ll make is that you should be heading toward some right at the five-minute mark before the park’s official opening. This head start should position you in line ahead of the guests who didn’t utilize EMH.
Stay at the Park You’re Visiting (Morning Only)
This strategy goes hand in hand with the one listed above. The one huge no-no about EMH is to switch parks after your one-hour window closes. You may think, “I’ll book FastPasses at Epcot but start my day at Hollywood Studios for EMH.”
I speak from experience when I say that this idea sounds better in practice than in execution. Entering a new theme park requires another pass through security. Then, you must stand in line at the gate and wait your turn to enter the park. Factoring in transportation to the new park, you cede a lot of the time you gained by using EMH in the first place. It’s a needless aggravation.
A better strategy is to set up FastPasses at the place where you’re using EMH. After you’ve done your early hour of park access and used your FastPasses, you’re ahead of the game. You’ve likely checked off many of the attractions that interested you, giving you two options. You can explore the park at a slower pace, having the confidence that you’ve already done a lot. Alternately, you can park hop at this point, knowing that you’ve already done the things you set out to do for the morning. Let me tell you. That’s a great feeling to have before lunch.
Get in a Line at the Last Moment (Evening Only)
The final tip involves a generous Disney cast member. Employees will never deny you the opportunity to ride something when you’re already in line for it. The standard park practice is to close the lines after the official hours of operation end. Should you get in line for something one second before the park closes, the cast member will wave you through to your ride.
You can use this bit of benevolence to maximum advantage. As the final minutes of EMH approach, think about which ride would provide the perfect end to your day. Give yourself enough time to walk over to it before the EMH window closes for the evening. As long as you arrive before the hour is over, you get to ride! Even if it’s an attraction with a longer line like Avatar Flight of Passage or Frozen Ever After, your EMH benefit stretches beyond the end of the hour thanks to this technicality. It guarantees that you finish your park day the way that you want.
Clearly, Extra Magic Hours is a benefit that will add lots of value to your vacation. As such, you’ll want to stay at an official Disney resort. Speak to an agent at MickeyTravels to book your trip and guarantee that you’ll have Extra Magic Hours during your stay.