How to Spend Less Time Standing in Line at Disney
Beloved author John Green of The Fault in Our Stars fame once said the following: “Standing in line is a form of oppression.”
Disney fans know all too well how accurate this philosophy is.
During a park visit, we bounce around from one long line to another because it’s what we’re supposed to do.
What if we could take a different approach? Avoiding lines entirely is impossible, but we can definitely minimize the amount of time we do it.
Here’s how to spend less time standing in line at a Disney theme park.
For many years now, I’ve sworn by the concept of Rope Drop. That’s what we call the practice of arriving at Disney in time for its opening.
Let’s say that EPCOT opens at 9 a.m. To Rope Drop, you’d need to clear security and be ready to scan your MagicBand by 9 a.m.
Over the past few years, guests have fallen in love with Rope Drop to the point that it’s now one of the most crowded times of the day, at least at first.
What happens first thing in the morning is that a bottleneck ensues as all the would-be Rope Drop guests…stand in a line waiting to enter the park.
We don’t want to do that. After all, you’d be standing in line for an hour to be near the entrance at Rope Drop. That’s just a different kind of waiting in line.
Instead, what I’d suggest is that you time your park entrance within minutes of opening.
By taking this approach, you’ll avoid the massive pre-opening crowds. Thankfully, the parks won’t overflow with people for another two or three hours.
You can take advantage of this brief window to ride several popular attractions while their lines are shorter than they will be later in the day.
Visit in the Late Afternoon
Have you ever smelled someone who has been at the park all day? Whenever I think about this, a specific guest at Star Tours springs to mind.
This dude smelled like he hadn’t taken a shower since the Disney Renaissance.
I’m confident he experienced a memorable park visit. Unfortunately, so did I and anyone else who found themselves downwind.
What that person should have done was leave for a while, take a shower, and then return late in the afternoon.
I say this because theme parks tend to thin out as twilight approaches. Guests have checked off most of the items on their itinerary.
So, they correctly do the opposite of this guy. They leave, freshen up, and reinvigorate themselves for a later visit.
Disney experts know that the park crowds diminish and take advantage of the behavior.
If you leave Disney after lunch and return 90 minutes before dinner, there’s a real chance you can experience the same number of attractions.
Think of this situation as the equivalent of beating the rush, only the rush has already happened by the time you get there!
Examine Wait Times
A little bit of knowledge goes a long way at Disney theme parks. Once you know the basics of park behavior, you can minimize your line time.
An ongoing debate at Disney comes down to whether the juice is worth the squeeze, so to speak.
Nobody questions whether Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance is a masterpiece. Still, is it worth a wait that’s usually two hours or me?
Similarly, when you visit Disney’s Animal Kingdom, you should know the average wait at Avatar Flight of Passage vs. DINOSAUR or Expedition Everest.
When you plan your Disney itinerary well, you can feasibly experience exponentially more attractions. The debate comes down to quality vs. quantity.
Disney park visitors aren’t dumb. They all know what the best rides are. Not coincidentally, those attractions require the longest waits.
By researching ahead of time, you’ll know what to expect. Then, you can make the determination about which rides are worth the wait.
In a subtle way, Disney allows you to choose the amount of time you spend in line.
Remember to select some rides you like that require shorter waits. It’ll definitely reduce your line time. Plus, you’ll do more during your visit!
Pick Your Vacation Week Carefully
I realize that not everyone can travel to Disney whenever they want. Your job probably includes busy cycles.
Also, if you’re a parent, your vacation schedule depends entirely on school breaks.
Still, let’s presume for a moment that you enjoy at least some flexibility with your travel dates.
In that case, I’ll stress that some parts of the annual park calendar aren’t as crowded as others.
As such, you can save yourself tons of line time by picking the ideal travel week.
Examples include mid-January, early May, and late August through September.
On a ten-point scale, you can think of Christmas Week as a ten. You’ll stand in line for a ridiculous length of time.
Conversely, those other times of the year are only one or two out of ten. That’s better, folks.
Some Disney attractions offer Single Rider as an option. These rides maximize throughput by positioning guests in every seat.
For example, Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster Starring Aerosmith comes with limousine-shaped ride carts.
If not for Single Rider, several seats would remain empty during each run-through.
Instead, you’ll sit in one of those seats as a Single Rider. This approach will save you plenty of time that you’d otherwise stand in line.
The Walt Disney World attractions that employ Single Rider are:
- Expedition Everest
- Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run
- Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster Starring Aerosmith
- Test Track
So, Single Rider will aid you the most at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Meanwhile, it won’t help you at all at Magic Kingdom.
Skip the Fireworks
Here’s a pro tip that will require some discipline.
Yes, Disney’s theme parks host spectacular nighttime presentations. Fans of fireworks and digital projection will mark out at the sight of these extravaganzas.
However, let’s say that you’re not a fan of loud noises and shiny things. Alternatively, let’s assume that you’ve watched the fireworks before.
If either of those things is true, you can take full advantage of standard guest behavior.
Many people start standing in line for the fireworks 45 minutes before the show begins.
Since the laws of physics prevent people from being in two places at once, the attraction line queues thin out around this time each evening.
You can and should take full advantage of this behavior. Pick some of the rides whose lines are normally too long! This is your best opportunity all day!
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Feature Photo: Sipa USA/Alamy