How to Manage the Crowds at Disney
We’re officially in the heart of summer now.
Virtually every school in the country is on vacation. Where do families go when the kids are home from school?
You guessed it! Everyone heads to Walt Disney World! So, the crowds over the next few weeks will be among the worst of the year.
Presumably, you’re in the same boat as everyone else with an impending vacation…but you’re smarter than them because you’re reading MickeyBlog!
We’ve got several pro tips for managing the crowds at Disney during crowded park days.
Buy Disney Genie+
First, I’ll stress that I’m not trying to reinvent the wheel here. These tips are more basic and general than some I’ve offered in the past.
The reality is that when you visit Disney during the most crowded times of the year, there’s only so much you can do to avoid all the people.
So, some of the tips here require you to stretch your budget a bit. Others won’t work, depending on your schedule.
Feel free to pick and choose the ones that fit your travel philosophy. For example, you may not want to purchase Disney Genie+ due to the cost.
I totally get that, especially at parks like Disney’s Animal Kingdom and EPCOT.
You may feel that Disney Genie+ doesn’t provide the same value there.
Well, I’m happy to report that Disney thinks of everything. Recently, park officials introduced park-specific Disney Genie+ pricing.
Thus far, the cost of Disney Genie+ at Animal Kingdom and EPCOT is much lower than at the other two parks. You may find it a better value now.
Presuming that you know how to use Disney Genie+ efficiently, you should lower your wait times dramatically on several attractions that day.
Is that worth the money? Only you can decide that. I usually pay for Disney Genie+, though.
Buy Individual Lightning Lanes
Everything I just said applies here as well. The decision you must make is how much you want to experience Disney’s best attractions.
Generally, the most popular (i.e., crowded) Disney rides fall under the Lightning Lane umbrella. You must pay for each one individually.
Currently, the five attractions are:
- Avatar Flight of Passage
- Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind
- Seven Dwarfs Mine Train
- Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance
- Tron Lightcycle / Run
The average wait times for three of these rides are in the 80-minute range…and can soar much higher during peak periods.
Guardians and Tron aren’t even available via the standby line queue. You must enter a virtual queue and attempt to book a reservation for those two.
Are you willing to wait for an hour and a half for a single attraction? If so, you won’t need a Lightning Lane.
However, I view that amount of time as a poor choice during a park visit.
You’ll accomplish less each visit when you don’t use Lightning Lane.
Here’s a choice I consider a no-brainer. When you Rope Drop, you arrive at the park before it opens.
Then, once cast members allow you inside the park, you’ll rush to your favorite attractions.
At this point, they’ll have their shortest waits of the day. A clever Rope Drop strategy allows you to experience a couple of attractions before the crowd arrives.
Be in the Park at Mid-Afternoon
Okay, here’s a tip few people mention, but it’s important. For whatever reason, Disney theme parks experience peaks and valleys.
Later in the afternoon, guests return to their resorts or head to Disney Springs or whatever.
The result of this behavior is that you’ll enjoy a bit of a lull at most parks in the mid-afternoon.
Magic Kingdom isn’t as susceptible to this behavior as the other three parks, but it’s still a thing.
This reduction in wait times should extend until dinnertime. Afterward, guests will try to get in a few more rides in between the fireworks.
So, take full advantage of the lull!
Stay at an Official Disney Resort
Remember how I mentioned Rope Drop a minute ago? Guests staying at official Disney resorts earn an even better amenity.
With Early Theme Park Entry, you’ll enter the parks 30 minutes before regular guests. That half-hour advantage is massive at Disney!
Odds are that you’ll wait a matter of minutes for attractions that typically require 40+ minutes.
In my opinion, you should always stay at an official Disney resort anyway, but Early Theme Park Entry is a huge incentive to do so on its own!
Stay at a Deluxe Disney Resort
Okay, here’s a tip I’m not as emphatic about suggesting, but it does work.
On Mondays and Wednesdays, guests staying at Deluxe Tier Disney resorts gain a spectacular amenity.
You’ll have access to a single Disney park – usually EPCOT or Magic Kingdom – for Extended Evening Theme Park Hours.
Effectively, you’ll get two hours of park time when EPCOT/Magic Kingdom is closed to all other guests.
Since only a handful of Disney resorts fall into the Deluxe Tier, the park will be empty during Extended Evening Theme Park Hours.
You’ll feel like you own Disney because you’ll have the place all to yourself!
The amenity itself is as good as Disney offers. Whether you’re willing to pay for one of Walt Disney World’s most expensive resorts is a different story.
Personally, I don’t feel that the amenity itself justifies staying at one of these properties.
However, having stayed in most of them, I’ll add that the overwhelming majority provide excellent bang for the buck, presuming your vacation budget stretches that far.
Use Single Rider Lines
A handful of attractions at Walt Disney World offer Single Rider as an option.
At these locations, you can skip the crowds at the opportunity cost of missing some of the experience.
For example, at Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run, you won’t know anyone else in the cockpit as you try to steal Coaxium.
That could lessen the experience for you. Conversely, Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster Starring Aerosmith plays out exactly the same either way.
Yes, you’ll sit next to a stranger during the ride, but that just means your friends won’t hear you scream in terror at the beginning. Call that a win!
The value of Single Rider depends on the wait times on the date of your visit.
On many occasions, I don’t find it worthwhile at Expedition Everest at all. At peak times, it’s an absolute no-brainer, though.
Single Rider will empower you with better control of your inventory.
You can cycle through a few attractions in a fraction of the time it would take if you stood in the regular standby queue.
Visit until Park Closing
Here’s the final tip, and it falls in line with the Rope Drop and mid-afternoon suggestions.
In fact, I would argue that staying until the park closing represents the best time to accomplish whatever you want.
By this point, most guests have figured out Rope Drop. Not everyone can find the incentive to use it, but Rope Drop was more effective a decade ago.
Families with small children aren’t likely to stay until the park closes, though. Similarly, anyone with big plans for the morning won’t, either.
Meanwhile, a lot of couples and single travelers hang out at the World Showcase at the end of a park visit.
With so many people spread in so many directions, you’ll find little competition in attraction line queues.
Also, cast members will allow you to ride anything as long as you’re standing in line before closing.
So, you can jump in line for something one minute before the park technically shuts down and still get to ride that one last attraction!
Also, staying until the park closes is just plain fun. You’ll witness Disney at a time when it almost feels like you shouldn’t be there. I love it!
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