It seems that many people associate Disney World with long lines for everything from attractions to dining. Disney World parks are some of the most popular vacation destinations in the world, but that doesn’t mean you have to endure the lines. In fact, with these simple tips, you may be able to avoid many of them all together. Wouldn’t that be nice?
1. At the Resorts
I don’t know about you, but I like to get my Disney Vacation started as soon as possible and that usually means as soon as we book. I love planning, and I love Disney; fortunately, the two go together very well.
Disney Resort Guests can use Online Check-in up to 60 days before the start of your vacation. Simply login to your MyDisneyExperience account and follow the prompts for early check in.
Verify the names of the others traveling with you, give your flight numbers and arrival/departure times for your Magical Express tickets, and associate a credit card to your account. All of these things will ensure that your vacation gets off to a good (and quick) start. A Magical Express bus will be ready and waiting to whisk you from the airport to your hotel, and the credit card on your account will allow you to use your MagicBand to make purchases.
With this service, you can even tell Disney where you would like to stay at your resort. Since most hotels have sections or villages, you might prefer to stay in one section over another. If you don’t have a particular preference, you can choose options like “close to transportation,” “close to dining,” or “handicap accessible.” By specifying what amenities are important to you, Disney can place you in the section most appropriate for your needs.
If you take advantage of this service, Disney will send you a text when your room is ready. The text will tell you what room number you are staying in and instruct you where to go. You can either bypass the front desk, or you can stop there for directions and luggage assistance.
Guests who use Online Check-in will usually experience much shorter lines than guests who don’t, and sometimes there isn’t a wait at all. The only downside to this is there isn’t much room for haggling since your room has already been assigned. If you would like to try for a room upgrade, which doesn’t happen very often these days since the resorts are almost always full, I would suggest not using Online Check-In. If you aren’t picky, opt for this service, and take advantage of the extra time you saved by not waiting in line.
2. At the Restaurants
Quick-service dining locations can have very long lines at popular mealtimes, but table-service restaurants are not immune to lines even when you’ve already made reservations.
If you want to avoid long lines at restaurants, eat during off-peak times, which usually occur before and after lunchtime (11:00 am to 11:30 am and 1:30 pm to 3:00 pm) and before and after dinner time (4:00 pm to 5:00 pm and 7:30 pm to 9:00 pm). Although there may still be lines at this time, you won’t have to wait nearly as long, and you’ll have a better chance of finding a table.
If you have Advanced Dining Reservations, which can be made up to 180 days in advance for Disney Resort Guests, you may still experience lines. Try checking in early. Even if your table isn’t ready yet, you will still be at the front of the line for your reservation time. Also, try to make reservations during the off-peak hours noted above for the shortest wait time.
Whether you have an ADR or not, you will be much more likely to have a short wait time if you have a smaller group (say two people) than if you have a larger group.
If eating at these times leaves you feeling hungry, grab a snack in between meals. Disney has everything from Mickey ice creams to popcorn, pretzels, and fruit and veggie trays. You certainly won’t go hungry at the Happiest Place on Earth!
3. For Rides and Attractions
When people think of lines and Disney, they usually think of rides and attractions. Lines for the most popular attractions can span upwards of two hours during the busiest times, but there are ways to avoid this wait time, too.
First, you should plan to arrive at the parks before rope drop. That’s right: arrive before the parks open and be there ready and waiting to be among the first to enter. You will usually be permitted entry a few minutes before the attractions actually open. Head right to the most popular attractions, and ride those first. You will often be able to see and do more in a couple hours in the morning than you’ll be able to accomplish for the rest of the day. To help alleviate exhaustion from getting up so early, plan to take a mid-day break when the crowds and the heat are at their highest.
If you’re highly energized, you can opt for scheduling FastPass+ reservations in the busy afternoon times during which you can ride the more popular attractions again with shorter lines. You could also head for the less popular rides, which will have shorter wait times even at the busiest times of the day.
If you’re traveling with little ones who can’t yet ride the bigger attractions, consider using Rider Switch, which allows parents and older children to ride an attraction without waiting in the line twice. Here’s how it works: one adult waits in the line while another waits with the child, then they switch as soon as the first adult is finished riding. This can save a lot of time! Just remember to keep the little ones busy in a nearby play area or by riding another more appropriate ride.
Scheduling early dining reservations or a tour is also a good way to get into the parks even before rope drop. You can experience the park when it is almost empty, and then, after breakfast, head to the popular attractions.
Regardless of when and how you choose to visit attractions, you should plan your vacation on MyDisneyExperience. You can schedule FastPasses and Advanced Dining Reservations, find wait times, and even locate PhotoPass Photographers. These and other options on MyDisneyExperience will allow you to plan rides, attractions, and shows efficiently so you’re not wasting time waiting in long lines.
4. On Transportation
Transportation is often a hot button issue even for Disney veterans. The bus system isn’t the fastest, but it is a free service that Disney provides to any Resort Guest. Each resort has at least one bus stop, and the larger ones can have several. Arriving at these bus stops early is essential to skipping the lines since there is only so much room on the bus and many people are trying to get to the parks at the same time. If you want to get a seat, get there early. This will start your day off on the right foot and allow you to get everywhere else before those who slept in!
If you’re staying at a resort with ferry service and/or monorail service, opt for this form of transportation since they are often overlooked and can usually hold more people at a time. They also run more frequently than busses.
At the end of the night, find a fireworks-viewing spot near the exit, and aim to be among the first to exit. At Magic Kingdom, try standing toward the front of Main Street. This will give you a great view of the castle and the fireworks, and allow you to get to the bus stop before many other people! There are many great viewing spots for Epcot’s IllumiNations, but if you want to get out quickly, stand near the entrance to Future World or the International Gateway if your resort has ferry service. For Hollywood Studios’ Fantasmic, exit to the top right of the amphitheater to be closest to the bus stop.
If the lines at the bus stop prove to be too long, try taking a taxi. Taxis service all of the parks and the Transportation and Ticket Center, and they will almost always get you to your resort faster than the Disney bus. Just be aware that this service comes with the taxi fare.
If all of these tips fail, take advantage of Extra Magic Hours, and stay until the parks are closed. Many people will leave the parks after the nighttime spectacular, so waiting until the park actually closes might be a good way to get in some extra park time while skipping the busiest transportation lines.
Finally, if you’re flying out of Orlando, you can experience some of the longest wait times since the Orlando airport is one of the busiest in the country. A service called CLEAR, which is currently available in several airports across the country, can help you skip these lines. This paid subscription service allows you to pre-enter your information and go into a different, and almost always shorter, security line.
Although the cost for CLEAR is minimal especially if you fly often, you might not be willing to spend this money. If you don’t fly very often, it’s probably not worth the investment at all. You can also get through even the longest security lines faster if you pack our luggage well. Neatly fold and arrange your items in your carry-on baggage so airport security can easily see the contents on the scanner. Follow all airport security guidelines especially for packing liquids, and place your items in the tubs neatly.
What’s more, I almost never check bags. This will save time both when you land in Disney and are ready to get your vacation started and when you return home and want to get out of the airport quickly. If you must check bags, choose a suitcase that is brightly colored and easily recognizable. If you have a black suitcase, tie a ribbon around the handle or put a unique duct tape around it.
By taking these precautions, you’ll get through security and baggage claim in no time.
How do you minimize the time you spend in lines at Disney World?