Boundless energy, typical at home, may wane after a few hours of eye-widening stimulation at Walt Disney World. There are several tips for waiting at Disney World with kids.

Martyr for the Magic Kingdom

The number one way to ensure that all the kids in a group get to experience as many attractions as possible is to sacrifice one’s own enjoyment in favor of theirs. If an adult is willing to sit out of every ride, it’s much more feasible to manage a group of wide-eyed thrill seekers. For some adults, this poses no problem at all. There are those of us for whom Pirates of the Caribbean or even Star Tours are just too scary, not to mention all the roller coasters and the like. But if the aim is to enjoy Walt Disney World every bit as much as the young’uns do, read on!

Waiting is part of the experience at Disney World.  Sometimes it is even fun.

Waiting is part of the experience at Disney World.  Sometimes it is even fun.

The Quintessential Queue

There are certain ways to make a long line less drudging. Parents and guardians can alleviate some of the younger visitors’ restlessness. As the day moves on, different activities are appropriate and can be quite helpful. Early in the day, it makes sense to ask the kids what they want to do and see. Talking about what they imagine the day to be like will keep them happy and excited for a while. Long about 10 or 11, it’ll be time to play spot-the-toon. Getting the kids to count how many Disney characters they can see will get them to focus on their surroundings and trying to out-count their peers rather than the annoyance of waiting in a line. Later in the day, both guardian and child will be a bit drained of energy, and sit-down games will be a better option. Waiting for a theater attraction where there are staging areas with seating, is a good venue for games that require pencil and paper like tic-tac-toe. These take up hardly any space in a travel bag and can be reused. Tech-enabled parents can save a tree by playing simple games on an iPad with their children, while another parent checks wait times with an iPhone application.

(Barely) Catching a ride

Certain attractions are made with crowds in mind. Some of them can accommodate upwards of 500 people. The downside is that many people will be vying for the same attraction. The upshot is that doing the queue isn’t obligatory. Since guests can enter many of these high-capacity attractions at the last minute without fear of missing the boat, they’re free to chill in a shaded area, sneak a snack or execute their next family safari through the restroom. At the last minute, when the line is nearing its end, savvy guests can jump on its coattails and still get a place on the ride.

Similar strategies apply at Epcot’s The American Adventure. These theaters were designed with the accommodation of a huge amount of guests in mind. Being physically present for the line isn’t compulsory, so when in doubt, Disney World-wise guests can verify the countdown to showtime with an attendant. If sufficient time remains, there’s nothing to stop families from getting a snack, stretching their legs, or taking a potty break. Guests are advised to return no later than a quarter of an hour to showtime and to finish snacking before they enter; like hometown movie theaters, no outside food is permitted.

Tots In Trade

What to do when a ride has a minimum height requirement or a suggested age that some of the kids won’t satisfy? Parents and older kids will often end up having to miss some of Walt Disney World’s best attractions if a contingency plan is not made! The best option that we’ve seen is tot trading. In this plan, two parents wait in line with the kids, keeping an eye out for Disney personnel. When one is encountered, guests have only to mention that they are taking the switching off option. This key phrase references a whole section of employee training. Once they know what the party is interested in, they will let the whole group into the staging area for the ride to wait in the secondary line. When it’s time to board, one of the grown-ups will get to ride while the other stays behind with the youngest and tiniest. Exiting the ride, the adult reminds the attendant about the switch-off, and exits back to the platform with the littlest tykes, allowing the caregiver who was waiting to ride the ride. A third adult can be brought in to help watch the kids and, if their cards are played right, get to experience the attraction twice.

On The Fast Track With Tots In trade

The majority of the Fastpass attractions have institutionalized switching off. When guests indicate they want to do so, they are given a Rider Exchange Fastpass that applies to groups of up to three. One grown-up of the two then leaves the line with the little tyke (or tykes) while the other rides. Exiting the attraction, the rider hands off the Fastpass to the waiting adult, who then gets to make a beeline through a special Fastpass lane and lickety split, everyone has gotten to share the experience. Fastpasses of this kind are of limited duration, but the interval during which they’re valid can allow a group to enjoy the use of Fastpass lanes at up to five attractions at once. This is one means of ‘hacking’ the Disney system while playing by the rules; combining the collecting of Fastpasses at attraction kiosks with trading off tots can be a major benefit to a group that really wants to maintain a schedule. Though it can work for five attractions simultaneously, it’s best applied to three at once and used by groups of not more than six. Even at this modest level of entropy, it’ll take some serious wrangling by very cooperative grown-ups to pull it off. Seeing it work out is a thing of beauty.