Avoid Lines at Disney World
13 Ways to Reduce Wait Times at Disney’s Theme Parks Attractions
Photo Credit: Darcy
With an annual attendance of over 52 million people, Walt Disney World tops the list of most visited vacation resorts in the world. It’s clear that Disney is doing something right to attract so many guests. And with a tagline of “The Most Magical Place On Earth,” why wouldn’t anyone want to visit the park?!
But these statistics also imply something negative – crowds and long lines. Unfortunately, this assumption is often the reality. Besides the cost of a Disney World vacation, the lines are really the only other major complaint.
So how do you avoid lines at Disney World?
While it’s not possible to avoid the lines entirely, there are several strategies to lessen your queue wait times. Here are our 13 best ways to avoid the lines at Disney World.
France Pavilion in the Morning. Photo Credit: Sam Howzit
The most obvious way to avoid lines is to go to the park when its least crowded. There is no magical time of the year when you will have the park to yourself but there are certain stretches when Disney World is less crowded than at other times.
If possible, try to avoid popular times of the year like school vacations, spring breaks, around the holidays, during the height of the summer, and when Disney hosts special events like marathon weekends and the Epcot’s International Food & Wine Festival. Weekends also tend to draw the crowds, so it may be a good idea to visit the theme parks on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, and then spend a long weekend enjoying the resorts, pools, and other aspects of Disney World outside of the theme parks.
See our Walt Disney World crowd calendar page a detailed look at when you can expect the shortest lines: MagicGuides.com/wdw-crowd-calendar
Photo Credit: Matthew Freeman
An easy way to get a jump on the crowds is to make a breakfast reservation at one of the restaurants located within a theme park. The advantage to this is that you will be able to exit the restaurant – right into the theme park – before the park opens to other guests. In doing so, you will bypass the normal entrance gate entirely and beat the 9 am rush. We recommend that you head straight to the most popular rides so you are one of the first in line!
Each of Disney’s 4 theme parks has at least one in-park breakfast location. Our favorites strategies include making an early reservation at Crystal Palace (Magic Kingdom) and heading straight to the popular Meet Cinderella and Elena at Princess Fairytale Hall; eating at the Safari Donald Duck character breakfast (Tusker House – Animal Kingdom) and hightailing it over to Flight of Passage; and making an 8 a.m. reservation for the Princess Storybook Dining character breakfast (Akershus Royal Banquet Hall (Epcot’s Norway Pavilion) and then hustling over to the Royal Summerhus to meet the Frozen sisters before the 9 am crowds descend.
Disney Character breakfasts will also save time from waiting in those long lines inside the theme parks to meet the Disney characters. See our Best Disney Character Dining Experiences page for more details.
Photo Credit: Michael Gray
Word to the wise: if you want to avoid the lines, don’t arrive late. The lines are often at their longest around 10-11 am.
If you skip our “breakfast in the theme parks” idea, then you should still plan on arriving at the park before it opens and then promptly line up near the front entrance. This will allow you to get a jump start on your day and – theoretically – a jump start on the lines. However, there will be plenty of competition as the gates open. Most people rush to the best attractions right off the bat.
One strategy we would advise is to study the theme park map, pick a popular attraction that is located towards the back of the park, start there and then work your way towards the front of the park as the day progresses.
Another trick is to turn left as you enter the park. Our natural human instincts tell us to make a right turn (for some reason) so try turning left instead. Reverse psychology can be an asset as you try to combat the lines at Disney World!
Photo Credit: Brent Schmidt
FastPass+ is a free service Disney includes with every theme park ticket purchase. It allows you to reserve up to three attractions per day whereby you can skip the standby line for the attractions you have selected.
Guests staying at any one of Disney’s resort hotels can book their FastPasses up to 60 days prior to their arrival or up to 30 days in advance for everyone else. If you make your FastPass+ reservations for the earlier part of the day, you may be able to secure additional passes as the day progresses.
The clear advantage goes to guests staying at Disney resorts (because they have the earliest opportunity to secure the most popular attractions), those who book their reservations as soon as they are allowed (in the morning of 60 days or 30 days out), and those who make their reservations for the earlier part of the day.
Don’t waste your time booking less popular attractions. Instead, focus on the most popular Disney attractions that appeal to you (the ones that will inevitably have the longest lines).
If you will settle for nothing but the best – and have extra money to spend – consider this strategy to avoid the lines.
Guests staying at any one of Disney’s Deluxe Resorts may upgrade to Club Level and secure three additional FastPass+ reservations per day. As you might expect, this add-on isn’t cheap but it can be a huge time-saver. Here are some of the highlights of this program:
- It costs $50 per person, per day
- There is a 3-day minimum purchase
- These FastPass reservations can be booked up to 90 days in advance (instead of 60 days for regular Disney resort guests)
- There are no FastPass+ tier restrictions, but you aren’t allowed to book the same attraction more than once
- Park Hopper ticket holders can book their FastPasses at any variety of theme parks on the same day
Again, this strategy isn’t for everyone (because of the cost and Deluxe requirement), but it would allow you more freedom and less time in the lines.
Every Disney guest should download the official My Disney Experience app to on their phone. This will allow you to check the wait times for the attractions at any theme park throughout the day.
Keep your eyes glued to the screen for updates and – as the line diminishes at one of the attractions you are interested – head over there immediately.
This strategy may not be a time-saver if you are constantly criss-crossing the park, but if you spot a nearby attraction with shorter lines, the My Disney Experience app can be a valuable tool to avoid the lines.
Extra Magic Hours is a perk for guests staying at on-property Disney resorts. Each day, Disney chooses one of its theme parks to open an hour before and one hour after normal operating hours. The upside to this program is that early birds have the upper hand on getting in line at popular attraction one hour before normal (off-site) guests do. They will also have 1 extra hour to experience fewer lines at the closing time.
The downside is there may be long lines during the normal daytime hours as the Extra Magic Hours crowd mixes with the normal attendance crowd.
So what is our advice?
If you want to experience Extra Magic Hours, get to the designated park early (by 8 am) and stay all the way until closing time so that you will make the most out of your extra time. If you decide to skip the Extra Magic Hours perk, you will likely find that the lines at the other 3 theme parks are shorter because so many people are at the designated Extra Magic Hours park that day. And if you are not staying at a Disney resort hotel, definitely avoid the park with Extra Magic Hours that day.
The saying goes “money cannot buy you happiness,” but this isn’t always the case. If your idea of happiness is shorter lines, then money can – in fact – buy you happiness at Disney World.
Disney launched a premium event it called Early Morning Magic which allows you early access to a limited number of top-tier attractions. For $70 per person per day, you can enter Magic Kingdom at 7:45 am and board any variety of the 7 designated rides and attractions without competing for a spot in line. So if the park opens at 9, you have 1 hour and 15 minutes to hit some of the most popular attractions before the normal crowd enters the park at 9.
Is it worth it? Maybe not. However, there is also buffet breakfast included in the $70 price tag. So if a relaxing but productive 1 hr and 15 minutes in Magic Kingdom is important to you, then maybe it is worth the cost after all, especially when breakfast is included.
Early Morning Magic geared towards early risers who hate to wait in lines. But for those who like to sleep in, Disney has a premium option for you as well.
Magic Kingdom’s Disney After Hours is a special ticket event offered on select dates throughout the year. It gives the ticket holder three hours of extra time to enjoy virtually crowd-free fun after the Magic Kingdom has closed to the general public. Start times vary by date, but the event typically begins at 8 p.m., 9 p.m., or 10 p.m.
This unique 3-hour park experience lets you enjoy more than 25 of Magic Kingdom’s most popular attractions and Character Greetings. Tickets are not cheap ($119 in advance, plus tax), but only a limited number are sold each night to ensure that there will be practically no lines to wait in.
Lines tend to be shortest in the early morning and late afternoon/early evening. That that in mind, it may be a good idea to take an afternoon break. You could go back to your resort to relax, cool off with a dip in the pool, or take an extended lunch break before returning to the park. By the time you get back to the lines, hopefully you will find them a little bit more bearable.
Just about every attraction at Disney World has two lines: a regular standby line and a line for guests with FastPass+ reservations. But there are a few attractions that have a 3rd “single rider line” as well.
As you may have guessed, a solo rider will be added with another party to fill an empty seat on an attraction. This does mean your party will be separated on the ride, but you can typically save some time in line with this method.
The three current attractions with single rider lines are:
- Test Track – Epcot
- Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster – Hollywood Studios
- Expedition Everest – Animal Kingdom
Disney’s Rider Switch Service is an option for those who visit with a small child.
Here’s how it works: one adult receives a return ticket for the attraction and waits with the non-rider/riders while the other members of the party go on the ride. When the other adult/adults return, they can supervise the non-riding guest/guests while the waiting adult can then board the ride without waiting in the standby line again. Up to 3 guests can ride using this return ticket. meaning that other people in the party can effectively ride the attraction two times while only waiting in line once.
The Rider Switch Service is available at select attractions at every Disney World theme parks. Find out more about the program here:
Photo Credit: Jennifer Lynn
The best times to jump in line is when everyone else is busy doing something else.
Some examples include during the Magic Kingdom parade, when Hollywood Studios’ Fantasmic show is in progress, and while the evening time fireworks shows are happening.
Lines also tend to lessen around lunchtime, so it might be a good idea to plan your lunch break earlier or later than the normal lunch hours.
It can be a challenge to secure FastPass+ reservations on the most popular Disney World attractions. However, additional FastPass+ time slots for high demand attractions are often released during the day.
Check (refresh) your app throughout the day in order to increase your chances that one of the attractions you are interested in suddenly becomes available. If it does, you can modify an existing FastPass reservation and switch it to the one you prefer.
We hope our Avoid Lines at Disney World page has given you a few strategies to try on your vacation. For more useful Disney World information, please review some additional pages on MagicGuides like our Disney Dining Plan Calculator, Disney Transportation Map, and Disney World Tips and Tricks articles.
If you need help planning and booking your magical Walt Disney World vacation, contact our friends at The Vacationeer. Their services are always helpful and totally free of charge!
Thank you for reading our page, and we hope you have a magical Walt Disney World vacation!