For a 9-hour day, you’ll pay as much as $11 an hour to enjoy Walt Disney World. Maximize your time by minimizing waits with these 10 priceless tips:
1. Be there when the gates open. The period before lunch is critical. Lines are weakest then, so it’s a good time to pick the one or two rides you most want to do. Pitfall: Don’t go to the one closest to the gates. Instead, head as far into parks as you dare. In fact, at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, the best time for Kilimanjaro Safaris, in the back of the property, is first thing in the morning. The animals won’t have bolted for shade yet and you can get a good look at them.
2. If you don’t have kids, save the slow rides for after dinner. Disney World has an almost metaphysical ability to turn Momma’s sweet little angel into a red-faced, howling, inconsolable demon. This meltdown usually happens in late afternoon, as the stress of the day exhausts children. By dinnertime, parents evacuate their screaming brood. The lines at kiddie attractions such as Peter Pan’s Flight, as tough as 2 hours in midday, shorten after bedtime.
3. Fastpass first thing. The sooner your three are scheduled and used, the sooner you can get your next one. Revise the boilerplate schedule Disney offers and move your reservations to fall as early as possible.
4. Pray for rain. In Florida, it usually strikes in mid-afternoon and lasts for less than an hour, but that’s long enough for many guests to leave, which easeswaits.
5. If your kids allow it, skip the parade. Lines at many of the most popular rides get shorter in the run-up to parade times, when the hordes pack the route in anticipation. Bank on thinner lines 30 minutes before and during showtime. It’s often possible to hit two or three rides during the show.
6. Come early or stay late. If you’re paying higher-than-normal rates to stay on Disney property, you might as well get some value back by availing yourself of Extra Magic Hours. Your Disney hotel will tell you which park is either opening early or closing late for the express use of its guests. Lines will be shorter during those hours.
7. If the weather will be hot, Fastpass the water rides. When it swelters, arrange a Fastpass (or, at Universal Orlando, an Express) for the water rides by midmorning, which should ensure a slot to ride when the heat peaks.
8. Eat early. Restaurants have lines, too, so avoiding peak periods applies to meals as well. Eat at 11am, when many places open, and there will be light traffic until noon or so. The same goes for dinner: Schedule a reservation for around 4pm. Eating late in the parks doesn’t work, as many restaurants close.
9. Baby swap. The parks have a system allowing both parents to ride with little additional waiting. After the whole family goes through the line, Dad can wait with Junior while Mom rides. When Mom’s off, Dad can ride without waiting and Mom takes a turn watching Junior. For many people, that cuts the old waiting times in half. It’s not available on kiddie rides because it’s weird to watch Daddy ride those alone.
10. Split up. If you don’t care if you all ride in the same car, a few attractions have lines for single riders. Use them and you’ll shoot to the head of the pack, fill spare seats left by odd-numbered groups, ride within minutes of each other, and be back on the pavement in no time flat. Even on rides without dedicated single lines, solo riders should alert ride-loading attendants to their presence—doing so could shave long minutes off a wait.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.