doing Disney World: waiting in line is for suckers

When last I posted here, I pledged that I would have a hot, inefficient, and imperfect trip to Disney World with my three children, sprinkled with managed expectations.


How it turned out: not hot. Quite imperfect. And– despite my pledge– completely and totally efficient.

Disney World is probably not the right place to cure oneself of overplanneritis, because the truth is, the better you plan, the more you’ll see. Things like Fast Passes only work because the majority of Magic Kingdom-goers do seem to wander about, getting in line for whatever ride they happen upon next. Ninety minute wait? With three cranky children in tow and no place to sit down? Oh well.

Perhaps I would be a better person if I could happily tolerate ninety minutes in a line, but I’d seriously rather stab a knitting needle in my eye. And my kids are no better. And so, yes, I admit it, my absolutely favorite part of our trip to Disney World was gaming the system to maximize times on rides and minimize waits in line. Here’s what worked:

  • go early. Going late probably works too– I wouldn’t know, since we were all in our beds by 9:30 every night. But if your kids are up at dawn like mine are, you can ride Expedition Everest at Animal Kingdom three times in a row before the families with teenagers have their teeth brushed back at their hotels. Oh, and you’ll park ten steps from the entrance- another major boon. Go early.
  • eat early. If you’re on rides by 9 a.m., you’ll be ready for lunch at 11:30- while the restaurants are just starting to fill up. You’ll be leaving when the 12:30 crush is just arriving- and that means all the lines for rides will be shorter.
  • plan ahead. A little. Before we entered the parks each day each member of our family came up with one ride or attraction they really wanted to experience. We got those five things done. Anything on top was gravy because we’d already done what we wanted the most.
  • get this appwhich not only tells you the current wait time for each ride, but also predicts which parks will be the most and least crowded on any given day. Walt Disney World has its own app, and it will get better- but on this trip I only used that one to make dining reservations. The unofficial “Lines” app may be one of those “free” apps that then costs you $11.99 to use with anything nearing full usefulness- but it’s totally worth it.
  • don’t wait in line for the parade. People stake out seats an hour before it starts- but we happened upon one as it was starting and stood directly behind those people, who had been wilting in the sun for some time. You’ll be able to see it fine.
  • use Fast Pass early and often. Only chumps wait an hour in line for a ride that has Fast Pass. My husband and I took turns being Fast Pass couriers- the rest of the family would get in line for a non-Fast Pass attraction, the other would dart across the Magic Kingdom to get the passes for Splash Mountain or whatever, then join the rest of the family in the line where they’d been waiting. It sounds crazy to criss-cross the park like that, but doing it without the kids is easy. (And despite my childhood conception of the Magic Kingdom as absolutely enormous, it is in actuality one-seventh the size of Central Park. Get some exercise.)
  • use the Ride Swap whenever you have a Fast Pass for a ride with a height requirement. This allows parents to ride one at a time with just the children who are old enough to ride. But the money part is, those kids get to ride twice, once with each parent. All you have to do is ask.

It might not be possible to do Disney in a laid-back way. Or at least, it’s not possible for me. But I did get to savor moments like this.

meeting rapunzel

Maggie met “the REAL Tangled.”

And that’s why any of us are crazy enough to do Disney in the first place, right?

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