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Minimizing the time you spend in lines

Posted on March 2, 2012 at 3:30 PM

One of the questions I am often asked is "How do I maximize the time I am on rides and minimize the time I spend in lines?"  It's really quite simple and can be summed up with two easy rules:  arrive early and use fastpasses.  The reality is that most people don't want to get up early on vacation.  As a result, they arrive at the parks an hour or so after they open (depending on the time of year) and get into the now huge line for their top attraction.  The smart traveller arrives at the park about 30 minutes before the official opening and makes a beelines for the big rides when you are let in.  Yes, this does mean getting up a little earlier than you'd probably like to, but the pay-off is enormous.  If you know the couple of mega-attractions in each park and hustle to do them first, you will save yourself hours of time waiting in lines.


The second key is Disney's fastpass system.  For a handful of popular rides in each park, Disney has introduced a system that allows you to get a ticket to ride that ride at a specified time and avoid the line.  The key restriction is that you can only have 1 fastpass at a time unless 2 hours have passed from when your fastpass was issued. If the wait for a fastpass ride is 30 minutes or less, I suggest you simply ride the ride.  If it's longer than that, get a fastpass and move on to the next attraction.  An alternative strategy for those that like to ride more than once is to get a fastpass for a ride even when it has a short line, wait in line the first time, and then use the fastpass to ride a second time.


If you have small children who can't ride a mega attration, an extra trick you can use for riding multiple times is to get fast passes for everyone (even the non-riders) and use the extra fastpasses to ride additional times without waiting.  Combine this with switching off (which I'll cover in a seperate post) and you (or your older kids) can ride the big rides a bunch of times without much of a wait.


Finally, if you are really into minimizing wait times, when you exit one of the big rides, have an adult march ahead to the next big attraction and obtain fastpasses either to use then or later in the day.  You will discover that the adult can move much more quickly than your entire family can.  The perfect example of this is Epcot.  The 2 big rides you need fastpasses for are TestTrack and Soarin.  Our strategy is to have me race ahead at the opening and get fast passes for TestTrack.  I am usually done just as my family arrives.  We then get in line to ride and use the fastpasses to ride a second time.  Then, while they get a snack and take a bathroom break, I race over to get soarin fastpasses.  When I return, we ride Mission Space (next to TestTrack) and other rides in this area until it's time for our Soarin fastpass.  Then, before getting on Soarin', we get another fastpass to ride it again later in the day.  By using this strategy, we get to ride the 2 biggest rides in the park with very little waiting.  Since lines for these 2 rides are typically well over an hour, you have saved yourself almost half a day of waiting in line.


Tips for Each Park


Magic Kingdom

 

  • Head for Space Mountain.
  • Get a fastpass, but ride using the regular line
  • Head for Buzz Lightyear and get a fastpass.  If the line is short, ride it twice.  If not, use your fastpass for Space Mountain and come back to Buzz when your fastpass time is available.
  • Have a parent head across the park and get a Fastpass for Splash Mountain.
  • If the line is short for Thunder Mountain Railroad, when your family catches up, ride that first.  
  • If not, ride some of the other attractions until your fastpass time and then get a fastpass for Thunder Mountain.


Epcot

  • See the advice earlier in the article

Animal Kingdom

  • Have an adult head for Kilimanjaro Safari and get fastpasses.
  • When the family catches up, get in line to ride.
  • Ride twice if you want or save your fastpass for later.  Another little known trick is that you can use fastpasses after their expiration.  It's possible you might run into a cast member that says no, but I've never had that happen.
  • If the day is incredibly hot, ride Kali River Rapids and get a fastpass for later.
  • If not, have an adult trek to Expedition Everest and get fastpasses.
  • If the line is short, ride twice.  Otherwise, ride other things until your fastpass time and then get a second fastpass for Everest before riding.

Hollywood Studios

  • Have an adult head for Toy Story Mania for fastpasses.
  • Get in line and ride once the family arrives.
  • Ride a second time with the fastpasses if you wish or save them for later.
  • Have an adult get fastpasses for the rock n roller coaster.
  • If the line is short, ride twice.  If not, see if Tower of Terror (next door) has a short wait.  
  • If so, ride it first.  If not, get a fastpass for this and maybe see Beauty and the Beast while you wait for your fastpass time.  

If you are someone who really likes to plan, a great site to help is called touringplans.com.  While I have never decided in the end to follow one, they seem to be well regarded.  

 

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