Twas the night before Disney and wouldn’t you know it, a frickin’ tornado hit the cabin, took down 10 trees and forced my parents to have to back out of the trip. There were lots of tears but the Novaks had to press on because nothing was refundable and as you probably know, Disney is not cheap.
This was not a promising start though and the forecast for the week was showing non-stop rain + temps in the 90’s… in my next post I will go into all the specifics of our trip, but today I want to focus on the strategies we used to do Disney in what I think was a highly efficient manner. Hopefully you can employ some of these strategies on your next visit and save some time in line too!
Our Park Strategy
Nick was determined to “game” Disney and minimize time in line. I was skeptical but proven wrong (as usual). There were 3 key components to Nick’s strategy, two of which involved the app: My Disney Experience.
Strategy 1: Fast Passes
Anyone who purchases a ticket to any of the Disney parks is entitled to 3 Fastpasses a day, which allow you to skip the line on the rides of your choice. Individuals staying at Disney Resorts may select their Fastpasses 60 days out, while everyone else has a crack at what’s left 30 days out. We were not staying in the park but Nick was online at opening bell 30 days out and got the best of what was left. (Tip: You can hire an Authorized Disney Vacation Planner and they’ll do all the Fastpass bookings and make recommendations. Nick wanted to do the process himself but it would be way less time and effort to just let the Planner guide you. And you don’t pay any extra for their services, they just take a commission from tickets or lodging you book through them).
Nick did his best to book 1 ride each in the 10-11 AM slot, the 11-12 noon slot and the 12-1 PM slot. Each Fastpass has a start time and you have 1 hour to redeem it from the start time. Additionally, you can only use 1 Fastpass per hour. Once all 3 passes have been redeemed that day, you are then eligible to get more if they are available. Here’s how the app shows you what Fastpasses or reservations you have coming up:
Strategy 2: Rope Drop
For rides we couldn’t get Fastpasses to, we did something called the Rope Drop. Disney does a soft opening at each of their parks, meaning that they allow you to do your bag check, scan your Magic Band for entry and then wait at a pre-determined area in the park behind a designated point (the “rope”). Usually, around 8:55 they would allow the waiting individuals to head into the park. We utilized this strategy for any rides that we couldn’t get a Fastpass for. The idea is basically to bolt for your desired ride as soon as they drop the rope. We did this 3 of our 4 days in the parks and it worked like a charm. We’d usually get to the parking lot around 8:15, get bags checked and bands scanned by 8:30 and then assume our waiting spot. I highly recommend this strategy, especially since many people don’t get to the park until 10 or 11, so you can sneak in a few rides with short lines before they arrive. Note that we waited to schedule our Fastpasses to start after 10 so we’d have time to do a Rope Drop ride or two in the 9 o’clock hour.
Strategy 3: Check App for Wait Times
For any remaining rides we wanted to go on that didn’t merit either a Rope Drop or a Fastpass, we simply used the My Disney Experience app to watch the wait times and go when lines were 30 minutes or less. Wait times are updated in real time, so it works very slick for planning purposes.
Although not a strategy, per say, another thing we did that I think really helped was break our park visit into 2 parts each day. We stayed at an apartment 10 minutes from Disney and rented a car to take us back and forth.
Our day played out like this:
8:15 AM: Arrive at park, check in
9:00 AM: Rope drop 1st ride, possibly do a second ride if time
10:00 AM: 1st Fastpass, possible second ride if time
11:00 AM: 2nd Fastpass, possible second ride if time
12:oo PM: 3rd Fastpass, possible second ride if up for it
12:15 PM: Book evening Fastpass for around 6 PM
1:00 PM: Leave the park and head back to the hotel
2:00 PM: Lunch at Home
3:00 – 5:00 PM: Nap time
5:00 PM: Return to Park
8:00/9:00 PM: Leave the Park when tired
I hope some of you find this useful! I’m proud to say our longest wait time was 30 minutes. Let me know you have questions about our strategies!