Asking how to avoid lines at Disney world is a bit like asking how to avoid water in the ocean.
It’s an integral part of the experience, for better or worse, and the best way to think about it is how to minimize lines at Disney world because you’re never going to avoid them completely.
How qualified am I to help you skip the lines at Disney World?
Well, I’ve been going since I was a toddler and grew up about an hour away from the parks.
Also like everyone I know is an annual pass holder, and the only reason I’m not is because I live in London which is sort of a far commute to my favorite place on earth.
Before I jump into these tips on avoiding lines at Disney World, I just want to remind you to PACK YOUR PATIENCE.
Enduring the lines you do have to wait in will be much better if you accept the inevitable and try to pass the time in a fun way rather than sitting there with a grumpy look on your face for ages.
Sidenote: one thing I will say is that if you’re looking to go to Disney World, my best tip is to use a Disney specific travel agent who will be able to help you plan an itinerary that works for all of you and make sure you’re getting the best deals.
I highly recommend The Vacationeer, as they charge absolutely no fees for planning your vacation and will give you a free, no-obligation quote with no pressure. Just click here and give them your vacation requirements OR tell them you’re just starting to think about it and ask their opinion on where to stay and what to do.
If you don’t book Fastpasses ahead of time, the rest of this article is pointless as you’ll have missed the one perk you can take advantage of FOR FREE when it comes to saving time in lines.
If you’re staying on-site, you can book your Fastpasses 60 days in advance (assuming you have already purchased your theme park tickets).
If you’re staying off-site and have purchased tickets, you can book 30 days in advance.
No matter what your window is, DO IT. Book. your. Fastpasses.
This may seem obvious to people who know about Disney and have been before, but it’s not actually that obvious to loads of people who just turn up every day not realizing Fastpasses are a thing.
I see them all the time.
A Fastpass gives you an hour window where you can turn up and get in the Fastpass version of the line.
The Fastpass version of the line goes faster because…well, it’s called Fastpass.
Even if you look at the line and THINK the Fastpass line is longer (Space Mountain is notorious for this), get in it anyway.
What you’re not seeing is how long the actual queue is for the standard line and how they can pack more people in there.
You will always wait less time in the Fastpass line than in the standard line unless there is some cosmic upheaval.
If you’re like, oh wait, I actually need to purchase my park tickets on the day and cannot get them any sooner, then what I want you to do is take an immediate beeline for the first Fastpass kiosk you see when you get inside the park.
Don’t dawdle around looking at all the rides you want to do – get thee to a Fastpass kiosk, book your 3 Fastpasses for the day, and then explore the parks knowing that you’ve secured yourself 3 shorter wait times.
Get More Fastpasses
Did you know that you can get more Fastpasses once yours run out for the day (subject to availability, of course).
After you use the last of your initial 3 (or your time slot runs out if you haven’t used it), you can book an additional Fastpass. Then once you use that one, you can book another, and so on and so forth.
The best way to take advantage of this is to try and book your initial Fastpasses for as early as possible, so you use them up earlier in the day and then have more opportunities to get more.
If you have 2 Fastpasses booked for 10:00-11:00 and 11:00-12:00 and then your third one isn’t until 6pm, you’re going to have to wait until you use that third one at 6pm to get more.
Sometimes this is okay if the one later on is for a really line-heavy ride (say, Flights of Passage at Animal Kingdom), but if not, consider moving it to something earlier so you’re eligible for more Fastpasses sooner.
Don’t Go When it’s Absolutely Slammed
Disney World is pretty much busy all year now. There are a couple weeks throughout the year (typically right after school starts and during hurricane season) that can be quieter, but mostly you should go expecting lines.
Those pictures people get on Main Street with no one else around? Um, yeah. They’re either photoshopped or they got there are like 3am and waited for hours and then ran really fast to take a picture before people came in behind them.
So yeah – the “go during the off season” advice of yesteryear is not nearly as helpful today.
That being said, there are some times when Disney World is absolutely packed with no room to move, and that includes the week between Christmas and New Year’s Eve and the 4th of July.
If you’re trying to avoid lines at Disney World, then you’re going to want to NOT travel at those times.
This is not going to guarantee that you’re going to get a line free trip, but it will guarantee that you might have like 6 inches of personal space as you’re walking through the parks and honestly that’s priceless.
Go for Rope Drop
“Rope drop” is one of those terms that diehard Disney fans use that the rest of the general population just calls “park opening,” but the concept remains the same: the earlier you get there, the better.
It used to be that you could just show up at the gates a couple of minutes before park opening and then make it on loads of rides in a short period of time, but today it’s gotten increasinsgly competitive and will continue to do so as more lands are rolled out (Galaxy’s Edge, hello).
Now, it’s recommended that if you want to get to, say, Animal Kingdom for rope drop, you get there at least an hour before opening.
And that’s not like, get to the parking lot an hour before. That is getting to the gate an hour before.
If you’re an early bird who likes to get the worm and also skip Disney World lines at the same time, then this is a great tactic to get yourself in the park, on the more popular rides before everyone else, and then given free reign of the rest of the park while the entire world is in line for Flights of Passage.
The reason it works so well is because, of course, not everyone is going to get up that early on their Disney vacation, but also because the Fastpass line will be emptier (if I have a Fastpass slot from park open to one hour after, you can bet I’m not going to break my neck to get there the very first second it opens – as that’s the whole point of a Fastpass is to not have to do that).
If the thought of getting up early on vacation makes you want to cry, the next tip may be more suited to you.
Go Right before Park Close
The rule at Disney World is that if you are IN LINE before the park closes, even if that’s one minute before, you can stay in line until you ride the ride.
It doesn’t mean you can be running to the line at park close or almost there, but if you are actually passed the line entrance and standing in the line, you will be allowed to ride.
If you’re hoping to ride a popular ride like Slinky Dog Dash or Flights of Passage without as much wait, use this tip to your advantage and hop in line right before close.
The stand-by line will start moving much faster after park close because there are no more Fastpass slots, and they tend to display an inflated wait time to subtly (or not so subtly) discourage people from getting in line.
But do not be fooled!
You’ll have some of the lowest waits of the day if you use this tactic, and while I’m not saying you’re going to get on in five minutes, you won’t be waiting nearly as long as if you decided to get in the stand-by line at any other point in the day.
Avoid the Park with Extra Magic Hours
It is super tempting to hit all of the parks with Extra Magic Hours if you’re staying on property.
I get it. I absolutely get it.
You feel like you’ve paid to stay on property to take advantage of those special hours, and by no means are you going to let them pass you by!
Except, if you’re in the business of skipping Disney World lines, you may just want to skip Extra Magic Hours parks as well.
There are thousands upon thousands of hotel rooms on Disney property, even more at off-site hotels that come with Extra Magic Hours.
So while you think you’re going to spend your day at the Magic Kingdom because you’ve got 2 extra hours of fun, so is everyone else.
Typically, if you steer cleer of the parks with extra magic hours, you’re actually going to find shorter lines because people who haven’t read this article will be fighting for space in line at Space Mountain while you’re blissfully enjoying lower crowds at EPCOT.
I do understand the appeal of Extra Magic Hours, and my advice is that, if you have park hopper tickets, take advantage of the actual extra magic hours and then hop on over to another park.
This will give you the “special time” you feel you’ve paid for, and you’ll also enjoy the rest of the day at a park with lower crowds.
This isn’t foolproof, but it is good advice to stick to in general even if you don’t all of the time.
Ride During Meal Times and Fireworks Shows
If there are multiple rides you want to get on with lower lines in addition to your Fastpasses and ones you can hit at rope drop or park close, try to hit those rides during popular mealtimes (like 12 – 1 for lunch and 5-6 for dinner).
Whether people have made dining reservations or have just found a spot to enjoy their pre-made sandwiches, many families do take time out of the day to eat and aren’t just shoving Goldfish in their kid’s mouths as they run from ride to ride.
You can take advantage of the shorter lines at these times and adjust your meal times to earlier or later.
Similarly, if you’ve already seen the Fireworks or nighttime show, consider skipping these to ride rides if you’re hoping to find the shortest lines at Disney World.
These shows soak up a large number of people, especially ones like Happily Ever After at the Magic Kingdom where almost the entire park stops to watch and find a spot on Main Street or in another area.
The lines will start going back up again if you wait until after the Fireworks shows (though not to the level they were previously as many leave after the nighttime entertainment), so make sure to be taking advantage of the period leading up to the shows as well where some people will stop getting in lines in order to go snag the perfect space.
Use Rope Drop to Your Advantage Even if You’re Not Riding the “Big One”
The last time I went to Animal Kingdom for rope drop, I kept an eye on the wait times for all of the rides except Flights of Passage and Na’vi River Journey.
And oh my gosh, people. It was empty. FOR HOURS.
When a park has a newly opened ride attracting people running to it for rope drop (as I’ve suggested early), the rest of the lines tend to be really easy walk-ons for quite some time.
The same goes for Magic Kingdom, where many people are worried about rides like Seven Dwarves Mine Train and Hollywood Studios where people are now interested in Toy Story Land above the rides they’ve already done before.
So even if you’re not coming to do that one big ticket ride, getting to the park for rope drop can actually help you get more rides done with basically no wait time while the rest of the world is still in line for the main ride. Can you say 8 trips on Kilimanjaro Safaris before 10am?
Book a Dining Reservation that Gives You Early Access into a Park
All dining reservations booked right at park open or before come with early entrance into the park (you have to go to a separate booth to be let in), and this means that when you finish your breakfast, you’ll be in a better position to head to the rides you want to go on.
Some reservations even come with a special “early morning ride” on specific attractions.
These change regularly, so do some research on which park you want to eat in ahead of time to see if any dining reservations or packages come with this perk.