Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge at Walt Disney World will officially open on August 29, 2019 (click here for all the details!!), way ahead of the “late fall” estimation Disney released last year. And the shortened timeline has really thrown a wrench into the plans of guests who had hoped to avoid the galactic crush of people exploding into Disney’s Hollywood Studios — particularly those with September reservations.
September has historically been a relatively quiet time of year to visit the World, and with Disney’s original prediction of a “late fall” opening for Galaxy’s Edge (plus free Disney Dining Plan offered through September 30!), loads of visitors planned to enjoy the last few quiet weeks of fall without tens of thousands of their ‘closest’ friends. Now those plans are thrown off. And we have heard from MANY readers and social media followers who are considering changing their travel plans (or upset that they can’t!).
So we’re taking a look at the pros and cons of traveling to Walt Disney World in September, right at the height of the Galaxy’s Edge opening crowds — PLUS tips for surviving it all!
Cons: Get me outta here!
So. Many. People.
The first consideration of guests whose September plans are disrupted by the announcement is crowd levels. And there’s reason for concern. According to TouringPlans.com, when Pandora opened in Animal Kingdom, the new land essentially doubled the crowds in that park. Galaxy’s Edge certainly has the potential to do this — or more! — for Hollywood Studios. For many the appeal of September is the relatively low crowds, allowing them to snag Fastpasses and Advance Dining Reservations, avoid hours-long waits for popular attractions, and just have some personal space. For some this is a necessity; crowds can be highly anxiety-producing and overwhelming for people of all ages, and we totally hear the pain of those who feel this way.
There’s no sidestepping this issue. Disney’s Hollywood Studios will, in all likelihood, be a total madhouse. It may be orderly, with Disney doing what Disney does to control and direct crowds, but even with the best organization of queues and filtering crowds through in regimented ways, people are people. They will disperse everywhere. And if you can’t handle the crowds on a busy day, you’re really going to struggle with a Galaxy’s Edge day.
But all hope isn’t lost. See our PROS below for an idea of when Galaxy’s Edge crowds might simmer down.
Galaxy’s Edge… Phase One
If you’ve resigned yourself to the fact that you’ll be visiting Walt Disney World during Galaxy’s Edge’s big reveal, the least you could ask is for everything to be open and operational, right? Unfortunately, even if you battle the crowds to get in, you’ll still be missing out on one of the biggest draws to the land: Rise of the Resistance!
By all accounts this ride is out of this world, combining multiple ride experiences into a single, larger-than-ever attraction. But Rise of the Resistance won’t be rising to anything when Galaxy’s Edge opens in Disney World as it’s slated for a second phase.
For many who are begrudging their opening month visit to the land, the inability to experience Rise of the Resistance is a huge disappointment. Perhaps crowds wouldn’t be so bad if only guests could spread across two major attractions. Perhaps Rise of the Resistance would make the Galaxy’s Edge fervor more tolerable. Guests who’ve stumbled into an early visit to Galaxy’s Edge won’t have that carrot to get them through the hard stuff.
You only get one chance to make a first impression!
If you’re a Star Wars fan, a Disney Parks fan, or both, you’ve likely been anticipating the opening of Galaxy’s Edge for years. If you’ve imagined your first visit during the relative calm way post-opening (perhaps in 2020 or beyond) and now find yourself in the mix for the moved-up grand opening, you may be feeling the let-down of your idyllic first Galaxy’s Edge visit. And that’s a bummer! Rather than planning ahead for a visit when crowds have died down, now you’ll be one of the tens of thousands exploring elbow-to-elbow, jostling for a Blue Milk and queuing up for Millennium Falcon (without a Fastpass!!).
The potential for a relatively calm first impression seems entirely out of reach for those who will be experiencing Galaxy’s Edge well before they intended. And perhaps those who fall into this category will want to avoid the land altogether and put off their first visit to Batuu for another time.
Pros: Deal me in!
So many people… in Galaxy’s Edge!
We’ve seen this question many times in the past few days: how will Galaxy’s Edge impact crowd levels in the other parks? It’s a valid question without a certain answer. What we can do is look at past precedent, and the closest we can come to a comparison is the opening of Pandora. Now, this is not a direct comparison, and past performance of crowds is in no way guaranteed to repeat in September. Galaxy’s Edge is likely to draw unprecedented crowds, so we can only muse about what’s happened in the past.
But what’s happened in the past isn’t so bad! When Pandora opened at the end of May 2017, crowd levels in Disney’s Hollywood Studios and Epcot were actually lower compared to crowds the previous year — 4% and 6% respectively, according to TouringPlans.com. Magic Kingdom crowds were essentially the same from 2016 to 2017 (down only about 2%). So it may well be that crowds will favor Hollywood Studios when Galaxy’s Edge opens, meaning many guests will spend less time at the other parks.
But it’s also worth noting that by mid-June of 2017 when Pandora was about 2-3 weeks old, wait times for popular Flight of Passage were regularly under two hours. Still a hearty wait but certainly down from opening day levels.
When Toy Story Land opened on June 30, 2018, some guests reported waiting up to 2.5 hours just to get into the land itself — then faced queues of up to 4-5 hours for Slinky Dog Dash. But these numbers only really applied to the first day the land opened, and within a week, Toy Story Land wait times were settling down, with Slinky Dog Dash coming under 90 minutes by mid-July (TouringPlans reporting). This trajectory may also apply in Galaxy’s Edge, with opening day crowd levels coming down dramatically within 1-3 weeks.
Something to note about the opening of Toy Story Land that may come into play for Galaxy’s Edge: Disney World opened for Extra Magic Hours every morning from 7-8AM from opening day through August 25 — frequently letting guests in around 6:30AM. Those Extra Magic Hours likely spread some of the crowd out, as guests not staying at a Walt Disney World resort couldn’t enter the park until after 8AM. Disney has confirmed that Galaxy’s Edge in Hollywood Studios will be accessible during Extra Magic Hours. It remains to be seen if they will open Hollywood Studios early every day for several weeks as they did for Toy Story Land.
And just out of curiosity, we took a look at the opening numbers of Universal’s Wizarding World of Harry Potter, which may very well end up being the best comparison in terms of fervor over a land’s opening. Of note is that when Wizarding World opened on June 18, 2010, the longest waits visitors experienced were to gain entrance to the land itself. At that time, folks reported waiting up to 8 HOURS to get into the world. Once they were in, visitors reported waiting two hours and under for the rides themselves. That said, when the Wizarding World expanded with Escape from Gringotts in March 2014, people waited 7+ HOURS for the ride itself. The wait time was around two hours even four months later.
We’ve seen that Disneyland intends to create a virtual queue system to get into Galaxy’s Edge in California (kind of like when you’re waiting for a table in a restaurant — you’ll get notified when the land has emptied enough to allow you to join in). We’re not yet sure what will happen in Orlando.
Galaxy’s Edge opening is a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
Visiting Batuu and Galaxy’s Edge won’t be without its frustrations — particularly if you weren’t originally planning to be in the middle of the opening weeks’ action. But unless you’re planning to experience Galaxy’s Edge openings in both Disneyland and Walt Disney World, visiting Disney World in September will be a completely unique, once-in-a-lifetime experience.
If you happen to be a Star Wars fan, this might be a big part of the excitement for your trip. And if you’re not a Star Wars fan, you may well find yourself caught up in the excitement of others. That opening energy, the awe of seeing something brand new for the first time, and the resolution of years of anticipation will be powerful forces. Maybe the force will be with you — fan or not!
All the NEW things!
This one is, perhaps, the biggest pro for those who are disappointed in Disney’s advanced timeline: you get to see all the NEW things when they’re still NEW! Sure, it might be a challenge to take in all the details while making your way through the crowds, but if you have the chance and the ability to slow down, take your time, and explore Black Spire Outpost, you’ll be drinking in details never before seen in Disney World. From atmosphere and food to costumes and technology, Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge is bringing its A-game, and if you’re accidentally there for the opening, you’ll be part of history!
Tips for Survival
So what do you do if you choose to (or must) keep your September reservations? Have a plan of action.
Plan your time wisely.
Yes, that means making rope drop and utilizing Extra Magic Hours if you can. Not a morning person? You could also try waiting until the final hours of the day when many guests will retreat to their rooms to rest (and recover from that embattled journey to Batuu). Schedule your Fastpasses for later in the day — think: after lunch. Or, if you think you’ll need a full stop break from the crowds, plan to leave Galaxy’s Edge as soon as you’ve had your fill, and make Fastpass reservations for a different park entirely.
The other aspect of using those early morning hours is trying to stay abreast of procedures for Galaxy’s Edge. Unless you’re going on day one, you should be able to find anecdotal information online about how Hollywood Studios cast members are directing guests and what time they actually allow guests to line up. Unofficial information isn’t 100% reliable, but it might help you wrap your head around what you’ll need to do to maximize the rope drop opportunity.
It’s entirely possible it will take more time than you think to explore Galaxy’s Edge. In addition to the hordes of people and massive queues guests are likely to encounter, there will also be tons of details you’ll want to take time to examine. Plus, you know, there’s the FOOD and DRINKS you may want to try, too. (Click here for the latest on dining in Galaxy Black Spire Outpost!) If you’ve got some flexibility in your schedule, carve out more time than you think you’ll need. This way, you might reduce some of your stress by not having another thing to run off to before you’re finished with Black Spire Outpost.
Throw in the towel.
Okay, so this survival tip is pretty drastic, but you know you (and your crew) better than anyone. If the stress of crowds is sure to kill the vacation vibe, you might consider rescheduling your trip. We know: it’s easier said than done and just not an option for many. But it’s something to think about if it’s an option for you. Our friends at Small World Vacations may be able to help you sort things out, and if you’re really on the fence, it’s worth touching base with them to see if there’s anything to be done. If you do end up changing your plans, think of it as an act of self-preservation. Some of us just can’t imagine embarking on a Walt Disney World vacation under the conditions of the Galaxy’s Edge opening, and that’s okay! You have to do what’s best for you — and the World will be there whether you reschedule for a closer date or a later date or you decide to make a go of it.
There’s no way to know exactly how the crowds and crowd control will turn out when Galaxy’s Edge opens months before it was estimated to do so. And we sympathize with those of you who are reeling from a vacation that will likely be very different than you imagined. Whether the cons convince you to change your plans (or just validate how you’re feeling!) or the pros give you some hope (or also validate how you’re feeling!), there’s no doubt Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge is poised to change Walt Disney World forever.
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Are you in or are you out? Let us know what you think about an early visit to Galaxy’s Edge or a September visit to the World!