Getting additional, exclusive time in the parks is a huge benefit to staying at a Disney World Resort hotel.
In 2021 Disney introduced Early Theme Park Entry giving guests at any Disney World Resort hotel (plus a few others) the chance to spend an extra 30 minutes in the parks before their official opening time. And if you’re planning on taking advantage of this perk when you visit, we have a couple tips for you to keep in mind!
1. Know your transportation options!
First up, if you’re headed to the Disney World theme parks for early entry you’ll want to make sure you’ve got a good understanding of your transportation options. These vary from resort to resort, so it’s important that you know exactly how you can get yourself from your hotel to the parks.
If you’re staying at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa, Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort, or Disney’s Contemporary Resort, you can hop on the monorail to go to Magic Kingdom.
Generally, the Monorail System operates from 30 minutes prior to earliest park opening until one hour after latest park closing.
If you’re in the mood for some morning exercise, you can choose to walk to some of the parks, depending on what resort you’re staying at. Those at the Contemporary have a short walk over to Magic Kingdom. And the walkway between Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa and Magic Kingdom isn’t too long. You could even walk from the Polynesian to the Grand Floridian and from there to Magic Kingdom if you want to.
Guests at Disney’s BoardWalk Inn, Disney’s Yacht and Beach Club Resort, and the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Hotel can walk to EPCOT and enter through the International Gateway section. They can also take a little bit longer of a walk over to Disney’s Hollywood Studios.
Several resorts also offer boat transportation to certain parks. You can hop on a boat at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground, the Grand Floridian, the Polynesian, or Disney’s Wilderness Lodge to get to Magic Kingdom. Or, you can take a boat from Disney’s BoardWalk Villas, Disney’s Beach Club Villas, Disney’s Yacht Club Resort, or the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Hotel to EPCOT and Disney’s Hollywood Studios.
Most routes run on 15 to 20 minute intervals, and the hours of operation can vary depending on water and weather conditions. So, before you plan on using the boats to get to the park, you’ll want to make sure they’re operating for that day and check with your resort to see at what time they’ll begin taking guests to the parks.
If you’re staying at Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort, Disney’s Art of Animation Resort, Disney’s Pop Century Resort, or Disney’s Riviera Resort, you can hop on the Disney Skyliner to get to Disney’s Hollywood Studios or EPCOT.
The hours of operation for the Skyliner can change so be sure to check exactly what they are during your trip.
One of the most common forms of transportation you might use to get to the parks is a Disney bus. In most cases, a bus may run between your resort and the park beginning 45 minutes prior to the opening of the park — or, in this case, the start of Early Theme Park Entry.
Drive or Use Rideshare
You can also drive your car to the parks if that’s what you prefer, or use a rideshare service.
To make sure you have the BEST choice of transportation in mind, check with the front desk at your resort hotel to see what options are available for you. The Cast Member will be happy to let you know your options so that you can get to your early entry morning as easily as possible.
2. Make sure you have a Disney Park Pass.
As far as we can see, the Disney Park Pass theme park reservation system will be sticking around for some time, so getting a Park Pass will still be a necessity — even for Early Theme Park Entry. What’s a Park Pass, you ask? Well, it’s essentially a reservation to enter a park. The Park Pass system was introduced when the Disney World theme parks reopened in 2020.
Let’s say you want to visit Magic Kingdom on a particular day. First, you’ll need a valid ticket to enter the park on that day. But, to get in, you’ll ALSO need a valid Park Pass reservation for Magic Kingdom for that same day as well.
Park Pass availability can change a LOT. So, when the dates and details for early entry are announced, you’ll want to make sure that you snag that Disney Park Pass for the park you want to enter early.
Even if they don’t seem to be going quickly, we’d recommend you go ahead and snag them well in advance just to be sure. You can always try to change your plans later as long as capacity and availability allow!
3. Set an alarm and leave on time!
A lot of the same tips that apply to getting to a park right at its regular opening (a.k.a. “rope drop”) time generally apply to Early Theme Park Entry. Perhaps the BIGGEST of those tips is to make sure you set an alarm and leave on time! We know, we know — “no sleeping in?! But we’re on vacation!!” If you’ve got some members in your family who want to sleep in, you’ll want to start convincing them that the “early bird gets the worm” right now. Or, you might want to talk about splitting up your group so some can stay and sleep in while others take advantage of the Early Entry.
Early entry is a BIG perk and you’ll want to get into the park as soon as you can to take advantage of the extra time and more limited lines, especially since this will only get you in 30 minutes early. In general, we recommend allowing one full hour for transportation to get anywhere in Disney World. As we mentioned earlier, some transportation really only kicks off around 30/45 minutes prior to the parks’ opening.
If you want to make sure you’re at early entry as soon as you can, you’ll want to head out of your resort hotel room about an hour in advance. That means you’ll have to add in that extra hour to your regular getting ready and getting breakfast morning prep-time.
If Mickey waffles and bacon are a must, consider whether you want to get up EXTRA early and eat them at the Food Court in person, or if you can maybe designate one person in your party to go get them for the family and bring them back to the room while everyone else gets dressed and ready. You might also want to talk about bringing your own breakfast snack bars or just getting breakfast in the park.
And while leaving your room a whole HOUR before the Early Entry time might sound like a bit much, we think it’s better to get to the park early and end up waiting a little bit than to end up losing out on some of that extra time! If you get lots of things done in the morning, you can always take a nap later when the crowds start to form.
4. Have a park plan for your day in advance.
Planning your trip can be complicated. This is especially true if you’re thinking of taking advantage of the Park Hopper option.
If you’re looking to Park Hop AND visit a park for Early Theme Park Entry, you’re going to need to have a pretty specific plan. In the past, folks would head to Extra Magic Hours and then immediately hop elsewhere, but that won’t be an option in this case.
Park Hopper hours start at 2PM each day. So, you’ll need to be okay with spending the morning and rest of your day — until 2PM — in the park that you chose to visit for Early Entry, or at least not hopping to another park until the afternoon. Keep in mind you’ll also need a Park Pass reservation for the first park you want to visit — the one with the Early Entry, and Park Hopping all depends on park availability and capacity limitations.
Consider what park you want to visit first, look at the available Park Passes, make sure you know which park(s) you’d like to hop to later, and check on all the park operating and Park Hopper hours well in advance of your trip, so that you can really maximize your time in the various parks.
5. Be flexible!
Planning is fantastic and necessary, but you still need to be flexible with your plans! As we know, things can change last-minute, so don’t get TOO attached to your plans. If there is some sort of hangup, it’s always good to have a backup plan.
On top of that, not every attraction will be available to you during the Early Theme Park Entry. And, even if an attraction is offered during that 30-minute period, sometimes they are temporarily closed due to technical difficulties (which can/does happen).
You can see the full list of rides available during Early Theme Park Entry here!
Stay tuned to DFB for all the latest updates and to make sure you’re prepared for your next trip!
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Will you be heading to the parks early? Tell us in the comments!