Walt Disney World reopened in 2020 with some major adjustments due to additional health and safety needs. We’ve slowly seen hotels and restaurants reopen and ticket options come back but one of the missing perks that we have yet to hear an update on is a possible return of FastPass+.
Even with a reduced Disney Parks capacity, it can still be a challenge to ride some of the most popular rides. FastPass+ was a major perk for park guests in tackling some of these big-name attractions. Just to name a few there’s Flight of Passage, Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, Slinky Dog Dash, Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run, Test Track, and Rise of the Resistance (though that’s a whole other ballgame we’ll get to in a bit!). If crowds are close to capacity, you can be stuck having to wait 60+ minutes in the socially distanced line with no option to skip the line. But, we’re here to tell you that it definitely is possible to ride ALL of these without a FastPass+. So, before you panic, just hear us out.
Before we dig into all the tips to master the lines of the most popular Disney World attractions, let’s go over what FastPass+ is when it is available. FastPass+ is a system that lets you book up to three passes at a time that allows you to skip the standby line within a certain time window each day of your visit.
When the system was up and running, you could book FastPasses through the My Disney Experience app or on the Disney World website 30 days out from the first day of your trip or 60 days out (bookable for the length of your stay, up to 14 days) if you’re staying at a Walt Disney World Resort Hotel. And, booking opened up at 7 AM EST each day.
FastPasses would book up FAST for the popular attractions so even with the FastPass+ system up and running you may have missed out. And, that brings us to what you’re here for — how to tackle those popular rides WITHOUT a FastPass! We won’t lie to you — the lines are long and inevitably you will find yourself waiting in at least a couple lengthier lines, especially at busy times. But, you don’t have to make peace with waiting in long lines ALL day.
Plan to Ride Early
If you’re serious about getting on the ride that everyone is clamoring over, you’re going to need to have a plan — no winging it here, this is Disney World! So, our first tip is to plan to get to the park early to be one of the first in line. This is the approach that most people take and is why you can experience some pretty major traffic backups before the sun has even risen.
BUT, so many people are doing this because it really works — that is if you’re fast enough! If you’re waking up early to tackle the main attraction, there’s no lollygagging, it’s go time! If you’re not familiar with the park layout, study the map before your early wake-up call and know the path that you need to take to get to the ride. Again, LOTS of people will be there early so the opportunity window is small.
When you’re setting the alarm for the morning, you’ll want to be sure that you are leaving enough time to park and walk to the entrance of the park BEFORE it opens. The best rope droppers (the term Disney folk use to describe being at a park or attraction at opening) will be waiting in a line to get into the parking lot and then a line to get into the park because they’re there so early.
It’s a fun game of wait…and then GO…and wait…and then GO! But hey, it works!
Another piece to this early bird puzzle is Extra Magic Hours, or what will soon become Early Theme Park Entrance for Disney hotel guests. In the past, people staying in Disney-owned hotels would be given an extra hour in the morning or two hours in the evening at one theme park every day and it was constantly changing. But, Disney announced that they’ll be changing it up in 2022, and resort guests will be allowed 30-minute early entry into ANY Disney park EVERY day.
So, in 2022, it will be a BIG perk to stay at a Disney hotel if you want to get on a popular ride without a FastPass!
Plan to Ride Late
If you’re not much of a morning person or prefer a leisurely start to your day at Disney World, another approach to finding a shorter wait time for popular rides is to plan to ride later in the day. Usually, by the time the sun is setting (or has set), a lot of people have already ridden the ride so you have less competition.
Not only will you avoid the crowds that have already taken their turn, but a lot of people (especially the ones with kiddos) tend to head home earlier in the evening. Plus, with park hopping back at Disney World, you might face lower crowd levels as people clear out of the park and head to the next.
And, if you’re willing to stay til the park closes, you might be able to find a pretty low wait for the most popular rides.
You can hop in line up until the minute the park closes, but we recommend to try getting in line 15-20 minutes before the park is set to close!
Go On a Less Busy Day
One of the best ways to tackle the popular rides without a ginormous wait time is to go when it’s less crowded (we know, we know — duh!). Fewer people in the park = fewer people to stand in line. It’s basic Disney math.
We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again — avoid holidays and school vacations as much as you can! Like you potentially, A LOT of people find that those times are a great opportunity to take a vacation to Disney World. It gets PACKED in the parks and the queues fill up.
Cards on the table, if you visit at a PEAK time — we’re talking Christmas week, Spring Break, etc…be prepared to wait. The tips in this article will certainly HELP, but, try as we might, we’re not miracle workers. We still wait in long lines too at these times. A zillion and one people in a park just means longer lines.
And, if you’re serious about avoiding the crowds and getting on your ride without a FastPass, visit Disney World during the weekdays! OK, it’s not a HUGE drop in crowds on weekdays versus weekends, but the locals who can go to Disney World will likely choose to do so on the weekend. But what if you have no choice but to go at a busy time and over a weekend (or — gasp — a busy three-day weekend!)? Aside form being a night owl or an early bird (ever noticed those are all bird references? 😂) we’ve got some tips for that too.
Track the Wait Time Throughout the Day
Okay, so you’re not a morning person and you’re not a night owl, there is STILL an opportunity to lower your wait for the popular rides! You’re going to need a phone, the My Disney Experience app, and diligence for this one!
Remember when you didn’t know how long a wait was until you slogged across the whole park? What about when Disney finally got us some wait time boards in the middle of the park. OH, and then those boards went DIGITAL!? Technology advanced REAL FAST for the Disney World wait time posting and NOW, it’s all at our fingertips. Meaning you can pay VERY close attention to how the line is fluctuating.
Keep your phone in hand and keep checking that bad boy throughout the day. When the wait time for the ride dips below 30 minutes (or whatever your “OK, fine, we can get in line!” threshold is), hustle on over! We can’t condone running in the parks so we’ll just say do Disney shuffle/power walk!
Keep in mind when rides pause for a cleaning cycle, wait times shoot up — that doesn’t mean the line is longer, but just that those people in line had a longer wait. If you see a wait time shoot up by 20 minutes or so, maybe consider heading on over. By the time the line is up and running, you can hop in and find a shorter wait.
Others might see the higher wait time and go, “Nope, we can try that line again later.” Seriously, just waiting it out and habitually refreshing the wait times on the app can score you major time savings in lines. Just gotta put the work refreshing the app in!
Ride During a Scheduled Parade or Show
Another great time to take on the line is when there’s something else going on in the parks — the distraction tactic! This one is really only helpful when Disney World is functioning as “normal,” but it’s still worth talking about. Many people LOVE parades so it’s pretty common to see a dip in wait times around the time that a parade is scheduled (though Disney has been having unscheduled cavalcades to prevent gathering in the park right now).
And, they LOVE fireworks too (we mean, who doesn’t?)! When fireworks and stage shows are happening at Magic Kingdom you can bet that the line for Big Thunder Mountain is at least a little shorter.
If you’re sitting there reading this and thinking “But, you don’t understand, I also LOVE the parades and fireworks,” this tactic can still work for you! Book two days at the same park so you can take in all the Disney shows one day and tackle the popular rides another.
Keep Track of the Weather
You know how when it rains at Disney World ponchos magically appear at the front of every store entrance and at every register? Well, all those people who buy those overpriced heat insulators tend to put them on to head straight for the bus home. This means that, if you’ve stayed at the park, you’re now facing a lot less competition when the rain clears and the rides reopen. If you don’t mind a little rain, you can seriously clean up on rides.
When Florida opens the flood gates (so basically…every afternoon in the warmer weather!), pull up your trusty weather app and put your meteorology skills to the test! Indoor rides will operate as usual in the rain, but outdoor rides will stop if rain is coming down more than a trickle or lighting shows up on the scene. When the weather clears make a beeline for the ride and you might find that there’s barely any wait! Trust us, we’ve tried it!
Indoor rides with fully indoor or covered queues CAN see a hike in rainy times though cause — you guessed it — everyone is ducking for cover when the wet stuff starts falling from the sky. Make a “rainy day plan” and know what rides to rush for if the skies open up and you can shed some serious time off those waits.
Wait It Out
Ah, now we’re onto the good ol’ hurry up and wait tactic. If your main agenda item for the day is to ride that new or popular ride, pull up a game on your phone or our Instagram page (shameless plug) and wait it out! It can’t be that bad, now can it?
One of the perks of foregoing a FastPass and all other tactics is that you get to experience the entire queue — like REALLY experience it…for a LONG time in some cases. 😉 Disney puts a lot of effort into its queues and you can see some pretty cool design details. For example, you can see, among other cool things, a LIFE-SIZE Avatar in the Flight of Passage queue! You know what you see if you’ve only experienced the FastPass queue? Basically concrete walls. Mega boring! Bet all you FastPass+ people are jealous now, huh! 😉
We also love getting to actually experience the Peter Pan’s Flight queue in Magic Kingdom rather than the mega dull line you hop in for FastPasses. It’s the little things, right?
Right now eating and drinking while standing in line is not permitted in the parks, but when you once again can enjoy a drink or snack as you wait, grab one before you hop in line to keep you busy! Your long wait also gives you the opportunity to befriend those around you who have also decided the ride was worth the wait (just, you know, keep your distance!).
Be Smart with Your Ride Plan
OK, this one is the most fiddly but it DOES work: Think like other guests. Then think smarter. What does that mean? Well, if you were a parent with small kids, where would you go in Magic Kingdom? Fantasyland? Ding ding ding, winner! These rides tend to see a slightly higher wait in the morning and midday hours when kiddos are awake, alert, and not yet wiped out by a day at Disney! If you can hold off til night, you’ll be rewarded with slightly lower wait times.
If you walked into EPCOT for the first time, what ride would you encounter first? Spaceship Earth? No surprise here — the line is packed in the morning and relatively reasonable the rest of the day.
Same can be (for the most part) said for Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway in Hollywood Studios. If you think about what MOST other guests will likely want to head to first, you can head the opposite way. Going to Animal Kingdom? No surprise here — many guests will walk straight to Pandora. Head back to Africa and you might be rewarded with shorter waits. Think two steps ahead and you’ll stand a fighting chance of working around the crowds!
Riding Rise of the Resistance
Remember when we kinda brushed off Rise of the Resistance and said we’d cover it later. Yeah, it’s a whole other bag of snakes. Getting on this ride in Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge at Disney’s Hollywood Studios involves a lot more than hacking the line. The ride uses a virtual line to assign those lucky enough to secure a boarding group a specific ride window to return and enter the queue. And, if you don’t snag a boarding group, you’re NOT getting on the ride. Period.
Currently, there are only two times every day that you can try to secure a boarding group through the My Disney Experience app — 7AM and 1PM. You have to plan your day to be ready and have some ninja reflexes to get your party in the virtual queue because the groups vanish in SECONDS!
If you’re not a self-proclaimed ninja, we do have a few tips to help you get on this MAJORLY popular ride. Before the distribution time, be sure that you have your entire party linked to your My Disney Experience account and have a Park Pass Reservation for that day OR are already in the park (for that second drop at 1PM). Then, just before the hour strikes, disconnect from the Disney park wifi and refresh your app. When the clock strikes the hour smack that “Join Boarding Group” button and get in line!
It is ENTIRELY doable to ride the popular rides at Disney World without a FastPass AND have time for more! All you need is a plan! And, just because we like you (we really do. BTW, we love what you’ve done with your hair recently 😉), here are a few tips for when FastPass+ DOES return — book your Disney trip at least 60 days out (if at a Disney hotel), review the FastPass+ tier system so you know which rides to plan for, and wake up early to secure the most popular FastPasses at 7AM SHARP when they’re released exactly 60 days before your trip!
Join the DFB Newsletter to get all the breaking news right in your inbox! Click here to Subscribe!
What is your strategy for tackling the most popular rides at Disney World? Let us know in the comments!