The “happiest place on Earth” can be fun, but it’s frequently very crowded. On the busiest days 80,000 people are jammed into Disney’s Magic Kingdom alone, meaning you will not only wait for rides but even food and transport between the parking lot and park. Given that an adult ticket costs $100 a day, many people get pretty frustrated and wonder why they spent thousands on a Disney vacation to spend so much time waiting in lines in the heat. But growing up in Orlando, and being a former Disney employee, I have an affinity for the place and know it can be a fun day out for families. So here are 5 ways to save time at Disney and get the most from your cash.
2) Do not eat during the lunch rush – When I was a teenager I worked at a restaurant called Peco’s Bill in Adventureland. Between the hours of 12pm-3pm lines to order lunch were upwards of 25 minutes in summer or at Christmas break, to overpay for mediocre food. When I was on a cash register our target goal was 90 transactions per hour during peak lunch time. People had plenty of time to think about their orders so it was even possible to sometimes achieve over 100 transactions per hour. This is a consistent theme throughout Magic Kingdom when there are 70,000-80,000 people in the park. Try and plan your eating schedule to avoid the lunch rush (perhaps pack a sandwich or snacks even). You will be waiting in enough lines, don’t over wait for food.
3) Ride rides during the parade – Lots of people like to watch the parades, especially since they don’t have to wait, unless they want a front row seat, in which case they’ll also have to wait. If you don’t wait, hopefully you are taller than the person in front of you so you can hold your child above the back of their child’s head, who is also perched on their parents shoulders. But if you’re tired of waiting an hour all day for even many of the mediocre rides, the period leading up to the parade starts to see the wait time at most other attractions shorten. This is a great time to get a few rides in!
4) Go on the most popular rides early or late – Try and arrive at the park at opening, or be sure to stick around until closing at 11pm or midnight, depending on the night if you go in summer or at Christmas break (the park shuts significantly earlier during off peak months). These are the times to ride Magic Kingdom’s most popular rides, including Space Mountain, Splash Mountain and Thunder Mountain. Wait times during all other times of the day can shockingly reach 2 and 1/2 hours, especially for Space Mountain. Don’t do it, you’ve paid too much to wait that long! Additionally, Disney’s official closing times are the time you must be in line, not when the rides actually close, so use this to your advantage. You can arrive at the line of Space Mountain at 11:55 pm if the park closes at midnight and it’s no problem, you’ll still probably wait 25 minutes but you shouldn’t be in a rush to get to your car at midnight as you won’t get to your car quickly at that time anyway!
5) Do not leave the park at closing – Because many people are still riding rides after 11pm or midnight in summer, and Disney wants another chance to sell you stuff on your way out, many of the shops on Mainstreet USA are open until 12:30 am. You should be in line for a popular ride at this time, if at all possible. If you try to get to your car with the throngs of people leaving at the official closing time you will have to wait quite awhile for the monorail or ferry to get to Disney’s massive parking lot. You’ll then have to wait a significant amount of additional time to catch the train to your parking spot. It can easily take over an hour to reach your car during this time. Again don’t do it, you paid too much!
You’ll notice a consistent theme here…waiting…for…everything! If this doesn’t sound very appealing to you, perhaps just take the kids to the beach on your Florida vacation as it’s far more relaxing, and cheaper. For additional Disney reading have a look through this list of blogs. And as usual, if you have some additional tips or comments for other readers please let us know!