There are all sorts of sites out there that will tell you when to visit Disney World. What time of the year the park is least crowded. And that’s all fine and good if you have little kids who can miss a week of school and no one cares, but once your kids start getting older and school actually matters, much of that goes out the window. You’re locked into the same time periods everyone else in the country is stuck with: Thanksgiving, Christmas, spring break, summer vacation.
Sometimes you just have to go at a busy time if you’re going to be able to go at all.
I’ve just come back from a Disney trip that was by far the most crowded I’ve seen the park. I’ve been at spring break before. Magic Kingdom last Wednesday evening was pretty insane, for example. The park was just overflowing with people. Lines were 2 hours plus on the popular rides. Busy busy busy. And that was par for the course the whole time I was at Disney last week.
I looked at all those poor people, jammed in line as they went from one wait to the next, and I just felt bad for them. Not bad enough that I got into line with them, of course, but bad that they just must have thought that was the only way to do Disney.
The longest line I was in all trip? 25 minutes for Pirates of the Caribbean. And the only reason I waited in line all that time was that I’d just eaten Thanksgiving dinner, and I wanted to just sit around and chat for a while instead of doing something that would upset my already stretched stomach.
I wasn’t sure if my planning would pay off this time. I used Ridemax again, and I was disappointed that the interface hadn’t been updated in three years since I used it last. Maybe it wasn’t the way to go anymore. Touringplans was a new site I’d heard a lot about. Had I made a mistake?
But just as in previous years, the planning all worked like a charm. Ridemax has a dated interface, it’s true. But the plans it made for me were reliable and easy to use on a mobile device. My sister used Touringplans for her Universal trip the day before Disney, and the estimates were off by an hour at times. That’s some serious flaws.
I’ll admit I miss the old golden days of the original Fastpass system, where you could send runners off to the far reaches of the park to pick up Fastpasses as soon as possible, and then store them up and use them whenever you felt like. It was much easier to abuse that system than the current one. But even with Fastpass+, as long as you pick the right rides to reserve times for and pick the right times of the day to show up, you’re going to be fine with Ridemax on your side.
A few special bits of advice and experience from this trip:
- Coming first thing in the morning is so important. We showed up at EPCOT 45 minutes before the park opened. As soon as we got through the gates, we headed to Frozen (in Norway), knowing the only way we’d avoid a 2 hour line was to get there first. We got to the ride 20 minutes before the park technically opened, and they were already letting people on (no doubt anticipating the long lines later). We practically walked on. Easy peasy.
- When we showed up at Magic Kingdom early, the same thing happened: we were able to go on Peter Pan, Winnie the Pooh, Little Mermaid, Barnstormer, Dumbo, the Carousel, the Tea Party, Small World, and Haunted Mansion in under 2 hours. If we’d waited an hour or two to start that, it would have taken 5 hours to get through them all.
- With little kids, we’d show up for the park’s opening, go on rides, have lunch, and then go back to the hotel and take a nap. We’d then go back for dinner and more rides. This let us skip the busiest part of the day and still have some energy left in the tank for more rides and fun stuff at night.
- With the new Fastpass+ system, if the ride you have a Fastpass for breaks down before you can use it, Disney gives you a replacement Fastpass that’s good almost anywhere else in that park, anytime that day. Yay! However, note that this does NOT work for Frozen in Norway. Trust me. I tried.
When Disney’s really busy, you basically have two choices: go without a plan, get on half as many rides, and spend most of your time in line OR go with a plan, get there early, go on everything you want, and skip most of the lines. Each of those options costs the same amount of money.
I know which one I’ll be sticking with.