Planning with My Disney Experience WebsiteFirst off, I was super super impressed with everything on the DisneyWorld website. From booking fast passes (you get three for free when you buy your ticket, so book them early!), to checking out show and meal times, to even planning out the attractions you'd like to visit, the My Disney experience website truly makes your trip that much easier and more efficient. But to really beat the system, you've got to download the app!
Using My Disney Experience App to Maximize Fast PassesOnce you've downloaded the app to your phone, you'll not only be able to check on ride waiting times, but you'll also be able to update your fast passes on the go without having to go to a kiosk. This saves you tons of precious time because after you redeem your first three fast passes (we booked Space Mountain, Splash Mountain, and Big Thunder Mountain), you'll be able to book another fast pass (one at a time). You can continue repeating this system: use it, book another, and so on.
You can see from our schedule below that we were actually able to use EIGHT fast passes in the one day we spent at Magic Kingdom. We even rode Space Mountain twice: in the rain the second time and with NO WAIT even though there were a billion people in the regular line (fast pass riders have a separate waiting line that's usually much shorter).
My big secret? They'll usually let you in about five minutes before your assigned time window. As soon as we crossed the initial fast pass entrance, where you scan your wristbands or tickets to gain timed access, the app would immediately register our fast pass as being redeemed. So while we were waiting the 5-10 minutes or so in the much smaller fast pass line, I'd already be on and searching for our next ride. It didn't matter that we hadn't reached the secret fast pass check in line they use to keep people honest!
And Seven Dwarfs Mine Train? Despite the fact that it was the newest, most popular ride in the park that we were unable to get initial fast passes for (meaning it wasn't one of our three early reservations), I got on the ride after only a ten minute wait in the fast pass line. The ride was broken down all morning and people were livid. We didn't even get to the park until 9 am. People waited for almost two hours in the regular line to ride it. But I just kept refreshing my fast pass search for the ride while we ate lunch at yummy Friar's Nook. And I was able to get a time slot for about 30 minutes later where I just showed up and got on the ride. So big take away here? Keep searching and searching for better times or for a ride you really love if you want to ride it. People are constantly accepting and dropping times, so be patient. And you can always say you want to "modify" your reservation, so that you won't have to give it up just to search for a better time! Don't ever wait hours and hours in a line- you can do better!
Although Pirates of the Caribbean and Jungle Cruise aren't top tier attractions worthy of burning an initial fast pass reservation on, the fact that we had the ability to book a fast pass and then walk right on to the ride made for literally no wait in the regular queue line. Rule of thumb: if the line is 15 minutes or less, it's probably worth it to just wait instead of trying for a pass. We just walked right on to several smaller rides in between the ones we had fast passes for (things like Haunted Mansion, The Hall of Presidents, It's a Small World, etc). You can always fill in the gaps of your Fast Pass reservations with smaller rides.
For great tips on how to navigate the Magic Kingdom in the number of days you have, check out the Disney Tourist Blog. I loved their 1-Day Magic Kingdom Ideal Plan, which gave me a lot of guidance for how to make the most of our day. We were at the park from like 9 am- 6:30 pm with rain, and yet we rode every single major ride (some more than once) and had a lunch break!
Using Undercover Tourist App Day PlansAnother app that I had and really loved for both parks (Disney and Universal) was the Undercover Tourist App. It was free and had really great touring plans to really maximize the time that you had in the parks. We did one day in Magic Kingdom, and one day at Universal Studios Florida. I added one day plans for each park, and then eliminated or added the attractions based on what we wanted to ride. The app also showed ride wait times, so I had an idea of whether or not we should change up our plan to accommodate a shorter or longer line.
You can check things off as you ride them, which removes things from the plan and helps you see what else you've got to cover. You can even add in meal or snack stops, or nap times if you need to!
Eating at Off-Peak TimesAnother way to save a lot of time at a park is to eat before or after the main eating hours. You'll save a lot of time that's often wasted waiting in line for food. We grabbed a yummy frozen Butterbeer (there's not alcohol in it, if you wondered) in the amazing Diagon Alley, and waited a bit to eat lunch until things were less crowded. Eat a big breakfast before you come and you can make it work. Or eat an early, bigger lunch, and go hard all day, then leave for dinner. You'll save money this way too!
Riding Things in the Rain, or at Open or Close TimesAnother tip is to take advantage of rainy Orlando weather by hopping on the rides that are still safe and don't close at that time. While others are weenie-ing out or taking a break, you'll be able to navigate around the park and enjoy some rides. It's also a good idea to ride super popular rides right at the open or closing times if you can, when there are typically smaller, shorter lines. Definitely don't forget your poncho!
If you're smart about it, do your research, and use phone apps and fast passes to your advantage, you truly can get a lot done in a theme park in one day. Sure, if you've got little kiddos and character visits are a big part of your vacation, then you may need an extra day for that. But if you're looking to get in and ride things, enjoy the atmosphere, and not be there forever, then this post will give you a good start.
Have questions? Let me know! I'm happy to help you have the most fabulous theme park experience you've ever had, with less stress and a whole lot less time waiting in lines. Happy planning!
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