The Disney Parks are slowly getting back to normal with Disneyland reopening and Walt Disney World adding capacity. Of course, the parks still look quite a bit different than they did pre-closure and the park itineraries we’d usually recommend are a little different thanks to the lack of shows and other entertainment. With Walt Disney World getting busier and attraction wait times lengthening, this post will address how to efficiently tour the parks in their current state.
In a way, touring strategy at WDW right now is as straight forward as ever. There are no FastPasses or shows to plan for. Just get in line and ride as many attractions as your heart pleases! In theory, and somewhat in practice, that works. This should stay this straight forward if you have limited days or a non park hopper ticket. Get to any of the four parks at least half an hour before opening, prioritize which attractions you most want to do and get in line. That’s it! Short post, huh?
Unfortunately, it’s not always that simple. Putting in 12 hour days continuously is exhausting, especially with kids! Outside of the most gung ho touring groups (I know you’re out there), people are going to need some breaks. Walt Disney World has plenty of other things to do outside of the parks like resort pools, eating some delicious food, and naps. Naps are great! So, if you’re one of those sane groups of people who needs a few breaks along the way then there is a right and wrong way to go about that.
This generic plan does assume a busy day at the Disney Parks. We expect the rest of March and early April to be quite busy at Walt Disney World. Same goes for this summer as pent up tourism demand will likely have the parks at capacity, unless the resort dramatically increases that capacity. With a crowded park, wait times will go up in a hurry. We do recommend to still follow our usual park itineraries as far as which attractions to go to first. Here’s a quick rundown of that:
- Magic Kingdom: Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, Space Mountain, Peter Pan’s Flight and Splash Mountain
- Epcot: Frozen Ever After and Test Track
- Hollywood Studios: Slinky Dog Dash and Millennium Falcon: Smuggler’s Run (Rise of the Resistance via the virtual queue)
- Animal Kingdom: Flight of Passage, Na’vi River Journey and Kilimanjaro Safaris
To get any of those attractions done first thing with minimal waits, we recommend getting to their respective parks at least half an hour ahead of their opening time. Getting most of the attractions in a park done in one day relies heavily on getting there early. No matter when the park opens, there are fewer people there than there will be an hour after opening. That was probably common sense and didn’t need to be typed… The lack of crowd at opening is even more apparent when the park has an early opening. Animal Kingdom opening at 8 AM is a prime example of this.
For the first few hours of a park being open, try to get as many attractions in as possible. Start with the list above until their wait times get extremely high and then move on to attractions with low waits in the My Disney Experience app. Have a grab and go breakfast or eat before you get in the parks, tell your children that there’s no bathroom stops and then get stuff done! Only half kidding. For the parks with very few attractions then you could get most of the rides done this way. The earlier you get there then the more you will ride.
At some point in the late morning, you will likely hit a point where the wait times probably aren’t worth it. No one’s ideal vacation is waiting in hour long lines during the hottest part of the day. There will likely be a few attractions with wait times under half an hour and, by all means, do them! It’s a quantity over quality game at that point. Outside of those attractions, this is the time for a break. Catch 3D or animatronic shows with low waits, grab some good food and go rest for a while!
The early evening is when you’ll start to see wait times go down again. With the busier days at Walt Disney World, that means park hours get significantly longer and that is certainly a bonus. By taking a break in the early afternoon, you’re waiting out all of those that aren’t. It’s incredibly surprising how many park guests call it quits a few hours before a park closes, despite the cooler temps and lower waits.
Naturally, there is some risk involved with this. Leaving a few of the most popular attractions for the last few hours of a park being open could lead to some stress in getting everything done. The magic number of marquee attractions that you can get done in the last two hours of a park being open is generally four. We’ve tried this at both Magic Kingdom and Hollywood Studios with success. In DHS, we rode Runaway Railway, Toy Story Mania, Smuggler’s Run and Slinky Dog Dash in just about an hour and a half. In Magic Kingdom we went to Big Thunder, Splash Mountain, Pirates, Winnie the Pooh (it was a throw-in), the Teacups and Seven Dwarfs Mine Train all in the last three hours. Those times include a little bit of walking around and stopping for some food in Magic Kingdom. None of the waits were longer than half an hour regardless of their posted wait times, which were always quite a bit higher than reality.
Keep in mind that if you are in an attraction’s line before the closing time then you will get on the ride. We utilized that at Slinky Dog Dash and Mine Train, leading to very short wait times without the stress of knowing that it was taking time from something else.
There’s nothing revolutionary about this strategy. We’ve preached the arrive early, stay late and take a break in the middle strategy pretty much since this blog started. With the absence of FastPasses and shows though, this strategy is even more pronounced than usual. Until the parks are fully back to normal, I’d recommend following this strategy on the busier days at the Walt Disney World Resort.
What do you think of this strategy? Let us know your thoughts or any questions you might have in the comments below. Planning a trip to Walt Disney World? Check out our Disney World Trip Planning Guide to help you out. If you enjoy what you are reading here on Wandering in Disney please share this post with your friends, as well as like our social media pages. You can also subscribe to the blog via WordPress or email. All of those links are on the right side of this page. Thank you for reading, we really appreciate it!