How to Never Wait in Line at Disney World (and Still Ride Everything!)

The links in the post below may be affiliate links. Read the full disclosure.

How to use crowd calendars, FastPasses, and other strategies to never wait in line at Walt Disney World! #disneyworld

I love riding all of the incredible attractions at Walt Disney World… but I hate waiting in line. Even though the waiting areas (aka “queues”) for some attractions at Disney are incredibly themed and interactive, I personally never want to spend more than 10 minutes of my vacation time waiting in line for anything.

After 20+ trips over the past 30 years, I’ve figured out how to ride everything I want to and never wait in line!

In this post I’ll share my strategies for avoiding long waits at Disney World, so you can spend your vacation enjoying all the parks have to offer instead of waiting in line.

#1) Use a Crowd Calendar to Plan Your Park Days

How to use crowd calendars, FastPasses, and other strategies to never wait in line at Walt Disney World! #disneyworld

No matter what time of year you visit, there will be crowds at Disney World. It is the world’s #1 vacation destination, so there are always thousands of people at the theme parks. The key to having the best possible vacation experience is to avoid these crowds as much as possible!

Luckily, some wise folks have figured out crowd patterns for you. I regularly use a free crowd calendar that shows recommended parks to visit and parks to avoid for each day of the year, such as this one published by Undercover Tourist.

How to use crowd calendars, FastPasses, and other strategies to never wait in line at Walt Disney World! #disneyworld

My goal on every trip is to visit only recommended parks each day. This is particularly important at Magic Kingdom, the smallest and most popular park.

Here is an example of how powerful the crowd calendars are. Against my better judgment, we went to Disney World over Christmas about five years ago to celebrate my birthday (I was born on Christmas day). Christmas is likely the busiest day of the whole year at Disney World.

Using the crowd calendar as our guide, we visited the recommended park, Animal Kingdom, on Christmas Day and were shocked to discover a practically empty park! We rode all the attractions with little wait and roamed freely around the park – on the busiest day of the year.

That same day Magic Kingdom was filled to capacity and had to close its gates around noon. So do not underestimate how much using a crowd calendar can affect the quality of your vacation experience!

#2) Take Full Advantage of the FastPass+ System

How to use crowd calendars, FastPasses, and other strategies to never wait in line at Walt Disney World! #disneyworld

Lots of folks going to Disney for the first time (or the first time in many years) ask me how much the FastPasses to ride attractions without the wait cost. The FastPass+ system, which allows you to skip the line for three or more attractions each day, is included with park admission at no extra cost! I think people get it mixed up with Universal Studio’s front-of-the-line passes, which range in price from $20-$50.

Another misconception is that you must be staying at a Disney resort to take advantage of FastPass+… also not true! Anyone with a valid admission to one of the Disney World theme park can take advantage of the totally free FastPass+ system!

How to use crowd calendars, FastPasses, and other strategies to never wait in line at Walt Disney World! #disneyworld

Definitely use a FastPass for Soarin’ at Epcot!

Here’s how it works… first, buy your tickets well in advance of your trip (I recommend at least 2 months before your trip from a trusted ticket broker such as Undercover Tourist).

Then visit the My Disney Experience website or app and connect your park ticket to your Disney account.

30 days before your visit (60 days if you are staying at an on-site Disney hotel), you can select FastPasses for up to three attractions at a single park for every day of your trip. You will select a one-hour window for each attraction during which you can ride it with little to no wait.

I know it seems crazy to plan when you will ride an attraction 60 days before your visit, but a little planning in this department will make your vacation SO MUCH BETTER.

You don’t have to plan your every step of the day, just roughly where you will be when to take advantage of skipping the lines on the most popular attractions. If your plans change, you can update your FastPasses on the go with the mobile app or at kiosks in the parks. And after you use your first three FastPasses, you can get more during the day.

How to use crowd calendars, FastPasses, and other strategies to never wait in line at Walt Disney World! #disneyworld

It makes sense to use a FastPass for attractions that have long “stand-by” waits. That means that the wait time to ride the attraction without a FastPass regularly gets above an hour or two.

The attractions I list below are just those with the longest waits, so keep in mind that they may or may not interest you personally! Here are my suggestions for the best use of FastPasses in each park:

Magic Kingdom

Seven Dwarves Mine Train
Peter Pan’s Flight
Enchanted Tales with Belle
Space Mountain
Splash Mountain
Big Thunder Mountain
Any character Meet & Greets that interest you

Epcot

Frozen Ever After*
Soarin’*
Test Track* (you can also use a “single rider” line to avoid long waits)
Mission Space
Spaceship Earth

*You can only choose one of these attractions per day at Epcot

Animal Kingdom

Flight of Passage (read why I wouldn’t suggest a FP for this attraction here )
Nav’i River Journey
Expedition Everest (also usually has a single rider line option)
Kilimanjaro Safaris
Kali River Rapids

Hollywood Studios

Toy Story Mania
Rockin’ Roller Coaster (also usually has a single rider line option)
Star Tours
Tower of Terror

3) Get to the Parks Early (Sorry, It’s True)

How to use crowd calendars, FastPasses, and other strategies to never wait in line at Walt Disney World! #disneyworldYou’ve likely heard the advice to get to the theme parks early to avoid long lines. Maybe you are hoping this actually isn’t true, and there’s no reason to set your alarm on your much-needed vacation.

I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but getting to the parks before they open is likely the single best way to avoid long waits at Disney World!

Most people like to sleep in on vacation. I would estimate that the vast majority of people arrive at the theme parks after 10 am.

How to use crowd calendars, FastPasses, and other strategies to never wait in line at Walt Disney World!

Space Mountain at Magic Kingdom

If you can manage to be in the theme parks during the first hour they are open, you will be able to ride many attractions with little to no wait. If you were unable to score FastPasses for any of the above attractions, just get to the parks well before they open and you will likely be able to ride many of them in succession!

On regular days, the published opening time for the parks is 9 am. However, parks other than the Magic Kingdom have been known to open before the posted opening time.

As an example, when I visited Epcot last month we were let in at 8:40 am when the park supposedly opened at 9 am. We were on and off of Frozen Ever After by 9:10 am!

Lots of folks ask me about Extra Magic Hours, too. Every day, at least one theme park opens an hour early or stays open a few hours later than normal. During these times, only guests who are staying at an on-site, Disney-owned resort can enter the park.

How to use crowd calendars, FastPasses, and other strategies to never wait in line at Walt Disney World! #disneyworld

Expedition Everest at Animal Kingdom

My family has had so much fun during morning Extra Magic Hours (EMH), especially at Animal Kingdom and Magic Kingdom. We have ridden Expedition Everest 5+ times in a row with no wait and had our pick of any ride at Magic Kingdom! We aim to be at the park by 8 am if we are taking advantage of morning EMH.

However, here is one warning about visiting the park with EMH: the overall crowd level will be higher than normal throughout the entire rest of the day. The park with EMH tends to NOT be the recommended park to visit that day according to the crowd calendars for that reason.

So I only recommend taking advantage of morning EMH under these circumstances: you have Park Hopper tickets and can visit a less crowded park later in the day, or you plan to leave the parks after lunchtime anyway.

We often just visit the parks in the morning, head back to our resort for a nap/swim, then eat dinner at one of the resort hotels. We can still get a solid four hours in at the parks and enjoy them when they are the least crowded!

4) Take Your Vacation During Off-Peak Times of Year

How to use crowd calendars, FastPasses, and other strategies to never wait in line at Walt Disney World! #disneyworld

My last tip for avoiding long waits at Disney World is to plan your visit during a less-crowded time of year. When you visit can make a huge impact in the overall crowd levels at the parks and therefore how long lines get.

You can read all about my recommended times to visit Disney World in this post. I’ll share the least-crowded times of year to visit the parks below, but be warned: they all take place when kids are traditionally in school.

Now I will tell you what I told my students and their families if they informed me they would be missing a week of school to visit Disney World (I was a public school teacher for 10 years): Your kids will learn far more during a week at Disney World than they would have in school that week.

Blasphemous, right? But honestly, your kids will get SO MUCH out of a trip to Disney World in terms of new knowledge and life experience.

It is the best possible learning situation for them, so please don’t feel bad or hesitate to take your kids out of school to travel to Disney. Just ignore anyone who says otherwise and send them my way for convincing. 😉

So here are the overall least-crowded times of year at Disney World:

  • January (except for marathon weekend)
  • February (except for President’s Day weekend)
  • September
  • After Easter until Memorial Day
  • After Thanksgiving until mid-December (though this time gets busier every year due to promotions Disney has been running)

If you visit during these times of year and use the other strategies I mentioned above, you can easily ride every attraction you want to at Disney World and never wait for more than 10 minutes.

Want more help planning your Disney World vacation? Click here to get a free quote from Destinations in Florida, my recommended Disney travel planners, who can help you plan FastPasses, dining reservations, and more.

If you have any questions about avoiding crowds at Disney, feel free to leave a comment below or send me a message on The Frugal South’s Facebook page!


19 Responses to How to Never Wait in Line at Disney World (and Still Ride Everything!)

  1. Leah says:

    Hi Chris! Early February will have overall low crowds – some of the lowest of the year!

    I wouldn’t worry too much about those days at Epcot and AK… I see no reason why Epcot would be particularly crowded on the 9th. AK does have morning extra magic hours on the 12th, so it might be better to switch it to another day if possible. But even if you can’t I don’t expect it to be that bad.

    Traffic is only bad at peak times getting through the gates, which is usually 9-10 am. If you arrive earlier you should be fine. Do factor in additional time to park and either ride the ferry or take the monorail over to the Magic Kingdom. I usually plan for an additional 30 minutes just to be on the safe side.

  2. chris says:

    This is our first time going to Disney. I have Feb 6 to the 13th booked for 2018 how will the parks be? I have planned out all of our restaurants already and saw that we are going to Epcot feb 9 and Animal Kingdom feb 12 (this one I can switch to another day since I don’t have a meal planned for here that matters) on days that have a ! How bad will those days be do you think? I have a 4 year old and a 2 year old.
    Also staying about 10 min away from Disney once we get into the park is there a lot of traffic getting into the parks, how long do you think once we enter WDW will it take to get to the parks just so I give myself enough time to drive threw the parking lots.

  3. Leah says:

    May is generally a great month to visit with pretty low crowds, Gina. Are you staying off-property and able to book FastPasses 30 days out? If so, you should be able to get them for almost any attraction you want, with the exception of possibly Frozen Ever After and Seven Dwarves Mine Train. If you can’t get FastPasses for these and want to ride them, just be at the parks at least 30 minutes before opening and position yourself to head straight there first. If you use FastPasses later in the day and get to the parks early, you should still be able to do lots without much waiting. Have a great trip!

  4. Gina D from Texas says:

    We are going May 6. How will the parks be then? And for planning sake what IF we can’t use Fast Pass because they’re all booked uo. Can you still plan so you have little to no wait times?

  5. Suellen says:

    Our kids were 3 and 6 on our first visit and we stayed at the parks all day. They were in a double stroller and they did not have to walk much at all so they did not get tired. My husband got a workout from pushing that stroller, but we were able to skip the nap/swimming/hotel room part of the day. This gave us lots of extra time at each park.

  6. Leah says:

    I think your approach to visiting the parks in July with your family is PERFECT. You will see and do so much while beating the mid-day heat and giving your son time to rest. I think you will enjoy yourself more than others who try to do everything (which is impossible anyway) and end up overheated with miserable kids. Let us know how it went and I hope you have a great trip!

  7. Lesli Beavers says:

    We are going in July (I know horrible for crowds but the only time my husband could take vacay) and I have our agendas planned just like you said you normally do. Early to the parks, leave after lunch and Resort dinners/dinner shows. My son will be 4 and just won’t be up for full park days, but luckily we are all morning people. I have read tons of posts/books and no one else has ever said that’s how they build their days, so I was really starting to worry we would miss out on too much. But I also think it gives us flexibility, if everyone seems in a good mood we can stay after lunch, if not it’s back to the resort we go.

  8. Holly says:

    The only way to avoid lines is not to go. I went for my last time last November. Second week of November is supposed to be the slowest time for Disney. We’ve gone there during that week before and were very happy but this past time was ridiculous. Use fast past had to plan a whole day around it and still didn’t get on a lot of things we wanted to. That’s a lot of money to spend to standstill waiting in lines. I’m done with Disney. My hard earned money could be spent better somewhere else. In my opinion the problem is they keep building more and more hotels more and more people keep going there and they don’t build more attractions so you have so many more people waiting to see the same things. We even had to wait in line 30 to 50 minutes just to get food. That’s crazy

  9. Leah says:

    Hi Chelsea! It will likely be pretty crowded this year the first week in April since Easter falls late this year. Just get an early start and use a crowd calendar to visit the least busy parks on each day and you will be fine. Have a great trip!

  10. chelsea says:

    OH NO! From what I had saw- Spring Break is in March.. not April? :[ That’s such a bummer… We just booked our trip from April 3rd. Ughhh.

  11. Leah says:

    Hi Catherine! You are looking at pretty high crowd levels since it is spring break, about a 7/10. The best day to visit the MK is the 4th according to the crowd calendars. Hope that helps!

  12. Catherine Granger says:

    We are going April 2,3,4, how crowded will MK be?

  13. Leah says:

    The first week in March is a great time to visit this year, Shiree! The crowds will be low since it is right before the spring break crowd surge. Have an awesome trip!

  14. shiree says:

    Have you ever been in March? I have booked a reservation for March 6-10. Just wondering how the crowds are then.

  15. Leah says:

    Hi Amanda! The morning show will be before the Extra Magic Hours Opening. It may be an abbreviated show or it may be the full show. It is very early to get there but the opening show is one of my favorite things at the MK! Hope you have a great trip!

  16. Amanda says:

    Hi, if you are visiting Magic Kingdom on EMH day, will the opening showing be prior to the EMH opening, or will it be prior to the park opening for the public? Leaving in 2 weeks!

  17. Pingback: Planning Park Days Vs. Winging It at Disney World: What To Expect - The Frugal South

  18. Leah says:

    Thanks for the update, Dustin! How cool that you are locals. I love that you can book additional FastPasses as soon as you use your first three. I’ve heard that as soon as you scan your MagicBand/ticket media for your last FastPass you can select another in the app while you wait to get on the ride! Not sure I’d do that but it is good to know. 🙂

  19. We are locals and visit Disney often. Now, after you use your first 3 passes you can schedule one at a time on your app whereas before you had to go to a kiosk to do so. When we were there last week they were even allowing the ability to book the extra pass at any park if you had the park hopper. (was in testing mode they said). They are really putting in great effort on this. Soon you will probably be able to book a whole itinerary!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *