How to Skip The Lines At Disney World (and Still Ride Everything)

Posted in Disney World
on September 26, 2019

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

After almost 30 trips over the past 30 years, I’ve finally figured out how to skip the lines at Disney World.

I love riding all of the incredible attractions at Walt Disney World… but I hate waiting 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.

For example, Magic Kingdom is particularly crowded on Mondays and Saturdays. These are the most common days of the week for folks to start their vacations, and most folks want to visit the Magic Kingdom first. So I try to always avoid MK on these days of the week!

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!

If you want a detailed step-by-step plan that will save you hours in line, then I strongly suggest a TouringPlans subscription – get the details here!

#2) Take Full Advantage of the FastPass+ System

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!

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 2-3 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. 

To get my list of attractions to FastPass (and a free printable cheat sheet!) check out this post on everything you need to know about FastPass.

There are some wonderful attractions that rarely have a wait, such as these seven best Disney World attractions with short wait times.

Using the FastPass system to its full capability is critical is learning how to skip the lines at Disney World!

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! #disneyworld
You’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 recently 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!

Main Street USA at Magic Kingdom opens an hour before the published opening time every day, so that gives you time to grab some coffee and a treat at the Main Street Bakery.

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 five times in a row with no wait and had our pick of any ride at Magic Kingdom! 

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. While Disney has recently made efforts to distribute crowds more evenly throughout the year, there are still certain times of year that are less crowded than others.

You can get my picks for the best time to go to Disney World 2020 in this post. I’ll share the less-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 less-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.

I hope you got lots of ideas for how to skip the lines at Disney World in this post. Want more help planning your Disney World vacation?

Click here to get a free quote from Siera at Destinations in Florida, my recommended Disney travel planner, who can help you plan FastPasses, dining reservations, and more, all at NO cost to you.

If you have any questions about avoiding crowds at Disney, feel free to leave a comment below or join the discussion in my free private Facebook group!

Tips and tricks to help you skip the lines at Disney World! How to use crowd calendars, Fastpasses, planning and more to avoid crowds at Disney. #disneyworld #familytravel #traveltips

46 Comments

  • John

    Thank you for some info before my family heads to the big castle Mar 12th-20th. I hope to hear about your trip from Feb. maybe you’ll have some new tips. We still have the old tickets that don’t expire. I hope they don’t give us a problem with those. Thanks again John

    December 15, 2019 at 4:08 am Reply
    • Leah

      Hi John! Have you already linked your no expiration tickets to your My Disney Experience account? I’d do that as early as possible. The tickets won’t be activated until you use them to enter a theme park. You will want them linked ahead of time so you can make your FastPass reservations. Hope that helps!

      December 16, 2019 at 8:33 am Reply
  • Nora

    I have been to Disneyworld 3 times in the past 2 years and have to say there is no such thing as low crowds and no waiting! Each time we went during supposedly low crowd dates and choose days for parks according to lowest crowd day per park but still waits were outrageous and parks were crowded! Cast members told us it was unusually busy for the time of year each time, and the consensus is that so many people are trying to beat the crowds that it ends up leveling out so that there’s a good crowd no matter what. The only possible exception is after Labor Day (start of school) especially on bad weather days. But you’ll STILL wait on lines, just maybe not 60+ minutes. I’d avoid Easter and Christmas weeks because crowds are super outrageous then, but otherwise, it’s pretty much all the same.

    April 22, 2019 at 10:16 pm Reply
    • Leah

      Hi Nora! You are right, Disney has definitely made efforts to disperse crowds throughout the year and it has worked. But I have experienced VERY low crowd days as recently as January of this year (2019 – just a few months ago) so they do still exist. We went to Epcot in the middle of the week the last week of January (the lowest crowd days of the year according to the crowd calendar) and we were able to ride everything with no wait. We used FastPass extensively (as described in this article) getting 7 FastPasses throughout the day. So the tips in this article really do help and it is possible to ride everything with no wait – I am constantly testing this to be sure!

      April 24, 2019 at 6:25 am Reply
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    January 14, 2019 at 7:14 pm Reply
  • Alana

    Hi we are going next week and I have two questions. We booked our trip through Costco Travel and got a really good deal but they said we could do our fast pass 30 days ahead we tried to do this and we keep getting a message that we can not perfomr this with Will Call tickets.

    My second question is for the Magic Band. I read your article and since we are staying off Disney property can we still link a credit card to our magic bands? I really want to be able to take advantage of that part of them.

    Thanks!

    October 4, 2018 at 10:46 am Reply
    • Leah

      Hi Alana! Did you try to link the tickets to your My Disney Experience account and you are getting an error? I don’t have any experience with Disney Costco packages, so you may want to ask someone at Costco about the ticket situation.

      Unfortunately, you can’t make charges with your Magic Band unless you are staying on Disney property. You can buy them and link them to your MDE account which will let you use them to enter the parks and redeem Fastpasses. But you can only charge back to the room if you are staying at a Disney resort. They do sell little wristband gift cards at Epcot since it is Food & Wine fest – that might be a good way to go.

      October 4, 2018 at 3:09 pm Reply
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