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
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.
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 Lightning Lanes & Virtual Queue
Disney Genie+ and the Lightning lanes are a great way to shorten your time in line.
But you have to know how to use them to get your money’s worth out of them!
Also, be sure to check out this guide on how to use the FREE Disney World Virtual Queue system to ride the newest attraction.
3) Get to the Parks Early (Sorry, It’s True)
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.
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.
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 the theme parks open 30 minutes early for Disney resort guests.
During these times, only guests who are staying at an on-site, Disney-owned resort can enter the park.
My family has had so much fun during morning early entry, 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!
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
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 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 the year at Disney World:
- January (except for marathon weekend)
- February (except for President’s Day weekend)
- 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 the 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 decide whether to buy Disney Genie+, make 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!