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

Posted in Disney World
on September 26, 2019

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little girl and grandmother riding the disney dumbo ride

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

man walking at the disney park

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.

crowd of people in animal kingdom

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

fast pass selection screen

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.

sign for Soarin' ride

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.

little girl meeting cinderella

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)

Cinderella's castle
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.

space mountain at magic kingdom

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.

Expedition Everest at Animal Kingdom

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

halloween decor on lamp post with cinderella's castle in the background

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!

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

46 Comments

  • Lisa

    Looking at going forth week in April 2018 what’s it like then? The third week in April is school vacation for Maine, what is it like then?

    January 14, 2018 at 2:28 pm Reply
    • Leah

      Hi Lisa! Both weeks have an average of 5/10 crowds, so moderate. I’d prefer the last week since fewer places would be out of school, but it would only be slightly fewer crowds. The weather will be outstanding!

      January 14, 2018 at 3:09 pm Reply
  • Corissa

    How is September in Disney? I am worried about hurricanes and taking the risk!

    January 6, 2018 at 8:32 pm Reply
    • Leah

      Hi Corissa! We LOVE visiting at the end of September – in fact, we have gone that week the past four out of five years! Maybe we are just lucky but we have never had trouble with a hurricane. However this year a hurricane hit two weeks before our trip, so it really does depend. If you are worried, you can get travel insurance with my recommended provider: http://bit.ly/2AFfkIw And check out my favorite times to visit WDW here: http://bit.ly/2bvqybD

      January 8, 2018 at 6:43 am Reply
  • chris

    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.

    October 17, 2017 at 6:29 pm Reply
    • Leah

      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.

      October 19, 2017 at 3:23 pm Reply
  • Gina D from Texas

    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?

    April 9, 2017 at 12:13 am Reply
    • Leah

      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!

      April 9, 2017 at 8:37 am Reply
  • Lesli Beavers

    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.

    March 18, 2017 at 8:15 am Reply
    • Leah

      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!

      March 18, 2017 at 12:25 pm Reply
      • Suellen

        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.

        March 23, 2017 at 1:52 pm Reply
  • Catherine Granger

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

    January 22, 2017 at 9:42 pm Reply
    • Leah

      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!

      January 23, 2017 at 6:36 am Reply
      • chelsea

        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.

        February 23, 2017 at 11:48 am Reply
        • Leah

          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!

          February 24, 2017 at 7:00 am Reply
    • Holly

      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

      March 11, 2017 at 10:17 am Reply
  • shiree

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

    January 2, 2017 at 10:44 pm Reply
    • Leah

      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!

      January 3, 2017 at 5:49 am Reply
  • Amanda

    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!

    December 30, 2016 at 9:38 am Reply
    • Leah

      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!

      December 30, 2016 at 10:01 am Reply
  • Planning Park Days Vs. Winging It at Disney World: What To Expect - The Frugal South

    […] shared more about using FastPass+ and avoiding long waits in general in this post. I usually make a list of other attractions that are high on my list to work into the day, and make […]

    December 4, 2016 at 3:30 pm Reply
  • Dustin Tibbitts

    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!

    October 27, 2016 at 3:16 pm Reply
    • Leah

      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. 🙂

      October 27, 2016 at 3:39 pm Reply
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