Posted on October 23, 2014
By DONATELA VACCA
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — As Milagros Ruiz, a 21-year-old tourist from South America, fanned herself with a crumpled Magic Kingdom brochure, the young girl behind her kept stepping on her foot as she jumped up and down with excitement to hop on Peter Pan’s Flight.
Bored to death but tied to her family, Ruiz distracted herself by listening to the hysterical complaints of a woman who claimed the man in front had somehow cut the line. The air-conditioned hall was just a few feet away, but sticky people and hyper-kinetic kids were still in the way.
Never-ending lines, sweltering heat, screaming kids and nowhere to sit is what people think about the rides at Walt Disney World. Unfortunately this scene is true, especially at the most popular games and during the most crowded traveling seasons.
Classic rides and new attractions in the summer are not a good combination, but neither is visiting Disney during colder months because Christmas celebrations pack the parks.
Queues at Walt Disney World are unavoidable, so the actual question is how to survive lengthy lines with kids, friends or by yourself, without succumbing to desperation.
Technically there is a way, since Disney Parks successfully receive more than 130,000 guests per day, with some of these being returning visitors or annual pass holders who come back repeatedly every weekend.
Yes, lines sometimes do reach an unbelievable wait time of 90 minutes or plus. Yes, there is a line for coffee and a line for food, and yes there is a wait for the bathroom, too. But all this waiting comes with the package deal that means having fun at the parks. And come on, let’s face it, there is a reason why it is called by Disney the most magical place on Earth.
Disney lines might be an unbearable issue to deal with, but they are in fact survivable if they are simply thought of as collateral damage.
Walt Disney World embodies charm, magic and happiness, a feeling that somehow transports guests into a day of carelessness wandering. As long as visitors learn how to maneuver lengthy queues, a few minutes of standby should be no reason to ruin the jolly spirit of the kingdom.
Tanja Gromadzki, a 22-year-old University of Miami graduate and avid Disney visitor, believes that although lines are a matter of fact in such big parks, there is nothing that can beat the gratitude one feels by being at Disney surrounded by such an exuberant atmosphere.
“Going to Disney is always fun. The large amounts of people can get annoying, but as a Disney lover I have come to accept the fact that Disney will always unwillingly overfill its parks,” she said. “It’s inevitable.”
With unique attractions and classic rides come the lines and the masses. And that is why the Walt Disney World Company has been developing different systems to allow guests to either skip certain lines or make the wait a little bit more entertaining.
Michael Clinkerbeard, retired Mainstreet coordinator at Magic Kingdom, explained that Disney is always striving towards minimizing the wait at all their resorts and parks, thus newer systems are continuously being developed to effectively reduce these problems.
“In the 19 years associated with the Walt Disney World Company, I have seen a myriad of efforts to make the lines flow more consistently. My earliest recollection was to entertain the guests while they waited and it all began with the Imagineering designs, where queue’s had a specialized theme,” he said.
Clinkerbeard explained that a good example is The Tower of Terror and The Pirates of the Caribbean, where guests are immediately immersed into the theme of that world.
“Music, props and decorations are all designed to entertain guests while they wait,” he said.
Disney has had the Fastpass system for quite a few decades already. The original idea allowed guests to acquire a free pass at the entrance of each game. This pass had a callback time that would grant them a quicker access to the attraction, and the limit for this passes used to be three on each park. A new pass could only be acquired once the previous one had already been used.
However, a new Fastpass system was introduced this past summer. FastPass+ is a much more technological take on a similar concept of what the original Fastpass used to be. Basically, the system is the same and still free: three Fastpasses per park, but now managed wirelessly via the Internet, apps or kiosks located at key points of the park.
This system is believed to provide guests with the privilege of avoiding the lengthy lines of three attractions per park, thanks to the fact that they can now previously reserve their passes from the comfort of their house, hotel or car, and use them through plastic wristbands.
FastPass+ has indeed reduced lines’ waiting times because now guests come in different time intervals, reducing the quantity of people at the actual ride. Besides, this new system was also successful in eliminating the lines that used to cram the Fastpass booths.
So in other words, this FastPass+ bracelets are the key to all things happy in the Disney World dimension. But surviving boring lines is more than just making use of a saturated communal system. There are tricks and tips available for those who dare find the inner scoop.
According to Clinkerbeard, there are little things one can do to avoid long lines and these are well-kept secrets you might want to keep to yourself too:
1. Getting Fastpasses for the most popular attractions first thing in the morning, while leaving the most undesired ones for the evening.
2. It is key to go to the rides while parades, shows, fireworks and performances are happening, since the majority of the people are going to be stuck on Mainstreet watching the spectacle instead of riding a roller-coaster that runs all day long.
Formula: fireworks and parades = empty rides.
3. Visiting the parks early in the morning or late at night
4. Staying at a Disney Resort will grant access to the exclusive Extra Magic Hours program, which allows hotel guests to enter two hours before parks open and stay long after they close for regular public.
Formula: Disney Resorts + Extra Magic Hours = empty rides
5. Visiting the parks on off-season dates, especially in February when the tippy weather discourages tourists prompting empty parks.
Formula: February + cold = empty parks
6. If there are no youngsters in the group, visiting Magic Kingdom after 5 p.m. is the key to happiness. Many families with kids leave after midday in order for the little ones to rest, leaving the park half empty.
7. Visit Animal Kingdom after 6 p.m. As closing time nears, people panic because buses and exits get crowded and because they are surrounded by live animals that guests do not want to encounter at night, and thus rides become deserted.
8. Visit EPCOT and Disney’s Hollywood Studios in the morning, since these parks are at their peak during evenings and nights.
If all else fails, practicality and good spirits are the last resort. Lauren Behar, a senior at the University of Miami and an annual pass holder, believes that as long as a good mood is in the works, time surely passes by.
“If the wait time is more than an hour we’ll find something else to do and then we’ll go back. But if when we return the line is still long and we have other plans later, then we’ll just move on,” she said.
Behar explained that there are options everywhere. For instance, going to the rides that have interactive queues with games and entertainment on them.
“In the new Snow White ride, they have little games that you can play, which makes guests interact together and make the wait less excruciating,” Behar said.
With more than 132 attractions and overloads of tourists long lines are bound to happen, but those who venture Disney are definitely in for a treat and a magical day.
Tips for the Most Daring:
9. Use the single-rider lanes, but face the rides alone
10. In for a treat but don’t mind a skit? Find a good excuse to complain about a really upsetting experience, and an all-access Fastpass for the group will most probably be granted. Get the acting attune though: this will only happen once in a lifetime.