Are you wondering how to avoid lines at Disney World?
Disney World is notorious for its crowds, long wait times for rides, and lines for EVERYTHING. The immersive theming, the nostalgia factor, and amazing cast members put Disney on top when it comes to theme parks. And this level of popularity means that crowds continue to flock there. If you’re hoping for a super relaxing and peaceful vacation, Disney World is probably not the first place that comes to mind.
If you have highly sensitive, sensory sensitive or anxious kids, they are more likely to become overstimulated easily. Rubbing shoulders with strangers, standing in one spot for a long time, hearing conversations all around you, and having to wait during hot weather is a LOT for anyone.
Imagine how much more difficult it is for someone who experiences all their sensory inputs in a more heightened way.
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PLACES WHERE MIGHT YOU ENCOUNTER LINES AT DISNEY WORLD
Usually the first thing you think of when we talk about waiting in line is… waiting in lines for rides. And yes, I would say the bulk of your time in line at Disney World is probably for rides. But there are loads of other times when you may have to stand in line.
Waiting in Line for Transportation / Security / Tickets
So if you’re staying at a Disney World hotel, it’s possible that you will wait in line for transportation to get to the park. I will say I have very rarely waited in an actual line for Disney’s bus transportation when going from the resort to the park. But for Disney’s Skyliner, the monorail, and the boats, it’s pretty common to wait in line.
Before you enter a theme park, you will have to wait in line for security. You will walk through a metal detector, and if you have a bag, they may check that as well. Then, you wait in another line to scan your Magic Band or ticket to officially be “in the park”.
Phew, that’s a lot of waiting already and you haven’t even gotten in line for a ride yet!
Waiting in Lines for Shows / Fireworks / Parades
In addition to the rides, you may have to wait in line for shows. For example, this includes things like Enchanted Tiki Room at Magic Kingdom or Lightning McQueen Racing Academy at Hollywood Studios.
Fireworks and parades also involve waiting as well. No, you’re not really waiting in a line per se, but you may find yourself standing or sitting in one spot for awhile.
Waiting in Lines for Food
If you’re hitting up Woody’s Lunch Box at Hollywood Studios right at noon, be prepared to wait in line! And any of the places that sell Starbucks will have a line out the door, especially in the mornings. Yes, keeping your family nourished and hydrated (or caffeinated, for the adults) may require some waiting in line.
Waiting in Lines for Characters
Meeting your favorite Disney characters can also involve waiting in line. The lines can be even longer when they are pretty rare characters aka only found in one spot or during certain times of the year.
Waiting in Lines to Buy Merchandise
Another time that you might have to wait in line is when purchasing your favorite merchandise at the various shops throughout Disney World and Disney Springs.
I hope I haven’t made you anxious with the amount of waiting in line that could happen at Disney World! In my mind, it’s good to know what to expect.
Because if you know what to expect, you can do some good planning and preparation. And that means finding practical ways to avoid lines at Disney World.
And hopefully by spending less time waiting in line, that can reduce sensory overload for your sensitive kids, and help mitigate those quintessential Disney meltdowns.
If you’re looking for specific tips on how to avoid lines at Disney World, you are in the right place!
Here you will find 14 ways to avoid lines at Disney World.
- 1. Go During Low Crowd Times
- 2. Rope Drop and Early Entry
- 3. Go on Rides during Parades & Fireworks
- 4. Get in Line Right Before Parks Closing
- 5. Go to Special Ticketed Events like After Hours Events & Holiday Parties
- 6. Check for Extended Evening Hours
- 7. Use Single Rider Lines
- 8. Pay for Genie+
- 9. Use the DAS (Disability Access Service) Pass if You Qualify
- 10. Reserve Dining Packages or Dessert Party Packages
- 11. Use Mobile Ordering for Food
- 12. Eat During Off-Peak Times
- 13. Reserve Character Dining
- 14. Use Merchandise Mobile Checkout
1. Go During Low Crowd Times
Good for: waiting for rides, waiting for transportation, waiting for food, waiting for shows, waiting for parades/fireworks, waiting for characters, waiting for purchasing merchandise
One seemingly obvious way to avoid lines at Disney World is to go during low crowd times. You might be wondering how to know WHEN are low crowd times. This is where it gets more tricky. It’s hard to predict exactly when to expect low crowds, especially as people’s traveling patterns have changed a bit since the pandemic.
But the best way to go at a time when there are less people is to AVOID the times when it is guaranteed to be crowded. I’m talking about the week between Christmas and New Years. I’m talking about Spring Break (which essentially rules out all of March and the beginning of April). I’m talking about any long holiday weekend (Memorial Day weekend, Labor Day weekend, 4th of July weekend, etc.).
This doesn’t mean you won’t experience long lines during other times of the year, as travel is always unpredictable. But at least you won’t be there when it’s totally slammed.
A side bonus: did you know Disney has variable pricing for their tickets? This means there is not a standard ticket price for adults and children throughout the year. Ticket prices are usually higher during the busier times of the year. So the bonus of going during these “off” times is that you’ll be paying less for your tickets! Saving a little bit of cash is always great in my book, especially when going to Disney is not a cheap vacation to start with.
However, I know that going during these off-peak times are not always doable for every family. Maybe you’re a teacher who can only travel during school breaks. Maybe you have kids in school who you don’t want to pull out for a trip. Maybe your work situation makes it hard to take too much time off. Whatever it is, don’t you worry. There are other ways to avoid lines at Disney World.
2. Rope Drop and Early Entry
Good for: waiting for rides, waiting for food, waiting for shows, waiting for characters
So let’s assume you can’t go during these lower crowd times of the year. Well, get ready to dust off your alarm clock and channel your inner early bird instead!
“Rope drop” is a phrase used often among Disney goers. This is referring to a park strategy of getting to the park BEFORE opening. That way you are ready to hop in line to your attraction of choice as soon as the “rope drops”. If you are one of the first few guests in the park, that means you are getting onto a ride before any significant lines start to form. Disney guests will often rope drop a ride that typically gets long waits later in the day.
Common rope drop attractions at each park (aka where you will see people running to once the park officially opens):
Magic Kingdom – Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, Peter Pan’s Flight, Space Mountain, Jungle Cruise
EPCOT – Frozen Ever After, Remy’s Ratatouille, Test Track
Hollywood Studios – Rise of the Resistance, Slinky Dog Dash
Animal Kingdom – Flight of Passage
In addition to rope drop, if you are a guest staying on Disney World property, you have the option to enter the park 30 minutes earlier than other guests. This is called “early entry”, and this gives you an advantage over those who are not staying in Disney resorts.
The benefit of going early, whether it’s for early entry or a standard rope drop, is that you are getting onto attractions before long lines have a chance to accumulate. The wait times for a lot of Disney rides peak in the afternoon. So, going as early as you can gives you ample opportunity to avoid super long lines at the theme parks.
Keep in mind that the rope drop crowd can feel a little bit insane. You’ll likely be in the midst of an influx of people all trying to do the same thing as you. This can also result in what may feel like longer waits at security and scanning your ticket or Magic Band to get into the theme park.
3. Go on Rides during Parades & Fireworks
Good for: waiting for rides, waiting for shows, waiting for characters
Another strategy to avoid lines at Disney World is to go on rides during the parades or fireworks! This can be a tough pill to swallow if it’s a huge priority to see the Festival of Fantasy parade at Magic Kingdom or Fantasmic at Hollywood Studios.
But if you have multiple days at one park (for example, going to Magic Kingdom for two days), I would suggest skipping parades and/or fireworks on ONE of those days to go on rides during this time! You can save the parades and fireworks for the other day.
How does this work? Well, the parades and fireworks draw big crowds. Lots of families will be staking out viewing spots ahead of time. This means less people going on rides. And THAT means shorter wait times.
Going on rides might also mean you can get a unique vantage points of parades and fireworks. For example, you could probably catch a little glimpse of the Festival of Fantasy parade while riding the Liberty Square Riverboat! There’s a chance you could get a special view of the Happily Ever fireworks from Dumbo in Fantasyland, Big Thunder Mountain in Frontierland or even riding the PeopleMover in Tomorrowland.
4. Get in Line Right Before Parks Closing
Good for: waiting for rides, waiting for transportation
If you can’t get yourself to skip the parades and fireworks to go on rides, there is ANOTHER way to avoid waiting in super long lines at Disney World.
Did you know if you get in line for an attraction before the park closes, you’ll be able to ride it even after the park officially closes? That means if EPCOT closes at 9PM, you can get in line to ride Frozen Ever After at 8:59PM and you will still be able to ride it. Even if you are not yet on the ride at 9PM.
As I mentioned earlier, wait times for rides seem to peak in the afternoon. Hopping in line before closing will probably result in a shorter wait time than going mid-afternoon.
This strategy may vary by attraction, as I have heard that some rides like Flight of Passage at Animal Kingdom still have fairly significant waits at closing. But this is still a good strategy to have in your Disney park touring toolbox.
5. Go to Special Ticketed Events like After Hours Events & Holiday Parties
Good for: waiting for rides, waiting for food, waiting for shows
On select nights, Disney World has special ticketed events like After Hours, Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party (select nights from August 11 to November 1, 2023), and Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party.
How does this even work? These are tickets that you purchase that are different from your regular ticket. It’s for that event only. This also means that you don’t need a park reservation or need to use one of your regular tickets to go to one of these events. For example, if you’re planning to spend 4 days in Orlando, and you have 3-day regular tickets to Disney World, you could also get a ticket for one of these special events and use it on your 4th day.
This can be a tough one for some families, especially if you have little ones who do better sticking to their bedtimes. And if you’re on a tight budget, the extra cost may not be doable.
But again, this can be a way to avoid significant lines while at the theme parks. The number of tickets sold for these events are limited, so it’s more likely that you’ll get a bit of a break from excessive crowds. The only caveat is that the rare characters that are out only during the parties tend to have long lines.
6. Check for Extended Evening Hours
Good for: waiting for rides, waiting for transportation
Are you staying at a Deluxe level Disney resort? Then MAKE SURE to check Disney World’s calendar to see when Extended Evening Hours are offered.
Not sure if you qualify? Here is the list of participating hotels:
- Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge
- Disney’s Beach Club Resort
- Disney’s BoardWalk Inn
- Disney’s Contemporary Resort
- Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa
- Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort
- Disney’s Wilderness Lodge
- Disney’s Yacht Club Resort
- Bay Lake Tower at Disney’s Contemporary Resort
- Boulder Ridge Villas at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge
- Copper Creek Villas & Cabins at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge
- Disney’s Animal Kingdom Villas – Jambo House
- Disney’s Animal Kingdom Villas – Kidani Village
- Disney’s Beach Club Villas
- Disney’s BoardWalk Villas
- Disney’s Old Key West Resort
- Disney’s Polynesian Villas & Bungalows
- Disney’s Riviera Resort
- Disney’s Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa
- The Villas at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa
- Walt Disney World Swan Hotel
- Walt Disney World Dolphin Hotel
- Walt Disney World Swan Reserve
- Shades of Green® on Walt Disney World®
Currently, Extended Evening hours happen on Mondays at EPCOT and on Wednesdays at Magic Kingdom. Of course, this is always subject to change.
But what this means is that you get an extra two hours at the park after closing. It’s definitely a late night and may not be feasible for your family. But if you had a slower morning or had a long midday break with great naps, consider using Extended Evening hours as a way to do a lot of attractions with very minimal waits. We did Extended Evening hours at Magic Kingdom in October 2022 and literally everything was a walk-on.
Another bonus to this is that you have one more extra chance to join the virtual queue for Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind at EPCOT or TRON Lightcycle /Run at Magic Kingdom. For these virtual queues, the typical drop times are at 7AM and at 1PM. On these select nights of Extended Evening hours, guests can also request to join the virtual queue at 6PM. So this means THREE chances to ride some of the newest and most popular rides at Disney World right now.
If staying at a Deluxe level hotel doesn’t feel like it’s realistic for your budget, look into renting DVC points!
DVC is Disney’s timeshare program but you don’t have to be a member to stay in one of the DVC rooms. Basically, existing DVC members “rent” out any points they’re not using to non-Disney members.
There are many DVC rental agencies which act as a “middle man” between the renter and the owner, and the process is really seamless. It is CONSIDERABLY cheaper than booking directly through Disney.
DVC also offers 1, 2, and even 3-bedroom villas. These feature in-unit laundry and full size kitchens. Imagine how much comfortable you will be staying in accommodations like this? AND you get the benefit of using Extended Evening hours! The only downside is the cancellation policy is a little less flexible. But it’s definitely worth looking into.
7. Use Single Rider Lines
Good for: waiting for rides
Did you know some Disney World attractions offer Single Rider lines? Basically, this is a separate queue that allows the cast members to fill in extra spots on a ride. For example, if a party of 3 is riding Expedition Everest, which seats 2 people per row, that leaves one empty seat. The cast members will then have someone from the single rider line to fill in that spot.
Currently, the rides that have single rider lines are Rock ’n’ Roller Coaster at Hollywood Studios, Millenium Falcon: Smuggler’s Run at Hollywood Studios, Test Track at EPCOT and Expedition Everest at Animal Kingdom. It seems that Soarin’ at EPCOT occasionally opens up a single rider line, but it’s not guaranteed.
This is a great strategy for avoiding long lines, if you don’t mind riding with someone you don’t know. My husband and I did this for Expedition Everest during our last trip, and we didn’t mind being split up. It was a walk-on for us. The time savings was huge!
8. Pay for Genie+
Good for: waiting for rides, waiting for shows (applies to SOME shows), waiting for parades, waiting for characters (applies to SOME character meet and greets)
If you’re totally new to Disney World planning, or haven’t been in several years, you may not have heard of Genie+. It is basically replacing the old “Fastpass” system. Disney has rolled this out as the primary strategy for avoiding lines for rides. Genie+ is a paid service, per day per person, where you can utilize the My Disney Experience app to book rides that allow you to bypass the standby line and go in the Lightning Lane line instead.
The learning curve for Genie+ is huge, so I highly suggest watching some YouTube videos on it. (I recommend Molly from Mammoth Club as she is really thorough in her explanations of Genie+!) The last thing you want to do is to pay all this extra money and NOT use it effectively.
If used well, Genie+ can really help with minimizing your time in line for rides. But I will say I have mixed feelings on this one. Genie+ started out at a flat-rate price of $15 per person, but changed to date-specific pricing in October 2022. What that means is it’ll be more expensive on busier days. Recently, we saw the price of Genie+ skyrocket to $35 per person, through the spring break crowds. Honestly that price point is really hard to swallow, and if you’re traveling with a large family… it adds up.
So use Genie+ wisely. Make sure to understand and learn the system so you are NOT wasting your money. It may be worth it if you’re traveling during really busy times. But you could also use a combination of the other strategies already discussed if paying for Genie+ is not in your budget. I will say that the two parks you can usually get away with not using Genie+ are EPCOT and Animal Kingdom.
9. Use the DAS (Disability Access Service) Pass if You Qualify
Good for: waiting for rides
Did you know that Disney World offers a service called DAS? DAS, which stands for Disability Access Service, is designed to help guests who “have difficulty tolerating extended waits in a conventional queue environment due to a disability”.
It sounds a little vague so it’s common for people to assume that this applies to mobility-related disabilities. This is NOT the case. You also don’t need to have a formal diagnosis to qualify for this. But, if your diagnosis, such as Autism, ADHD, Generalized Anxiety Disorder, or PTSD, affects your ability to wait in a regular line, this is where DAS comes in! You basically have to explain what specifically makes it hard to wait in a regular line, whether it’s diagnosis-related or not.
You are not “skipping” the line by using DAS. Essentially, you check in to the ride or attraction you’d like to go on. The cast member will then give you a return time which is based on the current standby wait time.
So if the current standby wait time is 40 minutes, you get to wait 40 minutes (give or take) elsewhere instead of standing in a traditional queue. You could sit in the shade with a snack and a drink. You could watch a stage show. You could hop onto another ride with a low standby wait time.
There are two ways to sign up for DAS. You can pre-register for DAS virtually, OR you can register for it in person at Guest Services in the parks. The advantage of pre-registering virtually is that you can book return times for up to two attractions in advance. These are called your DAS Advance Selections.
This is a great service that shows Disney’s commitment to creating an inclusive and accessible environment for ALL guests. So if you feel like your family would benefit from this service, please utilize this! If you’re not sure you’d qualify, you can speak to a Cast Member and they’ll let you know.
10. Reserve Dining Packages or Dessert Party Packages
Good for: waiting for food, waiting for shows, waiting for parades/fireworks
Another way to avoid waiting a long time for parades and fireworks is to reserve a dining package or a dessert party package.
How does this work? Typically, if you plan on watching a parade or a fireworks show, you need to stake out a spot ahead of time. This can be really tough on more sensitive kids who may not do well being in a crowd for extended periods of time. BUT if you choose to do a dining package or dessert party, you will have reserved seating or a reserved viewing area for that fireworks show or parade.
For example, the nightly Fantasmic show at Hollywood Studios is SUPER popular. Instead of waiting in line way in advance, book a dining package instead which includes a voucher for guaranteed seating in a reserved section!
A few EPCOT restaurants also have a fireworks dinner package, where you can view the EPCOT fireworks as you enjoy your dinner.
Instead of a dinner package, Magic Kingdom has dessert party packages for fireworks viewing. There are a couple variations of them, but the premise is the same. You get to have a designated fireworks viewing area without having to look for a spot ahead of time.
Keep in mind that one of the dessert parties (Seats and Treats) have you viewing the fireworks from Tomorrowland Terrace, which is little bit further from the action. Some reviews have said that the views are a bit obstructed. But the nice thing is that you are able to sit at a table with your dessert while enjoying the fireworks. It may be a more relaxing experience.
While it isn’t available at the time of posting, Magic Kingdom used to have a Festival of Fantasy Parade dining package. This is where you would dine at Tony’s Town Square Restaurant and it would include a voucher for a VIP viewing area of the parade. No waiting around necessary to secure a good spot! Hopefully they bring this back at some point as it’s another good option for those who don’t want to stress over finding a parade viewing spot and waiting around for it to start.
The downside of all these packages is that it’s obviously an extra cost. If you’ve got a large traveling party, the cost can really add up. But it could be worth it if waiting around to stake out a spot for a fireworks show feels really stressful to you.
11. Use Mobile Ordering for Food
Good for: waiting for food
Don’t be that person who gets into line to order food right at noon, when everyone else has a the same idea!
Did you know that you can mobile order food for select restaurants right on the My Disney Experience app?
This option isn’t available for ALL quick service places (quick service = “fast food” style ordering vs. table service = sit down dining). But you can see right on the app which restaurants have mobile ordering.
It’s REALLY convenient because you can mobile order in advance and choose a pick up time frame for later. It’s actually recommended to mobile order early for some of the more popular places like Woody’s Lunch Box. If you check the app to mobile order there at noon, your pick up time probably won’t be until much later. So try to plan ahead!
Once it’s time to pick up your food, you’ll be alerted on your phone via the app. You go in a separate “mobile order pick up” line and get your food! Easy peasy. You skipped waiting in that long line of hungry guests!
12. Eat During Off-Peak Times
Good for: waiting for food, waiting for rides
Another way to avoid waiting in line for food is to eat during off-peak times. So, don’t have lunch at 12 noon. Don’t have dinner at 6PM. Basically, try to do the opposite of what everyone else is doing.
I know it can be a little tough if you have young kids or easily “hangry” kids. What I like to do is get little snacks during those typical meal times when they might be hungry. And then go order a more substantial meal at an “off” time. So maybe this means you get your kids some popcorn, a churro, or a Dole Whip around noon to keep the “hangry” away. Then, you can have a later lunch at 1:30PM and avoid the long lines.
The bonus here is that while everyone else is eating during peak times, there might be a little dip in wait times for rides!
13. Reserve Character Dining
Good for: waiting for food, waiting for characters
Another time you may find yourself waiting in line is to meet characters. And while some character meet and greets include the option of using Genie+ to bypass the standby line, there are LOTS that don’t.
So what can you do to avoid waiting in long lines to meet your favorite characters?
Make a reservation for a meal with characters! That way you can eat while also meeting characters.
Not ALL characters can be found at these character dining restaurants, so if you’ve got your heart set on meeting specific characters (example: if you want to meet Elsa & Anna, you can only meet them in the Norway pavilion at EPCOT), you will still need to wait in a line.
But there is still a great variety of character dining options.
As of April 2023, here are your character dining options at Disney World:
*please note that characters are ALWAYS subject to change.
Magic Kingdom Character Dining
The Crystal Palace – Winnie the Pooh, Piglet, Eeyore, Tigger
Cinderella’s Royal Table – Cinderella, Jasmine, Aurora, Snow White, and Ariel
Akershus Royal Banquet Hall – Cinderella, Jasmine, Belle, Snow White, Aurora, and Ariel
Garden Grill – Mickey, Pluto, Chip, Dale
Hollywood & Vine (breakfast) – Disney Jr – Vampirina, Fancy Nancy, Roadster Goofy, Doc McStuffins
Hollywood & Vine (lunch & dinner) – Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Daisy, Goofy
Tusker House – Mickey, Donald, Daisy, Goofy
Chef Mickey’s – Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Goofy, Pluto
‘Ohana (breakfast only) – Lilo, Stitch, Mickey, Pluto
Story Book Dining at Artist Point – Snow White, Dopey, Grumpy, Evil Queen
Cape May Cafe (breakfast only) – Minnie, Donald, Daisy, Goofy
Topolino’s Terrace (breakfast only) – Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Daisy
If you see any of your favorite characters listed above, then character dining would be a GREAT option for avoiding waiting for meet and greets in the parks. You can start making dining reservations 60 days before your trip. That 60 day mark is really important when it comes to snagging reservations for more popular restaurants. But even if you aren’t able to get what you want, keep on checking! There are always last minute cancelations that come up.
It can be a little expensive, so that’s something you’ll want to think about when it comes to budgeting your trip.
14. Use Merchandise Mobile Checkout
Good for: waiting for purchasing merchandise
You’re already spent time waiting in line for rides, shows, Disney transportation, food, and characters. You are so over it at this point. Do you REALLY want to stand in another line to purchase a new pair of ears or a new Disney spirit jersey?!
To AVOID waiting in line in the shops, make sure to use merchandise mobile checkout! Just like you can use the My Disney Experience app to mobile order food, you can also use the app to pay for your merchandise.
You select the merchandise mobile checkout option in the app, and then scan the barcodes of everything you’re buying. Once you select “checkout”, you can pay on your phone. There is a QR confirmation code you show to a cast member as you exit the shop. You’ll be emailed a receipt as an additional proof of purchase.
Not ALL the stores offer this option, but here is the current list of Disney stores that accept merchandise mobile checkout (as of April 2023):
So there you have it—14 ways to avoid lines at Disney World!
Which strategy is the one you’ll most likely use?
If you need extra support and community from other parents of highly sensitive kids going to Disney World, I encourage you to join my new private Facebook group—Planning Disney for Highly Sensitive Kids (and Adults too!)!
You can ask all your questions and get feedback from a wonderful group of Disney-loving parents who are also looking to minimize meltdowns and maximize the magic during their Disney World vacation.
Lastly, don’t forget to download your FREE copy of my must-have Disney ride planner tool! Use it so you can easily keep track of which rides you want to avoid and which you want to try with your highly sensitive kids. It will make planning your park days SO much easier! It is an editable and fillable PDF file, but there is an option to print a blank copy so you can fill it out by hand.