These are some time saving tips to remember when visiting theme parks. Many of these are specific to Disney World since I’m compiling these for a friend; but many of them are applicable to theme parks in general.
Before you go
- Get park maps ahead of time and pick out what you want to do. This way you can work out a path through the park and minimize back-tracking. It will also help to make sure you don’t miss something that you want to see.
- Look at the park hours and try to pick where you will be on each day of your trip. Knowing where you will be ahead of time lets you make reservations for restaurants.
- If you plan on doing any character restaurants, make reservations early. They take them 90 days ahead of time and the popular ones easily fill up months ahead of time.
- Don’t forget the sun tan lotion and camera batteries and stuff like that. You can buy them on site, but it’s a lot cheaper to have it ahead of time.
- Extra memory card for the camera. You can never have too many photos.
Getting into the parks
- Show up at least a half hour before the park opens. Lots of people don’t and it will give you time to get in a ride or two before the lines pick up.
- Have your tickets ahead of time. Why spend part of your day in line to get tickets while others are walking through the gate and getting in lines in front of you.
- The slowest lines are the ones with either kids or old people in them. They don’t grasp the whole ‘put your finger on the reader’ system of capturing your finger print and it slows things down.
- Don’t bring a bag with a ton of pockets and pouches on it. Because they look in your bag when you go in, the more pockets = longer delay.
Once you’re in the park
- Use the fastpass system. It can save you time when done right. For instance, at Disney Hollywood Studios you want to get a fastpass for the Rockin’ Roller Coaster, then go stand in line for the tower of terror. About the time you get off the tower, you can go straight on the other one.
- Eat at off times. Restaurants get crowded quick, so eating at noon will easily take twice as long as eating at 11:30. I usually bring pop tarts or something like that for breakfast at the hotel.
- If you’re staying at a disney resort, check the park schedule for Extra Magic Hours. These are times when the park either opens early or stays open late for guests who are staying at a disney resort. Usually these can be a nice little bit of extra time in the park. On holidays, however, you have to remember that Disney has 27 different resorts that have access to this perk, so for some parks I think it’s better to do the opposite. (For instance, if the Magic Kingdom has extra hours at night, I’ll go there in the morning because most other guests are going to be there at night.) Also remember that not all the attractions will be open for the extra magic hours.
- Think ahead before Park Hopping. Disney makes a big deal out of the convenience of paying extra to jump from park to park. In a way, they are right. It’s very convenient to spend part of the day one place and then go to another. Just remember that it will take you almost an hour and a half to get from one park to the next. It’s not that the bus/boat/monorail system is slow, it’s just that it takes a half hour to get back to the front of the park, then 20 minutes or so of waiting on the bus/boat/monorail, and then another half hour to get to the next park, back through the turnstiles and into the park where you can do stuff. If you are going to a hotel for one of the restaurants, try to make that your last stop of the night. (and on the subject of hotel restaurants, Boma at Animal Kingdom Lodge kicks ass and so does the California Grill in the contemporary resort. If you time it right, you can go out on the observation deck there and watch the fireworks over the Magic Kingdom at night.)
- If it’s a holiday, be mindful that they sometimes have special events at night that cost extra for admission. (The not so scary Halloween Party, and that kind of thing.)
- This one is not so much a time saver as an effort saver. If you are staying at a Disney hotel the following day, have your packages delivered to your room. this way you don’t have to lug them around the park.
Things not to miss
- Fireworks show in the Magic Kingdom ( Who didn’t watch Wonderful World of Disney with the fireworks behind the castle.)
- It’s a small world
- Haunted Mansion (My favorite ride as a child)
- Pirates of the Caribbean
- Big Thunder Mountain (The line on this gets long fast. Hit this one early in the day.)
- Space Mountain (The line on this gets long fast. Hit this one early in the day.)
- Carousel of Progress
- Jungle cruise
- Peter Pan
- Tomorrowland Transit Authority
- Buzz Lightyear space ranger spin (The line on this gets long fast. Hit this one early in the day.)
- Enchanted Tiki Room
- Snow White
- Swiss Family Treehouse
- Soarin (The line on this gets long fast. Hit this one early in the day.)
- Test Track (The line on this gets long fast. Hit this one early in the day.)
- Mission Space (The line on this gets long fast. Hit this one early in the day.)
- The Seas with Nemo and friends
- The land
- Spaceship Earth
- Turtle Talk with Crush
- Backlot Tour
- Great Movie Ride
- Indiana Jones stunt show
- Muppet Vision 3-D
- Rock N Roller coaster (The line on this gets long fast. Hit this one early in the day.)
- Tower of Terror (The line on this gets long fast. Hit this one early in the day.)
- Walt Disney – One man’s dream
- Toy Story Mania (The line on this gets long fast. Hit this one early in the day.)
- Expedition Everest (The line on this gets long fast. Hit this one early in the day.)
- Finding Nemo – the musical
- It’s tough to be a bug
- Kilimanjaro Safari
- The carvings on the tree of life
The final thing to remember is that you are here on vacation. don’t get so caught up in doing all the things you have to do to forget having fun. That extra pause to have someone take your photo and make you 30 seconds late to get to your lunch reservation isn’t going to kill you.