Disney World Planning: Why The Early Bird Gets the Worm

Crowds at Disney World

Hoping to avoid some of the crowds? photo credit: rickpilot_2000 via Flickr

You want to experience Disney World to fullest, skip the crowds, avoid lines, skip the cranky children and have an all around wonderful time.  Yet, you hear people complain about how long they had to wait, impatient children and meltdowns, and you’re worried about how this trip might turn out.  Actually, there are many ways to avoid the famously long lines in the park and make your day much smoother, and today we’ll talk about one of those.

You see, it seems many people who travel to Disney World are of the mindset that a vacation means sleeping in.  Many people don’t arrive at the parks until after 10 or 11am, after they’ve leisurely gotten up and had breakfast and/or have also driven in from somewhere offsite.  What this leaves is a nice little gap in the opening hours for you and your family to get on the rides first.

To beat the crowds, I advise my clients to arrive 20-30 minutes before park opening at any of the four major parks.  If you do this, you will see a fairly large sized crowd waiting with you, but don’t worry – this crowd disperses quickly once inside the large parks and is nothing like the crowds that you will see later in the day.  The key is to use every moment wisely once you enter: now is not the time for shopping or eating a meal.  Head straight to the rides and save the browsing for a later part of the day.

You have about two hours, with the first hour being the absolute best for no to low lines, before the major crowds will start flowing in.  If you use this time wisely, you can accomplish a large amount of rides before lunch.  (I always give my clients a theme park touring strategy to better enable them to skip as many lines as possible, with a customized itinerary of rides).  By about 1pm, the crowds will be out in full force, and this is the time that most rides will have those longgggg lines you’ve heard about.  NOW you can shop, browse and eat and leave those long lines to the throngs of late arrivers.  Or, as I often advise my clients, head back to your resort for a swim, to shower and freshen up or take a little nap.

Once late afternoon and evening arrive, you can head back to the rides, as more people start leaving the parks again.  Many of them are now tired of waiting in all those long lines and have had enough.  But you?  You rode a bunch of ride this morning, had a great afternoon, and are now ready to go until closing!


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  1. excellent tips, and your touring guide worked 100% to prevent us from having to wait.

  2. Kara, so glad you enjoyed my tips on your trip! It’s so much better of a vacation without standing around waiting all day.

  3. I’ll be using your plan come this summer at WDW. I thought we did pretty good years ago, but this trip I know will run even smoother.

    • Melissa, I’ve been having so much fun helping you with your trip. I’m so excited for your trip this summer! With you taking 4 kids, I know a having a great plan in place makes all difference.

  4. What time of year do you suggest going to the park? When are the crowds the lowest.

    • Jeanette, avoiding the most crowded times means skipping Christmas through New Year’s, Presidents Day week, Spring Break season (Mid-march to mid-April), summer, Memorial Day Weekend, and Thanksgiving. Anything is going to feel less crowded than those times.

      Jan-Feb, Sept – mid-Nov, and the weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas have the lowest crowds.

      I’m personally a fan of mid-April through mid-May as well for moderately low crowds and really nice weather.

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