With the arrival of Lightning Lane, Disney Genie+, and good old Virtual Queue at Walt Disney World comes the need for NEW Disney Ride Strategies. Stand-By Lines, Rope Drop, Virtual Queue Boarding Pass systems, and Lightning Lane purchases are all in the lineup of ways to make sure you get on your favorite Disney rides. Our goal? How to ride our favorite Disney Rides WITHOUT PAYING for them. And while we obviously will be paying for a few rides through Disney’s Lightning Lane Pass system, we’re going to do our best to MASTER all the other ways to get on rides at Walt Disney World without waiting in line! Here are all of our Best Disney Ride Strategies so you don’t spend your Disney vacation waiting in lines, or going over your Disney Budget.
- 1 How Not to Wait in Line for Rides at Walt Disney World
- 2 Stand-By Lines
- 3 Rope Drop Popular Disney Rides
- 4 Virtual Queue Boarding Pass System
- 5 Lightning Lane Pass
- 6 How Long Should You Wait in Line at Walt Disney World?
- 7 Which Rides at Walt Disney World have the Lowest Wait Times?
- 8 Which Rides at Walt Disney World Have the Longest Wait Times?
How Not to Wait in Line for Rides at Walt Disney World
If you’re looking for some Disney Ride strategies, this is where you’ll find them. Not big on waiting in lines, we’re always ready to try out new ideas, tips, and ways to make sure we get on Disney rides without waiting in line. With the free Fastpass+ system gone, guests will now have to combine timing, stand-by, virtual queue, and Lightning Lane to make sure your must-do list is checked off!
ALL Rides at Disney Parks have Stand By Lines. It is always FREE to just stand in line and wait in the ride queue. This isn’t always a bad thing, as many of Disney’s ride queues are beautiful and interesting. And frankly, nothing says theme park-like stand-by lines! Thankfully, at Walt Disney World there are multiple options for making this bearable! Because it’s all about planning ahead and making adjustments at the moment to make sure you still have access to your favorite rides sometime during your vacation without having to wait more than 45 minutes to ride them! Here are our best Disney ride strategies for stand-by lines.
Check the My Disney Experience App Often
Ride wait times are built into the My Disney Experience App and can give you a good idea throughout the day of what ride waits look like. This allows for last-minute ride choices when you see a ride you hoped to ride has “too long” of a wait! We use this strategy constantly to ride rides we like but often don’t have on our to-do list.
Check the Ride Time at the Ride!
Believe it or not, we’ve found loads of time discrepancies between the My Disney Experience App and the REAL-TIME Wait times. That said, we always recommend actually walking to the ride and checking the wait time. Though the wait times posted are sometimes also off, we’ve had experiences of a 20-40 minute difference on some rides. Where the Wait time is actually MUCH LESS than the posted time on the sign or the App. We believe this to be a result of the app algorithm where additional time is built into each disclosed wait time to give the illusion of the lines going faster than you expect, and making time for if the ride breaks down, or has to stop. While nice, it often affects if we try for a ride at all. An example, on a random day in Magic Kingdom the Winnie the Pooh Ride was posted on the app at a 40-minute wait, on the sign at 20 minutes, and in real life, the wait was 11 minutes. As such, don’t let the posted wait times deter you from riding. Always check the actual ride time at the ride.
Visit on Weekdays
One of the best Disney ride strategies is all about timing. This one is just about which day you choose to go to the parks! Weekdays between 9 am- 3 pm will always be less busy than evenings and weekends. Tuesdays, in particular always have fewer crowds. Check out the Best Days to Visit Each Walt Disney World Park to pick your best day in each park.
Wait in line Between 9:30- 10:30 am
The majority of Disney guests arrive between 10:00 am and 12:00 pm, and rope drop crowds are in line from park opening. As such, sometimes the best time to get in line is after the rope drop crowds, but before the incoming guests arrive. If you aim for the most popular rides in this sweet spot time, you have a good chance of low lines.
Plan Rides During Meal Times
People like to eat at certain times; breakfast, lunch, and dinner. That said, 9:00-11:00 am, 12:00 pm -2:00 pm, and 5:00 pm-7:00 pm are excellent times to plan rides, because everyone else will be eating. And since you’ll be riding while others are eating, you’ll also have better luck with the lines at the restaurants since you’ll be eating during off-meal times.
Plan Rides During Park Hopper Transit Time
At Walt Disney World, Park Hopper opens at 2 pm for the second park of the day. As a result, many people are in transit to that second park between 1-2 pm. While this also overlaps with dawdling lunch crowds, you’ll get the double bonus of also having a large number of people heading to other parks. This opens up ride lines quite a bit between 1-2 pm. One of the sneakier Disney Ride Strategies, this one isn’t used by many, and you’d be surprised by how low waits can get this time of day.
Plan Rides During Shows, Fireworks, and Parades
Following the same concept as riding rides during meal times, the same goes for shows, fireworks, and parades. While everyone is reserving their spot on the sidewalk for the parade, show, or fireworks, you can often find rides with little to no wait! Double-check the My Disney Experience App for ride wait times so you can catch a short line and still see the show afterward.
Enjoy the Ride Queue
Certain rides at Walt Disney World have beautiful, interactive ride queues that are an experience all on their own. If you find you *must* wait in line for a ride, these are the rides that will offer the best waiting experience.
- Animal Kingdom: Avatar: Flight of Passage, Expedition Everest
- EPCOT: Frozen Ever After, Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure
- Hollywood Studios: Millenium Falcon: Smugglers Run, Tower of Terror
- Magic Kingdom: Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, Flight of Peter Pan, Jungle Cruise
Another great strategy to get on the best rides at Walt Disney World, without having to wait too long in line is to just aim for that last hour the park is open for the most popular rides. Many people leave right after the fireworks show, or nighttime spectacular ( also a great time to hop on rides) so lines are naturally shorter late in the evening. And some Disney rides are better at night! Slinky Dog Dash in Hollywood Studios is a fun one to ride at night and routinely sees long waits all day long.
Rope Drop Popular Disney Rides
Using a Rope Drop strategy at the parks is a strategy for getting on the most popular rides without waiting in super long lines. However, since many people use this strategy, you may find even longer lines at the popular rides, early in the morning. As such we recommend if you’re using this strategy that you arrive as early as possible at the gates so that you can be at the front of that line, giving yourself the best chance of getting your ride first. If you have Early Theme Park Entry as a result of being a Disney Resort Guest, you can get in even earlier. Once allowed in the park, you can then race-walk to your ride of choice and wait in a considerably longer line than you’d surely find later.
Rides to Rope Drop-in Each Disney Park
- Animal Kingdom: Avatar: Flight of Passage, Na’vi River Journey, Kilimanjaro Safari
- EPCOT: Test Track, Frozen Ever After, Soarin’, Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure
- Hollywood Studios: Slinky Dog Dash, Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway
- Magic Kingdom: Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, Flight of Peter Pan, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad
Mind you, planning to wake up early on a vacation is never fun, so pick maybe just one or two important rides to Rope Drop on your vacation.
Virtual Queue Boarding Pass System
The Virtual Queue Boarding System at Walt Disney World is offered for TRON Lightcycle/Run in Magic Kingdom and Guardians of the Galaxy Cosmic Rewind in EPCOT park. Disney’s virtual queue is available through the My Disney Experience App and involves accessing boarding passes at certain drop times. Check out our Virtual Boarding Pass Guide to get a feel for how to compete with thousands of other guests for a spot. And our best virtual queue strategies.
Lightning Lane Pass
Disney’s newest ride system is available in 2 ways. Lightning Lane passes can be purchased for individual rides ( full-ride list not yet released) OR can be purchased through the upgrade to Disney Genie+ as part of the Disney Genie service. While the Disney genie service is free, the purchase of the Disney Genie+ option ( at a variable $15- 29 dollar option for Walt Disney World guests and $23- 30 dollar option for Disneyland guests- per person per day), get you 2 Lightning Lane Passes that are good for a pre-selected list of rides. NOTE: These prices change based on the time of year, demand, and crowds. You can see the current pricing for the day you visit in the My Disney Experience App.
Since Lightning Lane Passes will cost different amounts based on the rides, it’s important to get a good handle on which rides you’re willing to pay for, and how much. Consider that if you buy the Disney Genie+ add-on then you’ve added the $15 ( or $20) per person per day already, but this will only be good for 2 ride reservations. And more popular rides may not be on the Genie+ list of rides to choose from, at which point you can pay extra or stand in line if a standby queue is available.
How Long Should You Wait in Line at Walt Disney World?
Frankly, everyone will have a different personal tolerance level here. We try never to wait longer than 45 minutes, for the most popular rides. This includes Flight of Passage which often sees waits over 2 hours. For us, park time is precious, and we’re usually strategic enough to avoid waits longer than 45 minutes. We also sort of run this on a bit of a sliding scale. Having been going to Walt Disney World for about a decade now, we know how long certain ride lines should be, and how long we’re willing to wait, for anything, changes based on the ride. Of course, we typically only travel during the Cheapest and Lowest Crowds at Walt Disney World, which helps.
Typically this is our breakdown in each park for rides we enjoy and ride often, and on average on our personal tolerance levels for waiting ( which is pretty low). Note that these are averaged pre-pandemic levels.
- No longer than
- 15 minutes: Mickey’s Philharmagic, “it’s a small world”
- 20 minutes: Pirates of the Caribbean, Under the Sea with the Little Mermaid
- 30 minutes: Haunted Mansion, Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin
- 45 minutes: Peter Pan’s Flight, Seven Dwarf’s Mine Train
- No longer than
- 30 minutes: Na’vi River Journey, Expedition Everest, Kali River Rapids, Kilimanjaro Safari
- 45 minutes: Avatar Flight of Passage, DINOSAUR
- No longer than
- 15 minutes: Spaceship Earth, Living with the Land, Gran Fiesta Boat Tour with the Three Caballeros
- 20 minutes: The Seas with Nemo and Friends
- 30 minutes: Soarin’, Mission Space
- 45 minutes: Test Track, Frozen Ever After
- No longer than
- 20 minutes: Alien Swirling Saucers
- 30 minutes: Star Tours: The Adventure Continues, Millenium Falcon: Smugglers Run
- 45 minutes: Slinky Dog Dash, Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway
Which Rides at Walt Disney World have the Lowest Wait Times?
- Carousel of Progress
- “it’s a small world”
- Liberty Square Riverboat
- Magic Carpets of Aladdin
- Mickey’s Philharmagic
- Prince Charming Regal Carrousel
- Under the Sea Voyage of the Little Mermaid
- It’s Tough to be a Bug
- TriceraTop Spin
- Gran Fiesta Tour Starring the Three Caballeros
- Journey into Imagination
- Living with the Land
- The Seas with Nemo and Friends
- Alien Swirling Saucers
- Lightning McQueen Racing Academy
- Mickey Shorts Theatre- Vacation Fun
- Muppet Vision 3-D
Which Rides at Walt Disney World Have the Longest Wait Times?
- Big Thunder Mountain Railroad
- Peter Pan’s Flight
- Seven Dwarf’s Mine Train
- Splash Mountain/Tiana’s Bayou Adventure
- TRON (Get Virtual Queue to make this wait time less. )
- Avatar Flight of Passage
- Na’vi River Journey
- Test Track
- Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure
- Frozen Ever After
- Guardians of the Galaxy (Get Virtual Queue to make this wait time less)
- Slinky Dog Dash
- Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway
- Twilight Zone Tower of Terror
Disney Ride Strategies or How Not to Wait in Line for Rides at Walt Disney World
Hopefully, this post has given you some insight as to all the ways ( so far) that you can save some time by not waiting in line at Walt Disney World. With all the changes at Disney due to the 50th Anniversary of Walt Disney World and new attractions like TRON opening, there will naturally be more crowds, and so much more to do! Get a handle on your ride strategy before you go.