It has been 17 years since my last trip to Disney World.
How much could it have changed?
The parks are still fantastic. But the days of aimlessly hopping from ride to ride are over. A successful trip—defined here as minimizing time spent standing in lines—now requires more walking, embracing Disney technology, and carrying a cell phone with impressive battery life.
The internet is full of strategies for avoiding the lines at Disney. But if you are an infrequent visitor, traveling with small children, or just don’t care dive into the world of Disney blogsbuying access to shorter lines is the best option.
You may be on vacation, but a trip to Disney World is no time for a digital detox.
Rafael Henrique | Sopa Images | Lightrocket | Getty Images
Download it My Disney Experience app and place it front and center on your phone’s home screen. It’s the key to Disney World’s first principle of live avoidance: the purchase of Genie+, a service that allows visitors to reserve “Lightning Lanes,” which provide one-time access to shorter lines at most attractions.
The service starts at $15 per day per person, according to Disney’s website. But it averaged around $24 a day during my trip over Memorial Day weekend in May.
It is too expensive? It depends on your budget. But I estimate the service has saved us at least four hours in line a day, which is a steal in my opinion.
Other costs: About $145 per day for a family of six.
Once you purchase Genie+, you can start booking attractions for your group, a process that starts promptly at 7am. Starting any time after that, even for a few minutes, can delay window reservations by hours.
I served as a reservation person for my family, a necessary but thankless job. Duties include considering attraction wait times, ride popularity and proximity to your current location to determine the best and highest use of your next Lightning Lane – which can only be used one at a time or every two hours.
Disney estimates that visitors can use Lightning Lanes to enter two to three attractions per daybut for many days we booked five times that amount.
Lines for older rides like Dumbo can be an hour or more.
That means the main character has the privilege of explaining to the family why they’re going around the favorites — “Aladdin” and “Peter Pan” for the kids, “Hall of Presidents” for the husband — to take advantage of the rare breakup. in the crowds on the other side of the park.
This strategy saves time in line, but results in more walking – some days we averaged 25,000 steps. But I will go to the place any day.
Tip: Once you sign up for Lightning Lane, book another one. You don’t have to wait for the ride to finish.
This may be controversial advice, but to save time and simplify planning, consider skipping the “virtual queues”.
Currently, only two attractions use them in all four theme parks: Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind and Tron Lightcycle/Run.
There is no standby or standard line for these rides. So many visitors compete for places in the virtual queue, which are free. Bookings open twice a day – and are often gone in seconds.
Here, visitors can wait while trying to join a virtual queue or buy a place in line ($15) for Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind, a ride that travel specialist Jonathan Alder called “the greatest ride … ever made . in the world.”
We tried and failed to get Tron slots at 7am on the first day of our trip using one phone. At 1pm we tried again using three phones — one was successful. The reservation we had been eyeing all afternoon was finally called around 7pm. By this time the kids were tired and the queue was the longest of the day.
Spoiled by Lightning Lanes, we left the virtual queues for the rest of the trip and decided to buy Single lightning bars for these two rides plus four others where service is available. These are one-time purchases for access to shorter lines.
It’s not the cheapest way by any means, but this strategy allowed us to choose our set drive times, freed up time spent checking my phone, and is easier to book than virtual queues (especially for guests staying at a Disney-affiliated hotel).
Additional costs: Varies, but about $12 to $20 per attraction.
If you are not comfortable paying for these services, compare them to the cost of booking a private VIP tour. Tours range from $450 to $900 per hour depending on the season and are a minimum of seven hours. Note: this price does not include park tickets.
“For those who have the budget to do it, it’s the biggest thing,” said Jonathan Alder, the travel agency’s chief executive. Jonathan’s travels. The tours take visitors between the parks and provide access to private entrances and shorter lines, he said.
Jonathan Alder called the VIP tours at Disney World “the best thing ever.” But he said they can be addictive. “It’s much easier to have any other habit you can think of than the Disney VIP tour habit.”
Source: Jonathan’s Travels
“I’d say two parks in a massive day with an average of 13 miles of walking is what you end up getting without a guide,” he said. But with one: “I did all the major rides in all four parks and only had about 10 miles of walking.”
Additional costs: From $3,150, but rates can easily double.
During my family’s five day trip to Disney, we saw almost every attraction in the four parks. But we only waited in five standby lines, the longest of which was about 30 minutes.
We entered these lines when we were between Lightning Lanes or wanted to ride the same ride twice (Lightning Lanes can only be used once per day). But we waited for the right moments—when the parks opened in the morning or during the nighttime fireworks—to do so.
Staying at a Disney Resort — there are more than 25 of them in total — gives visitors a 30-minute head start in the morning (a sometimes even extended evening hours). That may not seem like a lot, but it allowed us to quickly tackle at least one major attraction per day without having to contend with large crowds.
MagicBands can save time when shopping for groceries and goods, as well as when entering queues.
In many cases, I watched people with MagicBands float past visitors looking for the right screen on their cell phones to enter the Lightning Lanes.
It also saves time when buying food and goods. Plus, it serves as a souvenir that kids can carry long after they leave the parks.
Disclosure: NBCUniversal owns CNBC and Universal Studios, which is a competitor to Disney World.