Walt Disney World had record crowds for the holidays this year, but on December 31st our party managed to hit over 30 attractions in the course of the day and only had one wait greater than 15 minutes. How did we do it? By arriving early, following the Adult One-Day Holiday Touring Plan, and using the Lines application whenever could. Intrigued? Read on….
Arrive early and have a backup plan for transportation.
The Magic Kingdom had morning Extra Magic Hours for resort guests which meant that the gates opened at 7AM. Being on the inside of the turnstiles when the gates open will give you huge jump on not only the people arriving after 7 but on those who still have to go through the turnstiles.
We knew that we didn’t want to waste time in the All-Star food court in the morning (which was to our surprise actually open at 6AM), so we picked up pastries and fruit the night before for breakfast.
The original plan was to take Disney transportation from All-Star Music at 6:15 AM to avoid having to go through the TTC, but in the bus queue at the resort we realized that Disney was not spending enough buses. So we had some luck and caught a cab that was parked by the resort lobby and headed to the Contemporary. We walked from the Contemporary and arrived at the Magic Kingdom entrance at 6:45.
Use a touring plan.
Even if you don’t normally use a touring plan, this is no time to wing it. It’s the difference between walking on a headliner attraction and having a 2 hour wait in the standby line. Our party had completed 14 attractions including every headliner before 10AM. By comparison, Disney claims that the average party experiences 10 attractions in an entire day at the park. The only real wait we experienced up until that point was a 15 minute wait for the Jungle Cruise. That same wait was up to 45 minutes when we exited the attraction. If you don’t want to experience a particular attraction on the plan just skip it and move to the next one, but if you want to experience any attraction without a painful wait – embrace the touring plan. You won’t regret it. Remember, no one ever said “I wish I’d spent more time in line.”
Be prepared to stay in the park.
Magic Kingdom hit capacity before noon on the 31st which we expected. This meant that if you left the park to eat or rest you would not be allowed back in.
Normally we try not to carry a bag to avoid the security bottleneck, but this was a special case. The good news is that there was no bottleneck at 6:45. We had originally planned to put the bag in a locker, but that would have slowed us down at park opening so we ended up carrying the bag all day.
- extra clothes for warmth (not used)
- painkillers (used)
- phone charger (used)
- a few snacks leftover from breakfast
Things added to the bag during the day:
- clothes as the day warmed up
- wet clothes after one final ride on Splash Mountain around 10PM (number of times we rode Splash Mountain on one of the busiest days of the year: 3!)
Expect the unexpected.
Huge crowds mean that things you assume are going to work may not work as planned. Everyone in the party experienced significant problems using their cell phones for both data and voice during the day. If you plan to meet people have a back up plan in case you aren’t able to contact each other.
One thing you nearly never see at a Disney park is a line for the rest room even in the busiest times. The lines for the ladies rooms all over the park were out the doors. Around 11PM the line for the restroom by the Crystal Palace was 60 women deep and stretched into the seating area for Casey’s Corner.
That counter service restaurant you saw open at noon may not be open for dinner. We were happy to see locations like the Verandah and the Pirate and the Parrot open during the day and looked forward to getting to try some food we don’t normally get a chance to for dinner. However, when we walked back through Adventureland we found they were both closed and had dinner at Pecos Bill’s instead. The lines were short though, and we had no problem finding a table. We found an out of the way table between Pecos Bill’s and the entrance to Adventureland and were able to sit and rest for an hour in a fairly quiet area. That was well-needed after more than 12 hours in the park at that point.
Keep up your energy.
Needless to say you should not have a late night on the 30th if you plan to get up a 5AM on the 31st and stay up until 3AM on the 1st. Other things that helped us keep our energy and moods up during the day were frequent snack and drink breaks and knowing when to hit an attraction that was low-key and less crowded. We rode the Peoplemover twice in a row, saw Carousel of Progress twice, and hit the Hall of Presidents, Tiki Room, and Country Bears just when the crowds were starting to become unmanageable. However, not even a 5 minute standby time could convince us to ride Stitch’s Great Escape.
Hoard those Fastpasses.
One of the strategies that worked well for us was to grab Fastpasses for attractions during the day and hold onto them for use later. We did use them after the Fastpass window had closed and were not stopped by any Cast Members. Instead of being random with our Fastpass accrual, we used Lines to see reported return times to strategize the best order in which to get our Fastpasses. Remember that attractions will stop issuing Fastpasses much earlier in the day than you would normally see. Luckily, Lines users get to see not just user reported times for that day but our predictions for when the attractions will stop issuing them. This worked so well that we didn’t even end up using every Fastpass we were holding. This is a good time to pay it forward and give your passes to someone in the standby line for future good karma.
Sometimes a plan can work too well.
Be prepared to kill time in the early evening until you stake out a place to watch the fireworks. Even with your Fastpasses and knowledge of which attractions have low waits, you’re still going to have to fill a good 5 hours in the evening and there’s only so many times you’re going to want to ride the Peoplemover or watch the Country Bears. Perhaps this is a good time to put your feet up and watch the people in the 2 hour standby line for Space Mountain – just try not to look too smug. Or maybe your could try out your high school latin with a simultaneous translation of the script to the Carousel of Progress from the theatre. Do it out loud, we promise no one in the audience will mind.
Have an exit strategy.
Those crowds that are jamming the parks are going to head en masse to the park exit around 12:15 as soon as the fireworks are over. This time was a weak spot in our day. We knew that didn’t want to leave at 12:15, but were on Main Street for the fireworks. This meant that everyone was headed to the exit as we were headed to Adventureland. When we left the Magic Kingdom at 1AM we saw that the bus queue for the All-Stars was still about 15 buses deep and chose to keep on walking to the Contemporary for another cab. It took over an hour and a half to get a cab from the Contemporary but we were able to wait in the warm and comfortable lobby as opposed to standing shoulder to shoulder with the teaming masses in the bus line. Well, 3 of us were warm and comfortable. One of us stayed outside to watch for our ride. So no time was saved, but the experience was far more pleasant. We noticed as we drove out (we took the lesser used road that goes past Fort Wilderness) that traffic was bumper to bumper exiting the Magic Kingdom parking lot and were glad we weren’t sitting in it. Still, it was 3:30AM when we got back to All-Star Music.
All in all, it was a fabulous 22 hour day for us and we’re already looking forward to doing it again next year. Probably from the Contemporary.
Were you also in the Disney Parks for New Year’s Eve? Tell us about it in the comments section.