The Magic Kingdom with ride breakdowns and limited FastPass+ options

MBig Thunder (4)y visit to the Magic Kingdom last Sunday could have been a disaster. I waited too long to make FastPass+ reservations, for one thing. When I did – three days before my trip – none were available for Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, and only late afternoon reservations remained for most Fantasyland attractions. Even worse, there were 3 long ride breakdowns during the day I visited – at Pirates, Big Thunder, and the Peoplemover – that would have been hard to handle without a computer to adjust my plan. But it gave us some great ideas for improving the Optimizer, our touring plan software. Here’s how my day unfolded.

Before I left, I made a copy of our standard Magic Kingdom One-Day Touring Plan for Adults. The Magic Kingdom was open from 9 AM to 10 PM, and we’d predicted a crowd level of 6 on our 1-to-10 crowd calendar. I was able to get these FastPasses:

Space Mountain at 9:15 AM

Big Thunder Mountain at 10:15 AM

Peter Pan’s Flight at 5:05 PM

I also set the touring plan walking speed to its fastest setting, and told it to minimize waiting in line. Here’s the touring plan the Optimizer came up with:

  1. Pirates of the Caribbean
  2. Jungle Cruise
  3. The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh
  4. Space Mountain using FastPass+
  5. Haunted Mansion
  6. Splash Mountain
  7. Big Thunder Mountain using FastPass+
  8. Lunch
  9. A Pirate’s Adventure – Treasure of the Seven Seas
  10. Swiss Family Treehouse
  11. The Hall of Presidents
  12. Liberty Square Riverboat
  13. Walt Disney’s Carousel of Progress
  14. Monsters, Inc. Laugh Floor
  15. Tomorrowland Transit Authority Peoplemover
  16. Mickey’s PhilharMagic
  17. Country Bear Jamboree
  18. Enchanted Tiki Room
  19. it’s a small world
  20. Peter Pan’s Flight using Fastpass+
  21. Under the Sea – Journey of the Little Mermaid
  22. Dinner
  23. Seven Dwarfs Mine Train
  24. Evening Parade
  25. Wishes Fireworks

Putting Pirates and Jungle Cruise first is an interesting strategy, and one that I probably wouldn’t have thought of. But the Optimizer knew something I forgot: that FastPass+ has increased standby waits at Pirates of the Caribbean more than any other ride in Walt Disney World. Jungle Cruise’s waits have also increased since FastPass+, so once I remembered those things, this seemed like a reasonable

Ride Breakdown #1 – Pirates of the Caribbean

The park opened a few minutes before 9 AM and, accompanied by the intrepid Laurel, we walked back to the Adventureland bridge, and then to Pirates. When we got to Pirates, we were told the ride was down and would be reopening later in the day. (And yes, the same Castmembers that walked us to Pirates, then turned around and told us Pirates was closed.)

That could have been a big problem without the Optimizer, because I would have had to figure out when to visit Pirates later, taking in to account not only when the ride might be up, but how high wait times would be with a backlog of FastPass+ riders to process. Instead of re-doing my plan, though, I just skipped to Jungle Cruise and let the Optimizer figure it out for me.

There was no wait at Jungle Cruise, and Skipper Alex was excellent. We made it to The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh around 9:11 AM. It had a posted wait of 5 minutes and we waited 2. During those couple of minutes, though, we noticed that Seven Dwarfs might also have had a rough start to the morning – the standby line stretched all the way back to Mad Tea Party, which meant a wait much longer than the 30-minute posted. (It went to 60 right after that.)

We used our Fastpasses to ride Space Mountain next, and the wait was under 5 minutes. From there we headed to Haunted Mansion, where we waited 5 minutes on a posted wait of 10.

I had re-optimized our touring plan while we were in line at Haunted Mansion, and it suggested we try Pirates of the Caribbean next, since Pirates had finally opened around 9:40 AM. We got to Pirates at 10:10 AM, and the posted wait was 30 minutes. We ended up waiting 15, which was pretty good considering the backlog of FastPass+ guests it had to process. (It would be 45 to 50 minutes for much of the afternoon, and Pirates would go briefly offline again around 3:30 PM.)

Ride Breakdown #2 – Big Thunder Mountain Railroad

After Pirates we waited about 20 minutes to ride Splash Mountain. Here’s video of the big drop (sorry about my thumb!):

From there we dried off and headed to Big Thunder Mountain to use our Fastpasses. Right before we got in the Fastpass line, Big Thunder broke down with what was apparently a serious issue – Disney made an announcement over the ride’s loudspeakers and everyone in line turned around and walked out. (It ended up being closed for almost two hours.)

We decided on an early lunch at Columbia Harbour House – I decided to carb load with the hummus sandwich, homemade chips, and an extra side of fries. After that, we played A Pirate’s Adventure in Adventurland before starting an afternoon of low-wait attractions: Swiss Family Treehouse, Hall of Presidents, Liberty Square Riverboat, Walt Disney’s Carousel of Progress, Monsters, Inc. Laugh Floor, TTA, Mickey’s PhilharMagic, Country Bear Jamboree, and Enchanted Tiki Room.

Most of that afternoon was unremarkable. There was no audio narration on the Riverboat, so I may need to create one as backup for the next time. We managed to ride Big Thunder after the Riverboat, and Disney honored our FastPass+ reservations. Oh, and I lost my eyeglasses on the ride, which made the rest of the day a mildly blurry experience, until I could get my backup glasses from the car.

Ride Breakdown #3 – The Tomorrowland Transit Authority Peoplemover

Over in Tomorrowland, the TTA Peoplemover was down most of the afternoon, including when we tried to ride around 3 PM. (It was still down at 7 PM, and we ended up leaving the park without riding.) We skipped that step and walked right in to the next showing of PhilharMagic.

We hit Small World after finishing the Enchanted Tiki Room, with a posted wait of only 15 minutes and an actual wait of less than 10. From there, we rode Peter Pan with our last FastPass+, then had an actual wait of 18 at Under the Sea – Journey of the Little Mermaid.

We decided to skip our scheduled hour-long dinner in the park and finish with Seven Dwarfs Mine Train. The Optimizer probably put 7DMT in the early evening as part of a “wait out the crowds” strategy, knowing that people start to leave the park after the afternoon parade, and that trend accelerates around dinnertime.

We arrived at 7DMT just before 6 PM, and the posted wait was 70 minutes. We were optimistic, though, that the wait would be less than that, because no part of the standby line was visible from outside the ride. Sure enough, we only waited 25 minutes to ride, and that was our longest wait of the day. Also, I’m starting to appreciate 7DMT more as time goes on. It’s never going to be the Magic Kingdom’s best attraction, but as a “first roller coaster” for kids, it does really well.

That ended our day in the Magic Kingdom – 20 rides in 9 ½ hours, with time out for lunch and snacks. For reference, that’s twice as many rides as the average Magic Kingdom guest experiences in a full day, and we left the park 3½ hours before it closed. Our longest wait of the day was that 25 minutes for the Mine Train, even though we’d eventually calculate the actual crowd level as an 8 (from a 6). More importantly, the 3 ride breakdowns started a conversation with our team about how we can better handle ride breakdowns with the Optimizer and Lines app. I’m happy to say that we’re working on something right now, and it should be available to test in a few weeks.

On this trip I also tested the Magic Kingdom touring plan for parents with small children, and the Animal Kingdom one-day touring plan. Leave a comment below if you’d like to hear about those days, or about anything else from my trip. Thanks for reading!

Len Testa

Len Testa is the co-author of the Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World, and has contributed to the Disneyland and Las Vegas Unofficial Guides. Most of his time is spent trying to keep up with the team. Len's email address is len@touringplans.com. You can also follow him on Twitter: @lentesta.

35 thoughts on “The Magic Kingdom with ride breakdowns and limited FastPass+ options

  • March 18, 2016 at 11:24 am
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    I’d be interested in the other touring plans. We’re heading to Disney early June with a 4 & 8 year old so I’m reading all that I can before we leave! I’m also wondering how soon after a new attraction is available does it show up on the touring plans? Thanks!

    • March 18, 2016 at 11:37 am
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      We usually have new attractions available once we know an official opening date. If you’re interested in the Frozen attractions at Epcot, Jessica, then we should have those in place sometime in May. Thanks for reading the blog!

  • March 18, 2016 at 11:32 am
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    I would love to read the AK one day touring plan test. I would also love to hear about a future one that you might do once Rivers Of Light and nighttime Safaris get started. We are visiting in July (not by first choice) and I am now encouraged that you did so well during a crowd level of 8!

    • March 18, 2016 at 11:38 am
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      Thanks Elaine! I’ll write that for next week.

  • March 18, 2016 at 12:30 pm
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    I would love to hear about the additional plans. I’m excited for the changes concerning breakdowns and closures.

  • March 18, 2016 at 12:42 pm
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    Feels like you zig-zagged a lot, such as Philharmagic then Tiki Room then back to Small World. Did it not feel like you were crossing between lands too much?

    • March 18, 2016 at 1:31 pm
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      Hey Jon – I intentionally set the plan to “fast walking speed” and “minimize waiting” – the two extreme ends of those settings. It was just Laurel and me, and we’re fast walkers.

      In essence, I told the optimizer I was willing to walk more to wait less in lines. That’s why you see the moving around between lands. I wouldn’t suggest other folks use those settings, and the defaults are much more mild.

  • March 18, 2016 at 1:25 pm
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    Followed you on twitter that day @ MK. Great to put it altogether on the blog. What do you think is going on with TTA, i was there for a week the previous week, and it was down 3-4 times during that week when we were at MK. We only got to ride it once (our last ride of the trip). Most trips its easy a 3-4 times a trip ride. Do you think its going to have to go back down for a major refub so soon after the last one.

    • March 18, 2016 at 1:32 pm
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      It sure sounds like the TTA needs some love, Ryan, and thanks for following along on Twitter! How was your visit?

      • March 18, 2016 at 1:46 pm
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        Great as always but first trip with a 7 month old, so very different.

  • March 18, 2016 at 5:12 pm
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    I would love to hear about the test of the MK touring plan for parents with small children; we are going April 17-21 with our 2 and 4 year old sons!

  • March 18, 2016 at 5:40 pm
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    Thanks for the post, Len. I appreciate that you showed how flexible the Touring Plan app allows you to be in the park. We will be there in 3 weeks. The “optimize” button will be frequently used by me, especially when the rides have unexpected closures. One again, thank you for the helpful tips and information.

  • March 18, 2016 at 8:50 pm
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    Does the app/touring lines website automatically know when rides are down, or do we have to manually adjust if we skip a ride?

    • March 19, 2016 at 8:18 am
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      Right now it’ll tell you a ride is down. In a couple of weeks it’ll automatically adjust the touring plan. I’ll do another blog post when that’s ready. When’s your trip, Dori?

      • March 19, 2016 at 9:40 pm
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        Hi – We are going this Weds! Visiting MK on Thurs/Sat and Epcot on Fri. Staying at Bay Tower/Contemporary. Excited, but a little nervous about logistics b/c I’m traveling with my parents (age 76) and my husband and 2 kids (ages 6 & 3). I would be lost without your tips and this website, so thank you so much for the hard work!

  • March 18, 2016 at 9:28 pm
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    I love the idea of something that can deal with closed rides. That was an issue on our last trip that I was not sure how to deal with in our touring plan!

    • March 19, 2016 at 8:54 am
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      Thanks Derinda! I’ll post something when this is ready.

  • March 19, 2016 at 8:27 am
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    Hi Len – if you record a narration of the riverboat, can you ask Mike, Mike, Matt, and Annette to help? Eventually we could have a whole library of attractions narrated by our favourite podcasters!

    • March 19, 2016 at 8:54 am
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      Let me see what I can do. 🙂 Thanks Jillian!

      • March 19, 2016 at 10:16 am
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        Thanks Len! I miss the old podcast crew so much but I understand the need to devote time to other things. I would pay for those tracks, by the way!

    • March 30, 2016 at 2:55 pm
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      Second! =)

  • March 19, 2016 at 9:12 am
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    Thanks for all your hard work! After reading this, I think I’m going to use the 1 day touring plans next time we go. We usually go for 9 days total and I’ve made TPs that break the parks down by lands. But I like the idea of doing more of a full day for 1 day and then have the additional days a little more relaxed.

  • March 19, 2016 at 9:37 am
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    I always enjoy your posts, Len. I notice that the posted wait times vs actual wait times were quite different, especially for 7DMT. Any thoughts on why that is? I would think WDW would want to keep the posted times accurate to decrease guest frustration and keep the crowds moving, but I wonder if there is a little bit of psychological magic-making on their part in making guests think the wait is longer, then surprising with an actual wait time that is shorter than expected.

  • March 19, 2016 at 3:15 pm
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    This is a great post! I’ve used touring plans for several years and find them most helpful. Love the idea of knowing what’s closed before I walk all the way there to find it closed. Going in April with my 16 month old granddaughter and would love to see your post about MK with small children. Thanks!

  • March 19, 2016 at 10:17 pm
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    Was it the 13th when you were there or the week before? We spent twelve hours at Magic Kingdom on the 13th but didn’t notice any breakdowns of the People mover or Pirates. We used a personalized touring plan without the Lines app and hit 20 attractions as well. No waits longer than 25 minutes.

    • March 20, 2016 at 9:37 am
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      Ah, that’s great, Paula! I was there on the 6th for this plan, the 7th for the MK Kids plan, and the 10th for the AK plan.

  • March 19, 2016 at 10:21 pm
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    Did you get your glasses back? At $500+ a pair, mine are expensive to replace. Any straps you suggest?

    • March 20, 2016 at 9:37 am
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      I went to Lost & Found over at the TTC, but they hadn’t got them a few days after I lost them. They’re just gone, I think.

      One good thing: inside the Lost & Found office is a cartoon of Mickey dressed as Sherlock Holmes, complete with hat and magnifying glass.

  • March 20, 2016 at 8:37 am
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    I too would love to hear about your MK and AK touring plans with small children. We leave for our trip in 53 days and I’m in “tweaking” mode.

    • March 20, 2016 at 9:41 am
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      I’ll get those out this week and next. Thanks Alyssa!

  • March 25, 2016 at 10:40 am
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    Trying to work on our touring plans for June but not able to use the Frozen attraction for Epcot or the night time Safari and night time show at Animal Kingdom. When will these be available so that we can start to plan them into our week?

    • March 25, 2016 at 10:42 am
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      As soon as Disney sets schedules for the AK safari and Rivers of Light, we’ll have them on the plan. Right now the park closes before 7 pm, but the sun doesn’t set until around 8 pm. I don’t think they’re going to run the nighttime show during the day, so the park schedule needs updating. As soon as it is, we’ll have it.

      Same thing for the Frozen attractions. Disney has said “summer” for those, but that could be anything from June to September, I think.

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  • March 30, 2016 at 2:57 pm
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    Very interested in the touring plans with small kids one! We are travelling with six adults and eight kids under the age of 10 in October, so it will be very helpful!

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