When we decided kind of last minute (just a few weeks before our trip) to do the Magic Kingdom during our latest visit to Florida, I knew I needed to start researching a game plan. I’m kind of an obsessive planner, and after our last trip to the Magic Kingdom I knew that planning was necessary to a happy and ride-filled day. Especially since the only time we’re ever able to go is during Disney Peak Season :/
I thought I was already kind of an expert after learning the hardest lesson EVER during a failed New Year’s Eve Magic Kingdom trip (we were turned away because they were AT CAPACITY at 11:00 AM). Little did I know, there was still so much to learn about doing the MK the most efficiently.
With me being a dance teacher and having to work around when our studio is closed for break, we basically only ever get to the Magic Kingdom during their busiest times of year, otherwise known as DISNEY PEAK SEASON. I’m here to tell you, just because it might be Peak Season, it doesn’t mean you have to wait more than 15 minutes in line! You just have to be smart about it and make a few tough choices.
Here’s what we did to ensure a fun day at Disney’s Magic Kingdom during Peak Season (we went the Thursday before Easter) with no longer than a 15 minute wait in line:
1. Download the My Disney Experience app
The first step to this intricate plan is to install the My Disney Experience app on your phone. This is where you will complete the next few steps and also use it to keep an eye on wait times while you’re at the park itself.
2. Buy your tickets in advance
We bought our tickets through the My Disney Experience app mainly to save time at ticketing, but also for the following BIG reason… (no, tickets aren’t cheaper in advance)
3. Schedule your fast passes as soon as possible
I learned this tip the hard way. I’ve been waiting for 2 years to go on the Seven Dwarfs Mine Cart ride. The last time we were there, wait times were never less than an hour (and went up to 2 and a half hours wait time!) and Fastpasses were not available the day of. My goal this time was to get Fastpasses so that we could make sure to ride this time. Unfortunately, no Fastpasses were available for this ride when we looked the night before. They were also unavailable for some of my other favorites such as Space Mountain, Peter Pan, and Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. This made for some tough choices in scheduling our day.
I learned that Disney resort guests can select Fastpasses up to 60 days in advance of their trip and regular guest can select them up to 30 days in advance. And people actually do this! That’s why I couldn’t get any Fastpasses for the Seven Dwarfs ride. I thought we were being smart selecting ours the night before, lesson learned. Selecting them the night before probably did help, but they were still very limited. I couldn’t imagine trying to select them the day of.
4. Plan your ride route
After selecting your Fastpasses, plan out which rides to tackle first once the park opens that you don’t have Fastpasses for. Research which rides tend to get the most busy (my favorite site to plan this is Undercover Tourist). Our favorites that we couldn’t get Fastpasses for were Space Mountain, Buzz Lightyear, Big Thunder Mountain, and Peter Pan. The Seven Dwarfs ride already had a 40 minute wait before we arrived thanks to extended magic hours, so that one was out.
We knew Tomorrowland was close to the gates, so it was pretty clear that we would get to Space Mountain and Buzz Lightyear while the lines were still short. By the time we were done with those (we pretty much walked right on to both!), Peter Pan already had a 40 minute wait so we decided to make a bee-line to Frontierland and Big Thunder Mountain that had only a 10 minute wait. I’ve done Peter Pan enough times that I was OK missing it this once.
Poor Bean was a little white-faced by the end of 2 roller coaster rides back to back, but she insisted they were her favorites that day!
5. Arrive 30 minutes before the park opens
I talked about this tip in my current most popular Disney post, but it remains the key to all Disney success. Plan to arrive at the Magic Kingdom parking gates at least a half hour before the park opens. I timed it, and it took exactly 40 minutes from the time we paid for parking until we walked through the Magic Kingdom gates. Granted, there was a bathroom stop and a slight delay at Will Call (it’s a long story) but it takes some time to park, take the tram to ticketing, and then find transportation to the park itself.
On some days, resort guests will already have an hour head start as they did the day we went thanks to Extended Magic Hours. If you’re a regular Disney pleb as we’ve always been, you’ll want to kick off your ride schedule as soon as you can.
BONUS PRO TIP: convince your kid that taking a photo in front of their favorite characters is just as good as taking a photo WITH their favorite characters. This has worked quite well for us the last 2 trips, and saved us at least an hour wait time!
I kept mentioning to my husband how quickly the day was going, I think our efficient planning was to “blame” for this. We were at the park for a little over 7 hours and experienced all of the following…
- Space Mountain
- Buzz Lightyear
- Big Thunder Mountain Railroad
- snack break + Muppets Great Moments in American History Show
- Swiss Family Robinson Treehouse
- Aladdin’s Magic Carpets
- The Enchanted Tiki Room
- Pirates of the Caribbean [FASTPASS+] 60 min standby
- Lunch at Cosmic Ray’s (we scored one of the last tables!)
- The Tomorrowland Peoplemover (no matter how basic, still a fav of mine)
- Haunted Mansion [FASTPASS+] 60 min standby
- Move it, Shake it, Dance & Play it Street Party (Bean got to dance by Woody and Jessie! It was so cute.)
- Tomorrowland Speedway [FASTPASS+] 60 min standby
- Souvenir shopping on Main Street
- numerous bathroom stops in between
I’m telling you, from the time we parked the car until we got back to it, the day flew by with rides and entertainment. I’m not sure if that’s a good thing or not, but I know that I got to enjoy all of my most favorite rides and more without any frustrations or boredom with long lines!
Could we have stayed the entire day and experienced even more? Probably. But with having a 5 year old in tow and after only sleeping about 5 hours the night before so we could arrive first thing in the morning, we felt completely satisfied with what we did with our action-packed 7 hours at the Magic Kingdom. This was the 4th time I’ve been to the Magic Kingdom, and I can say without a doubt that we saw and did more during this trip than any of the other, LONGER trips before.
Stay tuned for more awesome Florida vacation recaps and tips!