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Opening Magic Kingdom

Opening Magic Kingdom

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Mastering "Waits" at Walt Disney World

Waiting.  It is inevitable.  If you are traveling to Walt Disney World you will definitely do some waiting, but you may not be waiting for what you might think.

Here are some various “waits” you might encounter and what we do to make them easier.

If you are traveling by plane, the first wait you will encounter is at the airport, waiting for your flight.  We like to arrive at our airport 2 hours in advance so this does mean some waiting, even waiting at the check-in counter.  At this point, everyone has a job—moving luggage, staying together, having ID’s and paperwork handy.  The same is true when we go through security.  I handle the quart size bags, tickets, and ID’s, the boy pushes bags and tubs through the scanner, takes off his shoes, and the husband brings up the rear with everything else.  It took some coordinating at first, but now it’s like clockwork.  We use the time waiting in line to make sure everyone knows what to do. 

Once through security, there is the waiting for the flight.  The boy has a carry-on bag with his items, mostly toys, that he can open and play with during this time.  We also take turns walking throughout the airport.  This is especially helpful for little ones who may have a difficult time sitting for the flight.  There are lots of things to see at an airport—people, machines, airplanes, etc..  The last airport we were in had an art gallery of sorts with sculptures—very interesting.

Waiting for the plane to take off is another unexpected wait.  We resort to hand-held electronic games at this point as they are okay until it is time to turn them off.  Snacks brought with you are also a good thing at this point, but be sure to wipe down hands and surfaces with wipes, as no one wants to be ill on vacation.  The boy now likes to read the SkyMall catalog and airline magazine.

During the plane ride we have movies, games, books, snacks.  A theme you will see throughout our “wait” strategies.

If using Disney’s Magical Express service prior to 10;00 pm, one wait you will get to skip is the wait for your luggage!  Head right to Orlando International’s Magical Express check-in counter, but be prepared for a wait for your bus.  By this point we have stopped to grab a bite to eat and then consume it while waiting for our bus.  Once on the bus, there can be another wait before it gets going and the anticipation is definitely building at this point.  We love to talk to people on the bus and find out what resort they are headed to—as the bus makes stops at multiple resorts, etc.  Often, we have been sought out on the bus as for whatever reason, we look like we have done “this” before.  Maybe it’s the lanyards?  Anyway, folks start asking us questions and we are happy to help.  Once the bus gets rolling the movies and cartoons appear on the screen.  Know this before you find a seat on the bus so that you can position yourself for a good view.  Once again, snacks appear from my magical bag for the bus ride!

At your resort, you will have two lines to choose from when checking in.  If you have checked in on-line before your stay, you get to select that line, which typically is much shorter and faster, but there will be some wait time.  Disney knows this so they have prepared a comfy spot for the kids complete with TV airing Disney cartoons, coloring sheets for the kids, and soft chairs for the adult with the child(ren) while the other adult checks in.  Now, we have done this so many times now that the boy will checkout the TV, but will then make his way to a shop to browse while the husband hangs on to the carry-on bags nearby.  We eventually meet up with filled mugs, a resort map, our Key to the World Cards, and make our way to our room.

The next wait you are likely to experience is a wait for Disney transportation to a theme park, whether it be a bus, monorail, or boat.  We use this time to talk to other Disney guests—you are all there for the same reason!—prepare our strategy when we arrive at our destination.  The ride itself is great as there is usually a lot to see along the way.  If we are waiting for a bus, we like to guess which park it is headed to before it stops or try and be the first one to read the sign on the bus.

Before even getting to the rides and attractions there will be a few more “waits.”  One is the wait for the security bag check before entering a park.  We divide and conquer on this one, each of us—the husband and I—going through a different line so that we aren’t waiting on each other and meet up when we are through the line.  Then, depending on the time of day, there can be the wait for the park to open or a wait in line to get into the park.  If it is early and depending on the park, there may be toys available, like at the Magic Kingdom which offers hula hoops to play with before the park opens.  EPCOT has great Cast Member Interaction before park opening as does Animal Kingdom and Hollywood Studios.  Reading Park Maps and Times Guides at this point is the best use of time so that everyone is familiar with the park and knows where they are going when the park opens.  We get the most questions from other guests at this point in the day, especially at Hollywood Studios.

Most people think that the “waits” will be for rides and attractions and that is somewhat true.  Using Fastpass will minimize wait times for rides and attractions.  Disney has done a great job at making many lines and queues interactive and that eases the pain somewhat of waiting.  Once we start park touring, having a bit of a wait for an attraction is welcomed as it gives us a chance to talk as a family and make decisions about what we are going to do next.  This eliminates the need to try to walk and talk or worse yet, stop and talk when moving from one location to another.  Once we start walking, we don’t stop until we are at our destination, so a bit of a line allows us to regroup.  But if we do encounter a wait for a ride, visiting with other guests, taking pictures, having a snack break, and talking to each other seem to help us pass the time quickly.  (I know, I need to post about how those snacks get in my bag!)

We actually find ourselves waiting more for shows or parades or fireworks or characters.  These are the waits that can be the most difficult.  This is when a new toy (either purchased or brought from home) can be a lifesaver.  For example, the wait for Fantasmic can be 30-40 minutes.  This is when the glow sticks from the dollar store appear and it is also the one time the boy has cotton candy on our trip—and he knows it! 

Waiting for Lights, Motors, Action is eased by the trivia on the big screen with scenes from various movies.  Waiting for Indiana Jones is eased by music and a snack (purchased with Dining Plan snack credits, of course).

When dining at Disney, especially table service locations, there can also be waits—wait for your table and waits for your food.  Depending on the restaurant, the wait to be called for your table can be eased by a TV screen for the kiddos and comfy chairs for the adults (not at all the restaurants, though).  This can also be a great time for toy to appear from a bag.  The year the boy decided he wanted to trade Vinylmation, we would make a trade right before dinner, so he had the new Vinylmation to play with.  It was the best $10 investment we ever made as it was like having a new toy every day—after a trade, for one low price!   I can also recall waiting for our table at Rose & Crown in EPCOT.  We were sitting across from two of the telephone booths in the United Kingdom Pavilion.  Well, I actually have their numbers programmed on my cell phone and we had fun making calls to unsuspecting guests—click here to read more.  It did make the time pass quickly!

If the dining location requires ordering from a menu, there will be a wait for the meal to be served.  We minimize this by making our entire order when the Cast Member comes for our drink order.  This can be done by making decisions quickly or reviewing menus prior to your visit.  Allears.net has a great selection of menus.  If character dining is involved, the wait can include autographs and pictures.  If no characters, we have a hand-held electronic game in our bag.  Dining at Coral Reef at EPCOT offers built in entertainment while dining next to an aquarium. 

While we haven’t mastered the art of waiting, we have perfected a few tricks and strategies.  In summary, they would include the use of Fastpass at any Disney theme park to minimize wait times, taking time to review Park Maps and Times Guides—both adults and children, visiting with other guests or each other, taking pictures, interacting with queues, replenishing with snacks and drinks, and zoning out with a game or hand-held electronic device (used with caution, though).

If guests of all ages have had waiting experiences beyond Walt Disney World, such as at carnivals, waiting at the grocery store, waiting for a movie to start in a theater, waiting their turn at school or in the Dr.’s office, applying those skills to a trip to the most Magical Place on Earth will be key. 

And, know, that waiting can sometimes be a relief. . . from walking, from the elements, from anticipation about being somewhere at a certain time.  Seldom do we find ourselves dreading a wait, but rather looking forward to it.

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