If you want to experience Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance, plus headliners in both Epcot and Hollywood Studios, this 1-Day Park Hopper Itinerary is for you. In it, we’ll offer a step-by-step plan of attack for leveraging FastPass+ and rope drop to experience some of Walt Disney World’s most popular rides–and make the Resistance Run in less than twelve parsecs!
Our other Walt Disney World itineraries avoid park hopping because it typically is not a method of saving time. While bouncing around can sometimes extend your day by visiting the park that opens earliest or closest latest, it’s not something around which we can build an itinerary. Usually.
Disney’s Hollywood Studios and Epcot are a huge exception to this. In the era of Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance, DHS typically opens one hour earlier than Epcot, and the two parks are connected via a walking path, plus the Skyliner gondolas and boats. Strategically bouncing between the two in the same day isn’t just possible, right now, it’s advisable…
More so than due to the staggered park opening times, the park hopping advantage comes due to the ebb and flow of crowds. The “new normal” at Disney’s Hollywood Studios is wait times peaking by around 9 am. That is inconsistent with the three other Walt Disney World theme parks, but is likely to remain the case at DHS due to an influx of rope drop crowds for Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance and due to the park’s shows not starting until later in the day.
Before we delve into the itinerary, we should warn you that this breaks a couple traditional “rules” of Walt Disney World itineraries, offers some gambles, and is not for the faint of heart. In a sense, it’s the perfect plan for any smugglers, rogues, outlaws, or bounty hunters willing to roll the dice a bit and do the Resistance Run. In our experience, the rewards outweigh the risks…
The first gamble is that you won’t be making FastPass+ ride reservations until later in the day at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. If you’re concerned that this approach will preclude you from scoring additional FastPass+, check out same-day availability for Disney’s Hollywood Studios FastPasses on any random day from home. Unless you’re jonesing to access MuppetVision via the FastPass line, you won’t miss out. It’s pointless.
Our recommendation on the FastPass+ front is timing your selections to begin at around 3 pm and choosing Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway, Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster, and Toy Story Mania. Slinky Dog Dash is an equal alternative to Runaway Railway on the top tier, but we’d caution against doing Millennium Falcon Smugglers Run. Tower of Terror is a good back-up to one of the aforementioned second tier priorities.
The second rule we’re breaking is having an itinerary that’s necessarily fluid and cannot conceivably be planned down to the minute. As someone who is decidedly not about planning Walt Disney World days down to the minute with binders and spreadsheets, this is actually my favored approach–and one you’ll find in all of our itineraries, which allow room for spontaneity. The third broken rule is bouncing around, which is covered above. The final gamble we’ll cover in the step by step plan for the Resistance Run…
If you want to do Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance, our recommendation is to arrive at Disney’s Hollywood Studios approximately 30 minutes before park opening. As soon as everyone in your party scans into the park…leave. The My Disney Experience boarding pass feature “unlocks” by scanning into the park.
The Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance virtual queue system is not location-based. You can join a boarding group from outside Disney’s Hollywood Studios, but only after everyone in your party has entered DHS.
International (Gateway) Flight to Epcot – Once you’ve entered and exited Disney’s Hollywood Studios to unlock the virtual queue for Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance, you can either walk over to Epcot via the Crescent Lake walking path or taking “Disney’s Most Magical Flight” via Skyliner and connect at Caribbean Beach.
We personally prefer walking as it’s a known quantity and we are in complete control of our fate. However, you have a decent margin for error here, so taking the Skyliner should be perfectly fine even if you encounter a line at Caribbean Beach or a brief stoppage somewhere.
Join the Resistance! – When official park opening time of Disney’s Hollywood Studios rolls around, you’ll be eligible to join the virtual queue for Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance. Instead of following our recommendations for scoring the lowest boarding pass number possible, we’d encourage a bit of hesitation here. This is the final and biggest gamble. We’d only recommend doing this if you have a second day during which you can attempt the Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance boarding pass dash.
How long you wait before attempting to pull a boarding group depends upon crowds and your risk appetite. Primary or guaranteed boarding groups tend to fill up the first minute the park is open. Backup groups fill within anywhere between one minute and a little over an hour. Our recommendation most days would be to wait about 30 seconds before joining. (Get all the way through the steps to join to make sure you can, just pause on the confirm screen.) In a perfect world, this will put you in a boarding group above 50 but below 70.
(Note: It’s presently unclear whether you can tap into Epcot before joining a boarding group. The only times thus far when this would be applicable are when morning Extra Magic Hours are held at Epcot and we haven’t had a chance to try yet. In the future, if/when DHS moves to 9 am opening times, this will be relevant–we’ll have an answer for you by then.)
Frozen Ever After Rope Drop – Entering Epcot through International Gateway puts you in World Showcase, and closer to the Norway pavilion than the vast majority of guests, who come through Future World.
On average, this means you’ll have minimal wait for Frozen Ever After–under 15 minutes, hopefully. In our tests, we’re usually on and off Frozen Ever After in less than 15 minutes.
The Land Pavilion – The biggest impediment to doing Soarin’ Around the World with a short wait is the 10-minute walk to the attraction. Once there, you’re likely to encounter a posted wait time of 30 minutes or less.
For Soarin’ Around the World, that’s not really a big deal–the amount of that time you’re waiting before the merge point is minimal (if anything), which is the key factor here, and why you can forgo FastPass+ for this attraction. While you’re in the area, do Living with the Land if you so desire.
Catch the EAC! – We normally refer to this as “riding the wave,” but with the next stop being the Seas with Nemo & Friends, that feels more apt.
Dot that, then Spaceship Earth, followed by Mission Space. Skip any of these attractions if the posted wait is above 25 minutes if you’re planning a second day at Epcot (and you should).
Test Trackvia Single Rider – In theory, you could do Test Track right after Frozen Ever After via the normal standby line. The problem we’ve encountered with attempting that is a line that’s already prohibitively long. Even popping over here to check the wait time after you do Frozen Ever After wastes valuable minutes during which the line for Soarin’ Around the World builds.
Doing Test Track via Single Rider will likely still result in your longest wait of the day at Epcot, but it should be half of what you’d wait in the standby line. If you’re unwilling to do Test Track via Single Rider, you’ll want to revisit the attraction on another day.
Future World Cleanup – Do anything else that you’ve yet to experience at the front of the park, whether that mean Journey into Imagination, meet & greets, or simply spending 45 minutes gazing longingly at the manatees.
Lunch – From there, it should be time for a late lunch (hopefully you had a big breakfast!). We suggest the new Regal Eagle Smokehouse for something crowd-pleasing or Tangierine Cafe for more adventurous cuisine.
World Showcase Free Time – Enjoy World Showcase as time allows–either until your Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance boarding group is called or your first FastPass+ time. Note that return windows for Rise of the Resistance vary and are either 1 or 2 hours depending upon the time of day.
Boarding Pass & FastPasses – Upon returning to Disney’s Hollywood Studios, use your FastPass+ entitlements and (hopefully) your Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance boarding pass.
We’re anticipating that, in total, this will take until around 6 pm. However, the time could vary considerably depending upon the Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance, including whether the return line is long and if the attraction breaks down.
Evening Efficiency – All lines at Disney’s Hollywood Studios are shortest in the park’s final two operating hours. There is also rampant wait time inflation, meaning that the posted 60 minute wait might actually be a 20 minute wait, or in the case of Tower of Terror, a near walk-on. (Something we’ve experienced many times.)
What you do at this point is really up to you. We’d recommend starting with Millennium Falcon Smugglers Run and then evaluating how much time you have for other attractions. Do whatever time allows, and then jump into line for Slinky Dog Dash minutes before park closing. There’s a decent chance that you’ll either see the fireworks while on the ride, or shortly after getting off. Toy Story Land is actually a decent spot to watch the fireworks–just minus all of the clipart projections.
It should go without saying, but you’re going to skip a lot in both parks with this 1-Day Epcot & Disney’s Hollywood Studios Itinerary. Neither of these are half-day parks. To the contrary, it normally takes over one full day in each to experience everything they have to offer. To be abundantly clear, we’re not suggesting that you should only spend a day combined in these two parks.
Rather, we’re offering an approach that strategizes around Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance without simply throwing your hands up in the air and waiting in 100+ minute rope drop lines at Disney’s Hollywood Studios because you’re “already there and what else is there to do?!?” This plan addresses that common complaint, tackling many or most of the headliners in each park, allowing you to take a more leisurely pace on subsequent days. In the event that you want to go hard and try for Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance again, we’ll be back with a “Second Day Smugglers Strategy” in the near future. Stay tuned for that.
Have you tried the “Resistance Run” or a similar plan of attack for juggling Epcot and Disney’s Hollywood Studios? How did it work out for you? Any tweaks you’d make? Do you think this plan makes sense, or is it an overzealous amount to accomplish in a single day? Do you agree or disagree with our approach? Any questions? Hearing feedback about your experiences is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!