Hollywood Studios Hours: This Isn’t Working.
Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance has been on a roll at Walt Disney World, getting through over 130 boarding groups each of the last 4 days, including 146 yesterday. On several dates, the ride has maxed out early, meaning it could’ve gotten through even more backup groups had they been distributed. We’re not quite ready to trumpet these as reliability gains as a long-term or lasting improvement, having made that mistake once before.
In addition to this, there’s more good news. Walt Disney World has once again extended park hours for DHS for the second half of March 2020. Disney’s Hollywood Studios now opens at 8 am and closes at 8:30 pm from the opening day of Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway through March 28, 2020.
The two weeks after that and through April 19, 2020 are likely to be among the busiest of the year thanks to a combination of schools being off for spring break and the Easter holiday, plus the Star Wars runDisney weekend. As such, we’d expect those hours to likewise be extended to an 8 am opening. As good as this all sounds, it’s still not enough…
Over the past two weeks, we’ve felt the “consequences” of Disney’s Hollywood Studios moving from opening at 7 am to 8 am. As stressed in our last several posts about the boarding pass dash for Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance, the delayed opening time makes it easier for more guests to arrive at DHS by rope drop. Many might argue it’s great for them since arriving before 7 am is a non-starter, whereas 8 am is challenging but doable with some effort.
However, this is a double-edged sword. The later opening time incentivizes more guests to visit Disney’s Hollywood Studios in the morning, which in turn makes scoring a boarding pass more competitive. The crowds we’ve observed for 7 am rope drop as compared to 8 am rope drop bear this out, as do statistics. More guests have been arriving at DHS before 8 am on mornings with the later opening than on mornings with the earlier opening.
Stated differently, on days when Disney’s Hollywood Studios opened at 7 am, fewer guests arrived before park opening plus the following hour leading up to 8 am, than are currently arriving by 8 am. Back in the “good ole days” of 7 am openings, it wasn’t uncommon to snag a backup boarding group at 8:30 am, often much later. Almost every day for the last two weeks or so, all boarding groups have been gone by 8:05 am. Often earlier.
In case I’m still not properly articulating this, above is a graph from thrill-data.com that shows the distribution of boarding groups since Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance opened. As you can see, back in December (before the distinction between primary and back-up boarding groups) when the park was quietly opening at 6:30 am or so, boarding groups were often lasting until 9 am or later. (Note the gaps between the green and red plot points on the graph before January.)
As that moved forward to official 7 am opening times and a distinction was made between primary and backup boarding groups, the guaranteed ones went quickly but backup groups were still available over an hour after park opening most days. Move forward to 8 am openings, and we’re now seeing all three plot points on top of one another, meaning all boarding groups are gone immediately.
In other words, the Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance boarding pass dash has slowly morphed over time into something more closely resembling a pure lottery on some mornings. It started as a pure first-come, first-served system back in early to mid-December. Many guests who didn’t want to get up before 5 am understandably objected to this.
That approach was modified to the hybrid first-come, first-served and lottery system we saw from mid-December until mid-February. Since you could arrive an hour after rope drop and still get a boarding pass with a very high chance of riding most days, this wasn’t a lottery. It was the approach that we viewed as most equitable.
Currently, attempting to join the Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance virtual queue is often a lottery, albeit one with a very high success rate. With few exceptions, you must be in the park at rope drop in order to obtain a spot in the virtual queue–and luck determines whether it’s a guaranteed group or a backup one. If you have problems with My Disney Experience or need help from the Guest Experience Team, forget about riding at all.
To compound matters, if you “lose” this lottery or even don’t perform well in it, your alternatives are not great. Slinky Dog Dash and Millennium Falcon Smugglers Run are instantly posting triple-digit wait times, and crowds are massive everywhere else in Disney’s Hollywood Studios. As we’ve suggested in our Park Hopper Strategy for Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance, your best bet is leaving for a couple of hours and rope dropping Epcot.
This problem is not going away anytime soon. Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway opens next week and will provide Disney’s Hollywood Studios with sorely-needed capacity. However, it’ll also draw more guests to the park, and those people aren’t just going to do that one new attraction and leave.
Then there’s spring break followed by Easter. Those crowds will start materializing around March 13, 2020 and will continue through Easter. Don’t expect peak season crowds to let up until April 20, 2020 due to a combo of lingering Easter crowds and the Star Wars Rival Run Weekend.
During those peak season dates, expect all Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance boarding groups to instantly fill up at park opening most days. That’s a long time for this problem to persist.
The silver lining is that there should be a temporary reprieve for the next 10 days or so, and all backup groups are unlikely to fill up instantly in this window of time before Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway opens. After that, all bets are off.
Which brings us back to the 7 am park openings. At least for now, those appear to be the “friction” that is needed to discourage enough Walt Disney World guests from attempting to join the Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance virtual queue at or shortly after official park opening time at Disney’s Hollywood Studios.
We’re not contending that this approach is perfect and doesn’t likewise have its own losers. Obviously it does–the whole idea is to discourage some guests from participating. Literally every single approach to allocating capacity for Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance is going to suffer from that problem due to a combination of high demand, low supply, and frequent breakdowns. There is no possible way to make everyone happy.
However, we contend that it’s the best system given the circumstances. It’s better for guests to be able to make the decision to opt out ahead of time, rather than putting in all of the effort of arriving early, using a park day at DHS, still potentially being denied a chance to ride, and then having to deal with the crowds & chaos. This is what has been happening with the current 8 am openings, which makes for an unpleasant day at Disney’s Hollywood Studios.
Aside from the 7 am opening plus virtual queue, no other approach presents predictability and efficiency. If Rise of the Resistance were standby-only, the queue would fill up very early in the day and have to be cut at an undetermined time. That’s assuming there’s enough physical space to put everyone (there isn’t) and the line wouldn’t have to be dumped multiple times due to ride breakdowns (it would). Anyone thinking they could simply hop into line at the end of the day and wait it out should perish the thought.
Opening an hour earlier is also better than staying open an hour later. While we firmly believe Walt Disney World park hours should be extended considerably across the board (the current closing times are laughable given the peak crowd levels this winter), the solution here is not simply operating Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance later into the night.
Later closing times draw in more guests who want to take advantage of evening hours in the parks, which is the exact opposite of the goal here. It seems counterintuitive, but it’s the same idea as opening DHS an hour later–many guests strongly prefer staying late, which means a 10 pm closing would induce more demand/attendance.
There’s also the fact that Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance still needs significant overnight maintenance. Operating the attraction from 8 am until 10 pm daily is simply not in the cards, as ideal as that might be for addressing its current capacity woes.
If anything, the other parks should have later closing times–especially Magic Kingdom–on a nightly basis. That’s tangential to the main point here, but the current crowds nonetheless necessitate it, and longer hours elsewhere at Walt Disney World could help pull guests away from Disney’s Hollywood Studios.
Ultimately, the current approach for allocating ride capacity at Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance is not working with Disney’s Hollywood Studios opening at 8 am. Even as it has come under considerable criticism, we have been staunch defenders of the virtual queue and boarding pass system. Throughout this, we’ve been of the perspective that any scheme will create winners and losers, and this is the most sensible for creating “lemonade out of lemons.”
However, that’s in large part true because the virtual queue previously valued the time of guests, offered a predictable payoff, and favored tourists over locals (at least on weekdays). So long as you made the effort to arrive by 7 am, you’d be rewarded with a boarding group–maybe not early in the day, but at some point. Now, you can make the effort to arrive early, do everything right, and still come up empty-handed some mornings. In the process, you’re pretty much committing to spending time in Disney’s Hollywood Studios, which may not be ideal given the wait times and crowds elsewhere in the park.
If you’re planning on visiting the new land, you’ll also want to read our Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge Guide. This covers a range of topics from basics about the land and its location, to strategically choosing a hotel for your stay, recommended strategy for the land, and how to beat the crowds. It’s a good primer for this huge addition. As for planning the rest of your trip, we have a thorough Walt Disney World Planning Guide.
Do you agree with our assessment that Disney’s Hollywood Studios needs to return to 7 am official opening times for Easter and spring break season? Alternatively, do you prefer the later opening time even if it means scoring a boarding group is more difficult? Do you plan on visiting Disney’s Hollywood Studios in March or April 2020? Do you agree or disagree with our advice and assessment? Any questions? Hearing your feedback–even when you disagree with us–is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!
Got into the park at 7:00am, Ride sold out at 7:01am please let me know how I can plan this better? Enjoy my money you just got from me, Disney. because I will die before I ever spend a penny in your Theme parks again.
Thanks to Tom and all for the great information. We were there last week 2/28 to 3/7 and were able to ride ROR both on Sunday and again on Wednesday. Both times we used the Skyliner from Carribean Beach. They didn’t let us on until about 7:28 but we were inside the park by 7:42 with plenty of time to get ready for the boarding group dash. we choose a spot with good wifi but away from all the crowds hoping that would improve our access. We got boarding group 40 first time but the second time i marked one of the 10 in our group that was not there and it error-ed out. I thought I was dead but I quickly removed that person and still got backup group group 98 which went off at about 3pm. It is a great ride and I was surprised at all the things I noticed on the second ride. Thanks again to all for the help in preparing and making our trip a success.
Thanks to this blog, I totally knew what to do: First, prep my kid that we might not get to ride Rise of the Resistance. We were at the gate by 6:15am, in the dark!! They let us in at 7 and we power-walked to the start of Galaxy’s Edge for the “rope drop.” We were close to the front of the line, and the entire walkway behind us as far as the eye could see was filled up within minutes. I stayed out of the MDE app and at 8:00am ON THE DOT I entered the app, hit the “join a boarding group” button, picked the both of us and hit “done.” We were Group 31 which got called by 10am. We then got herded up to Smuggler’s Run (herded for real! The cast members form a line and keep you to the right!) and basically walked on that ride. Then we spent some time looking around the land, which was pretty cool. The RotR ride was worth the hype! Then we ate and took pictures of ships and went into all the buildings. It was Lightsaber Meet-Up Day or something, a busy Saturday, and it was packed by noon. Since we’d been up so early and Star Wars was the only thing my kid cared about, we rode the Skyliner all the way around and then went back to the pool for a swim. Doable on a busy Saturday? Yes, but we know we were lucky! It was wicked fun, though.
I think that requiring your entire party to be in the parks in order to get a boarding pass is half the problem, its filling up the park to an uncomfortable amount super early in the morning and people are unhappy, children are irritable and the park is unbearable to be in with that many people. They should allow one person to enter the park and grab a fastpass for their whole family then the rest can come when they are needed and allow the other rides to be less crowded and more staggered. This will also allow other parks to fill up while people wait for their group to be called at HS. Dragging an entire family of 4 out of bed at the crack of dawn is the surest way to have angry people at the customer service line and ruin other peoples vacations
@Obleena good point actually. Having people in the park unnecessarily is not good but I guess it’s because if they get one of the early groups and people are at the resort they won’t get there in time.
We are planning a trip in August (I’m hot just thinking about it), and continue to wonder how things will be working for RoTR by then. This idea seems the most logical to me, and one I hadn’t really thought much of. Initially, it seemed fair to me that all people wanting to ride should have to be in the park, but considering the considerable crowds in the park BECAUSE of that, this seems like a good way to alleviate some of that early morning crowding. Once you have gotten your boarding group you can alert your other family members. And, if they don’t arrive in time to actually enter the queue, then the passes are forfeited. I’m sure its not that simple, but it sure seems better than the current state of affairs
i agree 100% an earlier park opening would help increase the chances of getting a boarding group. id take it a step further and say pushing it back to 0630 is the answer and closing it at 8pm to give them more time for maintenance overnight.
Why would people get up that early for an attraction you ask? because THEY DO! for every family that thinks this is too much work for a vacation i can promise there are 3 others that are willing to go for it. the proof is in the crowds you see when you arrive for rope drop, i saw it first hand. the demand is SIMPLY THERE.
unfortunately the only reason i can imagine that disney has later opening times and earlier closing times is it improves cast member morale and is a cost cutting measure. in my opinion the optimal solution to handle guest demand for RotR is being open 6am to 11pm, but im sure thats not practical, or at least not something disney wants to spend extra parts if their budget on.
i have ultimate respect for anyone that thinks this whole BG process is too much to handle for one single attraction. i fully realize there is much more to do at WDW to get the most out of your vacation.
what that likely means though is that for the forseeable future you wont be able to experience RotR because they simply dont have a solution in place to accomodate 100% of the patrons.
I am def in the camp that says the extra effort was WORTH it to experience this attraction, and im just a casual star wars fan! But until Disney finds a more permanent solution, including making the ride more reliable, it looks like this debate will continue for many more months, if not years. im anxious to see what happens.
People are right but people are also miserable. I prefer less lines but that just means more raises in price. Sad that so many Americans can afford vacations isn’t it (sarcastic). Be happy as you can and enjoy the time. If it becomes too much I recommend visiting one of our beautiful national parks. There you will find peace and beauty.
Obtaining a BG for ROTR seems like a minor problem, a small blip in the course of life, compared to the odd events that occurred at Disney parks yesterday, 2/27 (see Tom’s latest blog) and other things in the news.
With the closure of yet another Disney theme park (Tokyo) due to coronavirus, and significant, daily drops in the Dow, not to mention fear and panic of a pandemic, I have to imagine concerns have shifted somewhat and priorities have changed. People are now worried about their health and investments. Most are concerned about the coronavirus reaching their state, town, neighborhood. Any one of these issues would be reason enough to cancel a Disney trip or delay booking a future one. Can’t say I blame them. The thought has also crossed my mind (we’re booked for end of April). I’m not ready to throw in the towel yet, but events could change that.
We could be heading for a recession. May or may not affect the affluent, but sure as hell will affect the average Jane or Joe guest, nationally and internationally. Will this be the self correction Disney World needs? Remains to be seen. In the meantime, stay healthy and keep an eye on your investments. A down market is always a good time to buy.
We still had a great time. Get to Animal Kingdom an hour before opening and go straight to Avatar Flight of Passage. It’s incredible. Do the same at Hollywood Studios for Smugglers Run and hope the app works for Rise. Try to get Slinky fast pass because there’s no way that ride is worth the 3 hour wait.
My family loved what Disneyworld was in the earlier years and we spent roughly 17 years of vacations between 2000 and 2017 going. Thing was it definitely became more of a competitive and disappointing vacation each year even with extreme planning to go in less busy times. Problem you could feel the potential of how fun it could possibly be and remember the earlier better times so you just had to keep trying and then wound up so disappointed. Why disappointed? I could write a book on the good and bad but here are some examples and keep in mind we always researched and went slow crowd times. Standing in line safari ride at Animal Kingdom with disabled daughter who has somehow had the physical strength to wait in line for over an hour and she just walks with a limp and the attendant sees her and elderly folks who they think are walking too slow and says to the people “ pass the person if they not moving, but keep the line going”. Careful planning with what was my terminal I’ll husband’s trip, and I was delighted that parades were now with fast pass so we wouldn’t be pushed a mile away trying to view since there was minimum rides he could do. Arrive early wheelchair and told no wheelchairs in fast pass area, didn’t know that when signing up on line ahead for limited 3 per day fast passes. Helped him out of wheelchair and attendant shows us our fast pass spot 4 inches by 4 inch in an extremely crowded you will have to sit on the ground and wait because you had to be here 90 minutes early. Telling that to man with severe back issues from multiple surgeries. Gave up and left and it took 45 minutes to work our way thru the crowd to find where attendant put wheelchair. New ride at that time 7 dwarf ride waited with him and daughter with autism 90 minutes and ride broke down and closed lost our fast passes. Came back later and same deal and said something to attendant about how disappointing it was and he looks at my 30 year old developmentally delayed daughter and actually says these rides are for children anyway. Wrote a review on special needs moms website not really being critical of Disney but just sharing that I just didn’t think Disneyworld was a good match for a relaxing vacation for adult children with mental delays as it had been years before when families weren’t forced to become so competitive and a disney rep tracked me down trying to get me to take it down offering tickets and I thanked him but told him that wasn’t was I was after I seriously just wanted to save those in my situation some heartache from money loss for a bad match for a vacation. He got angry at me and called back several times like I didn’t have right to say no and even the receptionist in the office starting asking me what was wrong with him he was angry. I tried to tell him we had just been on vacation last month and I couldn’t come up with travel money plus time off from work even if the park tickets were free and to be honest it was such hard work trying to have a good time we were still trying to recover. Ended up taking the tickets that were non transferable just because I wanted him to leave me alone. We went again a year later when they were about to expire and still found ourselves waiting in line for 40-50 minutes just to get a dole whip, found ourselves only able to manage 3- 15 minute rides in about 5 hours walking thru crowds and line wait times, walking thru stores so crowded. Thing is that it has made the families mean and they will shove and push to get something for their money. Disney is trying to look toward only the more wealthy to offer guided tours and advantages that middle class can’t afford. The commercials are a joke where it shows people running and skipping thru not a care in the world instead of stuffed like sardines with agitated aggressive strollers threatening the back of your legs and standing so far away from outdoor shows and parades that you can only make out shapes. However, years ago it was magical and like I said the shows and rides are talented but it just tempts you and leaves you feeling cheated because you didn’t come in ready to fight to get what you paid for.
I totally get what you’re saying here. My husband and I just got back from Disney World last week and I definitely noticed we had a much less magical experience. The crowds were so bad that my husband and I basically had to walk separately and constantly go around people saying we’ll just meet up at the next ride which is pathetic. And before someone tells me to go a less crowded time, we can’t. My husband is a teacher and I’m used to the crowds. I guess my tolerance is less the more I have to pay as years go on. We spent two days at Hollywood studios trying to get a boarding pass for RotR even taking a lift from our hotel to get there early one day with no success. I feel like you have to now put so much time and effort into figuring out which fast passes to get what days to go to what park that it’s not enjoyable anymore you have to pick your restaurants months in advance and then get your fast fastpasses to somehow coordinate with those restaurants which pretty much dictates what parks you are going to be on what days so there is no flexibility. I definitely left this vacation thinking I’ll try Universal next tine which is a first for me. I just feel like there aren’t enough rides and too much construction (esp. in Epcot) restricting movement to handle the crowds. I’m not giving up on Disney (too many fond memories like you say) but for the first time I don’t feel the rush to get back there. I think I’ll wait for things to settle down and hopefully a better fastpass system. I will say that the skyliner is amazing and if you do go back with your disabled daughter, get a hotel on the skyliner!!!
My family is headed to DHS on 4.22. The morning that i woke up to book our fast passes our internet was out (go figure) and i sat frantically trying to book everything on my phone! I still managed to get on by like 702 but slinky and mickey and minnies rar were both already gone. We have zero interest in star wars and really just want one of these two rides. I’ve seen some other folks posting on here that they managed to snag passes for one or both of these for dates in March and i cant fathom how! My daughter really wanted to ride slinky the last time we took her 2 yrs ago but couldn’t get a pass that time either. Does anyone have any tips, strategies, or suggestions for when i should try checking availability?
@Kelly, go at rope drop straight to those rides. Lines are apparently better then. Have your MDE app open and keep checking as well, ppl will be shuffling things around. I was on at 7am and the same thing, I was trying for Smugglers and Runaway Railway, both gone, then suddenly RR appeared and I snagged it. Someone must have released them. I’d keep checking from home too. Go in to whatever your current Tier 1 ride is and click to change to see what the current selections are, you never know. Ppl are always messing around and may release theirs or maybe they have to change their dates, FP+’s get erased then. Also monitor wait times from home, at least you can mentally prepare for the wait. I think Slinky was 65 mins when I checked at 5pm yesterday. Check at rope drop time. I always forget to!
Watch for the DHS opening time to move from 9 to 8, when it does you may be able to pick up the FPP you are looking for.
To ride Slinky, get in line 5 minutes before the park closes. At park closing time, there are no more fast passes so the line moves faster. I have never waited more than 45 minutes with that strategy.
I find all these comments over the top. I took my nephew (12yrs) to the park. Explained that we may get up early and still not get a boarding pass. I gave him the option of whether or not he wanted to try. Everyone knows how this is working by now. If you want to try-try. If not-don’t. If you don’t want to add a park hopper and/or wait in the long lines at this park then DON’T GO. I didn’t ride Flight of Passage for two years because I didn’t want to deal with the craziness. My choice! You all have a choice to go try or to just avoid it and wait. My visiting family decided to skip ROTR craziness. Went to HS later in day when they had FP’s and explored Galaxy’s Edge. Smugglers Run dipped to 30 minutes and they hopped in line and loved it. Bottom line is to read something like this blog and make the best choice for your family. Disney is a vacation and you make the choices.
Yes, you’re right people have a choice. The major issue is most people that go to Disney have no clue about how to go about getting a boarding pass, etc. because Disney doesn’t do a good job at educating guests. Most people do not read informative blogs like Tom’s. So the average guest who is paying a small fortune to go to Disney (for many a once in a lifetime experience) arrives to a mad house and may not even get to ride the premier attraction at a park that has not a lot of things to do. Hoppers add more cost to an already expensive ticket/flights/hotel.
I agree people may not know how. And that sucks. But the first time I attempted to get a boarding pass there were plenty of CM’s who answered my questions before it was time. And none were rude. Of course I wasn’t rude to them which I find usually makes all the difference. And if you get there after the groups are all gone there are signs. You may be disappointed but you can 1) not go in the park 2) ask a CM outside how you get a boarding group for the next day. Other than that-if you get there before opening and see all those people you have to guess you might not get one. And I have to think that some of those people in line at guest services are trying to get something for free. Which honestly I’m tired of. Every guest feels that every time they do much as stub their toe they deserve something for free. Yes I’m negative. I moved to Florida less than a year ago and became an annual passholder and it has really made me jaded. This system isn’t perfect. But to think all of us know more than Disney is kind of ridiculous. I’m sure the system will change and the only guarantee is that we will all find some new aspect to complain about it.
James, anyone who takes a vacation, especially involving the entire family, and doesn’t do their homework has only themselves to blame. I don’t care if you’re going to Europe, taking a cruise or just going to the beach, a certain amount of research is necessary. There is a ton of information online just waiting to be Googled.
As someone who recreation & entertainment Disney also has a choice to make it easy/approachable for guests to experience their latest attraction, which has required a significant investment and you are paying to experience.
It’s not unreasonable to voice frustration when you (as a customer) feel the experience you are paying a lot of money for is not meeting your expectation.
In my opinion, some of this stems from Disney charging a higher and higher premium to experience the parks. How much you pay for something influences your expectations.
Sure it’s a choice. But it’s wrong for Disney to charge outrageous prices for a “chance” to ride their best rides. It never used to be that way.
That is ridiculous. They can, and will continue, to charge the prices because people pay. So do all the other theme parks around the world. Until people don’t go, they will continue to do so. I love Disney, have been going for 40 years. But they are a business! They are not a non profit for goodness sake! And it has always been that way. When park is at capacity there is no way everyone who has a ticket can ride every single ride. Period. Several thousand people are riding this ride every day and even when it is running smoothly and FP’s are in play down the road, everyone won’t be able to ride it.
Yes. If they want to charge outrageous prices and then not make much effort to deliver an experience that is worth those prices, people are going to feel frustrated and disappointed. They are going to complain. That is not ridiculous, it is the response they deserve for not delivering a quality experience.
No one should expect to get to ride every ride when it’s busy, of course not. But they can expect to not have to wait for an hour to get into a gift shop. They can expect that there always be *something* to do that doesn’t require over an hour wait.
“Disney is a vacation and you make the choices.”
Yes 🙂 People can choose not to deal with out of control crowds, costs and planning. WDW has been riding the wave of popularity for all it’s worth. I love Disney but it’ll be hard not to giggle when the shoe goes back on the other foot. With the 1-2 punch of coronavirus putting a major slump in travel and Epic Universe opening in sight, WDW will need to work harder to recapture and ingratiate guests again.
It seems that Disney in their efforts to maximize revenue and attract new first-timers have over-reached and over-complicated what used to be a reasonable planning process. Went to WDW 8 years ago, stayed at Port Orleans, planned ahead using the Unofficial Guide and over five days had a great time in all of the parks without too much stress. Early arrival, smart uses of fast passes obtained that day, just by following the guide. Now with FastPass+ prebooking, Boarding Passes, high crowd counts, extra costs for decent viewing of shows like Fantasmic, it’s all become much too complicated and with too high a cost for a family of four or five for park hopper tickets, staying on site, needing rental car to get around, planning dining months in advance. Once ROTR novelty wears off, will the crowd flow still be there? I thought of doing WDW again, but this thread alone confirms that there is no advantage any more to good planning and preparation, and you can be spending a lot of money for just waiting in line. For the average famliy vacation with minimal advance planning, WDW could just be a big disappointment. For the astute planners who follow this site to now be throwing up their hands and saying “it’s too much” tells me that Disney might have a bubble that could burst on them if they don’t figure out how to deliver on expectations for a fun, relaxing vacation at reasonable expense and without a project planning professional designation.
Definitely put me in the ‘it’s too much’ category. This all seems nuts to me–I know it’s a new state-of-the-art ride, but I’ve pretty much come to terms with the fact that it will be years before I even attempt to take my family there. We did the MNSSHP this past year on a Thursday night and had a pretty miserable time (way more crowded than the last party we’d done a couple of years before), and I think we’re done with the whole thing for a while. It’s just too crowded, too expensive and with a much lower payoff than year’s past. I used to love the parks, and I still love Star Wars, but I’m not spending thousands of dollars to take my family on a vacation there, just to have a miserable time. There are too many other options anymore (hell, a week-long cruise is roughly the same cost for my family of five–half if we choose a nice, non-Disney cruise line– and at least the payoff is pretty much guaranteed there).
i think you made an excellent point about over reaching on first timers that are showing up with minimal planning. if the average 4 member family comes spending 6 or 9 grand and they arrive to be told they wont be able to do everything that they want, their chances of the return trip will plummet to almost nothing, but disney has already gotten their money and exposed them to all this IP, so maybe theyll still get the merchandise and get Disney+ at home etc.
i wish there was a way to findout just what exactly disney executives want to get as far as a saturation point with daily crowds in all 4 parks 365 days a yr, without detracting the guest experience. maybe they wont even address it ever if people keep showing up and making the parks reach capacity!
I spoke to a cs rep last week and she said the parks rarely reach capacity and if it happens it’s during Christmas and New Year. I asked because I read that if you are a resort guest or have Parkhopper you have priority getting in when they are close to capacity (or something to that effect). She said that wasn’t true.
They have only reached complete capacity (where no one is allowed to enter) once in the past 10 years. April 7th at Magic Kingdom. There are 4 phases to capacity closures and there is most certainly a system for who is allowed in and who isn’t. Phase 1&2 includes park hoppers, Phase 3 does not. Phase 3 is Resort Guests, Annual Passholders and those with in park reservations. But this also has only happened around 20 times in the past 10 years or so.
And I think any family that shows up at Disney for the first time with little to no planning is probably not going to return. I mean they most likely won’t have a good trip regardless of getting onto ROTR>
okay i apologize, i obviously created some confusion when i made the remark that the parks might reach capacity because i was speaking in hyperbole.
i do know that reaching capacity is a VERY rare occurence that usually only happens during popular seasonal times, and would actually be enforced by specific fire codes and OSHA rules and regulations. so i didnt mean to scare anyone into thinking that it is going to be a real threat anytime soon just because of this one ride.
i was only commenting on the concept that disney management is constantly trying to increase attendence to maximize revenue, but i would merely like to be privy to the conversations that happen in their meetings when weighing the pros and cons of increasing attendence vs losing customer satisfaction due to crowd density. for example, are price increases a strategic method of crowd control, or are park hours being truncated as a means to control overtime spending on wage based cast members?
sorry again, and i welcome any feedback.
I was more replying to the follow up that a CS rep said there it wasn’t true about certain people having priority getting into the parks at capacity? Weird. I’m sure it was just a miscommunication, that is pretty well known.
I think they will just continue to try to build more hotels and increase capacity till the guests stop going. Why would they not want the parks busy 365 days a year? The people who are saying they won’t go back are long timers who remember the good old days. Lol. I have to admit that I go because we moved to FL and have AP’s. I wouldn’t spend the money for a once a year big trip anymore. It just isn’t worth it for me. I can get more bang for my buck on other destinations. I would still do Disney, but probably for the occasional long weekend trip and definitely not every year. But our kids are grown and we are in a different place now. I can’t believe the price difference from even 15years ago when I was taking my family of 6.
@Christi I figured it was miscommunication too since I clearly read that online (I’m a newbie so have been researching heavily!) Perhaps it was me who worded it incorrectly though, maybe I said “at capacity” when clearly that’s not what I meant because at-capacity is at-capacity and has to do with fire safety. But then I suppose they could have corrected me and said there are phases in which certain people have priority, etc. Anywho, sorry if that cause confusion!
Tom, Please Help!!!
I’m so glad I found your blog and have been reading it for months now. I’m going to WDW March 11-14. My main reason is because I’m a big Star Wars nerd, but I’m worried I won’t get to do ROTR.
Can you tell me what time I should get in line for my best chance at getting a Virtual queue spot?
Not Tom, but under the current system (which could change any time) all you need to do is get through the tap stiles and into the Park a little before the 8 am opening. (Be sure and verify the opening time!) Entering earlier doesn’t help at all for ROTR, but does help for getting on the other rides, especially the Toy Story ones, with a shorter wait, unless of course you have a FP and aren’t stuck with standby. And note that your entire party has to be inside the Park before 8 am.
What does seem to help generally is having each person in your party with linked reservations trying to use the Disney app at exactly 8:00 am. Each person trying has a better chance than if only one person tries.
Thanks for the reply JB – I’m actually wondering what time I need to show up to DHS BEFORE rope drop. It’s been a while since I’ve been to WDW and I’m wondering what’s a good time to show up so I’m inside DHS before 8am.
I recently called WDW about an issues with the app and I asked Helga (yes, that’s her name) what time she thought would be good to get in line for an 8AM rope drop and she thought 7:30
Things have sure changed since I last went to WDW! Thanks in advance for any help (from anyone)
Agree improvements need to be made. Crowds are heavy this week. Arrived at Animal Kingdom today at 8:45 and waited 3 hours for Flight of Passage before bailing because there was still a good ways to go and we had a lunch reservation. So, didnt even ride, very dissappointed!
We were at Hollywood Studios for rope drop Monday Feb 24 and Tuesday Feb 25. Monday we arrived at the park at 7:15 and Tuesday at 6:45. Monday we got boarding group 55 and rode by 2. Tuesday we got 107!!!!! And they stopped boarding at 102. The app wouldn’t load. That seems just WRONG. Arriving an hour plus before opening and not getting to ride just seems to be very wrong…. Why did the app work fine one day and not the next? The crowds at HS are just unbearable. We used to go to Disney often and LOVED the old fast pass system. We never went on super busy days (had weekday select passes because we homeschool and would prefer to go during the week) and pretty much never had to wait more than 30 minutes for anything. I appreciated that everyone got to the parks on equal footing and there was no booking fast passes ahead of time. To me, fast pass + is what has ruined Disney. We hated it so much when it first started that we boycotted for years…. Finally got new passes because we had to check out Star Wars. Turns out Avatar is our new favorite ride. Disney does most things very very well. But the crowds and the multi-hour waits are just awful. Something needs to change.
After reading the comments, I’ve come to the conclusion that a trip to Disney World should no longer be considered a vacation. Even the job you took a week off from is more of a vacation than Disney World.
It’s amazing how people are willing to wait in line for hours to ride an attraction located in a theme park whose admission cost is obscenely expensive. One woman said she waited in line for FoP for three hours and then left. Said the line was still long and not worth more of her time.
How do you do so much planning, spend so much money, and come away so disappointed? Boggles the mind. I can’t imagine what the future of Disney is where the average guest is concerned.
@Barbara, I totally agree. I’m filled with dread thinking about our upcoming trip. It shouldn’t be like this. At least I have time to mentally prepare for the disappointment and frustration so I can put on a brave face for my kids. Guessing this will be the last family trip to DW. Between flights, car rental, food, hotel, park tickets, souvenirs, and everything else, I’m not looking forward to basically spending thousands of dollars just to be disappointed, angry, and stressed out. That’s the opposite of a vacation. Disney has a real problem on their hands.
I agree. I’m in my 40’s and have never been to WDW but always wanted to go. I’ve always been a Disney fan. Now I’m married with 2 kids (12 and 7) and decided 2 weeks ago to add 2 nights at WDW after our Carnival cruise in FLL during Spring Break! :O We won’t tell the kids until we debark the ship. We are a Star Wars family so planned to spend our one full day at HS (other 2 are check-in and out days, the last one we may do MK from open to 4pm especially now that I have a Cinderella’s Royal Table booking!) Now reading all this and I’m kind of like 😐 but I think I’ll just have to tell myself not to A) even try for ROTR or B) try and not be disappointed and go about our day. I have Savi’s and the Droid Depot booked for our son, Oga’s Cantina for all of us and some decent FP+’s booked (Runaway Railway, Toy Story Mania and Star Tours, couldn’t get Smugglers!) It’s also an Extra Magic Night! I’m hoping we’ll just be happy to be there despite the crowds (crossing fingers!)
That’s awful, but I just don’t get leaving a line after three hours. I mean, if it’s longer than 90 I’m out anyway, but after committing to three hours I’m riding that ride.
But yeah, I mentioned in another post that our family is out at this point–too much money, hassle and waiting. It’s always been expensive, but it was only a few years ago that we at least felt that, with the right plan, we could ride everything we wanted with a minimum of waiting and hassle. Now even with a plan you are stuck in huge crowds and long waits. That just doesn’t appeal to me. Now that my kids are ‘thrill-ride’ sized we’ll be going to other amusement parks for more rides, less money and less hassle….I guess this is what Disney is hoping to achieve?
That sucks. I’m going in two weeks for the same reasons and now I feel like I wanna cancel my trip!
Well..after reading some of your experiences …I am really worry. I am not a good planner. I have visitors coming from South America spending over a thousand per person just on air fair…I hope they don’t leave displeased.
We will be 3 adults going to MK with no kids (yeah.lol), just hope we can make the best of it and feel like kids again.
I will keep reading so I will be better prepare when they arrive in May.
What? Cinderella’s Castle might be closed?
@Nelly just try to make the best of it. The comments at least make you aware. The castle won’t be closed just getting a makeover. It’s all stated in Tom’s post. Disney knows that castle is a ticket-seller.