Skyliner Strategy to Arrive Early for Star Wars: Rise of Resistance

Scoring a boarding pass for Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance at Walt Disney World requires getting up early and being to Disney’s Hollywood Studios prior to park opening. In this post, we’ll cover whether it’s possible to accomplish that by relying on the Skyliner gondolas, rather than paying extra for Uber, Lyft, or a Minnie Van.

With back to back stays at Caribbean Beach and Disney’s Riviera Resort, I thought I’d rise and shine for Rise of the Resistance, and put the Skyliner through its paces. My goal was to see whether it’d be possible to use the aerial transportation to arrive at Disney’s Hollywood Studios and enter the virtual queue before boarding passes ran out for the day.

Before we get going, let’s preemptively address some questions by directing you to our Ride Guide & FAQ for Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance. That addresses almost every conceivable question you could have about ‘best practices’ for experiencing the attraction, and basic info about it. (Before asking a question here, please read that.) In that, we recommend using Uber, Lyft, Minnie Vans (or driving yourself) to arrive at DHS before park opening. In this post, we’ll put that recommendation to the test…

Next, an important caveat: what follows is my purely anecdotal experience with using the Skyliner from the Barefoot Bay resorts to access Disney’s Hollywood Studios, based upon two consecutive days in mid-December. We’ve observed that pre-park opening crowds have been getting progressively worse at DHS and that’s likely due to word getting out about the need to arrive before park opening to have a chance at riding.

As word of mouth continues to spread and crowds build, this should only continue to worsen over the course of the next two weeks as we head into Christmas and New Year’s Eve. Accordingly, your success with this approach may or may not work depending upon crowd levels, when the Skyliner actually starts running, and various other factors.

As covered in our New Extended Park Hours & Positive Changes for Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance post, Disney’s Hollywood Studios is now officially opening at 7 am for most days in the near future, with the Disney Skyliner gondolas beginning operations at 6:45 am. Since 7 am doesn’t really mean 7 am with DHS, I was curious if the same would hold true with the Skyliner.

Yesterday, I left our Aruba room at Caribbean Beach shortly after 6 am. At this point, the Skyliner was already gliding around overhead, and during the quiet morning hours it was pretty easy to hear the “ding-a-ling” (or whatever the sound is) of the Skyliner cabins from the ground.

Although our room was much closer to the Riviera Skyliner station, I opted to take the longer walk to the hub station. My hunch here was that either Caribbean Beach’s station would start operating earlier or they’d start at exactly the same time. Either way, I’d save time with walking plus the non-stop flight over having to transfer at the Caribbean Beach hub.

After screwing around taking early morning photos for a few minutes, I arrived at the Caribbean Beach station just before 6:30 am to find a modest line. Actually, it was much shorter than I anticipated, which is likely owing to guests being (wisely) risk-averse and not wanting to chance missing out on a boarding pass.

Once again, I stopped for photos rather than getting in this line. Cast Members opened the gates at approximately 6:35 am, and the first guests would’ve been on the Skyliner to Disney’s Hollywood Studios shortly thereafter. I held back for a bit and had a Skyliner cabin all to myself at 6:39 am.

Under 8 minutes later, I was off the Skyliner and already through bag check at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. I quickly snapped a few more photos and then jumped in line for the turnstiles. These single-file lines were backed up to the ticket booths, despite the park having opened unofficially before 6:30 am.

Stopping to document this process proved to be a critical error, as it allowed a couple parties to get in front of me, one of which didn’t have valid park tickets, resulting in what felt like a 30 minute slowdown (but was actually 6 minutes, per my timer).

In retrospect, I should’ve skipped the photos–my window was really tight for this. We had a 7:45 am ADR for Topolino’s Terrace, and I didn’t want to be late for that. I had told Sarah that if I wasn’t in the park by 7 am, I was going to bail. On the other hand, I have a knack for getting in the slowest possible lines, so something was bound to happen, regardless.

All told, I waited in line to enter Disney’s Hollywood Studios for about 10 minutes. This was actually the biggest surprise, as we’ve had late arrivals previously with zero wait at the turnstiles.

In fact, this is part of the reason why we prefer a slightly late arrival–not being stuck in the sea of humanity out front without any idea when the park will actually open.

After giving the My Disney Experience app about 60 seconds to register that I’d tapped into the park, I opened that (I always do a ‘fresh’ launch of the app for this) and joined the virtual queue. I received Boarding Group 83, which indicated an “Afternoon” boarding time.

Following that, I exited the park immediately–and wasn’t the only one who had the same idea, as there was a (small) line at the DHS Skyliner station. I was back in our room at Caribbean Beach before 7:20 am. I showered and we somehow managed to make it to Topolino’s Terrace by 7:46 am. (You can read our review of that here.)

My boarding group was called at 2:35 pm, and I took the Skyliner from Disney’s Riviera Resort to DHS about an hour after that. Unfortunately, Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance was down when I arrived and in talking with various Cast Members, it sounded like it had just gone down.

Rather than waiting around for at least an hour for it to reset and be back online, I decided to leave. It was a tough call to make, but I doubt we’ll do another Riviera reservation any time soon, so spending as much time there as possible took precedence. I’m always awake by 6 am, so I can go to Disney’s Hollywood Studios for another boarding pass pretty much whenever.

The situation played out similarly today, with the critical difference being that this time I was at the Riviera Skyliner station and it didn’t begin operating until 6:46 am. It was also hot and an ominous mist was in the air this morning, although I’m not sure that’s relevant.

I won’t rehash the play by play here, as the results are almost identical despite the later start time. (Actually, boarding group distribution went slower this morning.)

I think the main takeaway in comparing yesterday versus today is that it’s arguably worth walking over to the Caribbean Beach hub even if you’re staying at Disney’s Riviera Resort. The stroll around Barefoot Bay is pretty pleasant this early, should take around 10 minutes, and almost certainly will save you more time than it costs you.

Those extra ~10 minutes could end up making a world of difference. That’s especially true if you’re awake and out your hotel room door early anyway, don’t mind the walk, and are nervous about being shut out of Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance.

Ultimately, I think using the Skyliner for rope dropping Disney’s Hollywood Studios is going to typically be a workable approach, and might actually be the optimal strategy if you’re going to be at DHS or Epcot all day and want the most convenient method. You’re going to get a later boarding group this way, but you also won’t need to be up as early, nor will you be in mass of humanity outside Disney’s Hollywood Studios waiting for security or the turnstiles to open.

However, if you only have one day at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, aren’t keen on potentially having to get up early more than once, or are just generally risk averse, using the Skyliner may not be your best course of action. Stick with Uber, Lyft, or Minnie Vans. This is a situation where time is of the essence and “minutes matter.” The Skyliner starting even 10 minutes late or being delayed 5 minutes in the air could quash your chances of scoring a coveted Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance boarding pass. This is doubly true over the next couple of weeks for Christmas and New Year’s. We’d be more inclined to recommend giving this approach a go in early 2020.

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.

Your Thoughts

Have you used the Skyliner to rope drop Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance? Were you successful? What time did the Skyliner start operating as compared to its official hours when you did this? Which boarding group did you receive for Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance? Would you recommend the Skyliner, or using Uber/Lyft? Do you agree or disagree with our 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!


39 Responses to “Skyliner Strategy to Arrive Early for Star Wars: Rise of Resistance”
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