Walt Disney World has confirmed that Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge at Hollywood Studios will use a virtual queue and boarding pass system beginning August 29, 2019 and continuing indefinitely, as dictated by demand. In this post, we’ll share how this will work, offer tips using Star Wars Land’s virtual line, and offer some predictions.
This should come as great and very welcome news to many of you who were fearing the worst out of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge at Walt Disney World. This means no multi-hour waits in the sun or a long line wrapping throughout Grand Avenue just to get a peak inside Star Wars Land.
Now, this virtual queue and boarding pass system could mean larger crowds elsewhere at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, but there are plenty of air-conditioned spaces around the park. Plus, if worse comes to worst with the crowds at DHS, you could always just use World Showcase and the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival as the de facto “waiting room” for Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge. But we’re betting it won’t come to that!
This news of a virtual queue and boarding pass system comes thanks to fliers that have been quietly distributed in guest rooms at Walt Disney World resort hotels today. If you’re looking for an official confirmation via the Disney Parks Blog, you’re out of luck. In fact, we would not be the least bit surprised if Walt Disney World doesn’t publicly announce the virtual queue and boarding pass system, period.
If you’ve followed the saga of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge crowds (or the lack thereof) out west, you probably aren’t surprised by this. In case you’ve “muted” all news about Galaxy’s Edge until now, we’d (once again) recommend reading our Why Are Star Wars Land Crowds So Low? post.
Basically, one of Disney’s concerns is that their own constant stressing of reservations, attendance, boarding passes, and other crowd control measures at Disneyland with “Batuu West” played a big role in scaring guests away. In other words, hype of crowds caused fear of crowds…which caused people to stay at home…which caused low crowds.
That’s a very reductionist explanation and only part of what has happened with Batuu West. Nevertheless, it’s why Walt Disney World has more or less been mum about Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge for the last couple months. In fact, since the Huge Hollywood Studios FastPass+ Changes (which were caused by Star Wars Land), it’s been pretty much radio silence in terms of operations at DHS.
Moving on to the logistics of the boarding group system, Walt Disney World has released zero details, but it’s almost certain to work identically to the Batuu West version. That worked really well (when it was necessary) and it would make zero sense for Walt Disney World to reinvent the wheel. However, it’s always possible there will be slight differences in the boarding pass/virtual queue process at Walt Disney World…
First, you’ll want to download the My Disney Experience app before arriving at Walt Disney World. If you already have it, be sure you’re updated to the most current version. (Functionality for the Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge virtual queue and boarding pass system was actually added to the app code last month.)
Also prior to entering, you’ll want to link everyone in your party together on the My Disney Experience (MDX) app to request the same boarding group for your entire party.
NOTE: If you already have reservations for Oga’s Cantina, Savi’s Workshop for Handbuilt Lightsabers, or Droid Depot, you almost certainly will *NOT* need a boarding pass. Walt Disney World has not confirmed this, but we’re 97% sure this will be the case.
Check the app or in-park signage the day of your visit to find out if you will need to be part of a boarding group to visit Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge that day, and also which boarding groups are currently being admitted into the land.
Unless you’re heading to Star Wars Land right at rope drop, it’s highly likely that Disney’s Hollywood Studios will utilize the boarding group system–at least for the opening weekend of Galaxy’s Edge. (We wouldn’t be surprised to see it used for a longer period of time at Walt Disney World. Unlike at Disneyland, Disney’s Hollywood Studios has less “other stuff” to soak up crowds.)
The boarding group will save you a virtual spot in line during which time you can do other attractions, dining, etc. Think of it just like FastPass, but for the land itself (hence it being a virtual queue to enter the land). As with FastPass, you may use the My Disney Experience app to request to be part of a boarding group after entering Disney’s Hollywood Studios.
For guests not using the MDX app, a boarding group may be obtained with a park admission ticket at select FastPass locations. Walt Disney World has not yet announced where these will be, but temporary kiosks have been spotted around the park. Expect something at the front of the park, on Grand Avenue, and near Toy Story Land–at the very least.
We highly recommend that you go the in-app route, which will save you precious time when entering the park. We also recommend allowing or enabling push notifications on your mobile device for the MDX app so you will be notified when it is time to enter Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge.
Otherwise, you’ll need to incessantly refresh or check the MDX app or digital signage in the park to see when you’re up. Once your group is called, you’ll have up to two hours to enter Galaxy’s Edge.
In terms of strategy, it’ll take us a couple weeks of assessing crowd-flow and demand, but some of you who are visiting sooner might not have that luxury. Since we’ve already done everything in Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge and have a pretty good understanding of Disney’s Hollywood Studios touring efficiency, here are a few preliminary recommendations…
First, arrive before rope drop. This should be a given. We’re expecting that for at least the first few weekend, Disney’s Hollywood Studios will quietly open the park before the published opening time. Arriving early helps you beat the crowds and also prepares you for that.
Second, consider doing something else at rope drop. I know this seems contrarian, but there’s only one ride currently operating in Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, and that is where everyone is going to head straight at rope drop, causing an early morning spike at Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run. Lines will peak for that early in the day, and drop thereafter.
By contrast, other attractions around Disney’s Hollywood Studios are likely to see their wait times of the day at rope drop and climb gradually over time. This is exactly what we saw play out at Pandora – World of Avatar…and also in Batuu West. Plus, Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run has an incredibly engaging queue. Waiting in line 90+ minutes in that interesting queue is far better than several 60 minute waits in uninteresting queues.
We’d recommend starting in Toy Story Land, then moving to Sunset Boulevard for its two thrill rides. While doing the attractions elsewhere at Disney’s Hollywood Studios in the morning, keep your eye on the MDX app and snag a boarding group for later in the day. Don’t wait too long, as these might very well ‘sell out’ early in the morning for the entire day.
Finally, Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge is best at night. Hence our recommendation for evening reservations for Savi’s Workshop or Oga’s Cantina. The other upside to these reservations for these experiences is that’s your guaranteed ticket into Galaxy’s Edge!
If you enter Star Wars Land around 6 p.m. and experience Savi’s or Oga’s Cantina (or both), you’ll be there Galaxy’s Edge transforms at sunset and comes alive at night. Additionally, you can stick around until the bitter end as the crowds clear out…when Smugglers Run should once again see its shortest waits of the day.
Of course, this is far from a fool-proof strategy and there are a lot of unknowns since the boarding pass system hasn’t debuted as of the time of this post. (And even once it does, there will likely be adjustments made to get it working smoothly.) However, this is what we’d recommend–and will be doing ourselves–for now.
With those holiday celebrations, Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance opening on December 5, 2019, and erroneous belief that Star Wars Land’s popularity will “die down” after a few months, October through December are probably looking more attractive to a large segment of the potential guest population. Of course, we were wrong about the opening of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge out west, so we could once again be totally off in terms of September crowds. Just don’t expect to “wait out” the crowds by visiting in December. It’s hard to envision any scenario where this Christmas is less busy than this September. But we shall see!
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.
Are you planning on visiting Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge now that the boarding pass system is debuting? Do you agree or disagree with our preliminary strategy for best experiencing Star Wars Land at Walt Disney World? 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!