Walt Disney World Park Strategy

Cornel Schalkwyk on 05 August 2022
There are so many parks in the Disney resort that even if you’re not a planner, it’s definitely worth thinking about which park you want to be in on which day. You can spend a lot of time travelling around and between the parks when you could be enjoying the attractions. I’d advise staying onsite in a resort hotel or affiliated hotel. Not only are you in the heart of the action, but onsite hotel guests get early access to the parks. Currently, this is 30 minutes before the parks open to the public. That is quite important if you want to work on a strategy where you minimise your queuing time.


At present, park admission requires valid park tickets as well as a park reservation. Park hopping is only possible after 2pm if your tickets allow park hopping.

I’d recommend being at the park where you have an admission reservation at least half an hour before early entry. This is what you call a rope drop strategy. And if you don't want to pay extra for Individual Lightning Lane (ILL) experiences at each park (these will be the most popular rides), you want to rope drop that ride as soon as you get access to the park. In Animal Kingdom for example, you could rope drop Avatar Flight of Passage because that is the only Individual Lightning Lane attraction in Animal Kingdom so you can't use Genie+ to get a Lightning Lane (LL) entry. Instead, rope drop that ride and queue with all the onsite hotel guests. Then when the gates open for onsite hotel guests’ early entry, you run! It's like a proper stampede and you run for Avatar Flight of Passage to get to that ride first. This will minimise your queuing time – you get onto that ride first, and it’s done without massive queueing. And you wouldn't need to purchase an Individual Lightning Lane for that one on top of your Genie+ for the day.

Another example is our recent visit to Epcot. We rope dropped and were there half an hour before time. We actually managed to do Frozen Ever After, a very popular ride with little princesses, three times in a row, just using the standby queues. The moment the public gets access to Epcot, the waiting times shoot up to 90 - 120 minutes just for that ride.

We also went for the rope drop strategy in Hollywood Studios for Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance. We chose that ride first so we didn’t have to purchase the Individual Lightning Lane. And the longest queuing time I saw for that while we were there was about 250 minutes - that is a long time if you don't have Individual Lightning Lane entry or try and rope drop!


The next thing that you need to keep in mind with your park strategy is that the parks are very big. If you are only guided by Genie+ and what is available for your next Lightning Lane slots, you might end up running from one end of the park to the other, criss-crossing the park all day long. It does sometimes happen with Genie+ that you have to go across the park unfortunately, but try and always keep in mind the map of the park to reduce this. Have some sort of strategy where you start at one end of the park and work your way around during the day, walking from one end to the other end in one direction instead of criss-crossing. The toing and froing might not be a big issue if you're just a group of adults, but we had a five year old with us and were there in the summer when it was super hot and needed to minimise walking time.

Don’t forget as soon as you enter a Lightning Lane queue, get your phone out, open the app and book your next one straightaway. That is how you maximise Genie+ for the day. It's important to do it as soon as you enter the queue because if the queuing system takes you inside a building, you may lose Wi-Fi signal. If you’re standing in a Lightning Lane queue for 5 or 10 minutes and lose Wi-Fi connectivity, you're only going to be able to book your next Genie+ experience when you exit that ride. That means losing 20 or 30 minutes which is quite a lot of time for booking your next Genie+ experience for the day. And you'll also find that during that time, the available slots for rides would have moved later.


Sometimes there are brand new rides in Walt Disney World where there are virtual queues rather than actual standby queues. For example, with the new Guardians of the Galaxy ride in Epcot, there is currently no standby queue. And it's not included with Genie+ either. So unless you want to pay extra for the Individual Lightning Lane entry for Guardians of the Galaxy, which is quite difficult to get a slot for in any case, the only other way to get on that ride is with a virtual queue.

Virtual queues are booked through the Walt Disney World app on your phone. Like everything else, bookings open at 7am. My tip here is to have multiple people making reservations at the same time. So in our party recently, I was in charge of making our first Genie+ booking for the day at 7am. Another adult in our party was also on the app at 7am and they got us a slot on the virtual queue for Guardians of the Galaxy. If you try to do both of those things one at a time, you're going to lose out on one of them.

Another tip here, you can link family and friends on your Disney app, even if you’ve made holiday bookings separately. This makes it easier to book restaurants or Lightning Lanes for your entire party, ensuring you all do things together.


Because I have been to Walt Disney World several times, I understand the value of planning your trip. And I’m not ashamed to say I do prepare an Excel spreadsheet in advance and will be happy to share this with you as it will help you make the most of your time.

My spreadsheet includes park opening times, early access times for resort guests and which areas are open early (not all of them) and where I plan to have breakfast. This really helps with a strategy of where you're going first for your rope drop ride and what you potentially want to book for your first Genie+ ride as well.

I truly believe planning is the best way to get the most out of your time in Disney. There are more than 100 attractions and rides to experience, so a little bit of pre-planning will help you fit as much in as possible.