5 Hour Ride Waits for Fun: The Week We’d Never Visit Disney World

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Do you like waiting 295 minutes for one ride? Idling in an interminable line just to turn into the parking lot … only to find out the park is full and closed to new guests? Enjoy crowds as far as the eye can see? If so, we’ve got the 2019 vacation of your dreams all planned out.

For the rest of us, here’s four reasons why we hope to never go to Walt Disney World on the week between Christmas and New Year’s. But because lots of people make the trip during that week (and we do love Disney), we’ll also add a few tips for those souls who are brave enough to try.

Waits are Posted in Minutes, but Measured in Hours

Disney measures waits in minutes, but the reality is you are waiting for hours on that week. On Saturday, Dec. 29, the Disney app clocked the wait for Slinky Dog Dash at Disney’s Hollywood Studios at 295 minutes. That is five minutes shy of five hours. Five hours for one two minute ride. No thanks.

If you think that was a fluke, it certainly may have been influenced a bit by the nearby Toy Story Mania! ride being down at that moment, but we saw many waits in the 200+-minute range across four parks that week. This included 270 minutes for Avatar: Flight of Passage at Animal Kingdom, 225 minutes for Seven Dwarfs Mine Train at Magic Kingdom, 210 minutes for Soarin’ Around the World and 270 minutes for Test Track at Epcot.

Think about bathroom breaks, food, hydration and general sanity when waiting in line for 4 or 5 hours only to wait in another line for 3 hours for the next ride. We shudder at the thought. Even rides that are typically virtual walk-ons, like Figment or Three Caballeros at Epcot, were posting 60 minute waits making almost every endeavor a big time commitment.

Disney Parks May Close Due to Capacity

Even when the Disney Parks are so full on a hot summer weekend that you aren’t sure how they could fit another person in the parks, they usually can. A Disney theme park closing due to capacity concerns isn’t unheard of, but it is unusual, typically only occurring a handful of times each year. In recent years, the vast majority of the times that one of the Disney World parks closes to new guests due to capacity (usually Magic Kingdom), it is during the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day.

Magic Kingdom was closed to many new guests for almost six hours on New Year’s Eve this year. We’re sure some of the nearly 100,000 people inside Magic Kingdom when it closed were having fun, but there were plenty that probably weren’t having as magical of a day as they would have liked. Depending on what you count as a “ride” or “restaurant” there are a roughly 35 rides and 30 restaurants in the Magic Kingdom. Do the math on how many people were trying to do the same thing at the same time and decide if that sounds like your idea of a magical day.

Bus and Parking Woes

Let’s assume you can get into the park, it may take a while to get there — and that lengthy process may repeat heading back to your resort at the end of the day. We saw many tweets about 60 minute waits for buses to get between the various resorts and parks.

Think driving yourself will help? Not necessarily. Here is the line to get into Magic Kingdom on New Year’s Eve around the middle of the day. If you can snag a Minnie Van, that would have been the way to go.

Prepare for a Total Crush of Humanity

Even on days where the parks don’t hit absolute capacity, they are going to be very, very crowded with tens and tens of thousands of other people in each park. If the wait times for rides don’t get you, being 15 rows back from the parade just might. A look at crowd calendars will usually place those dates between Christmas and New Year’s Day at a 10/10 in terms of attendance, If you wait a week later in January, or go a couple weeks earlier in early-December, you will find 3/10 crowd attendance days, which are infinitely more pleasant.

Tips for Braving Disney During the Winter Holidays

We have kids, we get it, the week between Christmas and New Year’s is the perfect time to get away while the kids are on school break. Let’s face it, it is also a magical time of the year to be at Disney World with the decorations, extra special fireworks shows, seasonal menu items and more. So, if you do decide to brave it and go during what has to be the busiest week at Disney World, here are a few tips.

Book early. I know that is a gimme suggestion, but Disney resort properties will 100% sell out, so book while you can. If you want to go for the winter holiday week in 2019, you can book value resorts now for less than $200 per night. And this matters even more than normal, because if a park does close for capacity, those who are staying at a Disney Resort can still get in until the highest level of phased closure is reached (which is extremely rare).

Book a resort that is walkable to a park. You can cut a lot of hassle out of the equation if you can walk (or monorail) from your resort into at least one park. I’m a huge fan of the monorail resorts like Contemporary and Polynesian for this reason. If ever there were a time to splurge on convenience, it has to be when park attendance is at its peak.

Monorail to Disney's Contemporary Resort
Monorail to Disney’s Contemporary Resort

FastPass+, FastPass+, FastPass+. Those folks waiting 295 minutes for one ride, they didn’t have a FastPass+ reservation. Don’t be like that. In fact, with some strategy, you can still ride a heck of a lot of rides if you wanted to, even during the winter holiday week. One person who attempted the “Ride all the Rides at Disney” challenge on Dec. 30 rode 40 rides across all four parks without any VIP access by being extremely strategic and taking full advance of the long park hours. Turn to a site like Touring Plans if you aren’t sure where to start with ride strategy.

We rode 41 rides on a weekday in September with low crowds on a similar challenge, so that is very admirable (and slightly crazy).

Skip the Rides. When strategy fails you, we recommend skipping the rides have have 200+ minute waits unless you have a FastPass. If this is your once-in-a-lifetime chance to ride the ride of your dreams and a three, four, or five hour wait is the only option, go for it if you dare, but otherwise we don’t recommend spending hours of your day sweating it out just for one ride (and yes, you may still be sweating in Orlando with temps hitting the mid-80’s in December).

Bottom Line

Disney World during the winter holidays is pretty magical, but that week between Christmas and New Years is not for the faint of heart. Try going in early December for much more manageable crowd levels (and lower hotel rates) or prepare for waits that truly are measured in hours at almost ‘magical’ turn.

Want to read more about maximizing a trip to Disney? Check out our other Disney guides…


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