Learning to Love Long Lines | Disney World

  • Splash Mountain Line

    Learning to Love Long Lines

    A real timely or timeless question: does anyone love long lines?

    No, of course not.

    Can you learn to…perhaps not love them…but accept them?

    And we have looked at this subject before…including valuable (we think) advice on ways to “beat” the lines.

    But listen here, you really can’t “beat” them….or maybe you knew that already.

    Whenever you buy your Disney World Orlando tickets. Or Universal Studios Orlando tickets or Busch Gardens Tampa tickets…or any other theme park admission tickets, you will find something else.


    Some short ones. Or it used to be.

    But more likely:

    Some longer than others.

    Much longer.

    What we’ve done in the past is to suggest ways of handling those lines.

    The point is not to let them ruin your trip.

    We keep returning to this subject for a reason.

    Because amusement park fans like you in recent times have rated long lines as their biggest pet peeve (in case, you wondered, that was followed by complaints of line jumping and rude employees).

    Biggest pet peeve

    Because of growing crowds in recent years, the average visitor has time for only nine or 10 rides per day, according to recent surveys.

    That means a lot of time is spent standing in lines.

    The reason is simple: you can’t avoid them entirely.

    No matter what you do.

    So today we’re going to tell you the 14 best ways to avoid lines.

    We’ll also tell you what the parks are doing about it.

    But more importantly, we’re going to tell you what to do while you’re waiting.

    And we’re turning to experts to do that.

    But don’t be concerned about our “experts.”

    That’s because they are other theme park-goers…and ticket buyers to Busch Gardens Tampa, and yes, Disney as well.

    Does Disney and other park gurus really care about the lines?

    No real question there.

    But more importantly, what are they doing about it?

    There are improvements. Or so the parks say.

    Perhaps the first issue to look at is this:

    Why do people like yourself hate these lines?

    We have some answers there, too.

    Let’s take another look at lines.

    You wait in line for practically anything you buy.

    Even when you go to the open all-day, all-night grocery store at 3 a.m. You might find a person or two standing in front of you.

    Some lines are better than others

    But somehow lines at pleasant places…where you are looking just to have fun…seem longer and more disturbing, don’t they?

    Surveys show that theme park goers don’t mind waits of five or ten minutes or even a half hour.

    But when it gets to hours, instead of minutes, patience flies out the window.

    And with all the instant gratification of today's world, people still have to endure waiting in lines.

    Sure, we’re all used to instant gratification. It’s a common term.

    But psychologists say that may be a primary reason why we hate lines.

    It’s a form of imprisonment, in fact.

    And not the willing, “we volunteer” kind.

    "Once you get it into your head, you see them everywhere," psychologist Dr. Richard Larson said about long lines.

    But the good news is that theme parks are making efforts here.

    And no one does managing lines better than Disney, according to some experts.

    "We want you to have so much to look at or do or entertain your kids," Kathy Mangum, creative executive of Walt Disney Imagineering, told "20/20."

    “Cause kids aren't the best line waiters, right? They're a little impatient … If your kid's having fun, you're a lot more patient."

    He didn’t say it but adults also have little patience for lines.

    Disney is not the only one aware of them.

    Park officials know you hate waiting

    In Southern California, riders of the “Transformers: The Ride-3D at Universal Studios Hollywood” line up in an indoor area that resembles a military compound.

    They watch videos that explain their mission during the ride. Guests are told they must keep the powerful "AllSpark" from falling into the hands of the evil “Decepticons.”

    "Guest satisfaction is very important to us and we want to entertain our guests from the moment they enter the ride queue," said Larry Kurzweil, president of Universal Studios Hollywood.

    At Six Flags Magic Mountain in Valencia, the park installed a 16-by-9-foot screen over the queuing area of the ride, “Full Throttle.”

    Visitors see a 25-minute video of extreme sports, such as bungee jumping and mountain biking.

    Six Flags Entertainment Corp. offers an interactive game similar to “Whac-A-Mole” that visitors can play on television screens. They use their cellphones as game controllers.

    The game is available at all of its 16 parks in the U.S., including Six Flags Magic Mountain.

    Park officials have even tried to make jokes about the waiting time.

    At Disney's California Adventure Park, visitors to the “Toy Story Midway Mania” are entertained in line by an animatronic “Mr. Potato Head.” He sings and tells jokes to the crowd.

    The voice was recorded by venerable comedian Don Rickles.

    "I'm going to guess your weight," Mr. Potato Head tells guests. "I'd say you wait about 15, 20, 25 minutes, tops."

    Ha, ha…maybe

    One of the first efforts by theme parks to address long lines came as early as 1999 when Disney parks introduced the FASTPASS. Others have followed.

    For everyone else, the lines are still long but, in some cases, more entertaining.

    In the case of Disney, entertainment before rides is an extension of their entertainment philosophy.

    Which is good.

    Disney sets up play areas for those waiting in lines.

    Disney's theme parks try to cope or manage lines with interactive technology. Or with games and touch screens.

    Well-placed fans sometimes help. A little shade seems to be carved out at times. That also helps.

    Theme parks also have posted wait times.

    Single rider only lines.

    Disney has also been an innovator in making the queue line an interactive experience itself.

    For example, at “Under the Sea – Journey of the Little Mermaid” (Fantasyland, Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World Resort) there are a multitude of interactive spaces throughout the queue. They help keep long lines of guests’ active and engaged.

    In the line for the “Haunted Mansion,” guests can touch gravestones that play music or squirt water.

    Disney has been a pioneer in using theming not only in rides but in waiting for rides.

    This type of theming really fleshes out the storytelling for the attraction and provides a better option than staring at a sea of people. No question there.

    Disney’s pricing patterns (mainly in raising them) has also been aimed at least partly to stretch out the crowds.

    One area to expect in the future: that initiative will be more common at other parks,

    Technology should also increasingly be expected to help you cope with lines.

    Interaction through augmented reality with head worn mobile devices that will let you interact not only with rides but while standing in line are other innovations that will help.

    And the best ways to beat the lines?

    There are what we call “windows” of opportunity to experience shorter lines.

    When you can avoid them

    No, not no lines at all. But shorter.

    1. Get there early. At least an hour before opening, preferably two hours. Consider this: At Disney’s Magic Kingdom Park, every minute you arrive after the park opens is two extra minutes of waiting in line.

    2. Stay late. Just before the park closes is a good time to get in line as many guests are on their way out the door or heading that way.

    3. Skip one line by not buying your tickets at the park. Get your Disney Orlando tickets or Universal Orlando tickets from other sources.

    4. Whenever you can, go the single rider line. These are often there and not always well marked. But they can reduce wait time by a third, according to some estimates.

    5. Everyone will tell you don’t go during busy times such as Christmas or Easter or in the summer months when the kids are out of school. Yes, lines tend to be longer. But there are a few windows such as early June, when schools are still in session. Barely. Look for these windows.

    6. Weekdays are invariably better than weekends. A Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday is far better than weekends.

    7. Skip the fireworks or other special events. Lines are usually shorter during those times.

    8. Don’t be afraid of some lines. Roller coasters are good example. Lines often seem much longer than they are.

    9. Join lines during normal lunch or dinner times. Many guests are then dining. So it’s another window of opportunity for you.

    10. If you have choices of when to go, consult sites such as ours that tells you when crowds are at their shortest. One hint: late August is often a far better time to visit than earlier that month or the previous month.

    11. Another good time to visit is when all America and the world are busy elsewhere. You already know when. Think ” Super Bowl.

    12. Don’t start at the front of the park where you enter Go to the back. Go as far back as you can. Select the most popular rides there before the crowd gets to them.

    13. If you have a choice, pick the line farther to the left. You may know where most people do: to the right.

    14. FastPasses are usually worth the added cost. But that is up to you.

    How to cope with…sigh…long lines

    As for what to do when…face it.,..there is a long line in front of you.

    Here’s what our own experts tell us:

    Prepare yourself in advance. You know there are going to be lines. So get used to it. Bring things to help you wait.

    In that preparation area, bring a hat and other comfort accessories.

    Brings things…and we mean anything at all… to help you wait. Books, mp3 players, magazines and of course, cell phones. What better time to catch up on what old friends are doing?

    Be judgmental. If your preferred ride has a long line, consider skipping it or waiting to try again later. It’s ok to be choosey.

    Again, use your good judgment whether it’s worth your time. Is it really something you want to do? You decide.

    Some riders tell us they love to play games while in line. The alphabet game is a common one. Very simple. Find the letters of the alphabet from A-Z around you. Great for children. But also works for adults.

    Use this time to plan the rest of your day. Even if you don’t get to do all that you envision, it distracts your mind to imagine what other rides and shows you might be seeing.

    Look around you…be aware…talk to others

    Talk to people around you. You might even make a few friends this way.

    Look for Hidden Mickeys.

    Whistle songs for others to guess the name.

    Wave at strangers to see who will wave back.

    Challenge another person or someone with you to thumb wrestling.

    Eating snacks always helps pass the time (hopefully, you’re not in a diet or can put it off for a few hours).

    Take a good look at people around you. See how they’re dressed and what they’re carrying. Then make up stories where they’re from or why they’re here.

    Take breaks. If you know a line is going to be long, say more than an hour, take some time away to relax. Have a meal or a drink. Buy an ice cream cone. Walk around and people watch. Get your mind off the wait itself.

    One of the best things to do while standing in line is to think of everything or anything else but the line. Imagine your next vacation, for example. Think about where you might have lunch or dinner. Anything that will take you away from the line.

    Study the park map. This is a good distraction.

    People watch. For some reason, a lot of us are good at this, while others find it hard to imagine. But it really takes only a little imagination to see what people are wearing. Fashion trends such as baseball caps or hatless? Who is wearing sunglasses (“See that two-year-old. Isn’t he a little young for shades”). You get the point.

    Make a conscious effort to relax. You may be excited about the prospect of the coaster there, but slip on headphones and listen to a slow song or try to find another way to relax. Music almost always helps. You will enjoy the ride more if you can do that.

    Songwriter Tom Petty once sang, “The waiting is the hardest part.”

    Did he go to theme parks? Could that have been an inspiration?

    We don’t know. But it’s something to consider…perhaps to even get your mind in another direction the next time you’re standing in yet another line. ###