You’re probably not surprised that a ride on Space Mountain at Walt Disney World Resort lasts only two minutes and 30 seconds. But the wait to get on it…
…That takes about two hours.
Of course, we exaggerate.
But if there is one thing that theme park visitors hate, it is waiting in lines.
So what can you do but wait?
That’s why it’s called waiting. Right?
Or maybe you call in queueing.
Whatever you call it, not pleasant. Not something you want to do.
Let’s take a good look at the subject of waiting. But far more important:
See what you can do about it.
Theme parks realize that guests hate waiting.
So they offer things like
Universal’s Express Pass and Disney’s FastPass+ and other alternatives.
These do cut back waiting times. But it does not eliminate them.
And it all costs extra.
So there are expensive options.
If you can afford them, fine.
But let’s see what else you can do. Without those costly options.
First or number one:
Buying your Disney World tickets ahead of time
Buy your Universal Studios Orlando tickets or Disney tickets or LEGOLAND tickets…or any other theme park tickets….online.
That way you immediately skip one line: to buy your tickets.
Well, sure, that is simple.
But you probably have no idea how many visitors start their stay by standing in line, say, to buy Busch Gardens Tampa tickets (no, we don’t know that number of stand-in-line people, either, but it is obviously a big one).
What we’re going to do today is look at your other choices of things you can do before going to the park…how to reduce your time waiting in lines while here…and things you can do to make the waiting easier to stomach.
But even before we get into more ways of cutting back or finding creative (yes, we said the word “creative” and it does apply at times to waiting lines), we need to take a closer look at the subject.
In looking at lines, we all know this is a world of instant gratification. Or at least that is what we all want (and Disney and other theme parks know it just as well, and cater to it by trying to cut back those lines).
Why you hate waiting in line
If you wonder why you hate the lines, there are many reasons such as a waste of time. But perhaps the best one comes from a renowned psychologist, Dr. Richard Larson, who says you hate it because:
It is involuntary imprisonment.
Simple as that (but that should help explain why we all hate it so much).
But Larson says no one does a better job of managing long lines than…guess who….Disney.
Let’s take a small and short detour here regarding Larson, an MIT engineering professor. All you really need to know about him is that his nickname is “Dr. Queue.”
Oh, one other thing:
His own experience getting stuck in lines prompted him (yes, lines also prompt creativity and sometimes positive results) to study the subject. And to look for improved experiences.
Studying lines is not new, of course.
Way back in the 1950s, the subject came up with the subject of waiting for elevators. But 1955 was also the opening of Disneyland.
There’s an art to it
The later mastered the art of standing in line…yes, it’s called that…and if you don’t believe us, that is what Larson said:
"The best scientist and engineers of line management in the world," he termed it.
Disney has introduced many waiting in line innovations. As simple as theme elements as you wait in line…walls in waiting lines that can be coded for meanings…and pre-show films, of course.
Part of the problem with lines, of course, is your attitude. Yes, you.
Most of us, including you, expect lines at the check-out counters of your favorite food stores. But you the consumer has to be there to buy life essentials. No choice.
But going to a theme park is fun. A pleasant experience. So you see lines there in a different light, Larson points out.
You’re not at the food stores now, but the happiest place on earth.
And you’re standing in a line. A long line.
What’s to be happy about?
Larson and others say your attitude can help.
Attitudes do count
They suggest making it positive.
Consider that those long lines help make theme parks able to offer you the entertainment you want. Without that popularity, you would not be able to be here. Simple as that.
Tell yourself also the line is short. It will be over soon.
All this attitude adjustment has a positive purpose: It will help reduce your time-slowing anxiety over the line.
So now you’re ready for some practical advice.
What to do even before getting to the park:
Do your research ahead of time (Oh my God, you might be thinking, no, not again…This advice applies to so much of going to theme parks, you may be tired of hearing it….and what fun is this, anyway?).
Maybe it’s not a lot of fun but it can be. Remember the right attitude?
Before you go, why not check on wait lines for the very special rides you want to see first?
If for no other reason, you might decide one ride or another could be eliminated because the lines are just too long.
This should also help you narrow down your list of top activities.
Now you’re in line.
So what do you do to pass the time?
Apps are one answer
You probably already know many of these but just in case…and as a reminder…games come in handy. A good variety of them.
Get them ready before you arrive, of course.
Remember that they can drain your battery quickly, as you know. So be on the lookout for power outlets.
You left your Netflix at home? So watch some other movies that you have already downloaded.
Games, movies help pass the time quickly
Or episodes of “Orange is the New Black” (talk about being in prison…this Netflix series about a woman serving jail time will really help you put your wait time in perspective).
There are also services such as Digiboo that lets you quickly rent movies and other events.
Podcasts have taken off. So subscribe to the ones that fit your tastes. Any good podcasting app will let you download many of them.
Books and magazines.
Put some books on apps so they’re ready when you are.
Most magazines also offer ways of reading content. Maybe find some articles on “The Art of Waiting.”
Self-improvement. What better use of your time than studying a new language.
(In light of immigration trends and demographics, Spanish is popular these days).
You may never use it but even learning basic phrases may not only come in handy in the US but also if you end up in a foreign country (you never know when some seemingly unnecessary skill you learned today will be handy tomorrow).
Some more considerations when thinking of your trip:
Try to go when others don’t.
What that means
For theme parks, this usually means when schools are in session. Weekdays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays are usually less crowded than weekends.
Some special events like Father’s Day are often less congested.
Super Bowl Sunday is even better.
Arrive early or late.
Get there an hour early, walk in the minute it opens, and hit the coasters and other popular rides first.
At Disney’s Magic Kingdom Park, every minute you arrive after the park opens is two extra minutes of waiting in line
That’s when most people go.
Skip special events.
Disney’s late night fireworks are great, and worth seeing, but it’s also a good time to avoid lines.
Be sure to go on rainy days.
Studies show that crowds disperse under gray skies that bring rain. Aha!
What some of them don’t know and you do… is that short rains are often seasonal in many theme park locations (Orlando and California as well).
The sunshine comes back quickly.
And so do your dry clothes.
But do bring an umbrella.
Tips on rides
When you get there, get in the single rider line. No, you can’t always find one.
But if you see one ahead, don’t be afraid to split up your group (and don’t demand to sit together).
This can speed you along a lot or rides a lot quicker. Some estimates are that this saves up to one third of waiting time.
Go to your priority rides first (remember? You have pre-planned them, so you know where to go).
That way, you will have finished or at least gotten to ride on your favorites.
Eat lunch and dinner early or late.
And take a break in the afternoons when crowds are often the worst. Come back in the evenings.
Don’t do what everyone else does
Just about everyone wants to go on the thrill rides such as the roller coasters.
Typically, those are often located on the left side of the park. They’re also in many cases at the rear of the park.
So don’t start at the beginning of the park. Go to the end and work backwards.
Break up ride lines by going to shows. Trust us, it will make waiting easier.
Ditto short breaks. If you can, leave the park a while for breaks.
That will also help reduce that feeling of always waiting in lines. Psychologically, at least.
If you are willing to pay extra for parking, exit the park at about lunchtime and stay for a few hours in your hotel room or just take a rest somewhere.
Here’s another trip not always known:
Events that require separate admission, such as “Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Party,” are likely to have shorter lines, even on weekday nights.
Events that require separate admission, such as Mickey's party, often require added costs. But it is often worth it to avoid the crowds. That’s a decision you’ll have to make.
But a hint of how we feel: Just how much is your time worth?
Some lines are also not to be feared.
When it comes to lines, don’t always be afraid
PS: Always keep in mind lines aren’t always what they seem to be.
A good example is roller coaster lines.
But many riders get discouraged. So don’t be one of them. Ride it out. Or wait it out is usually good advice here
So what if you are in a long line?
Why not interact with those in your group or better yet: others around you.
Non-family or friends around you have something in common with you: theme parks. No problem starting conversations with them no matter how reluctant you are to approach someone.
Just ask about their experiences here or favorite rides or anything connected to the parks.
A possible game while waiting is to imagine where ling-goers are from. Get your group to play guessing games. Then ask the person near you (who knows? This might even lead to new friends).
You can obviously play other non-tech games. One popular one is the old scissors, rock and paper. If you don’t know to play it, ask some older people about the “rules.”
Other ways to keep amused:
Shoot photos of people in line or whatever captures your interest.
Trade jokes. Old-fashioned, sure, but not something you do every day.
Just accept it.
What else can you do?
Make up your own games. Use your imagination.
Here’s something to think about while you do that:
After waiting, say, an hour for a two minute ride, you will probably enjoy it more than ever.
Didn’t think of that, did you?
A scientific study in a medical journal a few years ago found that waiting in lines adds value or makes us enjoy it more than if we had instant gratification. ###