Hurry Up and Wait!

A big part of our Disney World vacation consisted of waiting in lines. It began with the check-in process, and continued through the entire experience. It never occurred to me just how much line waiting we did until I began to think about it. Here are something we stood in line for:

  • Checking in to our hotel.
  • Waiting for the shuttle buses to take us from hotel to park and vice versa.
  • Bag security prior to entering the parks.
  • Park entrances.
  • Buying food, whether quick service, sit-down reservations, or a popcorn vendor in Epcot.
  • Meeting the Disney characters throughout the park.
  • Restrooms, if you were a woman. The men’s rooms never seemed to have lines.
  • The rides themselves.

Disney has made line-waiting into something of an art form. Years ago, they introduced FastPass, which holds your place in line for a specific time slot. Then they morphed that into FastPass+. Now, there are only two types of lines one stands in when waiting to get on a ride at the Disney parks: FastPass+ and Standby.

FastPass+ works out great if you are a planner. Kelly picked out our FastPasses for us, and we walked onto every ride we really wanted to go on without any significant wait. At one point, the Little Man and I had a FastPass for Space Mountain. The Standby line had a 135 minute wait—and people were still going into the Standby line. From the time we entered the FastPass lane to the time we exited the ride, 10 minutes elapsed.

Walking onto Space Mountain with our FastPasses made me feel a little guilty. You walk past a long line of people who didn’t plan ahead, or chose to use their FastPasses for something else. The looks we got from the people in the Standby line were similar to the looks one gets when called to board First Class on an airplane, or when using the Premier security lines at the airport. They made me feel a little uncomfortable.

There were a few rides that we went Standby on because we didn’t have FastPasses for them. We did this for Splash Mountain, and Mission Space. In each case, we waited in line for about 30 minutes. I watched what seemed like hundreds of FastPass people zip by and I brooded. They all had a superior look about them, as if they were boarding First Class on an airplane or something like that. Who did they think they were, anyway, with their fancy FastPasses?

The Standby lines provide the best measure of a ride. I’m not a fan of rating systems, but if I had to rate rides at Disney World, I’d consider whether they were Standby-worthy—and if so, for how long? Splash Mountain was definitely 30-minute Standby-worth. I don’t think I’d wait 45 minutes for it, though.

It was amusing to watch people in line at different times of the day. Waiting on a line early in the morning, people are bright, energetic, eager, almost bouncing with excitement. Late in the day, the lines consist of limp limbs, stooped shoulders, frowns, crying children, and parents that look like they could use a vacation.

The way people rush into the parks the minute they open just to stand in line reminds me of something my grandfather used to say anytime he found himself standing in a line: “Hurry up and wait!”