Picture being on your Disney trip. Picture the snacks you’ll have, the photos you’ll be snapping, and all the rides you can’t wait to ride. Now picture walking all the way over to your favorite ride at the end of the day and you see the wait time is 90 minutes.
That can’t be right. The park is going to be closing soon! How is the wait time for [insert just about any popular ride here] so long?!
What if we told you it probably wasn’t actually that long?
Posted Wait Times vs. Actual Wait Times
For the sake of clarity, posted wait times are the official wait times that Disney posts in the MDE app and on the queue entrance.
Actual wait times are, of course, how long you’re actually waiting in line.
Most Disney regulars know it, but it isn’t mainstream knowledge that Disney will at times hyperinflate the posted wait times for certain rides at certain times of the day as a method of traffic control. It’s a technique that allows them to manage crowd levels and increase (or decrease) flow in parts of the parks.
Why should this matter to you when you’re touring the parks?
Knowing which rides tend to have consistent hyperinflated posted waits puts you ahead of the curve and may give you a chance to ride something that someone else would probably skip because they see the posted wait time and decide not to wait.
First, the posted wait for most rides is always going to be at least a little hyperinflated.
We have found that the actual wait time is typically 20-25% less than the posted wait. If a ride is posted as a 60-minute wait, we typically assume it’s closer to 45-50 minutes.
Many of these rides will also usually post a VERY hyperinflated wait time at the end of the night.
Saving these rides for later is actually our personal preference and #1 recommendation. We talk more about our End of Night strategy for riding just about any ride – like Rise of the Resistance – without the same crazy wait times during the day in-depth, and MANY more strategies, in our Parks Strategy Playbook.
Let’s talk about what we have dubbed the Golden Rule of park strategy at Disney.
The Golden Rule: Using Visual Cues to Visualize the Queue
We have what we’ve dubbed “The Golden Rule” when it comes to determining what the “actual” wait time for a ride might be.
Some queues may be harder to determine than others, but the “Golden Rule” is to see if the line starts AFTER the official queue entrance.
If it does, you’re probably looking at a more reasonable wait. Does it look like there’s a line to get in line? As in, is it so crowded that a line is forming in the park area OUTSIDE of the ride? That’s usually the red flag – you might want to skip that one and come back to it.
For example: you’re at Animal Kingdom and looking at Expedition Everest. The posted wait is 35 minutes (which is long in our world!). However, you look at the queue entrance and you don’t see a line of people forming right there or outside of it. The real wait is probably 25 minutes or less.
As always, YMMV.
Now, none of this is an exact science. We’re basing this information on (a lot of) anecdotal experience and on posted wait time vs actual wait time averages from historical data. There are just too many factors that could influence wait times like weather, time of day, time of year, what else is happening in the parks (ie, events), the ride itself, and so on.
This is also where Genie+ admittedly makes things a lot easier. But Genie+ only allows one Lightning Lane per ride, and sometimes you just wanna ride Space Mountain twice in one day, so standby strategy comes in!
So which rides are notorious for hyperinflated wait times?
- Big Thunder Mountain Railroad
Big Thunder is often hyperinflated – sometimes by a lot, especially in the mornings and evenings. We’ve seen the posted wait say 30 minutes and have the actual wait only be 5 minutes. You can always look to the queue for visual help. The first part of the queue is outdoors and goes slightly uphill until you’re indoors. If that first part of the queue is empty and you can walk right up to the building, you’re looking at about less than a 20-minute wait typically.
- Buzz Lightyear Space Ranger Spin
Buzz is another culprit of hyperinflating wait times. It’s not uncommon to see a 50-minute posted wait and have it actually only be 25 minutes. If you aren’t sure, there is an overflow queue outdoors to the left of the building for when the line does build. If you don’t see that line outdoors, you’re usually looking at a reasonable wait.
- Haunted Mansion
Pro tip: If you see the posted wait time is 13 minutes, hop in line! That’s Disney-speak for “it’s probably gonna be a walk-on.”
Honorable mentions at Magic Kingdom: Pirates of the Caribbean, Under the Sea, and Space Mountain. If it doesn’t seem busy in the area outside the ride, the wait is probably shorter than it’s posted!
This one usually gets hyperinflated at the end of the night, but the ride goes up and down in wait times all day. Use the golden rule here and look at the queue. Sometimes, the line backs up to the China Pavilion – that’s when you’re gonna have a LONG wait. Other times, the line will start closer to the ride entrance or even inside the building. If the line is inside the building, you’re looking at less than a 25-minute wait (often even shorter!).
- The Seas with Nemo & Friends
The waits for this are never super high, but a lot of times they’ll keep the posted wait time between 15-20 minutes, even when it’s a near walk-on. If it looks slow in the area, the wait is probably super low.
Soarin’ is almost always hyperinflated. Typically you can expect to shave about 30-40% off the posted time. We’ve noticed they love to post a 50 minute wait when it’s actually only around 30 minutes. If you stand right outside of the line entrance and don’t see a line forming at the front of the building, you’re likely looking at 30 minutes or less.
- Test Track
Test Track usually has a shorter wait than what is posted, but not significantly (more like 20-25%). For planning purposes, take this posted wait at face value and maybe then you’ll have the pleasant surprise of waiting a little less!
This park is pretty inconsistent with posted vs. actual wait times, so it’s hard to give advice here – especially when lines around here tend to get LONG.
- Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run
We have found that wait times for Smugglers Run tend to be chronically hyperinflated. The higher ride capacity helps keep waits reasonable, and we’ve been pleasantly surprised to only actually wait about 30-45 minutes on even heavier park attendance days. Again, YMMV depending on time of day and other factors.
- Slinky Dog Dash
Hopefully you have a Lightning Lane lined up through Genie+ and won’t have to worry about this at all! If not, the visual queue golden rule applies well here. If the line starts inside the official queue entrance, you’re looking at 45 minutes or less.
- Toy Story Midway Mania
This ride stays hyperinflated through the last few hours of the evening, but don’t let it deter you. We frequently see posted 40-50 minutes when the line is actually only 10 minutes.
- Expedition Everest
Usually hyperinflated, this queue is easy to take a visual cue from. Due to the geography of the area, if the queue entrance area looks chaotic (ie, the line stretches far out, and/or there are tons of people out front making it difficult to see where the beginning of the line actually is), save it for later! If you can easily enter the queue and head inside, the wait is usually 20 minutes or less.
- Flight of Passage
This headliner still draws lots of crowds so while the wait might be hyperinflated, sometimes it isn’t by much – especially midday. The golden rule doesn’t apply here, as a vast majority of the queue isn’t visible from outside of the queue entrance. We like to use our End of Night Strategy on this one!
Good planning, solid strategy, and a little bit of luck goes a looooooong way when it comes to decreasing the time spent waiting for rides at Disney. And who doesn’t want to say they rode every ride?
Have a Disney trip coming up? Check out The Complete Parks Strategy Playbook to Walt Disney World to get all of the expert tips, itineraries, and more insider park knowledge like this to plan your perfect, no-to-low wait trip!