As you probably know, you are able to book 3 fastpasses (FP) in advance per park per day. Well, that is great, but how do we minimize our wait time in lines for all of the other rides? You could, hopefully, book and use all 3 of your fastpasses in the morning and see what is available for additional fastpasses for the other attractions for the rest of the day. But, you still have plenty of time in between while using your first 3 fastpasses to ride other attractions!
Extra Magic Hours/Park Opening: First and foremost, it is always best to be at all of the theme parks when they open. It is, generally, the slowest part of the day. You may not think so when you see the crowd waiting to get in, but it really is. Those crowds are a few hundred people. The parks hold thousands of people. If at all possible, take advantage of the Extra Magic Hours (EMH). EMH's are extra hours for Disney resort guests. The EMH are in the morning or late at night. It is important to keep in mind that not all resort guests get up early. Many will sleep in a little later. Especially if they have young children. Even a 1/2 hour makes a huge difference.
Here is a particular scenario where EMH's paid off big time for me that you could benefit from as well: I did not have a FP for Flight of Passage. I decided to try to get on that attraction when Animal Kingdom Park opened. My best bet was to try on a day when there were EMH. Buses are supposed to begin running 45 minutes before the parks open. Animal Kingdom Park was supposed to open at 9am to the general public and 8am Extra Magic Hours for Disney resort guests. I was at the Grand Floridian and my bus didn't arrive until 7:25. I was already thinking that there is no way I will get on Flight of Passage with less than an hour wait, but now the bus is late? I am in trouble, right? I get to the park at 7:50 and saw no lines anywhere. No one at security or the MagicBand scanners. They had already let everyone in. They do have a verification point to ensure you are staying on property before you can enter the rest of the park, but it is after scanning your MagicBand to enter the park. I still headed towards Flight of Passage even though I was not optimistic I would be going on the attraction. As I got closer, there were quite a few cast members directing people where to go. They start the line for Flight of Passage outside and not inside, because, technically, the attractions are not open, yet. The My Disney Experience app said there was a 60 minute wait, but when I saw this line with cast members, I knew it could not be an hour. I inquired. The cast member said that they opened the gates earlier for people to get in line in an effort to avoid running, pushing, injuries, etc. They do not really know how long the wait will be in the morning, because the ride has not opened, yet. They give an estimate on the app based on previous days. What appeared to be a long line, I knew was a drop in the bucket compared to what it could be. I got in line and the line immediately started to move through the park and into the que. From the moment I got in line to the moment I got off Flight of Passage, it was 15 minutes total. I then walked on Na'vi. As I walked out of Na'vi and was making my way to Africa, it looked like a dinosaur was chasing hundreds of people. Disney let non-Disney resort guests in 15 minutes early. I, literally, had to use evasive maneuvers to avoid being trampled and injured. Thankfully, I was leaving Pandora. In summary, obviously, it was not 60 minutes. It was 15 minutes total. Take advantage of Extra Magic Hours if staying in a Disney resort or a good neighbor hotel! Click here for details. Once again, take advantage of those sleeping in or not quite arriving as early as everyone else. Minutes on an earlier bus ride can make a world of a difference.
Magic Kingdom: I have tackled this park two ways. I book FastPasses for Pirates of the Caribbean (POC) and 2 other difficult fastpass attractions and I start to the left of the park, because most people go to the right or straight. I go to POC first. If the standby line is less than 15 minutes, I do not use my FP. I go into the standby line and change that POC FP to another available attraction while standing in line. I, sometimes, go on Jungle Cruise next or head over to the Mountains to see how long the wait is if I do not have FastPasses for them. I have been able to ride almost everything I want by mid-day by standing in short lines and using FP's. I change every FP while I stand in line if the standby line is shorter than 20-30 minutes after that.
Another recent experience was when I attempted to make a mad dash to 7 Dwarfs Mine Train first (not during EMH), because I could not get a FP. So, I watched the opening show and made my way to that attraction. As I walked to get to the end of the line, it just kept going and going. There was no way that was going to be a short wait so I decided to skip it. This will be something I try, again, when I am there during EMH. So, I did an abrupt turn and was able to walk on Peter Pan and The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh. As I started to make my way to the Haunted Mansion, I walked by, what appeared to be closed, "it's a small world". There was a cast member standing there with no guest in sight. No lines. No one walking or riding. I said "Oh, it's down?" She said, "no, go right in!" I rode the boat all by myself. Literally, no one there. I then proceeded to walk into Haunted Mansion with no lines. I now had to hurry to POC, because my FP was going to expire! It was only 10am and I had already gone on 5 attractions in one hour. I proceeded to use my other 2 FP's, watched a parade and went on 2 more attractions without FP's with minimal to no wait (Under the Sea~Journey of The Little Mermaid and PeopleMover). Then, I was given a very big surprise. I was checking for available FP's and found one for 7 Dwarfs Mine Train. I watched Festival of Fantasy Parade and went back to the resort to rest after a very active 5 hours.
Animal Kingdom: Be prepared to bounce around for the first hour or so. Other than Flight of Passage and Na'vi as I discussed above, if you want to ride as much as you can, simply go in the morning and go to Expedition Everest, Dinosaur and Kilimanjaro Safari first if you do not have FastPasses. (Go to Kali River Rapids, too, if you do not mind getting wet in the morning.) Then, backtrack and take your time going around the park and do everything else. It is your best way to ride all of those attractions without long lines before everyone is leaving Pandora to explore the rest of the park. Tip: I have seen 10 minute wait times at Expedition Everest a couple hours before the park is expected to close. I rode it 4 times the last time I was there. It appears many are leaving the park for other parks even though there are night time activities at Animal Kingdom now. Pandora will still have lengthy lines at both attractions, but the other attractions have significantly lower times in the late evening. Of course, that could change or be different during other times of the year, but this is my experience, so far.
Epcot: The most difficult FP to get there (right now), is Frozen Ever After. If you want to go on that attraction, then choose that FP in advance, if available, for your tier 1 FP. The odds of getting a FP for Soarin' and/or Test Track later that day after you have used all 3 of your FP's is better than the other way around. I have seen people head directly to Frozen as soon as the park opens, because the World Showcase is, technically, not open, yet. Many will go to Test Track and Soarin' first. I have not tried that, yet. I have had a FP for Frozen or I check the wait time when I walk by. The last time I was there, I walked by around 11am and it was a 30 minute wait. WHAT?! Yes, I had to take advantage of that! Once again, EMH would be best or be there before it opens so you can get through security and the ticket lines quick enough to go to those popular attractions during shorter wait times as many are sleeping in.
Hollywood Studios: Hystorically speaking, I have booked RRC and TOT. The tiers have changed a few times. So, while I can recommend a process, Disney may have changed the tiers or boarding process, again. Star Wars attractions and Toy Story attractions are the most popular. Click here for Tier information. Choose the ones that are most important to you to book FP in advance and then make a mad dash to the others when the park opens. Once again, many people sleep in. Mornings are always best. Like I said in Animal Kingdom, maybe prepare to bounce around to hit the highlighted attractions and then backtrack to see more of the other stuff later.
Booking FastPasses Tip: If Flight of Passage, Rise of Resistance, Millennium Falcon, 7 Dwarfs Mine Train, Slinky Dog Dash, Alien Saucers and Frozen are important, go for those first and book whatever you can 60 days in advance, if you are a Disney resort guest. They are the most difficult to get. You may have to move your plans around. For instance, lets say you plan for Animal Kingdom Park on Monday, but were not able to get Flight of Passage until Thursday, book the Thursday for Flight of Passage and then try 7 Dwarfs Mine Train on Monday. If 7 Dwarfs Mine Train is not open until Wednesday, book it and then try Frozen for Monday and so on. If nothing on that Monday, try other available days, but do not give up the first two. Then, book the rest of your rides around those. If you cannot rearrange days around FastPasses, because of dining reservations, keep trying for FastPasses on the desired days up until the day you are there and/or try one of the methods I listed above.
I plan for the worst and hope for the best. Keep in mind that this is my experience over the last several visits. It is not a guarantee. I pass these on as ideas that may work for you. For more information about FastPasses and Tiers, click here or go to FastPass+ and Tiers under the "Disney Planning" tab.