My visit to the Magic Kingdom last Sunday could have been a disaster. I waited too long to make FastPass+ reservations, for one thing. When I did – three days before my trip – none were available for Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, and only late afternoon reservations remained for most Fantasyland attractions. Even worse, there were 3 long ride breakdowns during the day I visited – at Pirates, Big Thunder, and the Peoplemover – that would have been hard to handle without a computer to adjust my plan. But it gave us some great ideas for improving the Optimizer, our touring plan software. Here’s how my day unfolded.
Before I left, I made a copy of our standard Magic Kingdom One-Day Touring Plan for Adults. The Magic Kingdom was open from 9 AM to 10 PM, and we’d predicted a crowd level of 6 on our 1-to-10 crowd calendar. I was able to get these FastPasses:
Space Mountain at 9:15 AM
Big Thunder Mountain at 10:15 AM
Peter Pan’s Flight at 5:05 PM
I also set the touring plan walking speed to its fastest setting, and told it to minimize waiting in line. Here’s the touring plan the Optimizer came up with:
- Pirates of the Caribbean
- Jungle Cruise
- The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh
- Space Mountain using FastPass+
- Haunted Mansion
- Splash Mountain
- Big Thunder Mountain using FastPass+
- A Pirate’s Adventure – Treasure of the Seven Seas
- Swiss Family Treehouse
- The Hall of Presidents
- Liberty Square Riverboat
- Walt Disney’s Carousel of Progress
- Monsters, Inc. Laugh Floor
- Tomorrowland Transit Authority Peoplemover
- Mickey’s PhilharMagic
- Country Bear Jamboree
- Enchanted Tiki Room
- it’s a small world
- Peter Pan’s Flight using Fastpass+
- Under the Sea – Journey of the Little Mermaid
- Seven Dwarfs Mine Train
- Evening Parade
- Wishes Fireworks
Putting Pirates and Jungle Cruise first is an interesting strategy, and one that I probably wouldn’t have thought of. But the Optimizer knew something I forgot: that FastPass+ has increased standby waits at Pirates of the Caribbean more than any other ride in Walt Disney World. Jungle Cruise’s waits have also increased since FastPass+, so once I remembered those things, this seemed like a reasonable
Ride Breakdown #1 – Pirates of the Caribbean
The park opened a few minutes before 9 AM and, accompanied by the intrepid Laurel, we walked back to the Adventureland bridge, and then to Pirates. When we got to Pirates, we were told the ride was down and would be reopening later in the day. (And yes, the same Castmembers that walked us to Pirates, then turned around and told us Pirates was closed.)
That could have been a big problem without the Optimizer, because I would have had to figure out when to visit Pirates later, taking in to account not only when the ride might be up, but how high wait times would be with a backlog of FastPass+ riders to process. Instead of re-doing my plan, though, I just skipped to Jungle Cruise and let the Optimizer figure it out for me.
There was no wait at Jungle Cruise, and Skipper Alex was excellent. We made it to The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh around 9:11 AM. It had a posted wait of 5 minutes and we waited 2. During those couple of minutes, though, we noticed that Seven Dwarfs might also have had a rough start to the morning – the standby line stretched all the way back to Mad Tea Party, which meant a wait much longer than the 30-minute posted. (It went to 60 right after that.)
We used our Fastpasses to ride Space Mountain next, and the wait was under 5 minutes. From there we headed to Haunted Mansion, where we waited 5 minutes on a posted wait of 10.
I had re-optimized our touring plan while we were in line at Haunted Mansion, and it suggested we try Pirates of the Caribbean next, since Pirates had finally opened around 9:40 AM. We got to Pirates at 10:10 AM, and the posted wait was 30 minutes. We ended up waiting 15, which was pretty good considering the backlog of FastPass+ guests it had to process. (It would be 45 to 50 minutes for much of the afternoon, and Pirates would go briefly offline again around 3:30 PM.)
Ride Breakdown #2 – Big Thunder Mountain Railroad
After Pirates we waited about 20 minutes to ride Splash Mountain. Here’s video of the big drop (sorry about my thumb!):
From there we dried off and headed to Big Thunder Mountain to use our Fastpasses. Right before we got in the Fastpass line, Big Thunder broke down with what was apparently a serious issue – Disney made an announcement over the ride’s loudspeakers and everyone in line turned around and walked out. (It ended up being closed for almost two hours.)
We decided on an early lunch at Columbia Harbour House – I decided to carb load with the hummus sandwich, homemade chips, and an extra side of fries. After that, we played A Pirate’s Adventure in Adventurland before starting an afternoon of low-wait attractions: Swiss Family Treehouse, Hall of Presidents, Liberty Square Riverboat, Walt Disney’s Carousel of Progress, Monsters, Inc. Laugh Floor, TTA, Mickey’s PhilharMagic, Country Bear Jamboree, and Enchanted Tiki Room.
Most of that afternoon was unremarkable. There was no audio narration on the Riverboat, so I may need to create one as backup for the next time. We managed to ride Big Thunder after the Riverboat, and Disney honored our FastPass+ reservations. Oh, and I lost my eyeglasses on the ride, which made the rest of the day a mildly blurry experience, until I could get my backup glasses from the car.
Ride Breakdown #3 – The Tomorrowland Transit Authority Peoplemover
Over in Tomorrowland, the TTA Peoplemover was down most of the afternoon, including when we tried to ride around 3 PM. (It was still down at 7 PM, and we ended up leaving the park without riding.) We skipped that step and walked right in to the next showing of PhilharMagic.
We hit Small World after finishing the Enchanted Tiki Room, with a posted wait of only 15 minutes and an actual wait of less than 10. From there, we rode Peter Pan with our last FastPass+, then had an actual wait of 18 at Under the Sea – Journey of the Little Mermaid.
We decided to skip our scheduled hour-long dinner in the park and finish with Seven Dwarfs Mine Train. The Optimizer probably put 7DMT in the early evening as part of a “wait out the crowds” strategy, knowing that people start to leave the park after the afternoon parade, and that trend accelerates around dinnertime.
We arrived at 7DMT just before 6 PM, and the posted wait was 70 minutes. We were optimistic, though, that the wait would be less than that, because no part of the standby line was visible from outside the ride. Sure enough, we only waited 25 minutes to ride, and that was our longest wait of the day. Also, I’m starting to appreciate 7DMT more as time goes on. It’s never going to be the Magic Kingdom’s best attraction, but as a “first roller coaster” for kids, it does really well.
That ended our day in the Magic Kingdom – 20 rides in 9 ½ hours, with time out for lunch and snacks. For reference, that’s twice as many rides as the average Magic Kingdom guest experiences in a full day, and we left the park 3½ hours before it closed. Our longest wait of the day was that 25 minutes for the Mine Train, even though we’d eventually calculate the actual crowd level as an 8 (from a 6). More importantly, the 3 ride breakdowns started a conversation with our team about how we can better handle ride breakdowns with the Optimizer and Lines app. I’m happy to say that we’re working on something right now, and it should be available to test in a few weeks.
On this trip I also tested the Magic Kingdom touring plan for parents with small children, and the Animal Kingdom one-day touring plan. Leave a comment below if you’d like to hear about those days, or about anything else from my trip. Thanks for reading!