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Answering All Your Questions About Virtual Queues

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I admit, that title is a bit ambitious. But I’m gonna give it a go, and if I miss anything let me know in the comments. Last updated/republished May 28, 2024.

Just to give you a preview, here’s what we’re going to cover:

  • What are Virtual Queues?
  • Why you need to know about Virtual Queues
  • The basics of Virtual Queues at Disney World and Disneyland
  • General details about the process of getting a Boarding Group
  • Some reasons why Disney uses Virtual Queues
  • Other frequently asked questions

What Are Virtual Queues?

In the general meaning, a virtual queue is any system that lets you hold a place in line without standing in it. You know how at the supermarket you can take a number at the deli counter, then grab a few more things while you’re waiting to be called? That’s a virtual queue, and it doesn’t use anything more complicated than a roll of cardboard tickets.

Many tourist destinations use virtual queues, but here we’re talking about Virtual Queues at Disney World (and Disneyland). In all honesty, the system in other places is easier. More like take a ticket in the deli line, less like needing a Ph.D. in MDE.

Why Do I Need to Know About Virtual Queues?

When Flight of Passage first opened anyone could show up, get in line, and ride it. Now, many new attractions at Disney parks use a Virtual Queue when they first open, and there’s no standby line. If you don’t know in advance that you’ll need to use the Virtual Queue, you may not be able to get on Disney’s newest rides.

Empty queue area at Cosmic Rewind
Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind has used a Virtual Queue since it opened.

Disney uses Virtual Queues for different types of experiences. The basic steps for joining are the same, but they have slightly different rules. This article focuses on the Virtual Queues for attractions.

What Are the Basics?

There are two ways in which Virtual Queues are used. The first is at attractions that do not offer a standby line; the Virtual Queue opens at scheduled times known as “drops”. At each drop the queue stays open until the drop is full.

At other attractions, a standby line is offered and a Virtual Queue is used for “overflow” when the line gets too long. For attractions that use these overflow-style Virtual Queues, you’ll need to check the app to see whether the Virtual Queue is in use and if it’s open.

For both types, if you join successfully, you’ll be placed into a numbered “Boarding Group”. Many other people may have the same Boarding Group as you. When your Boarding Group is called, you’ll have an hour to get to the ride entrance and sign in. Some attractions allow you to arrive any time after your group is called until the attraction closes for the day. There is always a chance that you might not get called if the ride goes down for part of the day, etc.

For the rest of this article, we’re going to focus on the Virtual Queues for attractions that don’t use a standby line. They are the ones most likely to cause an unprepared guest frustration.

Can You Give Me a Few More Specifics?

Sure.

For attractions that don’t use a standby line at all, details below have been pretty consistent. Click one of the links below to read a walkthrough for attractions that are currently using a Virtual Queue.

When it opens on June 28th, Tiana’s Bayou Adventure will use a Virtual Queue. We’ll have a walkthrough available as soon as Disney releases more details about how it will work.

The Drops

The My Disney Experience (MDE) app is used to join Virtual Queues at Disney World. Virtual Queues at Disneyland use the Disneyland app. You’ll need to install the appropriate app and sign in.

There are usually 2-3 drops per day. Everyone who wants to ride needs to have a park reservation if their tickets require one. And everyone who is riding should also be linked in My Disney Experience Family & Friends.

  • The first drop is at 7 a.m., and you don’t need to be in the park to join.
  • The second drop is at 1 p.m.; to join this drop you need to have entered the park. Disney implies that you need to be in the park, but in practice, we find this is not true. If you were in the park in the morning and left to take a break, you’ll still be able to join.
  • There is sometimes a third drop for Extended Evening Hours or a hard-ticket event, For these drops, you don’t need to have entered the park.

For each Virtual Queue attraction, you can only enter with a Boarding Group once per day during regular hours. If you’re eligible, you can get a second one during a hard-ticket event or Extended Evening Hours.

When the rides are newest, each drop closes in literally seconds. It’s possible to do everything exactly right, and still not get a Boarding Group. After the attraction has been open for a while, Boarding Groups are easier to get.

Tips for Success in Getting a Boarding Group

⭐ Make sure that you have a good signal. There are people in camp WiFi and people in camp data, but the right answer can depend on where you are standing and can change over time. You can test in advance from the location where you are going to book by using the Refresh button on WiFi and on data to see which is faster.

⭐ If you are joining for the first time or with any new people that you’ve never joined with, access the Virtual Queue set up when it first opens an hour before the drop. If someone in your group isn’t showing up in your app, you’ll have 60 minutes to get any Friends & Family issues sorted out.

⭐ Once you’re confident you can add your whole party, come back a few minutes or so before the drop to test whether to use WiFi or data and get set up. Many people find it useful to set timers to make sure they don’t forget.

⭐ Having multiple people try on different devices will increase your chance of success. It’s OK if they’re all logged in using the same MDE account.

⭐ For drops where you might already be in the park, make sure you’re not going to be on a ride or deep in a queue with no signal when it’s time to book – I’ve been caught this way more than once.

Monitoring Your Group

If you’re successful at getting a group, keep an eye on the status. The ebb and flow of arrival times, ride downtime, and the number of people purchasing Individual Lightning Lanes all affect how fast Boarding Groups are called. Don’t assume that it’s a constant pace, or that any estimated return time will be accurate. (Some Virtual Queues offer estimated return times, and some do not.)

What Happens if You Miss Your Boarding Group Window?

The uncertainty with Virtual Queue return times can create conflicts with reservations or transportation. Some attractions are very loose about enforcing return times, and others are very rigid.

If you’re only a little late, let the Cast Member at the ride entrance know what happened. Usually, you’ll be allowed to ride. If you’re late because of a dining reservation, bring your receipt to show the conflict. If you’re very late for some other reason, Disney’s recommendation is to start at the Guest Experience team. If you can’t ride because your group has expired, you can join the Virtual Queue again if there is another drop that day.

Riding Two Virtual Queue Attractions in the Same Day

Rules about being in more than one Virtual Queue at a time are complicated. Disney changes these whenever they feel like it. We try to keep these updated in our FAQ section below.

Why Does Disney Do It This Way?

It can be frustrating to have so little control over your schedule, and many people find Virtual Queues stressful. So why does Disney use them? I don’t work for Disney so I can’t say for sure, but here are some possible reasons.

Newer attractions tend to have some of the longest standby waits, leaving first-timers or infrequent visitors with a painful choice. Do you spend half your day in line to ride the very newest attraction – the one you (and your kids!) have seen all the advertising for? Or do you ride things that have shorter lines and “get more done” with your very expensive ticket? Disney may feel that a Virtual Queue gives infrequent guests a better experience by letting them access the newest attractions with a shorter wait.

A long line for Flight of Passage, extending through Pandora with the actual ride entrance out of sight.
About a year after it opened, this is the line to enter the line for Flight of Passage. Virtual Queues may be more friendly to infrequent visitors, even if waking up at 7 a.m. isn’t your thing.

New rides can also be prone to extra downtime until the kinks get sorted out. Standing in a queue for hours only to have it be “dumped” because the ride is down is very frustrating, and Virtual Queues avoid this.

Finally, Virtual Queues help keep the line from overflowing the queue space for the ride. The queue at Flight of Passage holds about 2-3 hours worth of riders, but in the first year or two the line routinely exceeded four hours and spilled over into the land; people were waiting so long that a bathroom was added to the queue.

Other Frequently Asked Questions

Which Attractions Are Currently Using Virtual Queues?

At Disney World, there are currently multiple attractions using Virtual Queues.

  • Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind has a Virtual Queue and no standby line.
  • TRON Lightcycle/Run has a Virtual Queue and no standby line
  • When Tiana’s Bayou Adventure opens on June 28th, it will use a Virtual Queue with no standby line.

At Disneyland, no attractions are currently using Virtual Queues.

Can You Be in Two Virtual Queues at the Same Time?

That depends on what they are for. At Disney World, you cannot currently hold a Boarding Group for TRON and Cosmic Rewind at the same time. We don’t know yet what the rules will be when Tiana’s Bayou Adventure opens.

At Disneyland, you cannot be in two attraction Virtual Queues at the same time. But Disneyland isn’t using a Virtual Queue at any attractions right now.

Can I Do Two Attractions with Virtual Queues on the Same Day?

Maybe. For a more detailed answer, see How to Get a Boarding Group for Tron and Cosmic Rewind in the Same Day.

Can You Get an Individual Lightning Lane and a Boarding Group on the Same Day?

For rides that offer both ILL and Boarding Groups, yes you can get both in the same day.

If You’re Eligible for a Virtual Queue During Extended Hours, Can You Get One During Regular Hours Too?

Yes. You can get a Boarding Group for an attraction during the park’s regular hours and also join the Virtual Queue during extended hours. This also applies to Virtual Queues used during hard ticket events such as Disney After Hours, Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party, and Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party. If you also buy an Individual Lightning Lane for the same attraction, you can get three rides in one day.

What About the World of Color Virtual Queue?

Virtual Queues for Entertainment (shows at a fixed time) have different rules than Virtual Queues for attractions. You can read about World of Color’s Virtual Queue here: Step-By-Step Guide For How To Get a World of Color Virtual Queue Spot.

How Do Virtual Queues Fit In With Genie/Genie+?

Virtual Queues are a completely separate system from Genie/Genie+. There is only a single point of intersection, which is that if you have a Boarding Group you’ll be able to view the status from the My Day tab in Genie.

How Do Virtual Queues Work With DAS?

If someone in your party is eligible to use the Disability Access System (DAS), you still have to join the Virtual Queue and get a Boarding Group. Once you arrive at the ride and show your DAS eligibility, you’ll be directed to the Lightning Lane to minimize your wait.

If You Need to Enter the Park to Be Eligible for a Drop, Does Everyone Who Will Ride Need to Enter?

Yes. Everyone in a group needs to meet the eligibility requirements, whatever they are, for the drop they are trying to join.

Will I Still Have to Wait in Line After My Boarding Group Is Called?

Usually, yes. You may need to wait anywhere from 10 to 45 minutes, on average, or longer if the ride goes down briefly while you’re in the queue.

If There Are Four People in a Boarding Group and Two Don’t Want to Ride, Can the Other Two Ride Twice?

When you show up for your Boarding Group and tap in, nobody checks to see if the MagicBand or ticket card belongs to you. So if Dad ran out of steam before your group got called and he left his MagicBand with your kid when he headed back to the hotel, your kid can use it to ride twice. This only works if the owner of the MagicBand or ticket has entered the park that day—you can’t get a Boarding Group for Grandma and bring her MagicBand along while she lounges by the pool. Check in promptly if you want to try, since you’ll need to be able to complete the first ride before your window expires.

Disney’s answer to this might be that Lightning Lanes and Boarding Groups are not transferrable. But in practice, we’ve never had an issue letting one family member ride with another member’s MagicBand or ticket, and we know that this is not uncommon.

If a Ride Uses Both Individual Lightning Lane and Virtual Queue, Which Is Easier to Get?

That depends on how long the ride has been open and how popular it is. The one thing that’s always true is that if ILLs are selling out before park opening and you’re not staying at a Disney Resort, the Virtual Queue will be your only option.

Can I Practice Joining the Virtual Queue Before My Trip?

Yes. Your ticket does need to be valid, so if you’re using a dated ticket you’ll need to wait until the appropriate day. If your ticket needs a park reservation, you’ll need to make one. But as long as you don’t actually enter the park, it won’t use up your admission.

Do I Need A Park Pass Reservation to Join the Virtual Queue at 7 a.m.?

If you need a park reservation to enter the park, then yes, and it needs to be for the park with the Virtual Queue that you’re trying to get into. That’s true even if your ticket allows Park Hopping.

If your ticket allows you to enter without a reservation, then no, you do not need a reservation to enter the Virtual Queue at 7 am.

If you have a Boarding Group for TRON, can you go to a different park first?

Yes, and the same is true for Guardians. We tested this after a reader said they had been advised by a friend that entering a different park first would cancel your Boarding Group. We found that there is a bug (as of 2/12/2024) in My Disney Experience, and entering another park causes the Boarding Group to disappear when you look at the Virtual Queues page. However, the Boarding Group was still visible on the My Genie Day page. When we checked with a CM, they confirmed that they had seen this before and that the My Genie Day page was accurate.

Can You Use Rider-Switch With a Virtual Queue?

Yes, you can. If you’re not familiar with the basics of Rider Switch, see Rider Switch at Disney World: Guide and FAQ. The key for Virtual Queues is that you’ll set up your Rider Switch when you return for your Boarding Group, and your first group of riders will wait in the return line. When the second group redeems the Rider Switch pass, they’ll wait in the Lightning Lane. Since you can wait quite a while in the return line for Boarding Groups, Rider Switch can save the second group a lot of time.

Which Rides Have Switched From Virtual Queues to Standby Lines?

At Disney World, Rise of the Resistance and Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure have used boarding groups with no standby line in the past. Journey of Water Inspired b y Moana used an overflow-type Virtual Queue when it first opened.

At Disneyland, Rise of the Resistance, Spiderman WEB Slingers, and Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway have used boarding groups in the past. Indiana Jones Adventure also briefly used an overflow-style Virtual Queue when Disneyland reopened in April, 2021.

In addition to the standby queue, all of these rides are currently available using Lightning Lane or Individual Lightning Lane.

Did we get everything? What questions do you have that we didn’t answer? Let us know in the comments!

First published September 20, 2022. 

 

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Jennifer Heymont

Jennifer has a background in math and biology, so she ended up in Data Science where she gets to do both. She lives just north of Boston with her husband, kids, and assorted animal members of the family. Although it took three visits for the Disney bug to "take", she now really wishes she lived a lot closer to the Parks.

10 thoughts on “Answering All Your Questions About Virtual Queues

  • Although I am unable to experience the thrill of the Guardians ride owing to recent neck surgery, I would still like to view the displays in the Wonders of Xandar wait. Is there a way I can avoid having to buy an ILL or use the virtual queue to secure a boarding group?

    Reply
    • Unfortunately, no.

      Reply
  • Question:

    Let’s say I make a park reservation for Epcot, join the VQ and get a boarding group for Guardians later in the day (let’s say estimated return time is 4pm). Can I keep the VQ and change my park reservation to AK? And then park hop into Epcot after 2pm for my VQ?

    Thanks!

    Reply
    • Hi Keith, I don’t know the answer to this (it’s not possible to test right now because the parks are busy, but I’ll test in a few weeks and come back and update with a new reply here). But honestly, I would never, unless you are willing to give up your ride. Boarding Groups often move up – the other day I got TRON at 7 a.m. w/ estimated callback at 3:30 (so similar to what you describe); it just kept creeping earlier and earlier and we were eventually called at 12:35 p.m. — if I had needed to hop, my window would have been closed already by the time I got there.

      This happens extremely often with Guardians too, even if you get your BG in the second drop. For TRON, they are enforcing the 1-hour window. For Guardians, the latest we hear is that they still are not enforcing it. But you never know, and I would not intentionally be late.

      Reply
  • Hello! I have a question. In your article is says it will increase your chances pf joining a virtual queue if multiple people in your party try at the same time.

    However, I just read this on Disney’s website: “Select one member of your party to access the virtual queue to check for an available boarding group for everyone in your party. If multiple people in your party try to join the virtual queue simultaneously, that may inhibit your ability to join a group.”

    What has happened in the past when multiple people in your party try to book, because it would be sad to do this and then we all miss out! And also, if both my husband and I try to get in a virtual queue at the same time, is the recommendation we both be logged in under the same My Disney Experience OR should we each be logged in under our own (which would be linked)? Thanks!

    Reply
    • Hi Jacey,

      So … this is an interesting question. What we recommend here has long been the recommendation by both us and other reputable sites, based on actual experience. But of course, after a while, people stop testing this stuff all the time because the answer is known. Unfortunately, Disney does not allow the page you referenced (I know it well!) to be indexed, so I can’t review older copies on the Wayback Machine to see if this text has changed over time or might reflect a change in on Disney’s side.

      However, I’m finding their wording very interesting here: “If multiple people in your party try to join the virtual queue simultaneously, that may inhibit your ability to join a group. In the before times (just a couple of years ago when Virtual Queues were new) the process was different. First you pressed Join, and then you selected your party. At that time, you could indeed easily have a problem. Let’s say that I went with my husband and two kids, and he and I tried to join at the same time, but I was adding everyone and he was just clicking through. If he joined a Boarding Group on his own and then I tried to add him to mine, it wouldn’t work – we’d end up with different Boarding Groups, or I could lose my own chance when I was unable to add him. The new procedure where you confirm your party before pressing Join is much simpler and avoids this issue.

      I found an older post on PlanDisney that discusses this (https://plandisney.disney.go.com/question/boarding-pass-rotr-multiple-people-group-trying-access-425986/), and there are two interesting things here. The first is that it highlights the issues I described above. But the second is that it pretty clearly indicates that having multiple people pressing Join at the same time shouldn’t cause a problem, unless something has changed – it’s one of the recommended strategies in the post.

      I know that I still haven’t answered your question, but hopefully you’re all set to understand the answer I’m about to give. I can’t tell you 100% if having two people on two different phones who have the same parties selected will cause a problem or not. But my suspicion is no, based on people’s reports of experience in forums (recently) and the timing and wording of specific emails from Disney. I think that the language on Disney’s site is a simple instruction that’s intended to prevent the problem of having people try to join with overlapping but not identical parties. That said, the process is so much simpler now that I don’t think it matters as much to have multiple people trying as it used to.

      If you do decide to have multiple people try at once, it shouldn’t matter whether you try using the same MDE account or different ones. But (as you probably already know from the above!) make sure that everyone has the same party selected.

      Good luck!

      Reply
  • I cannot ride the Guardians ride due to neck surgery, but I would like to see the Wonders of Xandar exhibits in the queue before you board the ride. Is there a way I can do this without buying an ILL or trying to get a boarding group via the virtual queue?

    Reply
    • Hi Karen,

      You can always ask a Cast Member or inquire at the Guest Assistance teams (blue umbrellas) if there is a way. However, if they offer you something it will be on a one-time, special-case basis — there is no regular workflow that allows this.

      Have a great trip!

      Reply
  • How does this work with people who need to rider swap? Is anyone allowed a reride? Does everyone need to have a reservation if wanting to use the rider swap?

    Reply
    • Ooh, great questions! I’ve added the answer in at the end of the article.

      Reply

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