Walt Disney World (FL)

A Thrill Junkie’s Guide to Traveling With Wimps

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COASTERS_Everest2Allow me to get one thing out there at the outset: I love my family, and traveling with them is one of my favorite things in the world to do. With that said, however — and I say this lovingly — my daughter is not the bravest kid around, and my wife likes to stick to rides that are tame enough that you could step off of them without harm if need be. I, on the other hand, love thrill rides — the taller, the faster, the better. Much though I love spending time with my crew in the parks, I’d be lying if I said there weren’t times when I sadly shuffled towards the queue to see Voyage of the Little Mermaid whilst Twilight Zone Tower of Terror beckoned and mocked me in the distance…

Sooooooo, you want to spend time with your family, but there are thrill rides waiting to thrill you. Whatever shall you do? This article will hopefully offer some ideas for getting your thrill-fill without stranding your family to sit on a bench while you ride. Tips after the jump!

Because you are not legally permitted to force someone onto an attraction they do not want to do, if you want to do Expedition Everest, Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster, or Space Mountain, you’re going to have to separate yourself from your traveling party and do them yourself. The goal, then, is to identify activities for them other than twiddling their thumbs that will make that wait manageable. Disney involves enough waiting as is that if you try to impose additional waiting upon your crew to satisfy your selfish thrill-ride desires, you’re likely to get some pushback. There are basically two approaches — taking advantage of Extra Magic Hours, and finding something near the attraction you’d like to do that they’ll enjoy, and that you won’t mind missing.

Extra Magic Hours

For those that are unfamiliar with Extra Magic Hours, Disney has extended hours either before park opening or after park closing where only resort guests can be in the parks and experience attractions.  Crowds tend to be lighter during this time, and it’s a great way to get a lot accomplished in a short amount of time. This is my personal favorite way to solve this dilemma because I’m a bit of a night owl and my wife and daughter would rather sleep more than me anyway, so it gives me a chance to do my thing when the crowds are smaller without disrupting their schedule one iota. It’s also particularly well-suited for groups that don’t normally do extra magic hours on account of the kids being too young to stay out late, or lacking the desire to get up early.  

The concept is very simple — spend regular park time with your family, doing whatever they want to do.  Extra Magic Hours then become your opportunity to be a complete hedonist and ride whatever you darn well please while everyone else sleeps.  While experiencing these attractions by yourself is certainly not as fun as experiencing them with your family, the latter isn’t going to happen anyway, so this is the next best option — and you’ll likely find that you can accomplish an enormous amount in a short period of time when it is just you moving from attraction to attraction without several other people in tow, especially during Extra Magic Hours when crowds are much lower than normal.   

Attraction Swaps

If you’re staying off-site, however, or just are not in a position to take advantage of Extra Magic Hours, your best bet is to try to identify activities in the same general area as the thrill ride you’re looking to experience that are enjoyable enough to fill that time for the rest of your party, but that aren’t so awesome that you personally aren’t going to miss them.

Here are a few suggestions:

Magic Kingdom

Whole Family - Tom Sawyers IslandYou want to experience: Big Thunder Mountain or Splash Mountain

Your family can experience: Tom Sawyer’s Island

If you’re looking to kill some time near the heavy-hitters of Frontierland, Tom Sawyer’s Island is about as good an option as you’ll find.  It is family friendly and provides a great opportunity for the smaller, more energetic members of your party to burn off some of that endless energy.  Moreover, even during the busiest of times, you’ll rarely have to wait more than a boat or two to get back and forth from the island.  Even without kids, Tom Sawyer’s Island is a great respite from the hustle and bustle of the park, and can serve as an oasis of relative calm where you can pull up some shade and just relax for a bit.

IMG_2595You want to experience: Space Mountain

Your family can experience: Tomorrowland Transit Authority PeopleMover or Tomorrowland Speedway

My personal recommendation if you have a FastPass would be to have your crew experience the Tomorrowland Transit Authority PeopleMover — it’s a nice attraction that rarely requires a wait and can be done multiple times in a row if need be.  It’s a relaxing way to pass the time, and since it passes through Space Mountain, it is as close as you can get to the experience without actually being on it.  If you don’t have a Space Mountain FastPass and more time needs to be killed, Tomorrowland Speedway is something nearby that is enjoyable enough to be a worthwhile endeavor (at least if you have kids), but not such a fantastic experience that you’re really going to be bummed out to miss it.  


© Julia Mascardo

You want to experience: Mission Space or Test Track

Your family can experience: Mission Space Playground

Mission Space has a surprisingly robust post-ride area that includes a crawl-playground and several video games.  The area is actually enough fun that it’s worth a visit for some kids whether you’re trying to kill some time or not, so the ability to check this off the list in the time that someone else is doing a thrill ride is a real boon.  It’s a little further away, but the post-show area for Spaceship Earth also contains several interactive games that my daughter loves playing, making it another good option if you need to pass additional time.

Hollywood Studios

Club Disney - © Seth Kubersky
© Seth Kubersky

You want to experience: Tower of Terror or Rock n Roller Coaster

Your family can experience: Club Disney

Club Disney is a brand new perpetual character dance party that runs in the Sunset Showcase space next to Rock n Roller Coaster.  Seth Kubersky did a photo-filled write up on it just a few days ago, and I’d encourage you to check it out for more details.  Briefly, though, it has plenty to keep the younger set occupied, is air-conditioned, and even provides a way to charge your mobile devices while you wait even if you don’t have a charger with you.  Pretty much checks all of the boxes!

Bonus tip: If you want to do Star Tours and there are people in your party that can’t or won’t join you, the Honey I Shrunk the Kids Movie Set Adventure playground is the best place in the area to let the kids blow off some energy — plus it’s got plenty of shade for the parents.

Animal Kingdom

© Erin Foster, Boneyard
© Erin Foster

You want to experience: Expedition EverestYour family can experience: Dinoland U.S.A.

While you are experiencing Expedition Everest (preferably using the single-rider line or FastPass), the oft-maligned DinoLand U.S.A. is a great place for the rest of your party to take the kids.  Consistent with the “playground” theme I’ve largely followed up to this point, The Boneyard is probably the best play area in any of the 4 Disney parks and is a great place to let your kids run free.  If that doesn’t hold their interest, TriceraTops Spin (a Dumbo-style ride) is popular with small children, as are the various carnival games.  Neither of these two things are worth taking time out of your schedule to do because you can get the same basic experience at your local carnival, but they are fine options when the primary goal is to kill some time.  

Important Note

One thing worth noting on the whole concept of splitting up to allow you to satiate your need for adrenaline: using the attraction swap method necessarily means that you are away from your family, and you will miss some experiences with them. It also means that someone else is basically taking one for the team to appease your selfish desire to be thrilled.   

No matter whom you are traveling with, it is virtually impossible for everyone’s tastes to be so aligned that everyone wants to do the exact same thing 100% of the time. In fact, it is likely that the people that don’t like thrill rides do like some things that you might not care for.  Accordingly, if doing your thing requires someone else to watch your kids or cool their heels for a while, make sure you return the favor by providing them with an opportunity to do some of the things they are passionate about if they need it, either by watching the kids yourself or not offering pushback about things you might not be excited to do!

These are my ideas, but I’m sure you have some, too!  How do you divide and conquer when not everyone in your party wants to do the same thing?  Let us know in the comments!

*Many thanks to Seth Kubersky and Julia Mascardo for their invaluable assistance with this post!

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Jamie Rosemergy

When not planning for or traveling to Walt Disney World with his beautiful wife and impossibly adorable child, James practices law in St. Louis. He also really likes cheese -- and loathes kale. He can be found on twitter at @jrtoastyman.

11 thoughts on “A Thrill Junkie’s Guide to Traveling With Wimps

  • We have ridden Mission space on every trip but never stopped in the pay area This time they were actively recruiting folks to be the main folks for the interactive video game. We stayed through two games and had an absolute blast. It will be a must do on every trip from now on.

  • I love riding Tower of Terror multiple times, especially getting off and going directly back on 🙂 I have learned to deal with the fact that my family and friends do not share my enthusiasm for this ride (even riding just once)!! So I gladly ride it with 20 strangers!

  • I think this is good for rides that aren’t even thrill rides, but where you have to do rider swap due to height.

    For example, my plan is to do Soarin’ with my two tall-enough kids, and then while my husband is with our 2yo, they can do Living with the Land.

    For Splash and BTMR, we aren’t planning rider switch (my husband and daughter will enjoy and I don’t really want to). So we will either do the Woody & Jessie M&G, play in the playground area nearby, Hall of Presidents or maybe a lap on the railroad. We’ll keep our options open there.

    At any rate, WAY better than just sitting around waiting! I was surprised at how long an attraction can take even with fast pass. Last time, we were waiting on a bench having a snack while they did Space Mountain. Wish I was on the People Mover instead.

  • Thank you so much for the mission space playground information! I had absolutely no idea that there was a fun playground in there as I have 2 younger children and have avoided that area since I did mission space years ago- before there was the two sides to that ride. We will have to check out that playground this year!

  • Addressing your “someone else is basically taking one for the team to appease your selfish desire to be thrilled” comment – My wife (non-thrill seeker) and I switched off. She took the kids on the tamer areas while I did single-rider line thrill rides, then I took the kids to play areas while she did shopping (which I had no interest in). That was about half the time or less, and the rest we did as a family (shows, etc…). It’s always a win/win.

  • My husband and two daughters love all the thrill rides – I do not! What I love doing is people watching – so I end up sitting at a table somewhere with a nice drink watching people going by – in fact what really fascinates me is the type of footwear some people wear to come to a Disney park – they seem to manage quite well with them but I wouldn’t choose high heeled strappy shoes to wear. Ah well – each to their own – and it does make interesting watching!!

    • There are few places that deliver quality people watching like Walt Disney World. A bit off topic because it’s not close enough to anything to be a viable swap option, but there are some rocking chairs in front of Town Square Theater that are fantastic for relaxing and watching humans in their not-very-natural habitat. At the right time of day, you get to see both people coming into and headed out of the Magic Kingdom, and the juxtaposition of those two can be pretty awesome!

  • I could see Test track being frighting to some people. It is a thrill ride.

    This was a nice well though out article. I am very grateful my husband and I have passed on the thrill gene to all four of our daughters the only limit that was given on these rides was height restriction which they outgrew in due time.

  • Here is another option:

    You want to experience: Test Track
    Your family can experience: Test Track

    Point out to them that the big “thrill” of this attraction is that you get to go 65 miles per hour in a car. Whee! Like you don’t get to do that every day…

    • Right? That makes total sense, but it hasn’t worked with my daughter at all! We even tried plying her with “bravery gifts” to no avail. I think it is the fact that you can’t see the ride itself and the sound it makes when you’re standing outside and a car goes by is intimidating, but I have had zero luck convincing her to do it…

      • When my son was younger, he was quite afraid on Test Track. We convinced him it was not a roller coaster to get him to ride it. He cried on the ride because he thought we were really going to crash. The crash dummies all around did not help. Now he is older and can’t wait to ride again.

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