Timing My Ideal Hollywood Studios Morning – July 21 2013

by josh on July 26, 2013

Perhaps the only helpful documents present on this website are the cheat sheets, which are a crash course in touring the four major Walt Disney World theme parks.  Among other items included are what I call “Ideal Mornings.”  Here, you’ll find a morning touring plan that will get you to the theme parks’ priority attractions before significant waits develop.  This is the Cheat Sheet for Hollywood Studios.

The Ideal Morning at the Studios is fairly straightforward:

Ideal Morning Touring Plan:

  1. Collect FASTPASSes for Toy Story Mania– Return time of 9:45am – 10:45am
  2. Ride Toy Story Mania: 8:55am – 9:10am
  3. Ride Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster: 9:20am – 9:35am
  4. Ride Tower of Terror: 9:40am – 10:10am
  5. Ride Toy Story Mania with FASTPASS: 10:20am – 10:35am
  6. (Collect another Toy Story FASTPASS set now if desired, they’ll be gone soon)
  7. Ride Star Tours: 10:45am – 11am
  8. Have lunch: Studios Catering Co., Backlot Express, and ABC Commissary are nearby. Sci-Fi Dine-In and 50’s Prime Time are nearby inexpensive table serve restaurants.

Times are included to give you an idea of when you should arrive at each attraction.  Let’s take a look at how it works in practice.

It’s 8am on July 21st.  You can see that Brazil has already arrived at the far left turnstiles.  The tour groups get more direction from Disney than the average DISboards member might assume, including where they’re supposed to stand prior to park opening and where and at what time they’re supposed to have lunch and dinner.  Cast members have more leeway in telling them to shut up than they have in past years and each one receives a booklet that includes common Portuguese sayings and what they’re supposed to do when a guest complains.  Otherwise, your average park guest tends to get in line behind other people towards the center of the entrance.

Down toward the far right, there was nobody in line, so I waltzed up to the front.  Moving all the way down to the furthest Mickey readers isn’t necessary – you just want to move down far enough that there are fewer people in line in front of you.  Look for the uncovered turnstiles/readers as they are the ones most likely to open.

This is how morning crowds progressed:

It’s extremely awkward turning around every five minutes at the front of the line to hold a camera up to take a picture.  It’s pretty amazing how many people arrive between 8:15am and 8:30am.  By 8:30am, lines are past the ticket booths.  At 8:10am, there would be five or ten people in front of you depending on which line you’re in.

When it’s a  busier time of year, Disney may send out characters to meet guests after they pass through bag check.  Characters typically appear from 8:15am – 9am.  It’s usually two or three of the characters that greet later in the morning at the Sorcerer’s Hat – Stitch, Minnie, Donald, Daisy, Pluto, Goofy, Chip and/or Dale.  In this case, Daisy, Donald, and Minnie headed out first.

According to the Cheat Sheet, this is how rope drop, or Park opening, should go:

Rope Drop: Rope drop at Hollywood Studios may be the most essential of all the Parks because
of how fast Toy Story Mania wait times and FASTPASS return times take off. Disney usually
begins letting guests into the Studios 15 minutes before official Park open, but it may be earlier
(30 to 40 minutes) if crowds are expected to be well above average. In order to be among the
first to enter the Park, plan to be at the entrance 45 minutes prior to open. Once the gates open,
guests are free to head to the attraction of their choice with no internal ropes, though Toy Story
Mania is often the only attraction actually operating until official open. Disney used to hold
guests inside the Park on Hollywood Boulevard, creating a large mass of people pushing and
shoving their way to Toy Story. The new procedure allows for a much more relaxed walk.

True to form, the Studios opened at 8:38am on this particular morning and guests were free to walk to the attraction of their choice.  Most guests want to head straight for Toy Story Mania.  The Mickey Readers/turnstiles do a nice job of separating the crowd, so the walk over is much less uncomfortable than it was prior to September 2011, when everyone was held at the Hat until closer to 9am.

Studios touring does have an asterisk next to it for Jedi Training Academy:

Jedi Training Academy: Kids between the ages of 4 and 12 can participate in this show. You
must bring the participating child to the old Sounds Dangerous building to the left of American
Idol Experience and across from Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular as early in the morning as
possible to sign them up. There are usually 12 to 15 shows scheduled throughout the day. Ask
for a show in the afternoon so it doesn’t interfere with morning touring. If they can’t
accommodate, let others sign up first and sign up for a show around 12pm.

If you want to sign up a child, it would be prudent to head straight to Jedi Training at opening.  Jedi Training has a fixed capacity and once those spots are filled, they’re filled.  While it’s highly likely that space would still be available if you go to Toy Story Mania (or another attraction) first, you never know if a large group will be headed over for Jedi signups.  And a ride can always break down while you’re on it, which could cause further delays.  Even if the Jedi signup takes five minutes and causes your wait at Toy Story to be twelve minutes instead of seven, it’s worth the extra wait unless you want to risk being shut out at Jedi Training.

You’ll see Sunset Boulevard and guests walking in the direction of Tower of Terror on your right as you head to Toy Story.  Because Tower of Terror and Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster have higher capacities and FASTPASS return times that are sooner than Toy Story, these two attractions are best visited after Toy Story.

Proceed forward to the Sorcerer’s Hat and take a right around it and head down the stairs.  If you have a stroller, you may need to take the route a few feet to the right of the stairs.

Then it’s down to the left to Toy Story Mania.

FASTPASS machines are located in front of the entrance.  If you’d like to ride twice, collect FASTPASSes before riding.  It will only take a second and you’ll thank me once you see the return time after we disembark just ten minutes later.

The first FASTPASS return time may be around 9:25am or it may be as late as 9:40am.  Our FASTPASS here was collected at 8:43am for 9:45am – 10:45am.

When you arrive at Toy Story, the wait time may or may not be exaggerated.  I’ve seen 40 and 50 minute wait times at Toy Story first thing in the morning.  In this instance, the wait time is posted at ten minutes.  Longer wait times can be ignored this early in the morning.  In fact, a longer posted wait will make a second standby ride easier as more people will stick their noses up at a 40 minute wait and proceed elsewhere, causing actual waits to be lower.  With a 15 minute posted wait, more people are likely to get in line, causing actual waits to be closer to the posted time.

First thing in the morning, you’ll more or less walk through the queue and onto the ride without a wait.

I entered the queue at 8:43am, was on the ride at 8:48am, and was back out front at 8:55am.

You could ride Toy Story a second time in the standby line now with a short wait – expect the second ride to take 15 to 20 minutes.  The Toy Story characters across from the entrance to the ride appear first at 9:15am.  If you’re interested in meeting them and disembark the ride before 9am, you may want to take a second ride on Toy Story before getting in line for Woody and Buzz.  Otherwise, you’re just spending 15 minutes waiting outside the building.

The posted wait at 8:55am is 20 minutes.

In the 12 minutes since pulling our 9:45am FASTPASSes, the return time has been pushed back over an hour to 10:50am.  That’s how fast things move here.

Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster is next.  You’ll proceed back in the direction you came, taking a left on Sunset Boulevard.

You’d be surprised how often Tower of Terror isn’t operating first thing in the morning, like it isn’t today.

Heading down Sunset, the entrance to Tower of Terror is up on the right and Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster is down to the left.

With Tower of Terror admitting its first riders closer to 9:05am, the line is backed up all the way out here.

Speaking of ignoring posted waits, it’s true for artificially low posted waits too.  Even though Tower of Terror just boarded its first victims of the day and the line is backed all the way out here, the posted wait is five minutes.  This is not a five minute wait.

Arriving at Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster at 9:01am, we’re making good time thanks to the earlier open.  That will balance out shortly with the heavier crowds and slightly longer waits here and at Tower of Terror.

Ignoring the 20 minute posted wait, we’ll get in line.  If you’re willing to ride separately, single rider will save you around five minutes this early in the morning.

At least they put whoever ZZ Ward is in between Selena Gomez and Queen.  I arrived at 9:01am and was inside the building at 9:07am.  That six minute wait outside is about what you would save in single rider or with FASTPASS.

We’re outside the pre-show room at 9:10am or nine minutes after I got in line.

After the pre-show, you’ll wait in another line while you wait to board your super-stretch.  Assuming you score those backstage passes, of course.  It’s 9:14am.

The wait is around five minutes from here.

And back out front at 9:25am, for a total wait/ride time of 24 minutes.  That’s five to eight minutes longer than it would take with FASTPASS later in the day, depending on how many people are in front of you in that line.  As you can see, Brazil has just arrived.

The wait has been bumped up to 30 minutes with a FASTPASS return already a little further than an hour out.

It’s 9:26am as we arrive at Tower of Terror.

With FASTPASS, Tower of Terror is going to take 20 to 25 minutes when you consider the walk to the Hotel, the wait for the pre-show, the pre-show, the wait after the pre-show, and the ride itself.

With the attraction opening late, tour groups, and summer crowds, I didn’t enter the hotel lobby until 9:40am, or about 14 minutes spent outside.  In lower crowds or with the attraction operating at full capacity at 9am, the wait outside would be closer to five minutes.

A clear example of the failed maintenance practices of current management.  This building is very clearly falling apart.

The library has recently received improved lighting and the cobweb details.

And LCD tv screens.

At 9:46am, we await our elevator in the basement.  As the doors closed, the cast member said what was probably the funniest thing I’ve ever heard on the ride: “Next time….take the stairs.”

Terror celebrated its 19th anniversary on July 22nd.  Disney took advantage of that by spamming Twitter and the Parks Blog with merchandise.

All in all, it took 29 minutes to experience Tower of Terror.  That’s five to ten minutes longer than it would take with FASTPASS.

And yes, that’s a 105 minute posted wait by the time I arrived back out front.

At 9:57am, the line for Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster stretches out past the entrance.

This is why that early arrival is so important.  While you wouldn’t be at the end of this line if you arrived at 8:30am or 8:45am, you’d be somewhere in the middle of it instead of past the top three attractions in the entire theme park in less than an hour.

Checking back over the Cheat Sheet, the times as printed are:

  1. Collect FASTPASSes for Toy Story Mania– Return time of 9:45am – 10:45am
  2. Ride Toy Story Mania: 8:55am – 9:10am
  3. Ride Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster: 9:20am – 9:35am
  4. Ride Tower of Terror: 9:40am – 10:10am

It’s 9:58am, so we’re about ten minutes ahead of schedule.  That goes back to the Studios opening at 8:38am instead of 8:45am as the Cheat Sheet conservatively estimates.  One of the nice things about the ideal mornings is that they work just as well in July as they do when it’s less crowded.

Brazil descends.  The tour groups begin thinning out this week.  They’re not as prevalent once the second week in August starts, though you can still expect South America to comprise 15% of attendance.

Two steps later, another group emerges.

That 105 minute posted wait at Tower of Terror isn’t reproduced here at the wait times board.  Actual waits should be closer to 40 minutes, but it depends on how many elevators are operating.

Characters greet out at the Sorcerer’s Hat from 9am through about 12:40pm in 20-minute sets.  Expect to see Stitch, Minnie, Goofy, Pluto, Donald, Daisy, Chip, and Dale.  Usually four characters meet during each set.

As we head back to Toy Story to use our FASTPASSes, there is one other morning priority at Hollywood Studios.

Legend of Jack Sparrow took over for Narnia a few months ago.  With the Pirates’ name recognition, large painting of a treasure map on the side of the building, and the lousy capacity inside the “theater,” wait times quickly jumped to 30 to 50 minutes by 10am after the attraction first opened.  Early in June, Sparrow underwent a refurbishment that cut some scenes and increased capacity, resulting in about a four minute reduction in show time.  In tandem with the increased capacity, wait times have been reduced by about half and lines tend to build slower in the morning.  Still, if you’re interested in seeing the Legend of Jack Sparrow, I would plan to fit it in before using your Toy Story Mania FASTPASSes or put it off until the late evening.  Once a long line develops, it tends to stay long.  Tourists love a good line.

You can watch the full show in 1080p here.  I think the show is pretty neat and with waits closer to 10 – 15 minutes than 35 to 50, you may want to take the time to experience it.

I arrived at Jack at 10:03am and was back out front at 10:25am.  I arrived just as the last show filled and went inside, so I waited the full ten minutes for the previous show.

10:26am, which means it’s time to use our 9:45am – 10:45am FASTPASSes with plenty of time to spare.

FASTPASS out to 4:10pm.

16 minute wait/ride time, which is what you can expect with FASTPASS most of the time, whether it’s July or September.

Next up on the plan is Star Tours over in Echo Lake.  There are two ways to get there.  I prefer to head in the opposite direction of Jack Sparrow, toward Studio Backlot Tour.  You’ll run into far fewer people and it’s scenery that you won’t have seen earlier in the day.  Above is the queue for Backlot Tour, which is best saved for later in the afternoon.  Note that Backlot Tour often closes long before the rest of the Park.  Even in July, it accepts its last riders in line at 7pm, a full three hours before close.

This building houses a large number of bathrooms and is deserted most of the day.

Continuing to the Streets of America, you’ll walk up the main drag and take a right to Star Tours.

After a bathroom break, menu pictures, etc. it’s 10:54am or about 12 minutes since disembarking Toy Story.

Despite being a major attraction, Star Tours rarely has the waits to match, thanks to its massive capacity and surprisingly limited curb appeal.

Exit through the gift shop.  It’s 11:07am for a total wait/ride time of 13 minutes.  You could ride again now if you wanted.  With Backlot Express, Studio Catering Co. and other quick services not opening until 11:30am, choices for lunch are going to be limited for another 20 minutes anyway.

As covered late in June, Min & Bill’s has recently added three bread cones.

You may remember the Cajun Shrimp Salad Cone was awfully bland.

The Chicken, Bacon, and Avocado Bread Cone ($6.99 without the chips) was not a whole lot better.

Prepare your face.

These may work better as a very hearty snack than a full meal, though the addition of the one-ounce bag of chips might help round things out a bit.  There is not a whole lot of flavor.  The bacon component is the bacon bits you see on top.   It’s otherwise unseasoned (?) chicken mixed with a generic tasting avocado spread.  The good news is that there won’t be more than a handful of people in line and there’s plenty of pleasant, outdoor seating.

After a quick lunch, it’s 11:25am and the detailed part of the touring plan is complete.   Here’s the plan as written with the actual times in parentheses.

Ideal Morning Touring Plan:

  1. Collect FASTPASSes for Toy Story Mania– Return time of 9:45am – 10:45am (FASTPASS return 9:45am – 10:45am)
  2. Ride Toy Story Mania: 8:55am – 9:10am  (8:43am – 8:55am)
  3. Ride Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster: 9:20am – 9:35am (9:01am – 9:25am)
  4. Ride Tower of Terror: 9:40am – 10:10am (9:26am – 9:55am)
  5. (Legend of Jack Sparrow added – 10:03am – 10:25am)
  6. Ride Toy Story Mania with FASTPASS: 10:20am – 10:35am (10:26am – 10:42am)
  7. Ride Star Tours: 10:45am – 11am (10:54am – 11:07am)
  8. Have lunch: Studios Catering Co., Backlot Express, and ABC Commissary are nearby. Sci-Fi Dine-In and 50’s Prime Time are nearby inexpensive table serve restaurants.

Everything went better than expected, perhaps with the exception of a little longer wait at Tower of Terror than we’d like.  But you can’t do a lot about attraction downtime and rides operating at half their intended capacities.

For our afternoon, the Cheat Sheet gives the following advice:

Afternoon and Evening:
It’s time for the Studios’ scheduled stage shows and high capacity attractions like Great Movie Ride, Backlot Tour, Voyage of the Little Mermaid, The Magic of Disney Animation, One Man’s Dream and Muppet Vision 3D. For good seats at Beauty and the Beast and Indiana Jones, arrive 15 to 25 minutes before show time – earlier always results in better seats. For American Idol Experience, Disney Jr. Live on Stage, Jedi Training Academy, and Lights Motors Action Extreme Stunt Show, arriving 5 to 15 minutes early will suffice. Visit desired char acters in the last 60 to 90 minutes that they’re scheduled to appear.

This is not the time of year to spend a lot of time outside at Lights, Motors and Beauty and the Beast, so I opted to visit Great Movie Ride.

As I’ve mentioned in the past, the difference between “low crowds” and “big crowds” is what you can expect to do at noon.  When crowds are lower, most minor attractions will be walk-ons and waits at the major attractions will be in the 30 to 40 minute range.  Here in July, the room showing the movie clips at Movie Ride is completely full.  Fast forward to the last week in August and you’d more or less walk right on.

This Who Framed Roger Rabbit memorabilia is relatively new.

To celebrate the 25th anniversary.

What would Tom Hanks do?

You wonder when (if) Disney will have another original, non-sequel, live action hit (not Star Wars or Marvel).

When it’s busier, Disney runs the (better in my opinion) live-action cowboy scene, in addition to the gangster scene, to increase capacity. Above is an okay look at what that scene entails and it continues through the Alien scene and into the Indiana Jones scene if you want to see what those look like.

One potential change that may need to be made is switching Great Movie Ride and Star Tours so you hit Movie Ride before lunch.  I got in line for Movie Ride at 11:25am and waited 25 minutes.  I wasn’t back out front until 12:10pm.  Not only does Star Tours offer FASTPASS, but its capacity also means shorter waits when the Studios is busy.  Spending time in the Great Movie Ride queue isn’t the end of the world as it’s air-conditioned, dark, and the movie trailers are entertaining.

That’s a 140 minute posted wait for Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster.  I’m not sure how accurate that is – by the time we see it in person it will be 80 and then it’ll be down to 40 minutes in about an hour.

Looking down Sunset Boulevard at 12:15pm, we’ll check on wait times and crowd levels around the Park to give you an idea about what to expect when crowds are relatively heavy.  If you were touring, heading over to Studio Backlot Tour, One Man’s Dream, or Muppet Vision 3D would all be comfortable ways to spend some time with minimal or nonexistent waits.

Larger: http://www.easywdw.com/reports9/towerann.jpg.  12:25pm with a 70 minute wait and FASTPASS out to 1:45pm at Tower of Terror.

80 minutes with FASTPASS out past 5pm at Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster.

Hollywood Studios is the most recommended Park today.  It gets much worse than this.  And another component of that recommendation is the waits/crowds you’ll find at the quick services, restaurants, and shops.  You could march right up and order at Fairfax Fare with virtually no wait at peak meal time.  That isn’t true on a non-recommended Monday or Saturday.

A minor attraction that almost nobody talks about is the Animation Tour, located back in the Animation Courtyard.  It’s a nice respite this time of year because it’s indoors in an air-conditioned theater.  The clock to the right of the doors counts down to the start of the next show, so if you arrive early, you know you have time to take a look around.  Or you know you don’t have time to walk around, as the case may be.

A shadow of its former self, I don’t think anybody would argue this is a must-see.

But it is cute as the cast member and Mushu (from Mulan) discuss the animation process.

And it’s indoors.

And it’s indoors.  And it’s indoors.

While the core dialogue doesn’t change, the show is updated with brief introductions to current films, like Monsters U.

This is the building we’re talking about.  The entrance to Disney Jr. Live on Stage is on the right and Voyage of the Little Mermaid is on the left.

Speaking of Mermaid, it’s the time of year where you’ll have to wait through one full show in order to have the opportunity to wait inside for the show after that.  Crowds thin in the evening, making it a good choice for a visit after an afternoon break.

Spending a few days at the Studios over the course of the week, it was interesting to see how lines formed at Legend of Jack Sparrow.  As more people got in line, more people followed.  When few people were already in line, few people followed.  Virtually nobody has any idea what this attraction is.  And people equate longer lines with increased desirability.  After all, if it’s worth a stranger’s time, it’s probably worth mine.

At 1:03pm, Toy Story has a 70 minute wait, which is astoundingly low for this time of day in July.  On the non-recommended Monday following, the wait would be 140 minutes at the same time.

And FASTPASSes are still available for 7:40pm.

Moving on to Studio Backlot Tour, the line is as short as it was at 10am, which is why we put it off for the afternoon.  While it’s outdoors, the constantly moving tram keeps things “feeling” cooler.

Or you could follow these poor saps to Lights, Motors.

Phineas and Ferb popularity continues to wane inside the theme parks as more and more merchandise hits Cast Connection and the outlets.  There are about 25 people in line on a semi-busy summer day.  Of course, they also meet continuously most of the day, helping to shrink lines.

Star Tours’ wait bumped up to 20 minutes at 1:20pm with FASTPASS 40 minutes out, like it almost always is.

The lunch rush on a recommended Sunday.

Versus a non-recommended Saturday.  This is another example of how sitting at a computer staring at wait times all day doesn’t necessarily tell the whole story.  While we’ve seen the occasional triple digit wait time, we’ve also seen lean crowds on the walkways and nonexistent waits at the quick services.

And here we are with the bi-polar posted wait times at Disney attractions.  Remember when Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster had a 140 minute posted wait?  Now it’s 40 – the same as Great Movie Ride.

Overall, the day went according to plan.  The only change I might consider would be moving Great Movie Ride up into Star Tours’ spot.  And if you were planning to stay longer, you might opt to pull additional FASTPASSes depending on where you expected to find yourself later in the day.

The February 2014 operating schedule is still unavailable.

{ 47 comments… read them below or add one }

marshallj July 26, 2013 at 10:05 am

quality as usual.

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Mike July 26, 2013 at 10:18 am

Really amazed at the turnstile crowd growth over that half hour. Just incredible.

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Cat July 26, 2013 at 10:29 am

Love it! Very helpful, thank you!

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Tricia July 26, 2013 at 10:37 am

Your post has convinced me I need to arrive at HS even earlier then 30 minutes prior to opening. Although I’ll be there on a crowd level 4 day, it can still get crazy.

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Chris July 26, 2013 at 10:51 am

We seem to see that “exponential” crowd growth every time we go to HS. I always think we are getting there too early but then are grateful we did once I see the line 15 minutes later.

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BeckyW July 26, 2013 at 10:57 am

Seriously – that time-lapse photo collage from 8:05 – 8:30 is just terrifying! And a great example of why arriving early is key!
Thanks!

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cgulls July 26, 2013 at 11:23 am

yeah, so what’s the deal with the February operating hours still not being released?

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Mary Ann July 26, 2013 at 11:29 am

Nice job Josh. The photos were really helpful and validating.

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Dan July 26, 2013 at 11:55 am

I enjoyed reading your report. In March I did buy that Twilight Zone T shirt you took a photo of. I think it looks pretty cool

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Robert July 26, 2013 at 11:59 am

If I have a regular (non-RFID) annual pass, are still there old style turnstiles located on the far left? Or would I need to change my pass for an RFID card at the ticket window (I didn’t do the exchange at the Odyssey)? By chance are the original turnstile lines any shorter in general than the Mickey reader entrances?

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Jimmy N July 26, 2013 at 12:41 pm

The Chicken, Bacon, Avocado handwich looks both appetizing and frightful at the same time.

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Vikki July 26, 2013 at 12:47 pm

I think the quick-service lines are one of those dirty little secrets. I have been on busy-season days where the food lines were the longest ones we stood in! I like the idea you’ve illustrated before of having a relaxing air-conditioned TS lunch that doesn’t cost much more — and in July probably doesn’t take much more time.

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Jeff July 26, 2013 at 12:49 pm

The guy in line with the gray hat and red shirt didn’t stop playing with his phone until 8:30.

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Shannon July 26, 2013 at 2:07 pm

I think I must’ve been several people behind you in line. We got a late start that morning but went to the Mickey heads furthest to the right and waited no more than 2 or 3 minutes to have our passes scanned. We saw you sprinting away from Pixar Place when we returned to use our Toy Story FPs. I wanted to say something but I figured it would be creepy to yell, “Josh!” at someone I only recognize thanks to the fact that he wears the same thing in every picture. Speaking of which, we saw you rushing through Mexico the night before in the same clothes. Do you do laundry every night, or do you have a closet full of blue golf polos and cargo shorts? Thanks for all the work you do. I thought a July trip would be hell, but we actually had a great time and never had to wait more than 15 minutes for anything.

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Anonymous July 26, 2013 at 2:22 pm

This plan totally works

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Becky July 26, 2013 at 2:28 pm

thank you so much for the visuals! I’ll be following this plan in Sept. ~

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Disney4ever July 26, 2013 at 2:33 pm

Josh….So in the air conditioned animation tour, do they walk you by the animators anymore? That really was fun to see some of the actual animators drawing and their work. Guess everything is computer done now…what a shame. But hey, its still air conditioned right?

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Amy1011 July 26, 2013 at 2:41 pm

Shannon, I agree. I was nervous about going the last week of June, but thanks to this website, we didn’t have any major crowd issues. Honestly, we waited longer & more often in October when we didn’t know what we were doing (my kids turned out to be FAR more into character meets than I expected, and we must’ve just hit those at the wrong times EVERY time!). Until last month, I don’t think I fully believed that the touring plan is the most important weapon you have.

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magic1106 July 26, 2013 at 3:58 pm

What its shown on those LCD TVs?

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Melissa July 26, 2013 at 4:02 pm

Great post! Question though… If my kids want to see Woody and Buzz, when do we fit it in? I know they are a priority too. If we do it right after riding Toy Story Mania would it make us wait MUCH longer for RnR?

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Erika July 26, 2013 at 5:29 pm

Thank you, thank you! As I wait patiently for my trip to get here I am hanging on your every word! Thanks for doing all the plannig, timing it out for us!
And …yea, not sure about the cone bread thing….
And agree about the heat and the LMA show but I may not get out of it again this year…

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Wei July 26, 2013 at 5:31 pm

Excellent post, again.

Been to HS 3 times, each subsequent time a little earlier. Last visit I think we got there at 815 and we were still behind someone (a large 2 family group) in line. Based on your pictures we’ll shoot for about 10 minutes earlier next time and that will hopefully do it.

I wonder how many of those early arrivers are easywdw readers? Maybe you could sell T-Shirt or hats and we could all work together, somehow?

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Shannon July 26, 2013 at 5:48 pm

The guy with the phone in the AM pics bugs me, altho he really shouldn’t I suppose. I mean, it’s just waiting in line to get in, but doesn’t he have family or friends with him he supposed to be “spending time with?”

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Carrie July 26, 2013 at 8:07 pm

Once again, a fabulous post! I really appreciate the time lapse photos of the crowds at rope drop. I always aim for an 8:15 arrival and clearly I need to bump that up a bit. Would love to see similar shots for Epcot and AK.

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Mark rosenzweig July 26, 2013 at 8:22 pm

Leaving Star Tours for after lunch might also leave something special for the cast member to clean up following your flight.

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angela July 26, 2013 at 9:25 pm

I would love to see a larger version of that first Tower lobby photo. It’s awesome.

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Kitty July 27, 2013 at 4:15 am

Thanks for this post Josh, it was super helpful.
Studios is the park I always feel most inept at touring; I think because until recently I didn’t do ToT or RRC, so I’m still adjusting to factoring those in.
Thanks again for the help :)

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Ron July 27, 2013 at 6:22 am

This will be my first park in November. I am so looking forward to rocking the mornings and having such relaxing afternoons. Thanks.

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melissa July 27, 2013 at 6:31 am

I know you aren’t interested in charging for your site, but I wish you would at least charge people and it can all go torwards your favorite charity, etc. The free advice is wonderful but when half of America reads/follows it….:( I would prefer to pay and keep those reading it down to a minimum as possible…..

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Scott Martin July 27, 2013 at 6:53 am

First time responding. This site is great. Live in SC and have been to WDW on average every other year. Love seeing how this is planned so it can be put to use. Great job. Looking at going in April and will be looking forward to more information from past post and upcoming.

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Belle July 27, 2013 at 8:38 am

I love this website. Such good info and love the pics to demonstrate crowds etc. I’ve read the cheat sheets and they are awesome. Going to use them on our next trip. Abandoning tourplans.com as I don’t find them helpful anymore. Can’t wait for more posts like this especially one for Magic Kingdom . Thank you. Please keep up the hard work.

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Candace July 27, 2013 at 8:51 am

Not sure if this is possible or not….hoping to get some insight. We have to do parent swap due to small children. Would you recommend getting the parent swap and letting one parent ride following your tourin plan and use the swap for later in the day? Is there a time limit on the swap? Love you blog by the way!!

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siskaren July 27, 2013 at 9:36 am

Disney4ever – It’s not so much that animation is mostly done on computers now as is the fact that DHS is no longer a working animation studio.

magic1106 – The preshow for ToT. Rod Serling explains what happened at the hotel on Halloween night back in 1939.

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JenOSU July 27, 2013 at 1:18 pm

I used your cheat sheets to help plan our days at Disney during the week of July 4th. I am absolutely AMAZED at how much we were able to do (met many characters, rode tons of rides, and had time to see shows and have a sit down meal each day and go back to the hotel for naps half of the days) all while never waiting longer than 30 minutes.

We also used your posts about Universal to help us best utilize our time there the next week. Thank you!

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Amy July 27, 2013 at 1:43 pm

I assume you are going to be covering breaking news with how FP+ is going to affect touring plans, right? We have a trip planned for January, and I have a feeling the system will be up and running by then…

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Rodney July 27, 2013 at 5:35 pm

Josh, I am surprised you didn’t mention the Art of Animation drawing classes. They are one of my wife’s and my favorite get out of the heat and enjoy sitting down in air-conditioning things to do. Even if you miss getting in the next class, it’s only a 20 minute wait. And best of all you create a very personal souvenir as you sketch a Disney character on paper and get to take your sketch with you. This class is one of the best kept secrets and so often gets not a mention. But guess I should like it that way…. if it becomes too popular, we will have to wait longer. But, really, guests should check this out. BUT it really isn’t for the very young or perfectionists who get frustrated if their drawing is not perfect!

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snickers July 27, 2013 at 5:41 pm

Love this update. Shows clearly the need to a logical plan and show the pitfalls of some of the common touring mistakes. It was nice that you showed a few hiccups in your ideal plan and how you were still able to work things out.

It took us several trips and plenty of trial and error plans to figure out what Josh “literally” hands you with the cheat sheets, guides, photos, explanations… This website simply makes out trips better.

Thanks :)

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RebeccaMcK July 27, 2013 at 7:02 pm

Awesome post as always. I was just chatting with a few friends yesterday about all the various phone apps we’ve got to help with our theme park days, and I was trying to tell them why they should use your site ahead of time. THIS is why – all the good info you can’t get from the various apps out there. So I sent these friends a link to the article. I can lead them to water but just can’t make them drink, lol. Well, one will drink (haha) – she’s moving to Florida and will greatly enjoy Food & Wine Festival. If nothing else I’ll have possibly increased page views for you. I’ll always follow the advice even if others don’t.

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Dorliss Chambers July 27, 2013 at 8:46 pm

Thanks Josh. The interior TOT shots are really nice!

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Lew July 28, 2013 at 5:20 am

I have a question, if the wait time is 105 minutes can my son and I wait in line with the rest of our family and just walk through(not ride)? I would love to see some of the things along the wait but I have 2 non-riders. Thanks!

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Lisa July 28, 2013 at 5:46 am

What time should we arrive on Thanksgiving? Is an hour before ok? or should we arrive earlier?

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Michael July 28, 2013 at 11:31 am

Regarding DHS Ideal Morning Touring Plan: Step 6 (get another Toy Story Mania fastpass) should ocur before Step 5 (ride Toy Story Mania) since the return time is 9:45 for Toy Story Mania and you are able to obtain another fastpass before riding

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Bernadette July 29, 2013 at 7:44 am

Josh/anyone: First week of September – could we sign up for Jedi Training right after collecting FPs/riding TSM, or do we need to hit the Jedi Training signup as soon as we enter HS?

Thanks – planning our second trip ever to WDW and loving the site for the info and humor!

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pfalcioni July 29, 2013 at 7:48 pm

Lew, if your son is tall enough to ride, you can walk through then use the “chicken exit” before actually getting on the ride. Plenty of folks do that. Unfortunately, if your son is not tall enough to ride, they won’t allow him to get in line.

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RebeccaMcK July 29, 2013 at 9:01 pm

^ Someone who IS riding can take pictures and/or videotape the interesting things in the queue if Lew’s non-riders don’t go through the queue (if not tall enough to ride). Or do the child/rider swap (ask someone in the forums about that – I kind of know how it’s done but have maybe forgotten the details….can’t remember if the second rider who’s waiting with the child while the first one rides has to go through the whole standby queue again or not. Those days are long gone for me now; and when it’s just ME with the kiddo, I have no one to swap spots with anyway so we just skip the ride entirely).

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TriSeb July 30, 2013 at 3:19 pm

What is great about following Josh’s plan is it is FP+ proof. You don’t necessarily need to pull fast passes. The FP’s simply another opportunity to ride. Some argue that getting to the parks early is not a touring plan but I would say that this strategy for achieving a desired end is by definition a plan. In this case the desired end is bypassing crowds or riding headliners with little or no wait. Great insight as always.

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Emmy September 24, 2013 at 8:00 pm

Hi! Love this site, it’s been very helpful while planning my first trip in oct! My question is about Jedi training academy: we are scheduled to be at HS during a day with morning emh ( I know, I know!) so will sign ups start at 8am during emh or not until 9am? I’ve read conflicting things! I would love to hear some insight from you if possible. Thanks!!

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