We pick our morning up at Disney’s Animal Kingdom on a relatively busy day after getting going later than we would have liked, and making a quick ride on Flight of Passage an impossibility. If you missed that post, or would like a refresher, you can pull it up here.
We’re not “late late,” as we entered the Park right around the official 8am open.
But with Animal Kingdom actually opening closer to 7:15am, enough people were able to enter in front of us that we would have to wait 45+ minutes to ride Flight first thing, and potentially closer to 60 or 70.
Part One explains in more detail the various scenarios on when and how to experience Flight should you arrive later than you’d like. But your best options to experience what is still one of Walt Disney World’s most popular attractions are reduced to the late afternoon, when people are eating lunch, and waits invariably drop. The other, even better option is waiting until the very end of the night, when standby waits are usually 20 to 45 minutes.
River Journey took about eight minutes as it’s now 8:21am and the posted wait has actually dropped from the 20 minutes we first saw to 15 now. The actual wait is likely still between five and ten minutes.
How we go about the rest of our day largely depends on whether or we’re planning on taking a break at the resort or spending a lengthy amount of time at lunch and/or Nomad Lounge. Or if we’re happy just hanging out and soaking up the atmosphere along with the nature trails and whatnot. Or happy to wait outdoors in some lengthy lines. An afternoon break, particularly with the long 8am to 8pm day, is doable.
With a 7pm close, a break may certainly still be in the cards, but it obviously reduces that relaxation time by an hour or the amount of time you can spend in the Park. Many sites recommend a break, but it is time-consuming and can be quite tiring in its own right. For example, the walk from Expedition Everest to the entrance, coupled with the walk to your car or the buses is likely 15 or more minutes of straight walking at the same time you’re tired enough to want to take that break. Then there’s a wait of one to twenty-plus minutes for the bus, hoping you can get on the next one, the ride back to the resort, and the walk to the room. Or you can find your car without the trams currently running. So to get from Animal Kingdom to your on-site resort room, you’re likely looking at about 75 minutes of unpleasant transfer time. And you’ll have to do the same to get back.
At the moment, these are your standard Animal Kingdom wait times:
If we’re taking a break, we could easily ride River Journey again before moving on to Asia or DinoLand, where waits will remain short for another hour or more, and we won’t have a problem riding or experiencing anything in the vicinity. That would also allow us to put off Kilimanjaro Safaris for an evening ride when waits drop back down to 15 to 20 minutes. With no break, and the slightly later start, we likely want to move on to Kilimanjaro Safaris now, which sports the second-longest wait in the Park with an average of 48 minutes. That’s barely 15 minutes shorter than Flight of Passage, and ten minutes longer than Na’vi, in addition to being about three times as long as Everest. So it’s a real priority, particularly without the option to use FastPass+ in the late morning.
In the above chart, we can see across the bottom with our semi-arbitrary color coding that we’re looking at fairly long waits from 11am to 2:45pm in particular. Safaris quickly takes off with 35 minutes posted at 8:30am and 65 minutes by 9:15am. River Journey’s rise is slower, almost making it worthwhile to bypass Pandora first thing completely, enjoy a daytime walkthrough later in the day, and then get in line for the two alien rides at night. But a lot can happen during the day – from grumpy dads, to upset stomachs, to childlike breakdowns from kids and parents alike, to sheer tiredness. And probably some of each depending on your propensity for the food hack and whether putting a doughnut in with your Orange Chicken really gives it that extra zing.
River Journey’s wait may now build slower, but to head to Safaris first, bypassing Pandora, and then returning to Avatar World around 8:45am to ride, will likely result in an actual wait for the tunnel of love of that’s actually much closer, and may even exceed, the posted 20 to 30 minutes. The sign read a 20-minute wait when we got in line around 8am too, but there was clearly nobody in line. An hour later, there will be a few hundred. We’d also have to account for time it takes to backtrack to Pandora, which we’ll be less and less prone to do as temperatures heat up. With the line for Flight still backing up
At the state and county “relaxing” social-distancing guidelines and mask mandates, it will be interesting to see how quickly Disney moves to change their own rules, particularly with the hot summer coming up. “Safety first” of course, but a good number of people have little or no interest in visiting Florida and Walt Disney World during a face mask mandate that’s on its way out.
In addition, Universal and SeaWorld both moved their social-distancing markers to three feet from six feet with local and state government giving the go-ahead. That basically doubles the Park’s capacity given twice as many people can physically be standing in line at once. It also basically halves the physical length of a given queue, with people now three feet away from each other instead of six. That greatly improves optics as people approach an attraction and don’t see the end of the line starting at Tiffins. The wait is still roughly, the same, but it “feels” better. Such is also the joy of switchbacks inside the queue. You can be backed up at Na’vi on the concrete leading up to the main queue switchbacks and wait about five minutes if none of said switchbacks are occupied. You can also be standing in the exact same place and wait 60 minutes if those switchbacks are full. Something like Big Thunder Mountain at Magic Kingdom is one of the better examples of that. There are about 12 switchback areas in the queue that can be open to accommodate additional guests in line.
With Universal and SeaWorld moving to an official three distance stance, it’s unlikely that Disney will take much time to make the same decision, in turn greatly increasing capacity this summer, even if waits are longer and lines look shorter. All Parks will also do away with temperature checks this month. But some amount of confusion will remain. You have the governor saying one thing, local government saying something else, and then Disney needing to figure out some middle ground where guests both feel safe and comfortable. Universal and SeaWorld already making moves will likely make their own transition easier.
The fact is nobody wants to be waiting wherever this is for River Journey in a face mask in July, present company included. The bad news is that with the same number of people in line in front of us, we’ll still wait just as long given less space between groups.
Three feet is probably bordering on the natural distance between groups, anyway. Over the last eight months, I think I’ve had to point out the stickers to the people behind me three or four times. You can’t really argue with what you clearly can read on the ground. In each of these cases, it was because the people talking behind me were so annoying that an extra three feet helped muddle their words and I wouldn’t have to listen to their conversation while waiting for Pirates of the Caribbean. But there are times when it at least “feels” like the people behind you are closer to wearing your shoes than you are with your feet firmly planted in them. Take away the stickers and asking someone to move back two feet is a little more awkward. I may just get my own sticker and move it along through the queue with me. I would imagine that would cost an arm and a leg, or approximately lunch at Tiffins, in Goo Gone Remover and I carefully removed and replaced my sticker.
But Disney is sticking to face masks and six feet between parties as I type this on May 6th, even as they’ve seemingly eased up on enforcement of guests walking around drinking open containers, eating snacks in the middle of walkways, and taking maskless selfies around the Park with PhotoPass nowhere in sight. Enforcing the “face masks must stay on” rule at Cinderella Castle became too cumbersome as of a few weeks ago. And with most people, from the completely unintelligent to the top scientists in the world, agree there is little risk in being distanced and maskless outdoors. That’s even more true with vaccinations way up, at least in the United States. But those maskless selfies have “taken off” so to speak. You’ll see them everywhere, even without PhotoPass and smack dab in the middle of a walkway.
So we may see more of an “unofficial” pullback of some safety measures before Disney officially makes policy changes property-wide. But the 3-feet between parties thing is likely happening much sooner than later.
When Disney was adamant about enforcing its rules, they were generally successful. But guests typically see what other guests are doing, just like they would in most other situations, and assume that behavior is appropriate. There was a time when you’d nearly be tackled for taking a sip of water out in the open. Now you may be lucky if the people behind you aren’t inching closer, masks off, eating popcorn in line.
The strange thing is that the in-park announcements don’t match what’s being enforced anymore. You’ll still hear about how you have to be stationary and away from people while eating or drinking. But that’s not really enforced. And then you’ve got each of the theme parks operating differently, the mayor saying something, the governor saying something else, and Disney, on private property, requiring whatever they currently deem fit. Certainly by the end of the month, and potentially in just about two weeks, I’d expect things to be more orderly.
We can pull up Disney’s wait times to see how things are looking:
Everything outside of Flight of Passage looks doable with Safaris the only ride really climbing.
But here’s another look just a few minutes later:
Safaris has almost doubled its wait as Disney is typically about 15 minutes behind reality.
But pulling our standard chart back up:
Safaris isn’t going to drop below 35 minutes officially until 6:15pm. So it remains our best play.
We’ll head over.
We’re passing over the bridge in and out of Pandora as we head to Africa. In the distance, you may be able to make out the people waiting for Flight of Passage as they continue further towards Africa before doubling back and then eventually entering some semblance of a queue. Not where you want to be. Also, a reminder that an outdoor table at Nomad does offer some good views of the character flotillas as they pass by every 15 minutes or so.
After Disney moves to three feet between parties, it will be interesting to see if they pick up any of the markers or simply eyeball them and stick another in between. Substantial Park capacity increases should come with the change, so it’s viable that on busier days these stickers will still be required as you now have double the wait and double the people in line.
It certainly should be an interesting summer.
We should probably do one more thing, but there’s a lot to cover in Africa as we head in that direction. And when was the last time there was a new post? Nixon was still in office? Harambe, New and Old, along with Kilimanjaro Safaris, are coming up next.