Today we’ll take a moment to do something no other Walt Disney World planning website in the world does……….actually execute a touring plan to see how it works. I like to go through Epcot’s 1-day plan on federal holidays because it usually means above average crowds and a higher number of visiting locals clogging up World Showcase. So we’ll go through it on Martin Luther King Jr. day with above average overall crowds. This gives us a better idea about how the plan works given less than desirable conditions.
As you’ve probably read, planned monorail downtime is continuing into March. Specifically that means:
On Mondays and Tuesdays:
- Express Monorail from the Transportation and Ticket Center doesn’t begin operation until 9:30am.
- Resort Monorail from the Transportation and Ticket Center -> Polynesian -> Grand Floridian -> Magic Kingdom -> Contemporary -> Transportation and Ticket Center doesn’t begin until 8:30am.
- Epcot Monorail from the Transportation and Ticket Center to Epcot doesn’t begin until 9am.
On Wednesdays and Thursday:
- Express Monorail does not operate between 11:30am and 6pm.
The “Normal” Schedule is:
- Resort Monorail starts at 7am (unless there is a 7am-8am morning Extra Magic Hour in which case it starts at 6:30am).
- Express Monorail starts 30 minutes after regular Park open.
- Epcot Monorail starts at 8am.
These sorts of closures typically bring on a lot of stress from those that frequent sites like these and are staying at affected resorts, whether it means you’re staying at the Polynesian and need to arrive at Epcot by 7:30am for an 8am breakfast reservation or you’re staying off-site and you want to get to Magic Kingdom by 8:15am for the 8:40am Welcome Show.
Those concerns are largely unfounded as Disney will (probably) get you where you need to go. If the monorails are down, buses will be provided.
Stop 8 is servicing Epcot from the Transportation and Ticket Center here as it’s Monday and the monorail is not yet running. You may notice that the bus says “Magic Kingdom” on it. In a lot of ways, the bus service is potentially good news as buses are far more reliable and trips are much shorter in duration than a similar monorail trip. For example, let’s say you’re staying at the Grand Floridian and want to go to Epcot. Ordinarily, you’d have to walk to the main building, head upstairs, and wait for the Resort Monorail. Then you’d have to wait for it to stop and load/unload at the Magic Kingdom and Contemporary. Then you’d have to exit that monorail and wait for the Epcot Monorail to arrive and load and then transfer you over to Epcot. That can easily take 45 minutes to an hour. With the bus, you’d need to wait for it to arrive and then it will take about 12 minutes to arrive at Epcot, for a trip that’s closer to 35-45 minutes in duration, but potentially as short as around 20. Best case scenario on the monorail would be 35 minutes or so.
If you’re particularly concerned, you can take the process into your own hands by using Uber (less expensive, generally more pleasant, but more likely your driver won’t know the ins and outs of where you’re going and may take longer to initially arrive) or Mears Taxi (more expensive, generally less pleasant, but more likely they’ll know where they’re going and will probably take less time to initially arrive). Uber would cost about $10 with $2 tip and it would take about 20 minutes total. Double the price for Mears.
The website is uncomfortable talking about specific security protocols, but it will point out again that bag check is more thorough and there is a potential that you’ll be asked to walk through a metal detector with a followup pat down should it go off. Your author is (apparently) particularly seedy looking and is asked to go through about half the time. They will insist that your belt doesn’t need to be removed should you be wearing one, but of course it does goes off and then you have the subsequent joy of somebody waving a wand at you off to the side with hands raised. You’re less likely to be “randomly selected” if you’re not wearing a jacket. The good news is that Disney security has taken over for the temporary units that were originally used. Cast members are potentially more professional. The process otherwise shouldn’t slow you down as Disney is staffed to handle expected crowds. Of course, things can slow when unexpected crowds arrive.
The sandwich board rules.
I arrived at 8:09am and was past the metal detector after being wanded (thanks $Big Dog$ belt buckle) at 8:13am. A couple minutes later via The Facebook, I commented that there were “surprisingly few people here so far.” Not 60 seconds later did the lady behind me exclaim, “There are way more people here than I expected.”
Yeah……no. You may remember this scene from Memorial Day.
Should you otherwise find yourself further back in line than you’d like, you can employ one of my favorite tricks, which is to get in line closest to the entrance tapstiles that they’re using for breakfast reservations.
At around 8:22am, cast members moved the reservation line further over and these people that had initially been behind me in line scooted over to the now open tapstiles.
The website’s Epcot theme park touring section includes a short explanation of how Park opening should go:
This is a little different than how it’s operated in the past, where guests were free to head to the location of their choice after entering the Park closer to 8:45am.
At exactly 8:30am, cast began letting guests enter and two minutes later I was through.
It’s a pretty easy walk through Future World. This is the incoming onslaught as we turn around to face the entrance.
We’ve got about ten minutes until Spaceship Earth starts operating. I do highly recommend skipping it first thing unless you really don’t have another priority to get to.
I wonder if Disney has increased pay two cents per hour now that cast have to manually create bubbles instead of blowing them from a “gun.” They really do pull out all the stops.
With Soarin’ closed for several months, virtually nobody is going to be headed in that direction. The only priority that might make a little sense is Baymax and to a lesser extent, Character Spot.
You might get 50 people total over there. Of course, it will be a different song and dance when Soarin’ reopens and the majority of people are headed in that direction.
Instead we head to the left.
I arrived here at 8:37am.
And we were on our way at 8:52am, which is a little later than usual, but I had not seen so few people at rope drop in some time. Test Track is also infamously unreliable and when it’s ready for guests varies day to day.
Cast will walk guests slowly to the entrance.
The process is incredibly annoying as guests push and shove for position, rush around the orderly clump trying to get ahead, etc. Back in the good old days at a Park like Animal Kingdom, Disney would let guests enter the Park freely and then enter the queue for major attractions when they arrived. When the ride was ready, the line would start moving. That seems more orderly than walking shoulder to shoulder with a thousand people in a clump that’s ten people wide before then shrinking down to a single file line immediately in front of the entrance. Or Disney could be ready for the few people that are there at 8:30am, in turn reducing waits for everyone that arrives later.
As I think I mention every time, Test Track never shows anything less than a 30-minute posted standby wait first thing. You will undoubtedly hear exasperated people behind you complaining that it’s “ALREADY THIRTY MINUTES??????” It’s really not.
This is what we expect to happen as we go through the day:
With one day at Epcot, you’ve got twelve hours to “experience everything.” This plan includes all of the Future World highlights, including riding Test Track twice, and provides five or six hours to enjoy World Showcase. You may also elect to eliminate or replace some attractions. There’s also the option to head up to World Showcase earlier in the morning and return to Future World around 5pm when crowds thin. That way you have more time to enjoy World Showcase when crowds are light from 11am-2pm and can take advantage of lower waits in Future World in the evening after most people have moved on to World Showcase. But I think most first time visitors will prefer to finish what they’ve started in Future World before planning to enjoy World Showcase with dinner and IllumiNations after.
We’re expecting Test Track to take about 25 minutes first thing in the morning, which includes the initial wait, the design phase, the wait to board the vehicle, the ride, and the walk back to the entrance. If you’d like to cut that down by about ten minutes, you can opt to ride single rider first thing instead. You’ll bypass everyone in standby and FastPass+ because we’ll all be held up for at least ten minutes going through the queue. This should allow those entering single rider first thing to ride together, but it isn’t necessarily guaranteed 100% of the time. It’s otherwise 8:54am so we’re right on schedule.
Rope drop affords a quick opportunity to walk the standby queue, which has some interesting props to look at.
You’ll have a moment to get acquainted with how the design process works in the next room.
And then wait a few minutes for a room to open. It’s exactly five minutes before I’m here, which is less time than it would take with FastPass+ later in the day.
Three minutes after that.
And about ready to board at 9:11am.
And back out front at 9:22am for a total experience time of 28 minutes.
The standby queue is already backed up outside with a 45-minute posted wait. It’s probably closer to 70. This is why we arrive so early. I waited about 15 minutes at the front of the Park prior to open and then another 15 minutes ready for Test Track to open, but I’ve already saved over an hour in line compared to how long I’d wait if I arrived at 9am. And that time in line was before the Park was open and I wasn’t paying anything to be there. Once the Park opens, you’re paying good money for the privilege of waiting.
Sum of All Thrills in Innoventions East is up next. You’ll find it through these doors directly opposite of Test Track’s entrance.
This is when I saw the tour groups.
Several hundred headed to Mission: SPACE. One thing Disney will sometimes do with the gigantic tour groups is offer them a relatively low priority FastPass+ that has a lot of availability at a less desirable time slot. In this instance, it looks like that selection is Mission: SPACE between 9am-10am.
I was surprised to see Habit Heroes was closed as there had been no announcement or communication about it whatsoever.
It’s a permanent closure, which means just Sum of All Thrills, Stormstruck, and Colortopia remain open. Vision House has fresh walls in front of it.
We prioritize Sum of All Thrills because of its incredibly low capacity – it moves through a maximum of 16 people every five minutes or so and it’s usually closer to 13 people every six minutes in practice or around 125 people an hour. Mission: SPACE on the other hand moves through 1,500. You want to be here by 9:45am or as close to 7pm as possible. It doesn’t take a lot of people for the wait to hit 20+ boring minutes.
As you’re probably aware, you basically get to design your own virtual ride and then experience it via robotic arm, first choosing the intensity and then speed, height, and type of drop/turn/hill. If you’re really hungover, you can opt for “bobsled” or if you’re riding with a 9-year old then it’s probably the jet.
The KUKA arm used is similar to those over at Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey at Universal. If you want to save the trip over, I’m told that you can try to give the person you’re riding with a concussion right before liftoff and then scream “BUTTERBEER” and it will be just like visiting Diagon Alley. Julian Edelman probably thinks he’s riding Escape from Gringotts right now.
I arrived at 9:25am and was off the ride at 9:47am, which is just about right. I missed the previous show by one person, which caused my wait to be about seven minutes instead of one. This is already a 20-ish minute wait even with just a few dozen people in line.
If you want to do Colortopia or Stormstruck, it’s best to come back later. Innoventions is air-conditioned and unpopular and you can basically walk right in whenever you want. There’s always a lot of discussion over how to “fix” Innoventions and it’s always seemed like it would be best to get some universities in here displaying some cool science and technologies that they’re working on. Disney could write off a sizable amount of money and it would be a powerful marketing opportunity whether Disney wanted to stick with Florida universities or go national with choices like Stanford and the University of Michigan.
Swinging by Test Track again on the way to Mission: SPACE and the ride is up to a 40-minute posted wait at 9:50am with single rider listed at 25.
Sometimes I go through the plans as written no matter what and other times occasionally call an audible and explain why.
With Green posted at 5 minutes and Orange posted at 10 minutes, I opted to get in line even after seeing all of the people headed there about 20 minutes before.
It turned out to be a poor decision as I first queued up outside somewhere that I had never even seen before.
If you see a line that far backed up, it would be wise to come back later. This is a look at Mission: SPACE since Soarin’ closed:
As you can see, there are a lot of opportunities to visit with a shorter wait later in the day, including what you would expect to be prime touring time in the afternoon.
It’s hard to say exactly what happened on this particular day, but I got in line at 9:52am and wasn’t at the pre-show video until 10:22am, which is easily 20 minutes longer than it should take.
And not back out front until 10:41am, for a total experience time of 49 minutes, which is far too long for an attraction that takes us closer to the year 1999 than it does the planet Mars. It should be somewhat of an anomaly as I only see one other day since Soarin’ closed when actual waits were higher than 20 minutes before 10am, so it’s nothing to really be concerned about. Just be aware that if you initially queue up outside that you probably want to come back later.
One reason why I wasn’t that concerned about waiting longer at Mission: SPACE was that there really aren’t any more attractions that are particularly time sensitive, especially since we’re using FastPass+ at Spaceship Earth, Character Spot, and Test Track again later.
At 10:45am, Baymax’s wait is around 15 minutes. Waits have been between 15 and 30 minutes between 10am and 8pm most days and shorter before or after that.
Character Spot is still just 15 minutes with less than 30 people waiting in standby.
Over to The Seas with Nemo & Friends at 10:48am with a 15-minute posted wait.
I was in my clam in under five.
The shark that’s supposed to stick its nose out at you hasn’t worked properly in some number of years now. But the yeti fix is right around the corner guys.
Turtle Talk is next, here arriving just before 11am.
Shows run every 20 minutes or so and if you see a crowd this sparse waiting, it means you just missed the last one. You could safely peruse another area for around eight minutes, but you’d want to be back shortly after that as the space does fill. There are a few things to occupy your time while you wait inside the holding area, including a couple aquarium exhibits and interactive games.
While Turtle Talk is aimed squarely at the younger set, it’s more than a little charming for the adults in attendance as the audience interacts with Crush in real time. At least depending on how tall the Mouse Ears Hat is in front of you.
The Seas is usually a ghost town after 5pm and certainly by 7pm if you have other business in the morning. As I mentioned earlier, it makes a lot of sense to head up to World Showcase right at 11am to experience the fewest people milling about the various Pavilions.
I arrived at 10:48am and was back out front at 11:37am, so I’m about 20 minutes behind schedule. It’s not really a big deal here at Epcot. If you have a time sensitive FastPass+ or dining reservation, you may elect to skip one of the lengthy anytime attractions to make up the time. I considered skipping Turtle Talk, which would have put me right back on track, but was curious how well things would go if I stayed on target. You could very easily return here later in the day at your convenience.
Now up to the Land Pavilion, which is a bit of a hike. Soarin’ is closed of course, so a lot less people are headed through here.
You may remember that Disney is running Living with the Land, Circle of Life, Journey into Imagination, and Pixar Shorts through 9pm in an effort to sort of make up for it. Those attractions would otherwise all close at 7pm unless the Park was hosting evening Extra Magic Hours.
Since the closure, Living with the Land waits have topped off around ten minutes, even over this past holiday weekend.
I arrived at 11:42am.
And prepared to board nine minutes later, which is about as long as you can expect to wait.
Soarin’s entrance is boarded up. It’s expected that it will move slightly before it reopens. I had mentioned that it would be surprising if the ride reopened with the new film, but with Shanghai opening in June, it now seems much more likely that we will in fact see Around the World at the onset.
A reminder that Sunshine Seasons is only operating from 11am-7pm during the Soarin’ refurbishment.
And back out front of the Pavilion at 12:15pm. As written, the plan calls for lunch at Sunshine Seasons from 12:05pm to 12:45pm, so I’m a handful of minutes behind schedule. But with plans to grab the newish meatballs in Norway, I’m skipping ahead.
So it’s off to Journey into Imagination, which has a 20-minute posted wait at 12:17pm.
One of the benefits(?) of longer standby waits in the FastPass+ era is the opportunity to enjoy some of the under-appreciated queue elements.
During my eight minutes in line, I counted just over 80 people using FastPass+ that all arrived after me and boarded before me, in turn causing my wait to be a couple minutes longer than it would be otherwise:
And back out front at 12:41pm for a total experience time of 24 minutes. The touring plan allows for 25 minutes a little later in the day.
You could do the Disney Pixar Shorts thing now if you wanted to, though with the cooler weather I think most people will be looking at spending more time in World Showcase. When it’s a lot hotter out, the theater is a nice respite, even if the content isn’t exactly earth shattering.
Pixar Shorts has proved more popular than Captain EO, though it’s improbable that a show would fill to capacity. It’s unlikely one ever will. They couldn’t even pack the house for the last EO “performance.”
Overall, we’ve taken care of just about everything in Future World. The plan now calls for the use of three priority FastPass+ selections along with an opportunity to take pictures and visit any skipped over attractions that you might like to do, like something in Innoventions or Ellen’s Energy Adventure. The only hiccup was the unusually long wait for Mission: SPACE, which only ended up putting us about 15 minutes behind schedule after all was said and done.
I’ll occasionally see somebody reference the times that go along with the touring plan as somehow being “stressful,” but it’s really just to give you an idea about how long each step takes. Usually, just the first three or four steps are particularly time sensitive. At Epcot, you do need to hurry to Test Track and Sum of All Thrills to experience short waits there. If you don’t get to Test Track by 9:05am or so, you’re realistically going to wait 45 to 60 minutes. If you don’t get to Sum of All Thrills by around 9:45am, you’re going to wait 20 to 30 minutes there. It’s not going to ruin your life, but the whole point of these plans is to save you as much time as possible while still providing a pleasant overall experience. And because the arrival and departure times are padded to allow for extra time, most people should be able to execute the plans with minimal exertion. For example, the plan gives you 65 minutes to do The Seas, Turtle Talk, and arrive at Living with the Land. Even arriving late at The Seas on a holiday and having to wait through almost an entire Turtle Talk show, it took me 56 minutes. The plan allows for 30 minutes at Living with the Land. But even after arriving at the worst possible time of day, it took a total of 22 minutes. So there really isn’t much to worry about even on the 1-day plan. The two-day plans are even easier to execute because things are even less time sensitive and walking is reduced.
Next, we’ll head up through World Showcase to see if there’s anything exciting happening up there. We’ll also visit Hollywood Studios, Animal Kingdom, and see how rope dropping Magic Kingdom goes with lunch at Skipper Canteen.