We head out to Epcot to do a bit of theme park touring on the morning of Friday October 28th, 2016. This time around, we’re going to see how viable it is to start with Test Track in standby and then immediately head over to Soarin’ to ride standby right after.
The website does not typically recommend this approach and you won’t find a touring plan with these two attractions as the first two steps in the fall version of the cheat sheets. That’s because it’s not exactly foolproof, requires an arrival 45 minutes before Park open, and necessitates a lot of walking first thing without much opportunity to enjoy the sights and sounds of the Park. But the good news is that after those two steps, the rest of the morning should be smooth sailing. We’ll be able to do Test Track, Soarin’, Living with the Land, The Seas with Nemo, Turtle Talk with Crush, Mission: SPACE (with FastPass+), and Spaceship Earth (with FastPass+) in front of a 12:30pm lunch reservation in Canada.
As always, an arrival by 8:15am is ideal as you can see how many more people arrive between 8:15am and 8:35am in the image above. If you are running a bit late, one of the smarter tricks continues to be finding the breakfast reservations line for those with pre-opening reservations at Garden Grill and Akershus. At Epcot, that line is currently down to the right, but there is a possibility that it will move far down to the left at some point in the future. Disney will keep this line dedicated to those with reservations until about 8:30am, at which point they’ll motion regular guests to queue up. Because there is nobody in these lines while others back up, you’ll be much closer to the tapstile and find yourself in the Park much earlier than if you got in the back of another line. On this particular morning, Disney also opened two lines way down to the right, which would also see shorter lines than one in the middle of the pack.
If you’re relying on Disney bus transportation and don’t want to push your luck, being at the bus stop an hour before you want to be standing in front of a tapstile is smart. That gives you 30 minutes for the bus to arrive and depart, 20 minutes for it to travel to the Park, and ten minutes for your grouo to move through security. The later you’re at the bus stop, the more likely it will be that you arrive later than you’d like. If you’re driving, leaving 30-45 minutes early is fine. That gives you five minutes to get to the car and leave the resort, 20 minutes to drive, ten minutes to park and walk to the entrance, and a couple minutes to make it through security. While security does take a bit longer with more thorough bag searches and the metal detectors, Disney is very well staffed to process people and you should have virtually no wait this early in the day.
This is what we’re expecting from rope drop according to the Epcot cheat sheet:
And that’s exactly what we saw as Disney began letting guests enter the Park just before 8:40am.
There’s always somebody. For a while, Disney was running Spaceship Earth at 8:45am to try and lure as many tourists away from Frozen and the headliners as possible, but I think you see that far less often these days. The ride is not operating yet despite the 5-minute posted wait time. We’re going to return with FastPass+ later in the day.
Once you pass Spaceship Earth, you’ll arrive at the Fountain of Nations, which separates the four intelligent first stop options on your touring plan. We start with Test Track over Soarin’ because Test Track is a lower capacity attraction and the only real priority on that side of the Park with Sum of All Thrills in Innoventions East closed. By the time I disembark Test Track, the standby queue will already be outside the building. If I started at Soarin’ then I would have to walk all the way over to Test Track where I would wait longer and then walk all the way back over to the Soarin’ side to do anything of interest other than Mission: SPACE. The exception to Test Track over Soarin’ first would be if you are willing to ride Test Track in single rider. Then you can board your sim car later in the day and still enjoy an actual wait that should be under 15 minutes. The earlier or later you go, the better.
If you have in mind to do both Joy/Sadness and Soarin’ then you want to start with the characters because they are far lower capacity. By 9:10am, the actual wait for Inside Out should be north of 30 minutes and headed towards 60. The characters take a ton of time with each group and because people have waited so long, they want to take a lot of time with the characters too. And the cycle continues.
With my early arrival, I’m in good shape at the Test Track holding area in what they call the “Innoventions East Breezeway” in between MouseGear and Electric Umbrella.
About a minute before 9am, we started the walk over to Test Track, which is meant to be slow and controlled, but can be kind of frustrating with all of the jostling for position as people behind you will inevitably plow forward. While it’s important to try to stay in front, it’s not the end of the world if some people are passing you by. It’s at least a short distance.
The cast member up ahead was funny. He asked who was going to be following him to Mission: SPACE and the crowd laughed in unison. A family up front said that they at least had FastPass+ for 9:30am – 10:30am and he told them that they should probably change that because they “won’t be busy until like noon.” He’s not wrong.
Making the right towards the attraction entrance.
As I’ve mentioned before, Test Track never posts less than a 30-minute wait first thing in the morning. And even given my favorable position in line, the total experience time is going to be 25 minutes. We were held outside the queue for just about a minute before being let in. One potential wrinkle can be the number of students or others that are already inside the Park as we have about 50 kids waiting to head through the FastPass+ queue already. They won’t be much of a problem, but sometimes they can cause unexpected delays as I experienced one morning at Hollywood Studios as a couple hundred of them kept going through the FastPass+ queue over and over again at Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster first thing.
This is a lousy picture, but you can kind of tell that there are a couple hundred people behind me waiting to head inside the building, which is why the early arrival is paramount. I’m going to basically walk into the pre-show while someone that arrived just before Park opening will wait 45+ minutes.
At 9:05am, I’m placed in the Studio A holding area.
7 minutes later I’ve finished designing my vehicle.
If you don’t care about the design process or have plans to complete it later at one of the kiosks at the ride exit, then you may want to instead head through single rider first thing. That bypasses the design process and will save you about ten minutes. Because so few people will be in the loading area as 90% of people will be held up designing a vehicle, your group will ride together 99% of the time because there will literally be nobody else waiting to board.
There were empty seats in most cars and the one that I ended up boarding returned with just one person in it who certainly had gone through single rider. That could be you.
So single rider is your friend for those looking to rush through. I’m back outside at 9:25am and standby is already stretching out into the extended queue.
There really isn’t much to do otherwise in Future World East. You’ve got Mission: SPACE, which is easy to FastPass+ and usually sees peak waits under 30 minutes. Ellen’s Energy Adventure is the definition of an anytime attraction. And Colortopia in Innoventions East is all that’s left standing. This is the line for Joy/Sadness at 9:30am, which is really not bad at all, but this is a pretty lightly attended morning. With about 12 groups, the wait should only be 20 to 25 minutes.
This is about three minutes for Baymax across the way. Remember that these characters do not offer FastPass+ and if you acquire FastPass+ for Character Spot then it’s for Mickey, Minnie, and Goofy on the other side.
We head up to The Land Pavilion for Soarin’ and Living with the Land.
This is about as chill as you’re going to see it for this time of day.
Sunshine Seasons is again serving hot breakfast downstairs. You might remember that they brought hot breakfast back in June, then ended that service in late July, and now we’re back. You could feasibly stop here if you really wanted to after Soarin’ (and Living with the Land), but most people will want to push through in order to enjoy shorter waits.
Grab & Go items are also available:
So if you are starving, you could certainly grab a quick yogurt. And a couple of the other cold sandwiches looked good too – you’ll notice more and more Dole branding across property.
After two quick pit stops at Joy/Sadness and Character Spot, I’m standing in front of the Soarin’ entrance at 9:36am or just 11 minutes after exiting Test Track.
Even I was surprised how sparse the line was at Soarin’.
It was all of ten minutes before I was at the best part of the pre-show video.
And back out front just 22 minutes later with a 25-minute posted wait.
Looking over posted wait this month:
By 9:45am, the overall average wait is up to 41 minutes and is 60 or more minutes on 9 of 30 dates. The 25 minutes that I saw just before 10am is the lowest of the entire month. The point here is basically that if you want to do Test Track and Soarin’ both in regular standby first thing that you want to be sure that you can arrive early and hurry to those two attractions. And you’ll likely wait between 10 and 30 minutes longer than I did.
As written, this is what I typically recommend as a 1-day Epcot touring plan for those that want to do Test Track, Soarin’, Frozen Ever After, and IllumiNations on the same date:
If you don’t care about IllumiNations, then it makes sense to get in line for a priority attraction a couple of minutes before close. You might remember that advice from this post that covers Frozen Ever After wait times and strategy.
Strictly based on wait times, it does not make a tremendous amount of sense to ride Living with the Land at 10am, but it saves us from having to come all the way back down here later in the day, which is inconvenient without plans to eat at Sunshine Seasons or re-ride Soarin’.
And you might be surprised how long peak waits are from 11am – 1:30pm:
At 11:30am, posted waits are over 20 minutes on every date other than four and the overall average nearly hits 35 minutes for a 45-minute stretch that continues past noon. In other words, taking the opportunity to ride now isn’t that dumb. But waits also drop off significantly after 5pm, which is why we see the 5:15pm return time in the recommended touring plan above:
I feel like two people went through and pointed at the stuff they were already growing and one guy was like, “So something out there has tomatoes in it, right?” Then the other guy starts turning pages in the Festival Guide skimming through everything trying to find an item that mentions tomatoes. “Uhhhh yeah man Greenhouse Guru is literally selling bags of tomatoes for $4.75.”
I arrived at Living with the Land at 10am and was back out in front of the Pavilion at 10:17am.
At this point, we’re right around Step 4 from the Two Day Plan, Morning Day 1 from the cheat sheet:
The Seas with Nemo is another attraction with peak afternoon waits that might surprise.
It’s exactly 10:20am so we’ll see how we do.
The posted wait is still 10 minutes.
The fact that Disney has not fixed this shark animatronic, that “literally” does nothing other than poke its head out of the wreckage at regular intervals, in more than three years, does not seem to bode well for the yeti. Or anything else.
Otherwise, the total experience time was exactly ten minutes, so we continue to do better than the expected 20-minute time.
Using FastPass+ at Turtle Talk with Crush is somewhat debatable in that it will either save you about 18 minutes or save you about zero minutes. Here just after 10:30am, standby for the next show is cut off as you may notice the chain in the right hand corner of the frame. I and about 15 other people in this line managed to squeeze into the next show, but we could have just as easily been shut out, which means we’d have to wait the 15+ minutes for the next show to load. With FastPass+, I could waltz right in, bypassing these standby guests that arrived before me. That’s how ratios work.
Here’s how I think FastPass+ priority at Epcot stacks up:
Turtle Talk, and the possibility that it could save up to about 18 minutes, arrives in 5th place. If you’re up for it, you could feasibly schedule Turtle Talk FastPass+ in advance and if it turns out that it won’t save you any time, open up the app and switch out the show for another Tier 2 selection. Crowds for Turtle Talk are also lower after 5pm and only get lighter as closing time approaches. Disney doesn’t do a particularly good job of advertising that The Seas Pavilion stays open past 7pm.
Turtle Talk saw some positive changes with the release of Finding Dory earlier this year. It’s worth seeing and one of the more charming shows offered at Epcot.
I managed to be back outside just before 11am to a 20-minute posted wait for the Nemo ride. If I hadn’t gotten into the Turtle Talk show, I’d be 15 minutes later.
Here’s wait times over the course of the day:
This isn’t quite as chill as the September lows, but you might remember seeing me talk about how much crowds would drop off towards the end of the month in the post title,d “October 2016 Disney World Crowds Return With A Vengeance.” The Tier 1 priorities all hit 70+ minute peak waits, but it’s manageable for the most part.
The scene outside The Land Pavilion at 11am.
Up to 25 minutes at Epcot Character Spot.
This looks like it’s 60 to 75 minutes at Joy/Sadness.
First or last thing.
This is still under 15 minutes at Baymax, who interacts with guests far less. This is 11:15am.
Soarin’ up to 50 minutes.
My two Tier 2 selections were Spaceship Earth and Mission: SPACE, in addition to a 5pm Frozen Ever After.
The posted wait for Spaceship is 30 minutes with the standby line winding around both sides of the sphere. I would think the actual wait would be closer to 20 minutes, but it depends entirely on how many FastPass+ users arrive.
Add the photo as another effect that hasn’t worked for months.
I almost dumped $1,000 off to the side of the vehicle as it meandered along the track. Maybe it’s because I’m a ginger?
I was back out front at 11:43am for a total experience time of about 20 minutes.
Mission: SPACE does occasionally hit higher wait times though that is not an issue here at 11:48am. Not that it really matters, but Disney changed the process slightly here with guests now deciding if they’re interested in the Green (less intense) or Orange (more intense) version inside of the building rather than outside. For April Fool’s I feel like they should switch intensities so Green is the spinning version.
Mission: SPACE took 23 minutes, which is about two minutes below what we’d expect. If you mouse over the various theme park names at the top of the page and click “Attractions,” you’ll be taken to a list of attractions (go figure). From there, you can click on the name of one to be taken to a page with all sorts of information, including expected wait times based on crowd level and how long an attraction should take with FastPass+, which is basically the minimum amount of time you can expect something to take. Just looking at the length of an attraction won’t really get you anywhere in most situations. Here’s SPACE’s for example.
So how did we do…
- Test Track: 9am – 9:25am
- Soarin’: 9:36am – 9:58am
- Living with the Land: 9:59am – 10:14am
- The Seas with Nemo and Friends: 10:19am – 10:30am
- Turtle Talk with Crush: 10:31am – 11am
- Spaceship Earth with FastPass+ (after a snack and making fun of people on Twitter): 11:19am – 11:43am
- Mission: SPACE Orange with FastPass+: 11:48am – 12:11pm.
Then lunch at Le Cellier 0_0
Overall, the day went better than expected with some of the lowest wait times seen in October. If you visit on a similar crowded day then you can expect your day to go similarly, but given heavier crowds you’d wait 15-25 more minutes at Soarin’ and probably want to tack on 15 minutes for Turtle Talk if you were to follow this same plan. That’s certainly not the end of the world, but moving through Soarin’ standby in under ten minutes at 9:40am is not an everyday occurrence. But it is indicative of what’s possible given intelligent touring and light crowds.
I better get that Minnie’s Halloween Dine review up before November 1st.