For most families, planning a trip to Walt Disney World is no small task. With two waterparks, a revamped “downtown” area, and four theme parks full of rides, live performances, and themed dining experiences, there’s no shortage of options in the happiest place on earth.
While it’s no secret that a trip to Disney can be expensive between travel, park tickets, and food, many forget another limiting factor — time. With entry to a single park costing over $100, how can you be sure you’re making the most of it and not spending all your time waiting in lines?
To discover how to make the most of your time and money during your next Disney trip, the FinanceBuzz team analyzed wait times for every attraction at Disney parks, current ticket prices, and the number of attractions per park. While lines may be unavoidable, we found ways to get the most bang for your buck and suggestions for finding the right time to visit if you want to get the most out of your next trip.
The average wait time for a Disney World attraction is 36 minutes, while the average ride is just 8 minutes long. For each ride you want to visit, prepare to spend 82% of your time in line.
The attraction with the longest average wait time is Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance, with an average wait time of 127 minutes.
The attraction with the shortest average wait time is Walt Disney’s Carousel of Progress, with an average wait time of 5 minutes.
The best time to visit all four parks is the month of September, when average wait times are between 15-28 minutes.
The worst times to visit are February and March, when wait times are between 36-59 minutes on average.
Time spent waiting in line at different Disney World parks
After collecting data on the price of single-day, one-park admission, our team found that the average ticket costs $138 per person. Before spending any money on food or merchandise, a family of four will be looking at nearly $600 per day just to get into one of the four Disney World parks.
With such a hefty price tag on admission, minimizing time spent waiting in line is important for many guests who want to get the most out of their day. But just how easy is it to do that and still enjoy all the parks have to offer?
To start, we wanted to compare how long people wait in line versus how long rides actually take at the four parks.
Across the 54 attractions Disney offers at its four parks, guests can expect to wait for an average of 36 minutes per ride.
EPCOT has the shortest lines (26 minutes), while Hollywood Studios has the longest (41 minutes). EPCOT also has the longest rides at 9.2 minutes of runtime per attraction, while Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom rides have the shortest runtimes at 7.3 minutes.
So which park is best for guests that want to get on as many rides as possible? Magic Kingdom and EPCOT are the Disney Parks where you can get the most bang for your buck. Guests can ride 1.7 rides per hour, equating to nearly 20 rides over the course of an average 12-hour day at the parks. At that rate, guests who maximize their park time spend around $6.90 per ride on a $138 ticket.
On the flip side, Hollywood Studios is the park where maximizing ride time is the hardest. Several popular new rides such as Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance, Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway, and Slinky Dog Dash can all be found there.
All three rides have individual wait times of more than an hour each, raising the overall average wait time for Hollywood Studios significantly. As a result, guests can only ride 14 attractions on average in a given day, at the cost of nearly $10 per ride.
The cost of waiting in line
Based on average wait times and the average ride time of a Disney World attraction, park-goers will spend an average of 82% of their time waiting in line for every attraction they choose to ride.
EPCOT and Magic Kingdom are the best parks for spending less of your time in line, as 26% and 20% of total attraction time is spent riding, respectively.
These numbers reveal what many park-goers have long expected — guests spend at least three times longer waiting in line than they do enjoying the attractions. This applies to all four Disney World parks.
To put that into perspective, even if a guest could immediately get back in line after exiting an attraction, over $100 worth of their ticket costs on a given day (based on their $138 ticket) would be spent waiting in line. Less than $40 would be spent on the actual attractions.
When adding in the time spent shopping, eating, drinking, and walking through the park, the dollar amount of ride value a ticket offers drops even further.
The rides with the best and worst wait times in every Disney World park
Though whole park averages are helpful to understand what your day will look like, it’s equally important to plan for specific attractions.
Using data from individual attractions from the past year, it becomes clear there are some attractions where you’ll expect to spend more time in line than others. With limited time (and patience) available each day, it’s important for guests to know which attractions they can expect to hop right on, and which they’ll need to budget some extra time for.
Two of the three rides with the longest average wait times can be found in Hollywood Studios, with Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance carrying an average wait time of over two hours (127 minutes), and Slinky Dog Dash with just under an hour and a half (87 minutes) of average wait time. Between those two Hollywood Studios attractions is Avatar Flight of Passage in the Animal Kingdom, with an average wait time of 91 minutes.
The attractions with the shortest average wait times are more spread out, with one attraction at Magic Kingdom, one at Hollywood Studios, and one at EPCOT. These are Walt Disney's Carousel of Progress (5 minute average wait time), Muppet*Vision 3D (11 minutes average wait time), and Turtle Talk with Crush (11 minutes average wait time), respectively.
The best and worst times of year to visit Disney World
Finally, to find out when it might make the most sense to visit the Happiest Place on Earth, we found the months and weeks when average wait times were the longest and shortest at each of the four parks.
While there always will be a consistent flow of guests at any Disney World park, some weeks may be better than others, especially if you want to minimize your time waiting in line.
Regardless of which park guests are interested in visiting, there are a few times of year that are consistently better than others in terms of lines. For all four parks, the month of September had the shortest average wait times, averaging just 20 minutes across the four parks. Alternately, March was the worst month to visit Disney World, with average wait times rising to 46 minutes.
In terms of specific weeks when wait times are shortest, savvy vacationers should target the start of the school year if they want a visit with low wait times.
The last two weeks of August and the first two weeks of September all land on the list of the five weeks with the lowest average wait times, with times of just 18-20 minutes during that stretch. Alternately, both February and March saw two different weeks land in the top five in terms of weeks with the longest average wait times, with guests having to wait between 47 and 51 minutes on average.
Tips for saving on a magical vacation
Waiting in line may be an inevitable part of a Disney vacation. Yet, savvy vacationers can get some extra bang for their buck at the Most Magical Place on Earth by visiting at the right times of the year, optimizing the new Genie+ and Lightning Lane options, arriving at the parks earlier in the day, or prioritizing parks with lower demand.
Beyond these strategies, here are a few more tips for getting the most for your money on your next Disney vacation:
Earn magical rewards on your purchases. Some credit cards can earn rewards that can be used for lodging and travel to Disney, while others can give major bonuses for purchases made in the parks. Using one of the best credit cards for Disney both before and during a Disney vacation can maximize the magic of your vacation.
Budget for your big trip. Between travel, hotels, park tickets, and everything else a Disney vacation entails, a trip to Disney World can come with a massive price tag. Looking into how to budget for a Disney family vacation is a great way to minimize the financial stress.
Make your vacation magical with unforgettable Disney experiences. For many people, a Disney vacation may be a once-in-a-lifetime experience. A great way to maximize the fun and memories of a trip like this is to look into adding some Disney bucket list experiences to the trip that can make an already magical vacation truly unforgettable.
Wait times were pulled from Thrill-Data.com where average wait times are calculated based on times directly from theme park apps and user reporting. Only attractions with reliable historical wait time data were included in this analysis, and rides that solely utilize a virtual queue system were excluded. For that reason, attraction totals may vary from official Disney World listings.
Data was pulled for every day, week, and month in all four parks for days between May 1, 2021, and April 30, 2022. Ticket prices were sourced from TouringPlans to calculate how much guests pay to stand in line versus actually getting on rides. TouringPlans was also used to source the ride length of each attraction. All data was gathered between May 2-May 11, 2022.
This article Want to Avoid Lines at Disney? New Data Reveals How to Get the Most Out of Your Next Trip to the Parks originally appeared on FinanceBuzz.