Staying off property can save you a lot of money, but let’s face it, it is A LOT MORE WORK. The name of the game at Disney World is convenience, people pay more for convenience whether it be staying on the monorail loop or not bringing snacks into the park. What you pay the big bucks for will almost ALWAYS be linked to how convenient it is for the guest. However, many people opt for savings over convenience so I want to make sure THOSE people have some good tips about how to navigate WDW more smoothly so you’ll actually come back again! (which is why I’m doing this entire series of tips. You can read more by clicking HERE)
Before you travel you should really try to sit down and Calculate Parking and Tram rides into your travel time. This is one of those things that can really sneak up on you, especially when you are going to Magic Kingdom. The other parks seem to be less drama to get to and that’s partially because when you get to their parking lot you are AT the Park, that’s not the case at Magic Kingdom. You’re still a tram ride AND then a monorail or Ferry Boat ride away.
This only really matters in two situations: Being at a park at Park-Open (which I recommend) or if you have a Dining Reservation somewhere and need to arrive by a specific time. You being a psycho with your color-coded to-the-minute schedule of your trip does NOT count. lol
Let’s walk through an example to help you plan: The scenario is that you have an 8:30am breakfast reservation at Cinderella’s Royal Table. You have to arrive 15 minutes early to check in, so you need to plan what time you must leave your resort by in order to make it there by 8:15am. Readyyyyy????
1) Lets say you listened to me on THIS POST and are in the Downtown Disney area which means you have approx. 20 minutes of drive time.
2) Then add 3-5 minutes in the line to pay the parking attendant.
3) Next 10 minutes to actually park the car, get yourselves and your stuff out of the car and walk to wait for the tram. (take the picture of the parking lot row’s name and # so you can find your car again for PETES SAKE!)
4) If you’re lucky you catch the first tram that comes by which you might wait less than 5 minutes for, if you’re normal then you catch maybe the 3rd tram that comes by and you’ve only waited 12-15 minutes. If you have a big stroller and are attempting to make park-open expect to send your family ahead of you and curse Mickey under your breath as you drop your shoulder in a New Yorker kind of way and muscle your way onto the 5th tram.
5) Ride the tram up to the Ticket & Transportation center and unload in less than 5 minutes.
6) Now you have to walk and catch a monorail. You can either catch the “express” to Magic Kingdom and be crammed in like little sardines, OR you can catch the Resort Monorail and have much more room to yourself but it might take a little longer. * If you have a dining reservation that is at a resort (Contemporary, Polynesian, or Grand Floridian) OBVIOUSLY you pick the resort monorail no matter what*. I personally prefer the resort monorail because I hate the long line and having someone’s fanny pack smashed in my face at 8:15am. there’s just no way I’m gonna be sweet after that one, especially if I almost had to karate chop someone to get on the tram with my stroller. Lets guess a solid 15 minutes either in wait or in ride on the monorail. (You’d have to be some sorta crazy to ride the Ferry if you are actually in a hurry, and if you’re not actually in a hurry why are you reading this in the first place cause you’re not listening to my FIRST TWO RULES UP THERE!)
7) Next you have to actually walk from the monorail station to the park in rather cramped conditions, so lets give you another 3-5 minutes depending on how lucky you are and if you’re skinny enough to wedge yourself between the “lollygaggers and photo-takers”.
8) Oh let’s not forget you now have to check your bags sweeties! Depending on the time of day this might take a while. Do yourself a favor and start un-zipping as you walk. Also, go to the bag check on the LEFT. It’s people’s natural tendency to turn RIGHT so if you go to the LEFT you’ll have shorter lines. Same goes for the turn-styles, the farther you’re willing to walk to the extreme right or left the less your wait will be. You need to add about 7 minutes for bag- check. Could be longer depending on your arrival time.
9a) Time to get out your tickets! You’re heading to the far left or the extreme right like the Diva told you, and you’ve got your tickets out and ready to go, so your wait time should be a little shorter. Lets say 5 minutes. If you’ve got an idiot in front of you who can’t seem to get the finger-printer thing done then all bets are off. I’ve stood in turn-style lines longer than I’m willing to stand in ride standby lines simply out of the belief that EVENTUALLY this goob is going to get it and I’ll be through the line. Don’t be afraid to shift lines, but like the grocery store, its always possible that it will back-fire on you. (see below if you have a dining reservation like in our scenario!)
9b) If you’re going on to your dining reservation you will have a special line that will say DINING RESERVATIONS that you need to go in through. They will find your name on the list and then send you on into the park where you’ll head up to the castle and ENJOY your breakfast.
9c) If you’re not going straight to breakfast then that means you’re there to Watch Opening Ceremony, one my FAVORITE things at Disney World. You can see an example of one by clicking on: http://youtu.be/v6XLldDu93s Again, you want to watch from the LEFT if at all possible as people will naturally crowd through the right tunnel when entering the park.
So let’s do the math:
20 min from hotel to MK parking lot + 5 min paying for parking + 10 min getting out + 15 minutes catching tram + 5 minutes on the tram + 15 min monorail ride + 3 minutes + 7 minutes for bag-check + 10 minutes for tickets = 90 minutes.
Yup, that’s 1.5 hours assuming that your resort is only a twenty minute drive to the parks. Now, we have done it in less, but I can’t honestly say we’ve EVER beaten the 45 minute mark and that’s with us parking on the front row, not riding the tram and just walking. Don’t know that story? Read it HERE. I would say you should NEVER estimate less than 1 hour to get INTO a park when you’re traveling from off property just to be safe.
Remember, its much shorter when you’re staying on-property at a Disney Resort, but its convenience you’re really paying for. If you’re wanting to save money you’re going to have to pay for it in time and planning.
Hope you found this post helpful. I’m pretty darn proud of it if I do say so myself!