The world’s best theme parks usually show great pictures of people on terrifying rollercoasters or fun family rides but what they don’t show is the people waiting hours in the queue before getting on these rides.
Fear not, there are ways to beat the queues at some of these theme parks. I have visited and queued at Disneyland Paris, Disney’s Magic Kingdom in Florida and Universal studios Florida.
Firstly, if you have some spare cash lying around the easiest way to beat the queues is to buy an express pass ticket. The express pass ticket works better for Universal Studios than any of the Disney parks.
If you do not have a rich parent or grandparent and you need to slum it with a regular ticket there are still ways to beat the queuing times.
I recommend arriving at the parks early. If you arrive just before opening the major crowds won’t have arrived just yet so you will have the run of the parks.
Go off- peak
The time of year you go will also impact on the wait times in the theme parks. For obvious reasons the summer months are the busiest so if you have the flexibility to go off peak or during the academic term you will probably beat the lines.
This may seem to contradict my first point but if you can get to the parks in the late afternoon or early evening you will beat the busiest part of the day. As you arrive you must swim against the tide of tired children and buggy-pushing parents leaving the park but once you do you will hopefully find much shorter wait times.
Plan your day at the parks
If you arrive early or late and find yourself faced with little or no queues don’t waste the precious opportunity going on rides you have been on a thousand times already. Most parks have rides which are newly opened and very popular, go on these rides when the waiting times are low as they are almost impossible to get on at peak times.
Universal Studios Florida have the Minion ride and Transformers which are extremely popular but if you arrive early or late and find the wait times are down to an hour or less it is worth jumping in the line. It is better than the 3 hour wait in the afternoon.
Buy an express pass for one day
Most express passes can be purchased for one day only. Express passes typically cost about €100 per person which sounds costly but it will be worth it when you are smugly walking past people who have already been in line for an hour. I made a list of the busiest rides and waited until the day I had an express pass to go on those rides.
Express pass at the Disney parks work by booking a time to return to the ride, on your return you will not have to queue. There are usually limits on how much you can use it (no more than two bookings at any one time) so it is not as efficient as the Universal Studios system, in my opinion.
Keep an eye on closures
It may happen that you hear an announcement to say a ride is closing for maintenance or because of incoming bad weather. If you keep an eye on these rides they very often have little or no queues when they re-open.
If you are unlucky to have queued for ages when a ride closes, as I have, you can mention your situation to guest services who will often give a once-off express ticket to the ride you missed out on.
Download the apps
It’s not just your bus you can time on your phone anymore. Most parks have real time information on wait times. You can use the app to see what rides are the busiest and at what times the queues are the shortest. Apps usually mention any delays or closures also so keep an eye out for those. The apps often have planners and interactive maps to make planning your trip easier so be sure to familiarise yourself with it before you get to your theme parks.