How Does Star Wars Land Impact Your Next Disney Visit
Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge is finally open at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. After years of anticipation, you may finally live out your dream of flying the Millennium Falcon. However, the arrival of the new themed land has ripple effects on all of your park visits. Here’s a guide on how Star Wars Land changes your standard Disney visits.
The Cons of Greatness
Let’s state the obvious. We’re all excited to explore Batuu over and over again. Disney has wisely introduced interactive elements and a kind of scoring system that will vastly increase the replay value of the themed land. The downside is that these sublime amenities increase park demand at Disney’s Hollywood Studios in the short-term… and probably the long-term, too.
I previously discussed updated FastPass strategies at Hollywood Studios. Disney has changed the FastPass tiers to make every ride but Star Tours in the top tier. So, this park really only has two FastPasses of value at this point. One is the FastPass you choose, and the other is Star Tours. Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run and Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance won’t have FastPasses available any time soon.
You must think about these types of changes as you plot your next Disney World vacation. While Disneyland’s traffic actually declined in the wake of Galaxy’s Edge, that’s extremely unlikely to occur for the Orlando version. Traffic should increase at all four parks, at least in the earliest days. By 2020, Galaxy’s Edge traffic behavior should normalize, but plan for the worst right now. That way, you’ll be pleasantly surprised if it’s better than expected.
How to Approach Epcot
Each park will experience a different impact due to Galaxy’s Edge. In the case of Epcot, it’s already connected to Hollywood Studios via standard Disney transportation. Guests can take a boat from one park to the other. And starting on September 29th, the Disney Skyliner will ship park visitors from one location to the other. Neither option is technically direct. You’ll stop at a few resorts on the boat route, and the Skyliner has multiple stops as well.
Still, traffic can flow easily between Epcot and Hollywood Studios, which is good and bad. On the plus side, you can get from one part to the other conveniently. On the other hand, so can everyone else. Epcot may receive a lot of surplus traffic in coming months, and that’s not even the bad news.
Epcot is a theme park in transition. The Future World of today is turning into three themed lands: World Celebration, World Discovery, and World Nature. In the short term, several popular locations are behind closed walls due to construction. It kind of makes Epcot a bit grim for those of us who love it the most of all Disney theme parks.
Change is good, though. Since many park visitors are aware of these changes, nit’s possible that many of them will stay away from Epcot, at least compared to normal. Meanwhile, several of your favorite attractions here have perennially short lines. I’d suggest that you play the situation by ear and check My Disney Experience religiously for attraction wait-time information. But you may discover that Epcot doesn’t suffer much from the added Galaxy’s Edge crowds.
My suggestion is to pick your favorite FastPass in the top tier at Epcot. Then, select two of the lower tier ones but don’t feel married to them. Spontaneity is vital in the coming weeks. If you visit Epcot and find that it’s not crowded, stay awhile. If the place is mobbed, cancel your lesser FastPasses and shop for one at a different theme park. In fact, Hollywood Studios could feasibly have more FastPasses open in the top tier. After all, everything but Star Tours falls into that category now. The additional supply could afford FastPass experts a few opportunities. As a DVC member, you’re already a pro at this. Just stay adaptable while visiting Epcot.
How to Approach Disney’s Animal Kingdom
Before Batuu became a tourist destination, Pandora was the planet of choice for Disney guests. The arrival of Black Spire Outpost will not change that. Disney vacationers know that Pandora – The World of Avatar is terrific. They’ll still want to visit this themed land at least once during their Disney vacation.
In other words, more traffic at Walt Disney World almost assuredly means more traffic at Pandora and, thereby, Animal Kingdom. You should allow for that during your vacation planning. Expect the most extended lines at Na’Vi River Journey and (especially) Avatar Flight of Passage. Without a FastPass, you may want to skip these until your next DVC trip. The beauty of membership is that you get to be more patient than other park visitors.
You do have a massive advantage, of course. As a frequent park guest, you understand park trends better than most. You know that Animal Kingdom crowds thin as twilight approaches. Yes, the park is spectacular at night, but fewer guests stay to appreciate it.
Consider a bit of counterprogramming here. Don’t start your day at Animal Kingdom. Instead, pick a different park and then come back to your animal friends as darkness falls. You’ll get to experience Animal Kingdom in its most unique form, and you’ll spend less time waiting in line.
How to Approach Magic Kingdom
Magic Kingdom’s just never empty. It’s the most popular theme park on the planet, which means that its less crowded days are still more traffic-intensive than the best days of other parks. Fortunately, Walt Disney’s hub-and-spokes design has stood the test of time. Traffic flows efficiently here.
Even when you don’t see the crowds at Magic Kingdom, they’re still there, though. And it’s difficult to envision a scenario where Star Wars Land crowds don’t flow here at some point. After all, all roads at Walt Disney World ultimately lead to Magic Kingdom.
A huge positive about Magic Kingdom is that it doesn’t employ a tiered FastPass system. All attractions are equal in the system. Yes, a few like Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, Peter Pan’s Flight, and Space Mountain are at the top of the food chain, but the park operates dozens of attractions. You can find plenty to do here even when the place is mobbed.
I don’t believe that there’s any need to approach Magic Kingdom differently at the moment. Just visit the place the same way that you always have. You should be an expert here by now. Having said that, please take advantage of Extra Magic Hours here during the early days of Star Wars Land. You’ll get more done during this exclusive hour than you would in a couple of hours of standard park time.
While I’m on that subject, Disney’s offered a limited-time amenity for those of us staying at official Disney resorts. Extra, Extra Magic Hours are available at Hollywood Studios from 6 a.m. through 9 a.m. until November 2nd. That’s a wonderful time to explore Galaxy’s Edge in a more controlled environment. But Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom open at 7 a.m. on these dates, too. You could get a lot done at Magic Kingdom during that two-hour window, as long as you don’t mind getting up super-early on your vacation.
Here’s another factor that you should consider. More people at Walt Disney World also means more people at Disney restaurants. Those of you who prefer Advanced Dining Reservations at Table Service restaurants should remember this. You should be prepared to book the moment that your 180-day window opens.
I’d take this suggestion one step further. Compile a list of backup restaurants in case your usual favorites aren’t available. It’s a unique opportunity to get a bit more adventurous with your dining habits. If you’re like me, you tend toward the places that you already know and love.
Alternately, utilize Mobile Ordering more than usual. While this service is only available at Quick-Service restaurants, it’s revolutionary for Disney fans. You can order your food and have it prepared whenever you’re ready, thereby vastly improving your efficiency during a park visit.
Overall FastPass Impact
I’ve touched on this subject some, but let me be blunt. FastPasses will be more challenging to obtain than ever before, at least until the Star Wars crazes dies down a bit…and it will die down. Even Frozen lost some of its heat over time.
Until that happens, you’ll need to be more calculating than usual when booking. You MUST book the moment that your FastPass window opens, which is 60 days for almost everyone. Start calling at 6:55 a.m. EST and have your smart device ready in the background. Also, remember that Disney rewards its most loyal customers.
You can schedule FastPasses and Advanced Dining Reservations through the last day of your trip. You’ll find that those final days are when you’ll face the least competition for FastPasses. Ergo, you’ll have the best odds of getting what you want on those days. DVC members who book longer trips are more likely to get Avatar Flight of Passage FastPasses and Be Our Guest Advanced Dining Reservations.