If you’re waiting in line at Disney, there are some constructive ways you can spend the time. In particular, you probably want to know how to keep kids busy until you get to the front of the line! I’d venture to say that not too many people enjoy standing in line. That’s why they invented the Disney Lightning Lane, right? Here are my 12 ideas for what to do with kids waiting in line at Disney parks.
This article originally published September 10th, 2017 and has been updated and republished with a new date.
Best Uses of Waiting in Line at Disney Parks
Disney parks tend to have a “hurry up and wait” kind of feel. There can be a lot of rushing around, getting to the parks on time. Then you’re hurrying to the next attraction. And suddenly, everyone is stopped at the end of long ride queues with lengthy waits ahead. Small children especially can get really bored with the standing and the constant waiting in long lines at Disney theme parks.
From Walt Disney World to Disneyland, crowd levels are increasing. That means long waits for favorite rides and Disney characters, along with everything else from picking up food to getting inside the restroom.
There are many things you can do while waiting in line with kids at an amusement park. I’ve included ways to keep kids and toddlers entertained in queue while waiting to board.
In addition to a few practical ideas, there are also games you can play while waiting in line at Disney parks. I also include thoughts on the best handheld toys for waiting in line with kids. Hopefully these tips will help to ease the, “Are we at the front of the line yet, MOM?” comments!
Why are Disney Lines So Long?
When you think about the most Magical Place on Earth, are long lines all you can remember? For sure waiting is a major part of any Disney trip. But there are some reasons behind why the wait times are longer, keep reading:
You arrived after park opening – Did you arrive outside of the early morning hours? The early riser will see the benefit of shorter lines. Arrive at the park entrance 45 minutes to one hour ahead of official park opening. This will allow your family to clear security and wait at the rope drop for each theme park.
What’s “rope drop” and why is getting to the park early important? Read more about rope drop at Disneyland to find out how to maximize the first few hours after park opening.
Popular attractions – Seasonally some ride wait times are longer than usual. For instance, when Haunted Mansion at Disneyland transforms into Haunted Mansion Holiday, expect longer waits than usual.
Time of day – Know that the crowd levels will be heaviest in the middle of the day and plan for this. Schedule afternoon Disney Genie+ or enjoy attractions that don’t have lines, like Tom Sawyer Island.
Consider purchasing a Park Hopper ticket. Leave the park when crowds increase. Many guests like to rest or swim at the hotel, then visit another theme park later in the day.
This is particularly nice at Disney World. For example, start at Animal Kingdom in the morning then leave when the weather gets too hot. Finish the day at Hollywood Studios, which usually has longer park hours.
Look at the wait time, not the actual queue – Some lines like it’s a small world look terribly long but actually move quickly. Don’t be off-put by what appears to be a lengthy queue. Always check the wait time posted at the front of the actual attractions to get a better idea on how long you’ll be waiting.
Why Long Wait Times Are Sometimes a Good Thing
A Disneyland or Walt Disney World vacation is more than just ticking off the number of attractions you’re able to complete in a single day. For sure, you want to make the most of your magical vacation! But that means experiencing more than just the next Disney ride. The extra time in line isn’t always a bad thing, here’s why:
Waiting in line at Disney allows you to regroup. The pause in your day between attractions to try one of these suggestions gives everyone a chance to breath before the next roller coaster!
Some queues are part of the experience. For instance if you skip the standby line at Peter Pan’s Flight in Magic Kingdom or Indiana Jones Adventure at Disneyland, you’ll miss some fun interactive features.
Important note – Know that there’s no possible way to see and do it all in a single trip. Seeking out the shortest lines is always a good idea. But if you find yourself at the end of a long line again, having the right attitude can mean all the difference. Kids will definitely pick up your displeasure with waiting. By making the wait a positive thing, your children will be less likely to complain.
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Want to Skip the Lines?
The most popular attractions and the new attractions are naturally going to have longer lines. But there are some tips for avoiding some of the extended wait times:
Disney Genie+ – The free FASTPASS system and paid MaxPass are no longer offered at any Disney park. The new line skipping plan is called Disney Genie+.
There is an additional charge per person, per day to use this virtual queue system, where guests schedule popular ride times on a mobile device. This allows a time window of access to the Lightning Lane (a separate line from the stand-by queue), generally resulting in a shorter wait time.
Not all the rides are included on the Disney Genie+ system. Some of the most popular rides have only a stand by queue. Other attractions may offer what is called an individual Lightning Lane. This is outside of the Disney Genie+ system.
It might make the most sense to book Disney Genie+ rides all day and let that schedule your day. However with this strategy you’ll be doing a lot of extra walking, which doesn’t maximize your time in the parks.
Consider scheduling Disney Genie+ for rides with the longest waits, then hitting the other attractions in that area before moving to the next Land.
More Ways to Skip Lines at Disney
Extra Magic Hours are no longer. However 30 minutes of morning early access is still happening for guests staying at Disney Resort Hotels. If you’re paying the on-site premium, definitely take advantage of the early entry.
If you have adults or older kids in your group, try using the single-rider line. Guests using the Single Rider Line will be used to fill empty spots one at a time in ride cars. Use the Disneyland app or My Disney Experience app to find these attractions.
If you can’t fathom the idea of waiting in lines under the sun to meet Mickey Mouse or other favorite Disney characters, there’s another way. Book a Disney character dining experience. You’ll be able to enjoy a meal and meet ‘n greet with characters from your table without the wait times!
Read more about Disneyland character dining with kids in this ultimate planning guide.
Fun with Disney Paper Maps
Where are you headed next and how will you get there? Waiting in line is the perfect time to pull out the paper map and plot your course. There are complimentary paper maps and other fun guides near the front entrance (usually near City Hall, just ask a Cast Member). There are maps in various languages too, which are great souvenirs.
Yes, the online phone apps are necessary to easily navigate the theme parks. But there’s just something simple and nostalgic about the paper maps at Disney.
With kids here are some ways they can entertain themselves with the Disney paper map.
I Spy – See if younger kids they can find certain icons by asking them questions like, “Where’s Space Mountain?” or “Did you find Millennium Falcon? That’s where we’re going next!”
Checklist of accomplishments – Keep track of what you’ve done and what you might have missed. Have kids check off the attractions you’ve visited.
Counting game – Using the map key, count how many bathrooms, customer service kiosks, or the number of Kidcot stops at Epcot there are to be found.
Walking path – Older kids can draw lines on the map showing your group’s tour through the park throughout the day.
Reading material – The paper maps also have a lot of great information written on them, so big kids may enjoy reading all the fine print.
Eat a Snack In Line
Hunger + Boredom = Grumpy people. Stave off crankiness while waiting in line with a small readily prepared snack. Guests can bring food into Disney parks. This is an ideal budget tip and another way to spend the time while waiting in line at Disney.
Dry goods that you pre-package into snack-sized bags are perfect. Things like nuts, dried fruit, trail mix, chopped veggies or sturdy crackers work well. If you finish the snack, you can dispose of the baggie (there are always trash cans in the queue for this).
If you reach the end before your snack is done, just seal up the bag and put it in your backpack or pocket. Some indoor locations do not permit food so be sure to follow the rules.
Of course you can always grab something in the parks to eat while waiting in line as well. Marshmallows on a stick, corn dogs, and Mickey pretzels are all great snacks to nibble for kids waiting in line at Disney.
My friend Jessica at The Happiest Blog on Earth shares her tips on snacks under $5 at Disneyland.
Play a Disney-Inspired Game
Kids love to play games. And if they have your full attention while waiting in line at Disney, it’s the best time to play together! These are a few easy Disney games to play in the queue.
Some of these games are more appropriate for sitting down so they’re excellent to use while waiting for food to arrive at full-service dining restaurants.
Who Am I Game? – One person mentally chooses a Disney movie character. Others have to ask questions that can be answered with a yes or no answer (ie: “Does this character have fur?” or “Does this character sing in their movie?”) This is our family favorite to play in the car on the long drive to Disney!
Pictionary – Keep a small spiral-bound notebook and pen handy for quick games of Pictionary. The artist can come up with the idea (for example, Disney movies) and everyone in the group can try to guess.
Disney Travel Games – There are Disney travel-sized games that you can tote through the line and they’ll easily fit in your day pack. Games like World of Disney Eye Found It Card Game are quick to pull out and play while in queue.
Another fun and easy travel game is Mad Libs. Disney has some really fun versions including:
- Mickey Mouse Mad Libs,
- Star Wars Mad Libs
- Frozen Mad Libs
- Disney Princess Mad Libs
- Finding Dory Mad Libs
Disney Themed Smart Phone Games
Games to play on a smart phone are a popular way to pass the time in line. Wi-Fi can be spotty in the parks and you might lose connection in certain areas. But if you like to play online games, Disney has some great apps. We enjoy Disney Magic Kingdoms and Inside Out Thought Bubbles.
Especially designed to be played waiting in line with kids, Play Disney Parks is available through the Disney Parks app. Play Disney Parks has fun trivia and games based on the park attractions like Toy Story Midway Mania and the Jungle Cruise. Use the dropdown tab at the top of the screen to change theme parks.
Participants can collect virtual points for accomplishing different tasks and playing games in line, including Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge. Some of the games can only be “unlocked” for play while waiting in line for that particular attraction (the app uses your GPS location).
Explore the Disney Mobile App
Thinking about hitting up Rise of the Resistance but want to know the ride’s wait time before traipsing across the Lands? Need to know where to spot Mickey? Have to get a dining reservation on the fly? You can find all this information right at your fingertips on the Disney Mobile App.
Check out the free Disney Mobile Apps for Disneyland and Walt Disney World. These free apps can help you plot out your day most effectively and help you save time. Here are a few things to do while waiting in line at Disney through the park app:
Schedule Lightning Lane – If you’ve purchased Disney Genie+ at Disneyland, you’ll be able to book your next Lightning Lane on the app while you’re still waiting in line! Once you’ve scanned in for your ride at the Lightning Lane entrance, go onto the app and schedule your next ride. By the time you exit that ride, you could potentially be able to quickly board the next attraction.
Check Wait Times – Disney Genie is the free service within the park apps. Click the “Tip Board” feature to find out wait times at a quick glance.
Mobile Food Orders – Peruse menus and order food through quick service dining locations.
Disney PhotoPass – View your on-ride photos and snapshots taken by Disney PhotoPass photographers.
I’ll cover more of the features of the Disney mobile apps in depth throughout this article, keep reading!
Recharge Your Phone
More and more, cell phones have become an important extension of a Disney vacation. With most of the day’s access going through the Disneyland app and My Disney Experience, you’ll be using your phone a lot!
Remember to bring an external Phone Charger and cord. You might find that with accessing the apps, playing games and taking photos, you may have to recharge your phone several times a day!
I recently purchased a Fuel Rod to use when I’m in the parks. Swap them out as many times as you wish throughout the day. I love that I’ve been able to easily find Fuel Rod stations at both Disneyland and Disney World so I never run out of charge on my phone!
Plan Your Next Meal (or Order It!)
If you didn’t make any Advanced Dining Reservations at Disney World, take this time waiting in line to figure out where you’ll be dining next. At Disneyland park there are so many diverse places to eat inside the parks, at the hotel or inside Downtown Disney District.
If you already have a full service restaurant reservation, I highly recommend figuring out what you’re going to order ahead of arrival. It really saves time that would be spent in the restaurant perusing the menu if you plan your meals ahead of time. View the menus of all Disney restaurants directly on the mobile app.
Many of the Disney World and Disneyland quick service dining locations also offer Mobile Ordering via the app. This is an awesome time saver!
The nice thing about mobile ordering is that you can make all the orders at the same time, choosing your optimal pick up time slots. Make the most of your wait times in line by ordering food and snacks.
While you’re waiting in line at Disney, simply pull up the restaurant you’ll want to eat at through the Disney app. Enter in your order and make any special requests. You’ll have the ability to store a credit card in the app. Or pay with a Disney gift card or Disney Visa Reward redemption card.
Ready to eat? You’ll receive a push notification when the time slot arrives. Simply press the “I’m here” button then proceed to the mobile ordering pick up window when notified in the app. What if you’re still waiting in line or just not ready to eat yet? These times can be pushed back easily, if necessary.
Journal Your Memories
A small notebook is perfect for jotting down special memories throughout your trip. Outside of waiting in line at Disney, journaling is a great activity for when you’re waiting for a meal to arrive at the table service restaurant. Here are a few ways to journal memories on your next Disney vacation:
Personal Disney Journal – This Kids Travel Journal: Disney Edition is specific to Disney travel. For little ones that can’t write yet, have them draw a picture of their memories.
Family Journal – This spiral-bound tabbed Stitch journal is ideal for capturing the entire family’s trip thoughts. Pass the journal to another family member to write in at each new queue.
Photo Book – Another way to capture memories is with a photo book that you put together once you get home. As you’re traveling, involve the kids in spotting items in the Disney parks that coordinate to a letter of the alphabet.
It’s like an in-the-park scavenger hunt to find photos that fit each letter! Once home, print the photos and put them in an ABC book.
Look for Hidden Mickeys
They’re everywhere! Finding Hidden Mickeys is one of the overlooked Disneyland attractions because guests usually walk right past without seeing them.
If you’re looking for Hidden Mickeys, you might be able to find a few on your own. Imagineers hid them in plain sight in many of the line queues! But if you need help, check out these books:
- Hidden Mickeys: A Field Guide to Walt Disney World’s Best Kept Secrets
- The Hidden Mickeys of Disneyland
- The Complete Walt Disney World Fun Finds & Hidden Mickeys: The Definitive Disney Field Guide
Take Pictures and Look at Pictures
No better time when you’re smooshed together in a queue than to snap a full-family selfie! Some line queues have interesting props to pose with along the way, so get out your camera and capture the moments. Of course, it wouldn’t be a complete trip without photos of everyone wearing the silly 3-D glasses!
If you’ve purchased a ticket with Disney Genie+ at Disneyland or Walt Disney World, you’ll be able to access your Disney PhotoPass pictures on the mobile app. My family loves to pass the time in line by looking back through our photos of the trip thus far. The purchase of Disney Genie+ also includes complimentary downloads of PhotoPass on-ride images.
Take a Nap?
Well, if you’re a baby or a toddler, a nap is a necessity! Yes, stroller naps happen (check out my travel partner Kingdom Strollers if you’re headed to Walt Disney World).
But if you want to continue on with your day despite the snooze session, you’ll need to carry your child through the line. In most cases, your stroller won’t be allowed in the queue.
Front Carrier – If you have a front carrier, pop your little one in and let them nap while you stand in line.
Rider Switch – What if you want baby to keep sleeping? You can always grab a Rider Switch pass so that the grown ups can take turns with the sleeping child. Here is how Rider Switch works:
- The entire group approaches the Cast Member at the entrance of the ride. Tell the Cast Member you’d like to use the Rider Switch program.
- Cast Member scans the theme park ticket or virtual ticket in the app on your phone. This will assign the family a Rider Switch pass.
- At least one adult stays behind with the child(ren) that are not riding.
- First group gets in the regular queue to go on the ride. If they have a Lightning Lane reservation for the attraction, they will use that line instead.
- Family meets up after the ride where adults will trade places. Second group (up to three people) will redeem Rider Switch to the Cast Member located at either the exit or Lightning Lane entrance to ride.
Plot the Next Adventure
My kids always want to know what we’re doing next. When you have to stand in line, you might as well decide where you’re headed afterwards.
Personally I always create a loose touring plan before our trip. I take the time while waiting to brush everyone up on what’s to come. This way when you hit the ride exit, everyone knows what to expect.
Play with a Toy
Young kids tend to get pretty squirrelly waiting in line. So give them something to occupy little hands. While waiting in line at Disney with kids, a toy may help them resist climbing on the rows of bars, squabbling or hanging all over each other! There are lots of ideas for souvenirs to buy before a Disney trip in this additional article.
Use a drawstring cinch sack to keep these toys (and maybe a few snacks) handy in queue. Pull treats and toys out as a surprise each time your kids are desperate for entertainment! These are some ideas for play items to bring with you:
- Small action figure from a play set, like these from Raya and the Last Dragon
- Handheld light-up spinners are always fun (especially at night)
- Race cars, including these tiny Cars Micro-Racers
- Petite Disney princess doll, like this Belle with coordinating pony (my daughter has a collection of these which she always brings to Disney!)
- Younger kids will enjoy playing (or being entertained by a parent) with these Disney finger puppets.
- Hold a small bottle of bubbles for toddlers and let them dip in the wand and blow!
- A small plush is usually appropriate and can be purchased in the parks or online at ShopDisney before your trip.
What NOT to bring in line? Avoid any toys that need a lot of space, like a light saber. And don’t bring a toy into line that will annoy other guests, like a balloon that may hit people on their heads or a wand your kids will poke at people. Bubble wands with a thick stream of sticky bubbles should also not go in a tight queue.
Need more help with taking toddlers on a Disney vacation? Read these additional tips for taking preschoolers to Disney.
This last one is practical and necessary. But making the most of your waiting time can help you experience everything you want to do!
Outdoor queues can make you feel like you’re cooking under the sun. Waiting in line at Disney is a great time to reapply another coat of sunscreen. If you’re sweating, pat off the sweat with a napkin and then apply.
Skip using spray-on sunscreen while standing in line though. The quarters in queue are a bit tight for that (and not everyone wants your sunscreen mist in their eyes!) I particularly love using a sunscreen stick for applying on kid’s faces. Kids are so wiggly and sunscreen lotion can quickly drift into the eyes.
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