Ahhh Rope Drop.
Sweet, sweet, Rope Drop.
Rope Drop happens every morning at all of the parks at Walt Disney World and although it sounds fancy, all Rope Drop means is the time of morning when Cast Members officially starts letting guests onto the attractions - not when they let people into the park.
Here's how that works...
How arriving early can make your morning (and day!) go easier
All of the parks open in 2 parts:
First, they open up the turnstiles and let people into the front area of the park. Although the area where they let guests wait may change from time to time, this allowing guests into the front part of a park allows Cast Members to start scanning Magic Bands and clear some of the lines that have likely built at the turnstiles.
The area at the front of the park where guests are typically held is generally cordoned off from the rest of the park with a rope - hence the term "Rope Drop."
Then, when the official opening time rolls around, Cast Members drop/remove the rope to let guests into the rest of the park. It is also pretty typical to have some Cast Members walk at the front of the crowd holding a rope stretched between them to help keep guests from running.
Your goal is to be towards the front of that pack of people when they drop the rope. That means you are going to want to plan on arriving to the turnstiles at the park (not the parking lot or bus stop) no later than 30 minutes before the park opens.
And, honestly, 30 minutes makes me nervous. I'm more of a "get in line at least 45 minutes before the park opens" kind of gal.
It isn't an exaggeration that a few minutes can make all the difference.
Even showing up a few minutes later can mean longer lines to park (if you are driving), longer lines at security, longer lines at the turnstiles - and all those longer lines outside the park mean you'll be standing in longer lines INSIDE the park.
Should you Rope Drop every day? Probably not.
Although arriving at least 30-45 minutes before Rope Drop is hands-down one of the best things you can do to maximize your mornings at Disney World, sometimes those early mornings can be hard to keep up with.
If you are planning any super late nights or if your trip is 5 or more days, you may find yourself craving some extra sleep.
And that is okay! Not every single day HAS to be a Rope Drop day, and in fact, we don't recommend that it is.
Tired travelers aren't likely to have magical times so making sure that everybody in your group is getting enough rest is important. But, if Rope Drop is so important, how do you tour if you skip it?
First of all, you know your family and traveling companions best. There is no absolute right or wrong way to tour. So, think of the recommendations below as general guidelines and then adjust them to fit your situation.
When we first started traveling to Disney World it was really hard for me to justify break days or even sleep in days. After all, we were paying all that money for the vacation, shouldn't we be spending it in the parks?
But, after a couple of meltdowns (by me, not the kids!) I learned that adding in some intentional days where we could sleep in and start off slower really helped.
You don't need to have any special reason why you are scheduling a late start day. But, here is a list of some of the times when we really think it is important to at least consider adding one in:
- the morning after a special event or party (like Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Party or Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party)
- the morning after you've stayed late for an evening Extra Magic Hour
- on days you plan to not leave for a break
- on days you plan to stay for an evening Extra Magic Hour
- in the middle of a trip if your trip is more than a few days long
So - you've decided you are going to sleep in and start your day late. How do you adjust your touring strategy?
First of all - the handy thing about our touring plans is that they are broken down by the hour and not minute-by-minute. That makes arriving late a lot easier.
If you arrive in those first 3 hours, just jump in to the plans wherever you should be.
For example, you arrive at 10:30 am on a day when Magic Kingdom opened at 9, you'll want to jump in about halfway through hour 2 in the touring plans. If you arrive closer to 11 am, you'd probably want to start at hour 3.
Planning on sleeping in and arriving after lunch? Skip ahead to that part of the touring plan and go from there.
Our favorite park to do a late start at is Epcot. We often plan at least 2 days at Epcot, one of which is primarily focused on the World Showcase. Since the World Showcase doesn't open until 11 am, starting late there is quite easy to do without "missing" anything.
- Magic Kingdom touring plans and FastPass+ suggestions
- Epcot touring plans and FastPass+ suggestions
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- Animal Kingdom touring plans and FastPass+ suggestions
What about the attractions you skip in the plans because you slept in?
You have a couple of options:
- If there are "must do" things, make those priorities for FastPass+ reservations.
- As soon as you've scanned your 3rd FastPass+ (while you are still in line) jump into My Disney Experience and see if there are any other FastPasses you can snag.
- Keep an eye on the wait times in My Disney Experience and if the waits drop to a level that you'd be willing to wait in, jump in line and ride Standby.
- If you are planning on staying until the park closes (especially if it is an evening Extra Magic Hour) wait until the last couple of hours to hit up the more popular rides.