But some people say "I'm on vacation - I don't want to get up early every day!" That's an understandable position to take. When I hear that from Optimal Magic customers, I try to explain exactly what that decision means. Simply enough, sleeping in means your choice of some long waits or missing key attractions. In addition, it means fewer attractions, bigger crowds, and often more grumpiness. In addition, if you arrive early, there is time for three to six hours of rest or pool time in the middle of the day.
However, sometimes it simply isn't possible to make it to the parks early every day. I understand that. So if you're going to be a late-riser, here are some tips for your trip:
Tip 1: Have an occasional "sleep-in" day
If you can get up early some days, but want to sleep in others, that's great! If you're going to have a "no park" day in the middle of the vacation (to explore Downtown Disney, for example), that's a great day to sleep in and recharge your batteries.
Tip 2: Use Fastpass smartly
It's important to not only use Fastpass, but to use it smartly when you arrive later. It's a bad idea to get a Fastpass with a 3+ hour return time - you're better off using Fastpasses for attractions with closer return times - that way, you can get more. You may miss one "big name" attraction, but get in three or four other attractions this way, without waiting.
Tip 3: If you need to pick one park to arrive late to, make it Animal Kingdom
Okay, if one "sleep-in" day isn't enough, you're going to have to arrive late to a park at least one day. If you're going to do that, make the park Animal Kingdom. Other than the absolute busiest times of year (particularly around Christmas), Animal Kingdom is quite manageable to visit with a late arrival - even as late as 11:00am. There are two "huge line" attractions at Animal Kingdom - Kilimanjaro Safaris and Expedition Everest. However, both have Fastpass, and unlike other "big line" attractions, Kilimanjaro Safaris Fastpasses are usually pretty easy to get with reasonable return times.
Even better - Expedition Everest has a "single rider" line - if you don't mind being split up from your party, you can get in the single-rider line and get on Everest in minimal time most days.
Best of all, most days, people start to leave Animal Kingdom around 3:00 - the last few hours at the park are usually relatively quiet, and a good time to visit "second tier" attractions (like Primeval Whirl) you may not have gotten a Fastpass for earlier in the day.
As long as you plan well for the Fastpass attractions, Animal Kingdom is the most manageable Disney World park with a late arrival.
Tip 4: If you're a night owl, the Magic Kingdom may work for a late arrival on "Extra Magic Hours" nights
Disney parks are often open for an extra three hours for Disney resort guests (to be cut to two hours in 2013). If the "regular" park hours are until 10:00pm or later, the last hour or so of the Extra Magic Hours tends to be pretty quiet. If you prefer the night to the morning, you just need to flip your day. Save the "big line" attractions for LAST (around midnight). You won't be completely "wait free" and you still need to use your Fastpasses judiciously, but it is possible to avoid the longest lines.
Tip 5: If you arrive late to Epcot, Soarin' and Test Track may be a challenge
At Epcot, if you don't want to wait, it is near impossible to ride both Soarin' and Test Track with a late arrival - the Fastpass return times will be too far out. So recognize that a late arrival means either a long wait, or skipping one of those attractions.
Tip 6: If you arrive late to Disney Hollywood Studios, forget about Toy Story Midway Mania
Simply enough, the Fastpass return times and the wait times balloon so quickly at Toy Story Midway Mania that if you don't arrive first thing in the morning, you're going to be waiting 70+ minutes for the ride. So if you're going to pick one park to arrive early for, make it Hollywood Studios!
I know it's difficult to get up early every day of a trip (especially if you have several late nights planned, as well). If you're going to arrive late during your vacation, come armed with the absolute best information for your situation. As always, I'll remind you that Optimal Magic customers always get the absolute best advice and best plans for their situation. If you simply cannot get up early, no problem! We'll put together the best plan for a late arrival, and still help you avoid the longest lines as best as possible for your situation!