For the first nearly 30 years that Walt Disney World was around, people stood in queues to go on rides (well, unless you were a VIP or made yourself look like one). Besides the fact that it was an equitable waiting system for everyone, it also allowed crowds to be spaced evenly throughout the park – some would be in lines, while others would be shopping, eating, or just walking around.
Then, in the late 1990s, Disney introduced Fast Passes. It was a system that morphed over time, but allowed you to “skip the line.” But lest you think Disney was doing this altruistically, they weren’t – the real goal was that you’d spend more money at the restaurants and gift shops during the time you’d otherwise be standing in line.
Fast Pass had its pros and cons. In fact, Brian Krosnick, of Theme Park Tourist, wrote an excellent opinion piece in 2018 about why Disney should get rid of the Fast Pass system.
Fast forward to mid-2021 and the writing was on the wall – Disney WAS most likely going to get rid of Fast Passes. But, of course, they just weren’t going to “let it go”(thanks, Elsa); instead they introduced something new, called Lightning Lane. It’s part of Disney’s new Disney Genie app.
Lightning Lane is another “skip the line” pass but, instead of Fast Passes, which had been free, surprise surprise, you would now have to pay for this privilege. It costs $15 per day (or $20 at Disneyland in California) to start and allows you to pick a return time (one ride at a time) for certain attractions and then skip those lines when your time comes up. So you could conceivably spend more money while shopping and dining, and then spend more money to skip lines…all after paying upwards of $125+ per day on a pass to get into the park. Nice.
As if that money grab wasn’t enough, there will be another option that will allow you to buy a single experience pass for the parks’ most popular rides. Prices vary based on what attraction you’re looking at and how long the regular queue is at any given time. So the more popular the attraction is, and the longer the queue is, the more expensive the cost is.
This option goes into effect on October 19.
Arguably the most popular attraction at Walt Disney World is Rise Of The Resistance. It’s part of the new(er) Star Wars land of Disney’s Hollywood Studios (here’s Joe’s opinion of the land – he’s a Star Wars geek. And here’s mine opinion of it [spoiler alert: I think Star Wars is stupid, but I’m willing to give credit where credit is due]). The ride is described as, “a combined trackless dark ride, walk-through, motion simulator, and drop ride system – puts visitors into the middle of an altercation between the Resistance and the First Order” (thanks, Wikipedia!).
Rise Of The Resistance opened in December 2019 and never had Fast Passes or even a regular queue – only a virtual one. The system to get a spot on the virtual queue has been something of a lottery system, wherein you had to log in to the My Disney Experience app at a specified time (and not a minute later!), and if you were lucky, you got a spot in a “boarding group” for later in the day and could go on the ride.
As I said, the attraction is very popular and so, of course, if you missed the login time, even by just a few seconds, all the slots would be distributed and you’d lose your chance to go on the ride that day. So if you weren’t techno-savvy enough to understand the system, or your phone was too slow, or the internet crapped out, or you were in the middle of breastfeeding at that exact time, well, too bad; no ride for you (not that I think the ride is worth all the hoopla surrounding it, but as the good blog says, Your Mileage May Vary).
However, in mid-September, the Disney Parks blog announced they would soon end the virtual queue:
From bright suns to rising moons, Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge continues to call travelers to the magic of Batuu, especially with the excitement of Walt Disney World Resort’s 18-month anniversary celebration getting closer and closer. As we ramp up to “The World’s Most Magical Celebration” honoring our 50th anniversary, we’re continuing to enhance experiences thanks to the feedback from our guests.
We know our guests love choice and flexibility when planning their time in a theme park—which is why, starting Sept. 23, we will pause the use of virtual queue for Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance, and guests at Disney’s Hollywood Studios may experience this incredible attraction using a traditional standby queue for the first time since it opened in 2019.
Of course, they did this in preparation for a Lightning Lane to be available for the ride (I know that wasn’t a money grab for Disney, just a part of the “choice and flexibility” that their guests love so much, right? [/sarcasm]).
When the “traditional standby queue” (read: a typical line for a ride) first went live for Rise of the Resistance on Sept. 23, I kept an eye on the My Disney Experience app to track how long the queues were. Here’s what the wait times were, in minutes, for the first week:
Notes for above:
- Disney’s Hollywood Studios was open 9a to 9p each day (my apologies for usually not getting the times that were first thing in the morning – I’m not an early riser LOL)
- The ride regularly breaks/goes “down” a few times per day
- Oct 1, 2021 was WDW’s 50th anniversary, and a new ride opened at Epcot that day – lots of people were at Magic Kingdom or Epcot, which is probably why the line waits were so short that day
Anyway, as you can see, save for the first day when the “traditional queue” was all shiny and new, the morning had a “rush” of people, making the queues upwards of 2.5 hours. By noon they’re down to 1 to 2 hours and from mid-afternoon onward, you can usually find a line that’s less than an hour. If you’re willing to wait until the last half hour to the last hour of the day? You might find a queue that’s only averaging about 30-45 minutes.
Disney says that the Lightning Lane for Rise of the Resistance will be about $15 per person (again, that could go up or down, depending on how busy the ride is at any given moment). That’s on top of the $15 per person for the privilege of using the Disney Genie+ Lightning Lane service in the first place. So figure $30 per person to save you what, about an hour? For a family of 4 that would be $120. For one ride.
True, even if you don’t include the price of joining Lightning Lane because you may use it for other rides, that’s still $15 per person, or $60 for that family of 4 to save you X amount of time.
Is that amount “worth it” to save you some time? Read this to help you decide.
I’m well aware that Star Wars geeks will be happy to spend that $30 per person, the same as they’re going to be thrilled to pay $200 to build their own lightsaber or $100 to make a droid. But for the rest of you, especially those who are watching their budget, you may want to consider eschewing the Lightning Lane feature and simply going on the Rise of the Resistance ride at the latter half of the day.
Some things to keep in mind for your planning:
- Weekends at WDW(and Universal. And SeaWorld. And…) are historically more busy than weekdays (you can thank us locals for that. Sorry not sorry)
- Not that you can plan your vacation around it, but rainy days and days before hurricanes headed towards Central FL are historically less crowded than sunny days
- All bets are off for historically busy times, such as Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years, and days or times of the year when lots of kids are off from school (i.e., Martin Luther King Day, Indigenous Peoples’ Day, spring break, summer vacation, etc.)
And have a Disney Day! 😉
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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary