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Ever since Rise of the Resistance opened in the fall of 2019, virtual queues have become Disney’s go to for managing ride access. That’s why it’s so important to understand the Disney virtual queue system.
There are so many questions to be answered about using Disney World’s virtual queue. This post takes a look at as many of them as I can possibly think of.
Depending on the popularity of the ride, having fast fingers and a great virtual queue strategy can be essential to whether you get on the ride or not.
That’s why I also have a whole section on some tried and tested Disney virtual queue tips. But more on that below (updated July 5, 2022)!
What is the Disney Virtual Queue System?
For starters, you might be wondering what I’m even talking about when I refer to Disney World’s virtual queue system.
The short of that is, it allows guests to wait on line “virtually” for a ride instead of physically standing in the line itself.
By using Disney’s virtual queue system, you are attempting to book a boarding group for that ride. A boarding group is an assigned number. Once your number is called, you are allowed to enter the attraction.
You’ll likely still have to wait in a standby style line at that point, but it should be shorter.
Rides that offer a virtual queue at Disney World typically DO NOT offer a standby wait option. That’s right, if you want to get on the ride, you are not able to simply get in line and gut it out.
Alternately, now that Disney Genie and Lightning Lanes have rolled out, Disney offers another way to get on a ride with a virtual queue: pay for it.
So, to sum up, if you want to get on a ride that has a virtual queue offering, your only chance of riding it is to either master Disney’s virtual queue system and ride for free, or pay an extra amount per person to gain individual Lightning Lane access.
Right now, Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind is the ride using the Disney virtual queue system. And trust me, you want to ride it, it’s amazing.
Once Tron opens up (hopefully soon!) I expect Cosmic Rewind to switch to standby while Tron takes up the virtual queue mantle.
How Does the Disney World Virtual Queue Work?
Ok, now we’re getting down to the nitty gritty details. This part here is an important one. If you don’t understand these basics, you’re pretty much sunk.
When Disney released the virtual queue for Rise of the Resistance the first time, it looked different than it does now.
Disney kept tweaking the system here and there, but they seem to have settled on a set way of doing it now. It’s been the same for the past 2 ride releases.
But because of this history, always double check what the system is before and during your trip. No joke, it once changed partway through one of my trips.
They do give a heads up when it changes, usually by a few days. They don’t just change it with no warning.
What Time Does the Disney World Virtual Queue Open?
This is probably the most important part. If you don’t know the times the virtual queue opens, you will not get a boarding group, period.
We’ll look at a summary first, then get into the details:
- 6:00p – but only for select guests
7:00a – The First Virtual Queue at Disney Opens
That’s right, bright and early first thing in the morning the virtual queue opens for the first time.
This definitely works in favor of morning people, but don’t assume the late sleepers will sleep late on this day. Trust me, they won’t.
The 7:00a virtual queue opening is the most competitive, and important, opening of the day. Everyone wants to make sure they guarantee themselves a boarding group.
Make the assumption you’re competing with every single person with a park pass that day, and you all want the same thing.
For this first queue opening, you don’t need to be anywhere near the park. You can grab your virtual boarding group from the warmth of your bed.
What you do need is a park ticket for all members of your group linked to My Disney Experience and a Park Pass at the appropriate park for each individual as well.
Without these two things you are dead in the water.
Previously, the first virtual queue opened at 10a and it was a bit of a mess so 7:00a is a much better option. This also allows people with higher boarding groups to wait until later in the day to head to the park.
The trickle down effect of this is potentially lower crowds right at park opening.
1:00p – The Second Virtual Queue Opens
The 1:00p boarding group drop is usually less competitive, but in no way is guaranteed to be easier.
There is a lot that determines whether this virtual queue time fills up in a matter of seconds, or has availability for a half hour.
For a highly technical ride that runs the risk of going offline during the day, like Rise of the Resistance, the 1p virtual queue was still a slug fest.
However, for high volume rides that rarely go down, like Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind, you could still potentially grab a boarding group if you show up a little late to the party.
Since this isn’t a guarantee, I’d still be ready the second the clock strikes 1p as this is your very last chance.
The requirements for this virtual queue time are a little different from the 7:00a virtual queue time. In order to join the virtual queue at 1:00p, you must have already entered the designated park earlier in the day.
This guarantees that you had a park pass for the park and you did in fact use it.
There’s a little bit of a misconception with this particular virtual queue time. It was originally thought you needed to be physically in the park at 1:00p.
But, they have no way of geofencing and knowing that. What it really means is, you have to have used your park ticket and park pass at the correct park at some point earlier that day.
But if you’re actually sitting in your hotel room at 1:00p after spending the morning at the park, it will still work.
6:00p – Virtual Queue Opens for Select Guests
The last chance to get a boarding group on Disney’s virtual queue system isn’t available to everyone, nor is it available every day.
This is a benefit offered along with the extended evening theme park hours.
For those who don’t know what extended evening theme park hours for, this is a benefit offered exclusively to guests staying at Disney Deluxe Resorts, Disney Deluxe Villas, Walt Disney World Swan & Dolphin Hotels, Walt Disney World Swan Reserve, and Shades of Green.
Guests at these resorts are able to stay in the designated park for 2 hours after closing time, with access to most of the rides.
For example, right now, Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind at Epcot is the ride offered in the virtual queue. If Epcot has extended theme park hours, then guests eligible for that are able to use the virtual queue at 6p.
It’s important to note, that guests who have Annual passes or park hopper passes DO NOT need to have a park pass at this park in order to get into the 6p virtual queue.
This is because park hopping is allowed after 2:00p. However, if you are staying at a Deluxe Resort and don’t have park hopping tickets, you need to have a park pass for the eligible park in order to join the 6p boarding group.
Also, these guests do not need to be inside of the park at 6p in order to make the virtual queue reservation.
Steps to Use the Disney Virtual Queue System
First, we’re going to review the basic process of using the Disney virtual queue system. After that, we’ll take a closer look at some tips to drastically increase your chances of getting a boarding group.
Just a warning, this process changes subtly on occasion, so some of the fine details might be a little different. However, so far, the general gist remains the same.
Step 1 – Make Sure Everyone is in My Disney Experience
The only way to get a boarding group is through the My Disney Experience app. This means that all members of your group need to be represented in My Disney Experience.
Tickets should be linked to each person, along with everyone’s Park Pass for the designated park.
Step 2 – Open My Disney Experience and Locate the Virtual Queue
There are two different places to find the “entrance” to the Disney World virtual queue system. The first, and possibly easiest way, is to just scroll down the home page of the app until you find this picture:
Keep in mind, the exact picture changes, but the gist stays the same. You are looking for that button that says, “Join Virtual Queue”.
Click that button and it will take you directly where you need to go.
The other option is to press the three lines on the lower right hand side of the page. This takes you to a screen full of options, and one of them is the virtual queue page.
Once you press that it will take you to your virtual queue hub. If you have any existing boarding groups, they’ll show up here. In this case, you’ll now press “Join Virtual Queue” and finally end up at your destination.
As you can see, the second way to get to the virtual queue takes a few extra steps. This isn’t a big deal as long as you have enough time before the opening of the queue to go through them.
But if you’re in a time crunch, this will slow you down too much.
Step 3 – Review Party Details
You should now be on the main virtual queue page. In the event that there are multiple virtual queues going on, this is where you choose the one you are booking.
You can see in this example I can choose between Epcot and Disney Springs. Yes, that’s an option to join a virtual queue to get an Annual Passholder magnet. Woohoo!
From here, you are prompted to confirm your party.
This used to be step 4 and was a major time suck once the virtual queue opened. However, now you can confirm your party before the virtual queue even opens.
In fact, I insist that you take care of this a few minutes BEFORE Disney’s virtual queue opens.
All party members who are eligible to join the virtual queue will be automatically listed here.
What is required to be eligible?
- Valid park ticket
- Park Pass for the correct park
- For 1:00p queue, have been to the correct park already that day
If you don’t see everyone in your party automatically listed, there’s an edit button to click to fine tune your party.
This subtle tweak is actually a big deal in the whole virtual queue process. I am so glad that Disney switched this order around. It’s a little thing, but it just make it a lot easier.
Step 4 – Refresh the Page at the Top of the Hour
If you look at the screenshot above, you can see a refresh button on the bottom of the page. It even prompts you to tap that button at the designated time.
At the top of the page it gives you this prompt in another form, letting you know there’s another option. If you don’t want to press the refresh button directly, you can simply pull down from the top of your screen to refresh the page.
Step 5 – Press Join Virtual Queue
As soon as you hit refresh, the button changes to say “Join Virtual Queue”. At this point, don’t pause, just press the button and go.
If all goes well, the screen will then change and tell you you’re in a boarding group. It gives you your group number and the estimated wait time.
Congrats! You’re in!
If you don’t get a boarding group, it will tell you that the virtual queue was closed and identify the next time you can try.
Just as a note, I was granted boarding group 113 within the first 7 seconds of the virtual queue opening. Odds are pretty good it would close shortly after that.
How to Use Your Boarding Pass
Once you have your pass, you can go back to the virtual queue section of My Disney Experience and check the status of what boarding group they are currently loading.
This will keep you up to date on approximately when you can begin to board.
You will also receive a push notification from the app once your boarding group has been called.
When it’s time, simply go to the entrance of the ride and show the Cast Member your boarding group number on your phone.
From there you go to a second Cast Member who scans everyone’s MagicBands or tickets. This verifies that everyone does in fact have a boarding group.
After that, simply enjoy the ride!
8 Disney Virtual Queue Tips to “Guarantee” Success
Ok, now that we know some basics of the process for using the virtual queue at Disney World, let’s talk specific strategy. Trust me on this one, you want to increase your odds as much as possible.
In reality, you can do everything correct and still not get a boarding group, so there’s no real guarantee. But following these tips are as close as you can get to one.
1. Everyone With a Cell Phone Should Give it a Go
So, I know that Disney even specifically says that only one person should try to go through this process, but I call shenanigans on that one.
Why on earth should you put all your eggs in one basket when you might have 2, 3, or even more baskets to use? God forbid you’re the one in charge of getting the boarding group and your phone decides to glitch at a critical moment.
No boarding pass for you!
As long as you take note of tip #2 below, each person in your group can get a boarding group for the entire group as a whole.
And don’t worry, if one of you is successful in getting a boarding group, the rest won’t be able to get one. This way you’re not “stealing” boarding groups from other families.
Tip: Household members don’t need different My Disney Experience accounts. Simply have the app on each phone, logged in with the same account.
2. Make Sure Your Whole Group is on Your Friends and Family List
This is actually important for a couple of different reasons. First, if you are a group made up of multiple families, I’m assuming you want to ride together.
The only way to guarantee you all ride together is to get a single boarding group for everyone.
If you have multiple people trying to get boarding groups for each individual family separately, your odds of getting boarding group numbers even remotely close to one another are slim.
Second, this allows tip #1 to be ultimately effective. As long as you are all linked in Friends and Family, everyone’s names should come up as eligible on each other’s accounts.
Which brings us to tip #3…
3. Don’t Waste Time Making Sure Everyone’s Name Listed
If you’re in a rush and couldn’t check ahead of time, it is really tempting to check and double check that everyone in your group is listed on the review details screen. But trust me, this wastes precious seconds.
The system automatically recognizes everyone in your friends and family list who has a park ticket for that day, plus a Park Pass for the correct park (and in the case of the 1:00p virtual queue, has also entered that park through the tapstiles).
All eligible people are pre-selected for you. So just click “Refresh” at the appropriate time.
There have been instances where My Disney Experience doesn’t register everyone in your group. Don’t panic!
Once you have your boarding group, go see a Guest Experiences Cast Member under the blue umbrellas throughout the park.
They can manually add anyone who was missing as long as you can prove they are there with you and on your Friends and Family list.
4. Turn Off Your Wi-Fi
This might seem counter-intuitive, but could be a game changer. The Disney Wi-Fi network can be slow, especially when everyone and their mother is on it at once.
And this is not the time to sit staring at the spinning circle while the page loads!
Simple turn all Wi-Fi off shortly before you try to get your boarding group. Your phone will load faster with your cell network, and you will have your boarding group. Hopefully.
5. Practice from Home
I highly recommend that you practice going through the process from home. It just makes you more familiar with the virtual queue so you don’t lose any time on the big day.
You don’t even need a Park Pass in order to practice most of the steps (and maybe not a ticket either, but I’m not positive about that one). The system seems to block you in the final step only.
Because of this you can go through the beginning steps, which are the most important ones anyway.
You get blocked at the point where you hit refresh if you don’t have anyone eligible listed. But at least you got a chance to get familiar with the process so it’s not brand new on the big day.
However, if the page advances beyond that and you get an error message along the lines that you don’t have valid tickets or a park pass, you would have been successful.
Simply get yourself familiar with going through some of these tips I’ve listed to gain what familiarity you can. Any little bit helps.
6. Download a Seconds Counting App
Because every second counts. Seriously.
Now, every single universal clock will be off by nanoseconds, but having a seconds counter on your phone at least gives you an idea of whether you have 2 seconds or 45 seconds until go time.
Basically, it simply allows you to be as quick on the draw as possible.
I think the time on my phone was just slightly slower than Disney’s universal time clock (I happened to be standing next to Millenium Falcon’s clock and could watch that). What matters is Disney’s clock, not yours.
But you don’t really have a way of knowing when exactly Disney’s clock strikes the hour and the flood gates open.
I err on the side of caution and wait until the clock on my phone turns to 7:00a. It would be bad if you jumped the gun and have to start over because the system hadn’t opened yet.
At that point you’ve wasted some precious time while everyone else gets their boarding groups.
Bonus Tip: Compare Your Phone’s Time to the Official Time Clock
Disney uses the universal time as displayed through time.gov. That is the official US time clock. By going to this website on your phone, it will tell you how far your phone clock is off from the official US time clock.
By going to that page, I can see that my phone’s clock is -0.996 seconds behind the official time clock. This makes sense considering I watched the clock on Millenium Falcon’s ride entrance and could see it advanced a little bit before mine did.
7. Make Sure You’re Ready a Few Minutes Early
Please, don’t wait until 7:00a or 1:00p to even open up My Disney Experience. By the time you get in and start the steps, you could already be too late.
Set yourself an alarm to remind you at least 5 minutes in advance of the virtual queue opening. This allows you to go through all of these Disney virtual queue tips and get yourself as ready as possible.
8. Log Out of My Disney Experience and Log In Again
Let’s face it, My Disney Experience is notoriously glitchy. We want to counteract that as much as possible. And sometimes when it hasn’t “refreshed” in a while, it can be slower.
Because of that, simply close out the app entirely and the reopen it fresh. You want to see the image below when you reopen the app. That tells you that you’re opening it up after closing down.
Each phone will close apps differently, so just make sure you know how to do it on your phone.
Disney World Boarding Group FAQs
Let’s take a look at some Frequently Asked Questions regarding getting (and using) your Disney World boarding group.
How many boarding groups are there?
Well, this really depends on a lot of factors. Disney has never released any official numbers on this.
In large part, this depends on the ride. Different rides have different capacities and different levels of shutting down for repairs.
For example, Rise of the Resistance is known to go offline frequently because it is a highly technical ride with a lot of moving parts.
In comparison, Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind hasn’t gone down much at all. This allows Guardians to go through a larger number of boarding groups on any given day.
It also has a lot to do with ride capacity. If the ride is one that holds a larger number of people at once, and also cycles them through pretty quickly, it allows for a higher number of boarding groups.
How many people are in each boarding group?
This remains a mystery. Disney is so cagey about stuff like this…
I got boarding group #___. What time will my group get called?
Well, this is the million dollar question! The answer to this question really depends on just how well the ride is running on the day you’re there.
If you have a lower number, you clearly know you’ll get on within the early hours of park opening. Ditto for very large numbers.
Fortunately, your boarding pass itself gives you an estimate of just how many minutes until your boarding group is called. It might not be exact, but it’ll at least give you an idea.
How do I know when my boarding group is called?
You’ll receive a push notification on your phone letting you know that it’s now time to ride an absolutely amazing ride.
Also, if you keep checking back in on your boarding pass, it will tell you what boarding group numbers they have called. It also gives you an estimate of how much longer until your group is called.
This allows you to keep an eye on things and have a general idea of when to check back in the app if you don’t trust the push notifications.
As a frame of reference, this image above shows that I was in boarding group 113 for Guardians of the Galaxy. I was notified at 3:33p that my window was open.
How long is a boarding group window once it’s called?
Your boarding group window lasts for one hour after the time it’s called. The pass itself tells you what time you need to ride by.
What time does the Disney Virtual Queue open?
7:00a and 1:00p for all guests with park pass reservations for that park. 6:00p for select guests with access to extra evening park hours on select days.
If I don’t get a boarding group, can I go to a different park instead?
Yes, provided you can change all of your park passes. This is one of the great things about moving the first boarding group time to 7:00a and not requiring presence in the park.
There are many people who only want to go to a given park if they know they will get to ride the top ride. If they fail to get a boarding group during the first virtual queue, many might abandon ship and go elsewhere.
What if the ride breaks down after my boarding group is called?
If the ride breaks down after your boarding group is called, you’ll be permitted to ride whenever it reopens.
This happened to us during one of our trips. Rise of the Resistance must have broken down right after our group was called because by the time we made our way to the line, it was closed off.
The Cast Members know what groups were called prior to the breakdown and you’ll still be let in. If it makes you feel better, stop by the ride entrance and talk with the Cast Members there. They’ll reassure you of the process to get on the ride.
When this happened to us, the ride was down for almost 2 hours. But as soon as it opened back up we got on with no problem, even though our boarding group window was long closed.
And you don’t have to get into the line while it’s broken down. In fact, I’d recommend that you don’t. Go about your day and try to get on other attractions.
Keep tabs on your boarding pass. You’ll be able to see once groups are allowed to board again.
There will be a long line initially due to that pent up demand, let it die down slightly and then go enjoy the ride.
Can I get a boarding group each time the virtual queue opens?
No, you’re only allowed one boarding group a day.
Since we don’t know when our group will be called, what if we have a dining reservation at the same time?
Don’t fret, they are understanding about this if it happens. If you realize there’s a scheduling conflict, go to either a Guest Experiences Cast Member (under the blue umbrellas around the park) or go right to Cast Members at the entrance of the ride.
They are pretty darn flexible with stuff like this given the unpredictability of the whole situation.
Just to be safe, I’d take a screenshot of your ADR just as extra insurance to show cast members. Or vice versa, take a screenshot of your boarding group being called to show the restaurant when you get there late.
Can I use Disability Access Services or Rider Swap?
Yes, you can! The process is the same for both services. The biggest thing is that everyone in the group still needs to have a boarding group.
You can’t get a boarding group for one person and assume you’ll get a boarding group for the other person using rider swap.
When your boarding group is called, go to the front entrance of the ride and speak with a Cast Member. They will direct you from there.
Final Thoughts on Disney’s Virtual Queue
I know this isn’t a popular opinion, but I’m actually a big fan of using Disney’s virtual queue. Oh, I could do without the stress associated with it in those minutes leading up to it, but overall, it works for me.
This is in large part due to the fact that I’ve gotten really good at using the system. When you’re good at it, it’s far superior to standing in long standby lines or dealing with rope drop.
And let’s not even talk about the fact that the other option requires you to pay extra money. And that system isn’t a guarantee either.
Are you a fan of Disney’s virtual queue, or would you rather the good old fashioned standby line? Let me know in the comments below.
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