Disney Early Theme Park Entry Guide with Ride Strategy

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Disney World Early Theme Park Entry is now up and running in the four Disney World parks. Let’s face it, we’d all like to know how to get into Disney parks early (Updated May 6, 2022)!

I’ve had an opportunity to use it myself and know more about how the system works.

The good news is that early entry into Disney World is a fairly easy system to use. That being said, make sure you understand all the ins and outs so you aren’t surprised when you get there.

Hollywood Tower Hotel at Hollywood Studios Orlando

What is Disney Early Theme Park Entry?

Disney Early Entry is a perk for Disney Resort guests (and guests from other select hotels).

These guests have the opportunity to enter any of the four Disney World parks (Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Animal Kingdom, Hollywood Studios) 30 minutes before non-Disney Resort guests, on any day.

So, whatever the posted official opening time is for any of the parks, Disney World early entry starts 30 minutes before that.

This doesn’t mean that you should show up exactly 30 minutes early, but more on that below.

In order to qualify for Disney World Early Entry, a Disney resort guest must have a valid park ticket for that day as well as a Park Pass Reservation for that park.

Disney World Early Entry vs. Extra Magic Hours

Disney Early Entry is a direct replacement for Extra Magic Hours.

Extra Magic Hours ended when Disney reopened after lockdown. This was done based on the need to have more control over park capacity.

With it removed, Disney decided to revamp things when it was reintroduced, hence the birth of Disney World Early Entry.

So what were Extra Magic Hours, and how is Disney World Early Entry different?

Extra Magic Hours 101

First, here’s a quick description of Extra Magic Hours. Disney’s Extra Magic Hours was a perk available to all Disney Resort guests, as well as guests a Good Neighbor Hotels.

Extra Magic Hours came in the form of either AM Extra Magic Hours or PM Extra Magic Hours.

AM Extra Magic Hours allowed eligible guests to enter a designated Disney park an hour before official park opening.

Every so often it might be 2 hours early, but on the whole, it was an extra hour at the parks before it opened to all guests.

PM Extra Magic Hours were the exact opposite. These added extra time to the end of the day instead of the beginning. Typically, PM Extra Magic Hours added a couple of hours after the park closed to all other guests.

The park that allowed Extra Magic Hours on any given day was predetermined by Disney. The parks generally followed a certain pattern.

For example, Fridays were always AM Extra Magic Hours at Animal Kingdom. On that day, anyone wanting to use Extra Magic Hours had to go to Animal Kingdom.

During Extra Magic Hours, most, if not all, of the rides were running.

Dumbo ride at Magic Kingdom

How Disney Early Entry and Extra Magic Hours are the Same

Extra Magic Hours and Disney World Early Entry are the same in their basic premise. They are both a perk that gives Disney resort guests the opportunity to spend extra time in the parks.

Disney has several perks available only to Disney resort guests to entice them to stay there. If you don’t know the differences between staying at a Disney resort vs. staying off-site, make sure you do some research.

This extra time is specifically designed to give those resort guests a bit of a leg up when it comes to getting on rides with a significantly lower wait.

How they determine eligibility at the park is still the same. Guests must scan their MagicBand, ticket, or MagicMobile Pass to validate they are in fact a Disney resort guest.

If you’re wondering what the difference is between a MagicBand and a MagicMobile Pass, check out my MagicBand guide to learn more.

How They are Different

There are two major differences between these Disney early entry perks. The first is that Extra Magic Hours was typically only eligible in one park a day.

Sometimes two a day, one in the morning and one after park closing. But the moral of the story is that you had limited park options depending on the day.

The new early entry at Disney World allows you to choose which of the 4 theme parks you’d like to use it at on any given day.

You aren’t limited to planning your entire park itinerary around the Extra Magic Hours schedule.

The second difference is in the amount of extra time the guests are given. Extra Magic Hours gave resort guests an extra hour, while Disney Early Theme Park Entry only allows an extra 30 minutes.

Entrance Sign for Kilimanjaro Safaris at Animal Kingdom

Which resorts offer Disney World Early Entry?

All Disney resorts offer Early Theme Park Entry to their guests. But which are the “select other resorts”?

Below are the Disney Good Neighbor resorts who are confirmed to have access to Disney Early Theme Park Entry:

  • Hilton Orlando Bonnet Creek
  • Waldorf Astoria Orlando
  • B Resort & Spa Lake Buena Vista
  • DoubleTree Suites by Hilton Orlando
  • Hilton Orlando Buena Vista Palace
  • Hilton Orlando Lake Buena Vista
  • Holiday Inn Orlando
  • Wyndham Garden Lake Buena Vista
  • Wyndham Lake Buena Vista
  • Four Seasons Resort Orlando
  • Shades of Green
  • Walt Disney World Dolphin Hotel
  • Walt Disney World Swan Hotel
  • Walt Disney World Swan Reserve

So if you’re staying at any of these resorts, congrats! You are also eligible for early entry into Disney World.

What Rides are Available During Disney Early Entry?

This was a burning question for quite a while. But now we finally have a list of Disney Early Entry rides.

We’re going to take a look at what rides are available in what parks and provide a little commentary on each one.

After that, we’ll look at which rides are the best to head to based on strategy. Remember, you only have a 30 minute head start, so you won’t exactly get a lot done.

Magic Kingdom

  • “it’s a small world”
  • Astro Orbiter
  • Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin
  • Dumbo the Flying Elephant
  • Mad Tea Party
  • Mickey’s PhilharMagic
  • Peter Pan’s Flight
  • Prince Charming Regal Carrousel
  • Seven Dwarfs Mine Train
  • Space Mountain
  • The Barnstormer
  • The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh
  • Tomorrowland Speedway
  • Tomorrowland Transit Authority PeopleMover
  • Under the Sea ~ Journey of the Little Mermaid
  • Walt Disney’s Carousel of Progress

What’s immediately apparent is the fact that only rides in Fantasyland and Tomorrowland are available. This is not altogether surprising as this is where the most sought after rides are.

By funneling all the Early Theme Park Entry guests to the most popular area of the park, I’m sure the hope is that those people then head to Frontierland and Adventureland as soon as the park officially opens.

This then leaves some room for the regular park guests in Fantasyland and Tomorrowland.

Haunted Mansion at Disney's Magic Kingdom

The strategic funneling of the Disney early entry guests and the regular opening time guests can work pretty well. It helps to buy a little bit of time before EVERYTHING gets busy.


  • Beauty and the Beast Sing-Along
  • Frozen Ever After
  • Mission: SPACE
  • Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure
  • Soarin’ Around the World
  • Spaceship Earth
  • Test Track
  • The Seas with Nemo & Friends

Let’s face it, Epcot doesn’t exactly have a ton of rides to begin with, so this list is naturally pretty small. Lucky for all of us, the best rides in the park are all on this list.

Once Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind opens (May 27, 2022) this may be added to the list of Disney World early entry rides.

However, if the ride is only available as a virtual queue, then it won’t be eligible for early entry. If the typical pattern holds, it will eventually switch to a regular standby line, and then it will be available for Disney early entry access.

If you don’t yet know about this hot new ride coming to Epcot, read through this Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind guide.

Hollywood Studios

  • Alien Swirling Saucers
  • Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway
  • Millennium Falcon: Smuggler’s Run
  • Rise of the Resistance
  • Rock n Roller Coaster
  • Slinky Dog Dash
  • Star Tours
  • The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror
  • Toy Story Mania!

Once again, you have a pretty good selection here of the top rides. Basically, ALL of the rides that guests are most interested in riding are listed here.

Well, Hollywood Studios doesn’t exactly have a plethora of rides to begin with, so that makes sense.

Animal Kingdom

  • Avatar Flight of Passage
  • Expedition Everest
  • It’s Tough to be a Bug!
  • Na’vi River Journey
  • TriceraTop Spin

Basically, with the exception of Kilimanjaro Safari, you could do any of the rides at Animal Kingdom. The Safari is never open during early entries, so this is expected.

Remember, there are real animals out there on that safari who need to be fed and cared for. Cast members need time to do that before they open the Safari to guests.

Early Theme Park Entry Ride Strategy

Now that we know what’s available in each park, I want to take a brief look a potential strategies for each park during Disney Early Theme Park Entry.

These strategies won’t be extensive, remember, it’s only 30 minutes. But they will give you an idea of where to head. Remember, realistically you might only have time to get on one ride.

My #1 Disney Early Entry Tip

Before we get started with strategy, it’s important to be aware of my #1 Disney World early entry tip.

I alluded to this earlier, but it’s important to arrive at your selected theme park at the right time. What I mean by that is if you show up exactly 30 minutes before the official park opening time, you’re already too late.

This isn’t a huge deal if your plan is to go on the lower demand rides. However, if you want to get on the most popular rides, you need to be early.

The rule of thumb: the more sought after the ride, the earlier you need to get to the park.

On average, I would plan to get there approximately 45 minute to an hour before the Disney early entry start time.

This gives you time to get through security, have your your ticket/MagicBand checked, and ultimately get into position.

Basically, you want to be as close to the front of the line as you can manage. This allows you to get on and off ride 1 fast enough to let you get on and off ride 2 before the park officially opens.

Disney World Early Entry Strategy 1 – Hardest to Get on Rides

The first early entry strategy is to head to the ride that’s the hardest to get on later in the day. Often, this is going to be any of the rides identified as the Lightning Lane a la carte option.

Don’t know what I’m talking about, make sure you read my guide to Disney Genie and Lightning Lane.

Long story short: Lightning Lane allows guests to pay extra money to skip the line on two identified rides in each park.

As you can see, choosing the right ride during Early Theme Park Entry can potentially save you money or time later in the day.

Your goal in each of the parks is to ride one hard to get on ride, potentially ride a second easier access ride, and/or get in line for a second high demand ride.

It’s not likely you’ll be able to get more than that done. And really, you might even just get on one ride. So be prepared for that outcome.

Magic Kingdom Early Theme Park Entry Strategy 1

The clear winner for the #1 ride to head to at Magic Kingdom is Seven Dwarfs Mine Train. Mine Train consistently has the longest waits in the park AND is a Lightning Lane option for Magic Kingdom.

However, there’s a caveat with this: ONLY GO TO MINE TRAIN IF YOU ARE AT THE FRONT OF THE PACK. Yes, I put that in shouty caps.

If you are towards the back of the pack, the line will immediately become too long. You’ll spend the entire extra 30 minutes waiting in that one line.

If you’re too far behind to get on Mine Train, Space Mountain is your next best option in terms of e-ticket rides.

In my ideal world, this is what you’ll do:

Seven Dwarfs Mine Train ➡️ Space Mountain ➡️ Big Thunder Mountain/Splash Mountain

If you’re lucky, you can get Mine Train done, and then on the line for Space Mountain. By the time you’re done, expect the park to be open and escape to the other side of the park.

Once the park officially opens, it’s time to beat feet out of Fantasyland and Tomorrowland as that’s where EVERYONE is about to head.

Instead, be opportunistic and head into Liberty Square, Frontierland, and Adventureland. You should be able to get on one or two rides there with minimal wait.

You should be able to knock out at least 5 rides total before everyone catches up with you.

Here’s my plan B:

Seven Dwarfs Mine Train ➡️ Easy walk on ride ➡️ Big Thunder Mountain/Splash Mountain

Again, this assumes that you are so far at the front of the pack you get on Seven Dwarfs Mine Train with no more than a 10-15 minute wait.

Epcot Early Theme Park Entry Strategy 1

First off, Epcot is a little more complicated. It’s the only park that has two separate entrances to go through. The specific gate you enter at directly impacts the ride that’s easiest to get to.

Second, Epcot has a couple of new rides which have opened (or will open soon) which have changed the game.

Because of this, I highly recommend reading through my Epcot 1-day itinerary guide. This goes into MUCH more detail on how to plan your day at Epcot.

For now, you CANNOT rope drop the new Guardians of the Galaxy ride. It is only available through virtual queue and Lightning Lane access.

Epcot Early Entry Strategy: Main Entrance

If you enter through the main entrance, which is most people, this positions you to have an advantage in reaching certain rides during Disney early entry.

Here’s my ideal plan:

Test Track ➡️ Soarin’ ➡️ Off into the park (check wait time for Frozen Ever After)

Seriously, this has been my go to rope drop strategy at Epcot for years.

Again, this only works if you are at the front of the pack. If you get there even a little bit late, the line for Test Track is too long. And Test Track is also prone to first thing in the morning breakdowns.

If this happens, immediately divert to this plan:

Soarin’ ➡️ Frozen Ever After ➡️ Off into the park

However, Frozen Ever After is now one of the Lightning Lane rides in Epcot, and is a highly sought after ride.

If potentially saving that money is your priority, or you have some huge Frozen fans in your group, head there first.

The problem is that Frozen Ever After is a far walk, and then you’ll double back towards Test Track or Soarin’. But it’s definitely doable.

Frozen Ever After ➡️ Soarin’ ➡️ Off into the park

Epcot Early Entry Strategy: International Gateway

For anyone arriving at Epcot from Beach Club Resort, Boardwalk Resort, Swan and Dolphin Resorts, or via the Skylinder Gondolas, International Gateway is where you enter.

I personally love entering at International Gateway. However, since it is positioned in between the UK and France Pavilion, you are worlds away from most of the rides.

Remy's Ratatouille Adventure at Epcot

Because of this, you have a different Disney early theme park entry strategy.

Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure ➡️ Frozen Ever After ➡️ Gran Fiesta Tour

You are quite literally a hop, skip, and a jump away from Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure. That makes it a bit of a no brainer from International Gateway.

On top of that, it’s one of the most popular rides with long lines. Unfortunately, from Remy’s absolutely nothing is is close. All other rides are about 0.6 miles away.

With that said, you might as well stay in World Showcase and knock out the other rides.

Hollywood Studios Early Theme Park Entry Strategy 1

I had to revamp this in a major way once Disney announced the Rise of the Resistance is now a normal standby line access ride.

Clearly, Rise of the Resistance automatically becomes the top ride for almost everyone entering the park. If you are at the front of the pack and almost walk on, this is a major coup.

If no one in your group is interested in Rise of the Resistance (why? why?!?!), Slinky Dog Dash becomes the most desirable first ride during Early Theme Park Entry.

Slinky Dog has consistently long lines throughout the entire day.

Rise of the Resistance and Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway are the Lightning Lanes rides for Hollywood Studios. So there’s the money saving option.

However, you might not be able to do both during Disney World early entry. Pick your priority and stick with it. If you’re at the front of the pack, head to Rise of the Resistance as your #1 priority.

If you got a late start to the morning, you’ll have better luck with Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway or Slinky Dog Dash.

Here’s option #1 for Hollywood Studios:

Rise of the Resistance ➡️ Millennium Falcon: Smuggler’s Run

Rise of the Resistance is a long ride. Depending on your location in the pack, you might not even get off of it until after the park officially opens.

Regardless, you still have an excellent chance of getting on Millennium Falcon with little wait. There seems to be a delay in the line for that ride getting long.

It has the bonus of being physically close to Rise of the Resistance so you don’t lose time walking.

Alternately, I’d try this strategy:

Slinky Dog Dash ➡️ Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway ➡️ Off into the park

I make this recommendation specifically because when I was at Hollywood Studios not that long ago, the Slinky Dog line was getting long faster than Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway.

Mickey and Minnie’s has a pretty large capacity and moves people through pretty quickly. I think this helps keep the line length a bit more reasonable for a slightly longer time frame.

If the line for Runaway Railway looks too long, abandon ship and head to Toy Story Mania, Tower of Terror, or Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster.

Animal Kingdom Early Theme Park Entry Strategy 1

Last but not least we have Animal Kingdom. Considering that Flight of Passage is one of the best rides ever created, it should be #1 on your priority list for Early Theme Park Entry at Animal Kingdom.

The line also gets astonishingly long, very quickly. It’s also the Lightning Lane a la carte option at Animal Kingdom so this move is a money saver.

Here’s my #1 plan for Animal Kingdom:

Flight of Passage ➡️ Expedition Everest (repeatedly) ➡️ DINOSAUR

Historically, you can ride Expedition Everest as a walk on multiple times right when the park opens. We’ll see if this remains true, but I sure hope so.

Ride entrance to DINOSAUR at Animal Kingdom

Plan B for Animal Kingdom if Flight of Passage is already too long:

Na’vi River Journey ➡️ Expedition Everest ➡️ DINOSAUR

Disney World Early Entry Strategy 2 – As Many Rides as Possible

Ok, so here we have the alternate option for early entry at Disney World. This strategy is for people who want to knock off as many rides as possible within the 30 minutes.

When considering this plan, think of proximity of rides. The less you have to walk from place to place, the more successful you’ll be.

However, walking across the park isn’t necessarily a deal breaker.

Magic Kingdom Early Theme Park Entry Strategy 2

The good news with Magic Kingdom is there are so many ride options, the world is your oyster. And all of these rides are relatively close to one another since you’re limited to Fantasyland and Tomorrowland.

Many of the rides in this section will continue to have short lines later in the day, so it does help to choose wisely.

Pretty much all of the rides besides Seven Dwarfs Mine Train and Space Mountain should be close to walk on.

However, Peter Pan’s Flight notoriously gets longer lines later in the day, so it’s a good choice. From there, I’d head into Tomorrowland even though there are other rides physically closer to Peter Pan’s Flight.

Peter Pan’s Flight ➡️ Tomorrowland Speedway ➡️ Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin

You should be able to get on the first 2 rides and then into the line for the third ride before the park opens.

Once you get off Buzz Lightyear, head to the opposite side of the park. You’ll still have a mostly empty Adventureland and Frontierland.

Epcot Early Entry Strategy 2

This one is hard for me, as I can’t imagine a world where I wouldn’t try to go to Test Track first. I seriously love that ride.

However, if you wanted to get on as many rides as possible, it’s probably not the best idea. Another thing to consider: some of the rides at Epcot are on the long side.

For example, Living with the Land eats up almost the entire 30 minutes all by itself.

At present, another complicating factor is the maze of construction barriers. This won’t be an issue later, but for now, it’s a big one.

These walls make the walk from one side of Future World to the other a lot longer. There’s just no straight shot. Because of that, I’d start on one side and focus on it before moving on.

Soarin’ ➡️ The Seas with Nemo and Friends ➡️ Spaceship Earth

That’s right, I’d still head to Soarin’ first. You should be able to walk on, and the ride is on the shorter side compared to other options.

The Seas with Nemo and Friends is also relatively short and also gets you headed in the right direction towards Spaceship Earth.

This makes everything a little more efficient. I put Spaceship Earth in here last because the ride is a bit on the longer side. Once you are off the ride, the park will be open.

If you head to Mission:Space after Spaceship Earth, that ride should still be almost a walk on. That allows you to do 4 rides in quick succession right off the bat.

Hollywood Studios Early Theme Park Entry Strategy 2

Frankly, this is probably one of the easiest recommendations out of all of them. This is exactly what I did and it was a huge success.

Rock n Roller Coaster ➡️ Tower of Terror ➡️ Toy Story Mania

Because Rock n Roller Coaster and Tower and Terror are right next to one another, they are a great option during Disney World early theme park entry.

They are also rides that get very long lines later in the day so it’s great to get on them with no wait first thing in the morning.

Also, hardly anyone heads in this direction during Disney early entry, so you don’t have to worry about getting to the parks quite so early.

On the day I was there I entered the park around 8:20a for an 8:30a start to Disney early entry. I was in row 3 of the very first stretch limo of the day.

If you have small kids or have no interest in thrill rides, this plan won’t work for you. So here’s an alternative.

Toy Story Mania ➡️ Alien Swirling Saucers ➡️ Millennium Falcon: Smuggler’s Run

Toy Story Land Entrance sign at Hollywood Studios

These form a nice little line so you aren’t bouncing around from one side of the park to another. Smuggler’s Run won’t be a walk on any longer by the time you get to it, but the line should be 20 minutes or less.

Animal Kingdom Early Entry Strategy 2

My approach to Animal Kingdom is a little different. The lines here are pretty forgiving first thing in the morning, unless you head to Pandora.

Because of this and the general lack of rides at Animal Kingdom my strategy is actually a little different.

Expedition Everest repeatedly ➡️ DINOSAUR ➡️ Kilimanjaro Safari (after park opening)

That’s right, we typically ride Expedition Everest as a walk on ride at least 3 to 4 times before moving on. It’s one of our favorite rides in all of Disney World, so the ability to ride more than once is key.

Plus, this is a Lightning Lane ride so if lines get long later in the day, getting on will cost money or a long wait.

Depending on how many times you get on Expedition Everest, you might even be able to squeeze another ride in before you head to Kilimanjaro Safari.

Remember, you have to wait for the park to open (and sometimes even later in the morning) to get on the Safari, so pay attention to that before you walk all the way there.

Either way, make sure you’re on the Safari by 10a at the latest, lines start to get long and the animals are more active in the coolness of the mornings.

How Do I Get Into the Parks with Disney Early Entry?

Fortunately for all of us, this process is pretty simple. What you see here are the specifics of my experience using Disney World early entry. However, I anticipate the small details will change slightly day to day.

This happened frequently with the old rope drop protocols, so I anticipate the same with Early Entry. Plus, they simply need to work out the kinks.

Regardless of what park you are going to, anticipate the need to have your MagicBand/ticket scanned twice. The exact process varies depending on the park, but the double scanning does not.

For example, in Magic Kingdom, all guests are let into the park to hang out on Main Street and the Hub (translation: to start shopping).

However, you’ll see Cast Members holding signs directing all those with Disney early entry off to the right towards the Tomorrowland bridge.

Disney early entry at Magic Kingdom

Once there, I encountered a wall of Cast Members scanning everyone’s MagicBands and tickets to confirm they were resort guests. After that, you’re home free and into the depths of Tomorrowland and Fanstasyland.

On the flipside, at Hollywood Studios, the initial scanning happens before you even get to the tapstiles. I found the process here to be very haphazard so imagine it will get tightened up

It would have been pretty easy for someone to sneak through if they wanted to.

There was a sign directing those with early entry to head towards the middle of the ticket booths, that’s where they did the scanning.

Once you get through that, you’re clear to go through the tapstiles and into the park. The only guests inside of Hollywood Studios were Disney Early Entry guests for the first 30 minutes.

As an FYI, my MagicBand didn’t verify I was a resort guest during my day at Hollywood Studios, perhaps because it was check out day. However, the Cast Member asked to see my reservation.

Once I showed it to her in My Disney Experience, I was good to go.

How Will Early Theme Park Entry Impact Rope Drop?

The biggest impact is that only Disney resort guests are able to take advantage of rope drop.

In case you’re wondering, rope drop is the phrase used to describe being at the park prior to the official opening time. This allows you to be one of the first guests into the park.

This is actually a major deal. With Extra Magic Hours, guests staying off-site could still take advantage of rope drop. They would simply go to a park that wasn’t offering EMH that day.

This loophole is no longer an option with Early Theme Park Entry.

Now, if you have any plans to use rope drop, you MUST stay at a Disney resort (or one of the other approved resorts).

Splash Mountain Entrance at Magic Kingdom

Pros and Cons of Disney Early Entry

Having now seen Disney World early entry in action, I think my original pros and cons for it are pretty accurate. On the whole, I’d say that the pros outweigh the cons.

Pros of Disney Early Theme Park Entry

1. Getting in Early is ALWAYS a Good Thing

Really, I think that heading explains it all. The early morning is recognized as one of the best times of day to go to the parks.

It embodies the phrase, “The early bird gets the worm”. Not everyone is a morning person. Some people want to sleep in and have a leisurely start to their day.

At Disney, this is a mistake. The earlier you can get into the parks, the better. You’ll be able to get on multiple rides before everyone else rolls out of bed.

2. Spreading Out the Crowds

With the creation of Early Theme Park Entry, Disney is clearly trying to spread guests out across all four of the theme parks, instead of flooding to just one of them.

In terms of park capacity, Early Theme Park Entry is probably a good idea. It’s also nice that it gives guests a little more flexibility in planning out their days.

One of the major downsides of Extra Magic Hours was the fact that only one park was eligible at a time. Therefore, anyone wanting to take advantage of EMH flooded to that park.

Notoriously, the park with Extra Magic Hours was generally more crowded later in the day than it was on non-Extra Magic Hours days.

This is why many bloggers actually advised against going to a park with Extra Magic Hours.

The fact that Early Theme Park Entry splits the benefit between all four parks, every single day, should eliminate this phenomenon of higher crowds on certain days of the week due to Extra Magic Hours.

3. Flexibility is King

There is a lot about planning a Disney vacation which is pretty restrictive. You are locked into many things as you go through the process.

When planning your ideal Disney itinerary, you used to look at which parks had Extra Magic Hours and plan around it. Some people avoided those parks, others gravitated towards them.

Because Disney World Early Entry allows you to choose any of the parks you want, it increases your flexibility when making your plans.

4. The Return of a Much Needed Disney Resort Perk

Even before Disney closed and reopened, the perks of staying at a Disney Resort were slowly evaporating. Let’s face it, staying at a Disney Resort costs way more than a regular old Orlando hotel.

We should get more than just experiencing the “Disney bubble” for our money. Once Disney removed Extra Magic Hours and announced the closure of Disney’s Magical Express in 2022, there was really nothing left.

While not perfect, at least Early Theme Park Entry throws a bone to Disney Resort guests.

Mission Space Entrance at Epcot

Cons of Disney Early Entry

1. It’s No Different From How the Parks were Running Without Early Theme Park Entry

If you went to Disney World at any point during the first year after reopening, all 4 parks were letting guests in around 45 to 30 minutes early.

That’s right, Early Theme Park Entry had essentially been happening for months.

The only difference is that ALL guests with a park ticket and park pass could take advantage. However, I’m going to hazard a guess that the vast majority of people doing rope drop were resort guests to begin with.

Considering some parks let guests in almost an hour early anyway, Disney early entry is a definite downgrade.

2. 30 Minutes Early is About 30 Minutes Too Short

This is probably my biggest beef with Disney World early entry. When you go from previously getting into a park an hour early with Extra Magic Hours, to only 30 minutes early, it’s a bit of a rip off.

You can accomplish A LOT in an extra hour before park opening. Sure, you can accomplish stuff with an extra half an hour, but it’s just not the same.

Let’s say a park has an official open time of 8:00a. That means guests who qualify for Disney early entry can get on rides at 7:30a.

With Extra Magic Hours, guests would be able to enter at 7:00a. For people who aren’t early risers, there’s a big difference psychologically between getting up early to get to the park at 7:30a than at 7:00a.

The earlier the entry window opens, the lighter the crowds will be. That chunk of time from 7:00a to 7:30a is like gold. And now you don’t have it.

3. It’s Not Enough to Justify Paying Extra for a Disney Resort

That extra 30 minutes of park time probably isn’t worth the hundreds of dollars extra a Disney resort costs.

Don’t get me wrong, even saying this, I’d still choose to stay at a Disney resort instead of off-site. But I’m a Disney die-hard. I’m also a crazy morning person and a rope drop ninja.

So I’ll be out there with everyone else to get in the parks during Disney early theme park entry.

But, coming from an entirely practical standpoint, an extra 30 minutes in the parks is a nice bonus, but might not be worth the extra money.

Final Thoughts

Really, at this point, jury is still out for me. Do I use Disney early theme park entry? Absolutely. Am I completely happy with it? Not really.

I still think it is a pale attempt to make Disney resort guests *think* they have a major perk. And it really does have some benefits.

Just the simple act of being able to get into the park 30 minutes before park opening is a big deal. For anyone who knows how to take advantage of rope drop, this is still a good perk.

I simply wish it was more time.

If you want to learn more about rope drop and how to use it to your advantage, check out these posts:

Your Thoughts

What do you think about Disney World early entry? Are you disappointed like me, or are you completely on board? Let me know in the comments below.

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6 thoughts on “Disney Early Theme Park Entry Guide with Ride Strategy”

  1. If you stay at a good neighbor hotel, how early can you Uber to animal kingdom to get in line for early entry? For example: Can you get there 90 minutes ahead? Or only 60minutes ahead?

    1. There can be some slight variation in when the cars are allowed into the lot. At this point it seems to be around 30 to 60 minutes prior to the start time of early morning entry. I would probably split the difference and try for 45 minutes before early morning entry.

  2. Sounds good! It says “must have resort reservation for same day” but what about the morning you check out? I’d think the morning you wake up in the resort would be the day you want to use your early entry? I guess my questions is, can I stay at a resort one night, and get in early both days on either end? Or can I pick which day? Any help would be appreciated. I’m not a rope drop ninja 🙂

    1. Based on how things worked in the past, I’m assuming you are eligible for it on both days, both check-in and check-out. Because you’re technically spending part of your day at a Disney resort for both of those days. This was the case with the Dining Plan and FastPass booking, so hopefully also Early Theme Park Entry. But this is definitely an area we don’t have a firm answer to yet.

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