Passing the Time in Linesby Adrienne Krock, staff writer
Recently, a young man told me that when he becomes a Disney executive, the first thing he will do is stop sales of all bubble-making machines in the parks. This began a discussion among a group of parents—is the problem the bubbles or bubbles in close quarters? We often look for opportunities to keep our children entertained during all those wait times in Disney theme parks. We asked our Parenting Panel this week: What do you do to keep your children occupied in line?
Jen, also known as *Nala*, is an engineer, a Disney fan, and a MouseAdventure fanatic. She lives in Southern California with her husband and two future MouseAdventurers, ages 2 and 4. Jen, writes:
Lines! They are everywhere at Disney parks. It's a given that on a Disney day you will be standing in lines starting with the parking lot tram and continuing with restaurants, shows, restrooms, and of course rides. While lines are unavoidable, there are a few ways we like to make it a bit easier for everyone involved.
- Plan ahead – We generally have a good idea in advance of a trip which popular rides we all might want to go on. Since our kids are up early, it's not unusual for us to arrive at the parks at or near opening. We'll often start in California Adventure and pick up a Fastpass for Radiator Springs Racers for the 4 year old and one parent for later in the day. Another frequent early choice is Toy Story Midway Mania, as both kids love it but it doesn't have Fastpass. By planning ahead, we can hit some of the big rides but avoid the worst of the lines.
- Toys and snacks – We occasionally let the kids bring a small stuffed animal or quiet toy in line, though we don't do this often as we would rather not worry about losing toys in line or on the ride. Sometimes we will get in longer lines around snack time, and let the kids eat their snacks while we are waiting. We usually bring snacks from home but might also pick up a box of popcorn or a bag of Mickey freeze dried apple snacks.
- Interactive queues – I've been reading about the new interactive queues in some of the lines at Walt Disney World, and I can't wait to see what our kids think of them when we visit later this year. Big Thunder Mountain, Winnie the Pooh, and the new Seven Dwarfs Mine Train all have things in line to play with and help pass the time. There is also an entire kids' play area at the Dumbo ride, and you are given a pager to hold while your kids play so you know when it's your turn to ride.
- Know your kids – We visit Disneyland often, and have done so since the kids were babies. Because of this we have a good idea of how long of a line each kid can realistically handle. This varies throughout the day, and depends on whether they are tired or hungry, and also sometimes depends on how badly they want to ride the ride. At our kids' current ages, they are usually good for a maximum of a 30–45 minute line. If it's much longer than that, we'll tell them straight up that the line is too long, but we'll make sure to go on it next time we visit.
Chris, also known as GusMan, is always planning his next family trip to the Walt Disney World Resort and loves to help others plan their trips, as well sharing his experiences. Chris writes:
I know that one of the most asked Disney planning questions is about which times of the year are the lines the shortest. It is a very legit question, to be honest, as I am sure that standing in line in anticipation for anything is not exactly the top of the must-do list. For my family and I, we have some sure fire ways to keep the time flying by.
- Involve the family in a simple guessing game. We like to play "What Disney Character am I?" which as you can guess is all about guessing who the person is thinking about. Of course, the game can be as simple or has hard as you can make it depending on your level of Disney trivia knowledge. I know my daughter can somehow pick characters that are so rare and obscure it takes nearly forever to figure it out.
- Talk about what is next. You have something of a captive audience when you are standing there—make the most of it. If your plan includes options as to what you can do next, now would be a good time to work out the details. It sure beats standing at the attraction exit thinking about the same thing.
- Enjoy the queue lines themselves. I know this may sound silly, but the queues at Disney are a part of the overall show. Take a look at all the different details that surround you and point out some of the details to the kids. Take advantage of some of the new interactive queues at attractions like Space Mountain. These are all there to help not only prepare you for the show ahead, but to help you pass the time.
- Snacks! Nothing passes time better than a small snack and a drink. You can bring such snacks into most of the queue lines and multitask. It might be best to choose snacks that are not messy so you don't have to worry about cleanup or spills later. We usually carry peanuts, almonds, or trail mix. Simply throw out your trash before you board.
- Have the kids take pictures. I found out a while ago that while I love to take photos while in the parks, some of the best and unique pictures are taken by my kids. Their point of view is priceless. In the age of the "selfie" they can get great shots of themselves that you can cherish later. (One note: I purposely have a cheaper camera that I got off of eBay just for this purpose. No way my kids are getting their hands on my camera!)
- A last resort for our family is playing games on a phone. We really try to unplug while on vacation – and it's tough to do so. But sometimes a game of Frozen Free Fall, Candy Crush, or even Minion Rush can be just what the mind needs. We do tell our kids to keep the volume down so that it does not disturb our neighboring guests.
Lines are a way of life while on vacation. To some kids, it's a real drag. Some simple prep work can make what may seem like wasted time into a dose of extra magic..
MousePlanet columnist Chris Barry his wife Diane, 14-year-old Samantha, and twin 11-year-olds Casey and Alex, live on Long Island and are all major Disney and Walt Disney World fans. Chris writes:
I have to be very honest and practical here. The best way to avoid meltdowns on lines or suffering through really long waits is to try and avoid them as much as possible. Now, that may seem like "perfect world" kind of talk, but it's pretty sound advice. I don't think we've ever waited for more than 40 minutes in any Walt Disney World attraction queue. It's usually more like 20 minutes or less. We seek out lines with lower wait times. If it hits 40 minutes, we're not interested. We arrive early, use Fastpass whenever possible, and skip things that have lengthy waits. There's always another time for us and we've experienced the attractions so often that skipping is an option for us.
However, it's not always a perfect world. You may be there during a busier time of year. You might not have any Fastpasses left at your disposal, or the kids may just have to ride Winnie the Pooh before they leave no matter how long the wait! Heaven forbid if there's a big Frozen fan in your traveling party that wants to desperately meet Anna and Elsa! If any of the above is the case and you find yourself in an interminably long queue, there are a few things that have worked well for my kids the few times we have been stuck.
The kids aren't allowed to bring electronics into the parks, but we grown-ups have our iPhones and they have come in extremely handy. It's not for Candy Crush and things like that. When we're at Walt Disney World and the kids ask for our phones, it's almost always to use the Disney app to see what wait times are like around the "World." I'm not sure why we all care so much what the wait time is for Toy Story Mania when we're nowhere near Hollywood Studios and actually waiting on line for Peter Pan at the Magic Kingdom…but we do, don't we? The kids kill a lot of time on lines, or waiting for food to arrive at a meal by checking the wait times on our phones! I love this fact because it keeps them involved in the trip and they feel like they're in on the planning of what to do next. It's a win-win all around. We're also big fans of TouringPlans.com and their Lines app. The boys will check this app and compare it to the official Disney app to see who's more accurate.
The boys love the electronics, but my daughter is more of a reader and writer. Something that worked extremely well for her for several years was Tim Foster's book, The Guide to the Magic for Kids. If you haven't seen this book, you can check it out and order it if you choose.
This is essentially a guidebook geared towards kids, but it's so much more. It's chock full of full color pictures. It's got stickers, park maps, and scavenger hunts. It's got a 14-page trip journal for your kids to write down their thoughts about what they've seen and where they've been. She's 15 now, but when she was around 8–11, my daughter absolutely ate this thing up.
Each trip she would read or add to the journal on attraction lines, or during rest breaks, traveling on the busses or in the restaurants. Whenever there was a moment's downtime, she would ask for her journal and her pen. Out of my backpack it would come and it would appease her for quite sometime. We loved it because it was sort of old school and it fit her meticulous personality perfectly. It gives you things to look for, attraction secrets, Hidden Mickeys and plenty more to occupy their minds and their time. If you've got that type of kid, then check out this book. Plus it'll be a treasure to keep and return to often and revisit past trips and see what she recorded. It's a great keepsake.
It's your turn—keep the discussion flowing!
Visit the Parenting in the Parks forum on our MousePad discussion board, and share your opinions about this topic or many others, or send your suggestions via e-mail. Reader-submitted tips might be used in a future article, and you might be selected to participate in an upcoming panel discussion!