If you’ve been planning a trip to Disney at all, you’ve probably absorbed a ton of advice – both good AND bad. But one tidbit we love to share — the benefits of “rope drop” — or an early start to beat the crowds. It might not sound super fun to wake up early on vacation, but if you are willing to give it a try, you may find that it is the best way to start your day!
Why “rope drop”?
The term “rope drop” comes from crowd control measures at Walt Disney World, which you can still see in practice with an early arrival. Guests are often let into the park turnstiles prior to the official park opening time, but since attractions aren’t yet open they are held at the entrance to various lands. Often cast members will have a “rope” or other type of barrier that they use to define the waiting area, which they “drop” at the time of park opening. Though the rope is also often walked back slowly to keep eager guests from running and creating a stampede to attraction entrances. Or in some cases, there may be no rope at all and guests are allowed on attractions early. For whatever reason, “rope drop” became the preferred term for opening the park.
So how do I do it?
Basically, get an early start! General consensus is to be at the park entrance at least 30-45 minutes before official opening time. That may seem ridiculously early, but remember: you will need to walk to the gate, get through security, and pass the admission checkpoint before you can start enjoying your day. If you get these all out of the way early, you can hit the attractions as soon as the park opens! And the parks will remain less crowded for the first hour or two after opening. Have your strategy ready for which attractions you want to head to first.
Does it only work at Disney?
While rope drop is definitely a huge benefit at Disney and other theme parks, we’ve had great experiences using it in other areas as well! An early morning excursion at Chichen Itza allowed us to see the sites without being hassled by the vendors who have their stalls set up by mid-morning. Swimming with stingrays on Grand Cayman? The first boat of the day is going to see the smallest crowds and get the most interaction with the friendly inhabitants at Stingray City. It’s pretty much a universal truth that just about any tourist destination is going to be less crowded right at opening.
What if I don’t like getting up early?
We get it. You’re on vacation, and sometimes you just want to sleep in! Never fear. Just because you don’t rope drop doesn’t mean you won’t have a fantastic time! You’ll just need to be strategic. And a late lie-in will help you take advantage of one of our other favorite times at Disney – the last few hours before closing! These are almost as productive as early morning hours, and the parks are all absolutely MAGICAL at night.