Have you been hearing the term “rope drop” and wondering what it means? Or maybe you’re well aware, but uncertain of how to make it work for your little ones. We have all the rope drop answers and more for you right here!
What is rope drop?
Rope drop is literally when the rope is dropped and guests are allowed into the theme park. When you first arrive to a Disney theme park you are allowed to wait inside the gates (typically), but there is a rope or barrier preventing you from accessing the rest of the park. The rope is dropped when the park opens to the public.
Is rope drop at different times for on property vs. off property guests?
Yes! If you are staying at a Disney resort on property (or at select good neighbor hotels) then you have early morning extra magic hours at every Disney World theme park every single day of your stay. This includes your check in and check out days.
We highly recommend staying on property for a multitude of reasons, but taking advantage of early extra magic hours is a huge bonus. You will be surprised at what you can accomplish with an additional 30 minutes in the parks before they open to the rest of the public.
If you are staying off property and wish to rope drop then you will be held back until park opening time. Park opening varies day to day at every park, so it is best to check your my Disney experience app or the Disney World website for the most accurate opening times.
If you ARE staying on property then be sure to approach the cast members that are checking in Disney resort guests. These cast members are typically holding a sign and will check you in by scanning your magic bands. Do not make the mistake of hanging out and waiting with park goers that must wait until the park officially opens to the general public. If you are uncertain ALWAYS ask a cast member. They are wonderful and helpful.
So how do we rope drop with little kids?
There are tons of rope dropping strategies out there, but most do not take into account families with young ones. Many people will tell you to arrive an hour before extra magic hours begin or an hour before official park opening if staying off property. Then as soon as you’re in go straight for Seven Dwarfs Mine Train at Magic Kingdom or Rise of Resistance at Hollywood Studios. Great advice, but not so helpful to those of us with children too young for these rides.
A successful rope drop strategy for us looks very different, but we absolutely still recommend rope dropping with your little ones. First of all, we are big fans of taking advantage of early time in the parks. The earlier the better as far as we are concerned. Generally speaking young kids are early risers and in the best mood first thing in the morning. You want to capitalize on this! We wake, eat a good breakfast in our room, get dressed, and head straight for the park. We usually leave our hotel room 45 min to 1 hour before early entry begins depending on which park and our method of transportation.
In a previous post, we covered great options to stay at Disney World with young kids and we stick by the advice that the closer you can be to the theme parks the better. We cannot stress this enough. If you are staying at a monorail resort then you will have the easiest time with early entry into Magic Kingdom. If riding the monorail to MK, your bags will be checked at your resort! This is a big time saver. If you are staying at a Boardwalk area resort then you will have an easier time accessing Epcot (through the back gate in the World Showcase) and Hollywood Studios. If staying at other Disney resorts, you still have an advantage over off property guests, especially at Magic Kingdom. At MK you will be dropped off by bus right in front of the theme park. If staying off property your shuttle or the tram from the parking lot will drop you off at the Ticket and Transportation Center, and you will then ride the monorail to MK. Disney transportation also begins operating at least an hour before early entry begins and is on a continuous loop every 15-20 mins (typically more during higher traffic times).
We recommend strapping littles into a stroller for ease when entering the theme parks. We always bring our own strollers or rent a stroller from Kingdom Strollers on our Disney vacations. This gives us a stroller to use at all times rather than just while inside the theme park for the day. Our kids get so excited when entering the parks, so having them strapped in is the best way to reduce a potential runaway situation or having their little legs slow us down (also don’t want to tire them out before a day in the theme parks!). When entering the parks with a stroller you will go through a separate line. A cast member will direct you, or it will be clearly visible. They will ask you to remove any items or bags inside or under the stroller, so go ahead and save yourself time by grabbing these items before going through the line.
Once you are inside the park and waiting we recommend doing everything you can to distract your kids. Waiting is hard! Especially when Disney World is all around you! Have snacks ready. Use this time to make a bathroom visit. Bring your Disney pins and talk to them about which ones they want to trade today. Play games of I Spy. Let them experiment (with your help and supervision) with the camera filters on your my Disney experience app, these are so fun and also great distractions when waiting in ride lines!
Once past the rope and into the rest of the theme park we like to take advantage of the fact that most people are running to the big headliner attractions. This is not the strategy with little ones UNLESS there is a particular ride that is very important to you and you are planning to use rider switch. If this is the case then by all means, please go after what you want. Early morning is absolutely the best time to hit a ride that forms long lines through out the day, or offers individual lightning lanes you are unwilling to pay.
With little ones at Magic Kingdom during early entry we like to zig while others zag. We start in Tomorrowland with Buzz Lightyear Space Ranger Spin. We will then knock out the rest of the rides in Tomorrowland and begin working our way around the park counterclockwise. This is our chosen MK strategy because we use Genie+ to reserve Peter Pan, and Dumbo and Winnie the Pooh have entertaining ride lines we do not mind waiting for in standby. We do most of our riding early and then as the crowds pick up we redirect to shows, entertainment, and food. It is also worth noting that you only have to be 38 inches to ride Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, so many young children are eligible. Allyson's family skipped this one until their oldest turned 7, but Meghan's kids rode at age 4. Every kid is different, so keep this in mind!
Our strategy is the opposite if rope dropping with park opening. In this case, we would start in Adventureland (not open during early entry) and try and knock out Jungle Cruise, Pirates, and Flying Carpets as they are really close to one another.
Our Epcot early entry will probably be changing soon with the new addition of Guardians, but for now it really depends on which entrance you are using. If coming in through the World Showcase, you really should take advantage of your close proximity to Remy's Adventure in France then head over to Frozen Ever After. Be aware that Frozen has a little backward drop, it's not scary but has upset our four year old that did not know it was coming. If coming from the main entrance, we recommend either running to Remy or if your kids are tall enough (40 inches) and unbothered by heights, diverting to Soarin'. Another option is to purchase an individual lightning lane for Remy, and use your early entry to focus on other rides and attractions at Epcot.
Hollywood Studios is our favorite park to utilize early entry, and one of the many reasons we love staying in the Boardwalk area resorts. If your kids are all in strollers and you are staying in the Boardwalk area you should walk rather than taking the boat. You will save time and the walk is flat. If you have a child that is walking then the boat may make more sense. Go for Mickey and Minnie's Runaway Railway first and then head to Toy Story Land for Toy Story Mania and Alien Swirling Saucers. We always try and get a Genie+ reservation for Slinky Dog (must be 38 inches to ride). Keep in mind just because they are tall enough does not mean they should ride Slinky! It is fast with drops. Go with your gut on this one.
Animal Kingdom is an interesting one because many of our favorite rides with littles are not open for early entry. We still recommend taking advantage of this time as this park is beautiful and more fun to explore when not crowded. Most people will be going for Avatar Flight of Passage or Expedition Everest first thing in the morning. We recommend either heading to Pandora for Na'vi River Journey or Tough to Be a Bug on Discovery Island. The Safari typically opens at 9am and we highly encourage you to try and experience this ride as early as you can. The animals are usually very active first thing in the morning.
Please keep in mind that this is our advice based on trial and error during our many trips to Disney, but it is one hundred percent based on our own families. Whenever you read advice on any blog or touring plan take into consideration the guidance is opinion. We do not know your children or your family. We are generalizing and using our own family experiences. If your children do not do well in the early morning, will not respond well to the morning rush, or you simply have no interest in going to the theme parks first thing then please do not let our guidance talk you into it. We are just offering advice on how to rope drop as a young family, but completely recognize this plan is not for everyone. If you would like a plan specific to your family then please consider contacting a travel agent that specializes in Disney.
Another thing to keep in mind is things happen that derail even the best made plans. Sometimes a ride you are planning to go to first is down. Sometimes other rides you are not planning to ride are down and that drives more traffic to your ride selection. Sometimes you get out the door later than expected, or you forget something and have to turn back around. There are a multitude of things that can happen, but we still find it is always best to have a plan. Just try not to be so rigid in your plan that you panic when something unexpected occurs. If the rides aren't happening the way you want, it's okay. Remember where you are, on vacation with your favorite people in the most magical place. Grab a tasty treat, take in a show or parade, ask a Disney PhotoPass photographer if they have any magic to share, and get your day back on track.
For our families, we find our best theme park days are those that start early. We like the flexibility it offers us. We can try and hang out in the parks most of the day until we run out of energy, or we can take a break in the middle of the day and return to the theme park again in the evening. We also like to capitalize on our kids' energy in the mornings. Ours are early risers, so we figure we may as well take advantage and spend this time in the parks, especially when extra magic hours help us to avoid longer wait times for attractions.
What about you? Have you rope dropped with little kids? What are your favorite rides to do at rope drop? Comment below, we'd love to hear from you!