Years ago, Disney embarked on a super secret project to re-invent the theme park experience. It came with an abbreviated nickname straight out of Silicon Valley.
They called it NextGen. How totes adorbs of them.
NextGen promised a turnstile-free park entrance, FastPasses without pesky paper slips, and a breezy vacation experience utterly devoid of hassle.
It was a meteor straight to the heart of the Primeval Age of the Wait Time. An extinction event for lines.
Well, here we are. Ready to start our day at the Magic Kingdom.
And what is the deal with all these lines???
Line 1 – The Parking Lot Toll Plaza
If you arrive by car, you must stop and pay for the privilege to turn your car into the world’s largest EasyBake Oven.
Forget the price to park, which is either 20% of your vehicle’s Kelley Blue Book Value, or the GDP of Trinidad, whichever is greater.
There is no FastPass for parking. When things stack up, progress is measured in inches. And no matter which line you choose, you’re still stuck behind the guy paying in quarters, who would also like directions to SeaWorld, if it’s not too much trouble.
You can put a box on your windshield and breeze through all 4,652 miles of Central Florida toll roads, but when it comes to parking at a theme park, the best we can manage is the miserable-cast-member-in-a-sweatbox system.
Line 2 – Parking Your Car
Once you’re through the toll plaza, enjoy about 30 seconds of brisk vehicular motion before you once again grind to a halt.
This is because all cars must be parked in an orderly fashion.
We all the know the rules. Park where the waving Cast Member tells you to park. But there is always that one guy who wants to sneak his minivan into the open space at the front of the row, and has to be scolded into backing up and driving where he’s supposed to.
Either he thinks we are all too stupid to have noticed the vast array of empty spaces that are much closer to the tram, or he’s like the Great Dane who thinks somehow he will not be noticed when he sneaks onto the kitchen counter to swipe a piece of pizza.
Or maybe — just maybe — he’s a total jerk.
Line 3 – Wait for the Tram
Because the average guest has no real conception of just how far away the park is, they are always inclined to wait for the tram, even when it’s clear that another tram will not be arriving until after the congressional midterm elections.
So everyone dutifully lines up at the orange poles and waits patiently for the tram to snake its way through the entire Villain lot before it finally stops at Cruella 83 — only to find out that the wait has just begun.
The tram drivers will make the minimum fourteen “last call” announcements. And just when you think that there is “no further boarding,” you are forced to listen to a legally-mandated recorded safety spiel in two languages that gives you complex rules like “do not jump from a moving tram.”
At this point, the minivan guy from before will now attempt to sneak aboard the tram, halting everything and forcing them to replay the safety spiel.
Line 4 – Wait in Line to Buy Tickets
It’s possible that you took one look at the load speeds of disneyworld.com and decided that purchasing your park tickets at the main gate would be faster.
You’re not wrong, but get ready to wait again. There are more combinations of ticket packages than there are solutions to the Rubik’s cube. And you must decipher all of them.
Approximately 99% of these will involve “not going to the Magic Kingdom,” so if you can figure that out, you will have a leg up on everyone.
It still won’t help your wait time though, since the foreign family ahead of you has never heard of park hopping and their only cash is $14.63 in small change.
Line 5 – Wait for the Monorail
Your tickets are in hand! It’s now time to sample some of that Disney magic by… waiting for a monorail.
The fact that it’s a monorail does take the sting out of waiting, but you’ll quickly get back all that sting and then some when people inevitably crowd the first gate they come to, blocking the way to the cabins at either end of the train, which are only half full.
And count on at least one unscheduled “waiting for further traffic clearance” stop. No matter how slow your monorail is, the one in front of you is even slower, like an old married couple who wants to hold hands the entire trip around the beam.
Cast Members will often implore you to try the Ferry Boat instead, with claims that it takes the same amount of time. Do not believe them. The actual travel time may be the same, but the load time is approximately the duration of The Godfather Part II.
Line 6 – The Bag Check Line
Congratulations! You have actually arrived at the Magic Kingdom! Now it’s time to line up yet again for a pointless search through your diaper bag.
Security guards plucked from the finest nursing home facilities are on hand to perform full cavity searches of every pocket, slot, pouch, and crevasse to make sure you are not carrying any explosives, weapons, or — God help us — selfie sticks.
Even the TSA lets you sign up for a pre-screened option, but not at Walt Disney’s Magic Kingdom. In the interest of safety, there will be no bypassing this line at all.
… Unless you’re wearing hammer pants with cargo pockets under your voluminous hooded sweatshirt instead of carrying bags.
In which case you’re obviously not a threat. Just go through the middle.
Line 7 – The Randomized Metal Detector
New in 2016! It’s another line!
Select guests will experience the magical moment of having their body scanned for dangerous materials through the wonders of modern metal detection!
As near as I can tell, this involves security guards trying to make eye contact with anyone non-threatening enough to smile back. Preferably toddlers.
Drop your keys and your cell phone in the little plastic hat, step through, and watch in amazement as the machine fails to recognize your ginormous belt buckle, much less your ankle holster.
Line 8 – Getting into the Park
This is it! Just on the other side of these glowing Mickey Mouse touchpoints lies the official start of the Magic Kingdom.
Disney’s MagicBand system has helpfully eliminated those time-consuming turnstiles with an open configuration that lets you simply stroll right on in.
All you have to do is simply touch your band to the Mickey and — no, no, you have to touch it right against the touchpoint! The whole band must be touching. Turn your wrist the other– wait, now it’s blue, I have to reset it.
Okay, try it now. Hold on, put your finger on the scanner. Wait! Just hold it on there like — It’s blue again, one second. Nope, still blue. Is that the same finger you used last time?
Are you sure it’s the same finger? Really truly sure? I don’t believe you. You probably used your left pinkie finger when you went to Epcot, and now you’re trying to use your right index finger like a total moron.
Please just listen to me and try a different finger!
Okay, sir, not that finger. There’s no need to be rude.
Line 9 – The iPad Survey Taker
“Hi Ma’am. Welcome to the Magic Kingdom. If I could just have a few seconds of your time to get your zip code– uh, never mind.”
I knew that ankle holster would come in handy.
Line 10 – Rent a Stroller
Little Johnny is still in the ninth grade, so there’s no way he can survive a day of hard touring at the Magic Kingdom without a stroller.
Fortunately, Disney rents them out under the train station, and all you have to do is wait in one more line, shell out eleven-hundred more dollars, and a day of blissful fantasy is yours!
Fortunately, getting the stroller is a breeze because everyone else with you in this tenth line of the day is extremely happy about how everything is going so far.
So write your name proudly with that sharpie, Mom! Wedge yourself into that stroller, Johnny! Tough out that full bladder from the hotel breakfast juice bar, Dad!
It’s time to ride some rides!
… What do you mean my FastPass expired ten minutes ago?