AK Early Arrival

NJD8598

Member
Have a four day trip coming up over Memorial Day weekend. We are staying at Swan to take advantage of being able to walk to two parks and avoid any transportation issues. We had great success(based on Josh's advice) walking to and arriving at the parks early on a quick trip in the fall(among the first people in both days). We're planning to Uber to the Contemporary or Floridian and walk towards MK....but obviously Animal Kingdom presents a bit of challenge. If we Uber to AK early, can we get in? I know parks have been keeping the gates closed later these days. Josh's recent post implies we should be able to get in fairly early....just looking to see if anyone has any thoughts or direct experience recently? If we were taking our own car I wouldn't be as concerned being stuck at a gate, but with Uber I'd like to avoid that.

If all goes well we'll be in Pandora and riding early....then on our way as the park hits official open. We consider ourselves pretty seasoned touring the Parks, but I expect this weekend will challenge our skills.
 

hizouse

Active member
I don't know the timing of DAK parking lot open vs bus arrivals, but I'd consider walking to the Boardwalk and taking the bus to AK.
 

josh

Administrator
Staff member
As an Uber, you'll be treated like any other personal vehicle arrival. So if the parking lot isn't yet open, you'll have to wait with the other cars. That could be awkward, so you might assure them that you tip well. Over Memorial Day, they could be letting people in as early as 75 minutes before official opening, or it could be closer to the 45 to 60 minutes that we see given non holiday crowds.

But anyone who drives for Uber early is used to that wait at least once a morning I would imagine, or at least is used to having to deal with it. The benefit of the Uber is that you'll be dropped off a short distance from bag check/person scan or whatever we are calling that these days, so you'll beat anybody who is parking themselves because they won't even have their seatbelts off before you're inside the Park.

Since the Disney buses come in from another location, it's impossible to say how many arrive before parking is ready to go. I've been there when a couple dozen buses had arrived before they opened parking and I've been there when it looked like about two buses had arrived before parking began. So who has the advantage on any given day may not come out a wash, but it isn't guaranteed to favor one side or the other on any given day. Things could be thrown for a loop in the imminent future though, unfortunately. The other issue with Uber is that surge pricing could be in effect given demand, so your $9 ride could come up as being $40. That isn't an exaggeration.

Walking over to the BoardWalk to take an early bus should be viable, and may be even more so if they reduce distancing on park transportation, like they are just about everywhere else. You could decide what's Plan A and what's Plan B. If Uber is nearby and not charging an arm and a leg, you could grab it. If surge pricing is nuts, then head over to see about the bus. You might be armed with a $10 bill if the wait is more than 15 minutes and either offer it at some point while you sit there or ask if they'd prefer the tip on the app given COVID.

Hope that sort of helps. There's just no telling exactly how things will play out on a certain day and the game seems to be changing a bit at the same time.

So you'll be visiting during an exciting time for all of us ;)
 

NJD8598

Member
Thanks Josh, appreciate the feedback. We are also considering working in a couple park hops to AK to do Flight and whatever else at the end of the night just in case things go south with the early arrival. I'll report back after our trip!
 

NJD8598

Member
Just wanted to come back to this thread and share some feedback on how we did. As mentioned we stayed at Swan for a four day trip over the holiday weekend. Friday walking to Epcot, no issue and I was the first guest to step on a boat for Frozen. Saturday walk to Hollywood Studios also an easy morning as we were some of the first guests in the park and were probably the second or third slinky dog to leave the loading area. Sunday we actually made a bold decision to sleep a little late, then Uber'd to TTC and took the ferry across to MK. The late arrival did set us back on the very low waits, but the extra sleep was nice and we still had a good day.

On Monday for Animal Kingdom we opted for an Uber. With Swan/Dolphin buses not running until 45 minutes before the park opened that wasn't going to work. We could not get a guarantee that Boardwalk's buses would actually be running early enough, plus with the capacity restrictions we were nervous we could get left behind, and we had a bad experience with the buses Saturday night so we kind of loss faith in their current reliability and decided on Uber.

When the Uber picked us up he was familiar with the parking lot opening around 7, we got there about 10 after and the Disney buses were indeed already dropping off guests so they must have been picking up already around 0630. As mentioned the Uber drop off is a pretty good spot and we got right into the park and got ahead of many people with a brisk walk....we ended up in line for Flight in the exterior queue which was a bit disappointing. However the line moved quickly and we were off and on our way in a timely manner. Everest being down set the day back as we would have probably enjoyed several low wait rides back to back that morning.....when it came back up we ran from the Yak and Yeti quick service but only got one ride in before the line spilled out over the bridge towards Dino.

So for the AK arrival from Swan and Dolphin for an 8AM opening, Uber was successful and I would recommend it, however I would be out of the hotel by 0645 to perhaps cut off some of that bus crowd. If they relax social distancing on the buses themselves I'd probably be comfortable taking a Boardwalk bus getting to the stop 0630ish. We had never stayed at Swan or Dolphin but actually ended up loving it. Having your park arrival completely within your control by walking to two parks is really a bonus. Plus we had a nice room with a great view on the 12th floor and enjoyed the Swan's atmosphere....we'll probably be back there for our next trip.
 
Just wanted to come back to this thread and share some feedback on how we did. As mentioned we stayed at Swan for a four day trip over the holiday weekend. Friday walking to Epcot, no issue and I was the first guest to step on a boat for Frozen. Saturday walk to Hollywood Studios also an easy morning as we were some of the first guests in the park and were probably the second or third slinky dog to leave the loading area. Sunday we actually made a bold decision to sleep a little late, then Uber'd to TTC and took the ferry across to MK. The late arrival did set us back on the very low waits, but the extra sleep was nice and we still had a good day.

On Monday for Animal Kingdom we opted for an Uber. With Swan/Dolphin buses not running until 45 minutes before the park opened that wasn't going to work. We could not get a guarantee that Boardwalk's buses would actually be running early enough, plus with the capacity restrictions we were nervous we could get left behind, and we had a bad experience with the buses Saturday night so we kind of loss faith in their current reliability and decided on Uber.

When the Uber picked us up he was familiar with the parking lot opening around 7, we got there about 10 after and the Disney buses were indeed already dropping off guests so they must have been picking up already around 0630. As mentioned the Uber drop off is a pretty good spot and we got right into the park and got ahead of many people with a brisk walk....we ended up in line for Flight in the exterior queue which was a bit disappointing. However the line moved quickly and we were off and on our way in a timely manner. Everest being down set the day back as we would have probably enjoyed several low wait rides back to back that morning.....when it came back up we ran from the Yak and Yeti quick service but only got one ride in before the line spilled out over the bridge towards Dino.

So for the AK arrival from Swan and Dolphin for an 8AM opening, Uber was successful and I would recommend it, however I would be out of the hotel by 0645 to perhaps cut off some of that bus crowd. If they relax social distancing on the buses themselves I'd probably be comfortable taking a Boardwalk bus getting to the stop 0630ish. We had never stayed at Swan or Dolphin but actually ended up loving it. Having your park arrival completely within your control by walking to two parks is really a bonus. Plus we had a nice room with a great view on the 12th floor and enjoyed the Swan's atmosphere....we'll probably be back there for our next trip.
Appreciate this so much! Glad the Swan worked out well. We have a split stay in Aug with 4 nights at Swan, and the walk to epcot and dhs is the sole reason for that choice. Love the info about getting to AK, as I was considering an uber for that. I am definitely in based on your details. You reminded me that I would like to avoid the buses as much as possible.

If you have any other swan-specific tips or discoveries, please do share! Did you eat there or at Dolphin at all? I hear there is a new coffee shop in the Swan lobby. Did you utilize that early? We also plan to walk over to mini golf our first night there (son's request). Did you make any time for that? (probably not with a 4 night stay). Thanks so much for sharing your experience. Very helpful. If you wouldn't mind sharing the exact times you left for Epcot and DHS on foot, it would be much appreciated. The hours for August are the same (I think). 11am open at epcot, 9am at dhs). In fact, would love to hear your "touring plans" for each of those parks--but perhaps I am hijacking this thread (sorry!), and/or maybe you are posting a trip report.
 

NJD8598

Member
Appreciate this so much! Glad the Swan worked out well. We have a split stay in Aug with 4 nights at Swan, and the walk to epcot and dhs is the sole reason for that choice. Love the info about getting to AK, as I was considering an uber for that. I am definitely in based on your details. You reminded me that I would like to avoid the buses as much as possible.

If you have any other swan-specific tips or discoveries, please do share! Did you eat there or at Dolphin at all? I hear there is a new coffee shop in the Swan lobby. Did you utilize that early? We also plan to walk over to mini golf our first night there (son's request). Did you make any time for that? (probably not with a 4 night stay). Thanks so much for sharing your experience. Very helpful. If you wouldn't mind sharing the exact times you left for Epcot and DHS on foot, it would be much appreciated. The hours for August are the same (I think). 11am open at epcot, 9am at dhs). In fact, would love to hear your "touring plans" for each of those parks--but perhaps I am hijacking this thread (sorry!), and/or maybe you are posting a trip report.
Haha no worries, not a hijack at all I'm happy to help. Let me get that info together for you and I'll post back here. But the brief summary is yes there is a coffee shop, expensive but good and efficient...we stopped there each morning. Also had drinks there two nights. Didn't do mini golf this trip but did it years ago. I gotta take a look back at my photo timestamps and get back to you with the specifics.
 

RetroCOTfan

Active member
We also plan to walk over to mini golf our first night there (son's request). Did you make any time for that?
Pardon me while I hijack this hijack...lol.

We played mini golf at Fantasia Gardens a couple of years ago and really enjoyed it. They have two courses there - the Fantasia Gardens course is your standard (but highly themed and enjoyable) mini-golf course, with the expected crazy obstacles and challenges. The other course, Fantasia Fairways, is laid out like a genuine golf course, with "water" and "sand" traps on par-3 to par-5 holes, some of which are really long. It is much more difficult, so for a casual player looking for the "normal" mini-golf experience, I'd recommend the Gardens course. My 13-yr-old son is an avid golfer, though, so we played the Fairways course and had a blast. It was fun playing mini golf that was like an actual "miniature golf" experience! Either way, it's a great venue - have fun!
 
Thank you! This will be a tough choice. My son likes both experiences in general (he is a novice golfer but has started playing a par 3 course around here this summer). Might have to squeeze in two visits! :)
 

NJD8598

Member
Thank you! This will be a tough choice. My son likes both experiences in general (he is a novice golfer but has started playing a par 3 course around here this summer). Might have to squeeze in two visits! :)
lol I remember doing the "easier" course and we still laugh that we were terrible because it was pretty tough.

Anyways here's a quick lineup of our touring. I'll start with Friday below and then follow up in another post with the other days. Just keep in mind that we've been lucky enough to get down there frequently and we made a few decisions to skip some lines that may not be "long" but were too long for us and went a little softer on the touring plan then we might have if we could have park hopped anytime and snagged 4th, 5th, 6th fastpasses.

So using my photo timestamps:

09:36---Arrived at international gateway
10:12---In the park and on our way to Frozen. No sign of anyone from the front of the park and most people actually went towards Soarin and Test Track. Stopped for a couple of photos
10:21----Rode Frozen
Estimate 1030---Looks like we were just about at Test Track, I think we waited about 25 minutes. 1114 I have photos on our way towards the Imagination Pavilion
Estimate 1120---Rode Figment
1130-Stopped at the Butterfly exhibit and took a ton of photos in the area
1145ish-Soarin with minimal wait
Estimate 1210ish--Living with the Land no wait
1230-120 lunch and a drink at some of the festival booths
130-Had to go back to The Land pavilion so another ride on Living with the Land
210-Check out the new front entrance area
220-Ride Spaceship earth
245-Checked out Epcot experience
320-Ride the Mexico ride, waited to get into the pavilion and the ride but probably about 10 minutes in each line, not bad
345-445ish time in World Showcase, photos, a drink, etc
500-Via Napoli dinner(great spot!)

Immediately left Epcot after dinner and got to Hollywood Studio via the walking path to do what we could to take the pressure off the next Morning. Skyliner was down which was frustrating and we didn't want to wait.

630-Runaway Railway, I actually have a pic it was posted at 15 minutes
We then did 2 rides on Tower and 1 on rockin roller coaster. Wait for rocking roller coaster was a bit longer.

We then hopped back to Epcot to see the front entrance fountain lit up at night, stopped in the big festival pavilion, took photos, I think we rode one ride but can't remember what. Back at the hotel at 1020! We could have done more, but we were happy with the day.

Tomorrow I'll post our HS day.

-Nick
 
Holy moly, that is an AWESOME day!! Thanks for taking the time to post. I expect we will not enjoy the same smooth sailing due to increased crowd capacity/August heat/downpours...but this is inspirational. :) Who is in your travel party? Love the butterfly exhibit! Have only done via napoli once and pizza was delish. Debating on making an ADR or just sticking with the festival in August (which we have never done). And I wonder how much walking you did! We will not be hopping this trip but I am super impressed at the ground you covered. Looking forward to next post! Thanks again.
 

NJD8598

Member
Travel party is myself and two other friends in our 30's. We leave anyone that can slow us down home these days lol. We are planning a larger group trip with all the families and kids some time in the next couple years. That'll have a different touring plan for sure. 13.7 miles on foot for Friday.

Saturday:

0802-Outside the HS gates on the move
0807-Held at tapstiles
0824-Approaching Slinky back out front at 0830 I have a photo of the line down to the DVC kiosk
-At this point we did Rockin Roller Coaster and one or two rides on Tower
0909-Breakfast(the blueberry mickey waffles from Hollywood Scoops(highly recommend!)
0920ish-Star Tours, about a 25 minute wait
1000-Toy Story Mania, about a 20 minute wait
1030-Mickey Bars
1050-Muppets 3D
Stalled for a bit until our boarding group was called around 1130 which worked out great, then a bit of time in Galaxy's Edge
1230-Brown Derby lunch(glad we started taking Josh's advice on this spot)
145-Gondola ride out to Art of Animation(first time on the skyliner for one of us) and bus from there to MK
219-MK arrival, I have a bad accounting of what we did but I know it was Rockin Roller Coaster, Haunted Mansion, Tiki Room, People Mover(x2?)
500-Monorail to and drinks at the Floridian
600-Path back to MK, this path is awesome and worth a stroll, we had it to ourselves.
Mine Train with a wait and Splash with a wait to end the night.

13 miles that day. Sunday next post.
 
Travel party is myself and two other friends in our 30's. We leave anyone that can slow us down home these days lol. We are planning a larger group trip with all the families and kids some time in the next couple years. That'll have a different touring plan for sure. 13.7 miles on foot for Friday.



13 miles that day. Sunday next post.
Ha! Exactly. Get on board or get out of the way. :)

And I certainly could tell you were covering A LOT of ground, which is why I asked about your party, but holy moly! Impressive. Certainly frees you up to indulge!

I would kill for that DHS morning. Would love to hear about your Brown Derby lunch. We are trying that this trip for first time. It might actually enable me to stay in that park longer than 3 hours without losing my mind.

And I also cannot wait for the walking path from GF to MK!

I will say it has been 2.5 years since our last trip, and of course I am not getting any younger. I am very curious to see what I can and cannot do in the heat these days. My ambitions may not translate to reality. I am actually trying to improve my fitness for the trip (and for other reasons, too--but mostly the trip :). You and your 13 mile days have inspired me! (Ours will not involve hopping so they will be not quite as demanding).
 

NJD8598

Member
Ha! Exactly. Get on board or get out of the way. :)

And I certainly could tell you were covering A LOT of ground, which is why I asked about your party, but holy moly! Impressive. Certainly frees you up to indulge!

I would kill for that DHS morning. Would love to hear about your Brown Derby lunch. We are trying that this trip for first time. It might actually enable me to stay in that park longer than 3 hours without losing my mind.

And I also cannot wait for the walking path from GF to MK!

I will say it has been 2.5 years since our last trip, and of course I am not getting any younger. I am very curious to see what I can and cannot do in the heat these days. My ambitions may not translate to reality. I am actually trying to improve my fitness for the trip (and for other reasons, too--but mostly the trip :). You and your 13 mile days have inspired me! (Ours will not involve hopping so they will be not quite as demanding).
Yea that heat beat us up a little bit. Never seems to get any easier....and I came back north and have experienced Florida weather for the past four days lol.

As for the Derby lunch I think Josh's past review's sum it up well. "Plentiful" air conditioning, comfortable tables, attentive wait staff, and above average food. My iced tea was refilled more times than I probably needed and there is a large beer/wine menu if you want to go that route. This trip I had the burger which was done very well, last trip Cobb salad which was also very good. The french fries have changed since the fall when they were steak fries, they're thinner now. Our third guest had the chicken which he described as "good, but nothing special"

Saturday: MK with the 8AM open, again given our relative success we opted to sleep a bit late

820-In the Uber to TTC, through security quickly and right onto a waiting ferry
842-First photo on main street
---Jungle Cruise was posting a 5 minute wait, upon arrival is was very clear there was not a 5 minute wait. I suspect many of the switchbacks weren't open but the line was out at the stairs and we didn't risk it. Wait jumped up shortly after---
910-Pirates with a bit of a wait
922-Big Thunder
930ish-Peoplemover and Space, can't remember which we did first and no photos
958-Break for a snack and some caffeine
1030ish-Carosel of Progress
1045ish-I did another peoplemover ride, friends did teacups which I can't stand
1100ish-Got in line for Splash, about a 40 minute wait
1245-We were going to take a boat to Wilderness for a drink but the boat was taking too long, we hopped on the resort monorail to the Contemporary. Had a drink at Outer Rim and walked over some food from Contempo Cafe(always had good meals here)
215-After walking over we were back on main street
310-Mine train with about a 45 minute wait.
320-Walk towards Fantasyland Station to check out Tron construction
--I have a gap here, we might have done haunted mansion
445-We're on the riverboat
500-Dinner at Liberty Tree. They were running about 20 minutes behind so there was some peoplewatching around then. Rain also moved in while we had dinner

At 710 we hopped to Epcot. This was a highlight of the trip, the sun was down enough that you could comfortably explore world showcase without dripping with sweat. We spent some time walking around. Because of the rain there was an amazing sunset...photos are some of the best I have from any of my trips. Then we realized there was live music in the theatre in America so we grabbed beers and watched the show which was fantastic! Worked in a Test Track ride on the way out, back at the hotel by 1045.
 
Glad Brown Derby was a success.

Another stellar day! A lot of similarities to what we would do at MK. 45 min for 7DMT in the middle of the day does not seem terrible. At all. I can count on one hand the number of times I have been in a park at 3pm. This will be my first trip where we try for some days without an afternoon break so I am very interested to see your afternoon activities.

My son loves to spin me until I am about to die on teacups. That is a tradition. I hope it is being refurbished in August.

Really hoping we have a similar epcot experience to yours! Last time we were there I couldn't believe how packed and drunk the countries were. It seemed like a big shift/totally different vibe that I missed somehow. I don't mean to be judgmental towards people who party in Epcot, it was just unexpected and there was just a vibe that I had not experienced at DW before. Simply walking the path was difficult. Kids were running everywhere while parents hung out. Anyway, I hope we have a better experience this time.

How was LTT? Another restaurant I am hemming and hawing (sp?) about. Was leaning towards the Plaza but toffee cake...
 
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