By the co-author of The easy Guide to Your Walt Disney World Visit 2020, the best-reviewed Disney World guidebook series ever.

Available on Amazon here.

(As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.)

Category — Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge

Hollywood Studios During the Crisis: Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway Delayed Until Spring 2020

“The only end of writing is to enable readers better to enjoy life, or better to endure it.” –Samuel Johnson


In another surprise, although rumored for a while, Disney (in an oh-by-the-way style) announced late last week that the new ride being developed in the old Great Movie Ride space at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway, would have its opening shifted from this fall to the spring of 2020.

The immediate concern of everyone was the impact on crowds at Disney’s Hollywood Studios after the partial opening of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge in late August.  The widespread perspective is that Disney needs another high capacity attraction to give the crowds drawn by Galaxy’s Edge something else to do besides building up the lines of the currently existing rides and shows.

But on reflection, I can think of a couple of ways that this decision might actually be good for lines at Hollywood Studios (other than in Galaxy’s Edge).  [Read more →]

April 21, 2019   3 Comments

Fall Breaks in 2019 and Disney World Crowds

As explained here, where I cover when kids go back to school, I am kicking off my annual school calendar analysis early this year.

In this post, I am covering fall breaks.

Fall breaks as I define them analytically are periods when kids have at least a three day weekend, after Labor Day and before Veterans Day.

These off days can be for any reasons–they can be labeled as a “Fall Break,” can be simply a three day (or longer) weekend for Columbus Day, or simply can be an artifact of a teacher’s workday/”Professional Development” day being scheduled before or after a weekend. [Read more →]

April 8, 2019   No Comments

End of Summer 2019 Crowds at Walt Disney World

Every year, with the help of one of my niecelets, I collect the calendars for the upcoming school year for about 15 million US schoolkids—about a third of the US schoolkid population.

I weight these calendars, by state, based on the respective contribution of that state to this website’s visits, graphically analyze them, and use the results to note how the ability of kids to be easily out of school can affect Walt Disney World crowds.

I usually do this work in June, for the simple reason that while some school districts have no trouble posting their calendars for the next three or four years, some districts in some particular states—and yes, I am glaring at you, Michigan, and a bit at you, New Jersey—have problems getting out the next school years’ calendar even by early June.

This year, the niecelet and I launched this work early, as while I had no idea that Star Wars would partially in late August, I did suspect we would get an opening date before my traditional June presentation of this work.

The niecelet turned over to me her first pass through the ~280 districts we track at the end February (we track the 100 largest school districts, regardless of location, and then another 179 large districts mostly east of the Rockies, in states that contribute most of the visitors to this site), and we had then calendars for about 64% of the districts that schooled 69% of the 15.4 million kids we track.

By early April, I declared in victory on this early round of data collection, with calendars for 90% of districts and 89% of kids—13.7 million–in hand. I’ll am now publishing a series on the results of this work, and after the series is out, will be revising the second half of my 2019 crowd calendar.

This first one is about when summer 2019 school breaks end. [Read more →]

April 7, 2019   No Comments

Hollywood Studios During the Crisis: Extra Magic Hours

“The only end of writing is to enable readers better to enjoy life, or better to endure it.” –Samuel Johnson


As I discussed here, when Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge partially opens at Disney’s Hollywood Studios on August 29, no FastPass+ will be available.

Some have questioned the benefit of staying in a resort that offers access to FastPass+ at 60 days if the hottest new ride will not be eligible for FastPass+.

I guess my first point would be that 60 day FastPass+ in the rest of Disney’s Hollywood Studios—for Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway (now delayed until 2020), Slinky Dog Dash, Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster, Tower of Terror, the Frozen Sing-Along will be even more valuable if crowding increases at the Studios.

But the best reason for those focused on Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge to stay in a resort with 60 day FastPass+ eligibility might be an expanded set of Extra Magic Hours–perhaps greatly expanded. [Read more →]

April 1, 2019   4 Comments

Hollywood Studios During the Crisis: FastPass+

“The only end of writing is to enable readers better to enjoy life, or better to endure it.” –Samuel Johnson


When Disney announced the partial opening on August 29, 2019  of Star Wars: Galaxy Edge in Walt Disney World’s Hollywood Studios theme park, it noted that while Galaxy’s Edge would be open during that park’s Extra Magic Hours, that FastPass+ would not be “initially” available for the sole ride to open then—Smuggler’s Run.

What this means is that access to the ride will happen via the old fashioned way—by waiting in line.

There could in fact be as many as four lines

  • A line to enter the park, which will start developing each day well before official open
  • A set of lines that I am counting as one to get through security and get your tickets scanned
  • A line to enter the land Galaxy’s Edge itself, and
  • A line to access the ride

(Note that there may be as well lines on the roadways to enter the parking lots and bus drop off points—I’ve suggested hotels that would avoid these lines elsewhere.)

The decision to not initially offer FastPass+–and what I view as the related decision to not open the previously-announced table service restaurant in Galaxy’s Edge—creates much operational simplicity, which will benefit some guests.

Otherwise there would be three ways to gain access to Galaxy’s Edge

  • A line for those whose FastPass+ return times are imminent
  • A line for those with an imminent table service reservation, and
  • A line for everybody else

Between visitors new to Disney World who have not learned about FastPass+, predictable language difficulties, and normal human frailty, these three different logics for entering the land create the potential for much confusion—and much wasted time among guests who discover a bit late that they are in the wrong line.

The choice to not offer FastPass+ also has positive implications for the rest of the park.

Imagine two late morning scenarios.

  • In the first, no one has FastPass+, four hours worth of people are waiting to ride Smugglers Run, two hours more of the ride’s capacity are waiting in line on Grand Avenue to enter Galaxy’s Edge, and five thousand people are in Galaxy’s Edge itself but not in line for the ride. At a capacity of perhaps 1,800 riders per hour, those folks sum to about 16,000 people who are not elsewhere in Disney’s Hollywood Studios.
  • In the second scenario, 70% of the ride’s capacity has been dedicated to FastPass+, but there’s no more space in Galaxy’s Edge to put them. That takes 7,500 people out of the lines and puts them elsewhere in Disney’s Hollywood Studios, driving up in the rest of the park lines, wait times, and aggravation.

The comparable numbers are even more stark when both rides are open—the second ride here, Rise of the Resistance, is expected to open “later this year.” When both are open, in the first scenario with no FastPass+, 26,000 people are physically waiting for entry to the land, to the rides, or in the land but not waiting for a ride; in the other scenario, 11,500 are absorbed in the land, and 15,000 folks with upcoming FastPass+ are elsewhere in the park.

Obviously I’ve made some simplifying assumptions here, and of course no one—not even Disney—knows what the incremental impact of Galaxy’s Edge will be on the park, nor how long waits associated with it will be.

But the key is that since that is unknown, the approach Disney is taking to FastPass+—making it not available, and rationing rides by waits instead—means that many people who would be otherwise elsewhere in Disney’s Hollywood Studios will instead be ring-fenced into lines for Galaxy’s Edge.


Follow on Facebook or Twitter or Pinterest!!

March 25, 2019   6 Comments

The Best Hotels for Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge


Especially after the complete opening of Star Wars: Galaxy’ Edge later this year—it will see a partial opening on August 29th—there’s the real potential for challenges in getting to Disney’s Hollywood Studios, the theme park in which Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge will be found in Walt Disney World.

The main point I am concerned about is congestion on the roadways to Disney’s Hollywood Studios, yielding back-ups and delays for those who use their cars or the bus-based component of the Disney transportation system to get to that park.

There are two groups of hotels from which you can get to Galaxy’s Edge without being on a road—the Epcot resorts, from which you can walk, and the Skyliner resorts, from which you can take a gondola.

I am a little less ken on the Gondola resorts, for two reasons. First, the opening date for gondola operations has not yet been announced. I think it would be nuts for Galaxy’s Edge to partially open on August 29 without the gondolas operating—but Disney has surprised me before. Second, the best strategy for seeing Galaxy’s Edge without a wait is to arrive before everyone else, and it is not clear—and may not be for a while—how early in the morning the Skyliner will begin operations.

In contrast, walking from the Epcot resorts can be done now, and at any time of day or night. The Epcot resorts are substantially more expensive than the Gondola resorts (at least until Disney’s Riviera Resort opens), but staying in one of them is the best way to guarantee access to the front of Disney’s Hollywood Studios at the time you intend to get to there, as all the variables are under your own control.


From the Epcot resorts you can walk to Disney’s Hollywood Studios whenever you want, even in the middle of the night—which might be required.

The Epcot resorts are all within a mile’s walk of Disney’s Hollywood Studios, via a path on the side of the BoardWalk Villas that’s closest to the Swan and Dolphin.

On the map, I’ve drawn the shared part of the path in red, and then used individual other colors to highlight the paths from the main entrances of the resorts to this common path.

The shortest walk to Disney’s Hollywood Studios is from the BoardWalk Inn and BoardWalk Villas—with some Villas rooms twice as close to the Studios as the most distant Beach Club rooms. You’ll note on the map that the Swan, Dolphin, and Yacht Club have colored lines about the same length—indicating that they are about equal walks, and that while some Beach Club rooms will be almost as close as some Yacht Club rooms, in general Beach Club and Beach Club Villas guests will typically have the longest walks.

There are many other factors for choosing among these resorts, all detailed in the reviews you’ll find in the links, based on my 25+ stays in these hotels.

Those visiting during the partial opening period may find some difficulty in booking an Epcot resort, as these are popular this time of year because of Epcot’s fall Food & Wine Festival, and also see some major conventions in October. But at least as of today, you can find openings—the claims you will hear from some that “the Disney hotels filled as soon as Star Wars was announced” simply aren’t true. That said, while there is availability, rooms are still hard to find, especially for longer trips and trips that include Friday and Saturday nights.


Disney’s Skyliner gondola system, currently undergoing testing, will link Disney’s Art of Animation, Pop Century, Caribbean Beach, and, after it opens at the end of the year, the much more expensive Disney’s Riviera resort, to Epcot and Disney’s Hollywood Studios.

So from the Disney Skyliner resorts, once the Skyliner opens, you can take a gondola to Disney’s Hollywood Studios. I am more concerned about this option, as while it will be fine for guests returning from a late night visit, we don’t yet know how early in the morning it will being running.

All Skyliner resort guests except those at Caribbean Beach Resort will need to change gondolas at the Caribbean Beach station, so folks staying at Caribbean Beach will be in the best location for gondola access to Galaxy’s Edge. Standard rooms at Pop Century and Art of Animation are a bit cheaper, but there are many pros and cons to all three resorts, detailed in the reviews at the links above based on my 30 stays among them.

Note also that the Bonnet Creek resort area, a privately owned plot including hotels owned by third parties, is literally right next to Caribbean Beach.

As the crow flies, the closest rooms in the Bonnet Creek Resort Area* are just a third of a mile from the Caribbean Beach Skyliner station. But there is nothing like a path you can actually take, so the hike from these to the Caribbean Beach station is actually more like 2 miles, with no actual walking path —just grassy verges—for most of this distance. And that’s assuming that security will let you walk into the resort, which frankly is not known now. If such access is permitted, then the walk will get a bit better for this after Riviera station opens, as it will be a shorter walk.

*The Wyndham Resort, Wyndham Grand, Waldorf Astoria Orlando, and Hilton Orlando Bonnet Creek.

Note that the last two of these are both newly eligible for both Extra Magic Hours and FastPass+ at 60 days but also are the furthest from the Skyliner (regardless of route). The Extra Magic Hour access could be quite valuable for Galaxy’s Edge. At least for the time being, Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge won’t be offering FastPass+ access, but the FastPass+ at 60 days access is handy for many other rides.

The long time travel agent partner of this site, Kelly, can try to get you into an Epcot resort, a Skyliner resort—or any other Walt Disney World hotel! Contact her using the form below.

  • Date Format: MM slash DD slash YYYY
  • Date Format: MM slash DD slash YYYY


Follow on Facebook or Twitter or Pinterest!!

March 24, 2019   13 Comments