Tired of waiting in lines at Disney World? There is a solution…the Virtual Queue! Last year in Disney started implementing this new attraction queuing system by assigning boarding groups to riders. Is Disney’s Virtual Queue going to be expanded throughout the parks and to more attractions?
Disneyland and Disney World introduced a virtual queuing system which has been designed to limit the crowds and make visiting the parks a more enjoyable experience overall. How does it work though and is it a good idea?
We’ve had a chance to experience the virtual queue ourselves many times and feel confident that we can share with you everything you need to know about it including why it’s the best solution for Disney attractions and superior to FastPass+.
In this post, we are going to share with you the basics of the Disney Virtual Queueing system and Boarding Passes. We’ll cover: When you need to use it and a Step-by-Step How to get a boarding pass/group.
We’ll do our best to answer all your questions, and give you the best strategy to get into the Virtual Queue so you can get to experience all your favorite Disney World rides, without waiting in line.
(UPDATE 10/19/20) – Disney World may be making more additions to the Virtual Queue by adding Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run and Jungle Cruise in the near future. This would help with the excess crowds at those attractions.
Read more of this in the NEWS section down below…
While the Virtual Queue won’t be used right now as much as previously thought, it is being used to ride Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance in Galaxy’s Edge.
Right now Disney World is only using the Virtual Queue system and boarding passes at this time for Rise of the Resistance, though that might change soon.
Also, Disney is not using FastPass+ and the Single Rider option is not available.
Instead, Disney is using the regular attraction queues, and FastPass+ queues to control crowds getting in line for various rides. In Disney’s opinion, this will give them the best option at this time.
So far this strategy has been effective, but only when crowd levels have been down in the parks. Once more people started coming in September and October, many of the attraction queues became full and wait times swelled dramatically. We are very curious to find out how they will continue to manage the more popular rides in Walt Disney World moving forward.
To find out what else Disney is working on, read our post about All the New Disney World Guidelines and Changes coming when the parks reopen. If you are looking for general information about all the changes coming to the parks and resorts, read our Disney World Reopening Guide.
We’re keeping this page updated with all the latest news about boarding groups and the Virtual Queue so as soon as Disney announces any new details we’ll let you know. If they decided to use it even more it is going to have BIG implications on your park touring strategy, so stay tuned for more.
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(NEWS 10/19/20) Disney World Possibly Adding More Attractions to Virtual Queue
With the new guidelines that the Disney parks have put in place after reopening, it was widely thought that Virtual Queues would be a big part of that plan, helping guests with distancing while in line for attractions. Now it looks like that is happening with more attractions rumored to be using the Virtual Queue shortly.
cAccording to wdwiic.com both the Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run and Jungle Cruise attractions will be added to the Virtual Queue list in an effort to keep excessive crowds out of those queues.
Adding Smugglers Run to the Virtual Queue makes sense since visitors of Galaxy’s Edge are already used to using the queue, and because the attraction receives large numbers of people throughout the day.
The Jungle Cruise would be the first attraction to use the Virtual Queue in Disney’s Magic Kingdom Park, but it makes sense due to the high number of people that go on it combined with the fact that it has one of the shorter queues to begin with.
The boarding groups would work the same way for these two attractions as they do now. Geet a Boarding Pass through the app and come back to ride when your number is called. This would give guests of both of these attractions the option to visit other rides, shops or restaurants while waiting, instead of being stuck in line.
It looks like after months of testing the Virtual Queue, Disney is now comfortable with expanding it to other rides. The hope is that with rising crowds throughout the parks, this will take some of the pressure off the already full queues.
Some people are not happy with the change due to the bad guest experience for Rise of the Resistance. In our opinion, that is mostly due to the ride’s constant mechanical issues, delays and extreme popularity of the ride itself. We don’t see the same issues happening with Smuggler’s Run and Jungle Cruise.
The only question now however is what will happen to the other attractions that don’t have the Virtual Queues? Will those lines get even longer now with people not waiting in the rides using the Virtual Queue?
Stay tuned for more soon…
The rest of the article shows how to use the Disney Virtual Queue when it is being used in the Disney Parks and the benefits if Disney decides to expand it to more rides.
What is the Disney Virtual Queue? Boarding Groups?
The virtual queue is a new way to queue up for an attraction in the theme parks, without actually having to get in line and wait hours for your favorite attraction. It’s a way to wait in line, but not physically have to stand there waiting in line.
Guests are given a boarding group and put into a virtual queue and if you want to go do something else like shopping or eat something, you can. Then you come back when it’s your turn in the queue.
The virtual queue is an alternative to traditional line queueing and the popular FastPass+ system, both of which are heavily flawed.
Disney implemented the virtual queuing system for Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge anticipating large crowds for the new land. However, it was really put to use when Rise of the Resistance opened up and from there, getting a boarding group has been the only way to actually ride it.
If you are looking for instructions specific to that attraction, read our Rise of the Resistance Boarding Groups Guide where we break down the specific strategies needed to score a pass for the hardest-to-ride attraction in Disney World.
Fans have made their opinions known, either loving it and praising its effectiveness or hating it with a passion. It has its pros and cons (we’ll discuss those later), but there is no doubt it’s here to stay and Disney is soon going to be ramping up its usage in the parks after the closure finishes.
Which Disney Parks Use the Virtual Queue?
Right now Disney has only used the Virtual Queue in Hollywood Studios with Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge and Rise of the Resistance.
If Disney really has a bigger plan to use the virtual queue as a way of keeping guests distanced from each other and getting Disney World and Disneyland back open, they’ll need to add it to more parks than where it’s used now.
Eventually, you could see the virtual queue be used in all 4 Disney World theme parks (Magic Kingdom, Animal Kingdom, EPCOT, and Hollywood Studios) as well as Disneyland and California Adventure on the West coast.
What would be a little more challenging would be using boarding groups at the water parks since bringing your phone with you on a waterslide isn’t the best experience. The need for distancing in the water parks, however, is less since most rides have outdoor queues.
We could see boarding groups becoming a staple of touring the parks at some point in the future.
What Attractions Use Virtual Queues?
Since the Disney World parks reopened, only Rise of the Resistance is currently using the virtual queue. Obviously, that could get expanded to other attractions, but how many and which ones will Disney include? Here are a few ideas:
If Disney decides to use the Virtual Queue more in the parks, it could go one of two ways:
- Only use boarding groups for the most popular rides, the ones that always have long wait times and long lines.
- Use it for ALL rides.
Conventional wisdom might say that the virtual queue should be used on all attractions no matter how popular. This is probably going to depend on how crowded the parks continue to get now that they are reopened.
Since we know that Disney has put ground markers inside the attraction queues to keep a minimum distance between guests, some attractions might not need the virtual queue if the queues don’t fill up.
Figuring out which rides will get the virtual queue is anyone’s guess at this time, but it should start with the most popular rides in the parks that are known to have long wait times.
Here are the rides we think will most likely use boarding passes in the near future:
Magic Kingdom Park – Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, Splash Mountain, Space Mountain, Big Thunder Mountain, Peter Pan’s Flight, Jungle Cruise
Popular rides like Pirates of the Caribbean and Haunted Mansion could also be included, but they use an omnimover system which is able to handle a large number of guests already so depending on the crowds it might not be necessary. TRON Lightcycle Run is a popular choice when it opens in 2021.
EPCOT – Frozen Ever After, Test Track, Soarin’ Around the World
These are all likely since they are the most popular in the park. We might also see the virtual queue added for Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure and Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind whenever those debut.
If you haven’t been to the Studios in a while, they have a lot of really good rides now! All of the ones mentioned above will see big crowds and could benefit from the virtual queue.
Animal Kingdom – Flight of Passage, Expedition Everest, Dinosaur, Kilimanjaro Safaris, Kali River Rapids, Na’vi River Journey
Not all the attractions I listed are definitely getting boarding passes, but they are the most obvious ones in each park. I think Disney would do well to start with those. Then if they see a need to add more attractions to the list it can be done.
Again, based on Disney’s behind-the-scenes testing they have been already running for additional virtual queues in the parks, we have to think they were already targeting these attractions anyway, so it makes sense to have them be the first ones now.
If Disney World implants more virtual queues, then you can be sure the rides in Disneyland will also use them. Marvel’s Avengers Campus is the prime candidate, perhaps even just to permit access into the land as they did with Galaxy’s Edge. If not for the land, then it at least makes sense for the new WEB Slingers: A Spider-Man Adventure ride.
This looks like the future of Disney lines, and it just might be the perfect time for them to implement it.
What Changes Need to Be Made First?
While all of this sounds outstanding, there are still some changes that need to be made before Disney can make the virtual queue the primary, or even only way for guests to ride the attractions.
The first problem is solving how many virtual queues or boarding groups you can join at once. Right now the limit is only one so it’s easy to use. Get your boarding pass, use it and you’re done. Obviously, if there were multiple attractions using the virtual queue though, Disney might decide it’s best to let guests join two or three queues at a time, much like FastPass+.
The big problem with boarding groups that everyone complains about is that you have get to the parks really early to use them, and even then, you aren’t guaranteed to get one. If boarding groups were limited to one at a time, however, this wouldn’t be a problem because not all guests would necessarily choose the same attraction as their first choice.
Guests would then report to that attraction when their entrance time occurs and then go ahead with joining another virtual queue for the next attraction. Disney could limit only one ride per attraction per day, at least for the super-popular ones, that way most everyone gets a chance to ride. That is how Rise of the Resistance currently runs.
This would be a lot like the old FastPass rules where you would go from attraction to attraction getting tickets. Once you ride the first attraction, you get to make another selection. It’s not perfect but it
Guests might be given a choice of waiting 4 hours to ride one attraction, or perhaps 20 minutes to ride another. That would make it interesting strategy-wise and encourage people to select some of the less-popular ones.
One change we’ve seen to Disney’s Virtual Queue is not releasing all boarding groups at once first thing in the morning. The idea is to have waves of boarding groups throughout the day giving guests who arrive later in the day the chance to still ride some good attractions.
Currently Rise of the Resistance has Virtual Queue distribution times at 10:00 am, 1:00 pm, and 4:00 pm. This gives you a chance, even later in the day.
If Disney starts allowing multiple queues at once as implied in the app leak, then things will get more complicated to figure out a good touring strategy, and it would depend on how many and how much attendance the parks have.
The virtual queue might also be a hybrid system that works together with regular standby queues. In the morning everything is open and walk-on until guests start filling those queues. Once the line gets to a certain point, the virtual queue is turned on for that attraction. Guests would see this in a list in My Disney Experience. This way, the less-popular attractions might not need to use the virtual queue.
This all hinges on having the right amount of people being given entrance to the parks. If the number is low, there should be enough rides available for everyone. Disney would have to come up with a balance between how many people they let in the park in order to make sure they each get their 6.8 rides per day to feel satisfied.
The goal with the virtual queue is to perfect a queuing system for the future where long wait times are all but eliminated. We’re still years away from that, but this is one step in the right direction.
Virtual Queue System vs. FastPass+
A lot of the principles behind the virtual queuing system are the same that already exist with FastPass. Let people “skip” the lines by making a reservation, tell them when to come back and hopefully make it a short wait when they do.
However, since the main priority right now is to keep people far from each other, the virtual queue makes it much easier to do. A big problem with FastPass+ is that you don’t know when people will show up to the attraction to ride.
The way it works normally, FastPass+ is a pretty good system for spacing out when people show up to ride. However, at times you can get a big group of people that show up at the beginning or end of return windows, creating a blockage at the entrance, which wouldn’t be good in the current situation.
This is further made a challenge if a ride goes down as then you have a backlog of guests all trying to return later in the day at once. The virtual queue can be controlled easier and depending on how the line is looking can be sped up to let more groups board or fewer.
Another problem with FastPass+ is the need to book ahead of time. This is ok when you only are using it for three rides per day, but imagine if there were no standby lines and the only option was to make selections for ALL your rides 60 days before going. That’s a lot of pressure to have to decide that far out and you can’t expect guests to choose 8 attractions and have every second of the day planned from morning until night.
Instead of using the virtual queue and limiting it to one or two queues at a time, it allows guests to make decisions much more in the spur of the moment when they are there in the park and can evaluate the situation and existing wait times.
Best of Both Worlds
One solution would be to use both a standby queue, with potentially a mix of FastPass and Virtual Queue. Keep FastPass+ and let guests make their 3 choices from home like always. This assures they get to ride at least one of the attractions they really want to that day.
Once they get to the park, open up all attractions using regular queues in the morning until the ride hits capacity. You could have multiple checkpoints at rope drop each day and only let a few guests in at a time to keep them from creating huge masses of people. This would be both at the park entrance and once inside the park.
Once a certain ride hits capacity, they turn on the virtual queue for that ride, and people can make their selections. Limit the number of virtual queues they can be in, to only 1 or two at a time.
Release boarding groups in waves throughout the day, stopping people from all going after the same one at rope drop and it selling out first thing in the morning.
Even if you chose not to do that and you opened up all boarding groups immediately, it could still work. Yes, some attractions would sell out, but they did back in the day with the paper FastPass system too. It forces guests to make a choice of what ride they really want to do that day and yeah you can get a Flight of Passage boarding group, but you may have to wait 3 hours to ride which means missing out on another attraction.
There is no perfect solution at this point, but it’s the best option to run with the new restrictions now in the parks. Would you rather be in Disney World and potentially ride fewer attractions each day, or be stuck at home not riding anything? These ideas can be built upon and I’m confident Disney can come up with a temporary solution that at least can appease the majority of people.
(Update) – Since Disney announced FastPass+ is suspended for the time being, we don’t think they will go this route of a hybrid Virtual Queue/FastPass+ system. Instead, it looks like they are going to start Virtual Queue more.
That is the latest in what could happen if Disney used the Virtual Queue more in the parks. The majority of the rest of this article is to show you how the virtual queue has worked up until now, including instructions on how to use it. Many of these rules have been carried over now that the parks have reopened, and we added what might work best for others.
Before You Go
The first thing to do before you get to the park is to Download the My Disney Experience (Disney World) or Disneyland app. You don’t want to get there without this installed on your mobile device as it’s the easiest way to get a boarding pass.
Make sure your app has the latest updates downloaded to avoid any errors or downloading problems from the park.
We also highly recommend testing it out from home first. You can run some practice runs with the virtual queue and getting a boarding pass and simulate what it will be like when you are actually there. This is one of the biggest reasons people don’t get the rides they want as they are then unfamiliar with what to do when the pressure is on.
Make sure you are logged in to your My Disney Experience account before going. The last thing you want is to find out you don’t know your password and can’t get in.
In order to ride with your family and friends, you all need to be connected together in My Disney Experience. Again, do this from home and make sure you can each see each other. Small children or people without accounts can be guests in your account.
If you or anyone in your party has an E-Ticket, this needs to be synced to your My Disney Experience account BEFORE getting to the park. Otherwise, it will take you forever at the ticket window and you’ll miss crucial time used for getting boarding passes.
How Virtual Queues and Boarding Groups Work
It’s absolutely crucial to understand how the virtual queue system works before going, otherwise, you won’t be able to ride any attraction that requires it on your visit. Let’s take a look at how it works so you understand the whole process:
Choose How to Enter the Virtual Queue
First of all, you and your party need to be inside the Disney park you are trying to get boarding passes for. You can’t join from home, or even outside the park entrance, only in the park.
Once inside, there are two ways to enter a boarding group:
- My Disney Experience App
- In-Park Kiosk (currently not available)
Using the My Disney Experience app is much better because you don’t have to run around the park trying to find a kiosk to make your reservations. Secondly, you don’t have to fight in line with other people to use the kiosk once you find it.
The app saves you time and could be the difference between getting your favorite ride or not.
The boarding group will save you a virtual spot in line so you can enjoy other experiences while you wait to be notified of a time to enter. Once you receive your pass you will be given a boarding group number which will determine when you will be able to enter Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge.
Checking for Availability
If you are using the Walt Disney World app or Disneyland app then the first thing you want to do when you get to the park is check there if the attraction you are looking for is already at capacity and if a boarding pass is required. If you arrive early enough then there might not be any need to get into the virtual queue.
There will be signage up when you enter the park telling you if you need a boarding pass or if the ride/land is open. You can also check this on the My Disney Experience or Disneyland app.
Joining Virtual Queue from App
Here are the steps you need to take to join the virtual queue with the app:
- As soon as you enter the theme park, open My Disney Experience and there will be a button to join a boarding group or virtual queue right on the home page. (This is available after the official park opening time, so if you try it before it won’t work). The “Virtual Queues” option in the app menu also gives you access.
- Click on “Join Virtual Queue.” You will then see the boarding status of the attractions and if boarding groups are still available.
- Find the attraction you are looking for and if boarding groups are available, tap the “Join” button.
- You will then be given a boarding group number. This number decides the order in which you can ride the attraction. There is also an “Estimated Return” time so you know when to ride.
- You can navigate whatever virtual queues you are in clicking on “My Queues” on the top right of the screen. *(this has been put back after being temporarily removed from the app.)
- When your number is called, proceed to the attraction entrance.
When Disney was using the virtual queue for Galaxy’s Edge when the land was open it would say “Open” when you went to check in the app. In that case, you could go right in without a boarding pass. We expect that to be the same with whatever attractions are used with the virtual queue.
If one is not needed it would say “Open,” otherwise there will be an option saying something like “Access by Boarding Group Only” and you’ll then proceed with making your selection.
- Make sure to download the My Disney Experience app BEFORE going to Hollywood Studios. This is not to be taken lightly as technical issues can happen with electronic devices.
Joining Virtual Queue from Kiosk
If you aren’t using the My Disney Experience or Disneyland App to reserve your boarding pass, you can do it at one of the many in-park Kiosks located in various locations. *In-park kiosks are not running for the Virtual Queue at this time.
You can find them at:
In Hollywood Studios:
- Near Toy Story Land Entrance
- Tower of Terror
- Echo Lake
- Center Stage
- Haunted Mansion
- Indiana Jones Adventure
- Space Mountain
- Splash Mountain
- Matterhorn area
*as other virtual queues are rolled out to more parks, we’ll update their locations.
Once you arrive at one of the kiosks:
- Enter/Scan your theme park ticket in the machine to receive your boarding group.
- Do this with every ticket in your party to all be in the same group together.
If you use one of the FastPass kiosks then you will be given a paper boarding pass you need to hold on to. That paper will have your boarding group number on it and you will use it to get on the ride later.
Even though you can get into the virtual queue with a kiosk, it’s better to make your reservation by using the app. This is going to save you a lot of time in the long run, and you can take advantage of its notifications, keeping you up-to-date quicker.
How do I Know When My Boarding Group is Ready?
When you get your boarding pass group, there will be a group number attached to it and Disney will call guests to ride the attraction in order according to that number. For example, they first will call Group 1, 2, 3, 4, etc.
Disney is loading guests in multiple groups at a time so you will see: “Now Boarding