Early Entry Report: Prioritizing Flight of Passage at Animal Kingdom (Photos, Timing, and More)

    Flight of Passage is a popular first choice for guests taking advantage of the Early Entry perk at Animal Kingdom. In this article, we’re going to take a look at timing your Early Entry arrival for Flight of Passage and what kind of crowds and wait times you can expect first thing in the morning.

    What is Disney World Early Entry?

    Early Entry is Disney World’s consolation prize to guests after taking away the Extra Magic Hours perk following the COVID-19 shutdowns. Early Entry was introduced as part of the Disney World 50th Anniversary celebrations and it offers a slight head start on your day before the park opens to guests.

    Early Entry allows guests staying at qualifying resorts to enter the theme parks 30 minutes before the park officially opens. While some parks like Magic Kingdom might open an hour early for all guests, guests who don’t have the Early Entry perk will be limited to Main Street USA, while eligible guests will be able to enter the theme park proper to start enjoying the rides early.

    Unlike Extra Magic Hours which was quite limited on when and where it took place, Early Entry takes place every day at all four Walt Disney World theme parks. Make sure that you don’t confuse Early Entry, which is in the morning, with Extended Theme Park Hours, which is more limited and takes place at night.

    Who Qualifies for Early Entry?

    Guests staying at the following resorts have access to Early Entry. Note that Early Entry access is available on the day of your check-in and on the day of your check-out, in addition to all the days of your vacation.

    The following resorts qualify for Early Entry:

    • Disney’s All-Star Movies Resort
    • Disney’s All-Star Music Resort
    • Disney’s All-Star Sports Resort
    • Disney’s Art of Animation Resort
    • Disney’s Pop Century Resort
    • The Campsites at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort
    • Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort
    • Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort
    • Disney’s Port Orleans Resort – French Quarter
    • Disney’s Port Orleans Resort – Riverside
    • The Cabins at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort
    • Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge
    • Disney’s Beach Club Resort
    • Disney’s BoardWalk Inn
    • Disney’s Contemporary Resort
    • Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa
    • Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort
    • Disney’s Wilderness Lodge
    • Disney’s Yacht Club Resort
    • Bay Lake Tower at Disney’s Contemporary Resort
    • Boulder Ridge Villas at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge
    • Copper Creek Villas & Cabins at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge
    • Disney’s Animal Kingdom Villas – Jambo House
    • Disney’s Animal Kingdom Villas – Kidani Village
    • Disney’s Beach Club Villas
    • Disney’s BoardWalk Villas
    • Disney’s Old Key West Resort
    • Disney’s Polynesian Villas & Bungalows
    • Disney’s Riviera Resort
    • Disney’s Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa
    • The Villas at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa
    • Walt Disney World Dolphin Hotel
    • Walt Disney World Swan Hotel
    • Walt Disney World Swan Reserve
    • DoubleTree Suites by Hilton Orlando
    • Drury Plaza Hotel Orlando Lake Buena Vista
    • Four Seasons Resort Orlando
    • Hilton Orlando Buena Vista Palace
    • Hilton Orlando Lake Buena Vista
    • Holiday Inn Orlando
    • Shades of Green® on Walt Disney World® Resort
    • Signia by Hilton Orlando Bonnet Creek
    • Waldorf Astoria Orlando
    • Wyndham Garden Lake Buena Vista
    • Wyndham Lake Buena Vista
    • B Resort & Spa Lake Buena Vista

    How Long Will Early Entry Be Offered?

    Back in May 2023, Disney World announced that they would extend the Early Entry perk through the end of 2024:

    For those planning to stay at a Disney Resort hotel, we will continue to offer the popular early theme park entry for visits through 2024. This great benefit gives Guests a jump start on their day. For those staying at Disney Deluxe Resorts and Deluxe Villas, we’ll also be continuing to offer extended evening hours on select dates at select parks through 2024. Early theme park entry and extended evening hours require valid theme park admission and a Resort ID.
    Disney World announcement

    While the perk was originally introduced as part of the Disney World 50th Anniversary, it has certainly outlived that purpose. We imagine that it will continue to be offered until a replacement is announced. For now, you can certainly plan on it being available through December 31, 2024.

    What Rides Are Available for Early Entry at Animal Kingdom?

    Animal Kingdom has the fewest number of rides of any Disney World theme park for Early Entry, but that’s not a problem because you’ll likely only be focused on one – Flight of Passage. That said, here are the attractions offered during Early Entry:

    • Avatar Flight of Passage
    • DINOSAUR
    • Expedition Everest – Legend of the Forbidden Mountain
    • It’s Tough to be a Bug!
    • Na’vi River Journey
    • TriceraTop Spin

    Arrival Timing

    In terms of timing your arrival – it’s a balance. If you’re the first person through the gate, you will have no wait at the attraction, but you’ll have waited more than an hour for the park to open. Now, there is some value in waiting upfront because you then don’t have to wait when the park is actually open. Conversely, you can show up at the end of the Early Entry period and be at the back of an hour-long wait. In this article, we’re going to try and strike a better balance than being the first through the gate and first on the ride or avoiding any wait at the gate by showing up too late.

    On the day of our visit, Animal Kingdom opened at 8am, which meant that Early Entry began at 7:30am. Our goal was to get to the park gate at 7am.

    We were pretty close to hitting our target, arriving at the parking plaza shortly before 7am and getting through security bag check by 7:06am. The scene at the ticket booths was calm, but we could see a bit of a crowd beyond the ticket booths. Here’s our view when we got to the crowd of guests at the park gate at 7:08am.

    Animal Kingdom Park Entry | 7:08am

    Picking a lane is more luck than anything else. Ultimately, the singular factor that determines how quickly you’ll get into the park is the number of guests in front of you who have an issue tapping in. I’m notoriously bad at picking a lane and this morning was no different. The lane we were in was probably the worst of all the lanes, with many of the lanes passing us and nearly emptying before we made it to the front. Because of this, I’d say our timing going forward will be slightly worse than other guests who showed up at 7:08am.

    Animal Kingdom Park Entry | 7:26am

    The gates opened at 7:15am and we didn’t make it through the entrance until 7:28am. In reality, you should be able to get through in less than 10 minutes from where we were. The photo above is a look at the back of the rope drop crowds. The fact that we could see the end of each line wasn’t a great sign, but you win some and lose some at park entry.

    When you get into the park, you’ll want to head to the left immediately to find the check-in area for Early Entry guests. If you walk to the right, you’ll find Cast Members preventing guests from entering the park proper until official park opening.

    Early Entry checkpoint | 7:28am

    By the time we reached the Tree of Life, it was 7:30am and the Early Entry period had begun. We still had a bit of a walk to get back to Pandora and the Flight of Passage queue. If you don’t know where you’re headed, turn to the left of the Tree of Life and follow signage to Pandora. The crowds were light as we walked back to Pandora, which indicated to us that we were near the back of the line.

    This actually might be a good time to compare to our January 2022 experience. Back then, guests were let into Animal Kingdom some 15-30 minutes earlier than our most recent experience, and held at the bridge to Pandora. This was madness, leading to scenes like the one below.

    13 minutes before Early Entry (January 2022)

    Flight of Passage During Early Entry

    Our walk back to the line would be considerably more relaxed than it was in 2022. As you walk into Pandora, you’ll want to keep to the right and follow Cast Member instructions to find the back of the Flight of Passage line. The line will head toward the Africa walking path, and perhaps even leave Pandora during some of the busier times of year. You’ll make a u-turn and start to make your way to the attraction.

    Stay to the right toward Africa to find Flight of Passage standby during Early Entry

    While some of the park opening process has changed over the past year or so, the extended queue path that Cast Members use during Early Entry has not changed. Here’s a look at how the line typically starts along the walkway to Africa before making a u-turn back to the Flight of Passage entrance. You’ll wind through portions of the immersive land before making your way under the floating mountains and the entrance to the attraction.

    Flight of Passage early entry extended queue

    We reached the end of the Flight of Passage line around 7:35am, some 30 minutes after we joined the crowd of guests waiting for rope drop. It would take 6 minutes of nearly constant walking to reach the entrance to the attraction where there was a posted wait time of 45 minutes.

    While the line might look quite long, it’s actually a finely tuned machine, allowing for a nearly never-stopping walk to the ride. Beyond that, it’s actually a scenic walk that takes you through some wonderful vegetation and under the floating mountains.

    After 9 minutes of constant movement as we meandered through the Pandoran cave system, we met the stopping point of the line at 7:50am in the laboratory section of the queue. This was a very acceptable stopping point given that we were basically 95% of the way through the queue. After another 3-4 minutes of waiting, we were sorted into the line for our theater.

    Flight of Passage has multiple theaters, which typically offer some early morning redundancy. Unlike other popular Early Entry attractions like Rise of the Resistance, Flight of Passage can continue to operate if an entire theater or two are not working. Of course, your wait will be longer in that scenario, but it won’t be a completely wasted morning like rope dropping a broken Rise of the Resistance.

    There are probably a couple of different points where you could “stop the clock” to determine your actual wait time. For those of you who count the merge area as the stopping point, our actual wait was 18 minutes from the time we joined the line. For those who count to the moment you reach the first pre-show room, our actual wait time was 25 minutes. Either way, we beat the posted 45-minute wait considerably, and we were off to a great start for our day.

    Another metric to base the value of Early Entry off of is your total wait time starting at the park gate. It’s only something we mention because it’s an additional wait that you otherwise wouldn’t have if you were planning on doing Flight of Passage in the middle of the day or the last thing at night. Our total wait time from the minute we got into the crowd at the front gate to the minute we got into the first pre-show room was 52 minutes.

    That’s actually quite good in the grand scheme of things once you consider that you were able to ride one of the most popular rides at all of Walt Disney World before the park even opened to guests. From there, you set yourself up for a successful morning.

    We didn’t do any other rides because we wanted to head back to the park entrance to cover the limited-time test of the Discovery Island Drummers and some character meet-and-greet adjustments, but the posted wait times when we finished Flight of Passage were as follows:

    • Avatar Flight of Passage | 80 minutes
    • Na’vi River Journey | 20 minutes
    • Kilimanjaro Safaris | 15 minutes
    • Expedition Everest | 5 minutes
    • DINOSAUR | 5 minutes
    • TriceraTop Spin | 5 minutes
    • It’s Tough to Be A Bug | 10 minutes
    • Meet Mickey & Minnie | 15 minutes

    We’ll have another article looking at the post-Early Entry continuation of the morning in the future, but for now, the clock has stopped on Early Entry and we were able to knock out Flight of Passage with minimal wait, even with a 10-ish minute delay at the park entry appoints. It’s quite an ask to get up early enough to take advantage of Early Entry at Animal Kingdom, but you will be rewarded.

    As always, keep checking back with us here at BlogMickey.com as we continue to bring you the latest news, photos, and info from around the Disney Parks!

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