Dreams shattered. Hopes dashed. Tears flowing. This was the scene at 8:01 AM on a recent Saturday at Disneyland, the happiest place on earth.
Nine days earlier, Disneyland in Anaheim, California, debuted the much-anticipated ride, Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance. The Disneyland website stated that it “is a massive attraction with multiple ride systems that is unlike anything you’ve ever experienced at the Disneyland Resort… or anywhere else in the galaxy!” Star Wars fans had been salivating over this promised park attraction for years, and the wait was over. Mostly.
As annual Disney passholders, my husband and I usually steer clear of any new ride for at least three months to allow the hoopla to die down. We don’t do crowds, and we don’t do lines. We kind of dislike other people and strategize our days at Disneyland to avoid them. Unfortunately for my husband, he was too big a Star Wars nerd to resist the clarion call of Rise of the Resistance.
Disneyland unveiled a new system to reserve spots on this particular ride—a system that is equal parts evil and genius. At precisely 8:00 AM, guests must be inside the boundaries of the park and sign up for a “boarding group” on the Disneyland phone app. That’s it. There are no lines in which you can wait two hours or special fast passes to collect. Once the boarding groups are filled, the remaining guests are out of luck.
I was sure we could beat the odds and claim two spots on this ride. We devised a plan to boost our chances: My husband would drop me off at the entrance, and I would take both our phones into the park. He then would park the car, which usually takes forever, and race to the entrance in hopes of arriving before 8:00 AM. If he didn’t make it through the ticket booth in time, I would use our phones to join a boarding group.
Why did I need both phones? I had discovered on previous visits that Disneyland knows exactly where you are on the premises. I had assumed this was because of the location feature in the phone app. I would trick Disneyland into thinking we were both in the park. Yes, that’s right, I thought I would outsmart Disneyland. [Cue awkward silence.]
Things got off to a rocky start. We agreed to leave the house at 6:00 AM. We left at 6:30 AM. My bad. Then, one of us (we’ll call her Maureen) decided to stop off at Starbucks on the way. We arrived at the entrance to Disneyland at 7:00 AM.
Then, I saw a vast sea of people. Although I don’t have the official count, I am fairly certain that one gazillion people were at Disneyland that day. I have been an annual passholder for 12 years, and I have NEVER seen such a crowd clamoring at the gates of Disneyland. In fact, in the entire history of humanity, there has never been so many people gathered in one place at 7:00 AM. I do not have statistics to back up this statement, but I feel it in my gut.
The line to get through security was impossibly long. This would have been anxiety-producing and distressing, but I was distracted by eavesdropping on the man standing in front of me. A professional designer of Hollywood movie props, he showed his friends his own, handmade Star Wars communicators and a realistic droid. He also had been practicing new light saber moves the previous night, which he demonstrated. Impressive fan base has Star Wars.
I reached the entrance lines to the park entrance by 7:25 AM. There were many, many entrance lines. Disney is organized, though, so they moved somewhat quickly. By 7:40 AM, I made it into the park!! Joy. Bliss. I now was eligible to attempt to join a boarding group at 8:00 AM.
This is when I discovered two unfortunate errors. The first error is pathetically stupid. When I took my husband’s phone as part of my trick-the-evil-geniuses-at-Disney plan, I accidentally stole his credit card, which was stored in the phone case. He sent me this text:
My husband: You have my credit card. I can’t pay for parking.
Me: [Swear word incompatible with a family-friendly blog.]
He was turned away from the parking structure and wasted precious minutes finding an alternative. Due to this delay, he definitely would not make it into Disneyland until after 8:00 AM.
The second error is a bit predictable. My husband physically had to “check-in” at the entrance gate in order to use the Disneyland app. Disney did not care that I had both phones. They knew he wasn’t in the park. THEY KNEW. I could not join a boarding group for him. In an act of noble heroism, I decided to sacrifice myself for my husband. This ride was important to him. I would use my app to check myself into a boarding group, and then let him take my spot.
The tension mounted in the park as the clock neared 8:00 AM. It was like a bizarre countdown to New Year’s. 7:57 AM. 7:58 AM. The crowd was silent, reverent, tense. 7:59. 8:00 AM!!! Thousands of people jabbed at their phones at the same time. More intense silence. Then came the collective screams of joy followed by collective howls of anguish.
Despite all my plotting and schemes, I failed. There would be no Star Wars ride for us that day. When the big moment came, I never stood a chance of getting into a boarding group. It turned out that my husband’s annual pass was linked to mine. Since we both weren’t in the park, I had to uncheck his name in the boarding group process. Or, it was something confusing like that. I did not have enough time to figure it out. Every boarding group was filled in less than one minute.
I looked around and saw some lucky families and friends hugging and high-fiving each other in victory. Many others, the losers, were fighting, crying, and leaning on each other for support. Their journeys had come to an end too soon. By 8:01 AM, their days were ruined and vacations spoiled.
At 8:15 AM, my husband rejoined me at a bar in Downtown Disney. It was that kind of day. As we sipped our early morning cocktails, I apologized to my husband. I was the one who made us leave home late. I required us to stop at Starbucks. I told him drop me off and give me his phone. I took his credit card. He shrugged stoically. In true Jedi fashion, he would not bow to defeat. He would fight again another day.
To read more about our adventures in amusement parks, please see: