Six Astonishing FastPass+ Facts

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Just when you think you’ve mastered FastPass+, Disney goes and changes the system again. For years, the status quo of FastPass guaranteed that your paper ticket would get you on your favorite rides. Even as Disney theme parks tightened down on systemic abuse, Disney Vacation Club members still knew the ins and outs of the system like the seasoned pros we are.

In 2014, The Walt Disney Company introduced the latest iteration of their queue system, FastPass+. In only two years, they’ve already modified it multiple times, which means that if you haven’t visited Walt Disney World since 2013, you don’t even know what you missed. If you’re like most DVC members and go home at least once a year, you may feel some confusion about what you can and can’t do. Don’t worry! Your friends at DVC Resale Market are ready to help! Here are six crucial FastPass+ facts for your next trip to the park.

 

The Basics Are Still the Same

FastPass+ as a system shares the same fundamentals as the old ticket-based version. Disney provides impending park guests with the opportunity to reserve up to three rides a day in advance. You use these reservations tied to your Magic Band to avoid the longer line of the regular waiting queue. Instead, you enter the FastPass queue. Generally, this line is much faster, getting you on the ride in a fraction of the time.

As an extreme example, Seven Dwarfs Mine Train frequently lists its average wait time in excess of an hour. Guests who use a FastPass can board a mine cart in as little as five minutes, even when the other line is still an hour. All that time saved is a precious resource during your park day that you can expend elsewhere. Through clever usage of the system, you can enjoy exponentially more attractions than a guest who simply waits in the regular line for everything.

FastPass+ operates the same as FastPass in that you’ll have a 60-minute window of arrival for your ride. Let’s use the park opening of 9 a.m. as an example. You can visit right when the window opens at Rope Drop at 9 a.m. or wait until the last moment at 9:59 a.m. Both options have advantages depending on the rest of your schedule, as you’ll read below.

 

Maximize Your Booking Window

What’s important is that you schedule your selections as soon as possible to book your preferred windows. Visitors staying at Disney resorts – i.e. virtually everyone reading this – can book up to 60 days in advance. Anyone staying offsite at a competing hotel or villa can book 30 days in advance.  As a DVC member, you should take full advantage of the 60-day window. Reserve your FastPasses when you’re precisely 60 days out.

The most popular attractions such as Frozen Ever After can and do sell out their FastPass selections that far in advance. Fortunately, you’ll have the ability to book all of the days of your trip when you’re 60 days away from arrival. Even if you’re staying for two weeks or more (as DVC members are wont to do), you can schedule FastPass+ reservations for all 14 days at once. Taking advantage of this perk guarantees that you’ll have your pick of all the attractions you want once you arrive.

One final note: Disney recently changed the FastPass+ reservation system to fix a prior flaw. The booking window previously opened at midnight, requiring guests to stay up late to gain FastPass selections as soon as possible on what was basically the 61st day. Disney has since pushed that window to 7 a.m. Eastern Standard Time each day, similar to the Advance Dinner Reservations process.

From a user perspective, all you need to know now is that when the MyDisneyExperience app says you’re 60 days away from your trip, you can book FastPasses starting at 7 a.m. This change is much more user-friendly. You no longer have to remember two time windows when booking your ADRs and FPs.

 

You’ll Need Your Phone

Bringing one’s phone to a Disney theme park is a divisive topic. Some guests believe that paying too much attention to your screen distracts away from the majesty of Disney’s landscapes. That’s a completely valid opinion. Disney has to cater to everyone, though.

Since 72 percent of Americans own smartphones, their engineers would be irresponsible to neglect this market. If the point wasn’t clear when FastPass+ debuted, park guests spelled the issue out with their boisterous complaints about kiosk usage, the in-park alternative to booking FastPasses on a smart device. Long lines and visitor frustrations became a recurring theme during the early days of the new queue system.

In practice, guests would use their first three line passes. Then, they’d wait in their first long line of the day. Oddly enough, it was the line to get another FastPass selection. After walking up to a trio of attractions during the first two hours of park time, guests understandably felt irritation that the FastPass booking kiosks were the bottleneck.

That’s not the way Disney employees intended the service to work. Once they had enough information to trust in the process, Disney switched to the current system. You can now acquire all your FastPass+ selections by phone. The MyDisneyExperience app can handle everything.

 

One Is Better Than Three

One of the worst aspects of the initial version of FastPass+ was that it forced guests to book three selections at once. Here’s the problem with that approach. Let’s say that you’re visiting Epcot and only care about getting a FastPass for Frozen Ever After. Previously, you’d have to book two other selections, and you’d run into one of the flaws with Disney’s system.

At Epcot and Hollywood Studios, Disney divides their attractions into Tiers. The most popular rides such as Toy Story Midway Mania!, Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster Starring Aerosmith, Soarin’, and Frozen Ever After are in the first tier. Guests have to choose their favorite at each park as their Tier 1/Tier A selection. They cannot add another reservation from this group.

Why is this setup a problem? The current Epcot Tier 1 attractions include Soarin’, Test Track, and Frozen Ever After. You know them as the three Epcot rides with the longest wait times. You have to pick the one that you want to ride the most and wait in the regular line for the others. The offshoot of this Sophie’s Choice of Epcot is that you previously wound up with two additional FastPass selections for The Seas with Nemo & Friends, Journey into Imagination with Figment, or Spaceship Earth. None of the regular lines for these attractions is over 30 minutes as a rule.

Your FastPass doesn’t help you any for them. Even worse, you couldn’t book new FastPass selections until you’d either used your current ones or the reservation window had expired. You were stuck for a couple of hours of valuable park time.

In the spring of 2016, Disney acknowledged the flaws with that system and altered the rules. Now, you can get a single FastPass if so inclined. And that strategy does make sense from time to time.

Let’s say that you plan on visiting two (or more) parks in the same day. The instant you stand in the abbreviated line for your Frozen Ever After FastPass, you can pull out your phone and claim a FastPass at a different attraction, including Tier 1 options at other Disney parks. The new system has restrictions in place that prevent guests from reserving multiple Tier 1 FastPasses in the same theme park (Epcot, in this example), but that doesn’t matter when you park-hop. You can schedule Frozen Ever After ahead of time then try to book Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster or Toy Story Midway Mania!

The one caveat is that you only have options for FastPasses that have availability. Under the prior system, you couldn’t start trying to make a new reservation until you’d used the previous three. That left you with no options until after 11:15 a.m. By that point, most Tier 1 FastPasses had sold out.

Thanks to the recent changes, you can turn the FastPass system into part of your Rope Drop routine. Start the morning by heading to the attraction for which you don’t have a FastPass. In our example, Soarin’ is the most likely option. Then, you head to Frozen Ever After and use your FastPass. While you’re in the quicker line queue at the Norway Pavilion, you can pull out your phone and book a new FastPass, possibly even a Tier 1 at Hollywood Studios! By 9:30 you’ll have a guarantee that you’ll ride three of the most popular rides at Walt Disney World that day! The key is not to book pointless FastPass selections. If you only need one, you can only book one now. That’s a game-changer.

 

Ultimate Hacks – Dining Tactics

When booking your FastPasses in advance, you’ll need to plan ahead a bit. As a Disney Vacation Club member, you’re plenty used to that. Whether you booked your hotel stay 11 months or seven months in advance, you’re used to making ADRs well before your trip. The same is now true of FastPasses.

When your 60-day window approaches, you’ll need to consider which parks you want to visit on which days. Your ADRs will actually impact this strategy a bit. As an example, if you’re eating dinner at Olivia’s at Old Key West at 6:30, you don’t want to book FastPasses in 5PM to 7PM window. Otherwise, you may run into transportation issues that cause you to run late for your meal.

A vintage looking seating area outside at Disney's Old Key West Resort

Similarly, if you are returning to a park after your meal, you’ll have a one-hour window from the start of your FastPass. Even so, Disney Table Service meals tend to take at least an hour, and you have to allow for the transportation time back to the park.

Lunch is similar, which is why you might consider setting up breakfast and/or lunch ADRs at the parks or adjoining Disney hotel restaurants. A strategy my family employs at Hollywood Studios is to book a FastPass plan of Toy Story Midway Mania! at 9 AM, The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror at 10 AM, and Star Tours – The Adventure Continues at 11 AM. Then, we book lunch at Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater at 11:30.

With this strategy, we get to ride three of our four favorites at the park. When we’re done, we only have to walk a short distance from Star Tours to the nearby restaurant to enjoy our most beloved meal at all of Walt Disney World. That saves wear and tear on our feet, and we have the entire lunch to decide our next course of action, whether it’s more time at Hollywood Studios, a move to a different park, a ride to Disney Springs, or a return to the DVC property to enjoy an afternoon swim.

By anticipating how you want to spend your days at Disney, you can schedule convenient FastPasses at your 60-day window. You’ll never have to worry about sellouts, and you’ll have general scheduling guidelines for a key portion of your trip. It takes the stress out of a day at a Disney park, which you know from experience can get intense.

 

Ultimate Hacks – Park Strategies

Finally, consider the location of each attraction when you make your FastPasses. One of the easiest mistakes is to schedule two different attractions at opposite ends of the park. You’ll wind up feeling frazzled as you sprint from one end of Animal Kingdom to the other. I speak from experience on this. That place is cavernous, and a FastPass can wind up feeling like work rather than relief if you’re having to dash from Africa to DinoLand U.S.A. Look at a park map as you’re considering your later FastPasses, assuming that you’re doing more than one.

Alternately, only pick one then keep your schedule open for the rest of the day. Magic Kingdom in particular rewards savvy FastPass users. A fellow DVC member recently traveled to the park for the first time under the new FastPass+ system. They discovered that the days where they had the most fun were the ones where MyDisneyExperience opportunities drove their decision making.

Whenever they reached the FastPass line queue for an attraction, they’d pull up MyDisneyExperience to see what else was available. Then, the family would vote for their favorite, and they’d reserve it. Simply by letting their location and FastPass availability determine their course of action, they wound up with an unforgettable day at Magic Kingdom. And they used almost 20 FastPasses that day!

Don’t let the critics fool you. The new FastPass+ system is just as amenable as the paper-based one. You simply have to understand how your standard park behavior blends with the new technology in place. Follow the tips above to maximize your enjoyment during your next trip. Also, if you have any other suggestions for FastPass+, helpfully leave them in the comments section for other Disney visitors!

Comments

  • Linda Houser
    January 25, 2017

    Fast pass plus requires too much planning, a Disney vacation while fabulous, is anything but calming, most of us need another vacation when we return home. This is just something else that has to be scheduled,etc, etc. Is this not why many people vacation–to relax and get away from schedules?Our family and other Disney fans in our area would love to go back to the original paper fast pass system.

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