After our return from Walt Disney World last month, one question came up more than others, “Tell me about FastPass+, is it hard to use?” Introduced in 2014, FastPass+ service is designed for guests to spend less time in line and more time enjoying their Disney experience. Like any new approach, and especially one involving technology, there will be some hiccups along the way. I accepted that trying FastPass+ and MyMagicBands on our vacation and am happy to report that yes while we encountered a hiccup or two, it didn’t affect us.
Here’s a look at our FastPass+ experience.
Previously: Before, guests could only access a Fast Pass through Fast Pass kiosks beside the designated ride. So, when a family entered a park they had to have a plan. In the past, that plan for us involved my husband putting on his running shoes and going to the Fast Pass locations for the rides we really wanted to ensure we got a FastPass for, grabbing tickets, and returning to us while we navigated our way through the park (or, if we were really strategic, I’d go in another direction to get a FastPass as well). The result was a FastPass for (mostly) all the attractions we wanted, no line waiting in our future. Rock ‘n Roller Coaster, Hollywood Tower of Terror, Toy Story Mania and Star Tours here we come!
Now: Guests have the ability to book their fast passes up to 60 days in advance (if staying on Disney property) or 30 days in advance (if staying off property). Those dates alone caused concern for a friend with an impromptu trip to WDW for child’s sporting event, “Will there even be any FastPasses left choosing them with a month to go?” she asked. The answer is, YES! I booked all my FastPass+ picks using MyDisneyExperience Mobile App with 30 days to spare and had no problems.
However, there are a few things to note: The way the system is set up, you can not book more than one FastPass+ for top tier attractions. This means that, in the case of Hollywood Studios, we had to make a choice between Rock ‘n Rollercoaster or Toy Story Mania for Tier 1 choices, and Star Tours or Twilight Zone Tower of Terror for Tier 2 choices. What that meant is that for our 3 pre-booked FastPass+ choices we picked Rock ‘n Rollercoater and Star Tours, rolling the dice on the others.
After your 3 FastPass+ are used, you can return to a FastPass+ Kiosk located in the park (the park maps highlight them well) and choose 1 more FastPass+. After that is used, choose another. You may discover that the FastPass+ attraction you want does not have any selections left when you visit, that’s rolling the dice. Book the FastPass+ attractions you really want most and stand in line (Stand By) for the others or try and get a FastPass+ for it later in the day.
In our case, had time before our FastPass+ for Rock ‘n Rollercoaster, so my husband and 7 year old waited in line for Twilight Zone Tower of Terror. Using the MyDisneyExperience mobile app, we were able to check the wait time on the way to the park and determined that yes, we were willing to put in the 45 minute wait for it. It’s a good thing we did because when our first 3 FastPass+ attractions were complete, and we returned to a Kiosk to get another one, there were no more FastPass+ available for Tower of Terror.
So – what does one do when all the FastPass+ attractions you want have been experienced or are unavailable? You choose a FastPass+ you normally wouldn’t or you try out other attractions that you passed by in the past while you were frantically running from one attraction to the next to utilize your Fast Passes in the past. In our case, this enabled us as a family to see a bunch of attractions that we haven’t before. On this trip, we experienced The Great Movie Ride and Honey I Shrunk The Kids: Movie Set Adventure for the first time at Hollywood Studios, for example. You may notice in the pictures that my husband and son are missing – I bet you can’t guess who gets a little queasy on rides in our family?
A note: Disney has included more attractions as FastPass+ options to choose from but they are not necessarily attractions with lines and it’s not necessary to use up a FastPass+ for them. Check the wait times to see which are not FastPass+ essential before you choose.
Strategy: While Disney-experts had the previous FastPass system down to a well executed plan, that doesn’t mean that the new FastPass+ system doesn’t have a way to create a plan for the best overall experience. There are two ways to approach your FastPast+ choices – you can either do what we did and book all your FastPass+ experiences to happen before noon, giving you the opportunity to hopefully book at least one or two more FastPass+ experiences at the Kiosks, or you could book your FastPass+ for mid-afternoon, the busiest time in the park with the most lines that you can then breeze past. Booking afternoon FastPast+ times allows you to ride stand-by in the morning when the parks are not as full and thus, the lines shouldn’t be as long. The downside, of course, is that by the time you complete your FastPass+ experiences, there may not be FastPast+ options available for your top choices later. It all depends on your own family, your favorite attractions and – let’s face it parents – your sleeping schedule and nap schedule too!
The Hiccups: What we encountered using our MagicBands and FastPass+ were minor, but I’m sharing for full disclosure. When we checked in at Disney Polynesian Resort, the computers were down – this meant that our MagicBands would not work to open our room door that night, so we accessed it with a key card (we double checked in the am to ensure everything was working, that our park passes were synced with our MagicBands, and all was good). While in the parks on 2 days the Cast Members at the FastPass+ kiosks explained that there were some minor issues due to a computer outage. One was that to book further FastPass+ everyone in my family had to scan their bracelet (normally I could have just done this for all of us with my bracelet alone). Another time, even though I booked a FastPass+, it didn’t show up in the MyDisneyExperience mobile app, which caused me to panic and check back at a Kiosk to see what was going on – turns out I was all OK but the FastPass+ system wasn’t syncing with the app.
My opinion: I think the reason behind the development of FastPass+ is innovative – to enable more guests to experience more attractions and experience the most popular attractions with the use of a FastPass+ without having to stand in line for 60 minutes or more. By making the experience more fair by limiting the amount of FastPass+ spots a person can have at any given time, everyone gets an equal opportunity.
For seasoned Disney guests who have managed to make their visits a strategically planned vacation, this can be frustrating. Change is always uncomfortable and I’ll admit for our family too this was a change I wasn’t sure I’d like. The thing is, even though we didn’t utilize FastPass+ for some of the most popular attractions and instead had to wait in line, we still managed to see everything and do everything that we wanted to, thanks to planning in advance with MyDisneyExperience mobile app and booking FastPass+ in advance. And the biggest thing to note? My kids didn’t notice.
At the end of the day, our family was thrilled to be at Walt Disney World. “OMIGOD we’re at Walt Disney World!” has got to go through every family’s head during their stay, don’t you think? Having that magical family vacation is an experience all in itself and learning to navigate FastPass+, the bus system, the park maps, and which meal to order at lunch is all part of what a Disney vacation is all about. If you stop looking ahead to what you may be missing out on, you realize you’re in the midst of an experience right where your feet are planted at that moment.
Still have questions? Feel free to email me or leave a comment below. There are also a ton of resources available online including FAQ sections. The main takeaway I want for you is that planning your Walt Disney World vacation shouldn’t be stressful, that your family will indeed get to experience everything you wish to at the parks, and most importantly, stay in the moment and enjoy the magic!