In case you are unaware, FastPass+ is Walt Disney World’s new, free, high tech ride reservation system offering shorter waits for a limited number of pre-selected attractions at pre-selected times. It basically does the same thing for you as the “legacy” FastPass system, except that you can now use the MyDisneyExperience web site and Mobile Apps to schedule your ride times up to 60 days in advance and you can make as many changes as you want, right up to the moment that your selected time slot for the attraction begins. Your FastPass+ can be redeemed using your Key To The World Card or your MagicBand.
There have been plenty of conversations on the Internet as to what a horrible idea FastPass+ is because it will take away the spontaneity of our vacations and will force us to do even more pre-planning and lock us in to certain rides at certain times, etc. I read the conversations, (some quite heated) but I did not get involved, and I have always kept an open mind about the whole FastPass+ concept. The purpose of this article is not to sway the opinions and pre-conceived notions of the haters, but simply to state the facts of how it worked during the test we were a part of this past August (2013), point out some strengths and weaknesses, and offer some tips to get the most out of the system.
First off, we were lucky enough to have exactly zero technical difficulties with our FastPass+ reservations and their links to our MagicBands. We were never denied entry to an attraction that I had made a reservation for. I have read some stories about others who were not so lucky. Hopefully in the near future those technical difficulties will be few and far between.
One Park Per Day Limitation
One limitation of the current FastPass+ system is the fact that you can only get reservations for attractions in one park per day. As a regular park hopper, I was not too thrilled with this concept, but in practice it’s not a big deal. Wait times are usually fairly reasonable for the first 3-4 hours of operation so you don’t really need FP+ for your morning park unless its a really busy time of year. Scheduling our FastPass+ experiences only for our evening park was actually very practical since “legacy” FP for the headliner attractions usually run out by early afternoon. To ride Toy Story in the evening with a “legacy” FP, you needed to be at Hollywood Studios within the first few hours of opening to grab that FP. If you are not a Park Hopper, and like to sleep in, FP+ avoids having to worry about missing a FP for the headliner attractions.
The bottom line is, regardless of wether you park hop or not, the most efficient strategy would probably be to schedule your FP+ experiences for later in the day and use the standby line for the mornings when the waits are shorter. I have read about the experiences of others being unable to use their later FastPass+ for one reason or another and not having availability to make changes later in the day. This sounds like a drawback but its analogus to not having “legacy” FP available later in the day. Late day adjustments to your schedule will always be difficult. Maybe Disney will be able to optimize the FP+ system to make this possible. Wishful thinking???
Time Between Ride Reservations
Be careful of scheduling back to back FP+ time slots. As an example, consider a schedule of: Kilimanjaro Safari’s for 9am-10am, Expedition Everest for 10am-11am, and Dinosaur for 11am to 12pm. We show up for our Safari at 9:55am and get on our truck at 10am. If all goes well, you should be done at about 10:20am, but I have been on Safari’s that got me stuck on the reserve for an extra 20 minutes due to charging rhinos…
So now we could potentially get off the ride at 10:40am, but someone who had too much coffee has to hit the bathroom. Now we are getting close to missing our window for Everest, which closes at 11am. With the “legacy” FP it was impossible to get back to back time slots. With the ability to plan all your rides in advance, be sure to think about the time required to get from one attraction to the next, and know your family’s (lack of) ability to stay focused when walking form one attraction to the next. Take this into considering when planning the amount of time you put between your reservations.
FastPass+ “Bonus Experience”
When using the MyDisneyExperience App or website, Magic Kingdom offers up to three selections but after you confirm those three, you usually get a fourth “bonus” FP+. This bonus FP+ can then be changed to any attraction you want as long as its not one you have already selected. Of course, as I test that functionality while I write this, its not happening, so at this early stage, I suggest you experiment with the site as as soon as you have access to do so since there will probably be many changes in the upcoming months. If you have a resort reservation you should be able to work on FastPass+ reservations starting 60 days from your arrival date. If you have an Annual Pass, you can play around with reservations all you want but I recommend you cancel them unless you plan on using them since passholders will probably only be allotted a certain number of reservations per month.
One of the biggest complaints I have read about is how people assume that FP+ will make park touring less flexible. It seems to me that the “legacy” FP system is an inflexible system as well. If you acquired a paper FP, you couldn’t exchange it for a different time or ride. You were stuck with it. Additionally, you had to wait for your return time of the first FP to be able to get another. The flip side of this is the possibility of no other FP+ availibility on that day. I too am concerned about this and I am trying to have faith that Disney has a plan to deal with this. I imagine that having many more attractions with FP+ than “legacy” FP has something to do with their plan. Will it work? Time will tell.
At this time, I can tell you that flexibility was not an issue in my experience during the test period. On one day we planned on Magic Kingdom for the whole day, we had one morning, one afternoon, one evening, and one night time FP+. We originally planned on a short break at the resort in the afternoon, with a 5:40PM reservation for Peter Pan, and a 8:40PM reservation for Buzz Lightyear after the break. The break ran long so after we got out of the pool I rescheduled Peter Pan for 9:40PM to give us time for a leisurely dinner. On our last day I decided to squeeze in a morning visit to Animal Kingdom. The example schedule above from Animal Kingdom was actually the last minute plan I put together for myself with the MyDisneyExperience App during my bus ride from Animal Kingdom Lodge. I arrived an hour after opening and the App was showing a 30 minute wait so it was very relaxing to be able to take a leisurely walk back to Kilimanjaro Safaris, knowing I already had a FP+ “in hand”. I enjoyed an iced latte and a cherry turnover from Kusafiri and then got on my Safari vehicle with no wait.
Again, I have some concerns about this kind of flexibility being available after the full rollout of FastPass+. I hope Disney reserves some availability for “day of” FP+ adjustments, but I think it would be in everyone’s best interest to get things scheduled out as far in advance as possible. If Toy Story Fastpasses are gone by noon during the summer, FastPass+ reservations could be gone within the first few days of a 60 day reservation window.
One cool feature of FP+ is that it knows when a ride goes down and it actually notifies you by sending an email to the address tied to your MyDisneyExperience account. Below is a screenshot of the email I received when Test Track went down. (big surprise, eh?) Based on the email, you can see that your FP+ reservation will be honored at any of the attractions offering FP+ thru regular park closing in the park you are in. Obviously, you will need to use an email address that you have access to from your mobile device to take advantage of this.
Its nice if you are in Morocco and Disney tells you not to waste the time and energy walking to Test Track just to find out it is down. Instead, just stop in at The Rose & Crown for one of these!
What? You Don’t Have a Smart Phone???
Without a smart phone you will definitely be at somewhat of a disadvantage to be able to push around your FP+ reservations while on the bus, at a dinner that is running longer than expected, or just wandering around losing track of time enjoying the Disney Details. Yes, if you have an Android or Apple wifi device you can use the in park wifi provided by Disney, but it can be spotty and that gets frustrating when trying to update your reservations. However, Disney also provides FastPass+ Kiosk Locations in the parks to help you adjust your reservations. Each park has them at or near Guest Relations as well as scattered around the park. They are NOT at each attraction like the “legacy” FastPass machines and the places where I saw them did not look very permanent so you may need to ask a Cast Member for the nearest location.
Please share any questions, comments, and your personal FastPass+ experiences in the comments below, and thanks for reading!