Planning Your Trip Using Fastpass+by Jeff Kober, contributing writer
While only a few people are being selected to test out Walt Disney World's new Fastpass+ program, there are many who have upcoming trips and who are wondering how to make the best of this new technology. With Fastpass+ being feasible up to six months ahead of one's trip, it is possible that before the end of this year, you may be scheduling your Fastpass tickets for a summer vacation in 2014.
There's a lot of anxiety with this new program, and I don't blame those who feel that way—even I was hesitant as a Walt Disney World cast member when Fastpass was first rolled out years ago. I couldn't see how that was going to work. But just as that program became very popular, with time and education, I think people will become very excited about Fastpass+.
While we don't have all the answers (as many issues are still being worked out) and the details of this major initiative ebb and flow, we do know a few things that seem fairly fixed:
- You will have up to four choices, but they must be in a single park.
- With a purchased ticket, you can make reservations up to six months in advance.
- You can make day-of changes on your smartphone. Hosts can assist those without smartphones, at kiosks or with tablet computers.
- Disney intends to slowly remove the existing Fastpass kiosks.
While we also know which attractions are designated as Fastpass and Fastpass+ (see our list from a previous article), some attractions equipped with Fastpass+ portals are displaying no Fastpass+ signage (because testing has already completed on the attraction, or the test revealed Fastpass+ to be unnecessary). One such example is MuppetVision 3D, which went through some testing earlier: Disney discovered that the few who made Fastpass+ reservations for Muppet Vision 3D never showed up, showed up at a different time without using Fastpass+, or went through the standby line because the attraction was a walk-on.
Which new Fastpass+ attractions should I pay attention to?
What I really love most is the introduction of Fastpass+ on attractions that have never used the Fastpass system before. Dumbo was the first of these. It was never a long queue, but it was one of the slowest—and thus most painful—of all outdoor queues. Now you have an option of a going with Fastpass+ or a very interactive, very air-conditioned playground. I would recommend the latter to save your Fastpass+ for something else.
One of my favorite new Fastpass+ options is Tomorrowland Speedway. Again, not the longest line in the park, but one of the slowest-moving queues. And not an attraction that ever warrants whatever wait is listed. But it now offers Fastpass+ and that could be something you might really appreciate (especially if you have a toddler or an elderly family member who would appreciate minimal waits). It's not for everyone, but for those who enjoy it, it's worth getting a Fastpass+.
Also new is The Great Movie Ride. Other than very early and very late in the day, there is usually a queue—not that the attraction could accommodate more in the morning and evening—but because they usually remove the ride vehicles that stop in the Western scene, and only run at half the operational capacity. Only later in the morning do they add the other ride vehicles. Therefore, there can often be a wait. Now this will be reduced. I have an autistic 10-year-old who loves this ride. We do it all the time. This is really a blessing for our family.
Which Fastpass attractions should I avoid?
With only so many choices that can be made in a given day, which attractions should you choose to go on? That depends greatly on what you enjoy doing. Ask yourself the question, "Which attractions are not worth getting a Fastpass for because there isn't that much of a savings in waiting?"
Know that some Fastpass attractions over the years have seldom been worth using. For example, unless it was a very crowded day, you wouldn't have wanted to bother with Mickey's PhilharMagic, because the theater is large and usually accommodated guests as they arrive. There are attractions I really question the use of a Fastpass except on the most crowded days of the year. Arrive 15 minutes prior to the Festival of the Lion King and you will almost always get in on any day. Seldom do you see the back up overflow utilized for Muppet Vision 3D. You may get a slightly better choice of seat with the Fastpass, but you will get a seat.
As mentioned in the previous article, many attractions like the Haunted Mansion used to have Fastpass. You may want one for that attraction on very busy days and times. But if you plan your day accordingly, you may not need them at all. It's a small world next door is similar. Sometimes the queue is very long mid-day, but often in the early part or later part of the day there's no wait at all. Plus some of these attractions now have interactive queues, making the standby experience a little more bearable. Best to come at the beginning few hours of the day or the last couple of hours at the end of the day and you'll find little in terms of a wait.
One more thing you should know—if you get to an attraction and find there is no real stand-by wait, you can trade your Fastpass choice for another available Fastpass. Just don't go through the portal. Go back online with your smart phone or seek out a Disney Cast member who can help you make the change.
What about Fastpass+ and the guest assistance card?
I've mentioned in the past my son dealing with autism here and in prior articles. We use a Guest Assistance Card—a valuable tool for enjoying the park. It's never been used on the mountains at Disney, because he doesn't do the mountains. But with that card we've saved ourselves a lot of time and stress at Peter Pan's Flight, Toy Story Mania and Kilimanjaro Safaris. Know that depending on the physical/mental need of the person, those are being accepted currently at all of the attractions utilizing Fastpass+. In fact, unless you are being asked to participate in the current study, those are the only ways to currently visit those attractionsbecause there are again, no Fastpass terminals to draw a Fastpass+ from.
What this looks like in the future, I'm not sure that even Disney knows. The ultimate expectation is that Guest Assistance Cards will go away, but that you will have flexibility for going where you need to go when you need to go. There's a lot to figure out. Meanwhile, know that those who need that assistance the most can find new ways to enjoy those attractions without an excessive wait in line.
What about rides and attractions with no Fastpass or Fastpass+?
You might ask, what attractions still don't have Fastpass+ that still might necessitate a long wait? Well the answer is, not many. For example, you may still have to wait half an hour for the next showing The American Adventure if you don't plan your arrival, but few really require much wait even in the longest hours of the day.
That said, here are the exceptions you may want to plan on. Again, they may not be your favorite, but if it is, you will want to time your experience accordingly:
- AstroOrbiter & TriceraTop Spin – Dumbo now has two spinners, and even Aladdin will have Fastpass+, but these similar attractions will not. They do not have a long line, but it can still be a long wait. Either do it early, or get a turkey leg and something to drink before you get in line to make the most of your wait.
- Studio Backlot Tour – This might have had a Fastpass option years ago, but it doesn't anymore. If this attraction is important to you, I suggest riding it early in the morning. It closes by dusk, so don't put it off.
- Magic of Disney Animation – this attraction does not have a long wait, but the opportunity to learn to sketch a Disney character can have a very long wait—even if the line seems short. Plan to do this earlier in the day.
- The Legend of Captain Jack Sparrow – whether because it's new or because it's popular, this line can get very long during the day waiting for the next group to enter. Plan to do so early or late in the day.
- Sum of All Thrills – this has a very low ride capacity. Enjoy at the beginning or end of the day.
- Character meet-and-greets – several new Fastpass+ attractions involve a character meet-and-greet. If having your children meet their favorite princess is important, take advantage of seeing Enchanted Tales with Belle as well as the meet-and-greet with the Princesses utilizing a Fastpass+. These are very slow-moving lines and are worth it if that's what matters to you. But also know that other meet-and-greet experiences have very long waits, such as Tinker Bell's Magical Nook and Merida at Fairy Tale Garden. If this is important to you, plan on doing so early in the day.
What are my options as an annual passholder, a DVC member, or a Disney cast member?
There's been a lot of panic that annual passholders would have to plan out their afternoon jaunt to the park six months in advance in order to utilize a Fastpass+. While it is true that you can make reservations up to six months in advance, I've been informed that there will always be an allotment of slots available on the day of visit. The same will hold true for DVC members, and even Disney cast members. The new system will allow you to make plans on the fly.
There is more pilot tests and rollouts to come, and some of the things noted here may change. But these are issues you may want to think about as you plan your next experience at Walt Disney World. We'll keep you posted as we know more about the rollout of this very major initiative.
It's late afternoon at Toy Story Mania and there is an extended Fastpass return queue because the attraction had broken down earlier in the day. This is just one example of the many challenges this new system will face. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.
I'm the first to say that Disney is a business. There are efficiencies gained in this process. But Disney is the number one theme park experience in the world because it listens to its guests. Guests have stated that their biggest disappointment is waiting in line to enjoy attractions. Disney is working hard to change this and make it better. And they've invested a lot of money to make it happen. Be patient—it takes a lot to figure it out. But in due time, the Disney may ultimately create a better experience for all who visit.