Disney FastPass+

Disney MagicBand, copyright Walt Disney World
Disney MagicBand, copyright Walt Disney World

The FastPass+ (FastPass Plus) system allows guests to reserve specific time slots to visit certain attractions when entering the parks at Walt Disney World before you even get to the park. Initially only Walt Disney World Resort guests could reserve in advance but as of late April 2014, anyone with an admission ticket can make advanced reservations.

On arriving at the attraction at your allotted time, you join a FastPass+ line rather than the regular “standby” line and hence in theory gets into the attraction a lot quicker than the regular queue.

When there are wait times of 60 to 120 minutes, which are not unheard of, this is a real bonus and what is more it is free unlike similar systems introduced at both Universal Studios and SeaWorld. To give you an example when Anna and Elsa from Frozen moved to the Magic Kingdom in Easter 2014, meet and greet wait times of 240 minutes (4 hours!) were posted on several days. Similar wait times are being experienced at the new Pandora - The World of Avatar.

During December 2013 and January 2014 all FastPass systems at all four parks were replaced by the new FastPass+ system

In 2012, Walt Disney World started testing the new enhanced FastPass system called FastPass+ (Plus) alongside the original paper ticket based FastPass system which was first introduced in 1999.

FastPass+ uses RFID technology and is part of Disney’s “NextGen” initiative, collectively known as MyMagic+ and My Disney Experience.

FastPass+

To start with, the FastPass+ system allowed you to reserve a maximum of three attraction time slots at one given theme park per day, subject to availability. In late April 2014 Disney opened this up to allow guests to book an additional FastPass+ reservation on the day once the first three reservations had been used.

Click here for a complete list of all the FastPass+ enabled attractions and entertainment at Walt Disney World.

Subject to availability guests can continue to book one additional reservation at a time (similar to the way the old paper ticket based FastPass Legacy system worked). You can even book an attraction you have already reserved earlier in the day.

To start with these additional reservations could only be made at a FastPass+ kiosk but in April 2016, the My Disney Experience website and App were upgraded to allow additional reservations online. Another added bonus is you are no longer forced to make three reservations, you can now reserve fewer.

In addition, Disney has opened this up to allow park hopping so once the first three reservations are used, you can switch parks and then make further reservations using the kiosks.

Bear in mind that it is also possible that Disney might reduce the number of slots when the park is particularly busy.

Whilst the My Disney Experience app allows you to book time slots at different parks for the same day, the in-park kiosks only allow you to book time slots for the park you are currently in though you can delete any existing time slot.

You will find that there are significantly more FastPass+ enabled attractions compared to the old FastPass Legacy system. Also you can reserve special viewing areas for watching parades or the fireworks.

However, at both Epcot and Disney’s Hollywood Studios, they have split the attractions into two tiers, Group A and B. At the present time you can only make one selection from the top Group A tier and the rest must be selected from the second Group B tier.

This means that at Epcot for example, when making your initial reservations, you cannot reserve both Soarin’ and Test Track in the same day as both attractions are placed in the top Group A tier. The same sort of problem arises at Hollywood Studios with both Toy Story Mania and Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster also being Group A attractions.

You need to think very carefully about which attractions you add to your initial FastPass+ reservations and which you visit using the standby line.

If you are staying at a Walt Disney World Resort hotel, then you are able to pre-book your FastPass slots up to 60 days in advance of your visit, using the My Disney Experience website or via an app on your mobile phone. If your plans change you can go back in and make changes.

Some people may like this ability to specify exactly which attractions you want to see at very specific times on a particular day whilst other will prefer a more spontaneous approach to planning their days.

Disney issues complimentary MagicBands to their resort guests and annual pass holders. Non-resort guests can buy a MagicBand for around $12.95 upwards.

FastPass+ In The Parks

When FastPass+ was first introduced, non-resort guests could not reserve slots until they arrived at the park, only resort guests could make online reservations in advance. Now resort guests can book FastPass+ reservations up to 60 days in advance and non-resort guests up to 30 days in advance.

Resort guests include guests at all Disney owned hotels plus the Dolphin and Swan (operated by Starwood Hotels and Resorts). It is now thought likely that Disney is planning to extend the 60 day advance reservation window for Disney resort hotel guests to some “Disney Good Neighbor Hotels”, particularly those on Hotel Plaza Boulevard near Disney Springs.

In each park there are special touchscreen kiosks with Cast Members on hand to help out at various locations. You may find you will need to wait in line to make your reservations so it may not always be best to go to the very first kiosks inside the park entrance.

Having scanned in your ticket or MagicBand, you can then make or amend your reservations. You can see all available times and be able to choose the ones that suit you best. The system will automatically allocate all your reservations if you do not select them yourself; i.e. it will make suggestions if you decide not to use up all your allocation.

You need to keep a record of your bookings as there is no longer a paper ticket. You can either write them on the provided leaflet or take a photo of the screen.

All these options are of course subject to availability and like FastPass Legacy, the number of tickets is controlled to keep the line lengths short.

When you arrive at the attraction, all you need to do is place your ticket or MagicBand close to the FastPass+ reader and join the FastPass+ line.

Advantages and Disadvantages of FastPass+

FastPass+ has a number of advantages over the original FastPass Legacy system:

  • you do not need to visit the attraction first to get a ticket
  • you can choose the time slot rather than being given the next available slot (subject to availability)
  • you can select your reservations in one go during the day instead of having to wait for the previous ticket to expire before making your next reservation
  • you can amend your selection whilst in the park using one of the touchscreen FastPass control station kiosks or a smart phone
  • there are more FastPass+ enabled attractions than the original FastPass attractions
  • Cast Members will know your name and if you are celebrating any sort of special occasion like an anniversary or birthday (though this could become tiring by the end of the day!)

However there still some restrictions:

  • the number of initial reservations you can make in a day is limited
  • you cannot park hop and make reservations at multiple parks in the same day until after your initial reservations have been used
  • some parks have a tiered system where you can only make one reservation from one group of attractions (typically the most popular)
  • if you are a non-resort hotel guest then you cannot make reservations until 30 days in advance whereas resort hotel guests can make their reservations up to 60 days in advance and hence get the best choice of times

One of the biggest disadvantages is the lack of choice for non-resort guests. It is often difficult for non-resort guests to get FastPasses for the most popular attractions like the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train or at Pandora in Animal Kingdom as they are booked well before non-resort guests are able to try and make a reservation.

History of FastPass+

In late 2012, Disney started trials for selected Walt Disney World Resort guests visiting either the Magic Kingdom or Disney’s Hollywood Studios using the new FastPass+ system. During this interim period the original FastPass was renamed as FastPass Legacy.

Over time all resort guests received the new RFID tickets and now instead of a plastic card, they receive a wearable band called a “MagicBand” similar in looks to the popular charity coloured wristbands.

Between December 2013 and January 2014 all FastPass systems were replaced by the new FastPass+ system at all four theme parks at Walt Disney World.

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