To try and reduce waiting times at some of the more popular attractions, Walt Disney World Resort introduced the Disney FastPass system in 1999. The idea was that you could reserve a time slot to visit a particular attraction and instead of waiting in the regular line you could return at your allotted time and effectively go straight to the front of the queue.
When there are wait times of 60 to 120 minutes, which are not unheard of, this was a real bonus.
During December 2013 and January 2014 all FastPasses at all four parks were replaced by the new FastPass+ system
In 2012, Walt Disney World started testing an enhanced FastPass system called FastPass+ (Plus) using Radio-Frequency Identification (RFID) technology. The original FastPass was renamed as FastPass Legacy and during December 2013 and January 2014 all FastPasses were replaced by the new FastPass+ system.
Unlike the similar Universal Studios Express Plus and SeaWorld’s QuickQueue tickets, Disney’s FastPass system is completely free.
To use the original FastPass system, now called FastPass Legacy, you had to visit one of the attractions you wished to ride on and put your Magic Your Way Pass into a FastPass machine. Note that not all attractions operated the FastPass system.
The machine returned your pass plus a FastPass ticket for that specific attraction (not transferable) with a one hour time stamped window on it. If you then returned to that attraction during your one hour window, you could in theory get on the ride much quicker than standing in the regular line, which saved you time.
The downside of the system was that firstly you had to physically visit the attraction to get your ticket and you didn’t get to choose the timing of your ticket. Current return times were displayed by the ticket machines so you could see if the return time was convenient for your plans.
Also once you had got a FastPass ticket, you could get another FastPass for another ride until a specific time, usually around the first FastPass ticket “expired”. The “next available” FastPass time was printed at the bottom of your ticket and so you could get another FastPass until after the printed time.
This meant that on busy days (when you most needed the FastPass) you could well find that after riding your first couple of FastPass rides, you would find that all the FastPass tickets had already been issued for the next ride you wanted to go on. Similarly if you were park hopping, then say you arrived at one of the parks after lunch, you could well find that all the FastPass tickets had gone for the day.
To start with Disney cast members did not enforce the one hour time window if you arrived after your one hour slot. This meant you could buck the system to some extent by collecting a number of FastPass tickets as each time slot expired and then visit them later in the day, when you liked. However, during 2012 they started to be more strict about timings and they refused you admittance if you arrived after your slot has closed.
If you have one of the mobile applications for Walt Disney World like Walt Disney World Lines, it shows you predicted FastPass return times which can save you a lot of leg work when planning your day.
In late 2012, FastPass+ started trials for selected Walt Disney World Resort guests visiting either the Magic Kingdom or Disney’s Hollywood Studios. In late 2013/early 2014 all FastPass tickets were superseded by the new FastPass+ system.
With FastPass+, you can go online before you even visit the park and pre-book one hour FastPass slots at a number of selected attractions. This has a number of advantages over the normal FastPass Legacy system.
FastPass Legacy Summary
The original FastPass system did have some advantages, not least that it was free but on busy days you may only have been able to get a couple of FastPass tickets during your visit.
FastPass+ is much more flexible as it allows you to plan your entire day around the rides and attractions that you really want to see, even on busier days.
With FastPass+ you do not have to visit the park first thing in the morning to guarantee a FastPass slot for the more popular rides and attractions.