Ever since it was introduced in late 1999, Disney World’s Fastpass+ system has had its lovers and haters. But the hard fact is that the system, faults and all, is going to be with us for quite some time. Love it or hate it, you need to know how to use it to get the most out of your Disney World trip. In this week’s blog post we will show you how you can get the best use of your free allocation.
On the face of it, Fastpass+ looks great but its let down by a few niggles. Knowing how to best get the use out of those niggles will vastly improve the quality of your trip especially if you are planning your first trip to Disney World.
You could always argue that if the system isn’t without fault, you could opt not use it at all. The problem with that argument, though, is that millions of other people are using it. Ignoring it is fine but you had better be prepared to wait in some long lines at the most popular rides.
The niggles, ironically, stem from Disneys desire to be fair to all, so to understand the system you have to know a little about why it was introduced in the first place.
Disney World Fastpass+ History
The turn of the millennium brought with it the chance for people to pre-book a time slot on some of their favourite rides in Disney World. The initial system was much like many other theme parks today, present your ticket at a booth and be given a time slot to return. Disney World’s popularity brought with it logistical problems that few other parks have to deal with so the system was overhauled to make it as fair as possible for everyone.
In 2013, Disney World’s parks moved to Fastpass+, doing away with the paper tickets that are still used in most other Disney parks worldwide with the exception of a hybrid system used by Disneyland in California. Fastpass+ is entirely electronic, relying on users to book their slots using the Disney World website or, more conveniently, the ‘My Disney Experience’ App.
Staying on top of all these reservations can be a headache so we have got a free Disney World Fastpass+ Schedule you can download and use from our dedicated Fastpass+ page. Be sure to check this page ahead of any trips for up to date information about the Fastpass+ system as it evolves.
Using Fastpass+ If You Stay In A Disney World Owned Property
As you would expect, there are some perks to staying “on property”. One of them is the ability to get the first choice on Fastpass+ reservations. If you stay in a Disney owned property you will be able to book your Fastpass+ reservations 60 days in advance of your stay. This is the earliest anyone can book them and it doesn’t matter which hotel you stay in, unlike Universal Studios’ Express Pass system. We’ll have a guide to that system in the near future.
Its also worth noting that you will also be able to make 3 weeks of reservations. The standard duration for bookings is 2 weeks which is more than enough time for most visitors.
Using Fastpass+ If You Don’t Stay In A Disney Owned Property
Perhaps the biggest downside to not staying in a Disney owned hotel is the 30-day window for Fastpass+ reservations. Popular rides such as Slinky Dog Dash at Hollywood Studios and Avatar Flight Of Passage in Animal Kingdom will almost certainly be taken by people staying “on-resort”.
This means, in order to get on these rides your best bet is a ‘rope drop dash’. This means getting to the park as early as feasible and as soon as the park opens making a beeline for your chosen ride, likely with hundreds of other eager visitors. It won’t eliminate queueing but if you’re fast enough you should cut your queueing time compared to getting in line early afternoon. Our guides to the parks, included with the Disney World Schedule spreadsheet have a little more information specific to each park.
These booking windows mean you need to know, quite a way in advance, at least the popular rides that you would like to do, so you can mitigate the queue times with some Fastpass+ reservations.
Each park will have 1 or 2 attractions that are so popular they can prove almost impossible to snag that Fastpass reservation. If you have even a passing interest in these attractions and are lucky enough that they show up, book them instantly.
Plans Change, What About Fastpass+?
You can amend your plans at any time up until it’s time to ride, through the app, website or at a few kiosks dotted throughout the parks. You are, however, limited to what’s available when you attempt to re-book.
The popular rides may have no availability at all or the time slots may be limited to late in the day which will lock you out of any other chances to snag any more when you’re there. It’s unfortunately a numbers game and the more popular Disney becomes, the harder it will be to get the reservations everyone wants.
Are The 3 Initial Fastpass Reservations All You’re Allowed?
You can have as many reservations as you like but you are limited to only 3 before you arrive. The rest must be booked while in the parks. You must also wait until you are at least scanned in for your last Fastpass+ slot.
If you book a spot for the Fireworks, say, in the Magic Kingdom you are effectively locking yourself out of being able to get any other reservations for that day. It’s one reason I don’t like using Fastpass reservations for shows, particularly the fireworks at any of the parks.
Top Fastpass+ Attractions
Below are the current top 2 attractions for each park based on Fastpass availability. Don’t confuse this with the popularity of the rides. Fastpass availability is a numbers game based purely on the hourly capacity of a given ride. Sourin’, for example, at EPCOT is easier to get a reservation than, say, Frozen Ever After, which has just under half the hourly capacity of Sourin’. Queue lines on the day are usually over an hour, sometimes 2 or more hours for both at busy periods. The first ride listed under each park is generally the hardest to get.
- Magic Kingdom
- Seven Dwarfs Mine Train Ride
- Space Mountain
- Frozen Ever After
- Hollywood Studios
- Slinky Dog Dash
- Toy Story Midway Mania
- Animal Kingdom
- Avatar Flight Of Passage
- Na’vi River journey
Getting To Know Disney Before You’ve Ever Been
In order to use the Fastpass+ system to benefit your holiday means getting to know Disney World before you have ever been. While that may seem an impossibility there are plenty of websites out there that will help you plan, this one included.
In short to get the best use of your time you need to do a little research especially if you haven’t been. Because you’re reading this you’re already well on the way.
Are Fastpass+ limited to just rides?
Absolutely not. As mentioned before you can also get Fastpass+ reservations for the fireworks at all the parks as well as select shows. Certain character meet and greet spots also have a Fastpass+ queue.
These can be particularly handy if you have small children intent on collecting as many autographs as they can instead of riding as much as they can. Queue times for the more popular characters like Mickey, Minnie and Donald Duck can rival or overtake some of the ride queue times.
Fastpass+ And Dining Reservations
You can use your Fastpass to book tables at certain table service restaurants up to a mammoth 6 months in advance. You may not want to plan where you going to be eating half a year away but for some restaurants this is a necessity.
‘Be Our Guest’ in the Magic Kingdom is usually fully reserved months in advance. If you are hoping to have a magical dining experience, you had better get it organised. If your plans change you can always reschedule or cancel the reservation.
With the exception of The Magic Kingdom, all Disney parks operate a tier system. This is, once again, to keep it fair to everyone for parks that don’t have as many attractions to choose from unlike the Magic Kingdom.
Your three reservations will be split. In parks operating a tier system, you are allowed to pick just one Tier 1 attraction. Your following two can be from the second tier list of attractions. You are going to have to make a choice about which popular attraction you will Fastpass and which you will queue for. Attractions are rotated out of Tier 1 as they become more mature but you will always be forced to pick between popular attractions.
The key to using Fastpass+ as effectively as possible is knowing which top tier attractions you would like to Fastpass. Then knowing in which order to do the other attractions you didn’t manage to get on.
For example, The Haunted Mansion in Magic Kingdom is one of the highest throughput attractions in the park so the queue tends to move quickly. If you must queue for it, a good time would be when the parade is on and the queue is lower because many people will be waiting outside to see the daily parade at 3pm.
This also brings problems. Namely getting around the area. The Parade route is swamped with people come mid afternoon. Getting on the ride may be quicker but getting around afterwards is practically impossible.
Knowing things like parade routes and times and using them in conjunction to some well placed Fastpasses is how you will get the most out of your time in Disney World.
Let Us Help You With Fastpass+
If you would like to keep up to date you can subscribe to our monthly newsletter so you will know about any changes that may affect your trip without being inundated with Orlando news that is mostly irrelevant to your holiday. As a thank you, we will also send you our free 22-page holiday planning guide to help you plan better. If Fastpass+ is still a mystery we have a tool to help you plan better and keep more organised.
Free Fastpass+ Planning Tools
We have put together a free Disney World Fastpass Schedule. You can download your free copy from our dedicated Guide To Disney World’s Fastpass page so you can keep track of your reservations all in one place.
We have also written a Fastpass guide to each park, included within the spreadsheet, to help you decide what to book. The sheet is available in both Excel and Numbers formats so you can edit the details for your trip.
The guides also have a little more information about the nuances of Fastpass for each park. But if you still have questions we are only a quick email away.