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A Crash Course in Disney’s FastPass+ System

Do you want to get the most out of your vacation? Then stop waiting in lines! Make the most out of the Disney FastPass+ system instead.

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A Walt Disney World Resort guest uses a MagicBand to enter Magic Kingdom theme park in Lake Buena Vista, Fla.

(Photo: Kent Phillips)

Nobody wants to wait on line, especially not in the happiest place on Earth. And since Walt Disney World is maybe the world capital of lines and queues, they’ve been turning to different fastpass systems over the past eighteen years or so. Fastpasses are ride reservations. Instead of waiting on line, guests can schedule a return time and go off to enjoy other park amenities while they “wait.”

The Disney Parks in Anaheim, Paris, Hong Kong and Tokyo utilize paper fastpasses. At the park in Shanghai, fastpasses have gone digital. However, it is only Orlando’s Walt Disney World that utilizes FastPass+, a system with an entirely new set of rules.

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FastPass+ is part of an umbrella system called MyMagic+, which utilizes RFID readers, a mobile app, park kiosks, hotel concierge services, and charming rubber bracelets called “MagicBands.” In short, MyMagic+ aims to simplify your trip by putting your room key, park admission, fastpasses and even your credit card on one piece of hardware; the MagicBand.

MagicBands come with a Disney World hotel reservation, and they can also be bought at gift shops in the parks. Don’t worry, though, fastpasses can be stored on a regular park ticket if you don’t have a Magic Band.

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Walt Disney World Resort guests use MagicBands for FastPass+ access to experiences and attractions at Magic Kingdom in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (Photo: Disney Parks)

The thing about FastPass+ is that it’s brilliant. It’s brilliant in its design and in the way it incorporates wearable technology. It’s a really gratifying feeling to smush your wrist against the RFID touch point and have it light up green. Fastpasses are free for everyone at the park to use, but they’re regulated to ensure that the fastpass line doesn’t just turn into a second stand-by line.

It’s brilliant, but it’s also prohibitively abstract and obtuse. It’s a confusing system for first-time guests to get used to. I know this because I used to work at the first FastPass+ kiosk that guests saw at Hollywood Studios. I was the sounding board for all of their questions, comments and complaints about Disney fastpass. I learned how to explain the system to grandparents who didn’t even have a computer at home, and how to mime “no more fastpasses for Toy Story Mania” to groups of foreign tourists.

In order to get the most out of FastPass+, you have to know about it before you even walk through the gates. Well, ideally you should know about it sixty days before you walk through the gates.

The core rule of FastPass+ is that you can only schedule three fastpasses per day. Once you use those fastpasses, you may schedule one more. Once you use that fastpass, you may schedule one more. Rinse and repeat until park close. This is a simple but important rule that many people miss.

Now for the advanced stuff.

Rules:

    • If you have a park ticket and are staying at a Walt Disney World hotel, you can make fastpass reservations up to sixty days prior to your check-in date. You can do this through the My Disney Experience website or app.
    • Anyone with park admission can book fastpasses up to thirty days in advance.
    • You can only book fastpasses for one park per day. It’s not going to work if you try to schedule Peter Pan’s Flight in the morning and Expedition Everest in the afternoon.
    • Fastpass times are usually an hour long, and they cannot overlap. For example, if your fastpass window for Space Mountain ends at 2:30, you can’t get a Haunted Mansion fastpass that starts at 2:15.
    • In the Magic Kingdom, you can schedule pretty much any attraction you want. In Hollywood Studios, EPCOT and Animal Kingdom, the rides are separated into two tiers. When you are making your original three fastpass reservations, you are only allowed to choose one attraction from Tier 1, and two attractions from Tier 2.
    • If you want, you can edit your fastpasses and switch them out with same-tier attractions that have available time slots.

Strategy:

    • Do not schedule fastpasses for shows, parades, or nighttime experiences. No matter what anybody tells you, they’re not worth it. It doesn’t change your wait time, and it doesn’t even guarantee you better seats. Just don’t.
    • Schedule your first three fastpasses early in the day. I try not to schedule any of them past noon. This way, you can knock out your original fastpasses fast and have more time to schedule your additional rolling fastpasses.
    • Do not waste time at the FastPass+ kiosks. At one point, Disney fastpass made you go to kiosks to schedule new times. Now, the My Disney Experience app lets you schedule new fastpasses right on your smartphone. Once you “spend” your last fastpass, you can immediately pick up your phone and schedule a new one. This eliminates the problem that originally occurred at many FastPass+ kiosks, which was that they attracted astronomically long lines themselves.

Do you have any Disney FastPass+ strategies or secrets? Share them with us in the comments below!

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