FastPass Tips for 2018
The Walt Disney Company recently changed one of their long-standing policies. The corporation extended the FastPass+ booking window for guests staying at seven non-Disney resorts at Disney Springs. The people staying at those hotels represent additional competition as you try to book your favorite Walt Disney World attractions. Given the change and the problems that could stem from it, today’s the perfect time to brush up on the FastPass process.
Know the System
The FastPass+ system at Walt Disney World relies on customer knowledge. Disney has had an ongoing struggle in trying to improve line queues. The FastPass system from Disneyland was a strong step in that direction, but the addition of the Magic Band has revolutionized the process.
You no longer need a physical copy of a FastPass. Instead, you use your Magic Band to enter the FastPass line. All it takes is a tap of your band against a button at the FastPass kiosk. The system does all the work from there. It identifies who you are and that you have permission to enter the FastPass i.e. shorter line queue. It’s a seamless process that is virtually instantaneous.
With a FastPass, you save a great deal of time that you’d otherwise spend standing in line. You hate the thought of it due to the boredom. What may surprise you is that Disney hates it, too. From their perspective, any time you spend standing in line is lost money to them. Your wallet isn’t open, and you’re not buying Disney food, snacks, and merchandise while you wait to ride Space Mountain. They don’t want that, which is why they’ve spent literally billions of dollars over the years trying to lessen your wait-time. The current Magic Band process is by far the best system to date.
The Two Booking Tools
To use the Magic Bands, you first need to book your FastPasses. You can do so by choosing one of two different ways. The first is to book reservations via the MyDisneyExperience website. Disney built this site to provide its guests a user experience in adding FastPasses. You simply choose the FastPass option from the toolbar and then follow the steps from there.
The second method is basically a portable version of the first one. The My Disney Experience app on your phone does the same thing, only you don’t need a computer to do it. You also don’t need to visit the My Disney Experience website. The app has the same functionality in an even more convenient form. You start the app, click the FastPass section and schedule your attractions.
Understanding the Booking Window Options
Once you’re in the parks, the FastPass system is straightforward. You’ll have a booking window for your reservations. Let’s say that you arrive when the park opens, 9 a.m. You should schedule a FastPass from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m. You have one hour to enter the shorter line queue for the attraction.
You may approach this booking window as you see fit. You can go immediately, knowing that you’ll be one of the first to ride the attraction that day. You can go at your leisure but well before the expiration window. Or you can wait until the last minute and walk up to the line at 9:59 a.m. Technically, the FastPass kiosks will accept reservations five minutes prior to the booking window and up to five minutes afterward. In this example, you could enter the ride as late as 10:05 a.m., but I wouldn’t count on that.
How should you approach this window? Well, presuming you are arriving at opening, you should adapt one of two strategies. You’ve picked the attraction that means the most to you as your first option. By heading there at rope drop, the moment when the park opens, you can feasibly ride it twice in a short period of time. Go through the regular line once before everyone else arrives. Then, after you’ve ridden once, re-enter via the FastPass kiosk and ride it again. You’ve now done your favorite thing at the park twice…and it’s probably not even 10 a.m. yet! Your day is off to a terrific start.
The corollary to this strategy is to double your fun. Pick a different attraction, one for which you’re not getting a FastPass. Head straight to that attraction the moment you enter the park. You should get to ride it within a half hour. Once you’re done, you should now walk over to the attraction where you do have a FastPass. Once again, you’ve likely checked two great rides off your list during your first hour of park time!
These two strategies are especially effective at Disney’s Hollywood Studios and Epcot, the parks that use a tiered FastPass system. You can’t book Frozen Ever After and Test Track FastPasses for the same day. By following this tactic, however, you can either ride one of them twice or both of them. All you need is a FastPass and to arrive at rope drop.
The 2018 Changes
As we enter 2018, the FastPass system is slightly different. Starting soon, guests at seven Disney Springs resorts get to book FastPasses on the same day that you, someone staying at a Disney resort, do. Historically, you’ve had a 60-day window for FastPasses while non-Disney hotels only had a 30-day window.
In practical terms, let’s say that you’re visiting on March 1st. Your booking window opens on December 31st (February only has 28 days, while January has 31). The Disney Springs resort guests couldn’t book their FastPasses until January 30th. Moving forward, their window is the same as yours. They can book on December 31st. That’s thousands more people trying to get three FastPasses each.
You’re competing with those Disney vacationers to book your FastPasses. If you’re not prepared, rides like Frozen Ever After, Avatar Flight of Passage and Seven Dwarfs Mine Train will sell out. To avoid this catastrophic scenario, you need to be ready to schedule your FastPasses the moment your booking window opens 60 days in advance.
Don’t Be Afraid to Get Help
Finally, I want to acknowledge that some vacationers find the concept of the FastPass too complex. They don’t feel informed enough about Walt Disney World and the various associated theme parks to make these decisions. That’s perfectly valid.
I once spent five days in Orlando with one of my best friends. His family knew so little about the process that his family didn’t even realize that they had My Disney Experience accounts! Their Disney travel agent had set up their accounts and booked the FastPasses for them. Once they arrived at the Disney World complex, all they had to understand was how to tap a Magic Band when required. Everything else about the trip was automated for them, so much so that they weren’t even aware of it.
You may find this strategy best for your needs. If so, your best bet is to contact a Disney travel agency such as MickeyTravels. Their services are free, and they’ll happily set you up for your trip. Like my friends, you’ll just have to wave your Magic Bands whenever you want to enter a park, pay for a meal, or ride something at Walt Disney World. It’s the stress-free solution for the seemingly constant FastPass changes. If the Fastpass process overwhelms you, let a Disney vacation travel expert help make your life easier!
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