What Is FastPass and How Does it Work?
What’s a FastPass? You hear the term a lot, but how much do you really know about it? Disney added these during the 1990s to improve the overall park experience. I’m going to explain the how and why of their strategy in this article. Here’s everything you need to know about the FastPass.
Why the FastPass?
Disney theme parks are constantly increasing in attendance. Unfortunately, the size of said parks isn’t expanding. More guests roam through the same finite amount of space each year. Park officials have worried over this situation since the earliest days of Disney theme parks.
The original plan to offset traffic increases was to sell rides individually. The very concept of the E-ticket attraction stems from the fact that guests once needed to buy an E-ticket, the most expensive one, to ride the best attractions at Disneyland.
Over time, this concept faded in usefulness. At Walt Disney World, park officials felt trapped by their own success. By 1997, 17 million guests visited Magic Kingdom annually. That’s almost 50,000 daily guests (technically 46,575) at a place that was the same size as it had been in 1971.
The management team at Disney knew that they had a problem. Even back then, Disney regularly asked guests to fill out park satisfaction surveys. As Magic Kingdom grew more crowded, satisfaction scores declined significantly.
The FastPass is Disney’s solution to overcrowding. It effectively allows guests to be in two places at once. Yes, that may sound crazy, but it’s true. When you have a FastPass, you’re effectively standing in line for an attraction.
How the FastPass Helps
Every Disney ride has something called maximum throughput. It’s a fancy technical term that’s a simple math calculation. Disney knows how many people can ride an attraction hourly and daily.
Think about Haunted Mansion. You board a two-person Doom Buggy. Then, you travel via an OmniMover system down a set path. Disney controls the velocity of your ride cart. So, they know how many Doom Buggies they can have on the track at once.
Extrapolating from there, Disney knows how many Doom Buggies run in an hour and how many run in a day. These numbers are the ride’s maximum throughput.
Thanks to FastPass, Disney sets aside a number of Doom Buggy trips per hour. The system reserves these rides in order to maximize your efficiency, something I’ll explain in the next section.
From your perspective, the FastPass is like passing through the velvet rope at a club. You have a ticket to the front of the line. Well, that’s a bit of an exaggeration. With FastPass, you get to stand in the shorter, quicker line rather than the longer, slower one.
On rides with FastPass, Disney divides the standard line into two parts. The regular line is for people without a FastPass. They’ll get to ride eventually, but the system will defer to FastPass holders. The people who have them get to the front of the line exponentially faster.
In extreme situations, I’ve watched dozens of people in the FastPass line move for every handful of people in the regular one. Kilimanjaro Safaris at Disney’s Animal Kingdom is hilarious about this, but that’s by design. A purpose of the FastPass system is to encourage guests to use it as much as possible.
How the FastPass Works
With FastPass, you have a set window when you’ll get to visit the attraction. During this timeframe, you’re in a virtual queue, a kind of invisible waiting area. In other words, your FastPass allows you to stand in line for a ride, only you don’t need to be physically present.
Thanks to the FastPass, you can visit other parts of the park at the same time. Your FastPass, whether it’s paper or digital, is a kind of confirmation that you’re holding a spot in line. Meanwhile, you can be anywhere else in the park. It’s like Disney creates a second you whose sole purpose is to stand in lines!
The genius of FastPass is that it allows you to stand in two Disney different lines simultaneously. You can be awaiting your Doom Buggy on Haunted Mansion while your FastPass holds your place in the ride queue for Pirates of the Caribbean.
The FastPass system doubles your park productivity! And the best part is that you don’t even need to do anything. Once you have a FastPass, the system does all of the work for you. It’s strikingly efficient.
The downside for Disney is that you are in two places at once. Since you’re doubling the number of attractions at a given time, you’re also riding more stuff during a visit. Park officials counteract this by adding more attractions. This strategy cleverly counterbalances your efficiency.
Of course, this reason also explains why Star Wars Land didn’t open with FastPasses available at Millennium Falcon: Smuggler’s Run. Disney would have twice as many potential riders if FastPasses were active.
The FastPasses You Should Try to Get
When you stay at an official Disney resort, you may book FastPass reservations 60 days in advance. Otherwise, you may book 30 days prior to your visit.
Obviously, staying onsite is a huge benefit for this reason. Disney only has a limited number of this FastPasses that they may offer each day due to the maximum throughput factor we just discussed. Therefore, FastPasses can and do sell out.
Those extra 30 days are crucial for getting the FastPasses that you want. My advice is to speak with an expert at MickeyTravels to book an official Disney resort. You’ll have a much more enjoyable trip since you’re likely to ride all of your favorites. Plus, MickeyTravels is free to you!
Whenever you book your FastPasses, the main thing to keep in mind is that some rides are more popular than others. When planning your FastPasses, try to get Avatar Flight of Passage, Slinky Dog Dash, Frozen Ever After, and Seven Dwarfs Mine Train. They’re the FastPasses that book the quickest at each park.
Beyond them, all of the classic Disney attractions are worthy of FastPasses. Splash Mountain, Space Mountain, Test Track, Star Tours, Expedition Everest, and Kilimanjaro Safaris are a few that I would especially recommend. You’ll save yourself a lot of time by getting FastPasses for each of them rather than waiting in the regular line.