Please explain Disney World's new Fast Pass + to a former expert
January 11, 2015 9:01 AM   Subscribe

We are visiting family in Orlando next week and would like to go to the Magic Kingdom and maybe Epcot. I have been to the MK at least a dozen times and used to know it like the back of my hand - I was a zen master of showing up early, grabbing fast passes on a need-to-ride basis, and basically winging it so we never felt rushed. This will be my first trip since they initiated the new FastPass+ system, and the more I read about how it works, the more discombobulated I get.

Part of what I love(d) about going to Disney World was being able to wing it - pick a day to go based on the weather, get a feel for where the crowds are and going someplace else while getting a fast pass to come back. It looks like that isn't possible anymore - that in order to get fast passes we have to know more than 48 hours in advance, give them my email and register, and then pick specific times of day for the rides? And you maybe need a wristband?

Is there any way to replicate the casual, just show up and have fun vibe that we like and still get to go on all or most of the insane-lines rides? How intrusive is the email registration process if we need to go that route - how far in advance do we have to make solid plans? Are we going to be at a huge disadvantage or even locked out of some rides because we won't be staying at a Disney hotel? What else do I not even know that I don't know I should be asking?

Only asking about rides and possibly character meets - food we already know how to maneuver... thanks!
posted by Mchelly to Travel & Transportation (8 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite will have a lot of these answers for you. He does a ton of data work and analysis of actual wait times under different conditions. Also, he's pretty funny.
posted by anastasiav at 9:05 AM on January 11, 2015 [1 favorite]

You can do it without FP+, but you need to be there at rope drop and you need to be okay with not getting on some rides/seeing some characters. Disboards has all of the relevant FAQs for hours and hours of reading.

If you are staying on-site, you pick your FP+ 60 days in advance. If not, 30 days in advance. You can change your selections the day you are going, but subject to availability.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 9:17 AM on January 11, 2015 [1 favorite]

Your fast pass options are easy to adjust from your smart phone. You can still get the regular fast pass at most of the rides. We went back in May with the wristbands and my son went off schedule and did his own fast passes wherever he wanted to go, with no problems.
posted by myselfasme at 9:18 AM on January 11, 2015

You're in luck since next week won't be crowded. Your lack of experience with the new scheme shouldn't penalize you too much.

What isn't too obvious is that while they let you book 3 reservations ahead of time, they also allow you to get additional reservations after the first 3 have been used or expired. With this scheme in mind you'd be encouraged to get reservations for things in the late morning/early afternoon so that gives you more time to collect more FastPasses.

You'll still want to get to the park when it opens (actually 15-30 minutes ahead of time because they often soft open) and the first 60-90 minutes will allow you lots of time to ride things without lines.
posted by mmascolino at 10:28 AM on January 11, 2015

Best answer: It is definitely a switch from the previous system. Like it or not, Disney World is rewarding those who pay extra to stay on-site with advanced access to Fastpass+. That means during busy times it will be difficult to get FP+ for the most in demand attractions & meet and greets.

The other thing Disney has eliminated from FP+ is spontaneity. You certainly can choose what park you're going to the morning of, but you will find your access to Fastpass for the most popopular attractions is limited. Park hopping is similarly discouraged by Disney. They would prefer you stay at one park to help them keep staffing levels low.

If you're the type of person who is happy to know that you have 3 attractions you know you will get on, Disney has designed Fastpass+ for you. They are counting on there being a near un-ending supply of them.

EPCOT is tough for Fastpass. Its few attractions often fill up early on. You definitely want a Soarin' FP+ or you will be waiting forever in a very boring queue.

Magic Kingdom has the most FP+ options. The Elsa & Anna meet and greet is nearly impossible to get a FP+ for. Try splitting your group into pairs with overlapping times. Similarly for Seven Dwarfs Mine Train.

Don't try to do it without FP+. Play Disney’s game as best you can. You'll still have fun, it just won't be as free flowing as you were used to. Your best bet is still to travel in off-season, plan ahead, arrive early, and stay late.
posted by IndigoSkye at 10:31 AM on January 11, 2015 [2 favorites]

IndigoSkye's answer matches my experience this summer: without FastPasses, your spontaneity will mostly consist of "Hall of Presidents again, or another gift shop?"

Lower crowds may ease this from summer/Christmas highs, but they are using this system to load-balance the rides and a lot of folks are getting locked out of the most desirable rides. We saw plenty of people with wrist bands get turned away for rides; they were pissed.

Go to the DisBoards site and look for the miles-long thread about FP strategies. Register and ask your question, but be prepared for some rough seas among the ensuing discussion (often among the commenters).

Regardless, good luck and have fun!! :7)
posted by wenestvedt at 6:10 PM on January 11, 2015

The Golden Horseshoe Review podcast had an episode about it a couple of weeks ago.
posted by smackfu at 5:11 AM on January 12, 2015

Response by poster: Just did a day at Epcot, with MK for tomorrow.

For anyone still following looking for more answers:

We did have to buy tickets in advance to sign up for FastPasses, since they won't make the reservations without proof that you're going. But we weren't required to link the tickets to a day, so if we changed our minds and wanted to go a different day there wouldn't have been an issue.

We had the option of the free cards or the MagicBand wristbands, which cost around $15 each - we opted for the cards. If you're not staying at the resort hotels, I don't see any benefit to the wristbands other than loss prevention, but I could be wrong.

The MyDisneyExperience app was helpful to keep track of times but the free wifi in the park (at least at Epcot) was spotty and we ended up having to get to a kiosk to reserve a new one after we used the three we picked in advance because we couldn't get the app to connect. This was an issue because there aren't a lot of kiosks and they're not always near where you want to be next (again, at Epcot - this may be different for other parks).

There seems to be an issue online with splitting our group - we got FastPasses for all of us for Space Mountain tomorrow, then cancelled two because we realized my son is too small to ride - so far it won't let us get two more to replace the cancelled ones without cancelling the others that we want to keep as a group. Not sure how to fix this. I may have to call them.

Many of the attractions weren't available for FastPasses at all - they were all booked in advance. So from that point of view it's a failure for people like me who don't like to preplan, especially since so many people plan their trips months ahead of time.
posted by Mchelly at 7:27 AM on January 20, 2015 [1 favorite]

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