All You Need to Know About Disney’s Free FastPass+
By Natalie Reinhart
Heading to Disney World this spring? Here are tips on avoiding lines that I thought both first-timers and Disney veterans will find handy. Most important: Big changes are in store for Disney’s free and incredibly handy FastPass service.
The Big News
Disney is getting ride of the old FASTPASS, where any visitor to the resort’s theme parks could arrange to show up at a popular ride at an appointed time, usually later in the day, in exchange for line-skipping priority access. This spring, Disney is rolling out FastPass+, a higher tech system that it’s still testing.
While FastPass relied on paper chits, FastPass+ is entirely digital. Your appointments are stored on the MagicBands hotel guests are beginning to receive or your plastic ticket card. And it’s available for more rides and attractions than the previous system.
Folks staying at Disney hotels can schedule FastPass+ appointments starting 60 days before they arrive at the parks via their PC, and change appointments at the parks using a smartphone app. Everyone else can make reservations starting 30 days out once they buy admission tickets.
You can reserve only three activities per day and all in the same theme park—Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Hollywood Studios or Animal Kingdom.
For first-timers it can be hard to know before arriving at the park which attractions to choose (not every thing on the list has a killer line and some things will interest your family more than others). My advice: Ask friends who have visited Disney World recently where they saw the longest waits and which of those things they think your kids will want to do most. And keep in mind that you can try to make changes later.
What the Pros Do
It might seem absurd to make appointments for amusement park rides, and even more so to book them weeks before you even arrive at the park. But for must-do attractions (princess meet-and-greets for young girls or the Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, below) it will save time and the tedium of very long lines. For rides like Soarin’ at Epcot, which has astoundingly long lines, it can be the best way to make sure you get on at all.
When I plan visits for clients, I actually plot their route through the parks ride by ride. This way I can book FastPass times without worrying about time-wasting backtracking or mad dashes across the park.
Having a ride-by-ride itinerary can sound way too scripted for many parents. And sure, on non-peak days you can wing it and fit in most of what you want to. But if you are visiting during a school break, a schedule with strategic FastPass+ appointments really can help you to make the most of those very pricey admission tickets.
There are countless websites you can use to plan your Disney trip. I use TouringPlans, which costs $12.95 for a year’s subscription (probably worth it even if you don’t need it for a full year). It’s a good place to start, but prepared to do some tweaking to come up with a personalized plan for your family.
If All Else Fails…
If you just are not the plan ahead type, there are ways to make the most of your time at the park.
Keep in mind that the parks open at 8:00 AM or 9:00 AM, but most visitors don’t get there until after 10:30 AM. This means early birds have up to three hours to take advantage short lines at even the most popular rides and get first dibs at the FastPass+ kiosks in the parks.
Those FastPass+ kiosk should be your first stop, by the way. But keep in mind that everyone stops at the first Kiosk they see. Pass that line by and look for one further in, which will probably be relatively empty early in the day. Look for passes to popular rides you know you’ll want to ride a second time or that you might not make your way to until later in the day.
Natalie Reinert spent five years working at the Walt Disney World Resort in Florida. Now she creates personalized Disney vacations for her clients as a travel planner with Glass Slipper Concierge, writes about Disney for families at ThatDisFamily.com and tweets at@thatdisfamily She and her family call Brooklyn home.