All You Need to Know About Disney’s Free FastPass
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Heading to Disney World this spring? Here are tips on avoiding lines using Disney’s free and incredibly handy FastPass service. First-timers and Disney veterans will find handy. It’s important for Disney veterans to know there have been big changes in how FastPass works. Here are the essentials.
The Big News
Disney World has gotten rid of the old FastPass, where any visitor to the theme parks could collect paper tickets that would allow them to show up at a popular ride at an appointed time, usually later in the day, skip the line and get priority access. Disney Land still uses this low-tech but effective system. Disney World now has a FastPass+, a higher tech system with pros and cons.
While FastPass relied on paper chits, FastPass+ is digital. Your appointments are stored on the MagicBands hotel guests now routinely receive (and others can buy) or your plastic ticket card. And it’s available for more rides and attractions than before.
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.
The Stress Factor
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. We understand that for some parents, this ability to plan ahead will be a huge plus. For others, having to think about rides and attractions this far out will make planning more stressful. Just remember that people who plan ahead can wind up changing their plans and things might open up that way.
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 Jedi experiences for Star Wars fans) it will save time and the tedium of very long lines. Unfortunately, for rides like Soarin’ at Epcot, which has astoundingly long lines, it can be the only way to make sure you get on at all.
Disney vacation planner actually plot their clients’ route through the parks ride by ride. This way they can book FastPass times without worrying about 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, maybe with a little backtracking. 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 prepare 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 two or 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 writes about Disney for families at ThatDisFamily.com and tweets at@thatdisfamily She and her family call Orlando home.