There are two things that we love about our holidays to Walt Disney World. Of course the first one is actually being in the magic, spending quality time together, but the second thing that is almost as exciting is planning. In the lead up to our holiday we love to sit around a table and spend time as a family working out what we want from our upcoming trip. As the kids are getting older now, they have a real say in the choice of FastPasses, so choices are driven by what they want to do, which is why discussing it as a family beforehand is important.
Disney’s FastPass+ system is great and we think is better than the old system where you had to head to ticket machines at your chosen attraction and hope for the best. It does however require a little more forward planning but the pay off will mean less time queuing, getting on to the attractions that you want to go on and ultimately lead to a reduction in stress levels!
The FastPass+ system allows you to ‘reserve’ your place in the line by choosing a time window in which you can visit the attractions. We have always stayed at a Disney hotel or villa and for us, one of the biggest advantages is that you can book 60 days prior to your arrival and book for the entire duration of your stay. If you aren’t staying at a Disney property but have purchased a park ticket through Disney, you can reserve your space in line 30 in advance of each day at the parks.
We’ve had great success in booking early and we now wouldn’t head over to Orlando without making advanced dining reservations or booking our FastPass+ slots.
If there’s one piece of advice we’d give, and we have learnt this the hard way, is to make sure you make use of the FastPass+ system and book times for going on the attractions. Even if you think you are travelling at a time when the parks are relatively quiet, book in your attractions! The parks will invariably become busy and yes, you can change your reservations if plans change, but if you have nothing booked in you risk having to wait in line and we’ve found that this ends up wasting our precious holiday time.
When choosing FastPasses make sure you go for rides that you want to go on. We know this sounds really obvious, but in the past we have booked rides as they are popular, but when the day has arrived we haven’t really fancied going on them. Having said that, it is worth checking out which rides do attract the longest queues and if you do want to go on these rides then make sure you book them in.
We try to be a bit savvy when it comes to using our FastPasses and we have found that by getting into the parks early, we can head for the high demand rides whilst their queueing time is low, and then when the parks get busier we use our FastPasses to bypass the crowds. This is even better if you go into a park during the morning Extra Magic Hours (extended park hours for Disney hotel/villa guests) where you can ride on some of the most popular rides before the non-Disney guests are allowed into the park. We found that this only really worked by getting in early as parks with the Extra Magic Hours tend to be busier on these days.
Pick a park….any park
With the Ultimate Ticket that is available to UK travellers, park hopping, or visiting different parks throughout the day is open to you. It’s a great feature however, when we’ve booked our FastPasses we could only choose one park to making our three attraction reservations. Once we’d been on our three rides we could then make another reservation and this was often in another park and for later on in the day. This gave us the chance to go back to the hotel, cool off and have a dip in the pool, and then head back out to the park for our pre-booked FastPass. It worked so well and helped us to maximise our time.
Be prepared but be flexible
We found that as the holiday went on our plans would change and this was absolutely fine. Sometimes we needed a rest day or our teens struggled to get up early so we moved things around to suit how we were feeling. The My Disney Experience app was a brilliant tool for making changes to our day and we could cancel and rebook according to how our day was going. Most of the time we could successfully make changes, but for highly popular rides such as Avatar Flight of Passage, we weren’t as lucky so be careful about cancelling high demand rides as you might lose a FastPass and not be able to rebook for that day or beyond.
My Disney Experience FastPass+ function on mobile app
For our tribe the My Disney Experience app allowed us to make changes to our group whilst we were on the go and we could select and make changes for individuals in the group or reorganise the day for all 8 of us – simple!
If you prefer not to use the app, there are FastPass+ kiosks where you can make changes to your day and often Cast Members will be on hand to help you should you have any questions. Beware, these can get quite busy and you could end up wasting time queuing to make changes to your day.
The attraction tiering system
In order to allocate the FassPass spaces fairly, Disney have put some attractions into tiers. There are two tiers – tier 1 and tier 2. You can only choose one ride from tier 1 (these tend to be the rides that are the most popular) and then choose two from tier 2 (the rides that usually have shorter wait times). It sounds confusing but it really isn’t. It is clear to see what you can book when you go online to book your FastPasses but just be aware of this so you can make full use of your FastPass allocation.
It’s always worth checking out which are the attractions that are in high demand. We often book these as soon as we reach the 60 day point as these FastPass spaces get filled up quite quickly. Here are some of the rides with the highest wait times and need to be a priority for booking:
Magic Kingdom: Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, Peter Pan’s Flight, Splash/Space/Big Thunder Mountain
Hollywood Studios: Slinky Dog Dash, Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster, Hollywood Tower of Terror, Toy Story Mania, Alien Saucers Swirl
Slinky Dog Dash, Toy Story Mania and Alien Saucer Swirl are in tier 1 so you will only be able to book one of these along with two rides from tier 2
Animal Kingdom: Avatar Flight of Passage, Na’vi River Journey, Expedition Everest, Dinosaur
Avatar Flight of Passage and Na’vi River Journey are in tier 1 so you will only be able to book one of these along with two rides from tier 2
Epcot: Test Track, Frozen ever After, Soarin
All three of these rides are in tier 1 so you will only be able to book one of these along with two rides from tier 2
We found that our teens made the following attractions top of their favourites list: Slinky Dog Dash, Test Track, Soarin’, Avatar Flight of Passage and Peter Pan’s Flight
If you don’t succeed at first…..
Keep trying!!! If you don’t manage to get the rides that you want, keep going back into My Disney Experience and check to see if any become available. It appears that Disney release more FastPasses for the bigger rides on the day and the rumour mill quotes 11.37am being the ‘magic time’ when more are released. It’s worth keeping in mind if all else fails.
We love the fact that Disney constantly strives to improve the overall experience for their guests. Through the years we have watched the FastPass system evolve and become easier to use. With so much to do FastPass+ makes planning a breeze and we pack much more into our days than we usually would. It’s free, it’s great….make sure you use it!