FastPass+ ("FastPass Plus") and FASTPASS
Disney introduced its FASTPASS ride reservation system in 1999 as a way to moderate the high wait times at some of its headliner attractions. A new version of FASTPASS, called FastPass+ ("FastPass Plus"), completely replaced the old system in January 2014.
FastPass+ is a ride reservation system. It is designed to moderate wait times at popular attractions. Understanding how to use FastPass+ is important for success with our Touring Plans, especially if you want to experience lots of attractions or are unable to arrive at park opening.
Somewhat like making a dinner reservation at a restaurant, FastPass+ allows you to make a reservation to ride an attraction at a Disney theme park. You can request a specific time, such as 7:30 PM, or you can let the FastPass+ system give you its "first available" reservation.
Each FastPass+ reservation lasts for an hour. Thus, if you make a FastPass+ reservation to ride Space Mountain at 7:30 PM, you have until 8:30 PM to use it, or change it to something else. Just like a restaurant reservation, your FastPass+ may be canceled if you don't show up on time. (In practice, you can usually be up to 5 minutes early or 15 minutes late to use your FastPass+ reservation. Our Disney World touring plan software knows this, and takes advantage of it occasionally.)
There is no charge to use FastPass+ — it comes free with park admission to everyone, including guests not staying at a Disney-owned resort.
Disney only offers FastPass+ at select attractions, and for some attractions FastPass+ is only offered during busy times of year. Specific FastPass+ information for each theme park is linked below.
- Magic Kingdom FastPass+ Advice and Tips
- Epcot FastPass+ Advice and Tips
- Hollywood Studios FastPass+ Tips and Advice
- Animal Kingdom FastPass+ Tips and Advice
Making a FastPass+ Reservation
Guests staying at a Disney Resort Hotel, and Annual Passholders, can make FastPass+ reservations up to 60 days before their trip, through Disney’s website and My Disney Experience app. You’ll need an existing Disney resort reservation or a theme park ticket in hand to do this. If you buy your admission the day you arrive at the parks, or you want to change your FastPass+ selections when you’re in the park, you can use the app or new in-park computer terminals to make reservations.
FastPass+ terminals can be found at the following locations. Because they’re mobile, Disney occasionally moves around underutilized kiosks to see if guests can better find them. If you don’t see one around, as the nearest Castmember for the closest location.
Magic Kingdom FastPass+ Kiosks
- At Guest Relations at City Hall on Main Street
- In the Town Square Theater on Main Street
- Near The Diamond Horseshoe Saloon in Liberty Square
- In the brick building outside the exit to Hall of Presidents, in Liberty Square
- Outside Mickey’s PhilharMagic in Fantasyland
- At the Storybook Circus FastPass+ area, across from The Barnstormer in Fantasyland
- At Splash Mountain's FastPass+ area, just past the entrance, in Frontierland
Epcot FastPass+ Kiosks
- Outside the Mission: SPACE entrance
- At the Soarin' entrance, downstairs at The Land pavilion
- At Guest Relations in Future World
- At the digital "tip board" in the middle of Future World Plaza (behind Spaceship Earth and the Future World fountain)
- At the International Gateway entrance to the park
- In the Future World West walkway, on the way to The Land pavilion
Disney's Hollywood Studios FastPass+ Kiosks
- At the FastPass+ service center, immediately to the left once you get past the entrance turnstiles
- At the "wait times" board on the corner of Hollywood and Sunset boulevards
- Outside Voyage of The Little Mermaid, in Animation Courtyard
- Outside the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror entrance
- At Guest Relations outside the park
Disney's Animal Kingdom FastPass+ Kiosks
- Expedition Everest
- Kali River Rapids
- Primeval Whirl
- In front of the Disney Outfitters store on Discovery Island
- In front of the FastPass+ Service Center near Creature Comforts on Discovery Island
Returning to Ride with FastPass+
Each FastPass+ reservation lasts for an hour, and Disney officially enforces the ride return time. Thus, if you make a FastPass+ reservation to ride Space Mountain at 7:30 PM, you have until 8:30 PM to use it, or change it to something else. Just like a restaurant reservation, your FastPass+ may be canceled if you don't show up on time. (In practice, you can usually be up to 5 minutes early or 15 minutes late to use your FastPass+ reservation.)
When you return to Space Mountain at the designated time, you’ll be directed to a separate, shorter "FastPass+ Return" line. Before you enter the line, you’ll need to validate your reservation by touching your MagicBand or RFID ticket to a RFID reader at the FastPass+ Return entrance. Once that’s done, you'll proceed with minimal waiting to the attraction’s preshow or boarding area.
FastPass+ Rules and the Math Behind Them
One change for FastPass+ is a hard limit on the number of daily FastPass+ reservations you can have. Each guest is limited to between 2 and 4 FastPass+ uses per day, depending on the park and crowd conditions, and FastPass+ may only be used in a single park per day per ticket. On a typical day, most guests can get 3 or 4 FastPass+ choices at the Magic Kingdom, and 3 FastPass+ choices at Epcot, Disney's Hollywood Studios, and the Animal Kingdom. During busier times of the year, these numbers may be reduced to 3 at the Magic Kingdom and 2 at the other parks. (Alternatively, Disney may provide more FastPass+ availability at parades, fireworks, and less popular attractions to avoid these reductions.)
Whether it's 2, 3 or 4 FastPass+ reservations, it represents a significant constraint for Unofficial Guide readers, who report using 8 to 10 regular Fastpasses per day in the Magic Kingdom simply by knowing the rules and doing the walking.
Why does Disney need to limit the number of FastPass+ uses available? Because guests who use FastPass+ are more satisfied with their trip, so Disney wants more guests using it. But the number of guests who can use FastPass+ in a given day is a function of the number of rides which have FastPass+, their hourly capacity, and how long the park is open.
Take the Magic Kingdom as an example. When the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train opens, the park should have around 27 FastPass+-enabled attractions, parades, and fireworks). Combined, those attractions should be able to give rides to around 35,000 people per hour (plus parades and fireworks). Assume half of that capacity is allocated to FastPass+, and the other half to standby riders. Over the course of a 12-hour day, that works out to around 225,000 FastPass+ spots available on those rides.
About 49,000 people visit the Magic Kingdom on an average day. If there are 225,000 FastPass+ spots available, each person can have about 4 FastPass+ reservations before all of the spots are taken.
However, if 75,000 people visit the Magic Kingdom during the same 12-hour day, they can only have 3 FastPass+ reservations each before all of the spots are taken. At 75,000 people, Disney could keep the park open longer, but it would take an 18-hour day (e.g., from 8 AM to 2 AM) to guarantee 3 FastPass+ reservations per guest. Keeping the park open costs money.
Another way of making more FastPasses available is to add FastPass+ to more attractions. Today, Disney’s four parks have FastPass+ at around 55 attractions, parades and fireworks (the number fluctuates as Disney is constantly testing which attractions guests respond to). In addition, Disney is using FastPass+ for more character greetings, and to reserve some of the best viewing spots for the parks’ afternoon and evening parades and fireworks.
More FastPass+ Restrictions
In addition to limiting the number of FastPass+ you can obtain, Disney prevents guests from obtaining certain combinations of FastPass+ reservations. Under the old FASTPASS system, any guest willing to do the walking could obtain FASTPASSes for Space Mountain, Splash Mountain, and Big Thunder Mountain on the same day; the same guest could obtain three FASTPASSes for Space Mountain, too.
That has changed with FastPass+. Under FastPass+, you can obtain only one FastPass+ per attraction per day. If you want to ride Space Mountain twice, one of those rides will have to use the standby line.
In addition, Disney's computer system does not allow FastPass+ times to overlap. If you've got a FastPass+ reservation for 2 PM to 3 PM, you cannot make another FastPass+ reservation later than 1 PM or earlier than 3 PM.
Disney also limits the combinations of FastPass+ reservations you can have, preventing guests from using FastPass+ on all the park’s headliner attractions. The practice, known informally as "FastPass+ Tiers", is in effect at Epcot and Disney's Hollywood Studios.
Here's how FastPass+ works at Epcot: The park's attractions are divided into two groups:
Epcot FastPass+ Group A (Choose 1)
- Epcot Character Spot
- IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth
- Maelstrom at Norway
- Test Track
Epcot FastPass+ Group B (Choose 2)
- Captain EO
- Journey Into Imagination With Figment
- Living with the Land
- Mission: SPACE Green
- Mission: SPACE Orange
- Spaceship Earth
- The Seas with Nemo & Friends
- Turtle Talk with Crush
The FastPass+ computer system will allow you to choose only 1 attraction from Group A, and 2 attractions from Group B. You'll notice that Disney has in Group A the attractions with the longest lines. Disney does this to ensure that most guests get access to either Soarin' or Test Track for their FastPass+ selections.
The other thing to notice is that almost none of the attractions in Group B actually need FastPass+ reservations most of the year. Waits every one of these attractions are generally under 20 minutes every day except holidays, and in many cases they're under 10. Epcot's Group B attractions exist primarily to give FastPass+ users something to use FastPass+ on, and to help Disney distribute crowds throughout the park.
Further, guests who book last-minute vacations may see their FastPass+ choices reduced. Because an attraction’s FastPass+ availability is limited by its hourly rider capacity, those who book last-minute trips may find that FastPass+ reservations are no longer available at their favorite attractions.
Clearly, Disney’s FastPass+ rules are designed to do three things: encourage you to stay at a Disney resort; book your trip well in advance; and tell Disney exactly where you plan to be every day. These three things increase Disney’s revenue. They also decrease Disney’s operating expenses, because Disney will be able to adjust its staffing levels at each park based on how many people have made FastPass+ reservations. More importantly, by promising lower wait times in advance, they encourage you to spend more time at Disney’s parks and discourage you from last-minute trips to Universal or other theme parks.
How FastPass+ Affects Your Waits in Line
FastPass+ is having a minimal effect on standby lines at Walt Disney World. That’s according to our initial analysis of 330,000 standby wait times collected at Walt Disney World since FastPass+ went into effect in January, 2014. We compared those to 3.9 million standby wait times collected across Walt Disney World since 2009.
The challenge in doing that analysis was in attributing an observed change in wait time to a particular change in circumstances. If standby times go up, was it due to FastPass+? Maybe it was due to a general increase in attendance. So we must work some statistical magic to find the partial dependence of the new FastPass+ system as it relates to standby waits. That is, holding all other factors constant, what was the change in standby waits due only to FastPass+?
The results indicate FastPass+ is not causing significant changes to standby wait times:
- Wait times are increasing less than 1 minute, on average, across all attractions at all parks
- Super-headliner attractions have seen a small drop (under 1 minute) in standby waits
This could indicate something about the new system. Here are a couple of theories as to why headliner standby waits are lower:
- Fewer Repeat Riders Legacy FASTPASS made it easy for savvy guests to ride headliner attractions several times a day without waiting in the standby line. With FastPass+ the rules don’t allow it. So, it may be that FastPass+ is drawing a few hundred guests a day to the less popular attractions that might have otherwise experienced a second or third ride on a Super-Headliner. With fewerFastpass users later in the day, that means that the Standby lines get a little bit shorter.
- Better Crowd Distribution Guests have more attractions to choose from with FastPass+, and these attractions are spread throughout the parks. It’s possible that by moving guests to these other attractions, FastPass+ is more evenly spreading guests around attractions. This would explain the move of guests from headliner attraction lines, which are getting shorter, to lines at secondary attractions, which are increasing.
In addition, we think that most TouringPlans members will probably spend a few less minutes per day walking around the parks, because they no longer need to walk to an attraction’s FASTPASS machines. The time saved from walking is slightly more than the overall increases in standby waits at secondary attractions, so FastPass+ (when it works) is roughly a break-even proposition for folks using touring plans.
We say "when it works" because we’ve heard from plenty of readers whose waits in FastPass+ return lines are significantly longer than expected. The issue seems to be the speed at which the attractions’ RFID readers are able to confirm a FastPass+ reservation stored on a Magic Band.
In the old FastPass+ system, a Castmember usually took only a few seconds to glance at the paper FASTPASS return time before sending you on to the FASTPASS line. And the Castmember usually only looked at one FASTPASS for an entire family, on the assumption that everyone’s FASTPASSes said the same thing.
The new computer system is taking around 15 to 30 seconds per person, to read the band, look up the reservation, and do the validation. And every member of a family goes through the validation. This isn’t an issue when guests returns are spread somewhat evenly throughout the day, but it stops the line dead when a group of people arrive at once. The result has been occasional waits of up to 30 minutes to redeem a FastPass+ reservation, sometimes longer than the standby wait for the same ride.
Disney is putting a lot of effort into reducing this validation process, and we expect it to be smoothed out by the end of 2014.
Touring Plans and FastPass+
Our computer-optimized touring plans support FastPass+. With these, you choose the attractions you want to experience, including character greetings, parades, fireworks, meals, and midday breaks, and we’ll give you a step-by-step itinerary for your specific dates of travel showing you how to see everything with minimal waits in line. The touring plans can incorporate your existing FastPass+ reservations and suggest where to use any remaining FastPass+ opportunities.
You can update FastPass+ reservations while you're in the park, too. If you decide to change a Fastpass+ reservation from Splash Mountain to Big Thunder Mountain, you can tell Lines to re-optimize your plan based on your new FastPass+ times, and Lines will re-do your plan. The ability to re-do your plan allows you to handle any situation while still minimizing your waits for the rest of the day.
Last updated: March 6, 2014