FASTPASS 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"), should roll out across the parks in 2013 and will (eventually) replace the old system entirely. FASTPASS and FastPass+ are available free to all park guests, even if you’re not staying at a Disney resort.
FastPass+ adds features such the ability to make ride reservations months in advance, and more attractions to use it on. It also comes with limits on how many FastPasses you can obtain per day and per attraction.
Because the introduction of FastPass+ has already been delayed for more than a year, it’s possible Disney will run both FASTPASS and FastPass+ together while they work out the kinks. To cover both bases, the next section describes FASTPASS (and ride reservation systems) in detail. This section describes FastPass+, including what’s being retained from the original FASTPASS system, and new features being introduced.
The FASTPASS Ride Reservation System
Disney's FASTPASS is a reservation system designed to moderate wait times. 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.
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.
When you arrive at a FASTPASS attraction, if the posted wait time is acceptable you should hop in the regular "stand-by" line. If you do not want to wait that long, you may pick-up a FASTPASS ticket that will allow you to return and ride with a minimal wait during the posted return window.
Disney describes the FASTPASS system in 3 easy steps:
- Each member of your party inserts his or her park ticket in the FASTPASS kiosk.
- You'll receive a FASTPASS ticket with a return time so that you can go play in the park instead of waiting in line.
Tip: Look on the bottom of your current FASTPASS ticket to find out when you can get one for another attraction.
- Come back during your return time and hop on the attraction with little or no waiting
General FASTPASS Touring Tips
- Don't mess with FASTPASS unless it can save you 30 minutes or more at a given attraction.
- Since lines are manageable, there's no reason to use FASTPASS during the first 30-40 minutes a park is open.
- If you arrive after a park opens, obtain a FASTPASS for your preferred FASTPASS attraction first thing.
- Don't depend on FASTPASS tickets being available for ride attractions after 2 p.m. during busy times of the year.
- As of March 7, 2012, you must use your FASTPASS between the beginning of the window printed on your FASTPASS and the end of the window. Disney may not honor your FASTPASS if you arrive significantly later than the end of the time window shown. In practice, we hear that you can show up anywhere from 5 minutes early to 15 minutes late and still use your FASTPASS.
- Make sure that everyone in your party has his or her own FASTPASS ticket.
- Always check the FASTPASS return period before obtaining your FASTPASS. During busy times of year, the return window might begin after you plan to leave the park!
- You can obtain a second FASTPASS as soon as you enter the return period for your first FASTPASS or after 2 hours from issuance, whichever comes first (it's 1 hour at the Animal Kingdom).
- When obtaining FASTPASS tickets, it's faster and more considerate of other guests to select a "FASTPASS runner" to obtain passes for your entire party. This means entrusting one individual with both your valuable park admission passes and your FASTPASS tickets, so choose wisely. (Also note that the runner can do her FASTPASS fetching while you eat, visit the restroom, ride an attraction, etc.) The option to use a "FASTPASS Runner" is supported in our computer-optimized touring plans.
Disney’s latest version of FASTPASS, called FastPass+, has not yet launched to the general public. It has gone through enough rounds of small-scale guest testing, though, for us to form a general sense of how it’s supposed to work.
One major change to the existing FASTPASS system is that FastPass+ users will be able to select their return time windows for attractions. For example, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad may display a list of 1-hour time windows (1–2 p.m., 2–3 p.m., etc.) for you to choose from. This solves the problem of not being able to use FASTPASSes whose return times end up in the middle of meals or naps—an important consideration because Disney enforces those return-time windows.
Another new feature of the FastPass+ initiative is the ability to make Fastpass reservations in advance – we hear it’s around 60 days ahead, but the actual number hasn’t been set yet. In the current FASTPASS system, you obtain FASTPASS tickets when you get into the park by walking to the attraction’s FASTPASS kiosk. With FastPass+ you’ll be able to make reservations two months from the date of your visit, 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’ll (eventually) be able to use the app or new in-park computer terminals to make reservations.
Also in the plans, we’re told, is a hard limit on the number of daily FastPass+ reservations you can have. The rumor is that when FastPass+ rolls out across the four parks, each guest will be limited to between 2 and 4 FastPass+ uses per day, depending on the park and crowd conditions. We also hear these restrictions should apply only busiest 5 to 15% days of park attendance, depending on the park.
This is 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 13 FASTPASS-enabled attractions. Combined, those 13 should be able to give rides to around 19,000 people per hour. Assume two-thirds of that capacity is allocated to FASTPASS, and the other third to standby riders. Over the course of a 12-hour day, that works out to around 152,000 FASTPASS spots available on those rides.
About 49,000 people visit the Magic Kingdom on an average day. If there are 152,000 FASTPASS spots available, each person can have 3 FASTPASSes 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 2 FASTPASSes 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 FASTPASSes 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 about 30 FASTPASS-enabled attractions, and our latest information is that Disney will up this number to around 50. Attractions such as Haunted Mansion and Pirates of the Caribbean in the Magic Kingdom, Spaceship Earth at Epcot, and the Great Movie Ride at Disney’s Hollywood Studios should eventually have FASTPASS lines. In addition, Disney will use 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 Constraints May Be Coming
In addition to limiting the number of FASTPASSes you can obtain, Disney seems likely to prevent some guests from obtaining certain combinations of FASTPASSes. 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 looks likely to change with FastPass+. While the rules haven’t been finalized, most scenarios we’ve seen only allow guests to obtain 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.
Disney also seems ready to limit the combinations of FASTPASSes you can have, preventing some guests from using FASTPASS on the park’s headliner attractions. Again, while the rules haven’t been finalized, we’re hearing that Disney’s computer systems may enforce different rules depending on whether you’re staying offsite or at a Disney value, moderate, or deluxe resort. The chart below shows how these rules might be implemented at the Magic Kingdom.
|Guest Hotel Choice||Number of FASTPASSes Guest Can Obtain
at Magic Kingdom's "Mountains"
|Off-site / Day Guest||0|
|Disney Value Resort||1|
|Disney Moderate Resort||2|
|Disney Deluxe Resort||3|
To prevent class warfare, we hear Disney’s computer systems won’t even hint at the distinctions between hotel guests. Guests will simply be presented a list of available FastPass+ opportunities without an explanation as to why or how the list was generated.
Disney may also allocate more FastPass+ opportunities to guests staying at higher-priced hotels. For example, Grand Floridian guests may get 5 FastPass+ uses while other deluxe resort guests get 3 or 4.
We’ve not heard yet how Disney Vacation Club (DVC) members will fit into this scheme. We hear annual passholders may get an allotment of Fastpass+ reservations every 90 days or so, but we’ve not heard whether passholders will be subject to any Fastpass restrictions.
Further, guests who book last-minute vacations may see their FASTPASS allocation or choices reduced. In one proposal we’ve heard, guests who book 60 days in advance get a full allotment of FASTPASSes: 3 or 4 for the Magic Kingdom and 2 or 3 for the other parks. Guests who book 45 days in advance may only be guaranteed 3 and 2, respectively, while guests who book 30 days in advance may have just 2 and 1. And because an attraction’s FASTPASS availability is limited by its hourly rider capacity, those who book last-minute trips may find that FASTPASSes are no longer available at their favorite attractions.
Clearly, Disney’s new 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+ Will Affect Your Waits in Line
When FastPass+ is fully implemented, we think the average Unofficial Guide reader who arrives at park opening and follows a touring plan should expect to wait about the same amount of time in line as with the old FASTPASS system.
Increasing the number of FastPass+ attractions and allowing guests to choose their FastPass+ reservation time should help distribute crowds more evenly throughout the park. That should reduce the wait times at some attractions and increase the waits elsewhere.
Limiting the number of FASTPASSes a guest can obtain, however, or the rides at which they can be obtained, will tend to increase the wait times at some attractions, mostly headliners, because the standby line will be the only option for riding. The question is whether the reduced wait times at some attractions with FastPass+ outweigh the increases at the headliners.
As we said above, adding FastPass+ to more attractions will reduce the wait in line for FastPass+ guests at those attractions. The new FastPass+ attractions, however, are not usually the ones with the highest waits, and that limits some of the potential benefit. For example, standby waits at The Great Movie Ride typically peaked out at around 30 minutes during Christmas 2012, with posted waits of around 20 minutes for much of the day. Guests using FastPass+ at Great Movie Ride can still expect to wait a few minutes to board, so the average time saved using FastPass+ probably tops out at around 15 minutes for most of the day, and even less during slower times of the year.
Also, since some ride capacity will have to be reserved for FastPass+ guests, waits should increase slightly for standby guests at these new FastPass+ attractions. And because of the new FastPass+ limits, most guests will use the standby line at most attractions.
Waits should also increase slightly for guests visiting each park’s headliner attractions, virtually all of which already have FASTPASS. Most of this increase comes from two factors: (1) the new FastPass+ rule restricting the number of Fastpasses you can get for a park’s headliner attractions, which prevents you from saving time at all of a park’s headliners; and (2) the enforcement of FASTPASS return times, which began in 2012 and requires you to use the FASTPASS during its specified return window instead of accumulating them for later use. Together, our computer simulations estimate these changes will add 4 to 7 minutes to the average standby wait at headliner attractions.
We expect very small increases in standby waits at secondary attractions, probably on the order of a minute or so per ride, due to more even crowd distribution throughout the park. Some of that will be offset by the use of Fastpass+ at these secondary attractions. Again, having a touring plan should help you avoid most of these increases.
Touring Plans and FastPass+
Our computer-optimized touring plans support FASTPASS and 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 and 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.