Based on how much this blog has covered the ongoing FastPass+ rollout at Walt Disney World over the past year or two, you might assume every member of the Touring Plans team already has enough MagicBands to decorate their Christmas tree (I’m looking at you, Morgan Crutchfield). But since I haven’t stayed in a Walt Disney World on-site hotel since before the MyMagic+ program began, I’ve been excluded…until now. As we reported, Animal Kingdom went FastPass+-only late last year, followed by the Magic Kingdom on Tuesday, January 14, and the rest of the parks will remove their paper legacy FASTPASS machines shortly. Now that the FastPass+ service has been opened to all guests, this acknowledged sceptic took the plunge with my first Annual Passholder FastPass+ experience.
To be precise, my first FastPass+ adventure was an incomplete attempt that was unfair to judge the service by. Earlier in January, I tried using the service on one of the first days it was offered to off-site guests by visiting the kiosks outside Disney Outfitters on Discovery Island.
There was no wait, and a friendly cast member assisted me in using the touchscreen computer to enter my information and select three attractions.
I was surprised to see that in the middle of the afternoon on the last weekend of the holiday peak season, there were still FastPass times available for all the top attractions, excluding Kilimanjaro Safaris (which closes early).
The problem came when the CM tried to attach my FastPass+ profile to my annual pass. Even though I had a pass of recent vintage, complete with the requisite RFID chip to activate the new “touch point” entry turnstiles, and had registered my annual pass with the My Disney Experience app ahead of time, there was still some unspecified error.
The employee gave me a temporary card (with Donald Duck on it) to use FastPass+ for that day, and advised me to exchange my annual pass for a new one at Guest Services before departing the park. The entire process took a little more than five minutes.
Unfortunately, that was the day of Festival of the Lion King’s final performance at Camp Minnie Mickey, and I ended up skipping all of my FastPasses in order to wait for the last show. So I can’t judge how well the system would (or wouldn’t) have worked.
On my way to the exit, I visited Guest Services where my annual pass (which was marked with Mickey Mouse) was swapped for a new one (with Goofy). Before leaving, I verified that my new annual pass was FastPass+ compatible, in preparation for my next attempt.
That attempt came a couple weeks later on Wednesday, Jan. 15. The Magic Kingdom’s full-time conversion to FastPass+ had begun the day before, and our Crowd Calendar predicted a mild 3 out of 10.
Upon showing my annual pass at the Magic Kingdom tollbooth, I was handed this FastPass+ informational flyer.
This was my first return to the Magic Kingdom since visiting Disneyland, and I had almost forgotten how long it takes to get into the park. Total time from entering Disney property to passing under the Main Street U.S.A. train station (including ferry trip with a educational and noisy view of Polynesian DVC construction) was approximately 45 minutes.
As an Orlando-based annual Passholder, I’m unlikely to arrive at rope drop and stay until close. My typical touring pattern is to visit for a few hours on non-peak days, using legacy FastPass to pack in as many attractions as possible. My goal for this visit was to test how many attractions FastPass+ would help an annual passholder like me experience during a 4-hour mid-day period, without the on-site guest’s advantage of advance booking.
In addition to installing My Disney Experience on my iPhone and registering my annual pass, I prepared by creating a quick personalized touring plan with a dozen of my favorite Magic Kingdom attractions. Upon optimizing, the software told me what I already knew: Peter Pan, Space Mountain and Big Thunder Mountain Railroad would be my top FastPass+ priorities.
I strolled up Main Street and swerved right into Tomorrowland, where Stitch’s Great Escape’s FASTPASS machines have been replaced by the park’s largest pod of permanent FastPass+ kiosks.
The line here was probably longer than any I’ve seen for the Stitch attraction itself, but it moved fairly swiftly thanks to numerous helpful CMs with additional portable tablets.
This time, the kiosk recognized my pass right away, and immediately brought up my name. I was given the full list of attractions to chose from (but no dining, parade, or fireworks options).
I selected my aforementioned top picks.
The FastPass+ times the system initially suggested spread my schedule out longer than I liked, but option 3 was much better.
Look carefully through, because options 3 & 4 may change or remove some of your attraction choices.
I confirmed my choices, and entered my email address for a confirmation which arrived in my inbox a few minutes later.
The entire process went fairly smoothly, except for the computer’s touchscreen being frustratingly unresponsive (a problem across all the permanent kiosks).
An attentive CM also suggested taking a photograph of the kiosk screen, since Annual Passholders can’t use the My Disney Experience app’s FastPass+ function. As it turns out, that isn’t entirely true; your FastPass+ selections can’t be changed via the app, but you can view them through the “My Plans” tab.
Upon confirming my FastPass+ times, I opened the Lines app on my phone, where had selected the personalized touring plan I created earlier. I entered the three reservations (be sure to add all 3 before hitting “submit”) and waited for my plan to optimize around the FastPasses.
A minute later, my plan sent me to kill the few minutes before my first FastPass+ window by taking a cruise with the Pirates of the Caribbean.
The posted wait was 10 minutes; the actual wait was closer to 8.
I escaped the burning town just in time to take on Big Thunder with my first FastPass+. The posted wait was 30 minutes.
The FastPass+ sensors worked perfectly, sensing my annual pass without me even taking it out of my wallet. I later discovered I could activate it in my pocket by bumping my hip against the sensors, but that makes me wonder what kind of radiation Mickey might be sending through my nether regions…
My wait turned out to be just under 12 minutes, but most of that was due to a “brief operational delay.” Otherwise, it would have been about 5 minutes. On the down side, I did miss out on the standby queue’s explosive interactive effects.
After leaving Frontierland and cutting through Liberty Square…
…I took another cruise, this one a little more cheerful.
Once I finished banging my head against the concrete to get that song out of my head, I checked out the crowd around the Fantasyland FastPass+ service area in front of Mickey’s PhilharMagic.
This was by far the busiest FastPass+ service area I saw all day. There are only 2 permanent touch screens here, though there were a half-dozen cast members with handheld devices.
This FastPass+ spot gets quite congested, particularly because it’s in the path of the PhilharMagic exit. I’d suggest avoiding this location if possible.
I skipped the next step on my touring plan (I’m not a big fan of the Little a Mermaid ride anyway) in favor of lunch at Columbia Harbour House.
The lobster roll is one of my few exceptions to the rule that everything (at least in terms of counter service cuisine) is better at Disneyland. I like this sandwich more than its crustacean cousin at Anaheim’s Harbour Galley, and it’s over $3 cheaper to boot.
While perusing the park maps over lunch, I noticed that FastPass+ is so new that its participants aren’t yet correctly listed in the guide.
After eating, I checked out the Pete’s Silly Sideshow FastPass+ station, which turned out to be one of the least busy locations in the park.
If you have toddlers and are taking your time, consider taking the train here first thing to make your FastPass+ reservations.
While waiting for my Space Mountain reservation window, I took in a couple Tomorrowland shows that hardly ever have a wait.
When it came time to use my Space Mountain FastPass+, I proceeded smoothly past a 20 minute standby line to my rocket ship.
Finally it was time to use my Peter Pan FastPass+.
The standby line was posted at 45 minutes. My wait with FastPass+ was 7.
Thanks to Pan’s popularity and limited capacity, I rarely arrived in time to get a legacy FASTPASS for this early in the afternoon.
After returning from Never Land, I stumbled into the newest FastPass+ center in Liberty Square, formerly known as the Heritage House gift shop.
This location isn’t on any informational flyers yet, so it was almost deserted.
I also inspected the FastPass+ station near the Diamond Horseshoe.
There are 4 kiosks in the passageway connection Frontierland and Adventureland.
This was already a congested walkway, and the FastPass line doesn’t help matters.
I ended my visit with the best animatronic animal band that never sold bad pizza:
On my way out of the park, I stopped by City Hall to enquire about annual Passholders’ ability to make advance reservations like on-site guests. I was assured that they “just started beta testing” but was given no time frame.
While there, I noticed a couple of unpublicized FastPass+ kiosks in the corner. I’m told there are more in the Town Square Theater, which were also not on the literature I received.
Overall, I was very apprehensive about FastPass+ in advance, but after trying it once I came away cautiously optimistic. I used 3 FastPass+ reservations, experienced 8 attractions total — a mix of headliners, moderately popular rides, and minor attractions — and ate a meal in a four hour span. That’s about on par with my average afternoon on a similarly busy day using legacy FASTPASS, but I accomplished it with a lot less effort expended. If I was attending for a full operating day I might have been able to use five or more FASTPASSes under the old system, but as an short-time visitor I feel I (or at least my shoes) really benefited from the one-stop convenience FastPass+. But I won’t be fully sold on the system until I can book my rides times from home the night before (I’m ok with 180-day pre-bookings being reserved for hotel guests).
Here are my hints for using FastPass+ as an Annual Passholder or offsite guest:
- Download My Disney Experience to your smartphone, set up an account, and tie it to your ticket number before arriving at the park.
- Create a personalized touring plan with the attractions you want to visit, and let the optimizer determine your FastPass+ request priorities.
- Visit a FastPass+ kiosk upon entering the park, or after your first couple E-tickets if arriving at rope drop.
- If one FastPass+ station is busy try another. Fantasyland and Frontierland were busier than Liberty Square and Storybook Circus.
- Select your desired attractions at the kiosk, and don’t be afraid to keep adjusting options until you get times you like.
- Once your FastPass reservations are booked, enter them into your personalized touring plan in Lines and re-optimize.
- You can view your FastPass+ reservations in My Disney Experience under “My Plans,” but not edit them.
- FastPass+ times can be adjusted via a kiosk at any time (reportedly even if you miss your window, though I have not tested this), but once you use all three you are done for the day.