spreadsheets and suitcases

organization + travel = family fun

Disney Pre-Trip Report: FastPass+ing in my sleep

on August 19, 2015

Ok, maybe that’s an exaggeration. And, in my case, the organization was easy because our party of 4 will pretty much always be together on rides/attractions.  But I also prepared quite a bit, and I think that contributed to it being a very pleasant experience.

So, in a nutshell, FastPass+ is a ride reservation system.  It lets Disney know approximately how many people to expect, crowd-wise, for a given ride at a given time per day, and also allows them to distribute opportunities to experience their biggest headliner rides and shows.  For all you tin-foil-hat folks, I’m sure it’s also a data-mining opportunity, since by the time you make FastPass+ reservations, Disney knows how many people are in your party, their ages, the kind of tickets you bought, whether you are staying on property or not, whether it’s your 1st visit or 20th, what the average income of people in your zip code is, and even what your favorite color is (based on MagicBand customization).  I don’t mind Disney knowing too much about me- I am a shareholder after all 🙂

There has been a lot of negative stuff printed about FastPass+: specifically, that it forces you to decide your plans for the day so far ahead of time, losing the spontaneity/fun of a Park day, and causing longer lines at attractions that typically didn’t represent long waits because everyone who couldn’t get a Space Mountain FastPass+ opted to get a Barnstormer one instead.  Some of these points are valid.  Obviously, the point about needing to do advanced planning doesn’t bother me!  The point about losing some spontaneity holds a little weight, but in my opinion, you can add fun at Disney in a million different ways, plus, if you PLAN right, you have some buffer time to allow an awesome character interaction to go on longer than you expect or to have that extra Mickey bar on a hot day.  The last point is fairly valid, some rides do suddenly have bottlenecks/long waits because they are FastPass+ eligible.  But again, with smart planning, pretty much any wait can be minimized.  Lastly, a point about managing expectations: Disney stopped having well-defined “slow times” a while ago.  The Parks are pretty crowded all the time now, so no one goes to Disney without having to wait in a least SOME lines.  My personal limit is 30 minutes (and that’s only because a lot of the ride queues are interactive and you might actually miss something fun if you walk through too fast), though with the kids I’d prefer not to wait more than 20.

Quick FastPass + facts:

  1. you can make up to 3 selections per day in advance
  2. all 3 advance selections have to be in the same Park
  3. each FastPass+ is good for 1 hour (so if you get one for 10:00am, you can enter the ride any time between 10:00am and 11:00am)
  4. after you’ve used all 3 of your advance selections, or your FP+ times have expired, whichever comes first, you can use an in-Park FastPass+ kiosk to make another selection in that Park if any are available.  I’ve heard the in-Park kiosks are a bit slow, so people have been choosing whatever ride comes up first on the kiosk screen, then using the My Disney Experience (MDE) app on their mobile devices to fine-tune their 4th, or 5th, or 6th, etc., selection. The kiosks are clearly marked on all Park maps.
  5. Your selections are stored in My Disney Experience, and that information is linked to your MagicBand.  To use a selection, simply tap your MagicBand to the “tapstile” at the ride entrance during your selection time range, and it should light up green.

When you have a FastPass+ for a ride, you can have little to no wait at all!  Disney resort guests (those staying on-property), have the ability to make FastPass+ selections 60 days from their check-in date.  Those off property can make them 30 days before check-in, as long as they have an MDE account that has park tickets linked to it.  As I waited for my magical 60-day date, I checked out the following:

  • TouringPlans.com: this is the sister site to the Unofficial Guide that I mentioned when discussing ticket options.  If you want a customized plan, you need to register and pay the low yearly fee.  I found that taking the book out of the library and being able to access the generic touring plans in the back was enough.  I was then able to customize my plans using some of the advice on the site.
  • easyWDW.com: another great site, they offer FREE “cheat sheets,” touring plans for each Park.  The author lives locally, so he is always posting about new stuff in the Parks, and updating his crowd calendar, where he makes recommendations on which Park to visit on what day, depending on historical/anticipated crowds.  He advocates never going to the Park that has Extra Magic Hours (EMH), stating that this Park becomes more and more crowded as the day goes on because many Guests just gravitate toward it, even after the extra morning time has passed.  I agree and disagree.  Where I Disagree: I always go the EMH AM hours, ARRIVING BEFORE THE PARK OPENING TIME, enjoying the extra hour, plus the 2 or 3 lower-crowd hours after the Park officially opens, and leaving as soon as it starts to get hot/crowded for a dip in the resort pool.  So if Magic Kingdom is open for all guests from 9a-10p, and EMH is from 8a-9a, I arrive at 7:30a to be among the first in the Park, enjoy lots of rides with little or no lines until 10:30a, stop for a snack or show, use some FP+ for things that will have developed a line by mid-late morning, then have a nice lunch and get the heck out of there. Where I Agree: do not go to the morning EMH Park late in the day or anytime after the Park opens, really.  Also, note that some Parks also have PM hours, staying open after the Park is closed to non-resort guests, though in practice they don’t kick those people out- they just can’t get on rides.
  • DISboards.com: again, a site where you easily get lost in minutiae and uber-planning.  I stuck to the Theme Parks Attractions and Strategies board for itinerary research.
  • my own head/heart: yes, this is where my previous Disney experience came in, and where I balanced the tendency to pack a lot into each day with the need to make sure my kids and husband have lots of fun the whole time, i.e., taking time to smell the roses orange groves on Soarin’ 🙂

So what did all this research get me?  Why, it’s a day-to-day itinerary, with built-in breaks, time for snacks, and even distribution of rides, shows, and character meets.  The most important part of the proposed itinerary was the “ideal FastPass+ selections” for each day.  Some days I knew we would sleep in in order to have a later night, so I wanted FP+ afternoon/evening selections.  For our first day, I wanted to guarantee the popular stuff that would really wow the family, so I planned for morning FP+.  Some days, we would be Park hopping, and able to take advantage of the early morning little/no lines at the first Park, so I made FP+ for the second Park.  My final wish list wound up like this:

Day 4 Day 5 Day 6 Day 7 Day 8 Day 9 Day 10
FP+ #1 Anna & Elsa 10:30a Seas w/Nemo 10:25a Exp Everest 9:00a Space Mtn 4:00p Disney Jr 10:30a Mickey Mouse 4:30p Character Spot 5:00p
FP+ #2 Enchanted Tales 11:45a Turtle Talk 10:45a Mickey/Minnie 11:30a Barnstormer 5:00p TSMM 11:45a Splash Mtn 6:00p Spaceship Earth 6:00p
FP+ #3 Peter Pan 12:45p Test Track 12:45 Kali River 12:30p 7DMT 6:00p L,M,Action 12:00p Haunted Mansion 7:00p Soarin 8:00p

My abbreviations: MK = Magic Kingdom, EP = Epcot, DHS = Disney’s Hollywood Studios, AK = Animal Kingdom, MNSSHP = Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party.  It’s pretty easy to guess the full names of the attractions from what I wrote.  The * is for the EMH Park.  Finally, my chart starts with Day 4 of our vacation because the first 2 days are taken up with travel, and Day 3 is when we go to Universal Islands of Adventure.  And I hereby present to you, my actual FP+ selections!

Day 4 Day 5 Day 6 Day 7 Day 8 Day 9 Day 10
FP+ #1 Splash Mtn 9:50a Seas w/Nemo 9:30a Mickey/Minnie 9:50a Space Mtn 3:00p TSMM 10:35a Mickey Mouse 5:00p Character Spot 5:10p
FP+ #2 Enchanted Tales 11:50a Turtle Talk 10:45a Exp Everest 11:40a 7DMT 4:10p Disney Jr 11:50a Anna & Elsa 6:00p Spaceship Earth 6:30p
FP+ #3 Peter Pan 12:50p Test Track 12:50p Kali River 12:50p Barnstormer 5:10p Frozen Sing 12:35p 7DMT 7:10p Soarin’ 7:30p

Not too shabby!  My 1st Priority was the Anna & Elsa character greet, meaning I would rearrange any other plans to accommodate FP+ availability.  Since Resort guests can make FP+ for any of their vacation  dates as of the 60-day mark, I started searching availability for Day 9 first, since I was planning to be in MK that day, and more people with my check-in date would be searching for earlier in the week (their “Day 1”), as is human nature.  As you can see, my strategy paid off immediately with a FP+ for 6:00pm.  I moved on, working backwards date-wise, and was able to pretty much get everything I wanted.  The whole process took approximately 25 minutes.

With this task done, this will be me until we leave for the trip in October:

Sorry, coworkers.

Sorry, immediate family.  Not sorry, coworkers.

And finally, unless you’ve been under a rock for the past week, you’ve heard about some of the new stuff coming to Disney Parks in the next few years!  Toy Story Land, Star Wars Land, new restaurants, updated rides, shows, etc.!  Here is a great overview…guess I’ll have to start planning my WDW next trip now…haha, START?!  I already have it penciled in for 2020.  With Disneyland coming up in 2018 🙂

2 responses to “Disney Pre-Trip Report: FastPass+ing in my sleep

  1. VivaLaDiva405 says:

    I am amazed. I had no idea this was necessary. I will be hiring you for our 2019 trip!


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