For those of you who aren’t up to speed with Walt Disney World’s recent changes, they have made a major alteration to their FastPass system. In the old system, any park guest was able to go to a machine outside of a ride and, depending on availability, use his/her park ticket to retrieve a FastPass which would give the person a window of time during which he/she could come back later and ride with little to no wait. Another FastPass could be obtained at the start of the current Fastpass ticket’s return time or after two hours, whichever was earlier. The new system that is being rolled out allows ONLY Walt Disney World Resort on-site guests to book three FastPasses per day up to 60 days in advance. You can only use your FastPasses in ONE park per day, and the experiences are tiered ( if you are visiting Epcot, you can’t get a FastPass for BOTH Test Track and Soarin’, for example). Non-resort guests will be able to make same-day FastPass+ bookings using kiosks located at the parks. The old FastPass machines have been phased out of Animal Kingdom and Magic Kingdom already, and by the end of the month, they will be gone from all four parks.
The nature of our stay provided us a unique perspective from which to view FastPass+. Bear with me as I attempt to explain the details, because this might get a tad confusing (as if it wasn’t confusing enough already)!
About a year ago, we knew we would be headed down for Marathon weekend, so we purchased our tickets in advance through The Official Ticket Center. They have a deal to get a 5th day free when you buy a 4-day park hopper. When it came time to book a hotel, we chose the Dolphin. We wanted to be in the Epcot area for the weekend, and with the teacher discount, the price could not be beat. At the time of booking, we only planned to stay Thursday to Sunday because we had no idea what our schedules would be like. As the Swan and Dolphin are not Disney-run hotels, they were not participating in the Magic Band testing phase. Guests of Swan and Dolphin were, however, allowed to make same-day FastPass+ reservations using kiosks at the parks. As we got closer to the trip, we decided to extend our stay, and chose to take advantage of a cheap rate at All Star Music. Because a part of our stay was now at a Disney resort, we received Magic Bands after all. In order to make our FastPass+ reservations for the second part of our stay, we had to link our park tickets to the band.
Before we delve deeper into the details, I’d like to point out that since our physical tickets from Official Ticket Center were the old style with no RFID chip, we decided to use our bands for park entry, now that the tickets were linked. We were NOT eligible for advanced reservations for FastPass+ but could make same day reservations at the kiosks by showing a Swan/Dolphin room key. While we weren’t looking particularly hard, we didn’t notice a kiosk until our 3rd day, and chose to use the old “legacy” FastPass system with our hard park tickets. Since we left our bands on after using them for entry, it may have appeared to some that we were double dipping (meaning using both the old and new FastPass systems). My husband was even given a hard time by a cast member at Tower of Terror over this. Soon, all parks will be FastPass+ only and this won’t matter, but I just wanted to note that there are exceptions. Just because someone who has a band on is also getting a physical ticket does not necessarily mean they are working the system.
Our first real experience with same day FastPass+ was when we went to Animal Kingdom. We found the kiosk near the entrance, and waited in line. There were about four people in front of us. There were two physical kiosks and a cast member who had an iPad. She was the one who ended up helping us. She was able to link everyone in our party together, and make us reservations for Expedition Everest, Kilimanjaro Safari, and Primeval Whirl. This took a little bit longer than it really should have. We wanted to be out of Animal Kingdom by 1pm. The major flaw in the system is that you cannot input what times you want. You have to first select the “experiences” you want. After that, it requires some finagling to bump up the times, and sometimes, earlier slots just aren’t available. Luckily for us, the Cast Member was very helpful and after a few minutes of tapping buttons, she was finally able to get us exactly what we wanted.
We had a less successful experience at Disney Hollywood Studios. We had booked FastPass+ for Star Tours, Tower of Terror, and Toy Story Mania. When we got to Star Tours shortly after the park opened, it was a walk on. Just like with the old FastPass system, we thought, “Why would we waste a FastPass on a walk on?” So we rode the ride twice using the regular line. We tried using the My Disney Experience app to switch Star Tours to something else, even a later Star Tours ride, but we weren’t having much luck. We found the FP+ Kiosk and waited in the line. This wait took a little longer than the one at Animal Kingdom and the cast member was not able to help us this time, so we just decided to forego using the last Fast Pass since we had plans to head to Epcot soon.
We happened to be in the Magic Kingdom on January 14, the day FastPass+ went live. On this day, you would have to be blind to miss a FastPass+ Cast member or kiosk locale, as they were swarming everywhere, along with plenty of Disney “suits.” We were approached multiple times and asked whether or not we had been able to make our selections for the day. There were no obvious issues from what we could tell, but the park was practically empty. Case in point: we had a private ride on Dumbo the Flying Elephant about 20 minutes after park opening.
We chose Big Thunder, Peter Pan, and Space Mountain as our FastPasses (Splash Mountain was closed for refurbishment). I’m very glad that we did choose those rides, because again, everything else was a walk on. This leads me to another point- Don’t trust Disney’s posted wait times. They were wrong more often than not. One time we got in line for Pirates of The Caribbean with a posted 45 minute wait-it only took 10 minutes to get loaded onto the boat. Under The Sea: Journey of the Little Mermaid was consistently listed as 20-25 wait, but was a walk on both times we rode it. Because of the low crowds, we got to ride everything we wanted to and most things multiple times, but I’ll be interested to see how this all pans out during more crowded days.
The biggest PRO of the FastPass+ system is clearly not having to run around the park like a mad man collecting FastPasses. Once everything is set, the new system works out rather nicely on low to medium crowd days. Those are the nicest things I can say about it.
The CONS outweigh the PROS for us at this point. The MyMagic+ app is very buggy and can be frustrating to deal with when you have an issue or need to make a change. The limit of 3 FastPasses will be tough on busy days for those who have learned how to maximize the old system, and that doesn’t even touch on the fact that you are limited to one park in which you can book FPs AND that the experiences are tiered. Lines at Guest Relations are longer than usual, and each guest is taking a long time to get his/her problem resolved. My husband asked a CM at one of the kiosks if they are having a lot of issues with FP+ and guests being confused and he said “yeah… kind of…” His partner CM was quick to whisper “Job security!” to him and then she went into a spiel about how great everything is. Many people will be duped into wasting FastPasses on rides that are walk ons to begin with. At Spaceship Earth, we overheard a cast member calling out “Don’t use your FastPass! It’s a walk on.” I could go on and on but this post is long enough already.
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