Walt Disney World's FastPass+ system allows guests to reserve ride times for 3 attractions up to 60 days in advance. But why stop at just 3 FastPasses? With careful planning, you can actually obtain a whole lot more than that.
From the day FastPass+ was introduced, I was a fan. As someone who has worked in Information Systems for most of his professional career, I could easily appreciate the potential that lie in such as system. As the patriarch of a family with (at the time) two grade school aged kids, it was even easier to appreciate. See, in the old days, I was usually the person who did the "running" for FastPass tickets. As the rest of the family exited Peter Pan, I was the one telling them "you walk casually over to 'Buzz' and I'll meet you there after I sprint to get FastPasses for Big Thunder Mountain."
My two primary sources of displeasure with the legacy FastPass system were:
1) The need to criss-cross the park to obtain those paper tickets and then later return to use them, and
2) Guests had no control over return times. Posted return time for Splash Mountain is 4:40-5:40pm. Doesn't matter what dinner plans you may have or when your kids typically nap...take it or leave it.
An energetic start to our day
So along comes FastPass+. Granted the newer system is not without its own drawbacks. Some attractions essentially must be booked weeks in advance. Typically the 4-5 newest attractions throughout Walt Disney World like the new Pandora rides and (still) Seven Dwarfs Mine Train. And the tiering of attractions can be difficult to work around, but it's managable for weeklong trip which allows multiple visits to each park.
One of the more recent additions to FastPass+ is the ability to secure even more passes after the initial 3 are used. Even better, additional Tier 1 FastPasses can be obtained, and they can be for any of the four Walt Disney World parks.
On our most recent Walt Disney World visit, my kids--now teenagers--were determined that we visit all 4 parks in a single day. The full family fell a little short of that goal, but the results were still quite satisfying.
Park 1: Epcot
Several days in advance we made our FastPass+ reservations for Spaceship Earth, Test Track and Nemo. Turns out we were running a bit behind--and had already ridden Spaceship Earth twice during our visit. Not wanting to give up our Test Track time, I dropped Spaceship Earth and grabbed a later pass for Journey Into Imagination.
Why use a FastPass for Journey Into Imagination? That brings us to Tim's FastPass+ Rule #1: Use all of your FastPasses as early as possible. You can't get more passes until you've used the initial three, so it's in your best interest to get rid of them as soon as possible. Especially at a park like Epcot when Mission: Space is closed for refurbishment.
Our Epcot tourning ended up looking like this:
11:05am: Test Track
11:55am: Journey Into Imagination
12:15pm: Seas with Nemo & Friends
The wait for Test Track was longer than I anticipated. Not just crowds but some technical problem kept us unmoving in the queue for a good 15-20 minutes.
First stop: Test Track
Along the way we made time for a few other minor things: a pitstop in Club Cool, a few minutes spent browsing the tanks in The Living Seas pavilion, a trip thru MouseGear. I don't want to give the impression that we were dashing from one attraction to the next.
As soon as that Nemo FastPass was redeemed, it was time to get more. Since the tiering no longer applies, we could have gone Soarin' Around the World. I'm pretty confident that I could have snagged Soarin' FastPasses in short order--may have even had them locked in at one point. But the family was ready to move on.
Park 2: Disney's Hollywood Studios
We lucked-out and only had to wait about 5 minutes at the Epcot stop before a Hollywood Studios bus appeared. Even better since it was nearing 1pm and I had already locked in four Toy Story Mania FastPasses for 1:20pm. Not having to waste idle time is the best!
This is probably a good time to mention Tim's FastPass+ Rule #2: If you can't find a FastPass when you first check the app, or don't like the return time, keep checking!
When I started looking for Toy Story Mania FastPasses around 12:15, did 1:20 come up as my first option? Absolutely not. But remember the dynamic nature of the system means other guests are always changing their plans. All it took was someone else dropping their 1:20 TSM FastPass and we swooped-in to grab it.
Tower of Terror
Next up: the teenagers wanted to ride Tower of Terror while us older folks opted for Voyage of the Little Mermaid. Secured FastPasses starting around 1:50-2:00pm for both. Since we had a little time to kill, we headed over to One Man's Dream. While my wife and daugther got in line for the meet-and-greet with 'Baby Groot', Andy and I spent more time browsing the exhibit and watched the 'Cars 3' preview.
After about 20 minutes we separated for Tower of Terror and Little Mermaid. But as soon as those FastPasses were redeemed, I got to work on Star Tours. Locked in a 2:30 ride time for Star Tours and immediately after we all enjoyed MuppetVision 3D without using FastPasses.
In case you're not counting, in the 4 hours from 11am to 3pm we've visited at least 8 attractions over two parks and each used six FastPasses. But we aren't done yet.
We hit a bit of a roadblock due to some slow service when stopping for lunch. Took us nearly 90 minutes to grab a bite to eat and hop a bus over to...
Park 3: Disney's Animal Kingdom
Upon arrival, the standby times were pretty short for a number of attractions. The kids headed over to ride one of their favorites--Primeval Whirl--via standby. Lisa and I made the leisurely trip over to Expedition Everest where we had FastPasses waiting at 5pm. After tapping our MagicBands, I started working on our last FastPasses of the afternoon: Kilimanjaro Safari. It took a few refreshes but I hooked passes for 5:25, which was just the amount of time we needed to ride Everest and walk over to Africa.
It took a little effort to get a good return time on those FastPasses, so I should highlight Tim's FastPass+ Rule #3: Be courteous to other guests when using that smartphone. Specifically, having your phone on--with the bright backlight--during an attraction is a big no-no. We've all been behind that guy (or gal) on Pirates of the Caribbean who is trying to take pictures with a phone or digital camera, and instead of enjoing the attraction, all you get is the glare from their LCD display.
While I did spend several minutes on my phone several times securing additional passes, it was always done outdoors or while walking the ride queue. And no, I don't really feel like I missed out on anything by not thoroughly inspecting the queues for Star Tours or Expedition Everest for the 50th time.
By 6:00pm, the four of us had visited three Disney parks, using FastPasses for 8 of the 11 attractions we selected. All in the span of just 7 hours. Exhausted--and a little ripe--from the July heat, we returned to our hotel. The kids ended up finishing their tour of the four parks with Splash Mountain (another FastPass) and a couple more attractions later that evening. But we adults weren't quite up for it.
Splash Mountain (mom & dad not present due to exhaustion!)
This experience with FastPass+ was hardly unique. Virtually every time we visit the Disney parks now, we manage to use more than 3 pre-booked passes and we typically have flexibility to adjust our return times as needed. During an evening visit to the Magic Kingdom on the same trip, we were bouncing between attractions like Jungle Cruise, Buzz Lightyear's Space Ranger Spin and Haunted Mansion with virtually no wait, securing FP+ return times as little as 5-10 minutes into the future.
Peak demand for certain attractions is often impossible to overcome, though. We never did ride the new Pandora Na'vi River Journey during our recent 10-day stay. We had it pre-booked for one day, but ended up changing our plans and lost the FastPass+ for that attraction. Given high demand, it was impossible to re-book on short notice.
Still, I view that as a fair trade off for the countless attractions we rode with virtually no wait thanks to the FastPass+ system.
Especially for people like me who rarely enter the Parks before late morning or early afternoon.
As a Southern California local, I'm reminded how much I love those WDW Magicbands every time I go to those stupid machines to collect a paper Fastpass at DL or CA.
I'm shocked though, Tim, that you never road the new Navi' River Journey ride during a long 10 day visit (Fastpass or not). Was the stand-by line really that bad? I also hate long waits, but that's brand new and looks pretty interesting!!
I know we never saw it under 45 minutes. Many times it was 100+. This trip was the week of July 4th and crowds were sizable. We saw many, many tour groups. More than I have ever seen in 15+ years of trips.
Here's the story behind our animal kingdom visits. We planned to specifically avoid the theme parks on July 4th. Some of our group did Blizzard Beach during the day and we had dinner reservations at Whispering Canyon. I ended up booking FastPasses for Flight of Passage (and 2 others) that night...just in case anyone wanted to get a quick theme park fix.
Well, we get to Animal Kingdom and the place was dead. There were still noteworthy standby lines in Pandora but everything from the Safari to Everest to Dinosaur was 5-10 minute standby wait. (It helped that about 5000 people were queuing-up for Rivers of light!).
So basically in this one quick visit, we ended up doing FAR more than we ever imagined. We cancelled another planned day at AK, losing our River Journey FPs and never wanted to brave the standby line.
I'm the type that doesn't mind leaving something fun for "the next visit." This trip was my first ride on Frozen Ever After and we ended up doing Flight of Passage twice. We'll make sure to hit the River Journey next summer, if not sooner.
I'm the type that doesn't mind leaving something fun for "the next visit."
We'll make sure to hit the River Journey next summer, if not sooner.
That truly is a major benefit of being DVC.
You know you'll be back in the "World" within a reasonable amount of time to do the things you missed.