Disney,  Orlando

Florida countdown – The FastPass+ Edition

Today marks just under 8 weeks until our next trip home to our happy place, the theme park capital of the world: Orlando, Florida. Thats 54 days, less than 2 months or just under 8 weeks however you want to look at. For me personally i tend to use days as the metric for my countdown , as it really doesn’t feel as long as 8 weeks sounds.

To most people 54 days feels like long time especially if you are constantly slaving away at work with nothing to look forward too. I’ve been there, it really sucks and its a proper drag i’m not going to lie. But when you do have holiday plans and you’ve been watching your countdown fall from 180 days like we have, the proximity to leaving on that jet plane is closer than ever. And the excitement is REAL. Ok maybe its not normal to be excited from 180 days like i was, but who even are you if you don’t get excited for a visit to Disney and the Theme Park Capital of the World? Just saying.

We are now officially less than 2/3rd’s of the way through our countdown. Woo! So in celebration of our 54 day milestone, in this post I’m going to be talking about all Disney’s FastPass+ System.

What is Disney FastPass +

The original FastPass system was introduced in 1999. Almost 20 years ago and it has changed the way we experience Disney World ever since. I won’t go into too much detail about the original system as it’s obsolete now but the old system was built upon trusty old paper tickets.

Between 1999 and 2014, FastPass eligible attractions would have machines outside the attraction entrance that would dispense a paper FastPass, when a park ticket was inserted. The FastPass ticket would show a window of time that a guest had to enter the priority line aka the FastPass Line at that attraction. That return time window was normally one hour for rides.

With the old paper FastPass, the concept was a virtual queueing system. Availability truly was limited during this period which meant the FP machine would spit out the next available time slot, if any. There was no ability to choose times like there is now. So whichever time you were given, you had to either take it or leave it. On top of this only one FastPass could be held per guest at any one time. On the upside however, another FastPass ticket could be issued either at the start of the current FastPass ticket’s return time or after two hours, whichever was earlier.

I’m not going to lie the system was a dream especially for us eager beavers who would leg it to our favourite attractions at park opening to make the most of this benefit.

The newly updated Fastpass + System.

In 2014 Disney introduced a game changer into the world of queue times in their parks. This was the electronic FastPass+ system. Paper tickets were completely stripped out and instead FastPasses would now be assigned to your park ticket or the newly introduced MagicBand. In the new system everything is done on the My Disney Experience app. That includes FastPasses and Advanced Dining Reservations. Criteria was also introduced as to who and when you could book a FastPass but overall it continues to make the whole experience more convenient for everyone.

At first only on site guests could use the MDE app and make advanced reservations. Off site guests could only make FP reservations at a kiosk in the park on the day of visit. This has since changed and MDE and advanced reservations were eventually rolled out to every Disney Guest.

Whether it was a good or bad change is still up for debate amongst a lot of people. Personally I preferred the old way, running around the park to grab your FastPasses was good fun and it also eliminated alot of people from the running. But change had come and you have to embrace it. Boo for me.

So what is FastPass+

FastPass+ allows all Disney guests that hold a valid Disney ticket the ability to plan their visit in advance for select FastPass+ attractions, Character Greetings, entertainment, and viewing areas for parades and fireworks. This significantly reduces guest’s wait times especially if current crowd levels are anything to go by. Additionally, guests can link each ticket for every member of their party and reserve FastPass+ selections for their group. They are also allowed to change the group’s FastPass+ reservations at any time.

There are also some rules in place that determines when exactly you can book said FastPasses:

60 Day Advanced Reservations. This encapsulates all Disney Resort Guests and Disney partner Hotel Guests. Basically you fall in this category if you are staying on property. If that is you then congratulations, Disney allow you to book your parties FastPasses up to 60 days in advance of your travel date. This is a great place to be for the more difficult to obtain FP such as Flight of Passage. If you don’t know the Disney Partner Hotels i have listed them below, basically hotels in the Disney Springs area:

  • Walt Disney World Swan Resort Hotel
  • Walt Disney World Dolphin Resort Hotel
  • Shades of Green on Walt Disney World Resort
  • B Resort Located in the Walt Disney World Resort
  • Best Western Lake Buena Vista Resort
  • DoubleTree Guest Suites in Walt Disney World
  • Hilton Orlando Buena Vista Palace
  • Hilton Orlando Lake Buena Vista
  • Holiday Inn Lake Buena Vista
  • Wyndham Garden Lake Buena Vista Disney Springs

30 Day Advanced Reservations. This basically includes everyone else, so Annual PassHolders, Regular ticket holders so effectively all Offsite Guests. So if you hold a Disney ticket of some sort and are not staying on property you will fall into this category. If that is you, then congratulations Disney allow you to book your parties FastPasses up to 30 days in advance of your travel date.

With the new and improved FastPass+ System in place it really does benefit everyone especially in comparison to the older outdated paper system so everyone win’s. Yay!

Now the whole 30 day / 60 day thing can be quite overwhelming because basically to obtain those “rare as rocking horse shit” FastPasses you are going against a lot of people. And if you are a 30 day-er, with the on property guests already decimating the numbers of FastPasses available by time your 30 Day timelines arrives, it can feel like you’re at a real disadvantage. But don’t panic this doesn’t mean you won’t grab a sought after FastPass but it does mean you either need to get very lucky or have a good strategy in place. I’ll go into this in another post.

How many FastPasses can you get?

All of Disney’s Guests are eligible to book 3 FastPasses per day at any one of Disney’s parks. But before you get too excited the sad news is that this is restricted to 3 FP’s in one park only. Disney does not allow park hopping with FastPasses. And what Disney says goes. To be honest its only fair because by doing so it ensures better reservation availability for others at each of the parks’ most popular attractions. So you cannot go ride Flight of Passage in Animal Kingdom and then shoot over to a FP for Tower of Terror in Hollywood Studio’s for example. Well you can but not with your 3 allocated FP’s. But thats ok you can still do this later in your day but i will also go into this later.

One golden rule to remember is that FastPasses cannot overlap. This means if you have a Space Mountain FastPass reservation at Magic Kingdom between 11:15am and 12:15pm for example. Then your other FastPass must be booked up to 10:15am (so the end of the hour window will be 11:15am) or it must start from 12:15pm. Let’s say you have another FastPass for Splash Mountain, your window could be 10:15am – 11:15am or 12:15pm – 13:15pm. Obviously you can book well before or after these times however if you want to maximise the benefits of your FastPass you need to be reserving these as close together as possible.

FastPass Tiering

Now in order to operate in the fairest way possible Disney have introduced a Tiering System at it’s Park’s. You will find this system in place at Epcot, Hollywood Studio’s (MGM Studios) and Animal Kingdom. Magic Kingdom is the only Park that does not have a tiering system in place. Basically the concept of the tiers is to ensure optimum FastPass availability at Disney’s most popular attractions.

So you can’t be all greedy and book 3 FastPasses for the most sought after attractions. As much as we would all love to ride Flight of Passage and Na’vi River Journey with minimum wait times, it takes that opportunity away from other riders. I mean it would be pretty sucky if the shoe was on the other foot. Disney loves keeping their Guests happy so its not too much of a surprise. So all i’m saying is make sure you choose wisely with your FastPass selections.

So What are the Tiers?

Tiers are based on the popularity of Disney’s attractions. As new attractions get added to Disney Ride portfolio there also comes a huge demand for Guests to ride the newest attractions and experience Disney’s latest offering. With the tiering system in place it allows you to book 1 FP in the top tier and your remaining 2 passes in the lower end tiers. Each Park has a different system and if you want to make the best choice then you need to be well informed which of these are. So let me be your guide as i break down the tiering system for each park.

Disney’s Epcot

Tier 1

  • Frozen Ever After
  • Test Track
  • Epcot Character Spot
  • Soarin’ around the world
  • Illuminations: Reflections of Light

Tier 2

  • Mission: SPACE
  • Spaceship Earth
  • Living with the land
  • Disney & Pixar Short Film Festival
  • Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular!
  • Journey Into Imagination with Figment
  • The Seas with Nemo & Friends
  • Turtle Talk with Crush

Disney’s Hollywood Studios

Tier 1

  • Alien Swirling Saucers
  • Toy Story Mania
  • Slinky Dog Dash

Tier 2

  • Twilight Zone Tower of Terror
  • Star Tours
  • Beauty and the Beast
  • Voyage of the Little Mermaid
  • Disney Junior Live on Stage!
  • Rock’n’ Rollercoaster
  • Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular!
  • Fantasmic!
  • Muppet Vision 3D
  • Frozen Sing-Along Celebration

Disney’s Animal Kingdom

Tier 1

  • Flight of Passage
  • Na’vi River Journey

Tier 2

  • Expedition Everest
  • DINOSAUR
  • Primeval Whirl
  • Finding Nemo – The Musical
  • Meet Favorite Disney Pals
  • Kilimanjaro Safari
  • Kali River Rapids
  • It’s Tough to be a bug
  • Flights of Wonder
  • Rivers of Light

Disney’s Magic Kingdom

All Tiers

  • Seven Dwarves Mine Train
  • Pirates of the Carribean
  • Haunted Mansion
  • Peter Pan’s Flight
  • Under the Sea – Journey of the Little Mermaid
  • The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh
  • Mickey’s PhilharMagic
  • It’s a Small World
  • Jungle Cruise
  • Magic Carpets of Aladdin
  • Dumbo
  • Enchanted Tales with Belle
  • Meet Rapunzel and Tiana at Princess Fairytale Hall
  • Meet Tinker Bell at Town Square Theater
  • Big Thunder Mountain Railroad
  • Space Mountain
  • Splash Mountain
  • Barnstormer
  • Tomorrowland Speedway
  • Monster’s Inc Laugh Floor
  • Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin
  • Mad Tea Party
  • Meet Ariel at Her Grotto
  • Meet Cinderella and Elena at Princess Fairytale Hall
  • Meet Mickey at Town Square Theater

As you can see pretty much every attraction in every park now has FastPass availability. The Tier 1 FastPasses have very limited availability because they are so popular hence why you can only book 1 FP reservation from this tier.

When booking FastPasses you should really plan around your must do rides. I would always recommend trying to obtain a FP for Flight of Passage. Trust me, you will thank me later.

If you have ever been to Animal Kingdom since Pandora opened you will know that the queue times for this particular attraction can be intense. In high season we have seen queue times exceeding 4 hours. Yes it sounds ridiculous doesn’t it, now don’t get me wrong FOP is incredible, you will never experience anything like it but is it worth a 4 hour wait? No absolutely not. Queue up to 2 hours if you have to ride it and haven’t managed to score a FastPass but i would not queue any longer than that.

Top FastPass Selections for each Park

Now depending on which park you are going to on a specific day there are certain FastPasses that are more beneficial to get than others. However it is entirely down to personal preference and whatever floats your boat really. For us we enjoy thrill rides more than anything else and these usually are the longest wait times anyway. But maybe you would rather take it easy or you have kids so character meets or parades are far more appropriate. To get the most out of your FastPasses, i recommend booking the following rides:

Disney’s Magic Kingdom – Seven Dwarves Mine Train (SDMT), Space Mountain and Peter Pan’s Flight
*

Epcot – Frozen ever After, Mission Space and Spaceship Earth
*Soaring around the World and Test Track can have huge wait times so if like me, Frozen isn’t really your thang then choose either of these*

Hollywood Studio’s – Slinky Dog Dash, Rock’n’Rollercoaster and The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror
*These are personal preference but i guarantee in high season the wait times for the 2 lower tier rides will be exceeding 2 hours*

Animal Kingdom – Flight of Passage, Expedition Everest and Kilimanjaro Safari

Obviously you may have other rides that are higher priority than those stated above, however if you want to make the most out of your selections then all of these attractions will have longer wait times than others.

FastPass+ reservations are available from 7am EST, 4am on the West Coast and from 12pm in the UK . If you want the best FP Reservation then make sure you are ready to get booking by time this slot rolls around. Disney does have an algorithm in place for FastPasses so if there are 2 of you checking times, your chances are even better.

How do i book my FastPass+ Reservations?

So i’ve talked all about what the FastPass+ system is and how it works now lets talk about how to book those all important FastPass reservations. As i briefly mentioned earlier the FastPass+ system along with Advanced Dining reservations all sits on the My Disney Experience Platform. This can be accessed in 3 different ways:

  • On your desktop computer at the My Disney Experience page
  • Via the My Disney Experience app. You can download the app here or on the app store.
  • At the Kiosks in each of the parks.

For the purposes of this post i’m going to take you through the process of booking your FastPasses on the MDE app which is by far the most efficient and convenient way to book those important FastPasses even when you are on the go.

Step 1 – Navigating the MDE App

After you have downloaded and opened the MDE app you will be greeted by the home screen.

This screen offers you a variety of options to maximise your experience with Disney.

To book FastPasses you need to click on the Get FastPass+ option on bottom left.

Step 2 – Getting Started

This will take you to the FastPass+ Landing page. If this is your first time booking FastPasses for your trip you will see this screen.

It is an information page giving you key information on how the FastPass+ system works including times that selections become available and how many FP you are allowed to book per day.

You want to click the Get Started button.

Step 3 – Create and select your party

The next step is to create your FastPass Party.

If you haven’t already done so already this is where you add members of your Travel Party into a FastPass+ Party so that you can select reservations for everyone in your group. You can also add guests at any time. To do so you will need their full details and also details of their Disney Tickets.

Remember you need a valid Disney ticket linked to your account to book FastPasses .

If all guests are available for selection there then you just need to select each guest (or select all) and hit continue.

Step 4 – Select a date

Once you have selected all guests in your party you will be taken the FastPass+ calendar for you to select your dates of choice.

This is where the advanced bookings come into play. Like i mentioned above depending on whether you are staying on or off property this will determine how many dates you will see here whether its 30 or 60 days in advance.

All you have to do is select a date of your holiday and then select the Disney Park you want to visit on your selected day.

Step 5 – Choose your attraction and Time

Once you have chosen a park, the next screen will bring up all available FastPass+ experiences including times available.

There is also a bar at the top that allows you to filter the FastPasses by preferred time.

Scroll through the options to find your preferred attraction. If you click on the attraction this also brings up more available times throughout the day.

Once you have found an attraction and time that suits your plans click your selected time.

Step 6 – Review and Confirm

You are then taken to the Review and confirm page. This summarises your reservation. Which includes the attraction and time of your choice, also the amount of guests the FP is for. You will see also see members of your party. If you are happy with your choice then just select the confirm button.

Alternatively you can click the back button and this will take you back to the previous page to make a different reservation.

Step 7 – Selection Confirmed

Congratulations your booking is confirmed! Woo. Thats 1 down and many more to go.

You now have options to book your remaining 2 FP’s for the day by clicking Same Day over on the left. This will take you back to the FastPass Party screen and you start all over again.

Or if you have already booked your 3 FP’s or want to book for another day you can click different day on the right. This will take you back to the Calendar and allow you to choose another day.

So there you have it. Thats the FastPass+ reservation process. Pretty easy huh? And not to mention user friendly. The App is so accessible that if you decide you want to modify your FastPass time or attraction you can go into the app and move the time to another available time providing your FastPass Window isn’t active.

The app also allows you to cancel your FastPass Reservations and rebook if plans change. However if you are not changing parks you just want to change the attraction or time i would recommend just modifying the FastPass. As FastPasses are limited availability its much easier to modify than to cancel them as you could lose out on a decent FP slot. Unless you’re no longer visiting the park of course then in that case i would definitely cancel and change my reservations to another park.

Tap & Grab

Now there is one little tip that most people are either not aware of or they are aware of it but fail to utilise the opportunity. And that is a little known hack called the Tap and Grab.

So how does it work?

Once you have used your 3 FP’s for the day the MDE app allows you to pick up and book bonus FastPasses one at a time up until park close. These bonus FastPasses can either be outside of the park you are currently in or in it. Which means you can park hop if you so desire. You should start using the the Tap & grab hack when you tap into your 3rd and final FastPass of the day. As soon as you tap in at the entrance, open up the MDE App and you will be able to pick up your bonus FastPass.

The problem most people find with this hack is that most FastPasses can be unavailable at this time however there is always the possibility that someone misses their FP or they cancel then there may be some availability. Sometimes Disney even dump some more availability at random times.

Tap, Grab & Modify

I would always suggest grabbing yourself a new FastPass for any attraction at the park of your choice even if its not the one you want. With a FastPass secured you can then modify it to try and bring the Reservation closer to the current time or swap to another attraction. This usually works much better than to keep refreshing the page without booking anything. Disney’s algorithm is far more likely to favour the person who looks to have plans in a specific park than someone who doesn’t.

The good news is once you’ve used this FP you can book another one up and so on and so forth. All until park close. Pretty nifty huh. Its definitely a good hack to utilise and so many people don’t bother too. Now are you going to get Flight of Passage and Slinky Dog Dash all in one day with this method? Probably not. But can you get some real winning slots? Definitely. It’s a great hack to utilise.

FastPass your way around the Magic

So thats the basics of Disney’s FastPass+ system. Now when you take your next trip or even your very first trip to Disney, you can be well prepared to have the most magical trip ever. FastPass+ is a system that is totally worth utilising and if you can find a strategy that works best for you, then you really can save hours of time by not waiting in those long lines.

Are you visiting or planning a trip to a Disney Park soon? Let me know in the comments 🙂

Loves
Amy xo

Want some Mouse ears to rock while FastPassing your way around the parks then check out my post on 5 Independent Business who rock their Mouse Ears

2 Comments

  • The Tinker Bug

    Such an informative post! Absolutely loved how detailed you got here! I’m so jelly. It’s been so long since my last trip to Disney. Make sure you give Mickey and a huge hug for me and say hey to my girl Tinkerbell!! haha 😉 Have fun!!

    • Amy Lauren

      Thank you so much hun for your kind words :). Hopefully it helps anyone that is going on a trip to Disney to navigate through the booking. Fastpass+ is such a great benefit and so many people don’t utilise it when it really save so much time. I definitely think you need to get yourself out there again soon ;). Of course i will, i will definitely send them your love and hugs haha. Thanks so much for taking the time to read this hun. Appreciate it.

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