What Is a FastPass+ and Do I really need them?

Who is this creature – Who? –
What is he? – What? –
How did he come to be there – How? –
Hush, Clopin will tell you
It is a tale, a tale of a man and a monster.

Ok so maybe the FastPass+ system isn’t a monster, but reading some of the articles on the Disney Blogs you’d sure think as much. I was “lucky” enough to be a part of the beta group of users on this system and I can tell you that it has progressed a great deal and for the most part has made Disney less stressful, at least for me and those who figure out how to use it. As is the key with any system, you need to learn how it works and how it will work for you. Here is a run down of what it is and most importantly, the strategies I’ve found work best for different scenarios/styles.

What is FastPass+ 
FastPass+ (FP+) is a way for guests to make reservations for certain more popular attractions and then get to experience them with little or no wait. Sounds awesome right? It is, BUT, it’s also a source of confusion and contention. See, you need to plan ahead and make reservations up to 60 days ahead of time. That means the days of getting to Walt Disney World, buying your ticket from your hotel concierge and just going to whatever park struck your fancy are pretty much over if you want to avoid 3 hour lines for Mine Train and Anna and Elsa. To make matters more confusing, your booking window is different based on whether or not you are staying on or off property. If you are staying on property you can make reservations 60 days ahead of time, if you’re off property you get 30 days. But, it’s not as simple as that really cuz if you’re staying on property you can  make reservations for your whole stay 60 days before the first day of your vacation. If you’re off property, you need to make them 30 days in advance for each individual day. It’s a small difference, but it’s important because at 60 days, Anna and Else FP+ are already gone, but if you’re staying for 5 days, you can get them for your third or fourth day pretty much guaranteed.

Do I really need them?
Honestly, no. You can go to the park at rope drop, do all the “must see” attractions and wait in lines. You’ll likely get less done and you’ll wait a lot more, but it’s still possible to enjoy yourself with out it. That said, you SHOULD get them. If you plan properly you can still have a low key day at the park and end up waiting in a LOT shorter lines. It’s not rocket science, but it does require some planning.

Strategies 
There are many legitimate strategies for making FP+ reservations. I’ve tried a dozen or so different ones and I’ve found there are many which will work well depending on who you are and what you want to accomplish. Below, I’m going to outline the different strategies which I have found work best for different groups, but ultimately, there are far more than the ones I outline below.

TL:DR – Make the FP+ reservations for the rides you really want to ride which have the longest lines. If you want to ride any of these rides; Anna and Elsa, Mine Train, Toy Story at Hollywood Studios & the mountains at Magic Kingdom, you should make FP+ reservations for them as soon as you can.

Park Commandos
Who are we:
We go early, we stay all day, we see the parades and fireworks, we close the park down. We wear underwear.

How to Do it:
Go to the park with Morning EMH 20 minutes before it opens. You need to be front of line.

Assuming the park opens at 8am, your first FP+ reservation should be at 9:30-10:30, followed by your second at 10:30-11:30 then the third from 11:30-12:30. Depending on ride lines you ride the first FP+ as close to the end of the window as possible, go straight to #2, have a snack and rest a moment then head to #3. At that point you get on your phone or to a FP+ kiosk and make the next FP+, ride the rides with the lowest crowds or have a quick service lunch while you wait for the FP+ reservation and then after you’ve ridden that you get the next FP+. Repeat till park closing. (unless you’re a hobbit you should probably only have one lunch)

Parents of Small Kids
Who are we:
We are exhausted, we are excited, we are carrying a ton of crap and we can’t wait to see the look on our kids faces when they walk in to the Magic Kingdom. We may also not have woken up in time for rope drop or if we did, we may not have made it out in time for that due to blow outs or tantrums (my daughter is an expert at both of these.)

How to do it:
Figure out what your kids love and make FP+ reservations for rides which will align with those. For example, my daughter loves Mickey and Minnie and she loves music. So we made reservations for meet and greets and it’s a small world. My advice is to go to a park without morning EMH, unless your kids are VERY different than mine, you aren’t getting to the park at 7:30. My daughter can wake up at 6, but getting out the door takes an hour on a good day and with Disney transportation that gets me to the park at around 8, and that’s if I hustle. That said, I can get to the park at 8:30 easily so a 9am rope drop, way doable.

Assuming the park opens at 9, you get your first FP+ from 9:30-10:30, the second from 10:30-11:30 and the third from 11:30-12:30. You ride as many rides as you can with reasonable wait times from 9:00-10:15, then you ride your first ride, take a mini break for a snack, ride your second ride at 11:15, go straight to ride #3 and then have lunch. At lunch, make your next FP+ reservation for as close to 5-6pm as possible and then get the H3)) out of the park. Go back to your hotel, swim, nap, enjoy your vacation. Go back to the park in time for the fastpass, ride it and then do the rides without ridiculous lines. Or, just don’t go back to the park. I know that sounds insane, but there is a ton to do at Walt Disney World and with little kids, sometimes pool time and resort movies under the stars is just as enjoyable as Peter Pan.

Family with Older Kids
Who are we:
We have made it past the phase where the kids can’t ride fast rides, they are finally fun and have mercifully not hit teenager status yet. We like to be together all day (ok, more like, we will be together all day)

How to do it:
Make the earliest possible dining reservation for a character meal in the park for before it opens at least one day. One that day make your first FP+ reservation for between 10-11am, then 11am-12pm and 12-1pm. Older kids can wait in slightly longer lines than little ones and so you’ll get more seen this way vs starting your FP+ reservations at 9:30-10:30 like you did with the smaller kids. Once you’ve ridden the last FP+ reservation make a your next FP+ reservation, ride more rides and see the parade. Make a FP+ reservation for between 7-8pm and leave the park. Go home and swim, enjoy your resort, have dinner etc. Then return to the park and ride your FP+ reservation. See the fireworks, stroll leisurely out of the park and return “home”.

Family with Teenagers
Who are we:
Saints. We are dealing with teenagers and we decided to take them on vacation anyway. We deserve sympathy and probably alcohol.

How to do it:
Realize that your teenagers aren’t going to want to do everything with you. Don’t force it. Believe me, they will find a way to get away from you. If you plan for it, you can enjoy it and believe it or not, the time you spend together will include a lot less cellphone use. Or so I’m told, I can’t get my 1 year old off my phone so what do I know. Anyway, here’s the strategy which works best in my experience.

Assuming that your teenagers are like the average teenager getting up early is not something which makes them happy, especially on a vacation. Contrary to popular belief you do not need to be at the park at rope drop to experience them to their full. So, here’s a solution that will keep everyone happy. First FP+ is between 11:00am-12:00pm, second is from 12:00-1:00pm and third is from 2:00-3:00pm. Sleep in, have breakfast if you want, then get to the park in time for the first FP+ reservation. In between your FP+ reservations make sure you take in any rides which have shorter lines. Once you’ve ridden your FP+ you can go your separate ways if you would like. You can even make separate FP+ reservations. Ride anything else you’d like, making FP+ reservations as you use them and then, and this is super important from what I’ve seen, have a dinner reservation set up. If you’ve all gone your separate ways, meet up there. Not all families like separating and I know I wanted to be with my parents on all our vacations, but my brother liked time alone and having dinner reservations to meet up at made it super easy. Also, there’s free wifi in all Disney Parks, so you should be able to text and call each other in case someone forgets where the reservation was. If there are extra magic hours, most teenagers love these and the most fun I ever had was at Extra Magic Hours from 12:00-3:00am at the Magic Kingdom. I rode everything and being up late on vacation felt amazing!

Adults (no kids)
Who are we:
We are cool, we are free, we get to enjoy the happiest place on earth without having to worry about children’s schedules and desires.

How to do it:
Oddly enough, this is the hardest group to make generalized recommendations for. A lot depends on who you are. Are you a night owl? Do you enjoy characters? Is this a romantic vacation or are you a group of 20 somethings going on a friend trip? Because of this I am gonna say, think about when you want to get to the park.

If you like waking up early, then try and get there at rope drop, make your reservations for 10:00-11:00am, 11:00am-12:00pm and 12:00-1:00pm. Ride your first FP+ closer to 11:00am, then the second one, then have a snack/ride another ride(s), then ride the third. Make your next FP+ reservation and have some lunch. I still recommend you leave the park and enjoy your resort and return after the park gets less hectic around 6:00pm. It is important though that you make the FP+ reservation for the return trip to the park before you leave the park as you will have more to chose from.

However, if you are like my husband and I were in our 20s, you don’t want to wake up early. Instead, enjoy the resort in the morning, get a leisurely breakfast, make your first FP+ reservation for 11:00am-12:00pm, then 12:00-1:00pm and then 1:00-2:00pm. Get there in time to ride the ride closer to noon and have a late lunch. Make further FP+ reservations as you go and stay in the park until it closes. I have even had success making FP+ reservation starting at 2:00pm and staying later in the parks.

I want FastPass+ but I’m busy/lazy/none of these groups fit me
This final strategy is the one all my clients use. Take advantage of a Disney Travel Specialist (not in the scary way though). We are free, we know all these strategies and more and most of us will make these reservations for you. Not to mention, we like doing it! (it’s an illness really) My favorite part of my job as a Disney Travel Specialist is making FastPass+ reservations for clients. The pictures I get of them with Anna and Elsa make my day and I kind of have a collection of them.

This is my daughter with Anna… the sass!

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