Disney World: FastPass+ Reservations


Photo:  Buzz Lightyear's Space Ranger Spin Ride in Magic Kingdom

The next big Disney topic I want to tackle is FastPass+ Reservations.  FastPass+ reservations allow you to skip the lines at your favorite rides, shows, and character meet and greets with no additional fee.  When used properly, they can save you a significant amount of valuable park time.  In this post, we'll tackle:  when can you book them, how do you book them, and what are the best experiences to use them on?  First things first--knowing when you can book your FastPass+ reservations is key to having the best chance at snagging your top choices.

When you can book your FastPass+ reservations depends upon where you are staying during your trip:

If Staying at a Disney-Owned Property, the Marriott-owned Swan/Dolphin, Shades of Green, Disney Springs hotels, or several other select Orlando properties (check with your hotel):

FastPass+ reservations open 60 days before the first day of your trip at 7am EST.  To book, your park admission has to be linked to your My Disney Experience account, as does your resort reservation.*  On the morning of your 60 day mark, login to your account and go to "My Disney Experience" and select "Get FastPass+" from the drop-down.  Then select "Get Started."  The system will them bring you through the necessary prompts to choose your date, park, attraction, and available time.  At that time, you can book your FastPass+ selections for the entire length of your stay.  So, if you are trying to get one of the most difficult reservations (ex. Slinky Dog Dash or Flight of Passage), planning your day at that park for later in your trip gives you a better chance of finding availability.  This is because people who have earlier trip start dates that intersect with your dates have already had a chance to book those dates. Start with the selections that you think could potentially sell out first and work your way down in popularity. If you can’t get the one you want, book an alternate option and keep trying over the next few months. Reservations are cancelled all the time, and you can search for alternatives without cancelling what you have until you officially swap it out.  

*If you don't already have one, you can set up a My Disney Experience account here (click on "Sign in or Create Account" at the top of the page).  To check that your park admission and resort reservation are linked to your account, go to "My Disney Experience" at the upper right of the Disney World website and select "My Plans" from the drop down.  Once the page loads, if you do not see your hotel reservation, hover over the "Resort Hotel" icon on your dashboard and select Link a Reservation--you will need your confirmation number to add the reservation.  If you do not see your tickets, hover over the "Park Tickets" icon on your dashboard and select Link Tickets--you will need the Will Call Confirmation Number or Ticket ID for each ticket.  If you do not yet have your Park Tickets, you can also purchase them here by Hovering over the "Park Tickets" icon and selecting "Select Tickets."

Note:  You can also use the My Disney Experience app to book your FastPass+ reservations.  From the home screen, simply click on the "+" icon at the bottom center and select "Get FastPass+."  Then click "Get Started" and follow the system prompts.

If Staying at a Non-Disney Affiliated Property:

If you are not staying at a Disney affiliated property, FastPass+ reservations open 30 days before your trip at 7am EST. To book, your park admission has to be linked to your My Disney Experience account.*  On the morning of your 30 day mark, login to your account and go to "My Disney Experience" and select "Get FastPass+" from the drop-down.  Then select "Get Started."  The system will them bring you through the necessary prompts to choose your date, park, attraction, and available time.  At that time, you can only book your FastPass+ selections for the park you plan to visit 30 days from that date.  You have to repeat this process each day (at the 30 day out mark for the park you plan to visit that day) until you have completed booking your trip dates.  

*If you don't already have one, you can set up a My Disney Experience account here (click on "Sign in or Create Account" at the top of the page).  To check that your park admission is linked to your account, go to "My Disney Experience" at the upper right of the Disney World website and select "My Plans" from the drop down.  Once the page loads, if you do not see your tickets, hover over the "Park Tickets" icon on your dashboard and select Link Tickets--you will need the Will Call Confirmation Number or Ticket ID for each ticket.  If you do not yet have your Park Tickets, you can also purchase them here by Hovering over the "Park Tickets" icon and selecting "Select Tickets."

Note:  You can also use the My Disney Experience app to book your FastPass+ reservations.  From the home screen, simply click on the "+" icon at the bottom center and select "Get FastPass+."  Then click "Get Started" and follow the system prompts.

Top Left: Frozen Ever After (Epcot); Top Center: Kilimanjaro Safari (Animal Kingdom); Top Right: Peter Pan's Flight; Bottom Left: Festival of the Lion King (Animal Kingdom); Bottom Right: Beauty and the Beast (Hollywood Studios)

FastPass+ Need to Knows:

  • All 3 of your FastPass+ selections must be for one park per day (regardless of if you have purchased a Park Hopper ticket).

  • If you plan to hit up more than one park in a day, plan a rope drop--arriving at the park a little before opening to enter your first attraction at "rope drop"--for your first park when crowds will be lighter and use your FastPass+ options for the second park for later in the day when crowd sizes will be larger.  To truly maximize your time, if you are staying on site, rope drop a park offering Magic Hours that morning first.

  • If you wish to book FastPass+ reservations for all of the members of your party, be sure to link them to the Friends & Family list in your My Disney Experience account before booking day.  Go to My Disney Experience at the upper right of the Disney World website.  Click on "My Family & Friends" and click on "Add a Guest" located at the bottom of the page.

  • FastPass + reservations for members of your party under 3 years old are not required; as long as they meet the height requirement, they can ride.

  • Height restrictions apply to certain rides, check to ensure all party members meet the required minimum before booking a FastPass+.  You can review all of the Disney World ride height restrictions here.

  • If you have small children in your party who may not be able to enjoy attractions other members wish to ride (whether it be due to height or trepidation), take advantage of Rider Switch. (See "Rider Switch" down below.)

  • To modify your existing FastPass+ selections (or search for availability of priority choices you couldn't originally get), you can go to "My Disney Experience" at the upper right of the Disney World website and select "My Plans" from the drop down.  Once the page loads, scroll down to the FastPass+ reservation you wish to modify, and click "Modify" next to it.  Follow the system prompts.  To do it on the My Disney Experience app, click into the FastPass+ detail for the item you want to modify and click "Modify" to change it.  Don't worry, your existing reservation won't be cancelled until the one you are trying to book is confirmed.

  • After you use all 3 of your FastPass+ selections for the day  (you must use ALL 3 first), you can go into the My Disney Experience App (or you can utilize kiosks spread throughout the park) to select another from the list of those still available.  You can continue to select another after you check into each subsequent pick.  So, once you scan in at a ride, you can go straight back into the app as you work your way through the line to select your next ride.

Top Left: Disney Jr. Dance Party (Hollywood Studios); Top Center: Triceratops Spin (Animal Kingdom); Top Right: Frozen Ever After (Epcot); Bottom Left: Turtle Talk with Crush (Epcot); Bottom Right: Prince Charming Carousel (Magic Kingdom)

Tips to Maximize Your FastPass+ Benefits:

  • Don't book your FastPass+ selections for too early in the day.  If you plan to get to the park right at opening, lines will be short.  You can either choose to head to the most popular rides (with everyone else--but still with shorter lines than you'll probably encounter for the rest of the day), or if you were able to FastPass the most coveted rides (preferably beginning in the early afternoon), hit some of the rides that fall into "mid-popularity" first when there are next to no lines.  You will get to maximize the low crowd time this way.

  • If you can't get a FastPass+ for your favorite (and highly popular) ride, plan to arrive at the park right at opening and rope drop that one to avoid long queues later and select another traditionally "long line ride" to use the FastPass+ on.

  • Do book your FastPass+ selections as close to one another as possible.  What's great about having two back to back is you can plan to arrive closer to the end of your hour window at one ride and then head immediately to the next one, avoiding trying to time standby line waits in between selections.  Additionally, if you do all three close to back to back, you maximize the amount of time you have to look for your next selection(s) once all three are used.

  • Utilized your FastPlus+ reservations wisely.  Some rides are my likely to have long lines than others.  For example, at Magic Kingdom, Seven Dwarfs Mine Train can have up to a two hour line, but Journey of the Little Mermaid tends to have fairly short lines.  If you plan to ride both, utilize your FastPass+ selections the rides that tend to have the longest waits and wait in the shorter wait lines in between.  

  • Using FastPass+ for Character Meet and Greets and Shows may or may not be beneficial.  For the characters we truly wanted to meet, we chose to book character meals rather than wait in lines at the park (or use valuable FastPass+ selections).  If you don't plan to do character meals and have your heart set on meeting one that has a FastPass+ option, it may be worth it (ex. for Mickey & Minnie at Magic Kingdom which otherwise can have a fairly long line)--or you may want to just try and hit that character meet and greet right at opening.  For Shows, it really depends.  If you are with younger children, especially those who don’t meet height restrictions on the most popular rides, selecting some Entertainment FastPass+ selections may be the better way to go.  If you arrive early enough, you will probably be able to get a seat at most shows, and even with a FastPass+, you must arrive 15 minutes prior to showtime which can defeat some of the purpose.  If you have your heart set on something in particular, though, a FastPass+ provides you the ease of mind to know you are guaranteed a seat as long as you follow the FastPass+ arrival instructions.

Top Left: Meeting Ariel at Her Grotto (Magic Kingdom); Top Center: Seven Dwarfs Mine Train (Magic Kingdom); Bottom Left: Frozen Sing-Along (Hollywood Studios); Right: Enchanted Tales with Belle (Magic Kingdom)

Tiered Booking System & Booking Strategies:

Animal Kingdom, Epcot, and Hollywood Studios have a Tiered FastPass+ booking system; Magic Kingdom is the exception (the water parks do not participate in FastPass+).  You can only book one item from Tier 1 when making your FastPass+ selections.  If for some reason you do not wish to book any Tier 1 selections, you can book three Tier 2 options.  You must use all three of your FastPass+ selections before you can attempt to book another Tier 1 option.  If you have no interest in any of the Tier 2 options but are interested in seeing if you can get a second Tier 1 selection on the day you are in the park (unlikely but certainly not unheard of), you should book your other Tier 2 options for as early as possible.  You don't have to ride, but at least scan in at the entrance of your Tier 2s (along with completing check-in at your first Tier 1 selection); then the system will allow you to search for a second Tier 1 selection and reserve it if available.

  • Animal Kingdom:  Tier 1 consists of the two Pandora Rides--Flight of Passage and Na'Vi River Journey.  Flight of Passage FastPass+ selections book up almost immediately.  If it is available, grab it while you can--but remember that unlike Na'Vi River Journey, there is a height restriction on Flight of Passage.  You could approach Animal Kingdom two ways.  1) Hit up the Avatar ride you couldn't FastPass first thing or 2) Skip the Avatar ride you couldn't get a FastPass for and instead, head toward Expedition Everest or DINOSAUR first thing.  Then, plan to ride the Kilimanjaro Safari next when the animals are still more active in the morning (even if you decide to book a FastPass for this one, plan it for relatively early).  Note:  The Safari experience can take a while (plan for 30 minutes) which means lines are building up in the rest of the park, so try to get in a must-do non-FastPass ride or two first.  Depending on your interest, gear your Tier 2 FastPass+ to Expedition Everest, DINOSAUR, or Kilimanjaro Safari.  If you get to the Safari fairly early, the line shouldn't be too bad.  If you have height restricted children and plan to skip some of the bigger attractions, the Festival of the Lion King show is a great choice.

  • Epcot:  Tier 1 includes Test Track, Soarin', Frozen Ever After, and Illuminations: Reflections of Earth (reserved viewing area).  There are plenty of spot to watch Illuminations from around the lagoon, so unless you can get it as a second round FastPass+, I wouldn't choose that for my first selection.  Of these, Test Track tends to have the longest lines.  Soarin's line doesn't built up quite as quickly, but it can take a while for the ride to load (costing valuable low-crowd park time).  If you get to Frozen Ever After right at opening, the line isn't too bad now.  Ideally, you would FastPass Test Track, rope drop Frozen Ever After, and then immediately head for Soarin'.  (This works especially well if you are staying at a resort that enters Epcot from the back entrance since you will be entering from the World Showcase which is where Frozen Ever After is located--in the Norway Pavilion.)  If you are traveling with young children, keep in mind that Frozen Ever After is the only Tier 1 ride without a height restriction.  For Tier 2, Mission Space and Spaceship Earth are probably your best bets.  If you have young children, The Seas with Nemo & Friends may be a better selection, but Nemo, Turtle Talk with Crush, and Figment all tend to have shorter lines than the other Epcot attractions.

  • Hollywood Studios:  Beginning August 29th, Tier 1 will consist of the 3 Toy Story Land rides:  Slinky Dog Dash, Alien Swirl Saucers, and Toy Story Mania, along with Rock n Roller Coaster and Tower of Terror.  The addition of Rock n Roller Coaster and Tower of Terror to Tier 1 is a major blow for a lot of fans but appears to be in preptfor the highly anticipated Star Wars opening.  (When Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge opens, Disney has said that it will not initially be available for FastPass+.)  Of these, currently the hardest FastPass to get (and the longest lines throughout the day) is Slinky Dog Dash.  It remains to be seen if that will still be the case with the updated Tier 1 grouping.  The only one without a height restriction is Toy Story Mania!  (Note:  Star Wars attractions are expected to bring enormous crowds upon opening which will affect the rest of the park, so keep that in mind when planning.)  In terms Tier 2, only one ride remain—Star Tours (with a 40” height requirement).  If you are with younger children, this restricts you to using both of your Tier 2 FastPass+ selections on shows (or utilizing rider switch at Star Tours for the adults in your party—more info on that option below).

  • Magic Kingdom:  Unlike the other three parks, Magic Kingdom does not operate on a Tiered system.  The most difficult FastPass+ to get is Seven Dwarfs Mine Train.  If you can snag it, you will save quite a bit of time.  A good option--if you have riders who can meet the height restrictions--is to head away from Fantasyland (where the majority of the crowd is headed first) and instead, detour to Frontierland to get in Big Thunder Mountain Railroad and Splash Mountain and then Adventureland for Pirates of the Caribbean first thing.  Focus your FastPass+ options around Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, Space Mountain, and Peter Pan (which always seems to have a long line).  From Pirates of the Caribbean, head to Haunted Mansion.  If you have very young children and are avoiding the "taller" rides, try hitting the less popular rides first while there is no wait and get in rides like Journey of the Little Mermaid, Meeting Ariel in Her Grotto, Dumbo, Teacups,and It's a Small World first thing (we were able to do all of these with next to no wait).  FastPass Peter Pan, Enchanted Tales with Belle, and Winnie the Pooh.

  • If you can book two days at only one park, Magic Kingdom is your best bet.  It has the most rides, and there are more than enough popular rides (and character meet and greets) to find six significant timesaver FastPass+ selections and still remain busy the rest of the days--especially given the parades, castle shows, fireworks, and other special event going on throughout the day.  If you are doing two days, do the 3pm parade and the evening fireworks on one of your days, and on the other, maximize rides during that time (during the fireworks in particular, some rides have zero wait times).

Keep in mind that the above are tips based on average crowd levels; each ride/experience's crowd level can fluctuate depend on the season, day of the week, and even day of the year. 

Top Left: Disney Jr. Dance Party (Hollywood Studios); Top Center: Na'Vi River Journey (Animal Kingdom); Bottom Left: Dumbo (Magic Kingdom); Right: Buzz Lightyear's Space Ranger Spin (Magic Kingdom)

Rider Switch

Rider Switch is great for those who have small children where one or both may not meet the height restriction for a particular attraction.  If you have a child in your party who does not meet the minimum height requirement for a ride (or who does not wish to try that particular attraction), you can take advantage of Rider Switch.  Rider Switch is a great way to ensure that the adult waiting with the non-riding child(ren) does not miss out on the fun.  One adult can wait with the non-riding child(ren) while the other members of the party go on the ride.  Once they are finished, the waiting adult can go back to the ride without having to wait in the regular line again.  Additionally, that person may bring up to two guests with them back to the ride.  So, those in a larger party can avoid having to wait alone or those in a smaller party can take advantage of getting to ride twice.  For example, if you are a family of 5 and your youngest cannot go on a particular attraction, Dad could take the 2 older children on the ride first while Mom waits with the baby.  Then Mom can take a turn bringing both of the older children back on the ride with her while Dad waits with the baby.  It’s a great way for both parents to get to experience the rides with their children who can ride, and for the children to get to do some attractions twice without waiting. 

To take advantage of Rider Switch, check in with the cast member at the beginning of the participating attraction’s line.  (Rides that do not have height restrictions do not participate in Rider Switch.)  All of your party must be present.  At that time, the cast member will scan the rider who will wait first’s magic band, as well as up to two other party members’ bands (these can be party members who plan to ride round 1 & 2 or those only planning to ride round 2). The scan allows for FastPass+ access for those riding in round 2.  The Rider Switch access should calculate to allow you to access the ride for about an hour window after the current wait time for the ride. (Note:  If you do not have a magic band, your skip the line access will be issues by another means.)

You can utilize FastPass+ and Rider Switch together for an even faster experience as long as all riding members of your party have a FastPass+ booked for the attraction.   (Please note, per Disney, ALL party members must have the FastPass+ to utilize Rider Swap with this option.  Some people/sites will tell you otherwise, and you may encounter a cast member who will allow it, but that is the official Disney policy—I called to confirm.)

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I would like to say that for as far back as I can remember, I have wanted to travel, that it’s always been in my blood. However, that couldn’t be further from the truth. I found the thought of leaving the country daunting, but...

 

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