Apr 302014
 

By:  Jennifer Retzlaff

Retzlaff Magically Speaking Article April-All DoneOver the past few months, the changes to the FastPass+ system have dominated the Disney media sites.  From blogs to Facebook pages, Twitter to Disney-related websites, all are full of information regarding this major switch in the way people experience Walt Disney World.   With my own trip coming up this summer, I have been frantically searching these sites, learning all I could about this new system.

I will be honest, my initial opinion wasn’t a happy one.  This conclusion stemmed from the fact that during our past Disney vacations, my family usually used anywhere from seven to ten FastPasses in a day.   The idea of originally being limited to three a day seemed awful.  (Editors Note:  This has since changed and guests will now be able make additional FastPass+ reservations, one at a time, after they’ve used their first three.) However, as I read more about the new system and the Disney logic behind it, I felt better about the change to the FastPass+ system.  In my research, I’ve discovered that if you enjoy planning ahead you’ll likely appreciate the new system; however, if you like to tour on the fly you might find it a little less magical.

Here is a breakdown of my personal experience with preparing to make my FastPass+ reservations through My Disney Experience, as well as how the reservation making process works. These four quick steps made the process a little less overwhelming.

Step One:  Educate

If you read my previous article “Five Quick Planning Tips to Make Your Disney Vacation Magical”, you know that I am a big believer in educating yourself before making any decisions.  So that is exactly what I did.  I read as much as I could about the new FastPass+ system from Disney themselves and also unofficial Disney sites.  I read all the positives and negatives that people had to say about the new system.  I also looked into which rides were listed as FastPass+ attractions and out of these, which attractions the experts were suggesting guests actually needed to make FastPass+ reservations for.  Educating myself on the overall system made it seem less overwhelming and made me feel more confident as I moved forward.

Step Two:  Prioritize Rides

Once I had a better understanding of how the system itself was meant to work, I prioritize which rides I thought we’d want FastPass+ reservations for in each of the four theme parks.  I used some of the information I learned from the experts, but I also relied on my knowledge of which rides my husband and I would want to guarantee with a FastPass.  I knew that each day we were at Magic Kingdom we’d need a FastPass+ for Splash Mountain.  I also knew that not riding Peter Pan’s Flight wouldn’t break our trip.  Having a good understanding of what rides I wanted FastPass for gave a me a strong game plan.

Step Three:  Days/Times

Now that I knew which rides I wanted FastPass for, I needed to plug them into days and times of our vacation.  I already knew what days we’d be in specific parks, as we had already books our dining reservations, but now it was narrowing down times that would be the most beneficial for our touring.  I created a quick FastPass+ reference sheet (fancy name for a spreadsheet) where I blocked out times I didn’t feel FastPass would be useful to us due to dining reservations, travel times, or because I didn’t feel lines would be long.  Some might find this very limiting, but for me it helped, as I wouldn’t have to stop and think about times when actually making the FastPass+ reservations.  It was already laid out for me.

Step Four:  Book Them

It was now time to book our FastPass+ reservations.  I was up at 5:00 am ready to book.  This is what the process currently looks like for booking FastPass+.

The first step to making your FastPass+ selections is to log into your My Disney Experience account on the Disney website or app.  Once logged in, you can use the quick links to find the FastPass+ section.   From there you can select the day you’d like to start making reservations for.  (Editor’s Note:  Guests staying at a Walt Disney World Resort hotel may make their FastPass+ reservations up to 60 days in advance.  Those who are staying off-site or are Annual Passholders may make FastPass+ reservations up to 30 days in advance). Following your date selection, you select which park you’d like to visit that day.  This page helped as it stated which parks have extra magic hours, in addition to the park’s regular hours.

Retzlaff Magically Speaking Article April-Selecting Park

 

Once a park has been selected, you are ready to choose the attractions you want to make reservations for.  At the Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom, when you start your planning process, you can select any three rides from any of the FastPass+ choices; however, with Epcot and Hollywood Studios rides are tiered so you must choose one attraction from tier A and two attractions from tier B.

 

Retzlaff Magically Speaking Article April-Choosing Rides

After you select the three attractions, you will then be prompted to prioritize your ride selections.  I am not sure what this exactly does as I didn’t see a major connection between this and times but that could be because I was booking 60 days in advance.

Retzlaff Magically Speaking Article April- Prioritize Fastpass

The next screen is the big deal because this is where Disney prompts you with four different options of different FastPass+ times to choose from.  Each option provides a variety of times, from early morning times to late evenings.  The key here is to just choose one that, in general, you like as you are able to make specific changes in the next step.

Retzlaff Magically Speaking Article April-Disney's Opitions

After you have selected an option, you are then moved to a page where you are able to make changes to each individual ride and time.  This was one of my frustrations with the system.  I felt like I was wasting a lot of time as I had to choose one of Disney’s options, but then for the majority of my rides I had to go back in and change my times to be more of what I wanted.  I am wondering if it would be better if Disney would just give you a list of times available for that ride and allow you to choose a time for each ride individually instead of an overall option.  Again, that was just my opinion.

Retzlaff Magically Speaking Article April-Choosing Specific Time

 

Finally once all of your changes are made, you are ready to click done and start the process all over again for another day.

Retzlaff Magically Speaking Article April-All Done pt2

Pros:

1.  You can easily move through the website without issues.

2. You are prompted without any overlaps of other reservations.

3.  You can easily make changes at any time through the My Disney Experience website, app or kiosk.

4.  Disney’s initial options provided a nice variety from early morning, mid afternoon and evening making it easy to select one as a starting point.

5.  If you have a large party, not everyone has to choose the same FastPass+ selection.

6.  Unlike the old system where you were stuck with whatever time was posted when you arrived, FastPass+ gives a lot more choices and flexibility

Cons:

1. At Hollywood Studios and Epcot it was hard to pick a third selection with the tiered system  whereas at Magic Kingdom I felt like I had so many I wanted to use my choices for.

2.  I didn’t like that I had to choose an option that  Disney had created and then go in and change times.

My overall experience with booking my FastPass+ reservations was actually magical.  I realize that I am in the minority by booking right at  6:00 am EST so my options for times were wide open.   I could easily navigate through the Disney website as they made it clear what I was supposed to do.  Like I stated before, having a plan or at least an idea of what you want to book, makes this process a lot easier.   I was able to quickly move through the process as I had specific rides and times in mind.  Even with this in place, it still took me around 40 minutes to book eight days of FastPass+ reservations.  I can see how this can become extremely overwhelming to people if they don’t know what rides they need to make FastPass+ reservations for at each park.

Once again, I refer back to my original article, make sure you educate yourself, know your restaurants and know your plan of attack for each park.  By having this extra information, it will allow you to have a more relaxing and magical experience as you use the new FastPass+ system.

 

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  3 Responses to “A Disney FastPass+ Booking Experience: The Planning, Booking, and Review”

  1. Excellent article and I agree when you say, “In my research I’ve discovered that if you enjoy planning ahead you’ll likely appreciate the new system; however, if you like to tour on the fly you might find it a little less magical.” This was already the case with Dining because once they offered Free Dining and more people bought the dining plan, there was little chance of walk up entry into such restaurants as Le Cellier or now Beaches and Cream. For those of us who like a loose plan and some spur of the moment adventures the impact is major. The Magic Bands are convenient for passes, door locks etc. If you look at your article and see how much time you put in to choose your fast passes it’s much more than the 40 minutes to negotiate that site at 6am on the first available day. You do research and use strategies to maximize the benefits. This is a Vacation! It’s supposed to be effortless but now Disney is anything but. Yes, I have always advised to newbies that before they go they should look at a park map and plan where they want to go first so they are not looking at it for the first time when they enter and standing there wasting precious time trying to decide what direction to go. It just seems to me that a visit to Disney World has evolved into a science and requires careful study like going back to school.

    The extra problems created when traveling with a group are compounded by having to coordinate when everyone else will do their fastpasses too. You must have a meeting to discuss what day, when and where your priorities are if you want to ride with each other. It has become very complicated but was that necessary?

  2. Thank you so much for this article. You did a great job explaining what seemed very confusing when I first heard about it. I am a HUGE planner when it comes to Disney trips, but this seems so confining. I make my decisions about fast passes based on a lot of different factors which I usually don’t know about until I am at the park. Oh well, Disney has a good track record for ironing out flaws in their systems. 🙂

  3. I hugely appreciate the screen-shots that you included for the process. I’m a visual person, so those helped to take away some of the stress of booking the Fastpass+ options for me.

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