Disney’s Latest Change: Fast Passes

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The latest Disney World buzz surrounds the announcement that cast members must now enforce both the start and ending times on Fast Passes. While I haven’t read all of the online comments to hear the various reactions, I have talked to my local group of Disney friends. And despite reassurances from the top executives that most guests abide by the printed time and will never notice a change, our gang is disappointed.

Why, you may be asking, would we be disappointed when a rule that has always been in place is now merely being enforced? In large part, our Disney fanaticism and familiarity are the reasons we knew we could use those Fast Passes after the time expired. Many guests will not notice a difference simply because their Disney World knowledge and experience is limited. Therefore, Disney is primarily penalizing its biggest fans and supporters, including those who positively promote the happiest place on earth to countless family members and friends.

We always travel to Disney World during the value season when the crowds are lighter. During many of our earlier trips, we rarely needed a Fast Pass. Often the machines were even shut down and covered! However, as word spread about “Free Dining”, the crowds picked up. The last few years, we learned to make wise use of those helpful tickets.

I will miss the “old way” of using Fast Passes on Toy Story Mania the most. This attraction seems to be one of Disney’s most popular. The line is always long and the Fast Passes run out halfway through the day, if not sooner. We appreciated being able to grab Fast Passes throughout the morning as allowed and using them at our convenience later in the day as we passed back by the ride. Rarely did we ever return during our allotted time.

Another attraction on which we used Fast Passes in this manner was Test Track in Epcot. Near the end of the morning, before heading to the World Showcase for lunch, we always grabbed passes for Test Track. We would then take our time eating and exploring the countries, circling the lake in a few hours. We never felt pressure to watch the clock and rush back in time to use those passes and usually saved them in order to ride our favorite Epcot attraction just before leaving the park.

Rumor has it that Disney is now enforcing this rule in part due to a program in the works in which guests can order Fast Passes (or a similar type of pass) to make reservations for certain rides and attractions well in advance of their vacation. In addition to making plans for when to visit the World, where to stay, which parks to attend on particular days (based on Extra Magic Hours, of course), where to eat, when to make dining reservations, and so forth, the “good Disney planner” must now also plan what time of day she will ride Space Mountain, Expedition Everest, Soarin’, and other favorites.

Whew! That’s a lot of planning, even for someone who enjoys it as much as I do! While our family always takes time to prepare for our Disney vacation and has a general agenda in place before ever leaving our home, we also appreciate some flexibility within our days. After all, it is our vacation! Tying us down to the minute or even hour for certain rides on certain days is over the top – yes, even for us!

Although the news is disappointing, the enforcement of the Fast Passes is likely to only be a minor inconvenience for our family on our next Disney trip. Perhaps we will miss an extra ride on a favorite attraction or two, but I suspect we will still have a magical vacation. After all, it’s still Disney!

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