Published: April 10, 2009 at 8:56 PM
The only free fastpass system I know of is Disney's. Everyone else charges something for the privilege. I like Disney's system, because it lends itself to making a touring plan quite easily, and without the extra expense, seems to be the fairest version. Although, since it is the most accessible of the fastpass systems, it also causes the longest waits when you are in the regular standby line. There is nothing worse than almost making it to the ride when a huge group of fastpass users hit the queue and delay your departure by another 10 minutes!
As for the pay systems, the one time in recent memory I went to a Six Flags park was SF St. Louis last October, and the place was jammed. I waited a hour for one coaster, then said "screw it" and blew $100 for the Flash Pass for the whole group. It was worth it. But SFSTL did such a poor job of line mgmt (open seats, half filled cars) that the Flash Pass was mandatory. And since our admission to the park was free, I didn't feel too slighted.
As for Universal, I love staying at the Royal Pacific resort and taking advantage of on-property Universal Express. Heck, you have to stay somewhere, so it might as well be a resort that is a) close to the action, b) nicely appointed, and c) relaxing, and with the Universal Express pass built into your room key, it is definitely relaxing. Basically an unlimited fastpass, on-property Universal Express means you can tour the parks when you want for as long as you want and NEVER have to worry about waiting in a long line. Unless you have utilized this perk, you cannot imagine just how relaxing your vacation becomes when the crowd factor is eliminated. It actually feels like a vacation!
And for the person who said the Universal resorts are over priced, you are definitely not comparing them to Disney, as all three Universal resorts are on par with and less expensive than comparable Disney resorts. Furthermore, from a convenience standpoint, Universal's Royal Pacific Resort beats almost anything Disney has to offer unless you stay at a monorail resort or an Epcot resort (which is about $325 to $425 per night for a "cheap" room, compared to about $150 to $200 for the Royal Pacific). Once you park your car at the Royal Pacific, you will not need to return to it until your trip is over - everything is within easy walking distance. Citywalk is 5 minutes from your room, and the parks are maybe 6 minutes away. Everywhere you go you and are surrounded by lush vegetation, fun activities, delicious restaurants, and immersive theming. Plus the Universal Express pass built into your room key is a perk that cannot be beat. In fact, I will not go to Universal without on-property reservations. Once you experience Universal's perks it is almost impossible to tour without them, imho.
I am not sure how to calculate the cost, Robert. Currently, I can book a standard room at the Royal Pacific for $150 a night, for a 5 night stay in September. That reservation would include six days of park touring with Universal Express (your room keys are still valid on the day you check out). I guess if I booked a moderate Disney resort for $160 a night, I am actually saving money by going Universal, so my cost for Universal Express is $0. Hard to beat that price! ;)