Introducing Disney's 'StressPass'
Are visitors to Walt Disney World always
this stressed out? Or am I just not used to it anymore?
In just a couple of hours on Monday, I saw more obviously stressed guests at the Disney World theme parks than I'd seen over the past several months while visiting the Disney parks in California and Japan. A five-minute hold on the WDW monorail sent one woman into a blue tirade on her cell phone. Another woman stopped complaining to her seatmate at the Beauty and Beast show only long enough to wrestle her children under control, after they'd grown restless trying to get Mom's attention. Men blasted strollers through crowds without concern for others, yelling at the rest of their families to catch up.
And crowd levels on Monday didn't seem anywhere near as bad as they'd been a week ago, according to several cast members. I know that some theme park guests behave badly, but I can't recall seeing this level of stress recently.
Perhaps I've been spoiled by the crowds in Southern California. Most of the visitors to the Disneyland Resort are annual passholders, who know the parks, have a routine, and aren't concerned with squeezing the most from a once-in-a-lifetime visit, since they'll soon be back anyway. And even though the crowds in Japan tore through the parks' entry plazas like runners at the start of a marathon, I never saw stress on anyone's faces. They were simply trying to get into the park quickly. For the rest of the day, everyone in those parks was as polite to one another as the legendary Tokyo cast members were to all of us.
So what's the deal in Florida? Sure, the economy's still pretty weak in the U.S., and people are concerned about getting their money's worth while on vacation. But that's only part of the problem. The big issue, from what I overheard this week, is... Fastpass.
It seemed like every stressed-out person I saw in the Magic Kingdom, Disney's Hollywood Studios and Epcot this week was complaining about the same thing: getting across the park in time to use their Fastpasses. Disney earlier this month began enforcing Fastpass return time windows at the Walt Disney World Resort, and no longer honors the ride reservations after their return-time window. (You can continue to use Fastpasses anytime after their return-time windows at the Disneyland Resort theme parks.)
Years of tour plans and strategies based on using Fastpasses whenever you'd like later in the day have gone into the trash, and that's making some Disney guests miserable as they try to adjust. Any minor delay - a hold on the monorail, a show starting late, foot traffic slowing around the many pinchpoints in an under-construction Fantasyland - disrupts schedules that guests are trying to time to the minute. If you've got a Fastpass in the Magic Kingdom during a parade time, for example, you'd better plan to be on that side of the park before the parade starts, because with the construction in Fantasyland and a parade blocking the hub, there's no way you're crossing the Magic Kingdom quickly.
And now Disney's thinking about introducing a system where guests can schedule all of their rides, shows and meals to the minute?
Forget Avatar. All those blue-faced people in the Disney theme parks will be the guests, screaming at everyone else in their family to hurry up.
Universal's got a huge marketing opportunity here. I can see the commercial now: "Vacations shouldn't have deadlines. Stay at a Universal Orlando hotel and you can skip the lines at theme park attractions whenever you want. With no deadlines." I wonder how many more rooms Universal and Loews could book with a campaign like that. Hey, I go on vacation to get away from the Outlook calendar, not so I can use it throughout a 16-hour theme park day.
Ultimately, I think that Disney's move might be the thing that actually gets more people to give up on Fastpass, as those guests quit trying to hyper-analyze their day. Or perhaps Disney will take the pressure off by expanding the return windows, allowing people windows of 90 minutes or two hours in which to return, instead of the current 60 minutes. Or maybe people will just adapt, and learn to chill.
Whatever happens, though, I saw too many people who weren't enjoying their vacation this week. And that can't be good news, or good business, for Disney.
You are 100% correct...
LOL, Stress pass love it. I agree though people seem really stressed out lately. I had 4 people blowing horns at me yesterday on a way to an appointment. I guess I was driving to slow or something?
Universal shouldn't charge people for parking when you stay at their hotels. I have stayed at all of their previous hotels in the past and I won't do it, again. Their hotels are expensive and you pay for parking on top of it. Free parking should be a perk of staying at their hotels.
This situation is exactly what I predicted when Disney made their stupid "enforcement" announcement. I'm with you: I go on vacation to relax, not plan everything down to the minute! (I don't even like to make dining reservations, though I grudgingly do it for certain meals, like character breakfasts.) If WDW is going to enforce FastPass times, they definitely should expand the return windows! Oh, and I love your suggestion for the Universal marketing campaign -- they should use it! :-)
You know my wife and I never had any issue managing to come back to an attraction during the Fastpass window. Come on guys - it's an HOUR long and you know when that hour is coming up so it really isn't that hard to make it work within the rules.
I have NEVER used a FastPass past the time window and I can't understand how it causes that much consternation for Guests to return within the hour allocated. My usual routine is to get my next FastPass as soon as the next availability occurs, then go use the first FP. It's an easy rhythm and not stressful to me in the least. I get some exercise, granted, but the idea that people can harvest FP all day and then come back at 7pm and do five consecutive FP attractions makes no sense to me, and it doesn't pay off to Disney in relation to the FP payoff to them, which is projecting your Guest volumes.
I think in a lot of ways the internet has become the problem too.
Universal screws the average guest with the unlimited front of the line stuff for the hotel guests. Last week got in a fifteen minute wait for Dr. Doom that turned into a 45 minute wait because they were getting all the Express pass people on the ride. Disney does it much better.
Disney always had an advantage over Universal (and other parks) since FastPass was free and quite easy to understand. Enforcing the 'end' time on FastPass weakens the system, almost to the point of making it unusable.
As I've stated on numerous occassions, vacationing at an on site Universal Hotel Resort is so much more relaxing & enjoyable than vacationing at an on site Disney Hotel Resort. Two main reasons, the close proximity of the hotels to the theme parks/citiwalk & the unlimited hotel express pass. I love the Disney parks. They are excellent. But the Disney portion of our vacation is definately less relaxing & less enjoyable. And I will be really upset with Disney if they carry through their rumored next generation attraction time reservations. Vacationeers are not programmed robots. I want to enjoy my vacation at a leisurely pace. I believe Disney really needs to rethink their experience. Expand the crowded parks and come up with a system that lets customers leisurely enjoy their vacation experience without forcing them into narrow time attraction reservations.
Last time I stayed at universal having your room key act as your fastpass to any ride was great. Otherwise I don't bother with fastpass as it is too much like work, which I have come to the parks to get away from.
Hey, the parks can get full, but I have NEVER had a problem getting from one side of the park to the other even during parade times.
I completely agree. The last few times I’ve been to Disney, folks just don’t look as relaxed as I remember them being when I was young.
The Universal express system does more to harm my opinion of them than anything else. The vast majority of universal's paying guests are not residents in their hotels or resorts. We instead pay good money for tickets to two theme parks that advertise some of the best attractions in the world. And our reward for indulging in a contract in which we pay money in return for access to these attractions? We get to stand on the stairs to the loading bay of The Mummy and watch hundreds of Universal guests sweep imperiously past us and jump the queue whilst the advertised wait time disappears more and more into the realms of fantasy. We have found it a universal (sic) truth that the wait times in Universal are ALWAYS underestimated whilst the wait times in Disney are usually shorter than advertised. To be quite honest the ONLY reason we go to Universal is to ride the attractions because they are unique, BUT we do it just once in a vacation, because frankly they are without doubt the least enjoyable and most stressful of all the 8 major theme parks in the Orlando area.
I think I'm already feeling the stress of fastpass out here on the west coast, and we still have our open-ended return times. Even though it means waiting in longer standby lines, I've noticed lately that we're using fastpass far less often than we used to. There is just something nice about spontaneity and being able to do what we feel like at the moment. We're already scheduling enough to accommodate shows/spectaculars/parades that we don't need to add more rigidity. And we're usually very structured, organized people.
I thought if you just complained about being stuck in a parade route, or getting stuck on a broken down ride they would let you in past the return time. Seems easy enough to me to beat the system, you just have to be smarter than the average guest.
I think we are judging Xpass was before we know anything but rumors. I seriously think this is a rash and unfair article.
I think these people stressing out need to get over it. I've never used a Fastpass outside of it's specified window. It just wasn't that hard to plan ahead and get there in time or to simply say "meh, oh well, we'll do the ride later". I didn't even realize Disney had been lax with the windows!
Orrrrrrrr. You could "Gasp" wait...in...line?
I'm aiming at FastPass here because it was the thing I overheard people complaining about most this week. But that was a single visit, and as a former stats major, I understand the danger of making inferences based on small data sets. ;^)
It's not that hard to come back in time to use your FPs. Even when I knew I could use them anytime, I still usually came back during the time window on the ticket. Just plan with the assumption that you can't show up late anymore. What's the big deal?
I think the big stress cause is the COST of the vacation and trying to cram as much into it so that the cost can be justified. Those of us who live near theme parks and have annual passes can go whenever it is convenient and don't really spend much per day after paying for the APs. Counting ticket prices, hotels, travel and food can easily get the per person cost over $200 per day. That's $800 per day or more for the "typical family of four". There is a lot of stress in justifying that cost.
I'm a fan of doing as much as possible when I go on vacation, but there is always a limit and exceeding that always hurts the trip in the long run. Just like in every area of life, people visiting Disney World need to make choices. If they want to stay in one park all day, do nothing but rides, and use the Fastpass system, that's fine. If they want to visit multiple parks, have sit down meals, and see shows, that works as well. Trying to combine the two is difficult, and even if it feels like you're doing less per day you'll probably end up enjoying it a lot more.
If most of the visitors to the Disneyland Resort are annual passholders, then it makes sense that they are not stressed out. Most visitors of Disney World come from out of state, so I can't imagine to want to do so much in a few days.
First: Robert why didnt you tell me you were in WDW!? I've been here for the week!
WDW has been horribly run for the better part of a decade now. Compared to DLR and Universal, managers there are simply enacting measures that affect the bottom-line instead of the overall experience for guests. I have recently taken trips to Orlando where I go to Universal and Sea World and Busch Gardens, but leave out a visit to Disney World. That would have been unheard for me 20-years-ago. Iger seriously needs to consider cleaning house at the top down at Lake Buena Vista.
I forgot to comment on the story.... Robert pretty much hit the nail on the head as to why we stopped going to Disney. Heat and waiting are not a good combination, but the thing that got me the most was how little riding we actually did.... hours spent in line for a 3-4 minute ride and maybe getting on 4-5 rides a day for the money spent is just insane IMO.
Don't you just love Spring Break crowds? When I was at WDW Sunday, I only managed to ride TT 2 times, The Barnstormer, Buzz, and Pirates. Never again with SB crowds. As for Fastpass windows, deal with it. You're given an hour, so obey the rules. And NB, you just can't resist trolling? I'm holding in my rage this time though.
The parking fee at the Universal hotels doesn't bother me since if it wasn't a seperate fee it would then probably be part of the daily room charge. And at Universal the three deluxe level hotels are considerably less expensive than the Disney deluxe hotels. At Disney, you get free parking but at a big cost, namely much more expensive rooms. Plus Disney's on site benefits do not come close to Universal's. Don't get me wrong, I love Disney and stay on site. But Universal does more for me as a guest and those perks make for a more relaxing vacation....To clarify my previous comment.....I really don't get stressed over the 1 hour window on Disney fastpasses since I always thought that was the rule and I always showed on time. But the next gen "talk" of attraction reservation ride times in advance, really irritates me. If Disney decides to take that course, in my opinion, it would greatly erode the spontaniety of the vacation experience.
On a related matter, Orlando Informer is reporting that Universal hotel express passes will soon have a photo id as part of the pass. The kiosks are already in the hotel lobbies and are to take effect in about a month. Orlando Informer is speculating that the reason is to stop fradulent uses & transfers of the passes.
I've never used FastPass. I didn't see the need when the wait time was 20 minutes & the FP return time was a couple hours away. Decided it was better to wait the 20 minutes & ride the ride instead of having to come back. At least 1 time the wait was even shorter than the posted time. Waiting in line doesn't bother me. We have older people in our group & they can rest while waiting for me to ride something they won't. We hit rides as they come without backtracking & nobody gets too tired.
I still do not understand what makes the Fastpass so stressful and difficult? You get a fastpass and decide to do something else in the park and come back within the hour. Its pretty simple. Why should Disney get grief for actually honoring the time on the fastpass. In fact, up until recently, I thought the times were set in stone unless the ride broke down.
They should have never done this with the new fastpass window. Once the ol Floridian summer heat kicks in starting in May than people are going to be more on edge now that they have to finish their lunch, go to the restroom, and navigate mobs of people across the park in order to make it for their 3:45 fastpass for Peter Pan, and they have 5 minutes left!
It's an hour window, I just don't see why it is difficult. People are getting more and more stressed at Disney and I don't think it is just fast passes, although people at the resort may have been blaming that.
Ya think? Welll ive said it before eventually the Fast Pass System would fail,,,,,,,Universal Dropped it for the most part. And with good reason they saw this comming.
I agree that people seem to be getting more stressed in general in parks.
We like to find reasons to blame someone or something else for a person's behavior, but the simple fact remains that by and large most folks are rude, self-centered, and have a misplaced sense of entitlement. Sadly, people just suck, Robert, that's it (present company excluded, of course).
Do you know what ? I'm really fed up with hearing people complaining about this and that at DisneyWorld. They want more of one thing and less of something else. They want faster this and slower that. They want , they want , they want.
N B, if you were fitting in only 4-5 rides a day at Disney, I'd have to say that's something you and your family was doing wrong versus Disney. I don't want to start a Disney vs Universal battle or perpetuate existing ones, but it is a little tiring hearing you constantly point out at every possible chance why you think Disney sucks. Even Robert admitted that he shouldn't make such a huge judgement based on one day, so you shouldn't make judgments based on his one article of one day, or selective other user's comments which you so often cite. It's nice that you love Universal, but people who bash constantly (hmmm Dom) are annoying. Don't go there.
Rob P - well said! This sort of thread just depresses me. Hey, it can be busy at Disneyworld - get over it folks! If you don't like the Fastpass system, don't use it. If you don't like crowds, either go at a quieter time of year or don't go at all. There's plenty of people out there who want to go and who don't find it stressful or difficult to use the Fastpass system. I really don't see what the problem is here.
I personally have found this discussion wonderfully entertaining! I hate to sound like a cop-out,however I think just about everyone here is right. I believe that people at WDW are more stressed because of the FP window being enforced- and I also agree that people should get over it. I also agree thought that it is only going to get worse once people can start to reserve FP in advance- oh the drama!
To me this is in the same vein of the rash of parent-vs-parent brawls that have been breaking out at Chucky Cheeses lately. Granted, not to the same extreme...but it's still people becoming competitive about their fun and letting stress rule. People plowing through crowds with their strollers for example.
Mr. Rao and Rob P pretty much covered it. Skipper, what can I say? I'm just a little Bashful (pun intended), and I try not to bash often.
I feel sorry for the Cast Members who have to enforce this new rule...
What I would like is when you plan your trip you get a Fastpass's for certain days and you can only use them on that day but at anytime of the day.
Unfortunately, I don't think there is a solid solution to this. There isn't any system that would please everyone that vacations to WDW's magic kingdom. When you have thousands of people trying to enjoy, 50-60 attractions, you're going to have some stressed out people. It's also improtant to remeber that any & all types of people vacation to WDW. There are people who don't handle crowds well in any capacity (whether it be at a mall or a theme park), plus factor in the amount of money people have spent, and you're going to have people react differently.
N B, in an older thread (I was bored today) you said you never used Disney's Fastpass. So why are you commenting on it, and why are you comparing it to Universal? Just seems odd to me...
The problem with anecdotes is you don't know know whether its true for most people. Going to theme parks are inherently stressful since we are dealing with large crowds, but it is no different than going to a busy mall. It will be unpleasant in some incidences, but not necessarily all the time or for the vast majority. However, I can see stress levels worsening when Disney keeps screwing up with poor customer service, bad food, closed or full restaurants, and the terrible transportation system (busses and monorail system).
I'm amazed by this article and thread, it just shows how different people think and act differently.
LOL! Let the memories begin, indeed!
Mike Saperstein - I think we are secretly related!
N B, there's nothing strange, unusual, or specifically Disney-related about the behavior at Disney. Competitiveness is just part of human nature. Ever notice that when you're passing someone going slow on the highway they suddenly start speeding up so you can't pass them? Add to that, money-spent, crowds, lines, limited time, expectations...perfect recipe for a competition-storm.
Opinions, opinions. Everyone has one. We usually have yearly passes to Disney and Universal, but after my last visit to Disney it will be a loooooong time before I go back. Went in January and got on one ride, because of the lines. Not worth it. Universal makes it SO much better for the yearly pass and on property people. If you take into account the benefit of staying in a 4 star Lowe's hotel, on property, it makes the Disney system look archaic. If you stay on property just one night at Universal you get front of the line for up to 4 people for 2 days. Take in account being able to see the parks in 1 - 2 days because you can walk right on the rides,versus 5 - 7 for Disney, because of the lines (and more parks), it makes MUCH better financial sense. Universals 3 hotels are no more expensive and in most cases less expensive than the top Disney hotels/resorts. If we just drive up for the day, we understand we will not get on all the rides or we will use the single riders lines(don't know why more people don't use them). We never go on holiday week or in the summer. Personal preference. That said we are going to Disney next week as we need to use up our passes. Guess we will just stroll around and watch the people stress out.
I think something important to consider is the way FastPass works before we debate the likelyhood and effectiveness of an open return time. There is a specific reason why there are return times.
Mark, I think you nailed it. It's almost like everyone, especially at Magic Kingdom, is competing for Fast Pass and tear-assing through the park to ensure they get to the next ride a few spaces ahead of everyone else.
We were just there - in fact, we were in the Magic Kingdom on Monday as well.
The only time I have used a Fastpass outside the window was when the 45 min wait at Splash Mountain turned into 2 hours and I missed my Big Thunder window.
We have had passes for 10 years. We have noticed how rude people have become. My husband is on disability and uses a cane and he has been pushed down by rude people. He has been told get out of the way, if you can't move faster then do not come.
I just read the post from 22.214.171.124,
What is the point in having a time based virtual queing system if everyone is simply going to ignore it and show up when they like?
Great article and great responses. The happiest place on earth isn't very happy these days. I've been on both sides of this. I've been the commando family trying to work the system. Didn't get bent out of shape doing it but definitely experienced the pressure to pack it all in. This is our 4th year in a row going and each year I become more and more laxed just enjoying the parks and experience and being less focused on schedule.
This article has been archived and is no longer accepting comments.