Vote of the Week: Disney World completes the Fastpass+ switch... but which system would you prefer?
Written by Robert Niles
Walt Disney World has closed its paper-ticket Fastpass ride reservation system at the Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom in favor of its new, online Fastpass+ system. Now we're hearing that the switch will happen at Epcot at Disney's Hollywood Studios next week.Tweet
With Fastpass+, visitors staying at one of Walt Disney World's on-site hotels can make ride and show reservations in advance of their visit to the Walt Disney World Resort. Guests not staying on-site can make reservations the day of their visit, using kiosks located throughout the park.
Unlike the old Fastpass system, you don't get a paper ticket with a return time when you make a reservation at one of these new kiosks. Your return time now is associated with your park admission ticket (or MagicBand, if you're staying at a Disney hotel) in a central database. So you just touch your ticket or MagicBand to the Fastpass+ stanchion at the attraction's entrance at your designated return time, and you're good to go.
That means that some visitors using admission tickets they bought years ago will need to swap their old tickets for the new chip-carrying ones. Even if you're not planning to use the Fastpass+ system, you'll need the chip-enabled tickets to get past the parks' new entrance system. So if you're using old no-expire tickets for your next Walt Disney World visit, plan to arrive earlier to make that switch at any park ticket booth.
Two other big changes from the old Fastpass system: You can select (and change!) your return time — it's no longer the take-it-or-leave-it next-in-order time that Fastpass gave you; and (here's the big one) you're limited to just three reservation return times per day. Right now, all three Fastpass+ reservations have to be in the same park, but that's expected to change eventually. But the new three-reservations-per-person limit will change the way that many experienced Disney visitors will go through the parks.
Under the old system, you could get just one Fastpass per admission ticket when you entered the park. You could get another Fastpass two hours after that (or less, if your Fastpass return time was less than two hours in the future). By devising or following sometimes complicated schedules through the park, many well-informed Disney visitors could get half-a-dozen to a dozen, or more, Fastpasses during the day.
Since it's a change from the familiar, Fastpass+ might seem more complex than the original Fastpass system. But since you're limited to just three FP+ reservations per day, and can make them all at once, the new system actually simplifies a Disney World visit considerably. Forget about sending one member of your party ahead with a handful of your admission tickets to go get Fastpasses for everyone, several times a day. If you're staying at a Walt Disney World hotel, you can make all your reservations online, before you leave home. And if you're not, you can take care of all your reservations for the day at once, when you enter the park. You don't need to keep track of when you're eligible to get another Fastpass, or hike all the way across the park to get the Fastpasses for the ride you want reservations on next, either. You can make or change Fastpass+ reservations at any Fastpass+ kiosk, or, if you're staying on-site, with Disney's My Disney Experience mobile phone or tablet app.
Even though you can use only three Fastpass+ reservations per day, but that doesn't mean you can only make three reservations. Remember, you can change Fastpass+ reservations. So if you get to a location where you have a Fastpass+ return time, and see that the ride or show is a walk-on, don't waste one of your three return times by using it then. Look for a nearby kiosk, or cast member with a iPad, and switch that reservation to another attraction — one with a more substantial wait time.
For visitors, the point of Fastpass+, like Fastpass before it, is to save you time waiting in line. So you'll want to use your three reservations on things that otherwise would have demanded a long wait time during your visit. In addition to popular rides with traditionally long waits such as Space Mountain, Splash Mountain, Soarin', Test Track, Midway Mania, and Rock 'n' Roller Coaster, consider spending your Fastpass+ reservations on things such as reserved viewing spots for the Magic Kingdom fireworks and slow-moving character meet 'n' greets, if those time spots are available.
If you're not staying on-site, you'll improve your chances of getting these most useful reservations is you go to one of the Fastpass+ kiosks as soon as the park opens. Here's where you will find the kiosks:
Keep in mind that you might find a shorter wait to use the kiosks by heading to the back of the park, if you're not among the first in to use the ones nearest the front.
If you are staying on-site, you might think that you don't need to get up early to beat the crowd any longer, now that your Fastpass+ reservation times are secured in advance. You could sleep in, but you'll be missing what might become an even better time to ride the park's most popular attractions, as Fastpass+ pulls many "day visitors" straight to the kiosks first thing in the morning, keeping them from the attraction queues.
Over the next months, we'll learn how Fastpass+ affects guest flow through the parks, as hard-core Disney fans are now limited to three reservations, and Disney keeps fine-tuning the distribution of Fastpass+ times among hotel guests and day visitors as well as how much capacity to leave for visitors in stand-by lines.
Our question for you is this: Which system do you think you will prefer? Would you rather have seen Disney stick with the old, take-it-or-leave-it paper Fastpass system, or more flexible, online, but limited-to-three-total Fastpass+ system?
We're pushing the leaners here, with no options for "Neither" or a Universal-style unlimited front-of-line pass. We're asking you to pick one or the other, based on your experience and what you've read about the systems.
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