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Disney World brings return time cards to Epcot's Soarin'

Robert Niles

By Robert Niles
Published: July 30, 2014 at 1:33 PM

Walt Disney World today expanded its "Anna and Elsa"-style timed return ticket system to Epcot's Soarin'. With standby waits often over two hours, Soarin' is one of Disney's most popular attractions, which is why the resort soon will be building a third theater for the show. But in the meantime, Disney's trying the system it employed last week for the Anna and Elsa meet-and-greet at the Magic Kingdom's Princess Fairytale Hall.

Soarin'
Inside Soarin'. Photo courtesy Disney

People who have made Fastpass+ reservations for Soarin' will continue to use that return queue as before. However, once the standby queue reaches a certain point, Disney cast members stop admitting visitors to that queue and start instead handing out cards with assigned return times.

When that time arrives, the visitors go into the by-that-time-much-shorter standby queue for a (relatively) quick wait to get into one of the Soarin's theaters for the show. Ultimately, visitors still are waiting several hours to see Soarin', but now they can wait elsewhere in the park, seeing other attractions or spending money on food and merchandise. In essence, it's like getting another Fastpass+, but one that doesn't count against your limit and one that you have to claim in person at the attraction, with no choice on return time. In those ways, the "new" system is much like the old, original Disney Fastpass system.

As with Anna and Elsa, this appears to be a test. But with this system appearing now in three of the Disney World theme parks (Disney's used it for the Frozen Summer at Disney's Hollywood Studios, too), one wonders if Disney will continue to expand these return time cards to other popular attractions throughout the resort, when standby wait times surpass a certain point.

That would leave Disney with three ways to get on its attractions: the advance Fastpass+ reservations, the return-time tickets, and the traditional stand-by queues. Note that when Disney goes with return-time tickets at a ride or show, it closes the standby queue, so there are only two of the three options available at any given time on a specific attraction.

Visitors will valid theme park tickets may reserve three Fastpass+ reservations per day for their visit via the Disney World website or app, then get additional Fastpass+ reservations in the parks, one at a time, as available, after they've used their first three. The return time cards aren't part of the Fastpass+ system, so you can get one of those without counting against your Fastpass+ limit. And once Disney's handed out all the cards for all the available return times for the day, you're out of luck. There's no way to get on that ride or show. (Though it is possible that Disney could decide to cut off distribution of the return time cards earlier in the day to allow the standby queue to reopen on a walk-up basis later in the day. Some visitors have been told that's what will happen with Soarin' today.)

If you're trying to figure out a strategy for maximizing the number of high-demand attractions to visit with these return-time cards, good luck. Perhaps, with time, it will become easy to predict when Disney will close a stand-by queue in favor of the return-time cards. For those attractions, you'd want to be at the attraction entrance as soon as possible after Disney starts handing out those cards to get your assigned return time. If you knew you'd be able to do that, it then would make sense to use your three advance Fastpass+ reservations on other rides or shows during the day. That would allow you to have, in effect, four reserved attraction times. But if you're not certain that Disney's going to go with the return-time cards on a ride or show with typically long waits, you'll need to get a Fastpass+ reservation to avoid having to wait physically in an hours-long standby queue.

Previously:

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