Understanding Disney's MyMagic+, and how to use Fastpass+ to your advantage at Walt Disney World

May 8, 2014, 11:19 AM · Walt Disney corporate executives said this week that the Walt Disney World Resort has completed its implementation of the new MyMagic+ vacation management system. Disney World hotel guests, annual passholders, and "day" visitors all now can use MyMagic+ to make Fastpass+ reservation times for visiting destinations in the Disney World theme parks.

In his remarks during a conference call announcing Disney's second-quarter financial results, Chief Financial Officer Jay Rasulo said that MyMagic+ is helping to increase capacity at the Walt Disney World theme parks. Here's what he said, as noted by the Orlando Sentinel:

"Because FastPass+, the ability to basically plan your day as it relates to top attractions in the park in advance, has had huge pickup by our guests, it allows a better distribution of guests around the park," Rasulo said. "And quite often the amount of capacity we can let into the park is highly driven by pinch points and particular areas of the park that we don't want to get too overcrowded. So when guests are better distributed around the park, we can let more in."

We know from operational experience that ride reservations schemes don't increase the capacity of individual attractions within a theme park. Whether a person enters an attraction via the standby or bypass queue doesn't affect the flow of visitors at the load point, provided that merging the queues doesn't slow down the line. But Rasulo isn't making a claim that MyMagic+ increase attraction capacity. He's saying that the system increases park capacity.

So how can that happen? Recognizing what's in play here can help visitors get more value for their vacation through myMagic+, rather than being left confused and disoriented.

A visitor uses a MagicBand to "tap into" the Fastpass+ entrance at Epcot's Test Track. Disney World hotel and annual passholder guests are given the RFID-chip enabled MagicBand wristbands as their ticket media under the MyMagic+ system. Day visitors can use chip-enabled ticket cards, or they can buy their own MagicBand for an additional fee, to get into the parks and Fastpass+ entrances. Photo courtesy Disney.

For a clue how MyMagic+ allows Disney to fit more people in its theme parks, take a look at the queues for Maelstrom or Spaceship Earth next time you visit Epcot. Chances are, if you're visiting on a somewhat busy day, you'll find them filled. That didn't used to be the case. Spaceship Earth predictably attracted crowds in the morning, as many visitors stepped into the first queue they encountered in the park. But in the afternoons and evenings, the ride was almost always a walk-on. Norway's Maelstrom also rarely attracted much of a crowd, being one of the less-popular attractions in the park despite its relatively higher capacity as a continual-loading boat ride.

Theme Park Insiders long have known that the key to understanding theme park wait times is to understand the differences in hourly capacity between rides. Rides that can handle thousands of riders per hour typically have shorter waits in the middle of the day than rides that can put through only a few hundred visitors per hour. Sharp visitors understood this, and opted to ride lower capacity rides very early or very late in the day, when fewer people were in the park and wait times would be shorter overall. You should leave huge capacity rides, such as Pirates of Caribbean, for the busier times, since rides such as that do well in putting through large crowds, leaving you with reasonable waits there.

But not all theme park visitors study up like Theme Park Insiders do. (Pat yourselves on the back now.) Most theme park visitors didn't consider attraction capacity as they decided what to ride next in the park. They either went with what was the next nearest ride to them, or what offered a favorite character. As a result, the distribution of visitors through the park didn't match the distribution of its attraction capacity — and that overloaded certain attractions and sections of the park.

Think of a park as a collection of cups into which you're pouring water. Some cups are deeper than others and can hold more water, but you can't see that because they're all set into holes in the table so that their rims are even with the tabletop. As soon as you pour so much water into the cups that one of them overflows, you have to stop pouring.

If the distribution of guests throughout the park is pretty much even, it's like you're just pouring water evenly into those cups. When the shallowest one overflows, you've got to stop. That means no more people getting into the park. Those are the "pinch points" Rasulo referenced.

The old Fastpass system included so few rides that it didn't have as much of an effect upon overall park capacity as Fastpass+ does, as the new system includes dozens more rides, shows, and even some quick-service restaurants. MyMagic+ allows Disney to do more to influence the rate at which the cups are filling, and to start pouring more water into deeper cups when the shallow ones start to get filled. It does this by assigning more Fastpass+ availability to attractions with shorter wait times at particular times during the day. That allows you to "pour more water" into those cups before having to stop, allowing more people into the park.

As we mentioned above, MyMagic+ isn't allowing Disney to put more people through those rides. It's simply allowing Disney to divert more people into their queues. That's why you're seeing fuller queues at rides such as Maelstrom and Spaceship Earth. MyMagic+ increases theme park capacity by helping Disney divert crowds from overloaded queues and pathways into underloaded queues elsewhere in the park.

If the old Fastpass system allowed people to get out of the queues and into stores and other places in the park, the MyMagic+/Fastpass+ system effectively is trying to put visitors back into those queues, or any other spaces it can to more evenly distribute visitors so that no one part of a park becomes overloaded.

What does this mean for you, the Theme Park Insider? It means that you'd better commit to learning about MyMagic+, and how to get the most from it, so that you can avoid being stuck in some of those lines that the system is making longer.

Rasulo said that three-fourths of Disney's hotel guests are using MyMagic+ to make advance reservations in the parks. But only about one in four day guests are using the system. That means that a lot of visitors are being left in standby queues, or lined up trying to make Fastpass+ reservations in the park, when they could have been getting on the rides and shows they came to Disney World to experience.

Disney World hotel visitors can make Fastpass+ reservations up to 60 days before their visit. Annual passholders and day visitors can make reservations up to 30 days in advance. Either way, though, you need to have your Disney World tickets bought and registered in the MyMagic+ system to make your Fastpass+ reservations. So if you want to get the most from the system, plan in advance and have your reservations made and tickets bought and in hand before your reservation window opens.

At midnight Eastern time 60 or 30 days before the day of your visit (depending upon whether you are staying on site or not), go to disneyworld.com and click the My Disney Experience link to start making your Fastpass+ reservations. You can make three Fastpass+ reservations, in any of the parks if you have a park-hopper ticket, or in just one park if you don't. On our Theme Park Travel Tips page, we've listed the attractions that you should make your top priority in each park:

If you don't care about some of these attractions, skip 'em and reserve something else. These simply are the attractions with the longest stand-by wait times in the middle of the day, and the ones for which Fastpass+ reservations get snapped up the quickest. But you shouldn't take one of these coveted spots if you don't care about the attraction.

Once you've used your three Fastpass+ reservations, you can make additional Fastpass+ reservations inside the park on the day of your visit, but only one at a time. At that point, the system works like the old Fastpass system, except that there are no paper tickets and you can make reservations from any Fastpass+ kiosk in the park rather than having to go to each individual attraction.

Because of the opportunity to make additional Fastpass+ reservations, try to book your initial three reservations early in the day for the rides, shows and (especially) character meet-and-greets that run out of reservation times early. Then pick up more widely-available Fastpass+ reservation times for later in the day.

Remember than you can use single rider lines (also listed on our Theme Park Travel Tips page) to minimize wait times if you're willing to do without riding right next to your family or group. Make table-service restaurant reservations up to 180 days in advance by calling +1-407-WDW-DINE or eat and an off-peak time to avoid using a Fastpass+ on a counter-service restaurant. Remember that you might be able to use Fastpass+ to reserve a viewing spot for Illuminations, the Magic Kingdom fireworks, or the Festival of Fantasy parade, but that you'll give up the opportunity for additional Fastpass+ reservations if you do, since those happen late in the day. That might be a trade-off worth making, but you'll have to weigh the pros and cons and make the decision that's best for you.

The only bad choice is to not make any Fastpass+ reservations in advance, and to be left spending all day in standby lines, or wasting precious time early in the day in a Fastpass+ kiosk queue instead of getting on rides. The MyMagic+ system is in place now. If you want to get full value from a Walt Disney World vacation, find the ways to make this system work for you, instead of against you.

We will update this post with readers' best advice from the comments. Let's hear it!

Replies (40)

May 8, 2014 at 11:31 AM · Robert, what are your thoughts on the new FP+ ONLY meet and greets?
May 8, 2014 at 11:49 AM · I always wonder what would happen when the whole FP+ system goes down for the day (you know it's gong to happen one day)....all those angry people on the scooters running over people....Fastpassmagedon. Oh the chaos that would ensue! What a great movie that would make.
May 8, 2014 at 11:57 AM · Theme Park Insiders long have known that the keep to understanding theme park wait times is to understand the differences in hourly capacity between rides

think you meant( key ) :P

May 8, 2014 at 12:16 PM · Freakin' autocorrect. Fixed. Thanks.
May 8, 2014 at 12:23 PM · Am I reading this right? Those who are new to Disney or are not researchers, will show up, fork out a lot of money and have issues getting on rides?
May 8, 2014 at 12:37 PM · My primary concern with this system is that unless you plan your trip months in advance, you will not have the ability to experience the parks in the same way as those who reserved their Fastpasses. It takes the spontaneity completely out of visiting a park. What happens if you go on a spur-of-the-moment trip and the Fastpasses are all used up? Do you need to be instructed how to use the Fastpass+ system just to use it?

I wouldn't be surprised if some people avoided the parks believing this system will make it more complicated to attend them.

May 8, 2014 at 12:47 PM · I used the new FastPass+ as a day visitor this last weekend.... and I absolutely loved it!

Yeah, write this down, THC, because I'm actually saying that Disney has done something right for once. ;^)

I bought my Florida Resident Seasonal Passes online for my family, registered our tickets on My Disney Experience, linked my daughter's family tickets to ours, and made all of our FastPass+ reservations with relative ease. I even changed them a couple of times because of changing schedules and bad weather, and the system worked like a champ! (We did have a small glitch on the second day of FastPass+ usage when my wife's reservations were lost in the system, but understanding ride operators let her go through with us.)

Folks, you are seriously cheating yourselves if you don't use this system, especially if you are a day guest. Take it from a Disney skeptic, they knocked it out of the park on this one!

May 8, 2014 at 12:54 PM · Nick, I made our initial reservations about 10 days out and changed them several times up until the day before usage. The only attraction that we missed out on was Peter Pan, and we got bumped out of it at the last minute. I know it is the off-season, and people aren't really up to speed on FastPass+ yet, but I don't think you will have to make plans months in advance. (Unless you want to make dinner reservations at high demand restaurants like Be Our Guest.)
May 8, 2014 at 1:35 PM · I am now a Fastpass+ veteran. My trip last week to WDW went off beautifully. I went to my expected attractions without a hitch. Although I brought my plastic passes in case of a glitch, the magic bands worked as expected. The only problem was Memory Maker. Some pictures were lost since not everyone that was linked to my account had their pictures transfered to my Memory Maker account. I tried tracking down the pictures at the photo processing sites, but they didn't find the pictures.

I had to dispelled some complaints about Fastpass+. Certainly some people might make reservations for high capacity rides (especially in the morning) when there should be low standby wait times. Let me tell you, anytime the wait time is a walk-on, you still need Fastpass+. This is especially true if you have a young child who CAN'T WAIT. Bypassing the lines, even if it is a mere 20 minutes, is gladly taken. Your child will appreciate it. Your feet will love the shorter walk.

Scheduling the Fastpass+ attractions around your "hard to get" lunch or dinner table service reservations is their best use. One hour before meal service, you need to finish your attraction and attend your reservation or lose it. You'll have less stress with good attraction scheduling. This is especially true since Standby wait times is less reliable. Sometimes an attraction might not cooperate and you'll wait longer.

Get done faster. Yes, this is very possible. Despite huge crowds and busy attractions, some attractions are walk-ons. Maybe Fastpass+ worked to force people to do other things. I was amazed to see how the crowds were dispersed.

May 8, 2014 at 2:07 PM · Last paragraph in the article. 'Disney is also "looking at a variety of other things to add in Orlando," Iger added. "So there'll be plenty more that we put into the marketplace that will take advantage of any growth the marketplace has."

Disney is also "looking at a variety of other things to add in Orlando," Iger added. "So there'll be plenty more that we put into the marketplace that will take advantage of any growth the marketplace has." '

They could add more minor attractions to disperse the crowds.

May 8, 2014 at 2:17 PM · "What happens if you go on a spur-of-the-moment trip and the Fastpasses are all used up?"

They are not. It is likely the Fastpasses are used up on the day you're at the parks, but unlikely if you get your Fastpass+ the night before.

I highly recommend you get your tickets in advance and get your Fastpass+ the day before your trip. Is one day pre-planning spontaneous enough?

I had to make a last minute change to my 6 day trip to WDW last week. I decided against going to EPCOT on the 6th day and instead went to the Magic Kingdom. I got all my Fastpasses the night before for the Saturday trip.

May 8, 2014 at 2:24 PM · I'm still trying to wrap my head around the fact that someone would even think to GET a Fastpass for Spaceship Earth..... Or Everest for that matter -- everytime I've ever ridden it, I've gone straight there after rope drop and ridden it 3 or 4 times with barely a wait.

I'm with Nick on this one.... I get what Disney is trying to do, but I really think it sucks the spontaneity out of a visit. I'll have to wait 'til the next time I go to determine what I really think....

May 8, 2014 at 2:44 PM · Melanie: Nick defined the problem as "My primary concern with this system is that unless you plan your trip months in advance, you will not have the ability to experience the parks in the same way as those who reserved their Fastpasses."

In other words, he is afraid he won't get his Fastpasses.

The "spontaneity" is still there as you described it. Going commando was always available. I just don't think most people want to do this.

Perhaps the problem with not wanting to use Fastpass is all about the perceived return of the dreaded tickets. Disney gotten rid of tickets to increase admissions, then reinstated "new tickets" to increase capacity. It is another gatekeeper. What is the next evolution of ticketing policy? Fastpass to get in the Park? Fastpass to get into Fantasyland? Then injected RFID devices under your skin? (/sarc).

May 8, 2014 at 4:01 PM · "If the old Fastpass system allowed people to get out of the queues and into stores and other places in the park, the MyMagic+/Fastpass+ system effectively is trying to put visitors back into those queues, or any other spaces it can to more evenly distribute visitors so that no one part of a park becomes overloaded."

This is a misunderstanding of what they're doing. Longer STNADBY waits are a side effect of some riders having priority boarding with FastPass+. But this is not what Disney was talking about; it's not the goal. It's getting people to those rides at all at times when the ride would normally be sitting mostly idle is what Disney is doing ... effectively USING the capacity that they have.

That you talk about Maelstrom in the article is telling. Many guests didn't even know there was a ride in Norway. FP+ is making that more visible to them. Now that ride is being used to better affect, absorbing crowds. It's not just about getting them into lines, but it's about getting them into the RIGHT lines. As a side effect, the wait when you don't have a FP increases.

Remember, FastPass is about getting people OUT of a line, not into one. That Standby waits increase when you don't have one isn't what MM+/FP+ is about, rather, getting you to ANY ride quicker, not just the most obvious ones.

Of course, for savvy guests, we're perceiving this as a negative. Rides that used to be a "walk on" now have waits for Standby. However, "walk on" rides are wasted capacity. Disney has effectively found a way to use that capacity.

What does this mean for your kind of reader? It means that you should really consider FastPass to be primary way to ride, with Standby only used when waits are abnormally low.

May 8, 2014 at 7:25 PM · I guess I'm just old school. I don't want to plan anything more for a theme park vacation than when I'm going and where I'm going to stay. I like the park experience to be schedule-free whenever possible. It's not sounding like this is going to be possible at Disney much longer....We'll see.
May 8, 2014 at 9:26 PM · I have to say, for all those of you who are complaining about this taking the 'spontaneity and freedom' out of a Theme Park trip, was there really that much freedom before. Theme parks and Disney in particular are busy places that, if you show up without a plan of attack, can be difficult to manage at the best of times. I think Disney is just capitalizing on this fact. I realize some people don't enjoy planning holidays in advance bar the essentials (i am definately not one of those people but I know they are out there) but it is always been a bit naive to think you can just show up to a Theme Park with no plan and still achieve what you could touring the park as you would with a plan of attack (whether you use FP or not). My point is, if you don't like planning in advance perhaps a Theme Park/ Disney vacation is not really for you and you should plan the kind of trip that doesn't require too much forethought...just a thought...
May 8, 2014 at 9:30 PM · What happen to those days when the park counted how many people were in the park by the turnstiles at the front gate. Parks have been doing this for years when the max capacity of a park you can't have any more visitors. It didn't matter the choke points you just couldn't have any more people. It's like a room at a restaurant and you see the sign where you can have this amount of people in the room set by the Fire Marshall. Doesn't matter if all the people are in one corner you can't have more than that in the room. If Disney is trying to pack more people into there parks it's going to cause issues and safety being the prime reason. These parks are not just guessing the max capacity number but giving that by safety personal on various reasons. The happiest place on earth may just be the dangerous place on earth when its busy.

Another point is yes the fast pass + is great in an off season where you can change it the day before you go but its going to be a whole other issue when its peak season and all those reservations will be taken a month in advance and say it rains on the day your supposed to go on that dwarf ride and its shut down and you can't get a reservation any other day your on vacation. You'll have to wait twice as long because others with reservations are getting on the ride while you wait. I foresee some very upset people.

This brings it full circle where there is no patience anymore where you had to wait 2 hours to ride that new coaster because that was your only option like everyone else. Now if you want to spend a little to a lot more you can get in the fast lane at almost any park. At least Universal if you stay at one of their delux hotels you get unlimited express for free. Even they are not letting the express pass be used on the newest rides to minimize the long lines. I see Disney with this new plan as longer waits for the most popular rides with this in peak season.

May 8, 2014 at 9:59 PM · Can someone clear this up for me? Is Fastpass+ available ONLY to guests staying at a Disney resort? Or can they be purchased by anyone? We always stay at Universal and drive to the Disney Parks. Over the last few years, as Disney has become more and more crowded, we found ourselves skipping the busy rides and going to the walk ons. Now it seems the whole point of Fastpass+ is to eliminate the walk on rides. In other words, if you don't stay on Disney property, you're in for a day of waiting no matter what and you're screwed. Am I wrong?
May 9, 2014 at 2:51 AM · Can I please clarify one thing?
In the past we have always bought our one/two day Disney ticket at DTD and then used it when we felt like it.
If I have the app, can I buy those tickets say on Sunday, register them on the app, then book FP+ for say Tuesday - even though its a one day ticket?
I have kind of felt like a day guest has to wait until the day they are there and line up to make reservations.
May 9, 2014 at 4:47 AM · Thomas, any guest can use it whether you are on or off property. You don't buy them, it's included in your ticket. As long as you have a park ticket, whether on property or not,you can make FP+ reservations. It works whether you have a magic band, or a plastic card ticket.

Kelly, that will work just fine. As long as you have a ticket linked on the app/website, and it's within 30 days, you can make reservations ahead of time, and should!

May 9, 2014 at 6:06 AM · Maybe I just don't understand the dynamic of theme park line management, but if there were no Fastpasses at all and all lines were standby, wouldn't there be a natural process of dissemination to other, less-crowded lines in a park? I mean, if you saw that the first line you reached was two hours long would you not move on to another line that was only 45 minutes? I am not sure how Fastpasses are meant to increase park capacity.

Maybe it's because the process of spreading out lines in a park is more immediate because people already know which lines to go to before they enter the park with their Fastpasses? But this would happen anyway with standby-only lines because there is always a portion of the crowd who knows to go to the back of the park or the best rides first. Like I say, maybe I just don't understand the benefit well enough.

May 9, 2014 at 7:33 AM · @Nick - You would think that , but queue theory actually suggests the complete opposite. People are creatures of habit, and many have a hard time fighting the natural tendency to stand in the line in front of them with everyone else. Humans have a pack mentality, and it is not more dramatically demonstrated than a theme park. If you've ever casually observed theme park crowds you will see people gravitating towards groups, crowds, and lines with the belief that the consensus of the whole is onto something and they would potentially miss out on something if they don't follow the crowd.

The most notorious place to see this in action is at Disney's quick service restaurants. Virtually every QS location has cashiers in front of menus posted on the building or service area. You frequently see a line forming to the left or the right of the cashiers to order or pay for meals. The line forms because many people are either unsure or too timid to walk up to the other side of the cashier, which would make them next in line since cashiers are trained to alternate between guests to the right and then to the left. I don't know how many evil looks I've gotten from people standing in these lines when you walk right to the front and get served long before those at the back of the initial line. It's a simple fact, people see a line, and whether they know what it's for or not, or even if there's a faster alternative, they'll stand in it.

The same philosophy works with attraction lines. Some Disney attractions are tabbed "must see" or "E-ticket" simply because people line up for them, not necessarily because they're great attractions. People see a 40 minute line and think to themselves that the attraction must be good, and just hop in while the getting is good. After all it's far easier to take the known commodity than to walk past the line to the next attraction and have to double back and wait in a line of indeterminate length.

With FastPass+, Disney is letting people reserve the known commodities in advance, which actually frees up guests to explore the park. Since they're not standing in lines for the attractions they most want to see, they're instead using that time (along with the time that used to be reserved to run around and grab paper Fastpasses and waiting for returns) to experience different parts of the park. It also allows guests to establish a more logical flow around the park. The previous system, which required guests to walk up to an attraction to get a FastPass, kept guests in specific areas longer than they probably wanted because they're waiting for a return. Popular touring plans typically advised guests to grab a Fastpass for an attraction and immediately ride it through the standby line. Depending upon the return time guests might also need to experience adjacent attraction while they're waiting for their return (not really an issue until they enforced return times), or leave the area and double back when their return window opened.

One strategy that may arise from FastPass+ might be the thought of making reservations early in the day for less popular or low capacity attractions, and then experiencing the more popular attractions in the first hour or last hour that the park is open (or during Magic Hours). Since it's more likely that the most popular attractions will max out their FastPass+ reservations, it might be smarter to use those on second tier rides and just riding those popular attractions when there are fewer people in the park.

People are still figuring out this system, but I see what Disney is going for here, and the idea of spreading people out around the parks.

In terms of spontaneous touring, I think this new system creates a much more spontaneous way to explore the parks. If guests already have reserved the attractions they most want to experience ahead of time, they're free to walk around the park and explore parts of the park they might not have done under the previous system, which required them to rush to FastPass distribution systems and hang around until their time came up. Guests now know when their return time is, and can specifically select times that work with their personality. If you're a late riser, you can get a FastPass for Toy Story Mania while still getting to the park at 10 or 11, instead of at rope drop. It also lets people reserve attractions that fit them, instead of forcing their hand to get to the most popular ones first thing in the morning to get FastPasses. It theoretically would reduce the "running of the bulls" that used to happen as people raced to get the first FastPass of the day (now people are just racing to the kiosks to make reservations that they should have probably made online).

I was initially concerned about the system when it was first announced, because we have always been FastPass "power users", but seeing how the system has evolved and some of the tweaks and reports of how the system is actually working, I'm getting excited to give it a whirl later this fall.

May 9, 2014 at 7:49 AM · When I visited during fastpass+ testing in January, we used the fp+ kiosk outside of Kali river rapids to adjust our reservation for that ride to a window that started 10 min after that moment. This is when the ride had a 70 min wait. In other words, because we had the thought to see if we could change a fp+ reservation on the spur of the moment, we basically walked on. I don't know if it will always be like this. Less folks were using the system. But I imagine that for smart theme park insider types, there will always be cool ways to use the system to reduce stress and increase attractions seen. Also, shouldn't diverting less in-the-know guests into using their reservations on high capacity or low popularity rides be good for everyone? They don't know that they just got a reservation at a traditionally "easy" ticket, and those of us that do know have lower wait times on the lower capacity rides. Seems like a win-win to me.
May 9, 2014 at 7:49 AM · When I visited during fastpass+ testing in January, we used the fp+ kiosk outside of Kali river rapids to adjust our reservation for that ride to a window that started 10 min after that moment. This is when the ride had a 70 min wait. In other words, because we had the thought to see if we could change a fp+ reservation on the spur of the moment, we basically walked on. I don't know if it will always be like this. Less folks were using the system. But I imagine that for smart theme park insider types, there will always be cool ways to use the system to reduce stress and increase attractions seen. Also, shouldn't diverting less in-the-know guests into using their reservations on high capacity or low popularity rides be good for everyone? They don't know that they just got a reservation at a traditionally "easy" ticket, and those of us that do know have lower wait times on the lower capacity rides. Seems like a win-win to me.
May 9, 2014 at 8:03 AM · "One strategy that may arise from FastPass+ might be the thought of making reservations early in the day for less popular or low capacity attractions"

That's the worse use of Fastpass+. The best use is reserve your Fastpasses for the most popular attractions in mid-day afternoon slots when the parks are most crowded and the temperature/humidity is the worse in a Florida day. This strategy will be helpful to both early morning, late riser, and evening park goers.

Early morning guests can use this time to get on attractions that are unlikely to be crowded in the mornings especially the E-Tickets on the far corners of the park. By the time the afternoon rolls in, their Fastpasses give them additional rides or maybe their first chance to ride it in the day since they were busy hitting the other popular E-Tickets.

Late risers can just come the park at any time and begin to use their afternoon Fastpass slots after having a leisurely lunch, which is most likely using their Dining Plan.

Evening park goers can come to the park late. Use their afternoon Fastpass slots, which frees up their time to enjoy the evening shows, parades, and fireworks shows. They can reserve a nice table service restaurant using their Dining Plan. Or they can just reserve their favorite rides in the evening when the park will still be crowded, but a bit less than the afternoon.

May 9, 2014 at 8:36 AM · My only interest in all of this is in regards to whether or not it frees Disney's wallet up to focus on new lands and attractions?

It's always been said that Fast Pass Plus was a money pit. So now that it's been rolled out, will they finally have the cash (after Shanghai opens, that is) to really make some long overdue improvements?

May 9, 2014 at 8:46 AM · Since I'm local and have an annual pass I decide to go last minute. (depending on how much energy I have, money, and the weather) I was there on a Wednesday night and I was not impressed. (I am also a very tech savy person) I think at first people will either love it or hate it. I will be giving it a second change now that I know the logistics of it. I understand Disney's point of view by wanting to balance out the crowds. In theory it all makes sense. I really hope they can get everything working at maximum capacity or the summer crowds will be horrible.
May 9, 2014 at 9:53 AM · @Anon - I think the greatest strategy for Fastpass+, and pretty much any other queue avoidance strategy, is to do what everyone else is NOT doing. Why book popular attractions in the middle of the day? If you get to the park at rope drop, you can knock 2 or 3 top attractions off the list in the first hour (or Magic Hour) when the park is not yet crowded. Then you start knocking off your Fastpass reservations in the next 3-4 hours, which may include one really popular attraction and a few second tier attractions. Disney already forces your hand to a certain extent through the tier system (not being able to FP both Soarin' and Test Track). Once you've completed your first 3 FPs, then you get additional Fastpass+ reservations above and beyond for anything else that's available. If you're planning all of your reservations between noon and 4 when the crowds are at their peak, there's a good chance there won't be anything left after that, and certainly not the most popular attractions. However, if you plan all of your reservations between 9 and 1, there's a good chance you'll be able to add additional reservations in the 1-5 time frame.

I'm not saying it's the ultimate strategy, and I rarely visit during peak periods so I have no idea that it would work over the busy summer or holiday months (there are few strategies that work during those days), but I've always found that you typically maximize experiences and minimize waits in a theme park if you go slightly against the grain.

Also, I think you're overselling the value of the DDP. It's a great perk when offered free as part of a promotional package (which we're doing again in the fall), but if people are purchasing the DDP out of pocket and not getting a discounted room, they need to go back and do the math. I commented about it a few years ago (http://www.themeparkinsider.com/news/response.cfm?ID=945507604). The DDP (especially under its current rules) is a waste of money at the standard rate (unless you're constantly using child credits for adult meals at QS restaurants). Guests are far better paying for meals out of pocket, and if they don't want to carry cash, they can use the MagicBand to charge to the credit card associated with their room. Making ADRs, however, which are completely separate from the DDP, are a great idea, and flow well with the concepts created by FP+.

May 9, 2014 at 10:08 AM · @Russell: How can you say it is the "greatest strategy" when most people aren't early risers? People go to the parks at all hours. The benefit of Fastpass+ is that you don't have to go Commando. You don't have to finish the park by noon.

There are early risers, but they can enjoy the parks as they see fit without long lines. That's why Fastpass+ gives them a second bite at a slower pace.

When you're done with your 3 Fastpass, you might just get one more. That's not much more. The tier system is only at EPCOT. Thus, it makes sense to strategize by getting your Fastpass for Soarin', while getting in the Standby line for Test Track in the morning. Certainly, you can do the reverse.

I do believe in going against the grain, but this is harder to do all the time. The best way is not to go during the high season. Even if you go when it is not much busy, Fastpass+ should still be used especially for the Anna and Elsa meet and greet where the wait is 3 hours in the Standby line, and Epcot's Soarin' with the highest wait times in the off-season.

I'm not overselling DDP. MANY people have it. Regardless of where you have DDP, many still do make Table service reservations. DDP is cheap when you consider what you're getting. When you're traveling as an out-of-town guest, you don't often have the luxury of "planning" how you will bring food into the park, thus save on your expenses. As a local resident near Disneyland in California, I have often brought food into the park. I pop my own popcorn and bring it in a zip-locked bag.

DDP gives you 1 Table Service, 1 Quick Service, 1 snack, and 1 Resort drink mug. This adds up. You never feel hungry and that's a benefit. Certainly I can do without getting 1 drink and 1 dessert at every meal, but you don't have the hold back your food needs when you're on the dining plan. On occasion, some Table service meals are quite shocking when I saw the cash bill. Some quick service bills are also quite shocking. The Wolfgang Puck Express at the Downtown Disney Marketplace is very expensive for a quick service restaurant. Everything is at theme park captive pricing.

In my situation, I was staying at DVC with points that I exchanged with my timeshare. Thus, the cost for accomodations was quite minimal. Adding the DDP was my option and it made sense in my case.

May 9, 2014 at 10:47 AM · Does anyone know if you can separate your group after making a FP+ reservation?

This September, my family is going to WDW. The family = my parents, wife's parents, Wife's Sister #1 w/husband + 4 kids, Wife's Sister #2 w/BF, myself and my wife.

There are days we are looking at 14 people roaming the parks together. And I already know at some point the "what's next?" will have different answers.

Linking our different reservations has already happened in MyDisneyExperience/MyMagic account. I can see all reservations. But let's say I make a FP+ for Seven Dwarfs Mine Train at 10am for all 14 of us. On the day, can that be changed to 8 people and the remaining 6 get to use their FP+ somewhere else?

I know there's going to be a lot of trial and error once my vacation starts, but my family looks to me as the source of information for all the theme park stuff.

May 9, 2014 at 11:09 AM · @Anon - I don't think you quite understand what I'm saying. Certainly, the FP+ system allows a great amount of flexibility for different types of people who are likely to tour the parks in very different ways. However, that does not change the fact that, as I stated, the best way to approach a situation where queuing comes into play is to try to go against the grain to a certain extent. Following the crowd and booking the most popular attractions is not necessarily going to save you the most time, especially if there are more than 3 things you want to see on your visit. It's a delicate balance and give and take to get the most out of the system, which I think will be best served by experiencing a few of the most popular attractions through the standby line, where feasible, while getting FP+ reservations for others in such a way to be able to cash in on the chance of gaining additional FP+ reservations later in the day.

EPCOT is not the only park where attractions are tiered. DHS doesn't allow guests to book FP+ reservations for both Toy Story Mania and Rock 'n Rollercoaster. There's also a rumor that when Seven Dwarfs opens in a few weeks, tiers will be created in MK, prohibiting guests from booking at more than 2 of the 4 mountains (including 7D).

I've done the math every time I've gone to WDW, and the DDP is not worth the cost, even if you maximize every single meal, and yes, I'm fully aware of the great value that Wolfgang Puck Express offers, but some of that value is eroded by the fact that it's so far away from the parks, and at a place that has reportedly become a nightmare to navigate due to the construction. 6 years ago, when tips, appetizers at TS meals, and 2 snacks per day were part of the standard DDP, I would say that it was worth paying full price for, but the current rules do not create value at the current cost. The savings using the DDP are miniscule compared to paying out of pocket, and the chances of actually losing money/value on the DDP are pretty high. For instance, if you cash in a CS credit for a Mickey Waffle at breakfast, you're probably already $6-$8 in the hole. The cost of the DDP right now per night is currently $39.64/adult and $15.75/child for the QS Plan and $58.66/adult and $18.88/child for the Standard Plan. That means on the QS plan, you need to eat 2 counter service meals at $18/each along with a $4 snack. The number of counter service meals that fit that criteria are very small (maybe 25%), and there are only a few specific meals that are above that $18/meal price point, even including lavish dessert prices. The Standard Plan is a bit better, but you still need to find those table service meals where you will be eating $37 meals (assuming you eat a $18 CS meal). Depending upon season, that's how much it costs to do most of the buffets out of pocket. With the ability to charge to the room now without even taking your wallet out of your pocket using the Magic Bands, there's no convenience advantage to the DDP. Therefore, if you are paying full price for the DDP, you are potentially wasting your money for a perceived value that's not there. Guests should only get the DDP when it's offered free as part of a vacation package or is accompanied with another room or vacation discount offer. Paying full price for the DDP is no longer worth it, and hasn't been for about 3 years.

May 9, 2014 at 11:38 AM · @Russell: You're right. I don't get your point.

So you recommend doing the reverse, but if I want to go on Space Mountain and I can't get up early, I'm out of luck.
Your definition of going against the grain just won't work for me. I will still get my FP for the afternoon because I'm just not a early person.

FP+ will work best for those doing multi-day trips. Book your alternative attractions that are on a tier plan on alternative days. Otherwise, you will have to wait in the Standby lines and you seem to think that is fine anyways (going against the grain and such).

The perceived value of DDP is meaningless. Disney WILL make their profits. Where the dining plan works is how much more you will spend if you had to spend your food costs in cash. The cash bills are quite a shock to see. At best, you're breaking even for eating out for each meal.

A $37 table service meal is NOT difficult to reach when you count the entree, the drink, and the dessert PLUS Tax. (I don't recommend using any dining credits for breakfast.) The $18 quick service meal is similarly not difficult to reach. Like I've said already, if paying cash, I'll skip the drink and dessert. I'll also cut in half my table service reservations.

DDP is my budget. I've spent far more for my Disney vacation before DDP and I have the receipts for prove that. Since a Disney vacation has some minimum expections, you should realize that spending money will happen. DDP being offered free for the room is marketing. I'm sure the meals are costing Disney half what its actually billing the customers, which is my point that paying cash for food isn't a real savings. That's real money that I'm pouring out so why no the dining plan under the scenario laid out by Disney. Head they win, tails you lose.

May 9, 2014 at 1:04 PM · Nope, you don't get my point. I didn't say not to book a FP+ reservation for Space Mountain, just that if you wanted to maximize the system, it might make sense to book for Space and 2 other less popular or low throughput attractions like say Peter Pan and Tomorrowland Speedway that are all timed within the first 3-4 hours of your arrival with the hope of picking up additional FP+ reservations once those are done, instead of picking up reservations for Space, Splash, and BTM that are spread out throughout the day. You're going to be stuck in standby lines anyway until you reach that last FP+ window, so you're gambling that there will still be reservations available later in the day, so the sooner you can get more, the better.

Now if you're an AP holder, and you can pop in and out of the park at your leisure, it doesn't really matter. However, those of us that buy daily admissions (at $70-90+/day), it's usually important to maximize the daily experience, and it might actually make sense (assuming you only need to experience each attraction once), to ride the high capacity and some of the more popular attraction through the standby line at times when the standby lines are shorter (earlier and later in the day) and using FP+ reservations in a such a way as to get as many as possible.

Obviously my math must not be very convincing, because you seem to think the DDP is a far better deal than it really is. It doesn't take calculus to figure out that the DDP is designed in such a way that even the most rigorous planners would have a hard time breaking even on the original outlay, let alone coming out ahead. Meanwhile, those who aren't paying attention or don't know what they're doing are losing money big time. Yes, Disney is getting your food money either way unless you're packing in lunches every day, but why would you deliberately pay more for food than you have to by paying full price for the DDP?

In addition to the restrictions on locations and items that can be purchased with the DDP, guests are forced into getting items some may not typically get with a meal if they were pay out of packet for it, like dessert or fountain drinks. DDP guests can also feel compelled to get the most expensive items on the menu, even if they'd rather have something less expensive, just so they can feel like they got their money's worth. That, in turn, may lead to a decline in food quality (a significant complaint when DDP first started and was a far better value than it is now) and increased prices for those who want to pay out of pocket.

We can agree that Wolfgang Puck Express is the absolute KING of CS restaurants. If you use both of your daily CS credits (on the QS plan) there on the most expensive items for both lunch and dinner (Rotisserie chicken at $18.95) and get a bottomless fountain drink ($2.95) and dessert (Creme Brule at $4.95) including tax, the total out of pocket cost would be $57.92. That seems like a bargain at an initial investment of $40/day, a 43% value added. However, it's just as easy to lose money. Let's say you eat at Backlot Express at DHS, and get the most expensive entree on the menu (1/3 lb Bacon Cheeseburger at $9.39) along with a dessert ($3.99) and fountain drink ($2.99), with tax, your out of pocket cost would be $17.43. Even getting the most expensive items on the menu, assuming that you would have even chosen that if you were paying cash for it, you're losing money. The same goes for virtually any in-park CS restaurant where even the most expensive entrees rarely are more than $10 (the break-even entree price on the Quick Serve Plan). So unless you're venturing to Downtown Disney/Disney Springs for every meal, you're either breaking even or losing money if you're paying full price for the Quick Serve DDP.

Like I said, the Standard Plan is a bit better, primarily because there are some more TS options that allow for good value, and the buffets that are included (Akershus, Biergarted, Boma, Chef Mickey's, etc...) are break even or have decent value added by offering an easy way to fill up without having to buy additional items outside of the DDP (appetizers, soups, and such). For example, Akershus in EPCOT can cost up to $60/person (and includes character interactions and a photo), which is break even on the initial investment before you even use your CS credit or your snack. However, if you go to Be Our Guest for dinner and get the most expensive entree (Grilled Strip Steak at $32.99), dessert ($4.19) and fountain drink ($2.99), that would be a $42.78 out of pocket cost, which means you would need to get $17 of value between your CS credit and snack just to break even (not too hard, but you still would need to get at least an $8 entree). If you instead got the Braised Pork dish at BOG ($22.99), which actually sounds better than the more expensive entree, your dinner total after tax would be $30.17. That leaves $28 of value to recoup with your CS and snack credits, which is impossible without going to Wolfgang Puck Express. In order to just break even on the DDP, you need to always eat counter service entrees that are at least $10 and table service entrees that are $30. It's not impossible to do, but if you take a look at the menus (particularly in-park restaurants), it takes a lot of items off the table, and significantly restricts your choices just to reach the break even point if you're paying full price for the DDP. The DDP is also a complete loser if you use it at any restaurants that require 2 TS credits like Artist Point, California Grill, Cinderella's Royal Table, LeCellier (dinner), etc... since none of those restaurants serve $60 entrees ($49 for the filet at California Grill).

The DDP, particularly the Quick Serve version, is not the value it seems to be when you figure it out, but can be a great value added when it's free with a vacation package or is purchased to get a room discount.

May 9, 2014 at 1:21 PM · I don't like that the new system favors resort guests above and beyond all others. Giving anyone an additional 30 advance days to make their selections more or less assures that passes for certain experiences will be gone before the rest of us even get a chance to look at them.
May 9, 2014 at 1:46 PM · "with the hope of picking up additional FP+ reservations once those are done"

Huh? Hope is a strategy just so you can get one more FP. Why not just get the 3 top attractions that you want and then save the one extra FP for second tier attraction. Why waste a Splash Mountain or Thunder Mountain FP for Tomorrowland Speedway.

There's also nothing wrong with spacing your FP to the most busy times of the park hours. You'll still be done early in the afternoon. You can schedule Space Mountain for 11am (busy time), then Splash Mountain for 1pm, Thunder Mountain for 2pm. By 2pm, there is plenty of time to get more FP+. Do not feel bad about about missing out on Peter Pan, that's the first ride you'll go on in the morning. Then Tomorrowland Speedway.

"Obviously my math must not be very convincing, because you seem to think the DDP is a far better deal than it really is"

No, you're not convincing and not because I said it is a better deal. It is a deal to be realistic about how much Disney charges for a meal. The constant complain is that you won't break even. I argue that you are breaking even on average.

For my example of a family of 3 with 2 adults and 1 child, my average quick service cost was $40 and my average table service cost was $90. Plus the average daily snack cost of $10. The DDP was $135 a day. Thus, about what I expected with the refillable mugs as a bonus.

The cheapest meal was at Sci-Fi Dine-in, but they allowed me to order the milkshake at $4.99, and the desserts cost $5.99 each for the hot fudge sundaes and apple glazed donut. The bill was around $88.00 for 3. The other bills were easily above $90 and Be My Guest was a even $100.00. I mostly reserved character meals like Akershus. I did use DDP for 2 credits at the Royal Table. Royal Table costs $160 for 3 (2 adults and 1 child). In this case, the advantage comes from the child DDP. The child meal should cost about $20. Plus the gratuity is included.

How is $17.43 losing money? Did you say to break even, it is $18. It is within range.

I did figure it out and the dining plan gives me exactly what I expected.

May 9, 2014 at 1:49 PM · My FP+ tip may be less useful now that Disney has added the ParkHopper and "get another one after you use your first three" improvements, but I'll offer it anyway. When my boyfriend and I were there at Christmastime, we'd made FP+ reservations at MK for our last day, but decided to hit Epcot instead, and had no problem getting FP+ there for later in the day. We still went to MK first (even got to have lunch at Be Our Guest!), and it was nice to go to Epcot and know we wouldn't have to wait too long for TestTrack. It seemed like a possible plan of attack for future trips: go to one park in the morning and have FP+ for a different park in the afternoon or evening.

I still think the tier structure is stupid: who has ever needed a FastPass for the Nemo or Figment rides? I realize that the whole point of this article is that Disney wants to spread out the crowds, but why make me waste a FP on a ride that has no need for them, while making me choose between two great rides elsewhere in the park? (On this particular trip, they hadn't yet removed the legacy FP machines, so we were able to get those for Soarin' on a previous day. But on future trips, I can easily see having to decide which we'd rather ride and just bypassing the other one. At least TestTrack has a single-rider line, so we could resort to that; I've never understood why they removed the SRL from Soarin'. They have one at the DCA version, and it works just fine.)

May 9, 2014 at 2:54 PM · I see your point on FP+, and I did say "hope" because nobody knows how guests will adapt to the changes in the system. The way people are using it today could be completely different 4 months from now. It's also unknown what Disney may do to tweak the system. They've made numerous changes to the rules in just the first 6 months since it launched late last year. And yes, I'd much rather have a FP+ reservation for Tomorrowland Speedway and it's boring, slow moving exterior queue instead of the nicely themed, air conditioned, interior Space Mountain queue.

I find it interesting that you seem so upset at a potential strategy that I offered. Robert noted that because the FP+ program seems to be spreading lines out around the park with rides that used to be walk on (like Spaceship Earth as he pointed out) with unusually long lines because of the FP+ system. I'm merely offering a potential approach that may help those willing to get to the parks early or stay late in order to maximize the system. Obviously if you're getting to the park at 10 AM and leaving at 4 PM, you're going to want to book the top 3 rides on your list, and if you just want to ride the 3 rides you Fastpass, then what you've suggesting will probably work just fine. However, if you're spending a full day at the park, and want to ride many, if not all, of the popular attractions and also get on many of the second tier rides, you might want to take a more measured approach, especially if Disney tiers the MK attractions. I'm merely suggesting that getting FP+ reservations for the top 3 attractions in each park (where possible) spread out through the day may not be the most efficient approach given the new unlimited FP+ reservation system and the fact that now everyone can make reservations ahead of time.

"For my example of a family of 3 with 2 adults and 1 child, my average quick service cost was $40 and my average table service cost was $90. Plus the average daily snack cost of $10. The DDP was $135 a day. Thus, about what I expected with the refillable mugs as a bonus."

So you think coming out $5 ahead with a bonus of the refillable mug was worth getting items that you wouldn't normally eat like drinks and dessert? Sorry, but $5 isn't enough for me to give up the flexibility of ordering anything I want off a menu and getting a $4 dessert when I'd rather have a bag of chips or a bowl of soup. That's a wash in my book. I would instead expect $10-20 of added value by prepaying for meals weeks or months in advance.

Yes, $17.43 on an $18 investment is losing money (3.1% loss), sorry to break your heart on that one, but it's a fact of life. Just as you think getting $140 on a $135 investment is making money (3.7% gain). If a price tag said something cost $17.43 and you got charged $18, wouldn't you be just a bit upset? The way you should look at the DDP is that you are investing money in your ability to get it back in food that you would have purchased during your vacation. Every time you you get a meal that doesn't meet the metric ($10 CS entree and $30 TS entree), you're taking money out of your own pocket. I'd rather keep that money in my pocket and spend it as I need it unless I know that it's going to give me a reasonable return on the investment. By getting the DDP, you're taking the risk that you and your family, will be able to regain the value invested, and as such will naturally be steered to menu options that will tend to allow you to meet or exceed the initial investment. There's nothing wrong with that approach, but sometimes I go into a restaurant and see something on the menu that interests me before I look at the price. I don't want to feel guilty that I'm losing money if I want to eat that $23 risotto instead of the $32 steak. Perhaps you don't have that problem, or don't have strong food preferences, but it would drive me nuts to think I spent $35 on a meal that would have cost me $30 if I hadn't prepaid for it.

If I'm investing in something, I want to get the most value I can, and unfortunately the DDP, in its current configuration, is not typically worth the investment if it's not linked to a promotion or room discount. However, if you're willing to work really hard and are extremely skilled at making the system work for you, you can break even or come out a bit ahead. There are definitely strategies and tips that can make it a decent value, but it's also very easy to loose money on the deal. There are horror stories out there of families that end up spending twice as much for food as they thought because they don't know how to use the DDP to maximum effect. You're already spending thousands on hotel and park tickets, why spend more money than you have to on food?

May 9, 2014 at 3:28 PM · "I find it interesting that you seem so upset at a potential strategy that I offered."

Your strategy is fine for you, which was why I brought up a strategy that can be adapted by many people. You're still in the Commando mode that is pre-FP and pre-FP+ era thinking. That is fine for you, but not very atuned to what other people might want out of their vacation.

The DDP discussion is a diversion. I never made it a big deal out of my original discussion. I only said if people made table service reservations, FP+ is an advantage.

"Sorry, but $5 isn't enough for me to give up the flexibility of ordering anything I want off a menu and getting a $4 dessert when I'd rather have a bag of chips or a bowl of soup."

You can still do this. Goodness.

You can also choose to not get the dessert.

I love how you keep expanding on a minor point on the $17.43 when I made the point that on average, the costs balances out. A few cents off of one meal is made up on another meal. Your approach is to stay ahead of the game. Thus, you never see a loss. You keep talking about this value that must be recouped. This will never occur in a vacation where all the expenditures are discretionary. A vacation is exactly that and I always tell everyone to order exactly what they want regardless of the price.

The only skill you need to know is order everything you're entitled to. That's the value you receive and it is appreciated. I loved the fact that I ordered 2 popcorn snacks at one time because my kid wanted them. Another time, we ordered two soft serve sundaes as snacks.

On the horror stories, I don't know how they ordered twice as much food. It is indeed a horror for it to be my concern.

BTW: A soup and bag of chips can be ordered as a snack credit. I done this. I haven't tried to do this at a table service restaurant.

May 12, 2014 at 8:09 PM · I'm not a big fan of the new fastpass system...Just got back from Disney World a few days ago.

I understand Disney's desire to divert guests from certain rides and funnel them towards other rides, however, one thing I noticed is that the park paths themselves seem more congested. Guests traveling from one ride to another, in areas that guests wouldn't have previously been funneled makes the park paths seem much more hectic than before. I found it uncomfortable and sticky with little kids bumping into me. Also, rides like Spaceship Earth or even the little boat ride in the Mexico pavilion are getting backed up. "Its a Small World" had a 40 minute wait one day, which I have never seen.

Plus, I can tell there is still a lot of confusion for families with the new system. Fastpass lines were getting backed up as cast members had to explain to multiple families that their fastpass isn't good until X time.

I also don't like that Disney is now bundling their attractions for fastpasses--only certain rides can be fastpassed together (for instance, we couldn't fastpass Toy Story Mania along with Rock n Roller Coaster.) We ended up waiting until almost closing to ride Rock n Roller Coaster or else we would've been stuck in a long standby.

Not to mention, I feel like those Mickey bands come off way too easily--mine unsnapped while I was eating dinner. Thankfully, I noticed that my wrist felt naked and was able to search for it.

I need a break from Disney for a few years...

May 13, 2014 at 11:31 AM · I went to WDW in September, 2013 with my daughter and family and then in October, 2013 with my husband. Both times we used the new fastpass system and hated it!! All the spontaneity of visiting WDW was gone and we found ourselves in long lines just waiting while masses of people who booked the ride ahead of time were allowed into the ride. We ended up leaving many rides in disgust. The waiting times for standby were atrocious. After the experience with my daughter and her family, I never would have gone back with my husband if we hadn't already paid for the trip. Then, a couple of months ago the final straw-----Disney decided to enter the world of politics and political correctness and dropped support for The Boy Scouts. That was it. We used to love going a couple of times a year to WDW but now that Disney must think we are stupid, we will spend our money someplace else.

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