Fastpass+: The Benefits and Challenges of Disney's Crowd Management System

March 7, 2015, 5:35 PM · Few recent changes at the Walt Disney World Resort have divided fans more than Fastpass+. A vocal group believes the changes to the original FastPass program have diminished the guest experience. Others trust Disney and praise the ability to reserve their attractions in advance. I'll admit to being more in the first category. I visited the parks in the ‘80s and ‘90s growing up, so having only standby lines doesn't seem outlandish. There were benefits to the paper FastPass program, especially for determined visitors who knew how to game the system. Despite some unfortunate changes to the way lines moved, you could pile up the attractions. Frequent visitors used touring plans and strategically attacked the parks to maximize their visits. I wasn't on the obsessive side but understood the advantages, especially during slower seasons. I was upset about Fastpass+ but hadn't tried it out until my recent January visit. That trip finally gave me the chance to discover how the new service really affects your experience in the parks.

Planning the Trip

My Disney Experience Website

The first adjustment with Fastpass+ is making firm decisions on park days well before the trip. We stayed in an off-site condo, so I could start booking Fastpass+ reservations 30 days prior to our first day. Disney's resort guests can book 60 days in advance, which gives them a significant advantage. Beyond that gap, they also can plan the entire trip at that point. I could only choose Fastpass+ reservations on a day-by-day basis since my hotel stay wasn't connected to the My Disney Experience website. Disney's reasons for giving hotel guests this incentive are obvious. They understand that cost-conscious visitors often choose off-site locations with larger accommodations at cheaper rates. During busy seasons, some might consider the added cost as a suitable trade-off for grabbing early Fastpass+ reservations. For our off-season visit, the benefit wasn't enough to consider a Disney resort. Our large condo was just a short drive from the parks.

Navigating the Disney website is pretty easy, but it might confuse guests who aren't as Web savvy. When you choose three reservations, the system provides you with times for each one. The easiest way to change those times is to confirm these selections and then go back into the choices individually. There are multiple options given at the start, but they're often for different attractions. It's a strange approach for a perk that's marketed to make the trip easier. That theme appeared frequently throughout our trip. Fastpass+ functioned well, but the best route wasn't always easy to find. We have two young girls, so the most important reservation was for meeting Anna and Elsa at the Princess Fairytale Hall. I'd read a lot about the system and knew this was unlikely given the low hourly capacity for this attraction. There were no reservations for Anna and Elsa available when I originally booked them. However, I checked multiple times a day and snagged them two weeks prior to our trip. The downside was the 7:40-8:40 p.m. window, but I was willing to take it, knowing just how rare those selections appear on the site.

This example reveals a major challenge with Fastpass+ that contradicts the sales pitch of easily booking attractions in advance. With the most popular ones, you're at the mercy of the available times. This was true of the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, which had limited availability. We grabbed two reservations on separate days but had just a few open slots. Flexibility is essential. Less-popular rides are available at any time, so you must organize them around the headliners. Fastpass+ forces you to analyze more than which parks to visit; it also requires you to estimate time for movement between attractions. When you consider snacks, restroom breaks, and other events, it can be a little maddening. I'm a planner and don't mind setting a loose agenda in advance. Even so, it was a challenge to organize our days. Families with younger kids must consider factors like hunger and weariness into their selections. There's no perfect approach, so it's important to realize things will change on the fly.

The Benefits

Tapping in to Fastpass+

It's easy for a skeptic to dismiss Fastpass+ because it changes the way you tour the parks. However, there are certain positives that became clear during our trip. I prefer to arrive early when the lines are shorter, but getting everyone out the door takes time when you have younger kids. Plus, this was a vacation. Going overboard to start early will just lead to unnecessary stress. Fastpass+ did allow us to arrive at the parks knowing that we already had reservations for popular rides like Toy Story Midway Mania, Soarin', and the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train. There was no need for rushing to the headliners to grab paper FastPasses. I never minded that approach in the past, but this way did lead to a more relaxed start to each park day. We still arrived pretty early but didn't have the same pressure to start so quickly every time.

Another benefit was the ability to change our reservations to later times using my iPhone. Disney's wifi was inconsistent, but we have enough data in our plan to make that less important. There were several occasions where I realized the times weren't going to work. When Pirates of the Caribbean broke down while we were in line, changing our Big Thunder Mountain Railroad reservation to a later time was easy. I should mention that the replacement time options became more plentiful once our return window had begun. We also visited during a slower time of year, so the ability to adjust reservations on the fly was easier. It's doubtful that a ride like Big Thunder would have that flexibility during the summer.

I'd heard about issues with Fastpasses not scanning correctly, but we only had one minor glitch. The cast members at Test Track informed us that we didn't have reservations when we did, but they adjusted it once I showed them our reservations on my phone. The main reason for the glitch was probably the chaos around the entrance at the time. We also arrived at Space Mountain for our return time and learned that it was closed due to mechanical issues. I checked the app a little later, and we now had a replacement reservation to use on a wide range of rides any time during that day. I wasn't aware of this feature and believe it solves a possible issue with advance scheduling. We returned to Tomorrowland later in the day and still had the option to ride Space Mountain with the original Fastpass+ reservation. That adjustment worked out really well.

The Challenges

The most glaring downside of Fastpass+ is its impact on wait times for mid-tier attractions. We've visited Disney World in January five times and rarely waited for Pirates, Haunted Mansion, and Spaceship Earth. All had waits of more than 30 minutes frequently during our visit. Disney's expansion of Fastpass+ to so many locations has reduced the efficiency of high-capacity attractions. Queues for rides that load continuously now have waits for standby guests to allow Fastpass+ riders. It creates an artificial demand and diminishes successful crowd management systems. In some cases, the cast members were more concerned with serving Fastpass+ guests than keeping the lines moving. We waited 45 minutes for Dumbo, and cycles occurred repeatedly with many empty vehicles. I observed more confusion and inefficiency with lines than I'd ever witnessed at the Disney parks. In another case, we stood at the intersection of the Barnstormer queue for 15 minutes while cast members waited for Fastpass+ guests.

To be fair, I expect the gains in wait times at these rides was offset by lower times at the headliners. With the exception of the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, the lines were pretty similar across the board. For example, Space Mountain wasn't that far above the Haunted Mansion. If Disney's goal was spreading crowds more evenly, Fastpass+ is helping that cause. That situation only applies to the Magic Kingdom, however. This system exposes the limited number of attractions in other parks. I love Epcot, but the only Fastpass+ reservations that you really need on most days are Soarin' and Test Track. In past visits, it was easy to ride both on most days. The tiering restrictions now limit that ability and create similar challenges at Disney's Hollywood Studios. Both parks need more headliners, and this new service can't hide that fact.

I should mention the ability to grab additional Fastpass+ reservations once the first three are used. We didn't end up using this service because of significant waits at the kiosks. It became a situation where the time savings by the extra reservations would have been mostly eliminated by the kiosk wait time. If this service was available through the app, it would greatly enhance the system. This change also would eliminate bottlenecks at the kiosks. When you're waiting in line to save time waiting in line, the logic gets murky. This leads to my final issue, which was the slow movement of many Fastpass+ lines. They usually were quicker than the standby queues but felt different than lines under the former structure. I wonder if Disney is releasing more reservations now to ensure visitors are able to grab them. Since they're unable to easily compare their experience versus the standby waits, there's no easy wait to quantify how much they're really saving.

What is the Future of Fastpass+?

While I'd love to see an experiment of a park day with no Fastpasses, Disney isn't going backwards. They'll continue to tweak the system behind the scenes and market the benefits everywhere. Fans will still visit the parks even if they hate the new service. Disney invested more than a billion dollars into Fastpass+ and the overall MyMagic+ vacation management experience, so its goals are loftier than just managing crowds. They can track guests' movements and tailor the parks based on that research. I've heard rumors about personalized interactions within rides, and that possibility is connected to Fastpass+ and other technological enhancements.

Disney is a much different entity today from the company that built the parks, and Disney is constantly seeking out new revenue streams. They've strategically decided to concentrate on internal efficiencies more than new attractions. The recent announcement of added capacity for Soarin' and Toy Story Midway Mania reinforces that trend. My concern is whether they're heading down the wrong path. My family still had a great time in our January trip, and we'll definitely return. Even so, changes like Fastpass+ and constant ticket price increases do make me question what I'll choose in the future. I was hooked to Disney World as a kid by the attractions, and there's a competitor down the road who's actively building new rides. Will Disney World evolve into a place that I don't recognize? I sense it might be heading in that direction.

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Replies (69)

March 7, 2015 at 7:06 PM · Very difficult to make fastpasses for 7 dwarf ride and toy story even having 60 days advance hopefully this year we will be able to make those reservations 9 days from now only time will tell
March 7, 2015 at 7:22 PM · I figured it would be harder in busier times, even 60 days out. Toy Story Mania had a lot of openings, but there were very few for the 7 Dwarfs Mine Train even in late January. It took some work to get them on our days within the 30-day window.
March 7, 2015 at 7:51 PM · I was there in late January, and FP lines were longer than standby lines. The parks were not that busy, and most waits were 20-30 minutes or less. I ended up making reservations for stuff I never intended to do, just so I could have the three. I've just resigned myself to now taking trips during times that might not be so crowded, and to going standby for all but the most popular rides. I think it has a lot of flaws. - Melissa
March 7, 2015 at 7:57 PM · Excellent report.
March 7, 2015 at 8:21 PM · Melissa, you bring up a good point that we observed multiple times in January. We used our FP for Tower of Terror and waited 20 minutes, and the Standby line was 20 minutes. We also made reservations for three when we didn't need them, especially at the Animal Kingdom.
March 7, 2015 at 8:24 PM · Although I agree that the competitor down the road is building new attractions, WDW is starting to make a return to that with all the changes at DAK (Pandora, night safari, Harambe Village Market, Rivers of Light, etc.), and I think most people expect the rumored massive overhaul ($1-$1.6 billion) at DHS with Star Wars and Pixar, to be true.
March 8, 2015 at 12:43 AM · I disagree that fans will continue to visit even if they hate FastPass+. I'm a huge Disney fan. I hate FastPass+ and all the chaotic mess it has created.

For more than a decade I've taken an annual trip to Orlando and this past December was the first time that I opted to skip Disney. So there are fans who will skip Disney because they hate FastPass+. Instead my time was spent at SeaWorld, Aquatica, Busch Gardens Tampa and of course several days at Universal Orlando. I'm already thinking about my Orlando trip this year and my plans is to skip Disney again this year.

There really is nothing to love about FastPass+, and especially if you're visitor who likes to come during the slower periods.

March 8, 2015 at 1:16 AM · I've never heard that $1-1.6 billion figure. Where does that come from?
March 8, 2015 at 1:48 AM · FastPass+ "fixed" a problem that didn't really exist, actually made it worse in some aspects, and cost over $1 billion. Epic fail.
March 8, 2015 at 4:21 AM · I think FastPass+ has the potential to be a really effective service. My main complaint from a visit this past summer, was that you were unable to book additional reservations via the mobile app. Mainly because the touch screens are some of the worst "modern" tech I've ever seen. They are not responsive at all, which contributes to the huge lines. No idea why they wouldn't invest in better screens for the kiosks.
March 8, 2015 at 4:35 AM · I just returned from WDW and my issue is we all got sick throughout our stay which caused us to miss our fast passes for DHS which included my favorite ride ToT. Problem is I was never able to get another fast pass during our stay and the standby wait times were consistently 100 plus minutes for that attraction.
March 8, 2015 at 5:50 AM · I've been an annual passholder for decades, and the Fastpass+ system is the worst for people like me. I make my decision to visit the parks only days before I go, sometimes as late as the day before. There are hardly ever any Fastpass+ times available for the top attractions, so I'm forced to wait in the now longer standby lines. And if my visit is one that I plan in advance, I only get the 30-day advanced reservation window. I've always felt that Disney doesn't do enough for it's annual passholders, as many of us live locally, so we don't need a hotel, and therefore, we don't get many of the benefits offered to on-site guests.
March 8, 2015 at 5:59 AM · I used it in late 2013 with no issue. I am going again later this year and don't expect an issue again. However changes have been made so who knows. I used to ba able to abuse the old system and could do all of the parks very easily as many have. I have to agree though the constant price hikes and abnormal waits for standby and fp lines are causing me to rethink the following trip. We are committed for this year though.

Our dollar is tanking as well so adding 25% on top really forces you to rethink your vacation plans. Although I can't cut wdw out of my life we may have to visit a bit more infrequently and also look at staying offsite for the first time in a decade which is sad but what can you do

March 8, 2015 at 7:56 AM · I would note a great benefit of the FP+ system is the ability to make reservations for parades, fireworks, and shows. Except on the busiest days, I would not recommend making those type of reservations before you're in the parks, but if you schedule your first 3 FP+ reservations early in the day, you can easily get a reserved spot for a show, parade, or fireworks an hour or less before the start typically when other guests are already lining up. The Magic Kingdom parade FP+ seating was a really good spot on the castle side of the middle of the hub (it reportedly may change as construction walls come down and more space opens up). We grabbed FP+ reservations for the Festival of Fantasy Parade about 45 minutes before it started, and had plenty of time to ride two attraction through the standby line before we needed to get to our viewing area, which had no obstruction and plenty of room to move around while guests across the street were shoulder to shoulder.

My biggest issue with FP+ is the app. While you're supposed to be able to change reservations in the park through the app, it never worked right for us. We tried to change reservations a few times and only once were we successful, but the other times it never accepted the change before we entered the return window and we ended up losing the reservations. We were pretty successful changing and adding reservations through the kiosks, but the kiosk locations are too few and far between that the lines are practically as long as some attraction lines just to make a FP+ reservation. We found that some of the kiosk locations are a little better than others, but just about every one had a line, particularly at the Magic Kingdom. What's confusing is that the "kiosks" are just iPads running a different version of the app, so why can't guests get that version of the app and make the changes (and add reservations beyond the first 3) on their personal phone/tablet? Also, guests don't know what's available until they reach the front of the line, so we saw many guests standing in line for 10 minutes only to reach the kiosk and find out that the attraction they were hoping to reserve was unavailable. From Disney's perspective, this is great, because it essentially forces guests onto attractions that many ordinarily skip, but from a guest perspective, it's incredibly frustrating. If you're going to let guests use their phone to make initial reservations and changes to those in advance of the return time, they should be able to do everything else on their phone. It's nice to have cast members at the kiosk locations to help guests navigate the system and keep the lines moving, but experienced guests could do most of this through their phone and not waste time waiting in a line.

Another issue is having to arrange your times. If you want to make your FP+ return times back to back, you sometimes have to play around to get them to coalesce. The system will not allow you to overlap return times, but it doesn't necessarily allow you to put them up against each other. It took about 30 minutes of playing online for us to make our initial FP+ reservations to get our 3 reservations for the 3 hours of overlap during the Mickey's No So Scary Halloween Party (4-7 PM) when party ticket holders can enter the park during normal operations.

We were able to take pretty good advantage of the new system but there are simply not enough improvements to warrant what Disney spent on the system. Also, outside the Magic Kingdom, there simply not enough attractions to allow flexibility in your schedule. Disney tries to force flexibility onto guests by not allowing you to reserve for both Tot and Rock 'n Rollercoaster or Soaring' and Test Track, but the creation of attraction tiers would not be necessary if there were enough desirable attractions worthy of a FP+ reservations. I can say that we LOVED the integration of the Magic Bands to the Photopass system, particularly the on-ride photos. However, the FP+ system just didn't seem like much of an improvement over the previous paper system.

BTW, I don't know if you noticed Dan, but if a ride breaks down as you approach or during your return window, the reservation can be used on ANY other attraction at that time. This is a great customer service move, but I doubt many people even notice, because the change occurs on the app, and if a cast member doesn't tell you to look at your app, you'll never see that the reservation changes to an any-attraction FP+. If you do return to the attraction during the breakdown, you get a paper return pass for that specific attraction.

March 8, 2015 at 7:37 AM · Great comments, Russell. I'm with you on the complexities of setting up the FPs to line up right in advance. It's doable but takes a lot of effort. I expect some visitors won't spend the time that I did to make it work. I'm right with you on the app, which could work very well if you had the ability to add your extra FPs on there. The comment about the shows and parades is a great idea too.

I did notice that you could use the reservation on other attractions. I looked up the Space Mountain FP on my phone after it broke down, and I saw that change. That is definitely a smart move from Disney, but the cast member at the ride didn't give us that information.

March 8, 2015 at 8:04 AM · The last time I was there, it worked without issue. Believe me, my family has tried to break Fastpass+ to the brim. Add DVC, AP, and staying at a Disney resort can sometimes freak out the system. We had problems in the beginning, but it worked out a couple of times.

I think what it really boils down to is guests saving money over the years for that one shot at Disney and not get on the ride that their kid has been talking about for the last two years. I think this service actually gives parents the piece of mind that they will get on a attraction or plan accordingly.

The only thing that still sort of bothers me about Fastpass+ is that it really only lets you get three fair fastpasses. Being a family of adults, we could have easily used four or more paper fastpasses during the day and still stay within the rules. I also kind of liked it because it was "first come, first serve" . Having to choose between Midway Mania and Rock n Roller coaster is not a fair thing or between Soarin and Test Track. In the old days, we were able to do both!

March 8, 2015 at 10:05 AM · I hate to say it, but the new system is a failure. The point in the article that it increases wait times for attractions with traditionally no wait times is the killer. I monitor wait times year round, and it is rare that the wait for Pirates or Haunted Mansion is less than 30 minutes on a slow day. That is unacceptable for several reasons. The main reason is that long waits for every attraction diminishes the enjoyment of the park. This is obvious, but there are other issues as well. If people are standing in line, then they aren't spending money elsewhere. If they cannot do everything they want, they will tell other people who will elect to go to other destinations. It is a serious deterrant for the elderly and people that are local. Our last trip did not have a wait for Pirates that was less than an hour. Our next trip to Orlando will be spent exclusively at Universal, and it breaks my heart to say that. In order for it to work, they should eliminate it for all but the most popular attractions. There should not be any tiered system, meaning if you get one for one attraction, it should not block you from others. You should be able to get a minimum of five per day with park hopping available. If they cannot do this, they need to realize that they are doing a grave disservice to their customers and themselves. I know several families where Disney was a once a year vacation, and they have decided to go elsewhere due exclusively to Fasspass+.
March 8, 2015 at 1:58 PM · Fastpass+ is a reported 1.5 Billion Dollar Fiasco. Imagine how investing $1.5 billion into new attractions could have shortened lines at Disney World.

If you're like me, and visit Disney to experience the best attractions, there's no point in visiting again until Avatarland opens. Universal will get all of my business until then.

March 8, 2015 at 3:04 PM · I honestly think that the reason why Fastpass+ was invented and the old system was taken away was because of the fact that people were abusing them. The original reason why Fastpass was created was for guests with disabilities and disorders such as autism who can't wait in long lines because they might have a breakdown. Then more people started finding out about the Fastpass, and Disney made it so that parties without disabled people can still use the Fastpass, just not with the same amount of freedom. Then people started abusing the pass, which made the lines longer than need be. They still use the paper Fastpass...but only if someone in your party has a disability. I honestly never really had a huge problem with fp+. I'm still able to do most of the rides I want in one visit. The fact that you're only allowed to reserve only three rides is actually good considering the fact that 3/4 of the parks only have a couple of headliner attractions. That being said, the fp+ system isn't perfect. The way they organize the time schedules can get frustrating and I don't really think Disney should be pushing aside the standby people for the Fastpass people. And quite frankly, advancing in-park operations as opposed to building new rides is probably a better investment. That way, you can enjoy the rides a lot more. That's what makes Disney so brilliant and why I think they're above everyone else.
March 8, 2015 at 3:32 PM · The statement about using a replacement FP+ when your ride beaks down anywhere is not accurate. Seven Dwarfs Mine Train can not be subbed for when another ride, such as BTMRR or Splash Mt, go down. If 7DMT goes down, then you can go back to 7DMT later or use it anywhere. The Anna & Elsa M&G is also not available for using a subbed FP+ due to break-down.

At Hollywood Studios, I found that you can still get a Fantasmic FP+ late in the day as your 4th FP+. This really does get you far up the line at the last minute compared to all the stand-bys. Center seats usually.

March 8, 2015 at 5:26 PM · It's true that FP+ is a mixed blessing. It has its benefits as well as serious shortcomings. The biggest problem is that the CMs hold up the standby line too much in favor of the FP+ line. Disney needs to come up with a more efficient method of balancing the two. It's certainly unacceptable when guests are waiting in line while ride vehicles go out empty.
March 8, 2015 at 5:59 PM · WDW used to be fun as an annual pass holder. Go for a few hours and grab a reservation for dinner. Ride 2-3 rides and spend $20-80 on dinner at a resort or park. Now, same day guests are snubbed. I'm just a character in SimDisney. Forget this. The premium food reservation is snubbed for dining plan and quality has slipped. Didn't renew last year and not this year.

The $1B brought them efficiency for the current incredible peak. It bought them impressive data mining. It bought them incremental short term revenue. But Bubbles burst. It Infuriated an important fraction of their customers that may stay away during the next downturn.

March 8, 2015 at 6:22 PM · I've been to WDW three times using FP+ (December 2013, August 2014, February 2015) and I have never, not once, seen what the author reported (the standby line being held up while empty ride vehicles went out). I'm not surprised it happens occasionally but I am very skeptical it is systemic.
March 8, 2015 at 6:32 PM · I can completely agree on how the FP+ lines are just making the wait times go up and up. As an ex-cast member (college program fall 2014), it was such a burden to explain to guests how to use the system, especially foreign travelers were english was not their first language. Also, the glitches in the systems are more common than not, and the lines for high capacity rides (Pirates, Buzz, Mansion, Little Mermaid, Spaceship Earth, etc) really made the lines move slower.

I think if FastPass+ is going to continue to be a thing, they should drop many rides from the system and only keep the headliners. The only rides I can see that need FastPass+ could be the 3 mountains, Seven Dwarfs, Dumbo (two sides), Soarin', Test Track, Mission Space, Tower, Coaster, Toy Story, Everest, Dinosaur, Primeval Whirl (again, 2 sides), and Safari.

Live entertainment shows / fireworks can keep the fast passes for preferred viewing, but other shows were the lines merge together before entry to the theater (say Monsters Inc, Voyage of TLM, etc_ do not need a fastpass.

In my honest opinion, I hate FP+. Before being a cast member, as a cast member, and after. I miss the paper tickets. Disneyland better remain the same.

March 8, 2015 at 7:39 PM · Thanks to everyone for the great comments. I know that my experience was just one trip, and each situation is different. However, I think there are trends in what people are experiencing that indicate some challenges that weren't part of a Disney World trip in the past. It's possible the system could be improved with some adjustments, and it will be interesting to see how it progresses in the next few years. I'm really trying to stay optimistic.
March 9, 2015 at 12:28 AM · It is very convenient having your fastpasses ready before your visit. No more have to run deep into the park to get your first pass. This is a benefit of fp+ that came in very handy when I visited in december.
March 9, 2015 at 6:45 AM · The biggest change that concerns me is Disney's recent "tests" to make certain attractions FP+ only, and completely eliminating the standby lines. On the surface, it's a marketer's dream, because everyone makes fun of the lines at WDW, so what better perk to advertise than the "end of lines" for a place where queues consume so much of a guest's experience. It's all fine and dandy if attractions can meet guest demand, but in situations where the FP+-only tact is taken for attractions that cannot meet guest demand, then it simply doesn't work, and is totally unfair to those guests who don't have the intimate knowledge of the FP+ system (like what happened last fall on Toy Story Mania).

Also the slow migration to the FP+ system has been exceedingly frustrating for everyone (cast members, occasional guests, and APs), because no one knows what the rules are going to be from month to month or even day to day. The rollout has been nothing short of a disaster, and Disney continues to tinker with the rules, leading to more frustration. When the parks eventually go to FP+ only, which is where I think this is all going, it's going to eventually turn a lot of people off.

March 9, 2015 at 6:46 AM · "Disneyland better remain the same."

They've already announced a FP+ rollout for the California parks in 2015.

March 9, 2015 at 7:05 AM · We visited this past November and had mixed results. Our takeaway, and one in which we've repeated to friends back home, is that a Disney vacation is just too complicated now.
It's funny, we just met a family that just returned from a week at Disney World and the word they used was "complicated." My wife's best friend emailed several friends last week asking for advice about a Disney vacation this spring and the "reply all" comment from someone my wife didn't know was "it's too complicated, skip it."
So word from regular folks, not just Disney fanatics, is starting to spread.

We have a timeshare, and typically go to Orlando once a year. After our experience this past November, I decided not to buy new tickets a couple of weeks ago before the latest price increase. We still have a couple unexpired days on previously bought tickets and will probably hold on to those and use them in a few years when new attractions open. But sadly, we will not be making annual visits to Disney World any longer. Yes, our kids are growing up, but the fastpass+ system seems to have sped up our movement to other vaction experiences.

March 9, 2015 at 7:09 AM · Russell, I heard that Disneyland was setting up MyMagic+, but I don't remember them being clear there would be a FP+ system. I guess that's very likely, but it still would be quite a massive change given all the AP holders at Disneyland.

I'm nervous they would try to do an "all reservation" system at Disney World, but I feel like the logistics would be nearly impossible. They've had so many challenges with just this system. Putting that in place would be so messy. Of course, the profits might make it worth the effort, regardless of what some guests think about it.

March 9, 2015 at 10:32 AM · We have always gone in the off-seasons as we're the type of people that consider an advance booked, meticulously micro-managed itinerary to be the very antithesis of a holiday. I genuinely can't comprehend how someone can accurately predict what they are going to want to eat or do at any given hour even a day in advance let alone 60 (or even 180 with ADR system).

The FP+ system was quite a shock when we visited last year & a source of serious hesitation (where none had existed before) when we booked this years visit (Late April), but if WDW goes FP+ only that will be it for our family & friends.

March 9, 2015 at 12:34 PM · "I'm nervous they would try to do an "all reservation" system at Disney World, but I feel like the logistics would be nearly impossible. They've had so many challenges with just this system. Putting that in place would be so messy."

I think it would be a mess, but it wouldn't surprise me. With the Magic Bands, and the way the WDW experience seems to be migrating towards a true "resort-style" atmosphere, they essentially want to take the queues out of the equation. The way I see it, a customer would plan out each day just like you would on a cruise or all-inclusive resort booking excursions (in this case rides or attractions) ahead of time. If you change your mind, you can always rebook through the system, but if you choose to not make any reservations, you're at the mercy of whatever is left available. From Disney's perspective, they can better manage their resources, and this is already paying off with guests experiencing attractions they never would before (the lines for formerly neglected attractions like Spaceship Earth have been steadily increasing since FP+ went into full effect).

I think a lot of the issues Disney has had is because not only are guests learning the system, but cast members are learning it too. Also, the system probably isn't working exactly how they envisioned, which explains the constant tweaking and frustration from guests due to the ever-changing rules.

I wouldn't be surprised that by 2020, guests will not be waiting in queues at all for attractions at WDW. Everything will be reserved through FP+, and Disney will create a caste system where resort guests, DVC guests, and APs will get preferential treatment (beyond getting earlier access to the system, such as additional FP+ reservations or access to in-park systems to expedite scheduling/concierge). It's a scary thought, but the way the system has evolved in such a short period of time, it seems very possible.

March 9, 2015 at 12:35 PM · I was there in Feb and what I did not like was that we couldn't get into many of the restaraunts. When we asked, the cast memebers would look as if we were dumb for asking. At two restaraunts we were told no walk ins, reservations only, this was at MK and HS. I understand the FP portion of this for attractions, but there is no way every reservation shows up for dinning. I liked to be able to walk by a restaraunt and see or smell the food and say "let's try it". But now I have to know what my family wants to eat and when they will be hungry months in adavance if I want to try a restaraunt that I can only see the food and structure in pictures on the internet (no smell). I felt like the FP took some of the relaxing out of vacation. My family and I felt like somewhat we were on too much of a schedule or that we were being penalized for not knowing waht time we would be hungry months in advance. I feel they need to adjust the didnnig portion of this.
March 9, 2015 at 1:12 PM · Our family of 4 has been to WDW 3 times over the last 10 years. However, we are so repulsed by the FP+ concept that we may not be back unless it is abandoned or completely changed. To us, it is a solution to a problem that did not exist.
March 9, 2015 at 9:59 PM · @Anthony Murphy I can tell you from experience that under the old system I would typically get 10 or more FastPass on a busy day at Magic Kingdom and while following all of the rules, including return times. Remember, the only rule in the past that technically could be broken was the return time. The system didn't let you get an additional FastPass any earlier than the rules allowed. A busy day would have operating hours of 9 am to 11 pm or Midnight or 8am to 1am.

And under the old system the stand-by waits on busy days were much shorter.

If I arrived at opening and was willing to stay until closing I would sometimes experience 25 attraction in a day and likely watch the fireworks and a parade. It's a challenge to accomplish half of that under the new system on an equally busy day. The killer is that attractions that didn't have FastPass and never needed it now do and they've got lengthy stand-by lines. Attractions that had FastPass now have even longer stand-by lines.

On medium crowded days under the old system the return time for FastPass was commonly the same or very close to the stand-by wait time on the most popular rides. Now those same rides have limited availability with long return times and stand-by times that are frequently twice as long as in the past. The regular 30-minute stand-by is now running about 60 minutes.

The new system is terrible. It also really gives you no flexibility and if your child suddenly declares he wants to ride again you're suddenly find yourself in a bad situation.

Disney unfortunately has invested so much money into this junker that they've got no choice but to put lipstick on the pig.

March 9, 2015 at 10:46 PM · The dining reservation system and the ability to be a walk-up is terrible because this is what you get when all the staff are corporation employees and not owner-operators. They have absolutely no reason to try to fit you in even when no-shows free up tables. An owner would always figure out a way to accommodate walk-ups if at all possible.

One exception to this is the Morocco Pavilion. I have been a walk-up several times and was accommodated. This may be due to two reason, one is that Morocco food scares many people. The other reason is that the Morocco Pavilion is (I believe) still controlled by Morocco and managers may have more authority and willingness to seat walk-ups.

March 10, 2015 at 4:49 AM · Loathe Fast Pass Plus. I hate that the spontaneity has taking out of my holiday. Having a constant schedule is what I associate with work. Honestly, if it wasn't for Universal Orlando, I'd be having given up on WDW for Disneyland. They should have built some attractions (and fixing what little they) inside of pouring money into this fiasco.
March 10, 2015 at 6:45 AM · Fastpass+ is in a glaring example of what happens when Disney allows bean-counters too much power. Disney outsmarted themselves on this greedy, over the top moneygrab. And the result is unhappy customers and loss of goodwill.
March 10, 2015 at 8:31 AM · If you didn't notice, Fastpass+ has put back the wait into the queue lines. It takes at least 20 minutes to go on a ride after entering the fastpass queue. I predict this wait line will continue to increase due to demand. I already give myself 30 minutes to experience a ride with my FP+ reservation.

If you want to measure the success of FP+, it increases the odds that a more timid customer will get a ride that they want. It isn't necessarily about the more experienced customer.

March 10, 2015 at 10:24 AM · "If you want to measure the success of FP+, it increases the odds that a more timid customer will get a ride that they want. It isn't necessarily about the more experienced customer."

My experience and observations do not agree with that hypothesis. It really depends on what you deem as a "timid" customer. If you characterize that as someone who doesn't do any pre-planning and shows up at the park with no FP+ reservations, then it's pretty unlikely that they will experience a ride they want without a significant wait. Even on off-peak days, the top headliner attractions (TSMM, Soarin', Test Track, and 7DMT) have zero FP+ reservations available to those that did not plan ahead. Also, because of the tier structured of the headline attractions, standby lines for those have actually increased since FP+ went into effect. If you're "timid" you can certainly get some FP+s for attraction you might desire, but you're out of luck for the headliners. However, if you define "timid" as someone who does do some pre-planning, and goes online at some point to make FP+ reservations before they get to the park (just not 30 or 60 days in advance to the second), then I would agree, though it's still possible that reservations for headline attractions may not be available to those who wait more than a couple of days into the off-site guest 30-day reservation window.

Experience still plays a big role in the system. However, I would say that the field was "leveled" so to speak when FP+ was initially rolled out, because nobody knew anything about the system or how to get the most out of it. As time has gone by, and changes to the rules and administration of the system have grown less frequent, more experienced customers are able to take better advantage of the system, perhaps not to the degree as before, but experience still provides a significant advantage over those who know nothing about the system.

I've spoken with a number of complete strangers with various levels of knowledge and experience about WDW, including a mom and her daughter at a screening of Cinderella just last night, that have been pretty universally disappointed in FP+, mostly because they have not gotten on everything they wanted for one reason or another, and have been resigned to grab reservations for less desirable attractions because that was all that was left. In that respect, FP+ has been a success, because it spreads crowds out around the park, and encourages guests to experience things that may not necessarily be on the top of their list. On the other hand, it also provides poor data to Disney because it's impossible for them to determine whether lines for attractions are because that attraction is popular or because the popular attractions are not available or have untenable standby lines. An attraction like Spaceship Earth that was on the chopping block if the ride system wasn't integral to the structure, appears to be gaining in popularity as standby lines swell to over 1 hour on busy days, but in reality it's a false sense of popularity because guests are essentially forced into getting FP+s for it because there are very few other attractions in EPCOT to use your first 3 reservations on before being able to grab additional ones for Test Track or Soarin', whichever one wasn't in your first 3 FP+s (assuming any are left when you've finished the first 3).

I did not notice longer waits in FP lines during our most recent trip in October compared to previous experiences. Disney has changed some of the queues, which has changed the time it takes to get from the merge point to the loading platform, but we never waited more than 5 minutes to reach the merge point in a FP queue, and never waited more than 10 minutes (ride breakdowns excluded) to board. Perhaps you could provide some specific experiences Anon, because my experience was that the FP lines were always moving at the merge point and those waits were kept to a minimum by cast members. I think the longest we waited for a FP+ was at The Great Movie Ride, where we just missed a load cycle and had to wait @5 minutes just before the merge for the next vehicles to reach the loading platform

March 10, 2015 at 10:59 AM · I agree, we never had to wait long in the FP+ line (we were there in October). The problem was that standby lines were slowed down by the FP+ line, more than traditional paper fast passes used to.
March 10, 2015 at 12:54 PM · We did have some longer waits in FP+ lines in January. Test Track had a 20-minute wait (not counting the time choosing your cars), Tower of Terror had a 15-minute wait, Toy Story Mania had a 15-minute wait, Star Tours had a 20-minute wait, Big Thunder had a 15-minute wait, and the Character Spot had a 25-minute wait. Some might relate to just bad timing or mechanical issues (I think that happened with Star Tours). Even so, there was definitely a pattern. We started calling it the "kinda FastPass" by the end.
March 10, 2015 at 1:00 PM · I posted earlier in the thread, and reiterate how much I dislike FP+. Due to the comments, they made me remember what I did like about the system. I like that I get to leave my wallet at the room, and I really like the dining reservations, as under the old system we could not dine where we wanted, and we did not mind the planning ahead for meals. That being said, it is a total failure in its current form in that it makes the parks much less enjoyable. Nobody, Disney or the guests, benefit from the parks being less fun. Nobody. I do hope Disney executives read websites like this (and I imagine they do). The business world has looked to Disney for examples of how to achieve customer satisfaction. They even have seminars for this. I cannot imagine how they let this system remain in its current form. They must change this system.
March 10, 2015 at 3:13 PM · "Knowing that Russell developed a fixation with my posts, I know he will come back for more. Give it a rest. I responded. That's it. Don't bother me."

I asked for some clarification, and I appreciate your response attempting clarify what you meant by timid. However, you still provided two definitions of the word, which puts your position on shaky ground.

"Just means a person that is not as aggressive to get the old Fastpass style of paper tickets will find more success with FP+. Online planning is much more convenient than aggressively running to each Fastpass ticket booth for the headliner attractions."

I would generally agree with that statement, and while that may be true for you and me, there are a lot of WDW guests that find online vacation planning very intimidating. Many of those guests use travel agents to book their vacations or simply want to book their hotel, airfare, admission, and be done. Unless it's something travel agents have started to offer in the past year, they are not making FP+ reservations for their clients (I have seen some people advertising those services to people though who weren't licensed travel agents). It takes a certain amount of "boldness or determination" to go online at 12:00:01 AM 30 days or even 10 days before your visit in an attempt grab the most popular FP+ reservations. The internet does not necessarily take the timidness out of a person, and the reservation process can be very daunting to some people, even more so than simply running to an old FP machine and grabbing a slip of paper, or having a cast member put your admission ticket through the machine for you.

Trust me, I don't have a fixation with your posts, you just tend to make deliberately vague statements that pique my curiosity. I do want to understand your point of view as it frequently differs from my own.

March 10, 2015 at 3:16 PM · "Test Track had a 20-minute wait (not counting the time choosing your cars), Tower of Terror had a 15-minute wait, Toy Story Mania had a 15-minute wait, Star Tours had a 20-minute wait, Big Thunder had a 15-minute wait, and the Character Spot had a 25-minute wait."

Were those wait times before the merge or after? I can see that for the Character Spot (sometimes it's the luck of the draw with character changeouts or who you're behind--that family of 10 that wants 2 dozen different combinations or poses can take FOREVER), but those other attractions are a bit surprising if there were no breakdowns and running close to maximum capacity (ToT can get backed up in the Boiler Room if they're not running all 4 load platforms). Once you pass the merge on those attractions, you're pretty much on the ride within 5-10 minutes max even with the instructional videos. If you were backing up before the merge, perhaps cast members have changed the flow of guests from the 2 lines since we were there last fall, which you would think would decrease the standby wait times, but based on the MyMagic+ app, they have been pretty consistent with what they were when we were there 5 months ago under similar crowd levels.

March 10, 2015 at 4:54 PM · "two definitions of the word, which puts your position on shaky ground."

This is definitely vague. I have absolutely no idea what I've said that was shaky. Here you are dragging me into describing minute details of a two sentence paragraph. You're fixated. Where's the love note?

March 10, 2015 at 7:38 PM · In simplest terms, Disney has lost us as an AP for the first time in about 15 years. It's no longer fun when I'm nothing more than a token on a computer screen with a dollar sign next to my icon.
March 10, 2015 at 9:02 PM · Russell, Star Tours was after the merge (I think it may have had a brief mechanical issue). The ToT wait was outside, and it seemed like the Standby and FP lines were about even. Big Thunder had a huge back-up at the first scanner. Test Track and TSM just had slow-moving lines with a lot of people in them. The times were split pretty evenly before and after the merge. It may have been bad timing.
March 11, 2015 at 12:13 AM · Toy Story Mania had a 15-minute wait. Unheard of for a stand-by wait in Orlando. California, yes. Florida, no. It must have been pouring rain or minutes after the park opened.
March 11, 2015 at 5:46 AM · As frequent repeat guests greatly anticipated FP+, however our first experience with FP+ last September was a disaster. Lines where there shouldn't be, FP only restaurants which were half-empty but turning away walk-ups, technology not functioning, the list is extensive. The tiered concept, forcing decisions two months in advance, are simply obvious design disasters which would be fixed by simply mimicking the old FP system with the advantage of a phone app. We talked with cast members "in the know" who said the design team was working on significant changes to fix this system. Reading articles like this six month's later, it appears the system hasn't been changed at all despite the confusion and outrage it causes. Very disappointing. People who say they like the system usually say it's because they can leave put everything on their band; you could put everything on a card before so doesn't seem like much of a change. The bands are uncomfortable and the NFC is flaky, often taking longer to get "green" than the cards.
March 11, 2015 at 6:19 AM · I had an AP for years and usually would go to the parks at night. After using the system twice, I hated it. Needless to say I no longer have a Disney pass and am just going to Universal. Sorry Disney, but you took the fun out of the parks and I did not see the payoff with reduced lines/times.
March 11, 2015 at 8:20 AM · Just in time for a new article in Wired on this very topic.

Notable exerpt:

"In fact, it’s called the paradox of choice: You make people happier not by giving them more options but by stripping away as many as you can. The redesigned Disney World experience constrains choices by dispersing them, beginning long before the trip is under way. “There are missions in a vacation,” Staggs says. In other words, Disney knows that parents arrive to its parks thinking: We have to have tea with Cinderella, and where the hell is that Buzz Lightyear thing, anyway? In that way, the park isn’t a playground so much as a videogame, with bosses to be conquered at every level. The MagicBands let you simply set an agenda and let everything else flow around what you’ve selected. “It lets people’s vacations unfold naturally,” Staggs says. “The ability to plan and personalize has given way to spontaneity.” And that feeling of ease, and whatever flows from it, just might make you more apt to come back."


I happen to agree with this approach.

March 11, 2015 at 8:51 AM · "This is definitely vague. I have absolutely no idea what I've said that was shaky. Here you are dragging me into describing minute details of a two sentence paragraph."

Let's go back...You initially posted the following:

"If you want to measure the success of FP+, it increases the odds that a more timid customer will get a ride that they want. It isn't necessarily about the more experienced customer."

I responded with...

"It really depends on what you deem as a "timid" customer."

Which should have been a clue to you that perhaps there are multiple ways to define a "timid" customer. I even provided 2 potential interpretations of a "timid" customer in that response to which you retorted with...

"And you didn't define a timid customer according to my context."

A "context" that was only 2 sentences long and elicited two potential interpretations from me, which didn't hit the mark according to you and your perceived context. You then followed with two of the dictionary definitions of the word "timid", which further muddled any potential interpretation of what you initially stated, and finally a clearer explanation of what you really meant...

"Just means a person that is not as aggressive to get the old Fastpass style of paper tickets will find more success with FP+. Online planning is much more convenient than aggressively running to each Fastpass ticket booth for the headliner attractions."

To which I responded with the reason why I think the initial term you used, "timid", is open to interpretation and why using that word put you on "shaky ground" to solidify your point. I agreed to a certain extent with your ultimate explanation of your position, but added that a "timid" person not wanting to run through the parks collecting paper Fastpasses does not necessarily mean that they would not also be "timid" online. I do think you're onto something in that doing ride reservations online is "more convenient", but it does not necessarily make someone less "timid" based on any definition of the word. Additionally, experience still plays a huge role in making the most of the system, and those who either don't have experience with it, do the research to understand the system, or have someone helping them, are still at a disadvantage.

I don't know if you are doing this deliberately, but the way you form your comments creates confusion. Sometimes your word choices seem to come through a Google translator, meaning that you choose words that are close to what you mean to say but do not concisely convey your point. I enjoy discussing the finer points of theme parks and their operations, and perhaps you should understand that the responses you generate from your comments (not just from me I might add) may be due to your imprecise word choice and subsequent obtuse attitude to those who question what you really meant by your initial statement, and not some fixation or obsession with you personally.

March 11, 2015 at 8:48 AM · "Toy Story Mania had a 15-minute wait. Unheard of for a stand-by wait in Orlando. California, yes. Florida, no. It must have been pouring rain or minutes after the park opened."

I believe Dan's comment, which you used in your first sentence, was to describe the wait to board through the FP queue, not the standby line.

March 11, 2015 at 9:47 AM · Perhaps you should start over again and read the context.

"a more timid customer" = 'more' modified 'timid'. It says nothing about online timidity, which is irrelevant, yet you decided that you want to argue that point. You already agreed my comment is truthful back a few posts, but you belabor an irrelevant point.

"added that a "timid" person not wanting to run through the parks collecting paper Fastpasses does not necessarily mean that they would not also be "timid" online."

My position never made this claim. It's not an one for one. I can't claim a person that is more timid in person will also be more timid online. You're suggesting that is true. My two sentences suggests the playing is more level when using FP+.

The only thing shaky is your interpretation.

You still did not answer the question on why my two definitions (from an online dictionary) put my two sentences into shaky ground other than the fact that you missed the mark numerous times. You have a problem in that you have something to say and you often say it when perhaps you should put your filters on.

Online timidity. Ha!!!

March 11, 2015 at 9:25 AM · Russell, you are correct. It was the time we spent in the FP queue. The posted Standby waits were always around 60 minutes or so.
March 11, 2015 at 11:53 AM · "Perhaps you should start over again and read the context."

What context??? You wrote 2 sentences that you think said something, but essentially said nothing. I made an attempt to understand what you said (where I offer 2 logical interpretations of your statement) which you rebuked., and when you finally made what I thought was a clear statement regarding your opinion, I attempted to frame a discussion.

"You already agreed my comment is truthful back a few posts, but you belabor an irrelevant point."

There is nothing "truthful" in opinion, and at no point did I refer to any of your statements as "truthful". I conditionally agreed with parts of your statement, but offered exceptions that would disprove your initial hypothesis, which was, "If you want to measure the success of FP+, it increases the odds that a more timid customer will get a ride that they want. It isn't necessarily about the more experienced customer." Whether you use "more timid" or just "timid" it does not change the fact that timidness is not absolute, and certainly not consistent across a person's experiences.

An excellent and completely comfortable public speaker may be totally uncomfortable with using a computer, does that make that person more or less "timid" than a web developer? A person that's been to WDW dozens of times and loved to get to the park 60 minutes before rope drop but only has a flip phone and uses the computer at the public library to check e-mail, does that make them more or less timid than the founder of MiceChat, who probably knows more about the FP+ system than 90% of the WDW cast members?

You seem to want to make blanket statements about people based upon your own experience, which is closed minded, and then when someone points out other possibilities, you use circular logic to make it seem like your opinion is "truthful," when in reality it is simply one of many different ways of looking at the situation.

"My position never made this claim."

Then please explain in plain English what in the world you meant by your statement...

"Just means a person that is not as aggressive to get the old Fastpass style of paper tickets will find more success with FP+. Online planning is much more convenient than aggressively running to each Fastpass ticket booth for the headliner attractions."

I attempted to paraphrase what you meant to acknowledge that I was on the same page, but even what appeared to be a clear statement of position, you attempt to contort to mean something completely different.

"The only thing shaky is your interpretation."

The only thing shaky is your grasp of the English language and ability to articulate what you really mean. I'm not the only one who is befuddled by your comments.

March 11, 2015 at 9:52 AM · All I have to say is the paper system works just fine. If it ain't broke, don't fix it. Thankfully Disneyland resort still uses it.
March 11, 2015 at 9:57 AM · "Then please explain in plain English what in the world you meant by your statement..."


I'm befuddled by your befuddlement.

March 11, 2015 at 12:29 PM · "You still did not answer the question on why my two definitions (from an online dictionary) put my two sentences into shaky ground other than the fact that you missed the mark numerous times."

Since you chose to edit/amend your post after I responded, I'll clarify my response...

Since you provided absolutely no context to your use of the word "timid" in your initial 2 sentence comment, I made an attempt to both highlight your lack of context and provide two possible interpretations in my subsequent response. Your retort then regurgitated the dictionary definition which did not offer any clarity to the context in which you used the word "timid" and provided 2 slightly different meanings to your original comment. Since you were not able to succinctly define what your context was, and instead offered two slightly different dictionary definitions of the word, I concluded that your argument was on shaky ground. In debate, when someone provides two different conclusions to the same challenge, their initial hypothesis is deemed invalid.

"My two sentences suggests the playing is more level when using FP+."

I believe I addressed that interpretation, and noted that it was leveled when the system was initially introduced, but experience plays an increasing role in success with the system. Any new system is typically going to create a leveled playing field because no one has experience. As more and more people gain experience, they gain greater and greater advantage on the system over those that are new to it. That has played out with FP+ as those who know very little about it are unable to make reservations for the most desirable attractions because the more experienced guests are jumping on those first. I would agree that the field is "more level" now than it was during the last year of paper Fastpasses, but as the rule changes to FP+ have stagnated, it is no longer level. Unless the rules are changed continuously, there's really no way to truly "level" the field, because experience and knowledge will always have an upper hand.

I may have missed the mark in attempting to interpret what you're posting, but I'm beginning to wonder if there is even a mark to hit the way you twist and contort what you're meaning to say and what you actually write. Every time I think we're on the same page, you find a way to reinterpret what you say to make it contrary to what I think you are saying. I do enjoy the challenge, though---Good for the mind!! Who needs Brain Games when we have Anon Mouse?

March 11, 2015 at 1:30 PM · The shaky ground is nothing more an accusation. Lovely.

FP+ is a level playing field by the simple reason everyone is restricted to 3 FP reservations per day that can be made in advance. Experienced park goers cannot get more reservations. They can only get it earlier if the inexperienced isn't up to speed. That's hard to say especially if on site guests have a 60 day advantage. Disney heavily advertised this feature and the attractions. It's not hidden from the public. So the likelihood of the experienced crowding out the newbies is restricted. My feeling is the FP+ makes it significantly easier for everyone to plan their day. Everyone becomes an expert.

A perk from staying on-site is free MagicBands. Every guest is mailed MagicBands. You're encouraged to sign-on in advance to MyDisneyExperience to assign the MagicBands. They encourage the guest to purchase the admission passes to allow the guest to make FP+ reservations immediately. I just noticed that you can buy admission tickets directly from the Apple iPhone app. You previously couldn't do this before. As a reminder, FP+ went "live" resortwide only about a year ago. This is still pretty new for everyone.

March 11, 2015 at 2:23 PM · We have some common ground here Anon...I generally agree with this:

"FP+ is a level playing field by the simple reason everyone is restricted to 3 FP reservations per day that can be made in advance. Experienced park goers cannot get more reservations."

Disney does do a good job advertising this feature, but the fact remains that those that don't know they need to go on right when their reservation window opens may not be able to get reservations for the most desirable attractions. I spoke with someone who just got back from WDW, and they were away from their computer the day their 60-day on-site guest window opened for because of a New Year's trip. They tried to get a Toy Story Mania FP+ reservation for the Saturday they were going to be there as soon as they got back (they said it was 3 days after their reservation window opened), and there was nothing available. They said they kept looking as their trip approached, but the only thing that popped up was a reservation for 8-9 PM, which they didn't want to do because they really wanted to see Fantasmic, which also didn't have any FP+ reservations available, and that was their only DHS day.

Also, those that don't have a thorough understanding of the system may not make the best choices because they may not even know what they want. Guests who have NEVER been to WDW (I know it's hard to believe, but those people are out there) have no clue what the different rides and attractions are, or what they may or may not like. This severely cripples their ability to navigate the system since they're essentially picking blind. I talked to a friend before his trip last March, who hadn't been to WDW in over a decade, and he was excited to get reservations for Spaceship Earth, Maelstrom, and Illuminations. I asked him if they tried to get reservations for Soarin' or TestTrack, and he didn't even know what those were, so he didn't pick them. When I explained the rides to him and their popularity, he was bummed that he hadn't chosen those and attempted to switch his reservations around with no luck. When he got back he said that him and his wife stood in line for over 3 hours collectively for those 2 rides, nearly half their day.

Additionally, those that may have a little knowledge, may not understand the ability to reserve additional FP+s throughout the day after the first 3 are used, and in planning out their days spend more time in standby lines than they really needed to had they more strategically arranged their reservations. Again, the friend above who went last March got a FP+ for Illuminations. I explained to him the rule about getting additional reservations throughout the day, and that he was essentially locking himself out of that benefit by having the reservation for the end of the day show. He switched that reservation for a Mission: Space FP+ earlier in the day, and was able to get another Maelstrom FP+ and still get an Illuminations reservation.

"My feeling is the FP+ makes it significantly easier for everyone to plan their day. Everyone becomes an expert."

I definitely agree that the system is pretty simple once you use it for a little while to the point where it doesn't take much effort to become an expert, and it's pretty easy to plan your day. However, there are nuances to the system where guests with more knowledge and experience still have a leg up on others. Also, many people cringe at the thought of planning what times they will experience rides and shows a month or more before they even step foot on WDW property. I can provide a perfect example of this...On our most recent trip to WDW last October, we made all of our FP+ reservations, and generally got everything we wanted at advantageous times. However, when we showed up on our first day, we had arranged to ride Voyage of the Little Mermaid, a ride our son really enjoyed at DCA 18 months earlier. However, when we walked up to the attraction, our son decided that he was "scared" of the ride and didn't want to do it. Under the old paper FP system we would have walked past the ride a few hours before riding and he would have expressed his opinion at that time, and we could have just skipped it and picked up a FP for something else. Instead, because we were already locked into the FP+ that couldn't be changed since we were already inside the return window, we spent 20 minutes trying to explain away his irrational fear and tell him that the ride was identical to the one he rode in California. Ultimately we had to abandon the reservation and move on, because we weren't going to force him to do something he didn't want to do. Kids can be unpredictable, and the need to plan out the intimate details of your day a month or more in advance can lead to a lot of frustration. I'm sure there are parents out there that would have simply forced their kid on the ride (we saw a few of these people) simply because they went through all of the trouble to get the reservation, but we're not those type of parents.

Another situation could occur to those families with members that are close to clearing certain attraction height restrictions. What is a family supposed to do when they have a kid that's 43.5" 60 days before their trip? Do they go ahead and make that Space Mountain FP+ reservation or do they wait to see if the child reaches the appropriate height? If they wait, there might not be any reservations left, but if they don't, they may waste one of their 3 reservations on an attraction they ultimately cannot experience together.

"This is still pretty new for everyone."

This is part of my point. The field may be more level now than it was under the old system, but as frequent guests get more experience and learn the ins and outs of the system, the gap between the experienced and newbies will continue to grow. Even with the current limitations on the system, an experienced guest can still do more than a guest visiting WDW for the first time.

March 11, 2015 at 9:26 PM · "the fact remains that those that don't know they need to go on right when their reservation window opens may not be able to get reservations for the most desirable attractions."

It is incorrect to assume that just because they didn't get their reservation that this means the inexperienced are disadvantaged. There is still a finite number of FP+ reservations. In your anecdote, one person missed out on Toy Story Mania on a Saturday, which is usually the busiest time of the week. How would an experienced person respond in the same circumstances? They would both miss out. This is beyond their control.

The person you mentioned about Test Track or Soarin' is in a similar situation. If you didn't tell them, they wouldn't feel they missed anything; however, the excuse that they didn't know is rather suspect. Test Track and Soarin' are both Tier 1 attractions where they can pick one, but not both. They had to know they were the options. If they collectively waited in line for over 3 hours, they could have saved at least 1.5 hours if they picked a Fastpass for either ride, but not both. Their preference was Illuminations. I'm sure many made that choice.

Epcot has plenty of attractions where the wait is relatively light. A Fastpass for Maelstorm is optional, but many feel there are few choices for the second tier attractions. I'm sure after the Frozen makeover, Maelstorm with a new name will be a must-see.

You can skip a FP+. This shouldn't even be in the conversation. I have no idea about the other scenarios, but even the experienced person like yourself will encounter limitations. Since we are currently discussing the FP+ limitation of 3 for everyone, just pick the rides most suitable for your family. BTW, the height restrictions are clearly labeled in MyDisneyExperience. A kid barely at that height wouldn't be a good candidate for the ride. Could be too intense for them. Nonetheless, you should measure them with their SHOES ON. I highly doubt a kid can get grow a few inches within 2 months.

March 12, 2015 at 11:03 AM · While your comments are all valid, you've gone too deep into the minutiae to see my greater point that experience plays a big role with the FP+ system. In the first 3 examples I provided (DHS, Soarin'/TestTrack, and Illuminations), those guests did not have experience with the system that might have improved their chances at getting reservations for more desirable attractions.

In the DHS case, if they knew how important it was to log on right at the moment that their 60-day window opened, they might have found a way to log on during their New Year's vacation. Since they didn't have the experience and knowledge to understand the importance of making reservations for the most popular attractions as soon as possible, they lost out on getting a FP+ for the most popular ride in the park. It's almost the same scenario as it was under the old paper system where those with experience knew to line up 30-60 minutes before the parks opened and sprint to the FP machines. The exact same thing has happened with FP+, except now it's online with people rushing to grab the most desirable reservations through their computers. Those with fast computers, faster connections, and more determination, have an advantage over others. It's very much like purchasing concert tickets online, where those with faster machines, connections, and existing cookies, can navigate the system faster to get the best seats in a venue when they are made available. Sure, many less experienced people may still get tickets, but the best seats are usually gone, and for super popular acts, those less experienced are often out of luck altogether

My second and third examples show how an inexperienced person can make critical mistakes with the system. I appreciate your position that "mistakes" are in the eye of the beholder, but when enlightened, those guests realized that the initial choices they made were not a good use of the system. After learning about Soarin' and TestTrack, they really wanted to experience those, but were forced to do so through the standby line, which, as you noted, probably killed close to 90 minutes of their day. For Illuminations, Disney dangles those FP+ reservations out there as bait to make people feel like they're at least getting something, when in reality when guests make those reservations (except on the most crowded days), they're limiting their in-park options. Those less experienced with the system and less knowledgeable about the parks are likely to make very different decisions, some that may be perfect for them and how they want to visit the parks, but others that may lead to disappointment.

As I've illustrated, experience does still matter, and I'm sure as more and more guests gain experience, those that have little to no experience with the system will be further handicapped. Even some of the advice you've provided here ("Maelstrom is optional") and elsewhere (along with what Dan has outlined above), is knowledge that some guests simply don't have before getting online to make their FP+ reservations. Some guests that are experienced probably appreciate that there are clueless guests navigating the system, because it provides better chances that the experienced will get what they want. I would much rather see people have a great time at WDW, and would readily give even a stranger all of the guidance and knowledge they could consume about the system, rather than see people make reservations for something like Small World at 10 PM on a Tuesday. It is great that people can "personalize" their itineraries, and I would never recommend that someone change a reservation on an attraction they really want to experience, but let's face it, there are some silly people out there that don't have a clue about planning a WDW vacation and what they're even doing when they're making these reservations.

On your last point, Disney does publish height restrictions, but we're talking about predicting how tall your child will be 60 days from now. Perhaps you have a time machine or some magical tape measure, but I have no idea how tall my son will be in May. He went 3 months during the summer last year without growing an inch, but then grew nearly 2 inches in a little more than 2 months. Even when we did reach the parks, he was measured slightly differently by different parks (he was just under 42" when we left) with some saying he was fine for 42" height restricted rides and others he was not. Whether you make the measurement with the shoes on or off, you're still making a prediction, which illustrates yet another flaw with the FP+ and the need to make reservations 30-60 days in advance. Sure, you can tell your kid that they're not tall enough now, so you aren't going to make that Space Mountain reservation, but what do you tell them when you show up at the park and they've grown an inch or 2 and now have to wait 90 minutes to ride something you could have Fastpassed? Or you think they might be tall enough when you go, so you grab those reservations only to find out that the child can't ride. At least under the old system, you could be measured by the cast members at the front of the ride before grabbing a paper FP, and if they weren't tall enough, you weren't wasting it.

My bigger point is that making ride reservations so far in advance is not as helpful to guests as it may seem. Why not make it 30 days for resort guests and 10 days for off-site guests? Why do you need to pick your attractions so far in advance? Having a shorter window to make those reservations would actually reduce some of the advantage experienced users would have over those new to the system. It wouldn't eliminate it, but it might neutralize some of it.

March 12, 2015 at 12:32 PM · "While your comments are all valid, you've gone too deep into the minutiae to see my greater point that experience plays a big role with the FP+ system."

You provided your examples to prove your point. I examined them to show they are not necessarily correct.

While experience helped, it isn't necessarily clear cut as I tried to demonstrate. Also, you didn't prove otherwise that an experienced person would also make the same choices when the circumstances were similar. (What if the experienced person was busy when the reservation window opened?) There is still a finite number of FP+ reservations and everyone faces the same limitations of choice. The inexperienced person staying on-site (60 day window) would still have an advantage to an experienced person staying off-site (30 day window).

As for making predictions on height, I was saying don't bother. You seem to think it matters for making FP+ reservations. That's a risk you need to take so take it. Don't tell me you don't know you can change your FP+ reservation.

Under the new system, you can wait standby or get a new FP+ reservation if available. OR you can make your FP+ reservation in advance and CHANGE it on or before the day of the trip with the MyDisneyExperience app on your iPhone or via a portable Tablet that you can bring with you on your trip. So best to get the very popular Space Mountain reservation in advance and change it if your kid didn't grow 2 inches as you expect. In fact, you can change it just for him so your other kids don't miss out. This feature is also heavily advertised. It is right in the app or web site.

As for shorter windows, give me a break. This is even worse. I do think a shorter window will be an advantage for the experienced. A longer window gives inexperienced people more time to consider the attractions they would like to visit. This means 30 days advanced planning before the locals and Annual Passholders descend on FP+.

The bottomline is I really don't think the line between an experienced person and inexperienced person is that big of a gap. I used the original paper fastpasses sparingly. After FP+, it allowed me 3 FP+, which is a nice advantage to the old system where you get one at a time. Why it seems so bad in Disney World is they don't have enough attractions. FP+ is imploding on the weight of its lack of capacity. I hope this is remedied soon.

March 12, 2015 at 12:51 PM · I can respect what you've said though I disagree that experience is not important when navigating the system whether you think my real world examples are "correct" or not. My empirical evidence shows less knowledgeable and experienced guests do not use the system the same way as those that know the ins and outs of FP+ and the parks. That is true for ANY system be it FP, buying concert or sporting tickets, or buying stock through an online broker. I think we can agree that perhaps based on the current rules, experience has been slightly negated (particularly when comparing inexperience onsite guests to experienced off-site guests), but that may not be true a year from now as more experience is gained and the frequency of policy changes decline, and it still puts on-site guests on an uneven playing field based on experience. WDW reported nearly 90% occupancy in the resorts---that's a lot of people to compete with for the few thousand FP+ reservations each day for the most popular attractions even before you consider those staying off-site.

The point is, an experienced person knows what the most popular attractions are and that it's important to log on the first minute those reservations become available. It took me 7 trips to WDW to figure out the "trick" to secure a reservation to the Victoria & Albert's Chef's Table (a 1 party per day 5 days a week reservation), and without that trick, I'd still be trying to get that most coveted reservation. A less experienced person doesn't know those "tricks" of the system, and their choices may be more limited because they don't know that certain attractions "sell out" and that other attractions do not necessary require a FP+ reservation to save time over the standby line. If you can show me where Disney reminds people to log on the minute their reservation window opens, I'll cede this point, but I can tell you for a fact that the e-mail we got from Disney last August (2 months before our October trip) reminding us to make out FP+ reservations came 5 days after the window opened, and if we had waited until then, we would not have gotten advantageous times for the most popular attractions, if we were able to get even reservations for those rides at all.

My height restriction point is more about the conundrum that the system introduces because of the need to reserve attractions so far in advance. Certainly it's up to the parents to take a risk, after all you're taking a risk anyway because their ruler might be slightly off from yours, but the fact remains that it poses an issue for parents with kids close to ride height restrictions that didn't exist before the FP+ system was put into place.

"As for shorter windows, give me a break. This is even worse."

How so??? Why do you need to know what attractions you're going to experience 60 days from now? What advantage is there in planning your day so far in advance. Some people don't even book their hotels and rental cars that far in advance. We're going to the Midwest at the end of May, and aside from having a loose itinerary and plane tickets, we haven't locked in anything else. What good does it do a family to know that they're going to ride 7DMT on May 10 at 4:15-5:15 PM right now? Why can't that process wait until April when the anticipation for the vacation truly starts to build and the Magic Bands arrive in the mail? When we made ours for our trip last fall we were very excited, but a week later, it was like, "Now what???" We spent the next 7 weeks going back and forth through the system to see if the Anna and Elsa meet and greet came available or if there was any better way to maximize itinerary. It was practically 7 weeks of second guessing that I would have preferred to have had back, and magnified by our son's refusal to want to ride one of the FP+ attractions we had reserved. I think 60 days in advance is far too much in advance, just as 180 days is too far in advance for dining reservations (many high end restaurants have gone down to 3 month reservation windows - a few where I live near DC have gotten rid of advanced reservations altogether). Perhaps you could explain why reservation windows opening closer to your visit is worse than the current policy. Personally, I don't need to, and rather not plan my day to the hour that far in advance.

March 12, 2015 at 1:13 PM · "The point is, an experienced person knows what the most popular attractions are and that it's important to log on the first minute those reservations become available."

Other news "No one is going to Disneyland because it is too crowded."

Other news "advance dining reservations."

Other news "advance resort bookings."

Other news "record attendance."

These things don't just happen. People know. If you got your ride, you're just a bit faster than the other person.

Plus, if everyone's an expert, then that's when you should worry. There are more than enough Disney experts.

March 12, 2015 at 2:55 PM · One of these days I'm actually going to read your guys' argument. I just figured it was the typical Anon/Russell argument that never gets resolved.

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