It's finally arrived - the week that Disneyland reopens to the public, for the first time since the pandemic closed the park more than 13 months ago. But not all Disney theme parks around the world will be open by the end of the week. The Disneyland Paris parks remain closed indefinitely, and things are looking a bit iffy for Tokyo Disney with another state of emergency in Japan.
But with the parks reopening in the United States, perhaps this is the moment when we might ask which of Disney's many Covid-related operational changes ought to remain temporary and which should continue as permanent. We will talk more on this topic in the weeks to come, but today I would like to focus on one specific change Disney has made - the removal of the Fastpass ride reservation service.
More than a few fans would like to see Disney keep Fastpass on the sideline permanently. Others might not object to Fastpass' return, but would like to see it go back to being something that could be reserved only on the date of your visit to the parks, rather than 30 or 60 days in advance of your trip. And I am sure there are quite a few Disney fans that can't wait for the day when Disney can bring back Fastpass just like it was before the pandemic, complete with advance reservations and other rules.
But why should you take my word for this? Let's get some numbers here, with our vote below. I would like to see where you - and other readers - stand on the future of Disney's Fastpass. Does having Fastpass - with standby lines for people not using it - improve or diminish your Disney theme park visit? Do you want it back, or would you rather see Disney try something else?
I am using the term "Fastpass" as a catch-all for Disney's ride reservation system, but the company ran different systems in Florida and in California. Walt Disney World's Fastpass+ was the one with advance reservations and the ability to hold up to three Fastpasses at a time. At Disneyland in California, the Fastpass system only allowed one reservation at a time (with a few exceptions) and you could not get Fastpasses before entering the park for the day. In California, a Maxpass upgrade (also now on the sidelines) allowed you to use the Disneyland app to manage your Fastpasses, as you could do for no extra charge with Fastpass+ in Florida.
All that aside, should Disney bring these systems back, or not?
And if you have ideas on what Disney ought to do in lieu of bringing back Fastpass/Fastpass+ as they were, I would love to hear those in the comments.
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With Fastpasses given out, the wait times I might experience in a day could be 5, 5, 30, 40, 50 minutes (two attractions for which I got a Fastpass and three lines in standby). Without Fastpasses in existence, the wait times might be 20, 20, 30, 30, 30 minutes instead. Both have the same total wait time (130 minutes). For me, I would prefer the more equal distribution: a very long wait is more painful than a very short wait is delightful.
Man this is a tough question to answer and based on the results so far, almost an equal 30-30-30 split, very divisive too. My choice is fastpass before the Disney+. If you hustled a bit and managed your fastpasses well, you could definitely spend a day at a park and avoid a 30+ minute wait. My family and I got very adept at doing that and loved the fastpass system. It does require arriving at the park early, theme park common sense 101, and an energetic "runner" to criss cross the park and fetch fastpasses for the group. You have that and some knowledge of crowd management and a good day awaits you with minimal waits.
I see pros and cons in all three options though.
My preference would be to eliminate the free system, but still maintain an upcharge option for those who are interested in paying for the service. This would enable those who visit infrequently the ability to use the service to assist on getting on everything in the limited time they have, but wouldn't impact regular queues for non-paying guests nearly as much as the free system did. This could simply be the Maxpass system, but something like the Flash Pass that Six Flags uses, where return times are based on actual waits and different levels have different waiting times, would be even better.
My least preferable option would be to have things go back the way they were. The paper ticket Fastpasses are okay, but I think I'd prefer no system to that unless Disney is going to significantly decrease the number handed out. Fastpass+ was awful, and if it comes back I'd be likely to only spend as much time at WDW as necessary to see new stuff on future trips.
I’m fine with an upcharge version since it gives those attending any theme park for first time advantage to ride the popular rides.
Funny that you bring up the Flash Pass: Due to the membership upgrades and new perks Magic Mountain gave out to members, they basically gave Flash Passes to everyone and now the Flash Pass Line has became the Stand-by line. On busy days, the Flash Pass is a mess.
I really don't care for the Fastpass+ system. I hate making reservations and plans a month in advance. I also hate running around the parks, trying to make it to multiple reservations.
I really don't like the idea of an upcharge system - which is odd, because I would totally pay for it, if it were available. I just think that a Disney Vacation is so oppressively expensive for so many families, I hate the thought of another division, making a system where some kids would not be getting on favorite rides because their family is stuck in line all day, because their parents don't make enough money.
I like the old, one ticket, one Fastpass system, made the day you go in the park. Used the Fastpass? Get another one. Maybe, as a bonus, let people staying at the Disney Hotels book their first Fastpass the day before. But that's it.
Something fair. Something simple. Something that puts value of the guest's enjoyment of the visit above the corporate need to manipulate each customer's positioning within the park to best maximize their spending.
I voted yes, just as before the pandemic, but I’d have no problem if they brought it back in its original form. However, I would far prefer paying extra for a Disney equivalent to Universal’s Express Pass.
EDIT: For the record, I haven’t had a chance to fully use the Fastpass+ system. It has been a bunch of years since I was last there (just before Universal’s Transformers opened), and my last two scheduled holidays were cancelled because of Covid. So there’s every chance that I would have disliked it, once in the parks.
The original FastPass was great, no idiotic months in advance on the internet and then stressing in the park. Get there early gave you a few rides head start and FastPass did the rest, loved taht. The (not so) Magicband made me go less and less to Disney until I stopped. The whole planning months in advance is not the way I want to go on vacation, it's got nothing to do with vacation it's work.
MaxPass could be fine if it is used sparely as the Universal Studios version but if Disney is greedy (and they are) they sell so much that going to a park is no fun anymore when you don't buy the upcharge.
For me this question does not have an absolute answer. First, I think most theme park fans can agree that the FP+ system as it was operated in WDW prior to the pandemic was a mess. However, there were aspects about the system that were positive and did help guests reduce their wait for certain attractions.
The biggest issue with FP+ at WDW was its implementation on so many attractions. At DL/DCA, Fastpass is only available on the biggest attractions in the parks. One of the main reasons for this was because of limited space in DL and DCA for the additional queueing space for FP lines and merge points. However, the reason why the system works so much better in California is because more than half the attractions in each park can only be experienced through standby lines, allowing crowds to spread out around the park and normalize across the many attraction lines that cannot be bypassed through FP.
In WDW, virtually every attraction (including shows and character meets) are on the FP+ system. The reason for this is so guests planning their vacation can feel a sense of satisfaction of being able to bypass some lines ahead of time when they find out that the best attractions no longer have FP+ reservations available when they log on to the system. This results in guests getting FP+ reservations for attractions like Dumbo, Listen to the Land, Indiana Jones Stunt Spectacular, and Dinosaur, which in turn increases the standby lines for rides that should typically have short waits for guests looking for something to do between FP+ reservations.
FP+ at it's core is a good system, but when it's used on most or all of the attractions in a park, it should be used solely as a virtual queue with standby lines completely eliminated from the attractions (like ROTR). However, when it's used to supplement existing standby lines, it creates nothing but problems, and elongated standby waits, and when guests have only FP+-enable attractions to choose from in a park, standby lines are always going to be artificially long.
As far as making it an upcharge program, I've never been a fan of paying more for a system that is not a true front of the line system like Universal Express. However, if purchasing FP+ or a higher tier of the program comes with other perks (such as special/preferred access to the system or PhotoPass like MaxPass does in California), then I could see Disney charging extra for it.
However, the problem is if Disney were to charge for a true front of the line system like Universal Express, either the price would be prohibitively high or too many people would purchase it undermining the program's advantage.
I think the best choice would be for WDW to adopt a system closer to Disneyland's setup. I bet there is a serious amount of fastpasses reserved that never get redeemed. Also, eliminate fastpasses for stupid things that don't need them. Day of fastpasses only, limit 3 attractions for the whole day.
I still remember being in WDW in 1999, using FastPass and "why did they not do this years ago?" Just great fun using those tickets and always better doing it on the day itself for fairness rather than months in advance. I went for that old system and could still work today.
With FP+ they tried to fix something that was not broken. The new system actually kept us away. It was awful. I had studied it extensively and could do 2-3 times as many attractions at DL than WDW. The 30-60 day reservation made you preplan the vacation, so once you got there you lost all spontaneity. It did something that goes against everything the parks stand for: it was not fun.
I have to say I see all sides of this argument, but in reality I was able to go to WDW last January (just pre-covid) with my son and we used FP+ to reserve things like FoP or 7 Dwarfs Mine Train and we built our day around that - having a set reservation or two for attractions that had generally long lines did not remove the spontaneous feel for the rest of the day at all. And given that a trip to WDW is something that is only manageable every 4 or 5 years, being sure you can at least get on things you really want to is valuable for someone (like me) who doesn't have the luxury of waiting till next time. I know at the end of the day if we hadn't had FP+ for, say, FoP, the 90-minute wait would have meant something else we were able to do wouldn't have happened.
But SW61, you just have to go to the park and head to the kiosk and get your reservation. With the old system I never once missed a chance to ride something, then zip around the park with MUCH SHORTER wait times. With FP+ you could not get a reservation or not be able to choose one due to the tiered system, so certain family members would not get to do the one thing they wanted to that day. Also, God help you if you had to change something after the 30 day period. Also, because you could not do certain things, there would be a sea of people at rope drop further complicating the issue.
JC - I do agree with you -I much preferred the old system and when we went with our kids when they were much younger we used it to great advantage (and dare I say it - fun!). But last year was my first (and only? - we'll see) experience with FP+ and I was able to go with only one child (different school vacations, sigh) and with time extremely tight being able to be sure in advance we'd be able to do at least some of the things on both our lists, it turned out well. But one good experience doesn't mean I didn't prefer the old system for sure - I think theoretically I come down on your side, but have to admit my one experience last year was very positive.
Replace by 100% reservations for all rides and shows. Queuing is still the no. 1 guest complaint by 90% of visitors. People want everything digital now including advance planning. Due to social distancing some Disney attractions had to be closed as they ran out of queue line space and also post Covid people do not want to go back to packed lines. The only solution is totally eliminating queue lines. Would make very many people happy and a win win situation. Very easy to do with www.queuefreethemepark.com
It cracks me up at the irony of hearing some people say that they want to be spontaneous when they visit Disney and don't want to plan things out in advance. Outside of locals with annual passes, is that even possible? And I can't even think of the last time I showed up at the airport and bought a ticket for a flight that same day. And go somewhere without hotel reservations? Last time I did that I ended up staying in a Knight's Inn. Twenty years later and my son is still trying to get over that experience.
And for those of you who claim that it isn't fun to have to have a schedule, isn't showing up at rope drop and then rushing to get a paper FastPass something like a plan with an accompanying schedule? Why in the world would anybody get up at the crack of dawn and hurry to the park when they are supposed to be on vacation? Isn't the point of a vacation to do things at a leisurely pace and enjoy yourself?
Face it. FastPass+ is the great equalizer. Onsite hotel guests do get some advantage, but looking at the prices they pay for the room, I'd say that it's a perk they pay dearly for.
So, instead of trashing FastPass+, maybe you FP+ haters could learn how to use it more effectively. Get to the park at rope drop, hit your favorite rides before things get too busy, use your scheduled FastPass+ rides, and then use the tactics that locals like Makorider employs to get more rides on premium attractions.
@TimHillman: Yeah, I can't get the "just wing it" mentality. Okay, sure, maybe now and then, I can roll with the flow but when starting in a park, I always know which rides to hit first and plan stuff for later in the day. Adjustments if need be due to crowds but going in with no plan is foolish.
I have never been a fan of what developed at WDW. Nobody wants to micromanage their vacation, but that system made it a requirement.
I really love MaxPass at DLR. Because it is limited to day of reservations everyone is in the same boat. It also saved savvy users from wasting time walking to distribution centers to get their next FastPass. I used the word "savvy" on purpose because people who came and didn't do their research were at a disadvantage, but in the age of the intrawebs - research really isn't that hard to do or out of reach for anyone.
I really think that should be taken to WDW and their old system should be eliminated. Only time will tell.
FP+? No. Too much early planning.
MaxPass? Yes! Easy and fun.
It’s interesting to read all the obvious none-AP comments on this thread. The FP+ haters are out in full force. Tim’s right .... and the number of times myself and others have tried to ‘educate’ people on how to use the system, but oh no ... it’s not for them, so trash it.
Yep, I’m a Disney AP (only one on TPI ???) who absolutely cannot wait for FP+ to return in it’s previous form. No need for rope drop, I wander in, wander out, any time of the day, use my FP+’s, then smile and wave as I exit the park.
Make of my views what you will, but the sooner FP+ is reinstated the better !!
I'm approaching 48 years old but put me in the old grumpy man category of just go back to the old days of first come first serve stand in line. Sure, I agree what the park was in the early 90's is not the same today, but I do agree Disney is the most annoying of them all when it comes to planning. I've pretty much have visited almost all the big theme park this country has to offer and not once I had to plan any of them advance. I just showed up, started my way around and had plenty of time to ride on everything and the big rides multiple times. Disney is the only park, where I have plan everything out. Just not fun sometimes.
The problem is some people are content with 5 or 6 attractions per day. My family is not. I have also compared the DL MaxPass system on capacity days with FP+ and it is no comparison. You can do so, so much more with the DL system. I am fine with reserving the table service meals. I am fine with armbands or whatever (not facial recognition). Another problem is going to Universal with the unlimited Express Pass then messing with FP+. We want to be able to ride the Haunted Mansion and Pirates multiple times a day. You are severely limited with FP+. It also punishes people with 4 or more (most families). There is no need for every attraction being on it. I know not many people go to both coasts, but I would be interested if people other than myself have done comparisons. I am glad that people enjoy FP+. It has driven this family away. I wonder the usage of the people that like FP+. Do they go with two people or larger groups? Do they like to experience as many attractions per day or are fine with just taking it slowly? Do they prefer less popular attractions like Carousel of Tomorrow or more popular like Seven Dwarfs? Are they fine with one attraction per visit or do they like to experience a favorite multiple times?
I once rode Haunted Mansion 10 times over a seven day pass. That could never happen today. Now we try four days Disney and three at Universal. The Disney with FP+ was a frustrating experience with the app going down preventing obtaining additional passes, but I rode Forbidden Journey at IOA five times in 45 minutes. I have also seen guests at Disney loudly chastised the system. Under the original FP system if someone even had a sour look on their face, a cast member was on them immediately fixing the issue. They need to fix the system.
I think it makes sense to limit FP+ to D and E ticket attractions, and only one advanced reservation per day. With weather, unexpected downtime, etc, its better to only have a limited number of advance reservations on a limited number of attractions. Once you get to the park, you can reserve one more spot at a time, but still only for D and E tickets.
I think the way fastpass was back in the day with the tickets was better. Then everyone had a chance to get one instead of just the ones that booked them in advance,plus I think the lines go faster without fastpass system
I don’t buy into this whole “lines were shorter before fastpass” thing. I fondly remember “Indiana Jones and the Temple of the Three Hour Line” and much prefer getting a Fastpass now.
Attractions have limited capacity and limited numbers of Fastpasses are issued for each time slot. I trust Disney to manage the lines effectively (foolish?) and even take into account FPs that are booked and not used.
FP will come back because a person waiting for an FP window might be shopping and eating. A person in a standby line is not!
Additionally, there is a feel-good emotion of skipping the line for a few attractions a day which is just good customer service.
I just hope FP+ comes back before I go to WDW in September.
I completely respect Tim and Makorider's points of view, but for WDW to go back to the way FP+ was before the pandemic would be doubling down on a broken system. While many APs may be happy with the way the system used to work, the majority of visitors to WDW were greatly dissatisfied with it. The fact that blogs and "experts" spent huge chunks of their space and bandwidth on helping newcomers navigate the complicated yet necessary system to avoid hours-long waits on the most popular attractions should be a clear indication that something is wrong. While trip reports and trip plans were always a big part of fan blogs and guides, FP+ took the strategies and planning to an entirely different level.
When it comes to spontaneity, a system like MaxPass or the old paper FP system do still allow for spur of the moment decisions and choices. While many guests will gravitate to the biggest attractions when they enter a park, there's some spontaneity involved when presented with a choice the moment you enter a park and scroll through the MaxPass options. As you walk down main street, you may be offered a FP time in a hour for Space Mountain, you could get one in 30 minutes for Indy, or you could get a FP reservation time in 2 hours for MF:SR. The guest can choose which way they want to turn at the hub, and then grab a FP that meshes with that spur of the moment decision. If you walk into a park with 3 FP+ reservations already set, the rest of the day is likely to also be already set and planned around those FP+ times. Also, by not having FP on every single attraction in California forces guests to allocate time to wait in standby lines for the smaller attractions, which in turn gives guests something to do in between FP reservations. FP+ simply does not allow for that because the system is integrated into almost every attraction at WDW.
Again, I respect the opinions of others here, and believe me that when we have visited WDW in the past, we have leveraged FP+ to the fullest, typically getting somewhere between 10-15 FP+ in a day. In fact, on our most recent trip to WDW, we rode FoP 6 times in a single day thanks to FP+ (along with a rope-drop ride), and actually turned down a 7th ride at the end of the day because our son had actually grown tired of the ride. If you really know how to use FP+ to the fullest, you can run circles around other guests. However, what good is a system that helps a very savvy, experienced few, but is nothing but frustration and stress to a majority of WDW guests? There is absolutely a better way, and a system more like MaxPass has proven to be superior and more user friendly that would be a significant improvement over the way FP+ used to work at WDW.
As a parent with young kids, count me as someone who would be disappointed if FP+ goes away entirely. A few thoughts to add to this thread:
I understand the frustration of FP+ being omnipresent. However, when you are not trying to ride the biggest D and E ticket rides due to height requirements, and therefore not tied up in a FP for hours later, you can enjoy tons of spontaneity and practically no wait for little kids that have trouble waiting in lines. Being able to get a FP for rides on a moments notice, has allowed days of essentially no waiting at all. Again, I get where frustration can come from needing to wait an extra 15 minutes for a ride you expect to have short wait, but just pointing out that a target population is not clogging lines on the E-ticket rides and can be very well served by the system.
I also think this thread has glossed over the fact that to utilize the MaxPass system, there is now $20 per day per ticket cost. For a family of 5, that is $100 per day. I think this is easier to stomach in Disneyland, where you spend 2-3 days at the parks, vs. the typical length of WDW vacations. I liked the Maxpass system with the App, and was neutral at best with Disneyland's FP system without it. Sure, someone can crisscross the park grabbing a fastpass, but then you are separating from your family, etc. As an aside, I'm not fundamentally against some form of a paid option, but would structure it at a higher cost so fewer utilize it, limiting its impact on others.
Ultimately, even with noting the above, I think there is definitely improvements to be made in the FP+ system. I don't think porting MaxPass as it currently exists at Disneyland is the answer. Reading through the comments, it seems like there likely is some middle ground to be found.
The MaxPass upcharge did increase to $20/person/day in early 2020, but the system has always come with additional advantages over the free paper FP system (shorter waits to get additional reservations plus the ability to reserve any attraction from anywhere in the park or adjacent park) along with PhotoPass. While PhotoPass isn't nearly as robust in California as it is in Florida, it's still a worthwhile perk that offsets the costs of MaxPass. If a MaxPass type system were to come to WDW and include PhotoPass, the price would have to be significantly higher or place restrictions on the use of the included PhotoPass (number of images per day perhaps or prohibiting "Magic Shots" and/or on-ride photos) to limit overuse of the system and overwhelming of PhotoPass.
The other cool feature of California's system is that you don't need to pre-purchase MaxPass, and can make a determination whether it's needed or not after you walk through the park gates. I was skeptical about MaxPass during our most recent trip to Disneyland/DCA in summer 2019, so we deliberately didn't purchase it with our admission tickets. We planned to buy MaxPass for the first day of our 3-day visit, and see how it went before we committed to buying it for the other 2 days. Ultimately, MaxPass worked so well for us on that first day that we couldn't see ourselves not having it for the rest of our trip, so we ended up buying it for the rest of our trip. Having visited the parks on both coasts with all of the different iterations of Disney line avoidance systems, MaxPass appears to be the best of the bunch. It's not perfect, but it's the closest Disney has gotten without turning it into a caste system like what Universal Express has essentially become.
As someone who has visited WDW pretty much every year since 1998, I like the old FastPass system better for two reasons. One, as mentioned, it wasn't on every ride, so historically shorter lines weren't inflated like they were before COVID. Two, we could decide day of which park we were going to, based on the weather, and not have to worry about changing our 3 chosen FastPasses and end up with nothing good.
As an earlier poster said: "I like the old, one ticket, one Fastpass system, made the day you go in the park. Used the Fastpass? Get another one. Maybe, as a bonus, let people staying at the Disney Hotels book their first Fastpass the day before. But that's it."
"Something fair. Something simple. Something that puts value of the guest's enjoyment of the visit above the corporate need to manipulate each customer's positioning within the park to best maximize their spending."
I completely agree and feel like it exacerbated the horrific crowding as well as the drive for corporate profits later. I all but quit going in for a few hours from 2018 forward. I felt like it rewarded folk with more money to spend and denigrated Walt Disney's vision.
Nobody will discuss before and after? There have been no studies? Well I have. Take Haunted Mansion. Before FP+ it was not a FP attraction. It was also an omnimover and spit people through it. I never saw the line get more than 45 minutes and I checked it daily. Sometimes you would have times with the Riverboat causing a few more, but it mainly stayed at about 30 minutes except and opening and closing which was walk on. FP+ came. Lines of 90 minutes of an old attraction (although awesome) and sometimes even longer. Then Spaceship Earth. Before FP+ is was walk on. After FP+ 60 minute waits. At Disneyland you did have long waits for Indiana Jones, but you could always ride it three times a day at a minimum. Of course DL used the old system and it is not an omnimover. Compare waits for Pirates at DL and WDW. And guess what happens to your choices if you decide you want to change things up and go to another park? Nothing. You did not have to cancel and hope for the best. FP+ was the worst thing Disney ever did. It would be preferable to have no system than FP+, but the original FP system worked fine. I never once saw a cast member say, I am sorry but this ticket didn’t work so you cannot go. They may say, here, take another one. The app is impersonable, fails, glitches, and is hell on groups of four or more.
I voted yes, but I've also become quite savvy at making the FP+ system work for our group. We tend to visit during heavy crowds, like Easter, and even so, with a little planning beforehand, we've always been able to hit every attraction we wanted, often multiple times, and with very minimal wait times (even for those we didn't have FP+ reservations for). So it's quite doable, if you're willing to plan ahead (which, if you want to make the most of your time in the parks, you're going to need to do anyway)
I get the frustration though, and definitely think there's room for improvement so it works better for everyone, but not sure the old FP system was that much better.
I also voted yes, Jeffco, for what you said. Whether it was the old paper version or the new FP+ version, it is possible to get a dozen or more fastpasses in one day at Magic Kingdom (not as many at the other 3 WDW parks). Yes, spontaneous people, it requires planning to do so, but when doing so we are able average less than 15 minutes per queue.
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I voted no. They tend to make lines longer and most of the ones that have them tend to skip a lot of the theming/story building in queues. If you want a faster time to ride, just stick to Single Riders(Post pandemic, of course).