We have written extensively about enjoying Disney parks using FastPass. Is all this advice out the window now that Disney has introduced FastPass+ and Disney Magic Bands? The short answer: maybe. The game certainly has changed. How to plan your Disney vacation using FastPass+ and why it will make touring Disney parks easier than ever for those who dislike planning (but harder for those who do):
Step 1: Know what’s included in your FastPass+ options
If you’ve been in a Disney park in the last year and have paid attention, you’ll have seen gradual changes to the current FastPass system, starting with FastPass options to nighttime entertainment, and the arrival of new Mickey ear-sporting Magic Band kiosks. The new Magic Bands utilized by Disney use RFID technology, and hold your park ticket, room key, dining plan, dining reservations, Fastpass + reservations and much more. Say goodbye to Key to the World (KTTW) cards. The band ‘holds’ your FastPass reservations (up to three per day, per park, per user).
More than double the current FastPass attractions are offered with FastPass+, as well as reserved seating for shows, parades, and dining reservations. FastPass+ is available for ALL Disney guests, not just those staying on-site. (Disney hotel guests can make FastPass+ reservations up to 60 days in advance, however.) What does this mean for your park touring strategy? You may want to consider making FastPass+ reservations for several attractions that have not previously been included in the traditional FastPass list. Then, hit the traditionally popular rides at the very start of your day, knowing you have reservations for those rides that fill up after park-goers cross the ‘top’ experiences off their lists.
The number of FastPass+ reservations per guest per day per park varies slightly depending on crowds and season, but is generally 3-4. While this number might mirror the number of traditional FASTPASS tickets an average guest might secure during a day, it’s less than that which a savvy guest (willing to do the legwork across the park) has gotten in the past. That said, the new FastPass+ reservations do include evening entertainment options and meet-and-greets not previously available.
Step 2: Make your FastPass reservations online before you arrive
As a Type A Disney planner, I’m giddy about the ability to pre-reserve FastPasses! If you’re not a planner, and now groaning about this development, take heart: Disney makes it easy to make FastPass+ reservations, even if you don’t like to ‘map out’ your day. When you get your park tickets (or hotel reservations), you’ll be prompted to select your Magic Bands (and colors), assign them to your family members, and start making FastPass+ reservations. As soon as you designate a park and select your attractions, the site will automatically suggest the best order in which to schedule your FastPasses, utilizing a park map and known parade and entertainment schedules. A planning nut like me would have done this anyway, but I realize I’m in the vast minority!
And if you decide to change your plans on the fly while at Disney, it’s easy to alter your FastPass+ reservations from the My Disney Experience App. You can make new reservations, opting for the ‘earliest time available’ feature, or skip it altogether. Even I realize that plans do change!
Step 3: Make sure you have the FastPass+ app downloaded on your smart phone
This is the easiest step, but crucial. Download the My Disney Experience App, so you’re ready to make any necessary changes to your FastPass+ schedule. If you don’t make changes, no need to check the app every time you arrive at a FastPass line: the new kiosks allow you to simply touch your Mickey ears on your Magic Band to the Mickey ears on the kiosk. Yep, it’s pretty cute.
So, how will this change the way you currently plan your Disney park day?
Here’s how I see it: extensive advanced planning will only make you more efficient in the parks and more prepared for your day. The bad news: mega planners who used to secure 6-8 FASTPASSES per day will now be limited. The good news: My old strategies for obtaining FASTPASSES throughout the day included a lot of trekking back and forth through the parks, which will now be eliminated. Families will be able to arrive at the park of their choice and virtually have three passes in their pockets, instead of the traditional none.
Because families are currently limited to three FastPass+ reservations per person (and times cannot overlap), here’s my strategy in a nutshell: 1. get to the park early, 2. ride stand-by before the park fills up, 3. have FastPass+ reservations for the afternoon, allowing for a relaxed day.
For a full play-by-play of the FastPass+ reservation process, including screen captures to illustrate the process, check out this post.
Questions I have been asked:
Can I still use traditional FastPass kiosks using my Key to the World card?
The answer is, sometimes. Traditional FastPass kiosks are being phased out, and Magic Bands are replacing KTTW cards. If your Disney hotel still issues you a KTTW card (as I’ve heard some are still doing), you may have the option of using both FastPass methods. However, since the vast majority of users get 3 or fewer FastPass tickets per person per park, you’re not likely to ‘need’ both. Better to get used to the new system. If you really, really want a card or ticket to put into the kiosks, you can obtain the paper ticket type by buying admission to the parks at Downtown Disney locations or online.
Can individual members of my family reserve FastPasses to different attractions?
Of course! Just like with traditional FastPass, each Magic Band is entitled to three reservations per park, and is not tied to family members. In your park touring plan, take into account instances in which kids of various ages will want to tour separate attractions, and reserve FastPasses accordingly.
What if we’re park hopping?
Well, my answer to families wanting to park hop is usually, ‘don’t’. I advice not park hopping in most instances, the exceptions being to see a show or dine in a different park in the evening. If this is your situation, my advice is to arrive at your first park early, ride stand-by, and make your FastPass+ reservations (including the one for your entertainment or dinner) at the second park. FastPasses are at their most valuable in the afternoon, anyway.
Photo credit: Amy Whitley and Walt Disney World Resorts.