FASTPASSES at Walt Disney World



By Dave Shute

OVERVIEW: FASTPASSES AT WALT DISNEY WORLD

(This page is one of a series explicating Walt Disney World lingo, abbreviations, and FAQ for first time family visitors to Walt Disney World.)

Walt Disney World’s FASTPASS system is a benefit that comes built-in for free in all Walt Disney World theme park admission tickets of any type.

Using FASTPASSES greatly reduces your time spent waiting in line for some (but not all!) of Walt Disney World’s most loved—and crowded—rides and attractions.

The FASTPASS system allows you to “make an appointment” with a ride or attraction to come back to it at a later time in the day.

When you come back at that time, you will, after showing your FASTPASS, be directed to a special, shorter waiting line and be able to experience the attraction with almost always less than a fifteen minute wait.

This can save you hours of waiting in line.

HOW WALT DISNEY WORLD FASTPASSES WORK

Only some rides offer FASTPASSES–your park map (available at the theme park entrance) will indicate which rides are intended to offer FASTPASSES on the day of your visit.

  1. At a ride that offers FASTPASSES, find its FASTPASS distribution area near the entrance to the attraction.
  2. If its FASTPASS machines are covered, then either that ride has distributed all of its FASTPASSES for the day, or it is not offering them.
  3. Find above or nearby the return time. This is the earliest time at which you can come back to use your FASTPASSES. Make sure this time fits with your other plans for the day.
  4. If the return time works for your family, insert into the machine park admission tickets which have been used to enter the park that day.* (If your whole family needs FASTPASSES, it’s faster for just one person to get them for everyone, inserting them one at a time and getting a FASTPASS in return for each.)
  5. Your FASTPASSES will have printed on them the name of the ride, the earliest and latest time you can return, and the time at which you can get your next FASTPASS—whether for this or for another ride.
  6. Anytime in your return window,** return to the ride and find the “FASTPASS Return” line. Show the cast member there your FASTPASS, and then, keeping your FASTPASS (as it likely will be checked again!), enter the line the cast member directs you to.
  7. Shortly, you will be enjoying the ride!!

MORE STUFF ON FASTPASSES

Disney World will distribute only a limited number of FASTPASSES for a ride each day, based on the proportion of the ride’s hourly capacity they have determined to allocate to FASTPASSES, and how many hours the park is open that day.

  • As a result, FASTPASSES for some of the most popular rides can quickly be all distributed—gone–for the entire day. This often happens before 11a at Toy Story Mania at Disney’s Hollywood Studios.
  • Or there can quicklybe a very long time between when you get your FASTPASS and when your return time begins.

This is why it’s important to check the return time before getting your FASTPASSES…

It’s also why all the itineraries on this site have early morning starts to many days—among other reasons, so that you can get FASTPASSES with a reasonable return time, and before they are all distributed for the day.

You can have more than one FASTPASS at a time…within limits.

  • First, of course, FASTPASSES have to be still available, and at a return time that works for you.
  • Second, once you have a FASTPASS, the system will allow you to get another FASTPASS only at a defined time.
    • This will be the earlier of when your FASTPASS return window begins, or two hours after you got the FASTPASS. (This time will be printed on your FASTPASS—so you don’t have to do the math!!)
    • For example, if you get a FASTPASS for Soarin at 9:05a, and your return window begins at 9.45a, your FASTPASS will show that you can get another FASTPASS at 9.45a, because your return window is less than 2 hours from when you got the FASTPASS.
    • If, however, you get a FASTPASS for Test Track at 11a, and your return window begins at 3.15p, your FASTPASS will show that you can get your next FASTPASS at 1p—two hours after you got this one.

Note that this system rewards early arrivals to the parks! Not only will the parks themselves be much less crowded, but also you can get more FASTPASSES more quickly than 2 hours apart.

FASTPASS TRICKS, TIPS, DOs, AND DONTs

Don’ts:

  • Unless you have no better way to spend your time, don’t enter a FASTPASS return line right after a parade or fireworks. Many other people will do so, and the line will be much longer than normal. The short waits of FASTPASSES work well only when arrivals are random.
  • Don’t leave the park for the day with unused FASTPASSES. Offer them to another family that looks like it could use some pixie dust.
  • Perhaps I am the only idiot who has done this…and I’ve done it more than once…but in case not, the FASTPASS machines for Big Thunder Mountain are located in a place where the easily confused might think they are the FASTPASS machines for Splash Mountain.  Take care to get FASTPASSES for the ride you really intend to get them for!

Dos: If you are leaving but intending to come back—for example, leaving Epcot at noon, but intending to return at 5—if the return time works, FASTPASS a favorite just before you leave. You can use these FASTPASSES when you return later in the day.

FASTPASS Tips and Tricks

  • At several places two FASTPASS rides are nearby. Check both before FASTPASSING either
    • These include at the Magic Kingdom, several rides in Fantasyland, and in Adventureland Big Thunder Mountain and Splash Mountain; at Epcot, Mission: Space and Test Track; and at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, Rock N Roller Coaster and Tower of Terror..
    • Before FASTPASSING either, check the regular waiting times and the FASTPASS return times for both. This way you can FASTPASS the one with the longer regular line waiting time, or the shorter FASTPASS return time
  • You don’t always have to go to the ride to find out FASTPASS return times to see if they will work for you. For example, an electronic signboard in the center of Epcot’s Future World indicates the FASTPASS status (and regular line wait times) for the major rides at Epcot. TouringPlans.com new app LINES can also be an aid.
  • The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World reports that the FASTPASS machines at Lights, Motor, Action are not connected to the rest of the park.
    • This means that it does not count toward your next FASTPASS timing limits. The same source also reports that Tower of Terror FASTPASSES allow another FASTPASS in 60 minutes, rather than two hours.
    • Despite trying to confirm this half a dozen times, I have not been able to…as I always go during times sufficiently un-crowded that Lights Motors Action Extreme Stunt Show is not offering FASTPASSES, and the return time at Tower of Terror is less than 60 minutes anyway!

*That is, you can’t let your family sleep in, grab all your family’s tickets, enter the park using only yours, and then get FASTPASSES for everyone else while they still are asleep…tickets must have been used to enter the park to get FASTPASSES for them

**Disney strictly enforces the beginning of your window, and, as of March 2012, also the ending time, which is a change from past policy.

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23 comments

1 Anthony { 04.09.11 at 1:40 am }

so are the fast passes free or is that something you have to pay extra for just wondering?

2 Dave { 04.09.11 at 7:31 am }

Free–built into your ticket!

3 Nancy { 04.16.12 at 12:29 am }

I apologize if I’ve posted this in the wrong place, but I can’t find any info on Disney’s Photo Pass service. I’m a huge photo nut and often carry around with me a bulky Nikon D10. Of course I’m rarely in any of the photos. I’m contemplating doing the Photo Pass and then just taking along my small (allbeit slow) point and shoot camera. How plentiful are the “photographers”? Will they take any picture I ask? (My kids are older and not really interested in being photographed with characters.). I only plan on visiting Disney once and want to make sure I get all those photo ops. If I elect to take my large camera, can you give me any info on how/what a burden it will be on the rides?

4 Nancy { 04.16.12 at 12:32 am }

Sorry, I meant a Nikon D80. Big, bulky, DSLR.

5 Dave { 04.16.12 at 9:57 am }

Hi Nancy, I’m not keen on photopass–I don’t think the value is there, and that a cell phone camera is an adequate replacement 90% of the time. 99% of the photos on this site came from my iPhone… which either proves, or disproves, my point…lighting is my biggest issue (especially for indoor shots), but depth of field rarely is…

Disney rides that risk belongings with a couple of exceptions all have adequate cargo nets for big cameras. The exceptions are the two rides which also have water hazards–Splash Mountain and Kali River Rapids–where you want to put your camera in a locker…

For more on photopass, including many comments on both sides, see this: http://blog.touringplans.com/2012/02/21/disney-world-photopass/

6 Nancy { 04.17.12 at 12:33 am }

Excellent information. Thanks Dave!

7 Dave { 04.17.12 at 6:43 am }

Have a great trip, Nancy!

8 Jen { 04.30.12 at 9:48 pm }

Hi again, Dave…
I appreciate your site and have returned to it several times while planning our extended family trip! We are traveling mid-July with 6 adults, 3 children and I am wondering what you know about hiring a VIP?? Is it worth it, how much does that typically cost?
Thanks!

9 Dave { 05.01.12 at 2:01 pm }

Hi Jen–are you talking about the kind of guide noted on this page? http://yourfirstvisit.net/2010/01/13/the-most-comfortable-way-to-tour-the-theme-parks-at-walt-disney-world/ I don’t know much about them…but can try to find out if you’d like…

10 Lorie { 06.17.12 at 5:11 pm }

Hi – we will be in Florida the last week of July, 1st week of August. We only plan on being at Disney 2 days…..but considering a third day. Two adults and two teens, not big on rides (we think). Which parks would be the best. Any tips would be appreciated.

11 Dave { 06.17.12 at 5:22 pm }

Hi Lorie! Tell me why you think you aren’t big on rides…

12 Tanya { 06.18.12 at 2:44 pm }

Hi Dave, my family and I will be vacationing in Clearwater December 22-28. We want to drive up to Disney world for 1 day. We were thinking the 22nd or the 23rd would be the best dates to beat some of the crowds later in the week. What’s your thoughts on this? We also want to do a hopper pass. Husband wants Epcot, kids want magic kingdom and I like MGM. Is that crazy to do all that in one day or should we plan on a couple days. Thanks again Dave!!

13 Dave { 06.18.12 at 4:49 pm }

Hi Tanya! I expect the crowds to be massive starting the 22nd, and possibly even a couple of days before, altho they may be a little better the 22nd and 23rd than the 24th and on. There’s no point to hopping–when you get to another park, lines will be hours long, and FASTPASSES will be for a return hours in the future. You are better off staying in one park per day, optimizing the FASTPASSES available there, and spending the hour it can take to get from one park to another in line instead…

14 Tim { 10.26.12 at 1:08 am }

Hi Dave, my friend and I are 25 years old and we have never been to any Disney parks and are planning to visit Disneyworld on Nov 3-4, 2012. We both enjoy rides and since we are staying such a short time, wanted to get your advice on the quintessential Disney rides and experiences that we should hit up in our limited time there. Thanks!

15 Dave { 10.26.12 at 10:03 am }

Tim I’d advise two days at the Magic Kingdom, or one day each at Magic Kingdom and Epcot. I don’t have one-day plans, but you can find good ones here: http://touringplans.com/walt-disney-world/touring-plans

16 Jerod { 12.04.12 at 9:05 pm }

Hi Dave. A lot of good information on this site. My family and I (kids 12 and 19) are going to Disney in Orlando for the first time ever from 23 to 29 December. We thought we would skip the family visits and do Disney for Christmas. After booking the hotel, I have found out that it is the busiest week of the year. We want to hit all the parks including Universal during that week but do not wish to visit a park on Christmas Day. I am thinking about getting the 3 day park hopper for the Disney Parks and was wondering if there are two specific parks we could go through in the same day when it is so crowded. We would like to ride some of the rides but are more interested in experiencing Disney and their Christmas celebrations. What would you recommend? I have heard from others that it would be hard to visit Magic Kingdom and Downtown Disney in the same day and have heard that Epcot is a whole day trip. Just need some advice.

17 Dave { 12.05.12 at 8:00 am }

Hi Jerod!

At uncrowded times of the year, it takes 6 days to see all of the best of the four Disney World theme parks–2 or so at the Magic Kingdom, a little less than two at Epcot, and one each at Animal Kingdom and Hollywood Studios. Downtown Disney doesn’t even come into the equation until after this time commitment.

At the time of year you are going, things pretty much come to a halt by mid-day–see this: http://yourfirstvisit.net/2012/12/04/coping-disney-world-holiday-crowds/ Yes you can hop, but you will be hopping to a packed park wiht all its FASTPASSES gone…so why not stay where you are?

18 Joan { 12.05.12 at 10:37 pm }

Just got our FastPass+ cards in mail today. Can’t wait to use them! Dave, email me if you want to hear all about this program while we are all there. Weather looks so wonderful at WDW next week too, at least for us coming from storm and rain-slammed Northern CA!

19 Dave { 12.06.12 at 7:19 am }

Cool, Joan! I’ll send you an email shortly…

20 T. Lima { 04.17.13 at 8:19 pm }

Hi Dave,

Awesome website!! I live in South Florida and have been to Disney a thousand of times. We even have the annual pass. My brother and his family are coming mid July to visit Disney for the first time. Because they are coming from another country, I have the strong feeling that this will be the Disney trip they have been dreaming for and they will do that only once as it can be very expensive to travel with a family of four from abroad. Although I am a Disney addict, I never really made any itinerary plan when we go with our now 9-year old daughter. Maybe that’s the reason when we visit during crowded days, we are able to do just a few rides because we never really planned it. I want it to be different this time with my brother because there can’t be any mistake. They must be able to see the most of all the 4 parks plus the two water parks. Can you suggest an itinerary that will work for us. There are 3 children and 3 adults altogether visiting the parks (including myself and our daughter). Their children are 11 and 14 respectively, a girl and a boy. Thank you for all the wonderful hints. :)

21 Dave { 04.18.13 at 7:35 am }

Hi and thanks! See this and its links to daily approaches: http://yourfirstvisit.net/2010/12/06/summer-itinerary-for-walt-disney-world-v2/

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22 Doreen { 04.28.13 at 12:24 pm }

Thanks for your informative site. what is the website for me to purchase early tickets before my arrival date which is in June 2013. 4adults and 1 child. we are planning a weekend there with our granddaughter.

23 Dave { 04.29.13 at 9:12 am }

Doreen you can buy them direct from Disney here http://bookwdw.reservations.disney.go.com/ibcwdw/en_US/_framework/components/processEngine?startOver=true&gatewayID=landing or you may save a few bucks at Undercover Tourist here: http://www.undercovertourist.com/orlando/attractions/tickets.html

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My response to questions and comments will be on the same page as the original comment, likely within 24-36 hours . . . I reserve the right to edit and delete comments as I choose . . . All rights reserved. Copyright 2008-2014 . . . Unless otherwise noted, all photos are by me--even the ones in focus--except for half a dozen from my niecelets . . . This site is entirely unofficial and not authorized by any organizations written about in it . . . All references to Disney and other copyrighted characters, trademarks, marks, etc., are made solely for editorial purposes. The author makes no commercial claim to their use . . . Nobody's perfect, so follow any advice here at your own risk.