FastPass+ and Its Discontents
By Dave Shute
Some of them were heartfelt objections to FastPass+ compared to how things used to work. I appreciate all of them, but some objections, in the heat of feeling, perhaps overstated an issue or two.
I’ve picked out some of these comments for responses. The purpose of my responses is not to argue with people’s opinions about FastPass+.
However, for first-timers who don’t plan, it make things even worse, and it does force repeat visitors who are used to doing things a certain way to change their approaches to the parks. Some returning visitors love the new best ways of planning for and doing the parks; other hate them.
Rather, the purpose of my responses is to help clarify things for first-timers (and even returning visitors who haven’t done FastPass+ yet) who might be led astray a bit by some parts of the comments.
What follows is a sequence of quotes from the comments on my Facebook page (some are entire comments, others excerpts) edited only based on the spellchecker, then with my response following.
- L: “It is too crowded now, IF you can find an uncrowded time to go (they hardly exist anymore) you certainly CAN still go without a plan or schedule.”
- Me: Some times and days of the year are much more crowded than others. See this. Peak waits at Soarin are ~75 minutes on lower crowd days, and exceed 4 hours on the highest crowd days. A plan and FastPass+ helps avoid even those 75 minute waits. I’ve ridden Soarin probably 50 times, and never waited more than 20 minutes.
- H: “Liked that you can pre-book them but also didn’t think about the placement of the rides so we felt like we were running back and forth to different areas instead of walking in a normal path. Worst part is you could not get a new FP until all 3 were gone and even then you had to go to a kiosk with long lines.”
- Me: Once you book your FastPass+, you can then move them around in time and in order so that your flow through the parks is better—the earlier in your window you book, the more options you’ll have. The kiosks are indeed a major pain.
- A: “FP+ works well enough but it also at this time only lets you choose rides at one park. In my experience the times I could get were spread out thus eliminating the possibility to park hop. If this is the way it stays I will no longer purchase the park hopper option!!!”
- Me: You can only pre-book rides at one park. However, once you have used those, you can hop to another park and start booking any FastPass+ that might still be available there. Depending on how you schedule them, because of grace periods, you can do your FastPass+ in as little as 60 minutes. For example, if you have rides booked at 11-12, 12-1, and 1-2, you can do the first one at 12 (still in its grace period), the second next, and enter the third line at five to 1 (the beginning of its grace period). The better way to park-hop is to set your FastPass+ up for your second park, show up well before open at the first park, and ride there without long waits for the first few hours of operation.
- M: “Forget any kind of spontaneity since fast passes need to be planned well in advance.”
- Me: Indeed, you will get the most out of FastPass+ if you pick your parks well ahead of time and grab the FastPass+ that are most important to you as soon as you are eligible to do so. FastPass+ commits a park, and three periods in the day at that park. If you can do this, then you can be spontaneous about everything else.
- M: “As AP’s, we HATE the FP+ system. We live 1-3/4 hours from Disney and used to enjoy “bopping” over for an afternoon, doing a few of our favorite rides and then heading home. With FP+, this is no longer possible. With FP+, we could conceivable drive 1-3/4 hours over (each way), to wait in a standby line for an hour for 1 ride because FP+ is making the standby lines longer. We don’t necessarily want to plan when we go over or plan what we want to do when we get over there…We are not alone in this feeling. Others we have talked to are also considering giving up their AP’s because you can no longer go over and wing it at Disney. Everything needs to be planned in advance. Also dining at sit down restaurants as walk-ups is no longer possible.”
- Me: I think perhaps the people most harmed by FastPass+ are those who “don’t necessarily want to plan when we go over or plan what we want to do when we get over there.”
- C: “But we only planned our trip 45 days ahead so FP+ was not a benefit. They have taken the spontaneity and enjoyment away from the park experience.”
- Me: Most, but not all, of the most popular rides have plenty of availability 45 days ahead. On “spontaneity” see above. Some have found their enjoyment diminished; others find it unchanged, or even enhanced, as many of the comments on my Facebook page indicate. Disney CEO Bob Iger reported on Tuesday’s earnings call that according to their internal surveys, “so far what we are hearing … is overwhelmingly positive — basically, the percentage that rate it as “excellent” is significant.” While in the absence of the actual survey questions and the crosstabs on the answers you have to take such claims with a grain of salt, Tom Staggs had overall responsibility for the implementation of FastPass+, and was just named Disney’s COO and CEO heir-apparent. That would argue that the positive survey findings about FastPass+ are pretty valid.
- S: “Forced to run back and forth to make the ride times, and often a day or two ahead all fast passes were gone. Also never got to eat at any of the sit down restaurants (we had the meal plan) because everyone in every park had no tables available. We didn’t want to have to plan what days we were going to what park until we got there because of the weather… We also had problems the entire week with the magic bands letting us in the room which went on all week despite the staff “fixing” it many times.”
- Me: Yup, if you wait til the day or so before, your FastPass+ choices will be quite limited. The most popular restaurants have booked up months ahead for years now—that has nothing to do with FastPass+, and is the reason I suggest first-timers have their plans set more than 180 days ahead. Personally, I’d never pick a specific park based on weather, although I know some will avoid Animal Kingdom in the rain, and avoid both it and Epcot in extreme heat. I’m not an IT guy, but the level of technical issues that people are still seeing is unconscionable given how long the system has been operating.
- L: “At least with the old system you could check in at a ride, be given a time to return, then have time to look around the area instead of just dashing from one FastPass to another. It’s hard to justify spending thousands and just getting to ride three rides a day.”
- Me: My itineraries have people on ten to almost twenty attractions a day, and at MK they could easily have more if I wanted to wear people out. So while you can pre-book only 3 FastPass+ a day, you can see many more attractions than three. As noted above, if you can plan well in advance, you can set FastPass+ up so that you have much less backtracking than before, and no dashing about.
- M: “Fast pass is horrible. I think it’s totally unfair for those families who cannot afford to book months in advance or stay on property. They are penalized because maybe they can only afford one day or weekend to take their family on vacation to a park yet they basically have zero chance of getting on any of the more popular rides, in addition they are locked out of the best seating for any of the shows in all of the parks without a fast pass.”
- Me: I don’t know what affordability has to do with planning 30 or 60 days ahead. Disney resort guests have had special privileges compared to off-site guests for years now, and FastPass+ continues, rather than begins, that tradition. Disney hotels are always more expensive than off-site equivalents, especially so for large families. There’s no great answer for families that can’t afford to stay on property—although some will suggest double booking the first night at a value resort or Fort Wilderness to get the 60 day booking window.
- J: “You have to plan every single second of the day. There is no spontaneity and you are forced to follow a strict UN-vacation like schedule.”
- Me: Especially on busy days, it never hurts to plan. If you intend to arrive before park open, you should have your first two to four rides planned, and have a rough sense of where you intend to be the rest of the day so that you can book your FastPass+ to minimize backtracking. By no means do you need to book every second. But Disney World—especially for first timers who may never return—has always worked best if you treat it like a backpacking trip, not like a day at the beach. A backpacking trip is still a vacation, but one that needs a certain level of planning to help insure you don’t get lost, don’t run out of food, don’t forget your spare socks. FastPass+ greatly increase the penalty for not planning.
- R: “I absolutely despise FP+ …The worst of it is that rides that NEVER had lines before, now have lengthy standby waits.”
- Me: Yup, next-tier rides like Pirate of the Caribbean, The Haunted Mansion, DINOSAUR, etc., are now seeing longer waits.
- K: Most of my Disney trips were planned on short notice. I literally booked a flight at 6am once, and was in the park at 7pm that night. Even planning far out means 1-2 months for me. I just don’t have the luxury of planning that far ahead, nor would I want to!! Even if I knew I was going to Disney in 6 months, I wouldn’t know what park I wanted to be in on any given day. There are also health issues to deal with…they can destroy your plans – you must be able to be flexible in that situation. But they have killed the spontaneous and flexible trip.
- Me: I’ve addressed spontaneity and the penalty from not planning ahead above. Flexibility is also a real issue. Only at the lowest-crowd times of the year will you be able to change plans to a different park and get lots of great rides that day. We were there for 6 days last week (at one of the lowest crowd times of the year) and as a test I booked all our FP+ the day before or day of. While we had no trouble filling our time with great rides—everything was available at 10.30a at Epcot except MISSION: Space and Illuminations—some other great rides were just unavailable or inconveniently timed.
- P: “We spent 10 days and were never able to go on Snow White mining coaster.”
- Me: Anna and Elsa and the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train are often unavailable even at 60 days.
- B: “The tier system stinks bc I’ve got two boys who like two different tier one rides. It’s a pain! I miss old Disney.”
- Me: Agree, the tier system stinks. If you are able to arrive well before open, FastPass+ one of the Tier One rides and see the other at park open.
- J: “I go during the slowest times of the year ONLY. no fast passes needed.”
- Me: First-time family visitors who want to see all the best of Walt Disney World in about a week off of work will see lower waits any time of the year if they use FastPass+. Returning visitors who want to see only some of the high-wait rides and who can arrive before park open can do without FastPass+ at certain times of the year, especially at the Animal Kingdom.
- M “Hate it!!! I used to be able to finish Magic Kingdom by 1pm using my knowledge of the crowds and Fast Passes. Now I can’t use this system.”
- Me: No one has ever seen all of the Magic Kingdom by 1p—unless they started the day before on one of the open-for-24 hours days.
- D: “It’s simply too expensive. But without them, you only get to ride a few things all day. It sucks. Universal was the same way.”
- Me: There is no extra cost to FastPass+, they are free with your ticket. See above for seeing ten to twenty attractions a day.
- A “I thought FP+ was ok. I find it very annoying though with all the guests constantly on their phones using the disney experience app to change pass times etc… They just stop in the middle of the walk way.”
- Me: Yup. People have always picked remarkably annoying places to stop–you now see it more with phones, less with maps.