By the co-author of The easy Guide to Your Walt Disney World Visit 2017, from the best-reviewed Disney World guidebook series ever. Paperback available on Amazon here. Kindle version available on Amazon here. PDF version available on Gumroad here.



yourfirstvisit.net—Disney World Instructions for the First-Time Visitor



Category — t. Disney’s MyMagic+ Project and Expansion Plans

Itineraries Now All Updated to FastPass+

Using FastPass+ Itineraries to Avoid Waits at Walt Disney World from yourfirstvisit.net

I completed last week a process that began in November 2013: updating the Disney World itineraries on this site for FastPass+.

There’s three parts to the itineraries on this site (links are to examples):

  • A summary that indicates which park to be in which day, and includes dining
  • To-Do Lists that among other steps indicate how many ticket days and hotel nights to buy, and how and which dining and FastPass+ to reserve for when
  • Daily agendas that give step by step approaches to each day’s activities

Because dining is reservable 180 days ahead, the first itineraries intended for use launched this week–which meant I had to have summaries done 180 days ahead (hence the November start), FastPass+ done 60 days ahead, and daily agendas done–well, before the end of May, hence the flurry the last few weeks (sorry about those RSS feeds…).

In the meantime, I’ve been running two sets of itineraries–at peak, 24 of them–so that people who had booked dining for January through May could use the old ones, while those aimed at June and later could use the new ones.

That’s done now, as everything (well, everything I could find) now redirects to the new itineraries. (All the new itineraries have “FastPass+” in the name.)

There’s still three core itineraries and nine variants (all shorter but one):

  • The Basic Itinerary, which covers my three top-ranked December weeks
  • The High-Crowd Itinerary, which covers the busier times of the year and replaces the old “Summer” itinerary
  • The Lower-Crowd Itinerary, which covers the rest of the year, and replaces the old “Autumn-Winter-Spring” itinerary

Which weeks they work–and any necessary changes in them those weeks–is covered here.

All the shorter variants are here.

I’ll be posting a little later on the design principles behind these, but the key is that they are designed from the blank page on to take advantage of using FastPass+ to match how most families wish to visit–that is, they include a lot of sleeping in.

Of necessity there’s less “sleeping in” in the high crowd variant than the other two, and less in the shorter variants than in the longer ones–but in all cases there’s more than in the old itineraries!

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June 3, 2014   No Comments

Latest WDW Magazine Covers MyMagic+

WDW Magazine--the MyMagic+ Issue from yourfirstvisit.netThe May issue of WDW Magazine came out a couple of days ago, and it’s devoted to all the facts and issues around MyMagic+.

You’ll find everything from MagciBands to MemoryMaker to FastPass+ in it.

I have the usual column for first-timers in it, not surprisingly on how to use FastPass+. I’ve  also published in it some speculation about the future of FastPass+.

As of last week, you can now get more FastPass+ in the park after you’ve used up your first three pre-scheduled ones.

I’d questioned here how valuable this would be, as I expected most days that there’s wouldn’t be much headliner availability if you scheduled (as you should) your first three FastPass+ for late morning/early afternoon.

I had a chance to test it yesterday.  It was a beautiful Sunday after multiple rainy days, so while the resort overall had typically low early May crowds, Epcot and the Magic Kingdom were reasonably busy.

Five FastPass+ in One Day from yourfirstvisit.net

Well, the above is what happened.  I’ll post more about this later…but in the meantime, grab a subscription to WDW Magazine!

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May 5, 2014   No Comments

Availability of Additional FastPass+ Won’t Much Matter

Extra FastPass+ Not Worth a Ton from yourfirstvisit.netDisney announced yesterday that starting next week, once people have used their initial three FastPass+, they will be able to get additional FastPass+ one at a time via park kiosks.

These additional FastPass+ can be on any FastPass+ ride with available capacity. This means they can be re-rides of rides already done on FastPass+ earlier, and, at the tiered parks, on additional Tier 1 rides.

This can be in the same park, or another park–effectively adding FastPass+ to park-hopping.

We need to see a bit how this will work–I’ll be in the parks the weekend of May 3rd so will have some firsthand experience to report on.

But it’s hard to see that this will much matter.

The rides for which demand is highest will likely rarely be available, so in most cases, most times of the year, the additional FastPass+ will be for great but not headliner rides where, without these changes, standby lines would have been OK anyway.

If the result is more people seeing these rides per hour, then their standby waits will go up, making these additional FastPass+ more valuable. For example, it may end being wise to target 4th and following FastPass+ at the Magic Kingdom to Jungle Cruise, Haunted Mansion and Pirates.  Even before the change, standby waits had already gone up at these with their new reservability on FastPass+; we may see even more of this. Josh has a great discussion of this and the overall change here.

This change also diminishes the value of FastPass+ for evening events. Other than Main Street Electrical parade–where a FastPass+ also positions you well for Celebrate the Magic, and puts you in the right neighborhood for Wishes–these were already low value FastPass+. Under the new policy, it seems that having evening entertainment as one of your three initial FastPass+ will basically shut you out from getting more.

More to come as we all learn more about how this works and what the resultant implications are. In the meantime, the best way to get around the limitations of FastPass+ remains simply throwing vast amounts of money at it.

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April 25, 2014   19 Comments

Harry Potter and the Battle of the Afternoons

The Battle of the Afternoons from yourfirstvisit.netSometime this summer—my bet is June 13, by the way, technically spring—On July 8th the second installment of Harry Potter at Universal Orlando will open at Universal Studios. The effect for Harry Potter fans will be to make Universal a two-day park.

For Disney World this has multiple implications, and its responses will likely try to address then all. The core issues for Disney are

  1. Harry Potter will draw incrementally more people to Orlando, so Disney’s task for these is to grab some of their time and money while they are in town
  2. Of the people who would have come to Orlando anyway, Disney’s task is to not lose too much from people spending time and money at Universal that they might otherwise have spent at Disney World

In this post, I’m gonna focus on the second issue, as it is widely misunderstood—and in particular the role of FastPass+ in it.

The best way to see the new and older Harry Potter is to get a two-day multi-park ticket, stay in a Universal hotel, and use Universal’s early entry to hit one area each morning, fitting Hogwarts Express rides back and forth in as well.

For younger kids, though, there’s not enough age-appropriate stuff to stay all day at Universal—and that’s where FastPass+ kick in.

In the olden days, the best way to see Disney World was to arrive before open, see a bunch of rides first thing, and then pull old-style FastPass+ over the rest of the day. Guests who arrived in the afternoon—e.g. after a visit to Universal—would see long lines stand-by lines and Fastpasses either gone or with very late return times. Nobody with Disney World experience would advise that such could be a great day.

But with FastPass+, you can book three great Disney World rides for the late afternoon/early evening and be able to see them with hardly any wait. So a day that begins at Universal and ends at Disney World can be a much better experience—one that would be recommended, rather than suggested as to be avoided.

This is the key point. With great late days available at Disney World, the competition is no longer about which park gets the only entry that day—competition is about how to spend the afternoon and evening. That’s a much easier competition for Disney to win with pre-teens and their families.

Note that Disney’s recent deals have had a lot of “buy this many nights and tickets, and get another ticket day free.” It’s been years since Disney World has had free tickets for so many deals—and the effect of these is to make another afternoon/evening at Disney World that much more doable.

And you can also see other stuff happening in late August and September that has the effect of making Disney World more attractive in the afternoons and evenings—one that’s clear, one that’s speculative, and one that’s probably me just making stuff up.

  • The clear one: Food and Wine is beginning a week earlier in 2014 than in prior years—adding that much more attractiveness to Epcot in the afternoons and evenings that week.
  • The speculative one: The Magic Kingdom has more and earlier 7p closes in September than in past years. The widespread guess is that this means that Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party will have more and earlier shows in 2014 than in the past—e.g. an earlier show may be September 1. Later in the month, there’s likely to be two more shows than in recent years. Add it up, and Magic Kingdom becomes more attractive in the evenings. (Confirmed.)
  • The made-up one: Disney’s Hollywood Studios has four straight nights in early September (the second through the fifth) with no Fantasmic scheduled. It’s been years since the last time that happened. Sensible people are guessing that this is because of a quick rehab to the Fantasmic operations. But I can’t help wondering if there might not be some special event planned those evenings to make HS more attractive those nights…perhaps a test of a villains party?

I’m probably wrong—as usual—on that last guess. But more broadly, Harry Potter is gonna happen, and it’s gonna have a real draw for some subsets of people who would otherwise attend Disney World. FastPass+–and some of the other items I’ve noted—make afternoons and evenings at Disney World much more attractive than they’d otherwise be, making its parks more competitive for the second half of a visitor’s day…

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April 3, 2014   14 Comments

Stunner: Disney World Cancels FastPass+, Blames it on a “Typo”

April 1, 2014–Today multiple sources are reporting that Disney World has entirely and irrevocably canceled its new FastPass+ program.

Disney Cancels FastPass+Disney’s FastPass+ program (up until today…) let Disney World guests pre-schedule the wrong rides in the wrong order at the wrong park up to 60 days in advance. (Thirty days for off-site guests and annual passholders, and 13 days for vampires.)

With the cancellation, guests will be back to making bad decisions only in real time.

The background to the cancellation is beginning to leak out—and (if true) it’s astonishing but only too credible to anyone who has a. worked in large organizations, b. been inappropriate and c. committed typos.

Apparently the genesis of the debacle was an effort kicked off several years ago to make Disney World rides more accessible to those on scooters or wheelchairs, and/or those whose body sizes matched poorly to more than 40 year old turnstile, aisle-way, and ride seat sizes.

With so much re-work planned for ride entries, exits and queues anyway, the scope of the project was expanded to also include interactive queues, personalized greetings, hand puppets, and other features of 1990s technology.

This project had a formal corporate name, but became known internally as the “plus” or “+” project.

Redesigning Queues, Turnstiles, and SeatsSadly, one particularly insensitive executive—reputedly on loan from ESPN—started referring to it in a particularly insensitive manner, using a word which, while close to FastPass+, has two fewer letters.

Well, you can guess what happened next. The crude new nickname made its way into an email, a senior exec called the team on the carpet over it, and a fast-thinking middle manager claimed that it was simply an unfortunately poorly spell-checked typo, and what the team really meant was FastPass+.

“FastPass+?” the senior exec murmured. “Hmmmm…What are you all thinking about?”

In response, the team simply made up on the spot the entire FastPass+ program as we knew it until today.

The program then became a showpiece in the CEO succession race at Disney, as the two of the three key potential CEO candidates were viewed as either the champions (Jay Rasulo) or implementers (Tom Staggs) of FastPass+, and there we went…

So why cancel it now? Well, no one is talking yet, but my thought is that since the only potential CEO candidate without a background in the parks left Disney last month (Anne Sweeney), the way is now clear for Rasulo and Staggs to jointly walk away from the program without advantaging another potential successor.

I’m sorry to see FastPass+ go. Regardless of its unkind genesis and flawed pedigree, FastPass+ has enormous benefits for those first-time visitors who take advantage of good advice on how to use it. And it’s kinda embarrassing for Disney, following other high-profile cancellations like the pain-themed DVC offering, high-speed rail at the Animal Kingdom, and the Minnesota Pavilion at Epcot.

On the other hand, the constant whining about FastPass+ on various Disney fan forums thankfully will now come to an end, and everyone can instead return to whining about Horizons.

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April 1, 2014   14 Comments

To-Do Lists Updated with FastPass+ Targets

This site posts recommended itineraries for first time visitors, and for each also a To-Do List.

FastPass+ Recommendations from yourfirstvisit.netI revised all the itineraries for June through October visits months ago for FastPass+ (months ago so that people could get their dining at the 180 day mark).

Last week I added suggested FastPass+ targets to the To-Do Lists (because 60 days before the first relevant arrival date is April 1).

I’ll have daily agendas for these out in April, but with what you’ve got now, you can book both dining and FastPass+ for your visit the first day available.

Moreover, as Disney posts its operating hours for future months, I’ll continue to add recommended itineraries and To-Do Lists tuned to the specifics of each week.

The daily recommended FastPass+ generally follow the  principles laid out later in this post, but modified for the actual number and timing of days each itinerary has you in each park.

  • For the High-Crowd FastPass+ To-Do List, see this
  • For the Lower-Crowd FastPass+ To-Do List, see this
  • Note that the itineraries as written don’t match to every week–find your week here for any needed changes
  • The seven night variants of each of these  also have had FastPass+ added–see this for links to these, and also for links to itinerary and To-Do lists mods for visits between now and June.

FASTPASS+ SELECTION PRINCIPLES

I published back in August 2013 FastPass+ selection principles. Tested over more than 30 days of park visits using FastPass+ since then, they are still right and so I’ve have copied them below.

These assume that most days you will still arrive at the parks early in the morning, well before opening—which is typically nowadays 8.45a everywhere but the Magic Kingdom, which is still going with a 9a opening.

Arriving plenty early means you can experience at least one more headliner with a low wait beyond what you can get to on FastPass+.  Since you will be limited (at least for now) to 3 FastPass+, with no repeats, this is a big deal.

Picking your early morning target is tricky.  There’s two good ways to pick:

  1. A ride with a really distinctive queue that you will largely miss if you go through the FastPass+ return line—for example, Test Track and Expedition Everest.  (Recently Test Track FastPass+ visitors have been getting the whole experience, no different than those using the regular line–but I’m not confident–yet–that Disney will stick to this…)
  2. A ride you know you will want to see again, since you can only do one FastPass+ per ride per day—more relevant to returning visitors who know what they want than for first timers.

So based on this, and on what’s being offered right now for FastPass+, here’s my suggestions by park:

FASTPASS+ AT EPCOT

Epcot: Plan to arrive early and see Test Track.  Target for FastPass+ first Soarin, then Turtle Talk with Crush,  and then Spaceship Earth (the last two aren’t that hard to get now, but I predict they’ll become tougher as FastPass+ takes more of their capacity).

FASTPASS+ AT DISNEY’S HOLLYWOOD STUDIOS

Disney’s Hollywood Studios: Plan to arrive early and see Rock ‘N’ Roller Coaster. Have Toy Story Mania be your Tier One FastPass+.

FASTPASS+ AT DISNEY’S ANIMAL KINGDOM

Disney’s Animal Kingdom:  Plan to arrive early and see Expedition Everest.  Prioritize Kilimanjaro Safaris as your first FastPass+ selection, then Festival of the Lion King (once it re-opens), then Finding Nemo—the Musical. (These last two aren’t that hard to get it to now, but their schedules can otherwise be awkward, and I expect they’ll become tougher to access as FastPass+ takes more of their capacity.)

FASTPASS+ AT THE MAGIC KINGDOM

My fastpass+ selections for the Port Orleans Riverside test from yourfirstvisit.netMagic Kingdom: Much tougher, as there are many rides that build long lines quickly.

  • The ones to target are Big Thunder Mountain, Enchanted Tales with Belle, Peter Pan’s Flight, Space Mountain, Splash Mountain, and –when it opens—the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train.
  • Others will suggest adding Buzz Lightyear, Winnie the Pooh,  and Under the Sea—Journey of the Little Mermaid to this list.

There’s enough there for two or three days’ worth of FastPass+ at the Magic Kingdom while extra headliners are available, and even more days if the number of headliners on offer gets tiered.

Moreover, there’s number of great rides not on these lists, because I’m expecting that with their high capacity they should have OK waits—these include Pirates of the Caribbean, the Haunted Mansion, and Mickey’s Philharmagic.

So here’s the thought for now:

  • FastPass+ Priority Targets:  Enchanted Tales with Belle (lines can be too long even at open), the Mine Train Ride when it opens (same reason), Splash Mountain (you don’t want to get wet at open)
  • Park opening first ride (without FastPass+) targets: Space Mountain, Peter Pan, Big Thunder Mountain
  • Other possible priorities: Buzz Lightyear, Winnie the Pooh, Under the Sea—Journey of the Little Mermaid

So for as long as you can book multiple headliners per day up to 3, here’s a suggested approach for dates before the Mine Train is available:

  • Day 1 at the Magic Kingdom: Plan Peter Pan at open, then FastPass+ Enchanted Tales with Belle, Space Mountain, Splash Mountain
  • Day 2 at the Magic Kingdom: Plan to repeat the favorite from Day 1 at open, then FastPass+ Big Thunder Mountain, Buzz Lightyear, and one of Winnie the Pooh, or Under the Sea—Journey of the Little Mermaid
  • If you have a third day at Magic Kingdom with a morning, then plan to save the first ride for a repeat of a favorite, then book as FastPass+ repeat visits to Space Mountain, Splash Mountain and Peter Pan—almost everyone’s list of Magic Kingdom favorites includes at least two of these three…

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March 30, 2014   No Comments