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.—Disney World Instructions for the First-Time Visitor

Disney World’s FASTPASS+ and The Unplanned

By Dave Shute


You see a lot of concern about Disney’s FASTPASS+ program, which–someday, and perhaps soon–will give people the opportunity to reserve ride times from home months in advance, on discussion boards and in comments on this site.

The concern is mostly about what happens to people who can’t, or won’t, make their plans in advance. Will they be shut out of rides and not able to get regular FASTPASSES any more?

While Disney World has not told me its plans 🙂 , I don’t think so—I think things will be mostly fine for everybody—and I think the math backs me up.


The operational insight behind FASTPASS+ is that everyone on a ride at Walt Disney World could have been on that same ride at without waiting if, instead of standing in line, they had a reservation for a specific time.

Riding a ride thus becomes like eating at a Disney World restaurant, and this is where the concern comes in: these days it’s hard to get a reservation at the most Disney World popular restaurants unless you are willing to commit months ahead, so will the rides become like that too?

Math comes to the rescue here:

  • There’s much more ride capacity than restaurant capacity
  • Ride capacity is being increased
  • Not all available slots need be allocated to the FASTPASS+ program, and
  • The current day-of-visit FASTPASS ride program can be largely retained, although it will have less same-day capacity

In a program that’s been under-reported in the Disney World blogging community, Disney World is spending millions to expand ride capacity.

At least 20 rides have already been attached to this program, and just two (Space Mountain and Pirates) have added between them additional capacity of 1.2 million rides a year. Treating these two as examples twice as good as average results, this program alone could add 16,000 rides a day—the equivalent of another headliner attraction.

And of course two more headliners are coming to Magic Kingdom, one this year and one next.

But most importantly, over time, the number of FASTPASS rides will more than triple.

These days, on a typical day, about 20 rides offer FASTPASSES (more on busier days). The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World 2013 suggests that over time, the number of FASTPASS-like reservable experiences will cross 70, including new opportunities to reserve good spots for fireworks shows and parades.

More than tripling the number of FASTPASS attractions and events means that Disney World could, for example, keep the same number of regular FASTPASSES available to people with no advance ride reservations, or not as many as they’d like, while having twice that many available to those willing to commit to a ride reservation in advance! It’s just math…

Now, where adding FASTPASS attractions doesn’t help so much is with the current FASTPASS rides. Space Mountain now has half a million more seats available, from the capacity expansion noted above—but that’s a drop in the bucket, less than an hour’s worth of extra capacity, compared to the demand it will see from both advance reservation seekers and guests without advance reservations.

So Disney will have to be very careful about how it allocates the capacity of the current FASTPASS rides among advance reservations, regular day of visit FASTPASSES, and riders with neither. Many of the advance reservations—the FASTPASS+s–will go to people who otherwise would have drawn day-of-visit regular FASTPASSES, but not all of them, so for these rides it’s easy to foresee that some will be disappointed and others will face very long standby lines.

But overall, with the added base capacity, new capacity, and more than tripling of FASTPASS rides, guest experience on average should better, and those who show up without any FASTPASS+ passes, or many fewer than they wish they had, should still be able to have a fun visit!

There still will be a higher payoff for guests who can

…but this has always been true. The FASTPASS+ program will make it even more true, but I don’t expect it to do so at the cost of making everyone else just miserable. And tripling the number of FASTPASS rides available is the key to that…it’s just math.



1 Joanne { 09.19.12 at 1:41 pm }

Signed up for the FastPass+ for Monday the 24th. I see the future with the FastPass pre-assigned system allowing Disney to spread the demand more evenly. More passes will be allocated during times that are typically slower (meal times/parades/fireworks)…with more people getting on-board with technology and using it as a planning tool more people will use the pre-arranged system.

2 Dave { 09.20.12 at 7:47 am }

Hey Joanne, write back and let me know how the test of FASTPASS+ went for you guys!

3 Katherine { 08.01.13 at 11:58 pm }

Our trip is finally getting close!! Sept 14-19. I’ve used your wonderful site to help plan our amazing trip so thank you Dave! Just an FYI if its not public knowledge yet and it may be…they are testing the fast pass + in August and they said possibly Sept. I only know because after logging in on wdwr this weekend I kept being prompted to choose a day to try it out. Only 1 day of the trip though. Unfortunately the techs at wdwr said it was a glitch in ” my experience ” page and it wasn’t being offered to me at this time…but it was being offered in August to random resort guests. Pop century was one of the resorts participating. It may have been a glitch for me…but it prompted me to pic a day in Sept…not August. Soooo…maybe more tests to come?

4 Dave { 08.02.13 at 10:20 am }

Hi Katherine and thanks for the kind words! Yes, I do know about the upcoming tests, but thanks for the heads up anyway…someone has to be the first one to tell me, and it might have been you!!

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