By the co-author of The easy Guide to Your Walt Disney World Visit 2018, from the best-reviewed Disney World guidebook series ever. Paperback available on Amazon here. Kindle version available on Amazon here.



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



Fastpass+ and MagicBands: A Report on My Field Trip and Other Stuff



By Dave Shute

What You Need to Know About Fastpass+ from yourfirstvisit.netSo last weekend I raced off to Walt Disney World to be a tester of MagicBands and FastPass+–both part of the emerging MyMagic+ offering at Walt Disney World.

FastPass+, which permits you—well, for now, those of you in the test–to reserve times to visit rides up to 60 days ahead, is the heart of MyMagic+, and what I was really interested in testing.

The short version is that my test went fine, (the photos on this page are from that visit–rides that I saw using FastPass+) but I’m still not sure how all this will shake out for typical first-time visitors to Walt Disney World who may never return. (A more detailed moment-by-moment “trip report” is here.)

From p89 of 2014 TUGI already knew going in that there would remain several key questions that won’t be fully answered until full roll out of the program—and maybe not even until a while after that:

  • How many “headliner” Fastpass+ per day can people get?  Will this vary for on and off-site hotels, and, for on-site visitors, by hotel class?  In the test, all on-site hotels are treated the same, and you can get three headliners a day.  Will that stay the same? See the excerpt above from the The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World 2014 (click it to enlarge it) for some speculation that it might not.
  • Will the parks still be relatively un-crowded at opening? I can think of three or four reasons why they might stay that way, and three or four why they might not.  This is partly a technical question (how many FastPass+ windows will be offered at 9a) and partly behavioral—how many people will grab those slots, and having grabbed them, get out of bed in time to use them?

FastPass+ on Rock 'N Roller Coaster from yourfirstvisit.netTo these open questions—which the test couldn’t answer and I didn’t expect it to—a third question emerged that I should have thought of before, which is how many people will actually reserve Fastpass+ anyway?

This is important, as it has implications for how many regular Fastpasses will be available to be pulled on the day of visit.  (Based on Disney’s current terms of service, at full rollout you’ll be able to use one or the other, but not both.  During the test so far, you’ve been able to use both, though this could change at any time.)

FastPass+ on Test Track from yourfirstvisit.netI started thinking of this because of Steve Russo’s recent post on MousePlanet, which quotes an inside source– “Admiral Boom,” no less!–as follows:

“The premise is that we can take some percentage of the FastPasses available in the parks and turn them over to the vacation planners, to be used as a perk for pre-planning one’s stay (and/or for staying on property).

The goal is to minimize the impact of doing that to the already successful, current program. In the end, one will still be able to walk into a park and get FastPasses, just like we can today…

By the way, we don’t expect pre-arranged FastPasses to be a major item. Studies have shown us that the majority of our guests don’t want to pre-plan their vacations to that level.”

Helping Out at Enchanted Tales with Belle from yourfirstvisit.netIf this holds up—especially the last point–FastPass+ may have a smaller impact on visits than many of us have been thinking.

But maybe not.  It’s a matter of headliner capacity.  If relatively few use Fastpass+, but all of them book headliners, it may be that you can get a Fastpass on the day of visit for Mickey’s PhilharMagic…but not for the headliners.

Moment of TruthThere’s still no official word on the general release of FastPass+ to everybody.

One of the questions I did expect to be able to test last weekend was how well the system worked.  For me, it largely worked fine, but not perfectly.  I was able to make multiple changes, some on the fly, and most—but not all—MagicBand FastPass+ readers worked.

The fact that they didn’t all work tells me there’s still bugs to be fixed…which tells me that FastPass+ won’t be fully rolled out for everyone probably until 2014.

RFID Readers at EpcotMultiple reports have been coming in that visitors to the test resorts are now able to book FastPass+ for visits beginning in November.  That’s a good sign.

And on Tuesday, Disney CEO Bob Iger at the Goldman Sachs Communacopia Conference said that Fastpass+ will be “fully rolled out fairly soon…”

I’m trying to not read too much into the word “soon….”

Meanwhile, a more detailed moment-by-moment “trip report” is here.

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39 comments

1 Connie { 09.26.13 at 11:35 am }

We are arrving Nov 16 and just had both the magic bands and fastpass+ available online to us.

2 Anonymous { 09.26.13 at 2:10 pm }

don’t like the idea of given deluxe guets more headliner attractions. not everyone can afford to stay @ a $300 a night hotel especially if you are traveling with 2 or 3 kids. Just another way for Disney to fill there pockets

3 Mark { 09.26.13 at 2:10 pm }

Hi Dave – I am anticipating that FastPass+ will allow me to have a much more leisurely entrance to the parks. For example, in the past at EPCOT, I have had to rush over to Soarin’ to get FastPasses, then rush over to Test Track and try to get in line before the lines get too long. With FastPass+ being pre-scheduled, I hope that I can have a less frantic entrance into the parks. Has that been your experience?

I find that your charts ranking the weeks and crowds to be the most useful part of planning a Disney vacation. While FastPass is crucial some of the more popular rides at all times, picking a less crowded week seems to have a much bigger impact on how enjoyable the visit is. We went to WDW during Columbus Day week last year, after having done two summer visits in previous years. We found that we were frequently not using FastPasses because the wait times were often less (or not much longer) than the FastPass return times. I think your advice on when to go is much more critical than FastPasses.

Thank you for your analysis and perspective.

4 thomas { 09.26.13 at 3:34 pm }

dave
do you really think disney will start class warfare by giving you more headliner attraction depending on your resort. we go in march hopefully fastpass plus will be available. we are staying at the all star sports but if this is true we might stay at a moderate resort to get an extra headliner attraction. at least at universal studios you get unlimited express pass no matter what resort on property you stay at.
thanks
dave

5 Tami @Colorado Mountain Mom { 09.26.13 at 5:01 pm }

Great post, exciting to hear anything on this topic at this point! I was also relieved to hear that both options will remain available (pre-planning, or in-park FPs), and that the Disney insider commented, “Studies have shown us that the majority of our guests don’t want to pre-plan their vacations to that level….” Love planning our trips, but I’m not sure how I feel about planning out attractions, too.

I did get 3 FP+ per day scheduled for our Nov trip, so I’m excited to see how it goes! And I confess, since we are late risers fighting West Coast jet lag at Disney – I’m feeling this happy, warm glow of security inside now that I know I have a Soarin’ and Toy Story Mania FP in the bag. 🙂

6 Cathy R { 09.26.13 at 6:11 pm }

I agree – seeing that insider quote made me feel SOOO much better. I am a HUGE planner but things change unexpectedly. FP made our end of August trip soo much (that and low crowds). Even I, the queen of planning, thinks FP+ is planning to the super max!

7 KE { 09.26.13 at 7:22 pm }

I agree with others about the possible over planning aspect of it and I have been planning every last detail for over a year now! I’m glad to hear your thoughts. Are there any penalties for not using a time that is reserved? Also, you said that you made changes…How “on the fly” were they? I think the ability to make changes while there is an added benefit. I know sometimes we’ve missed out because the FP window wasn’t right due to restaurant reservations and we just never made it back. I also think I will be a bit more “relaxed” because I do know that some of my FPs have already been reserved without the hustle and bustle of navigating the parks to do it. Definitely see pros and cons…Hoping to test it out in a few months when we go. 🙂 Thanks for the always informative review!

8 Dave { 09.27.13 at 6:44 am }

Thanks, Mark–Agree with you on all points. I was at Epcot Sunday, and my FP+ were for 11a, noon and 1p. Let me not have to race over for rope drop!

I think the single most important thing–which may change with FP+–is arriving before rope drop. Then it’s, as you note, picking an un-crowded week. Then, some weeks, it’s picking the right days for the parks…

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9 Dave { 09.27.13 at 6:47 am }

Anonymous and Thomas–first, I don’t know if there will be “classes” or not. But it is worth noting that while Universal gives all equal treatment, all its three hotels are deluxes. It’s fourth hotel, Cabana Bay, opening next year, is not a deluxe, and reports are that guests there will not get the Universal Express pass–just the extra morning hour…

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10 Dave { 09.27.13 at 6:48 am }

Cathy and Tami…yup,pros and cons, and still incomplete data. We won’t know the full set of pros and cons until the program has been fully in operation long enough to be showing consistent patterns…

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11 Dave { 09.27.13 at 6:50 am }

KE, there’s no penalty for missing a FP time–other than losing one of your three slots. I made some changes just an hour or two befroe–at Space Mountain and Soarin. But I expect that will be harder to do when more people have FP+–moreover I was there on very uncrowded days.

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12 Dave { 09.27.13 at 6:54 am }

Cool, Connie!!

13 Wendy { 09.28.13 at 12:30 pm }

Yet another FastPass+ question – we have made our plans…and we have our MagicBands “ordered” – will we still be able to use the regular FastPass, too, while at the parks? or is it one or the other?

I think I saw something about this on your site, but now, I cannot find the info…

Wendy

14 Jodi { 09.28.13 at 9:22 pm }

Just found out we are in the test at Coronado Springs mid-November. We haven’t ordered our magic bands yet. Do we have to be in the test? We always did really well with the old fast pass system- well more than 3 per day- and we’re afraid that by the time we go they will change it and we will only be able to do one or the other. I think we prefer the old system with it’s flexibility and the potential to get more than 3, and more than just one per attraction.

15 Dave { 09.29.13 at 11:59 am }

Wendy, right now you are issued both a MagicBand and a hotel “Key to the World” card. You can use your KTTW card for regular Fastpasses. At some point–and I dunno when–they will give you only the MagicBand, and you will then be out of the regular system.

The reason you get both is 1. as a back up, in case anything goes wrong whit the MB and its systems–this is a “test” still, after all–and becasue not all cash registers have MB readers yet, so that you can use your KTTW card for charging at those…

16 Dave { 09.29.13 at 12:00 pm }

Jodi, you don’t have to be in. Just ignore the FP+ and MagicBands…

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17 Lisa { 09.29.13 at 3:15 pm }

Hi Dave,

Back to Wendy and Jodi questions. So we are also going to Coronado Springs in Mid Nov. and have been offered the bands. I’m a first time visitor and I’m just not sure what to do. So you told Wendy that they are doing both. So if we ordered the bands but choose not to use them that won’t be a problem? We can just use our KTTW card all the time? I would like to have a band just to have. Right now we are doing good just to know where and when we have to be for our dinner reservation. I don’t think I can plan rides to. We don’t mind standing in lines for 10 min. or so. What do you think for first time visitors?

Thank you

18 Wendy { 09.29.13 at 6:51 pm }

Thanks, Dave!

19 Dave { 09.30.13 at 7:06 am }

Well, Lisa, I can’t guarantee that both systems will be operating then–but I highly expect both to be operating. You need Fastpasses either way, and your non-Fastpass ride waits will average much longer than 10 minutes–your average will be closer to thirty minutes, with some ten minute waits and some hour waits.

If you can’t plan rides, then don’t, and just use the old system!

20 Sharmon Brannen { 10.05.13 at 8:32 am }

Hi, we are planning a visit to WDW the first week of Dec. We are less than 60 days out but have not been asked to place an order for magic bands. We are staying at POFQ. Does this mean that we will definitely not be a part of the testing of magic bands? I had read that you could make ride reservations 60 days in advance and am guessing we will not be a part of this now, given the time frame. I am also wondering if there will be any issues using the old fast pass system with some being able to use the new system and then not showing up- will it limit the fast pass times in the old system? What are your thoughts? Thanks!

21 Dave { 10.05.13 at 9:34 am }

Sharmon many aren’t being “asked” any more –see this on how to see if you are in: https://yourfirstvisit.net/2013/08/21/frequently-asked-questions-about-fastpass/

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22 Valerie { 10.05.13 at 12:40 pm }

I have a November trip planned and have already grabbed fastpass+ reservations. We have 2 days at MK. Out fastpass+ choices are : space mountain, splash mountain, Peter Pan, haunted mansion, big thunder mountain. The 6th one is (for now) princess fairy tale hall b/c meeting Rapunzel is a must and she’s not at any of our character meals. I’m unsure of how long a wait that attraction will have though and am wondering if a fastpass will be better spent on enchanted tales w/ belle or even Ariel’s grotto. What’s the best choice for our princess loving family?

23 Dave { 10.06.13 at 9:11 am }

Hi Valerie! I’d dump the Haunted Mansion FP+ (lines are short there, so you don’t need a FP+) and go with both Rapunzel–waits have been quite long–and Enchanted Tales with Belle, which is the best bit of New Fantasyland.

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24 Lindsey { 10.07.13 at 10:15 am }

How soon before the trip do they typically let me know they are in the testing for the FP +? Is there a list of resorts where it is being tested?

Thanks!

25 Dave { 10.08.13 at 7:52 am }

Lindsey, they may not let you know at all–you may have to just find out. See this: https://yourfirstvisit.net/2013/08/21/frequently-asked-questions-about-fastpass/

Resorts in the test are here: https://yourfirstvisit.net/2013/09/16/many-more-disney-world-resorts-to-be-added-to-fastpass-test/

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26 Sharmon Brannen { 10.08.13 at 11:18 am }

Thanks for your help- I had already linked all my reservations and tickets so there is nothing more for me to do. There is not a section to place my order for a band so my guess is I am going to be going old school with a key card and no band! While I really would love to try the band, all is well! I will still have a nice visit! Your site has been a wonderful tool to aid in all my planning. This will be my second trip to WDW and I am already tentatively planning another visit in the Spring.

27 Brooke { 10.08.13 at 3:03 pm }

Hi Dave! So, I thought I was doing so well, had everything under control, knew my plan for our trip in January and so on and so on! However, now I am feeling utterly confused by this whole fastpass+ and mymagic+ system. We had ultimately decided to stay off property in a condo because knowing our family…we need our space, and a 1400 sq. feet condo for about the same price as a 260 sq. feet value resort room was a no brainer. But now I’m wondering…are we going to be totally screwed by not staying on property (at least in regards to getting/scheduling fastpasses)? I know you said you don’t know when everything will be out of the testing stages. We are going to be there January 3rd -10th, 2014. Are we going to be able to go to the parks each day and go and get fastpasses from the machines as in the old system? Are there going to be a lot less available because of people reserving fastpasses ahead of time? Should we reconsider staying on property to take advantage of fastpass+? (Plus with this new deal that Disney just announced, will it save us alot?) I was planning to buy tickets through undercover tourist to save a little, but should I buy through Disney? Really annoyed with the timing of this new system because it’s messing up all my already made plans! Let me know what you think. Thanks so much!

28 KE { 10.08.13 at 7:27 pm }

I’ve heard that December tester dates have not been released yet…This came from a CM on the phone tonight…Any further information/insight? Also, does one have to be “checked in” for anything to “magically” appear as available…I see the buttons, click and get nada…:) Thanks!

29 Dave { 10.09.13 at 12:28 pm }

Sharmon, all I can say is keep checking–and thanks for the kind words about the site!

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30 Dave { 10.09.13 at 12:38 pm }

Brooke, it’s hard for me to say what’s best, as it depends on the different costs of your options and how much that money matters to your family. But if I were in your shoes, I’d be [pretty comfortable that regular old FP will do just fine for you…so I wouldn’t change unless, as a result of the deal, the price difference is comfortable to you…

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31 Dave { 10.09.13 at 12:52 pm }

KE, I’ve heard the same thing too…so far as I know, no one is in FP+ yet whose check in date is after 11-30. It’s possible they’ll put this on hold for a month–given how the last two weeks of December are a zoo-and also possible that they’ll open it up towards the end of October–as they have done for prior months. Or they could do something else!

You need to be within 60 days of your arrival date, and have both your tix and room reservation linked in MyDisneyExperience, but DON’T need to have done on-line check in…Can’t hurt tho…

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32 Brooke { 10.09.13 at 2:18 pm }

Okay…thanks Dave! And, do you think it’s still good to order tickets through undercover tourist if it will save some money? They just send paper tickets right? And then we get them converted to a card when we get there? If ordering through Disney’s site, do the tickets already come on the card?

33 Dave { 10.10.13 at 7:39 am }

Brooke, yes on Undercover Tourist!

34 Sonia { 10.15.13 at 9:55 am }

Hello Dave, good to read about your experience. My family of five is leaving for our Disney vacation next week and we finalized our MagicBands and Fastpasses online yesterday. We were allowed to book three Fastpasses for the each park and for our day ay Epcot we ended up with four choices ( we picked Soarin, Spaceship Earth, Test Track, and Turtle Talk with Crush). We were told that the fourth choice was generated randomly by the system. We are looking forward to not having to rush out and get those Fastpasses but we will have to be at the parks early as some Fastpasses are for 9 am-10 am. Hopefully that will be manageable with young children. For reference, we are staying at the Polynesian and have three boys ages, 5,7 and 9.

35 Dave { 10.16.13 at 6:58 am }

Sonia, with or without FP+ it’s always best to be at the parks before they open. The first 90 minutes or so are the least crowded!

Love your FP+ selections–have a great visit and tell me how it went!

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36 Brian { 10.18.13 at 7:41 pm }

Dave,

We are going the first week of December and are now able to select fast passes. I thought there was a spot where you listed which fastpasses you would make priority at each park, but I cannot find it anywhere. Can you help?
thanks

37 Dave { 10.19.13 at 8:31 am }
38 Michelle { 01.28.14 at 5:30 pm }

Is there any way to get a 4th fastpass as some people have mentioned? Or is just some random “gift” disney is giving some people! LOL

39 Dave { 01.29.14 at 7:59 am }

Michelle, I haven’t seen much talk of these lately…and when it does happen, it’s always given you as a surprise by Disney…so assume you won’t get it!

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