Fastpass 101: Which ones should I choose?

This is probably one of the most frequent questions I get… “What are the best attractions to get a Fastpass for?”  With my personality (I’m a “fixer”), I SO badly want to give a definitive answer.  On this matter, however, it truly is up to the variables for your group/family.

In this blog post, I’ll try to give you the options on the table with a little bit of insight… then I’ll share a bit more detail on the strategies our family uses.

A little history…

For many years the fastpass went like this:  1. You physically go to an attraction, 2. You insert your park ticket into a machine, 3. Said machine spits out a fastpass with a later time window where you can comeback and enter the “Fastpass” queue (which, of course, is much shorter than the “Standby” queue).

Over 2013 and 2014, Disney rolled out their Fastpass+ campaign with Magic Bands.  These Magic Bands are nothing more than a digital ID for each guest that communicates back with Disney’s IT system.  You can control all of your reservations and Fastpasses… and even pay for everthing with the band on your wrist and the app/website, “My Disney Experience”.

Fastpasses are now booked 30 or 60 days in advance of the start of your vacation.  60 days for guests staying at Disney resort hotels and 30 days for everyone else.  You must have your tickets purchased and linked to My Disney Experience to book Fastpasses.

Now, to why you are probably here.  Some Fastpasses are harder to get than others, and some attractions don’t even require a Fastpass because the wait isn’t all that bad to begin with.  Which Fastpasses to choose really depends on your party (and there is your lame answer… but it’s true).  Do you have thrillseekers?  Are you taking young kids and Dumbo will be about as fast as you can handle?  It’s worth noting before going any further that you can book different Fastpasses for each member of your party if people want to experience different things.

In our family, we have a 7 year old thrillseeker who rode Expedition Everest (big coaster) over and over… 2 years ago!  We also has a 5 year old who tears up at the thought of the smallest children’s roller coaster, Goofy’s Barnstormer.  So, what to do? We have to find a balance.

Details to consider…

  • Don’t forget the art of the rope drop.  That oh-so-difficult (for our family since we aren’t early risers) arrival before the park opens so you can run to popular attractions.  Seriously though, it is the best way to find the shortest lines since the majority of people start entering the theme parks at 10AM or later. So, if you want a guaranteed quicker wait for 7 Dwarves Mine Train, get to Magic Kingdom at least 30 minutes before opening and watch the heart warming opening show, then get your speed walk on to the Mine Train.
  • As far as strategies go, I’ve heard people do it a couple of different ways. 1- Get all 3 of your Fastpasses for the morning and then, once they are all used up, Disney allows you to book an extra Fastpass.  or 2- Book all of your Fastpasses for the afternoon (when things are busier) and go for rope-drop to find shorter early morning lines.  We have tried the first strategy and it doesn’t work out well. All of the FPs that are left are pretty lame… if any exhist at all.
  • These days, Fastpasses aren’t just for rides.  You can Fastpass a show or even a roped off area to watch a fireworks display.  I’m sure you can see where it would be nearly impossible to give blanket recommendations for all families.
  • Epcot and Hollywood Studios have tiered Fastpasses.  You can only book 1 top level attraction out of your 3 choices.
  • Booking difficult FPs (listed below) for the last days of your vacation can sometimes be easier.  Since Disney allows you to book FPs for your entire stay 30/60 days out of your FIRST day, that gives you an advantage on people arriving after you (which is why you may find slimmer options on your first days)
  • If you don’t get the Fastpasses you’d like to start, keeping checking back.  Especially as you get closer to your vacation becauser other peoples plans often change at the last minute and they may cancel an FP opening it up for you!
  • Once you have booked hard-to-get Fastpasses and you are starting to edit your choices, be aware of close timeframes on attractiosn that are really far apart.  You can easily get warn out going back and forth all over the park (done it… no thanks!)
  •  In my opinion, Disney made a misstep by putting fast passes on attractions that didn’t really need it. They ride like Pirates of the Caribbean used to be one  where you could get on and ride over and over without a line
  • Don’t forget to use the Parent Switch pass… detailed on this post and the podcast.

So, what now?

I do want to leave you with some practical advice so that you can start to form a clearer strategy for your family/party.
My main point of emphasis is trying to get FPs for the most popular attraction at each theme park.  These are likely to be the only ones that book up completely at the 30/60 day mark.  The majority of attractions will still have availabilty days before your trip and even day of.  In fact, Disney opens up Fastpass slots each day so folks who only sign up for FPs at the kiosks provided in the park, aren’t left with a terrible experience.

What are those hard to get fastpasses?  Here they are, by park:

  • Magic Kingdom– 7 Dwarves Mine Train and Meet and Greet with Anna and Elsa have been the most difficult since 2014.  They can even be difficult at the 30/60 day window.  If you are coaster lovers, definitely see if you can get space/thunder mountains.  If not, you can choose some of the classics like It’s a Small World or Peter Pan. Character intereactions  more your thing? Definitely book to meet Mickey near the entrance of the park (time that one right or you’ll add more footsteps to your trip than you wanted!).  The FP slots for parades and fireworks shows are fairly limited.  If you really want those, go for it, but we usually find a better spot without a FP.
  • Epcot– For your top tier attraction, I recommend Test Track or Soarin’ (Soarin’ is closed until Summer 2016).  Test track is more of the thrill ride and Soarin’ is great for the whole family.  On crowded days, you’ll want a Spaceship Earth FP… it’s such an iconic ride but is painful to wait a long time for.
  • Hollywood StudiosToy Story Midway Mania is a must for families and you definitely won’t want to wait in the extremely long standby queue.  Tower of Terror and Rock ‘N Roller Coaster are viable options for the thrillseekers, and Fantasmic is also a decent use since this show can have a long line that fills up early.
  • Animal KingdomKilamanjaro Safari  and Expedition Everest are both good uses of a FP but I would hold at least one aside for use on the Lion King or Nemo shows (You’ll want to see both).

As with any detailed advice I give about Disney vacations, the minutia can become overwhelming and create more stress than joy in planning your trip. If you feel that starting to happen while looking for fastpasses, take a break from it and remember that you can have an amazing time even if you never booked a single fastpass! Wait… No I’m not suggesting that!! Set your alarm for midnight and book Anna and Elsa! 😉

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