Disney World Planning Tips

What is the best strategy for booking Fastpass+ reservations in advance?

Fastpass

So you’ve booked your magical vacation to the Walt Disney World resort in FL, and you’re wondering what’s the best way to go about getting FastPasses for your favorite rides and attractions? The paper ticket FastPass machines are now a thing of the past, and the new FastPass+ system allows you to make advance reservations before you leave home, from both your desktop computer and/or your mobile phone with My Disney Experience. Here are some of my “DO”s and “DON’T”s recommendations on how to use this new system to get the most out of your available options, from my own personal experience at the Disney theme parks.





  • DO: Absolutely, without a doubt, utilize this incredible new & improved complimentary feature! FastPass+ is accessible to all Disney World FL theme park guests, whether you’re a Passholder, just visiting for the day, or even if you’re staying offsite. It’s included with your park admission, and allows you to make 3 advance selections per person, per day of your visit. Plus, even more can be obtained while at the park, after using all 3 of your initial picks.  There are even more FastPass+ offerings available now than ever before, including character meet & greets, shows, and reserved viewing areas for the parades and fireworks.  And it’s far more convenient than the previous system, eliminating the need to arrive early to the park and to have to run back & forth to the different attractions collecting as many FastPasses as you can.  Now you can be leisurely – just relax, take your time (and enjoy it) while knowing that your magical experiences are already awaiting you at your designated time.  My husband & I used to split up all the time so one of us could go grab FastPasses from wherever, and the other would go & secure us a spot in line for something else, trying to maximize our time. So glad we’re not having to do that nonsense anymore! Also, your new FastPass+ selections will be linked to your park ticket, whether that be in the form of a Magic Band (if you’re a Passholder or staying at a Disney resort), or a card (if you’re a day visitor or staying offsite) – so no more having to keep track of those old paper FastPass tickets.
  • DON’T: Skip this opportunity to guarantee yourself little to no wait times in a very crowded environment. As I’m sure you probably know, the Disney parks can be quite popular and crowded, especially during peak season and holidays. So don’t miss out on getting this chance to avoid some of the longer queue lines and to be able to experience more of the magic during your vacation by saving so much time! You will be so glad that you did. I always tell my clients: “It’s better to have FastPasses and not need them, than to need them and not have them!”
  • DO: Book FastPass+ reservations as early as you possibly can. As a Disney theme park ticket holder or Passholder, you are allowed to book up to 30 days in advance of your visit either online by visiting www.mydisneyexperience.com or via the mobile app. Guests staying at a WDW onsite resort get the added advantage of booking theirs up to 60 days in advance! So set your reminder on your calendar, staying up until the clock strikes midnight if you dare! (Which may be well worth it, depending on what you’re vying for – such as the elusive Anna & Elsa meet & greet!) Some selections get all booked up very quickly, and there are only a limited number of FastPasses granted for each attraction. Remember that Disney gives away these golden opportunities to everyone, and therefore, they must make sure they stagger the number of allotments in different time slots throughout the day, in order to manage the crowd level.  So you are not only booking early to secure your top choices before availability runs out, but also to ensure you can get the ideal time slot that you’re hoping for.  This is especially important when used in conjunction with advance dining reservations, so that your schedule allows you enough time to enjoy your meal and get to where you need to be. You do have a one hour window during which you can redeem your FastPass+ anytime, but you don’t want to overlap too much and end up rushing around.
  • DON’T: Feel as though this advance selection process is intimidating, overwhelming, or robs you of your spontaneity in any way. I heard a few negative reactions when Disney first introduced this concept back in 2013, from those who felt that they would prefer to “live in the moment” and be spontaneous while vacationing, rather than to plan out everything in advance. But with the new FastPass+ system and the My Disney Experience mobile app, you have so much flexibility to change your mind at any time, including while you’re on-the-go and at the park. These 3 advance choices you’re making are certainly not set in stone, and can be changed completely or altered slightly (or even cancelled) as many times as you like. You are never locked into it, so feel free to go ahead & be spontaneous, but do remember that it all hinges upon availability at the given moment when making a switch. So while it is true that your desired time and/or experience may not be available, especially if you’re making last-minute changes on the day of, the choice is always yours to switch it up from your original plans. And yes, there are a great many offerings to choose from, so picking the right 3 can seem like a difficult and overwhelming task, but keep reading to see how my suggestions below can help you narrow it down & make sense of it all.
  • DO: Download the free My Disney Experience mobile app for your smartphone and use it to your advantage! We find this on-the-go tool especially helpful for our family, as we are often running late or need to make last-minute adjustments according to when our little one is napping. When you have a toddler in tow who sleeps in the stroller, playing your day at the park by ear is key. (My son has a regularly scheduled nap time when we’re home, but on a Disney vacation, we’re usually off of the normal schedule.) So I’m very glad I always have my phone handy to reschedule our FastPasses around when he sleeps if need be. Besides, how else are you to remember exactly what you scheduled a month or 2 ago without your MDE app ready at your fingertips to remind you and keep you on track for the day? It also shows you maps of the parks to help you navigate your way around. Or what if you simply change your mind that day and you’re in the mood for something different from you had planned on? No need for a computer or even an in-park FastPass+ kiosk (which can have lengthy lines) to switch your plans. Disney offers free WiFi service to its guests for the purposes of using this app. Unfortunately, though, you can’t use the MDE mobile app to book those additional FastPasses that you can get once your first 3 are redeemed. For that, you will need to visit one of the new kiosks in the park and you will be limited to booking only one at a time.
  • DON’T: Assume that the 4 options for a making a new FastPass+ schedule you are given (Best match, B, C, & D) are the only time slots available to you. As I have already discussed, you can make modifications to your originally booked schedule if availability allows. So if none of them sound perfect, just go with the one that matches the closest to what you desire, and then you can immediately go right back in and make the necessary modifications as you see fit. If Disney showed you all the possible combinations available at once, it would definitely be too overwhelming and confusing. So to simplify the process, you are given 4 options initially, and then are granted access to change each selection on an individual basis in order to customize it to suit your personal needs. The earlier you take advantage of this, the more alternate options you will have to choose from.
  • DON’T: Assume you must book the same set of FastPass+ reservations for all of the members in your party. Instead, DO take advantage of the opportunity to book a few different experiences for each unique member of your family.  FastPasses can be booked together as a group if you all want to share a certain experience together, or you can book them separately to actually enjoy more flexibility and customization. If you’re going to share 1 or 2 of the 3 selections, it’s probably best to book them all together to start with, but then go back in and make the individual modifications after, so that you are guaranteed the same time slot for the shared experience. Making sure that separately booked times do overlap together during similar 1 hour windows can work, too, though. A perfect example of why you may want to book different FastPasses for different people would be when traveling with multiple generations. We visit all the time with both my son and my parents (his grandparents.) So my husband & I may want to ride the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train together, but my son cannot because he is too young, and my parents do not wish to ride it with us. So while just the 2 of us go on it with our FP+ reservation, they can take our little guy and ride The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh (located directly across from the mine train) with their FP+. Perhaps siblings don’t want to ride the same rides? No problem! Another prime example of when to utilize this feature is the Tomorrowland Speedway attraction, where only 2 people can ride in a car together, but there are often 2 parents traveling with a single little one who is dying to drive their own race car. (The child cannot ride on a parent’s lap.)  Just book one parent to ride it with the child, and then the other parent can simply watch from the stands and cheer them on, while they’ve got something else booked to ride with the little one at a different time – such as Goofy’s Barnstormer kiddie roller coaster.  If your kiddo is under 3 and doesn’t need to book any FPs (because they don’t need to purchase park admission), you could actually get up to 6 FastPass+ experiences for them to enjoy in one day, without the long waits, by taking turns like this!  Plus, that even gives each parent time to rest & find a shady place to sit in between rides, or take pictures of their family while they’re on the ride. You will cover more ground, experience more magic, and feel like a VIP bypassing all those standby queues.

T-Speedway

  • DON’T: Book a FastPass+ reservation for Wishes. In my humble opinion, any place is a great place to view the fireworks! They’re high up in the sky with the gorgeous Cinderella Castle as a perfect backdrop, and there is plenty of ample space in and around the “Hub,” or all the way down Main St., to watch them dazzle without needing a FastPass+ to get you into the specially reserved area. Unless you really just want to feel like a VIP getting to watch from these FP+ exclusive areas, I just don’t think it’s necessary when there are so many other options to choose from at Magic Kingdom that actually warrant the need. It’s tough to choose just 3 at that park, and I feel that using 1 of your 3 picks on this would be a bit of a waste. Besides, the real disadvantage to booking Wishes is that it’s always scheduled at the very end of the night, which prevents you from being eligible to visit a kiosk to book that coveted 4th FastPass+. And while we’re on that subject, keep that same thought in mind when selecting your FP+ reservation times for anything. The later in the day it is that you finish up with all 3 advance picks, the lesser your chances will be of booking more. So especially if you plan to park-hop midday, make sure you book those initial 3 selections as early in your day as possible.
  • DON’T: Book FP+s for theater shows.  In my personal experience with booking FastPasses for shows that have scheduled showtimes, like Festival of the Lion King at Animal Kingdom or the Lights! Motors! Action! Extreme Stunt Show at Hollywood Studios, you are not guaranteed to have any designated seating area. Meaning that unlike the fireworks setup, there’s no reserved section within the theater for FP+ holders who show up right before the start of the show. In order to get good seats in the theater, you still have to arrive quite early before the scheduled show time. Yes, you will be let into the theater prior to the standby guests, so if you do arrive early enough, you will have 1st pick of where to sit. But rest assured, the cast members will make you scoot on down to allow for more room and you can’t always just sit in the middle of a particular row. So without actually saving you any extra time in your day, the point of having a FP+ for one of these shows is lost on me, other than getting slightly more time seated & waiting for the show to start versus standing outside the theater. I also cannot fathom what the benefit would be to booking a continuously running show like Philharmagic or Monsters, Inc. Laugh Floor at the Magic Kingdom, or Turtle Talk with Crush at Epcot, or Muppet Vision 3D at Hollywood Studios. Regardless of whether you’re standby or a FP+ holder, you will have to wait for 1 show to end before the next one can begin, and because these shows run so many times throughout the day, the line to get in is never very long at all.  In my opinion, your better bet is to use those 3 picks towards other types of experiences.
  • DON’T: Book a FP+ for the Fantasmic! show at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Instead, DO book a Fantasmic! dining package with advance dining reservations at one of the select table-service restaurants. For all of the same reasons I’ve previously discussed regarding scheduled theater shows, plus its late night showtime at park closing (much like the Wishes fireworks), I suggest you avoid using a FP+ pick for Fantasmic! The only way to get guaranteed seats in a special VIP reserved seating section, right in the middle of the theater, and save time by showing up closer to the showtime, is to book the dining package. You gotta eat anyways, so enjoy a nice table-service meal and your exceptional Fantasmic! experience to go along with it, while saving your 3 advance FP+ picks for other things.

fantasmic-00-new





  • DON’T: Book a FastPass+ for Dumbo the Flying Elephant. The reason for this suggestion is that the Dumbo ride has doubled in size with the recent New Fantasyland expansion to accommodate for larger crowds and also has incorporated a fully immersive standby queue experience with an indoor playground that the kids can enjoy while they await their turn to fly with Dumbo. You will miss out on this golden opportunity to enjoy some fun out of the sun and let your little ones run loose & play if you FP+ this ride.
  • Instead, DO book for the parades, the most in-demand character greetings, and the more popular rides. The 3:00pm afternoon parade at Magic Kingdom – the Festival of Fantasy, is a can’t-miss attraction, but most often (even on lighter crowd days) the sidewalks all along the parade route fill up rather quickly, and long before the start of the parade. People start grabbing those most-coveted spots in the shade up to an hour or more before 3:00pm, and most of the year in Florida is extremely hot weather. I personally do not enjoy sitting on the ground in the very hot sun for an hour while awaiting the parade just to make sure my family can get good views. It is very hard to see much of the parade, other than the tops of the floats, unless you’re right on those front sidelines. This is where I do feel having a FastPass+ reservation comes in very handy, as they do reserve a special viewing area, with a great vantage point right in the middle of Town Square, that you can waltz right up to (like the VIP that you are) between 2:45pm & 3:05pm. Thank goodness for this option! But the few parade FP+s they have do run out quickly, being only offered once per day, so grab it if you can! Also, of all the characters to book a FP+ for, don’t miss out on seeing the talking Mickey Mouse in Town Square Theater at Magic Kingdom!  (All of the other meet & greet characters don’t speak – including Mickey himself at the other 3 parks – unless they are a face character like a prince or princess, Tinkerbell, or Peter Pan.) Some of the top ride choices are: Kilimanjaro Safari and Expedition Everest at Animal Kingdom, Soarin’ or Test Track at Epcot, Toy Story Midway Mania! or the Aerosmith Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster at Hollywood Studios, and Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, Peter Pan’s Flight, Space Mountain & Splash Mountain at the Magic Kingdom.

I hope you enjoyed reading my FastPass+ recommendations. For more helpful suggestions, please feel free to contact me at summerprager@worldofmagictravel.com. As an agent with World of Magic Travel Services – the preferred travel agency of Chip & Co. and Disney Addicts – I offer complimentary planning & booking services so that all you have to do is show up and enjoy!




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