This guide to FastPass+ at Walt Disney World is a primer for using the ride reservation system, the best FastPass+ selections, and tips on what to get for minimizing wait times, and a whole host of other things. FastPass+ and the rest of MyMagic+ have gotten past their early growing pains, we wanted to offer our detailed guide for using FastPass+ at Walt Disney World. As things have changed, we’ve gone back and tweaked this guide to better help you plan.
This post was last updated on November 30, 2016 with new tips added, including the new booking time for FastPass+, strategy for scoring a Frozen Ever After FastPass+, and more. Before we get to all of that, a bit of background. You might be wondering, just what exactly is FastPass+? Well, it’s essentially ride reservations. You make a FastPass+ reservation, and go to the attraction at which you booked the reservation during your allotted timeframe (say, 1:20 – 2:20 pm), enter through the FastPass+ line, and have a minimal wait in line. It’s like a VIP line, but there is no charge to use FastPass+.
FastPass+ is the second generation of FastPass at Walt Disney World, replacing paper FastPass ride reservations. The idea then was to get people out of lines and allow them to do other things while waiting for their ride reservation window. The original FastPass system had its strengths and weaknesses, and could be leveraged to allow those who did their homework a strategic advantage.
There was trepidation about FastPass+ existed when it officially launched two years ago by those who mastered the old system, but FastPass+ has its own advantages. While FastPass+ can’t be exploited to the same degree as regular paper FastPass, guests who are “in the know” can still save a ton of time. All it takes is a little patience and spending the time to understand how FastPass+ works.
While we can’t grant you patience, we will help you understand the system in this post…
Booking FastPass+, Step by Step
There are two ways FastPass+ can be obtained: via the My Disney Experience app or website in advance of visits, or via in-park kiosks for guests who don’t have smart phones or who don’t purchase tickets in advance. The FastPass+ is then stored on the MagicBand or your park tickets. (Note that Magic Bands are not required to use FastPass+.)
The importance of booking FastPass+ in advance of your trip cannot be over-emphasized, and this is one of the big reasons why strongly recommend buying tickets as early as possible in our Tips for Saving Money on Walt Disney World Tickets post. Many FastPass+ for popular attractions “sell out” quickly, and getting FastPass+ reservations early can literally save you hours in line, or prevent you from missing out on experiences entirely.
FastPass+ can be booked for any hour window during the park’s normal operating hours. FastPass+ cannot be booked during Extra Magic Hours or hard ticket events such as Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party or Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party. Additionally, FastPass+ times cannot overlap.
Guests “redeem” FastPass+ by swiping the MagicBand or park ticket against an RFID “Mickey Head” reader outside FastPass+ attractions. Guests are able to book 3 FastPass+ tickets in advance of their vacation. You can be 5 minutes early or 15 minutes late to use your FastPass+ reservation and the RFID readers will allow you to enter. So really, your “hour” window is 1 hour 20 minutes long.
After these initial FastPass+ selections are redeemed, guests can book additional same-day selections, as available. This is now possible with the app in addition to the in-park kiosks.
The advance booking process for FastPass+ is relatively straightforward once you understand it, but it’s one of those things that’s much easier to understand when you can look at something to help you visualize the process, so I’m going to walk you through it via screenshots and explain some additional things to know through the screenshots, rather than just with a wall of text.
For this walk-through, I’m using the My Disney Experience website, but it’s virtually the same on the app. Before starting, you’ll want to download the My Disney Experience app, or sign onto your DisneyWorld.com account.
When you purchase Walt Disney World tickets in advance and stay at a Walt Disney World resort hotel, you can make your FastPass+ selections up to 60 days prior to check-in for the entire length of your stay.
These booking windows open up at 7 a.m. on the 30 or 60 day mark, so don’t wait around until 8 a.m. to do this like you would Advance Dining Reservations!
Okay, now time for the steps…
The first step is being up bright and early before your booking window opens at 7 a.m. on your 30 or 60 day mark. Make sure you’re logged into My Disney Experience on your computer or phone, pull up the My Disney Experience menu, click FastPass+, and be ready to go at exactly 7 a.m. Once the clock hits 7, click the “Get Started” button on the FastPass+ page, and start making your selections via the process shown below…
(You are first taken to a screen where you select from your friends and determine for whom you’ll make the reservations. For the privacy of my friends who may not want their info blogged, I’m skipping that screen…)
Next up, you select the date and park.
Since I have a hotel reservation, I can book 60 days in advance…
Next, you make your individual selections. This works differently for the Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom than it does Epcot and Disney’s Hollywood Studios, as the former do not use tiering and the latter do. We’ll cover this in the strategy section below.
With recent changes to the FastPass+ system, you can specify the time you want for your FastPass+ rather than having the system choose at random. This is a change for the better. You can choose whatever time you want, but for strategic reasons, I normally choose midday.
I’m going as far out as possible in order to get a FastPass+ for Soarin’ Around the World.
After choosing my time, I’m given a confirmation screen…
…After hitting confirm, I receive confirmation, and am asked whether I want another FastPass+. Rinse and repeat. The new system is pretty easy, and operates very similarly on the phone.
See? Same idea, just formatted in a slightly different manner.
When you return to the FastPass+ screen, you’ll see your reservations, have the ability to modify, etc. It’s all very intuitive. If you can use Facebook, you can use this system. Chances are that any question you have about the functionality of the site will answer themselves after playing around with it for 5 minutes.
With all of that said, don’t be afraid to ask questions below, but since the basics of booking FastPass+ are ridiculously easy to understand, I’m going to move onto strategy, which is where the fun begins…
Best FastPass+ By Park
We’ll keep it short and sweet here, in case all you care about is the best choices, and don’t want to read a long explanation as to why (that’s in the strategy below). You can also find more strategy in our Disney Attraction & Ride Guides for Walt Disney World each contain thorough recommendations concerning the best uses of FastPass+ for each park.
Here are the choices that will save you the most time in each park:
- Seven Dwarfs Mine Train
- Peter Pan’s Flight
- Splash Mountain
- Space Mountain
- Big Thunder Mountain Railroad
- Frozen Ever After (Tier 1)
- Soarin’ Around the World (Tier 1)
- Test Track (Tier 1) – single rider recommended instead
- Spaceship Earth (Tier 2)
- Mission: Space (Tier 2)
Disney’s Hollywood Studios
- Toy Story Mania (Tier 1)
- Rock ‘N’ Roller Coaster (Tier 1)
- Tower of Terror (Tier 2)
Disney’s Animal Kingdom
- Kilimanjaro Safaris
- Expedition Everest
These are objectively the best choices, but they may not be the best selections for you, depending upon which attractions interest you (also note that some of the above have height restrictions, so they may not be the best options for families). The best thing you can do prior to your FastPass+ booking windows opening is looking at Walt Disney World wait times for a little while before your trip, and pinpointing the most appealing high-wait attractions to you.
If should come as no surprise that not all FastPass+ attractions are created equally. Some are really difficult to score, and others are seemingly always available (think of them as the “participant award” FastPass+). Let’s start with the difficult ones.
If you want Frozen Ever After, you’ll need to be up bright and early, because Frozen Ever After will be the most difficult FastPass+ to score in all of Walt Disney World. If you don’t want to wait in standby lines exceed 120 minutes quite regularly (Frozen Ever After is a low-capacity boat ride and demand for it is astronomical, which is a recipe for wait times in the triple digits), you will need to be up bright and early at your 60 day window to book it.
Many days, the Frozen Ever After FastPass+ will be sold out 60 or more days in advance. This is possible because hotel guests have 60 days from the date of check-in. So, if you’re taking a 10-day on-site Walt Disney World vacation, you effectively have a 70-day window for that last day of the trip. This makes booking FastPass+ for the later days of any long trip easier than the early days. Because of this, always book FastPass+ in order of difficulty. Meaning, if you’re going to Epcot on day 3 of your trip, start by booking your Frozen Ever After FastPass+ before booking days 1 and 2. It is the most difficult FastPass+ to book, so that means booking your Epcot day first.
At the other end of the spectrum from highly coveted FastPass+ like Frozen Ever After are the “Participant FastPass+”, Walt Disney World added FastPass+ to many attractions that never had (and never needed) FastPass to make sure there was sufficient capacity in the system so that each guest can book 3 per day without all popular attractions “selling out” of FastPass+ in advance, causing guests to become irritated.
This means that some attractions offering FastPass+ are essentially red herrings, offering FastPass+ not because they will save you time, but so people have something to book in advance if other attractions are sold out. The idea behind this is that guest satisfaction will be higher if people are able to book FastPass+ (even if those selections save them no time) than they would be if all FastPass+ during their trip are “sold out.”
This is pretty easy to illustrate. In the screenshot above, I have selected 3 FastPass+ at Disney’s Animal Kingdom that will not save me any time, whatsoever. These are each shows with fairly high capacity, and any guest in standby will also be able to see the shows.
People with FastPass+ may get better seats at these shows, but there’s no guarantee of that. In short, these selections are a waste, and only offered so people don’t feel discouraged when the good FastPass+ options aren’t available. Think of them as the “Participant Award” of Walt Disney World touring.
You might recall that above I recommended making FastPass+ selections for the middle of the day.Making your 3 FastPass+ selections between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. is, I think, the best strategy (except at Animal Kingdom). This is because midday is when the wait times are the longest, the weather is the hottest, and you’re going to want to spend the least time waiting in line.
The first advantage to this is that it gives you roughly 2 hours from rope drop until 11 a.m. to do attractions via the standby line before the crowds really hit, and lines start getting longer. If you’re redeeming FastPass+ first thing in the morning, you aren’t taking advantage of these short standby waits.
Conversely, if you book FastPass+ too late in the day, your options are limited once you redeem your FastPasses and can start making additional selections. Instead, you want to find the right balance between early and not too early, and I think that is around 11 a.m. until 2 p.m. At Animal Kingdom, we recommend using your FastPass+ for the nighttime attractions and entertainment, since all of these new things will be incredibly popular, and there aren’t that many “good” FastPass+ (as you see above) in Animal Kingdom, anyway. In addition to doing the nighttime Kilimanjaro Safari with FastPass+, we’d recommend rope dropping it via the standby line.
Since many guests have no clue what FastPass+ even is until they show up at the park that day (I’d say this describes most guests), you essentially are in a “race” with other guests to use your FastPass+ and start making additional selections before other guests select remaining “good” FastPass+ run out for the day. Think of it as the Hunger Games, except with Disney rides.
In the Magic Kingdom, it is worth noting that many of the attractions that will have high wait times later in the day are located nearby one another, have short ride durations, and can be quickly knocked-out with minimal wait first thing in the morning. So, if park opening is at 9 am, you might be best served by racing to Peter Pan’s Flight, then Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, Under the Sea ~ Journey of the Little Mermaid, and ‘it’s a small world’ first thing. After Fantasyland lines start getting bad, use your FastPass+ for the “Magic Kingdom Mountain Range” after 11 a.m.
This is especially important in the Magic Kingdom, where there are 15+ attractions for which FastPass+ is useful to help avoid waits. For this reason, an ideal strategy in the Magic Kingdom is spending the 2 hours or so of the day doing popular, short attractions via standby, then using FastPass+ for different attractions, then getting and redeeming more FastPass+ as soon as possible (continuing that strategy as long as you’re able), and then doing unpopular attractions and/or redeeming additional FastPass+ in the middle of the day. Finally, at the end of the night, you’ll be using standby again at as the crowds and wait times die down. (We always jump into line for Seven Dwarfs Mine Train 1 minute before the park closes!)
An alternate strategy to this if you’re going to be Park Hopping is to not book any FastPass+ for the first park you’re visiting (you can only book FastPass+ for one park per day), staying there until standby lines build, and then hopping to a different park where you have FastPass+ scheduled once things start getting busy.
This strategy works really well for doing Disney’s Hollywood Studios in the late-afternoon after some other park in the morning (as I remarked on our 1-Day Disney’s Hollywood Studios Itinerary, I wouldn’t spend a full day there right now due to all the construction), making it possible to do Toy Story Mania, Tower of Terror, and other attractions with minimal wait before enjoying the new Star Wars: A Galactic Spectacular fireworks.
There’s a lot to learn, or re-learn, as the case may be, but it’s still possible to “hack” FastPass+ to make it work better for you. Just remember, it’s an art, not a science. You’ll get the hang of it once you start using FastPass+…
I know this is a lot to digest about FastPass+, especially considering how intuitive and easy to use the system really is, so I’m going to cut this FastPass+ guide off here. Like so many things related to Walt Disney World, it’s intimidating at first, with a lot of superficial complexity. However, also like a lot of Walt Disney World trip planning, it’s surprisingly simple to understand. There are some complexities that do make it difficult to master, and I think I’ve covered most of those.
If you have specific questions or are interested in park-by-park guides for FastPass+, please feel free to ask, and I’ll do my best to answer in the comments below. Also, keep in mind that, although much of the dust has settled, the FastPass+ system is still in its infacy, and very much in flux. I’ll do my best to keep this guide updated, but some things may change…please let me know if you notice any outdated info!
If you need help booking your Walt Disney World vacation and would like the assistance from a professional, click here to get a quote from a recommended, no-fee Authorized Disney Vacation Planner. They get their commission from Disney, so there is no charge to you for them to book your trip, help you plan, and even book your FastPass+ ride reservations for you!
If you are planning a first trip to Walt Disney World or your first trip since all of this My Disney Experience stuff launched, make sure to check out our Disney Tips & Tricks page for a lot of helpful tips to outsmart the masses. Also check out our dining reviews to find the best restaurants and our trip planning posts to figure out what to pack, where to buy Walt Disney World tickets to save money, which discounts to look for, and all the other ins and outs of a trip to Walt Disney World, all of which are covered extensively in our Walt Disney World Trip Planning Guide.
Have you used FastPass+? What did you think? Any tips of your own to add? Any questions you have about FastPass+ that this guide didn’t answer? Please share your thoughts in the comments!