My Experience as a FastPass+ Tester

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I made an all too brief visit to Walt Disney World this past weekend with my husband. About two weeks prior to our departure for this trip, I received a surprise FastPass+ tester invitation in the mail. The “welcome” letter included two standard plastic cards which were imprinted with our names and a square QR code box. We were directed to a website where we could use our resort reservation number to sign up for FastPass+ use.

The test took place at the Magic Kingdom and Disney’s Hollywood Studios. We were directed to choose one of these parks on each of the two nights of our stay. I chose our arrival day Friday December 14 for DHS and Saturday 15 for the Magic Kingdom. We were offered a list of several attractions and allowed to choose a limited number to reserve with the FastPass+. We were presented with four sample time configurations, but had the ability to go in later and tinker with the timing. In practice, this felt very much like making a meal reservation.

Here are some screen shots of the reservation process:

You are initially presented with four sample FastPass+ itineraries. These can be changed. Note that each time you log on, you have 30 minutes to make your choices.

Some FastPass+ slots do fill completely up, leaving standby as the only option.

You can do a fair amount of tinkering with your FastPass+ selections.

It looks like more attractions may have FastPass+ capability than currently have standard FastPass capability.

You can print your selections, or have them emailed to you.

I’m still processing my thoughts on FastPass+, but here are some initial observations and reflections:

Using my FastPass+ card at Toy Story Mania. A real boon on arrival day.

    • This is an AMAZING tool for WDW arrival days. Our flight to Orlando landed in the late morning. There was no way we could get to Disney’s Hollywood Studios before 1:00 p.m., when Toy Story Midway Mania standard FastPasses are usually long gone and waits of 90 minutes or more are typical. However, because I had a reserved FastPass+ slot at 3:00, we were able to hop right on the attraction at our appointed time. Similarly, this will be a boon for teens or other folks who like to sleep in on vacation. With FastPass+ you could theoretically schedule all your riding in advance for late afternoon or evening. The whole “get to the park before rope drop” mindset may change dramatically.
    • You can set up separate FastPass schedules for each member of your party. This means that you don’t all have to ride together, or even ride the same attractions.
    • There is definitely a “Big Brother is watching you” aspect to this. Each time we used our FastPass+, we were greeted by name. Somehow during the registration process, my husband’s card got coded with my name and vice versa. Cast members remarked on this several times.
    • The guest-specific labeling of the FastPass+ has me wondering what will become of the “FastPass sacrifice.” For example, my daughter Josie LOVES Tower of Terror, I can take it or leave it. Often I’ll use my park ticket to get a FastPass for ToT and give it to her – sacrificing my Pass so that she can ride twice. I hope that enforcement of FastPass+ user identity does not become the norm. Somewhere in the rumor mill I recall hearing that the new card technology will eventually be linked to guest photos. (Just a rumor, I have no scoop.) Would my photo show up if my daughter used my Pass, thus causing her problems?

FastPass+ control station at the Jungle Cruise attraction. You can use this station to modify your FastPass+ selections while in the park.

  • The “celebration notification” aspect of the card might become grating after a while. During registration, I was presented with half a dozen choices of things I might be celebrating (birthday, anniversary, reunion, etc.). I chose the last option, “other,” just to see what would happen. Sure enough, all the cast at the FastPass+ return areas asked what the “other” was. Even if you’re there for your birthday, I can see that the obligatory good wishes could quickly seem forced rather than fun. Also, I didn’t necessarily want to have a conversation at every ride.
  • We were allowed to make changes to our FastPass+ “reservations” on the fly, pending availability. For example, at any of the stations, you can ask to see your remaining FastPass+ allotment and if check whether it’s possible to switch attractions or times. As with restaurants, there appeared to be a few attractions that filled up quickly and had little movement in their availability. My impression was that the reserved parade and Wishes areas were the hottest tickets, likely because there is only one time each day for this.
  • The FastPass+ times were staggered such that you could really only have one FastPass+ reservation per hour. This did not impact your ability to get/use regular FastPasses. No word yet on whether this will stay the same once the rollout it complete.
  • I hope that eventually guests will be able to build Park Hopping into their FastPass+ experience. The current test only allow reservations at one park per day.

RFID Room Key

You use this device on the check-in desk to select your PIN.

During this trip, we stayed at the Boardwalk, where all the rooms appear to have been converted to RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) locks. You wave your room key in front of the lock, rather than sliding it into a slot. I had previously encountered this technology during opening weekend at the Art of Animation resort.

I loved the RFID locks at AoA, but initially had huge problems with them at the Boardwalk. I’d get to the room and the key would work. I’d leave and come back, then the key wouldn’t work. This happened several times. Eventually I found a cast member at the Boardwalk concierge desk who explained that the new iPhones have been demagnetizing guests’ key cards. She gave me an envelope for my key and told me to put it in a different part of my purse, away from my phone. After following her advice, I had no more key problems. I hope this is something they work out because I often place my room key and phone in a small wristlet or clutch when I’m going out in the evenings at WDW.

RFID Tap to Pay

When checking in at the Boardwalk, we were asked if we wanted to activate “Tap to Pay” on our Key to the World Card. To do this, we selected a four digit PIN and input that number twice into a reader on the check in desk. There are some restrictions about what PINs are available. For example, we were told that we could not choose four consecutive numbers (1234) or two sets of double numbers (1122). Once your Key to the World Card had Tap to Pay activated, for purchases under $50.00 you really do just tap your card on a reader in front of the register. If you’re making a purchase over $50.00, you tap your card and then input your four digit PIN into the reader. I used this technology twice, once at the Boardwalk gift shop and once at the Emporium on Main Street in the Magic Kingdom.

Tap to Pay point at the Emporium on Main Street.

My sense is that in the long run, this will become a slight time saver for merchandise check out cast members. Previously, cast members had to check photo ID for room charge purchases over $50.00. With the RFID system in place, these transactions will involve less fumbling to find drivers’ licenses and more quick tapping of PIN codes. On a related note, there is fairly large subset of WDW guests who likes to enter the parks with only their Key card. Under the old system, these folks could only make merchandise purchases of less than $50.00 because they had no ID on their person. Now they won’t need the ID to make a payment.

RFID Park Entry

Magic Kingdom Touch Point entry - no turnstiles.

RFID entry was also tested at the Magic Kingdom. Four or five sets of turnstiles had been removed from the far right side of the entry area (near Guest Services) and had been replaced with Touch Point card readers. There was no entry barrier; it was simply up to the cast on site to regulate the flow of guests. The scene during the test was slightly chaotic because it was not immediately clear who could enter where. Cast members were just asking people if they were staying on WDW property and if so did they have their park tickets encoded into their room key. Since I am an annual pass holder and did not have my park ticket on my room key, I could not enter through the test area. I did, however, watch the entry area for quite a while. The lack of physical turnstiles made it much easier for guests using strollers or personal mobility devices.

Overall

Overall, I was impressed with my tech testing experience. I know that my teens will be thrilled when the day comes that they can be sure about getting on Soarin’ without having to wake up at the crack of dawn. And once I got the demagnetization issue worked out, my RFID room key and payment experience was quick and easy. I look forward to subsequent roll out steps.

Fellow travelers, what questions do you have about FastPass+ or other new technology testing at Walt Disney World? Let us know in the comments below.

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Posted on December 19, 2012

27 Responses to “My Experience as a FastPass+ Tester”

  • Any updates on:

    1. When they will go live with FastPass+
    2. Will it only be available for resort guests or can you still get a FP+ if staying off property?

    Thanks!

    • Sorry, no info on either of those things. I just got lucky and was randomly selected to be a tester. I have no inside scoop other than my experience as a regular guest.

  • Initially I thought FP+ was just too much overplanning, but you make a great point about late arrivals. On my last trip our only Studios day was arrival day so we had to suck it up and do TSM standby. Plus, I just can’t stomach roller coasters first thing in the morning, so it would be great to FP them for late in the day. So I can definitely see the advantages. Thanks.

  • Great info, Erin. I hadn’t thought about that great benefit on arrival day- I may rethink my usual plan of not hitting a park when our arrival time is later in the day! And my daughter and husband will definitely appreciate not being automatically forced into rope drop in order to hit TSM. As a savvy WDW veteran, I’m sure you were able to navigate the process easily- but how do you think the casual visitor will respond? It seems like it might be a bit of a complicated process for people not comfortable with the system…

    • Well, it definitely helped that I was familiar with the rides already. For example, I was thrilled when I saw that the New Fantasyland Belle and Ariel attractions were included. I was dying to see them for the first time. And I knew we wouldn’t get there for rope drop because we a late event the evening before. I had resigned my self to several hours of waiting to see the new attractions in the afternoon. But when I saw they were on the list, I knew immediately that those would have the longest lines, so I chose them for my test.

      I can see a new visitor selecting something like Magic Carpets, that doesn’t normally have a huge line, instead of something like Belle or TSMM that have huge lines, thus “wasting” their FP+. In thinking about this more, adding lesser attractions to the FP+ list may be Disney’s way of covertly directly traffic flow to these areas.

  • Great post – lots of good info here… exciting to hear “early scoop”! ;) So thanks, Erin!

    Will they still have the standard FP stations available, in addition to FP+? I hope so. We always stay on-site, and it would be great to have this as an additional perk of Disney Resorts… but it doesn’t seem fair to take away FP from those who don’t.

    My other concern is that as much as I love to obsessively plan our WDW trips, scheduling the entire day’s worth of rides ahead of time seems a bit much. What about all the 1st time visitors, who are already overwhelmed with Disney trip planning, and maybe miss out on this for lack of knowing? :(

    • Not sure about whether standard FP will remain, the rumors I’ve heard say yes, but truly these are just unsubstantiated rumors.

      I liked having a combination of FP and FP+. I used FP+ on the attractions that I knew would have the longest lines. But I can see that this could be overwhelming and confusing for newer guests.

      • oh man i hope they keep the standard ones! i’m a passholder and make frequent day trips. i only stay overnight during the food and wine festival. it would be nice to be able to still get a fastpass or two when i’m only visiting for seven hours. :) thanks for the heads up though! i’m now hoping we get selected during our october trip next year :)

  • We were also chosen to do a test, and while I was initially apprehensive, I thought it was awesome. The only thing that didn’t work in our case was the fact that we missed some of our pre-arranged times due to schedule changes, and there was very little available to switch them to.

    Great review!!

    • We also missed one of our times. But I think this is somewhat like regular FastPasses. I’ve often gotten a FP in the morning, thinking that I would use it in the afternoon, then had a change of plans.

      In the past, we’ve gifted these unwanted FastPasses to other guests as we left the park, with FP+ this “pay it forward” pixie dust opportunity goes away.

  • This has been the most particular preview i have seen yet and i’ll be looking forward in using this if offered. If Disney really wants to be geeky. They can have this fastpass+ and the rest of the RFID tech run on a phone/tablet with NFC with that “My Disney Experience” App if they develop it. And for those concerned with security, with a phone I think, the chip will only be active when the screen is on. Phone in your pocket, it is off unlike say the card which is always accessible since it doesn’t have an off switch.

    I can’t imagine what will happen to Disneyland if they have the same thing at WDW.

    • Not sure if I would like it on my iphone, last summer when I was there I could not use my phone to access anything for four days because of no signal. I would have lost all passes and access to them.

      • I was in the MK and Epcot this same weekend and tried to use wifi in both parks. Epcot was excellent. MK was definitely not. I could only get a reliable wifi signal about 25% of the time, about the same amount of time I could get a reliable data signal on the Droid. And when you’re waiting for a parade or fireworks, when thousands of people are standing around looking at their phones, it’s even worse. So they need to step up the wifi in the Magic Kingdom for this work work well, in my experience anyway.

  • I happened to be in Disney World the same time you were and was also invited to try the FastPass+. Our thoughts are, that with the exception of late arrivals, it just doesn’t allow for any spontaneity. We only used 1 of our 7 allotted FastPass+ experiences because we would find ourselves staying in a different park longer than expected or stopping to have dinner when and then changing our minds about whether we wanted to go on the FastPass+ ride or just go see the fireworks of the Christmas lights.

    It just didn’t work for us. I like to plan my FastPass based on the day we are actually in the park…not weeks or months before.

    Just our thoughts.

  • I can definitely see this working against folks who are not planners.

    But many people do make their meal reservations, and thus their choice about which park to visit on which day, 180 days in advance. For someone who knows that they’ll be having dinner at Cinderella Castle at 6:00 p.m., it could be boon to know that they’ll also have the opportunity to ride the Under the Sea attraction at 5:00 p.m.

    The FP+ might also be less useful during the off season, but I sure do wish I had access to this for my family trip to WDW for Christmas next week.

  • I just cannot wait for this!!! We have our next trip in April 13, and I hope so badly that this is in place by then!!! I am a mega planner with personalized touring plans for everyday, and this will relieve some pressure if I can get fastpasses for Enchanted tales and Ariel for late morning or late afternoon. So far (yes, I’ve already planned everything out…) We will be there for 6 days, and we are spending 3 days at MK (for rope drop)just so we don’t have to have my 3 small children stand in lines for longer than 15-20 minutes…

  • How lucky! Fascinating information:) Those are some excellent points regarding arriving late to a park and using the Fastpass+, I-phone keycard interference, and card identity ( very Big Brother!)…thank you for sharing :0)

  • Last night there was an update of the My Disney Experience app. When I opened it after the update, there was a very long agreement to agree to. The following was in the agreement:
    You are required to convert paper tickets and passes in order to make and use FastPass+ selections. Once you convert a ticket or pass you will no longer be able to participate in the standard FASTPASS service upon arrival at the parks.

    • Wow. That’s very interesting. Thanks for sharing that info.

      I’m headed back to WDW today. I’ll keep y’all posted whether anything is different this week from last.

  • I’m with Tamara. I am a planner but visiting off peak & dining in resorts means which park we visit on a given day can be more spontaneous. I don’t like the idea of fp+ at all!

  • I personally am all about planning as much as possible in advance because quite honestly it usually works to your advantage.

    We just used FP+ at MK on the 13th and HS on the 14th and the biggest issue was that guests would change a time for one person in their group but not the others and then that would gum up the whole FP line as one person would be let through but then the castmember wouldn’t know what to do with everyone else in their party.

    The line for Toy Story stopped moving for over ten minutes while a supervisor was called to “fix” this situation. I say “fix” because when he came he didn’t know what to do and just let everyone else through without apology for the wait.

    We also had an instance where our one FP+ card just would not work on Big Thunder Mountain. Why I don’t know because it worked on the other three rides we did FP+ with that day but the castmember just let us all through with a shrug.

    To me the idea of FP+ is great and hopefully once guests and castmembers get more accustomed to the technology it will even get better.

    Also notewrothy is how much money Disney wasted in sending our FP+ cards. We were contacted via email about three weeks before our date of arrival and made our choices the same day. The cards were sent via Priority Mail the day before we left at a cost of almost $6.00.

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  • Erin,
    What were your observations for the Christmas week regarding FP+? Do you yet know if Plus and paper can be used conjointly? Thanks!

    • The FastPass+ testing took place on December 14-15. I was also at WDW over Christmas and was able to use the RFID room keys and the Tap to Pay Feature, but not FP+ because that was not available to any guests at the end of December.

      Over Christmas, and continuing, guests with their park tickets on their room keys could also enter the parks using the no-turnstile entry. I could not do that because I am an annual pass holder.

      There is no official word about whether both FP and FP+ will be available simultaneously in the long run. My personal guess is yes, but that’s really just a guess.

  • My planner personality couldn’t be more excited about the roll out of Fastpass+. We are going in May as a family of 13 and we’ve pre-planned our meals, pool days, sleep-in days, late nights and even some time with a Disney Photographer. It would be amazing to plan for fast passes as well…with different aged kids it makes it difficult to run to the other side of the park to get fastpasses. As an Annual Passholder and DVC Member this will make our vacations SO much more family oriented and less stressful…I can see us now being able to enjoy some more family time and strolls at the parks. YIPPEE!!