Case Study: FastPass+ Impact On Epcot Touring Plans

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FastPass+ Kiosk LogoMany people are understandably concerned about how Disney’s new FastPass+ system is going to affect their Disney vacation. Some of the worries most frequently mentioned with the new system are:

  • Limit of three FastPass+ reservations per day
  • Not able to get multiple FastPass+ reservations for the same attraction
  • No ability to get FastPass+ reservations for all headliner attractions
  • Only getting FastPass+ reservations for one park per day.

Some of the benefits of the new system, such as the ability to select the time of the FastPass+ reservations – may not be as obvious. And not having to run around the park to get paper FASTPASS tickets will definitely save people time.

In many cases, however, using an optimized touring plan with FastPass+ will result in a touring plan that’s just as fast as one with the same attractions and legacy FASTPASS.

Given the way my family tours the parks, I assumed that Epcot would be the most negatively impacted by the new system. With Legacy FASTPASS we would acquire multiple FASTPASSes for Soarin’ and Test Track. Now we can only get one FastPass+ for Soarin’ or for Test Track, but not both.

To evaluate the impact of FastPass+, I’m going to compare touring plans for Epcot on the second Monday of June in 2013 and 2014. Both touring plans include the same attractions and optimize the use of the available FASTPASS/FastPass+ system. Since we would never use FASTPASS/FastPass+ in World Showcase, and since we take a casual touring approach in World Showcase, I’m going to allot a chunk of time for World Showcase. I’m also allotting 100 minutes for eating. For our family, FastPass+ will not affect our dining or touring World Showcase.

Here are the plans, showing the 2013 version first:

Epcot - June 10, 2013

Epcot - June 9, 2014

Is the 2013 plan better? The 2013 plan uses a “FASTPASS runner” to collect FASTPASS tickets. The runner is missing out on one ride on Test Track and some time in World Showcase.

The 2014 plan increases the overall standby time by 22 minutes, but the walking time is reduced by 12 minutes. That is only a 10 minute reduction of productive time. As the FASTPASS runner for our family, the trade-off of not running around the park and collecting FASTPASS tickets is worth the 10 minutes lost with FastPass+. Both plans allow for more than half the day to tour World Showcase, do other attractions, or just relax.

Here’s a summary of how the entire day’s time is spent in various activities:

pie charts

I also compared other dates from 2013 and 2014 to see how they fared under the same scenario. On all days, all touring plans start at 9 am. The 2013 touring plans all followed the same itinerary, with wait times adjusted based on observed data. The 2014 plans were re-optimized for the given day’s predicted wait times.

Epcot FastPass+ analysis

The average time spent walking and waiting is 150 minutes for both the legacy FASTPASS system and FastPass+.

The first comparison is Easter Sunday 2013 and 2014. Easter was early in 2013 and occurred during the heart of spring break. This is not a fair comparison for FastPass+ but a subject of another blog post. The other day that FastPass+ was a clear winner was May 20, 2014. This was the only day that I selected that had morning Extra Magic Hours.

The May 21, 2013, touring plan suffered from on-site guest getting to the park early. On other dates, the 2013 plans has a slight advantage but does not include the time of the FASTPASS runner.

Now it’s your turn. Use our free computer-optimized touring plan software to see how FastPass+ will affect your vacation!

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Posted on February 18, 2014

29 Responses to “Case Study: FastPass+ Impact On Epcot Touring Plans”

  • Thanks for the comparison! I hear/read a lot of complaints, but I’m not sure they’re valid. Your summary just goes to show that with a TP it doesn’t matter, both systems come out about equal. I think FP+ will help the non-touring plan folk a little, but those of us “in the know” have it made with Touring Plans!!!

  • by Wendy Pletcher on February 18, 2014, at 7:49 am EDT

    Do we know how fast pass plus will
    Impact parties such as MNSSHP? We are planning to attend in October and I need to make sure if it does that I can get tickets for Snow White ride!

  • FP+, like legacy FP, has not been available during the parties.

  • So how does this effect regular wait times? Sorry if this was answered I am on my phone all day and it’s tough for all this to load.

    • Overall we are not seeing huge impact on the standby wait times. When there is a statistically significant impact the change is small, sometime the attraction average wait times have gone down. I am talking about averages, and individual cases can be different. We are monitoring the effect of FastPass+ on standby wait times and adjusting our models. Using the Lines App and re-optimizing your touringplan will help navigate when there is a spike in an attraction’s wait time. What is less obvious is that with only three FastPass+ opportunities a day, a guest will likely be in more standby lines through the day.

  • Thanks for the comparison. However I think you actually picked the park which would be least impacted by FP+, bc there were really only two rides that ever needed FP. From my experience MK was the most impacted bc there are so many rides in general and ones that need FP later in the day. Also I noticed a considerable increase on standby for rides that now use FP+ (eg, haunted mansion, pirates, etc). On our last trip in early January, we average four fewer rides a day in Magic Kingdom then we had in the past.

    • I agree with Chris. We just returned from a short trip (2/9-2/11) and spent a day each at MK, Epcot, and HS.
      MK was by far the most impacted by fastpass+. We used all three of our FP+ selections and would have typically used at least two more. We did miss several rides due to additional wait times.
      In comparison, At Epcot we only used our Test Track FP+, skipped waiting for Soarin’ which already had waits of 50 minutes an hour after rope drop and didn’t end up using our other two FPs. Granted our FPs for Journey into Imagination and Living with the Land where pretty laughable, 5 minute waits or less for either.
      At HS, we only used two FP+ as well. With the tier system, I don’t see much point to that third FP+ since you can’t choose a ride twice or a headliner, you almost always end up with a throwaway choice.

    • I did state this was for the biggest impact on how my family tours the park. My kids are a bit jaded, and are willing to skip attractions if the wait times are too high. Their must do’s at the Magic Kingdom are the three mountains, so if we can use our three FastPass+ reservations for the mountains we are golden.

    • I also agree with Chris. Epcot is probably the 2nd-least impacted park by FP+, after AK.

      I think I can find a way to make the FP+ square peg fit in our touring plan round hole at Epcot, and even DHS. In the example given, instead of doing TT twice and Soarin once, we’d do Soarin twice and TT only once. But using the Touring Plans software, we’ve found a way to make that work with minimal disruption to our park touring.

      But we’re having a terrible time finding a way to do everything we want to do at MK with the current FP+ structure. At this point it looks like we’re going to be spending more time waiting in line, skip some of the things we used to do more than once, or both. MK is where FP+ falls flat.

      • We agree with Chris, Christie and John. The standby lines are longer and the Fastpass+ lines are ridiculous. Fastpass+ may have some appeal to those who stay on the property and 1st-(and only)-time visitors to the parks, but anyone staying at Shades of Green or off-site should start looking at other vacation options. The only advantage for them is reduced lines at the gate. We were there in January (at one of the slowest times of the year) and we were looking at long standby lines, annoyed guests, and confused cast members. Disney seems to be adjusting its business model to appeal to on-property guests and to emphasize moving folks into its restaurants & less popular rides at the expense of perennial and military guests. Maybe smart for them, too bad for us.

  • Well, I love FP+. Gone are the days when I feel like I have to be at rope drop or miss a FP fro Toy Story Mania or Soarin. I have a reservation now, made when I want it to be so as to to interfer with meals, etc. I think it works very well. I even slept in a couple of times last trip and still got to do everything!

    • I agree with you. Our last trip was so much more relaxing knowing that we had our reservations for 3 attractions. We also remember when at EPCOT, you had to make dinner reservations at kiosks. You had to get to the park, run to, stand in a line, and make a dinner reservation. Hasn’t it become so much easier to do this 180 days out, on-line or with a phone call. People will get used to FastPass+ and forget about how “great” it was to run for pastpasses all day!!

    • Agreed, we love it. Of course, we are not really concerned about doing every attraction and we also love planning everything at 180 days. We generally park hop and hit a few headliners each day, so the new system works great for us.

  • Thanks for the info! Would it be possible to do this with the other parks? Or at least with Magic Kingdom, like others have suggested? I agree that there are so many rides in Magic Kingdom that are impacted- we are the family that used 7, 8, or 9 fastpasses. We were there in January, but it was our first time going in January, and our first time using FP+, so we don’t know what’s typical in January. Thanks!

    • Yes. Over time I’m going to try to hit all four parks. For late start touring FastPass+ has a huge positive impact. I’m also thinking about doing a set of case studies with park hopping. I really like using FastPass+ for the 2nd park. Basically we do rope drop commando touring at the first park and save our FastPass+ reservations for the 2nd park. The 2nd park is much more laidback and may do little more than dinner an use our FastPass+ reservation.

      • Steve, I’m glad you brought up the late start, as i forgot to mention that in my comment above. I completely agree that being able to show up to the parks at 10 or 10:30 some days and walk right on the head liners is the number one benefit of FP+. In past we’ve always arrived at rope drop – and as a result couldn’t stay up late bc we were too tired or bc we’d never be able to get up in the AM. However, this last trip we were able to do a 50/50 slip on rope drop and sleep in so we booked late dinners, bar hoped and walked the boardwalk at night with little consequence.

        Regarding the park hopping, i’d like to see your “study” on that. My issue with booking the FP+ for park #2 is that we never really know when we’re going to get to the that second park as the day is constantly in flux. Therefore we run the risk of booking FP+ too early and missing the window and not being able to book others due to either no availability OR not enough time in the day to meet the 1 hour required windows.

  • i have several concerns about FP plus. one the limit of 3 and then at dhs and epcot the limit of the attractions that need it.

    Clearly in MK there are way more then 3 attractions that high yield for getting a FP. I also heard in MK that rides such as Pirates are getting longer waits than typical due to FP plus.

    And in Epcot you can only get either TT or Soarin- I find that a joke especially since the waits on average busy conditions you can efficiently see the other attractions with minimal wait time.

    I admit I was a rope dropper who often would get multiple FP for Space or Soarin over the course of a day by being the designated runner. I think while I get used to this new system, I prob will not go to Disney as often b/c the value is no longer there. I don’t go to golf, I go to ride attractions and Disney is essentially limiting the ability to ride attractions w/o wait. I think the purpose of FP plus is to get people to spend more (e.g. do you want to wait in a 50 min line or check out that store) but will hurt their customer loyalty.

  • From a Disney perspective if the net change is more customers in line and not walking around then the new system is a failure. Both from a customer relations perspective and a revenue one – people in line can’t buy anything.

    I just wonder, from a strictly money-making perspective, if this upgrade was worth it for Disney, X billion later.

    • It seems to me that will be judged on occupancy and average daily hotel revenue. They are pretty obviously advantaging hotel guests.

  • Walking time won’t be consistent, because you probably still have to backtrack for the fp+ reservation, unless your touring plan is perfect and perfectly followed.

  • The guide on a keys to the kingdom tour Friday told us they basically want to stop spikes in the wait times. So the wait for say space mountain is smoothed to a flat 30 min all day instead of rising and falling. May just be corporate spin but there’s an official explanation and goal.

  • the system will not let you have more than one fast pass plus in an hour so you can not have a fast pass plus for mission space at 6pm and spaceship earth at 6:26pm – it would have to be after 7 pm. I find it really hard to believe that Soarin would only have a 31 minute wait at 10:06. I have never seen less than a 40 minute wait and usually more. How did you predict the waits for June 2014?

  • Standby wait times were negatively impacted during our January trip at AK both and HS. FP+ worked well for us at EPCOT, but we had 1 day and 1 night in the park, so were able to ride Soarin’ standby at park opening, as well as successfully using FP+ for a rare (for us) night spin on Test Track, and a 2nd flight on Soarin’. At AK we waited 65 minutes for the Safari, as we had FP+ for the Studios for later in the day and were not eligible for fastpasses at AK. We also had a combination of a Toy Story breakdown and FP+ snafu which resulted in us experiencing no attractions during 3 hours at the Studios.

    Some general thoughts. We found that FP+ plus worked well in the evening, but reduced greatly the attractions we experienced at whichever park we visited earlier in the day, as we were forced to ride standby and the standby wait times seemed unusually long. We ended up leaving our first park of the day earlier than usual because of the wait times. We shopped less, experienced fewer attractions and ate fewer table service meals on this trip; as an upside we spent less money! The jury is still out, but if Disney doesn’t change the one park FP+ policy! I see very little reason to park hop, which our family really enjoys.

  • I’ve had the opportunity to use FP+ 3 times now.

    It was fun to use the first fp+ reservation for the day. But then I felt stressed needing to get to my next two fp+ reservations. I did less because I ‘had to get there’. There were occasions that I could have gone on another ride or did something else, but instead I had to be much more aware of how much time it would take me to get to these reservations.

    This system will change my whole approach to the parks. I feel I need to do a lot more planning.

    Maybe in the future we’ll be able to make 1 reservation at a time, or maybe even 2. I’ll never need a fp for Small World, Figment, etc. If the lines are too long there, as an AP, I’ll just skip it on that visit.

    By the way – do you think Touring Plans will have a meet up to help us with our Lines app and touring plans?

    • Hi Duffy- I assume you were stuck using the in-park FP+ kiosks. Hopefully sooner than later all guest will be able to use the My Disney Experience app to select and modify FastPass reservations. Hopefully this will reduce your stress since you can make changes on the fly.

      • Hi Steve, Yes, we’ve had to use the FP+ Kiosks. I’m looking forward to being able to schedule our FP’s in advance along with the ability to change them on the fly with the app.

        It will be nice to make our FP+ reservation in advance. I am assuming it will be easier to use my touring plan and start scheduling ADRs again..