FastPass+

Walt Disney World FastPass+ Strategy Update

by on May 4, 2016

Kiosks? We don't need no stinkin' kiosks!

Kiosks? We don’t need no stinkin’ kiosks!

Remember a couple of months ago when we released a three part series on Disney’s FastPass+ service at Walt Disney Worldhow to use it, the best strategy for getting the most out of it, and then hacks and tips to make it even better? Well, Disney had to go and enhance the service, rendering some of our advice outdated. Well, consider it outdated no more. Read on to find out how these changes impact the process of making your picks, and the strategy to using the FastPass+ system!

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Big Changes for FastPass+ at Walt Disney World

by on April 9, 2016

MagicBand / FastPass+ / My Disney ExperienceMyMagic+ and FastPass+ have been ever evolving for the Walt Disney World Resort. Tweaks and changes to both programs have occurred due to demands of how Guests wished to utilize the technology, including allowing Guests to make a fourth rolling FastPass, changes in the tiering system, being able to make reservations at a park you park-hopped to, and more. Throughout the years, news and tips about FastPass+ have been plentiful and the questions have been many and varied.

Well, today I bring more news that I think will be greatly appreciated. Going forward, Disney is going to be making it easier to make and customize FastPass+ choices.

Beginning this Sunday, Guests will now no longer need to visit a kiosk to make their fourth rolling FastPass+ choice. Instead, Guests will now be able to use the My Disney Experience app to make additional selections after your first three FastPass+ reservations have been used. (Hooray!) Guests may still choose to visit a FastPass+ kiosk, which will still be located in strategic locations around the four theme parks, if they so choose. Let me tell you though, it will be great to finally be able to make the additional choices on my phone going forward.

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The Magic Kingdom with ride breakdowns and limited FastPass+ options

by on March 18, 2016

MBig Thunder (4)y visit to the Magic Kingdom last Sunday could have been a disaster. I waited too long to make FastPass+ reservations, for one thing. When I did – three days before my trip – none were available for Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, and only late afternoon reservations remained for most Fantasyland attractions. Even worse, there were 3 long ride breakdowns during the day I visited – at Pirates, Big Thunder, and the Peoplemover – that would have been hard to handle without a computer to adjust my plan. But it gave us some great ideas for improving the Optimizer, our touring plan software. Here’s how my day unfolded.

Before I left, I made a copy of our standard Magic Kingdom One-Day Touring Plan for Adults. The Magic Kingdom was open from 9 AM to 10 PM, and we’d predicted a crowd level of 6 on our 1-to-10 crowd calendar. I was able to get these FastPasses:

Space Mountain at 9:15 AM

Big Thunder Mountain at 10:15 AM

Peter Pan’s Flight at 5:05 PM

I also set the touring plan walking speed to its fastest setting, and told it to minimize waiting in line. Here’s the touring plan the Optimizer came up with:

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Disney Hacks #3: FastPass+ Hacks & Advanced Tips

by on March 8, 2016

disney hacksOK, so you know what FastPass+ is, you know how to use it, and you’ve got a pretty good idea of how to get the most out of it? Now you’re looking to crank it up to 11 and take this ninja level, right?  

First of all, full disclosure, the glory days of being able to hoard multiple FastPasses and then use them at the end of the day in a headliner free-for-all are unfortunately behind us, and there’s nothing in here that reaches that level of awesomeness. Moreover, everything here falls squarely within Disney’s rules and practices. With that said, information is power, and knowing what it will and will not let you do can help you make the most of it, and hopefully do some things you hadn’t considered. 

Split Your Party to Get Hard-to-Get FastPass+ Reservations

Sometimes, you’ll try to make a FastPass+ reservation for an attraction for your group and there’s simply nothing available (this is probably most frequent when trying to make reservations on relatively short notice for in-demand attractions). Before you relegate yourself to waiting in the regular line like a plebeian, you might try splitting your group into smaller groups to see if that changes the availability.

©Disney

©Disney

For example, let’s say that you have a party of 4, and you want to experience the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, but the FastPass+ system is telling you that there’s no availability. It could be that they don’t have an hour of time for a party of four, but they might for two groups of two, or even four single reservations. Accordingly, try breaking your party down into smaller groups and see if that changes the availability. Moreover, those time blocks for the smaller groups might overlap, such that you could still experience the attraction together (e.g., if one window starts at 1 pm and the other starts at 1:30, there is a 50 minute window, including the grace periods, where both groups could ride at the same time).

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The Basics: A Timeline for Your Disney World Trip

by on March 7, 2016

Castle (6)This is a continuation of our Back to Basics Series. Scroll to the bottom to see our other Basics posts.

My previous article in the TouringPlans blog Back to Basics series focused on using the TouringPlans Crowd Calendar to decide when to go to Disney World. Once you’ve made that all-important decision, it’s time to start planning the details of your trip. Using a timeline is an excellent way to keep your trip planning on track. It’s also a fun way to ratchet up the excitement as you count down the days to your vacation.

This article starts with a chart showing essential milestones in a Disney World planning timeline, followed by an example of a timeline used by a family preparing for their trip. Plus, learn how TouringPlans.com subscribers can receive personalized alerts and use their own Dashboard on TouringPlans.com to ensure they don’t miss the crucial dates in their timeline.

© Sarah Graffam

Use a Disney World Trip Planning Timeline to Keep You on Track for Making FastPass+ Reservations and More

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The Basics: Meeting Characters at Animal Kingdom

by on March 2, 2016

AK-Characters-1-467x700This is a continuation of our Back to Basics Series. Scroll to the bottom to see our other Basics posts.

 

Character meet and greets – love them or hate them, they’re a pivotal part of a Walt Disney World vacation. I already waxed nostalgic on the magical memories that can be made at a character meet, and I encourage you to check out my first article (which focuses on Epcot) in the Character Meet and Greet portion of our Back to Basics series. For my second foray into the detailed world of characters and where they live, we’re headed off to the Animal Kingdom!

Animal Kingdom is not a park I traditionally associate with a large number of character meet and greets, but one major thing it has going for it is uniqueness. While you can find your traditional characters there (Mickey, Minnie, etc.) you can also find others who only appear in Animal Kingdom. In actuality, Animal Kingdom has a pretty solid line-up of characters! (I have no idea why I have some sort of mental block saying that Animal Kingdom isn’t prime real estate for characters – it is!) Before we start on the rundown of characters you can find here, let me give you some basic meet and greet tips. (Feel free to scroll past the following section if you read it in the Epcot article. Do I at least get bonus points for swapping out the photos?)

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The Basics: FastPass+ Strategy

by on February 29, 2016

TouringPlans logoThis is a continuation of our Back to Basics Series. Scroll to the bottom to see our other Basics posts.

Welcome back! This is the second in a three part series about DisneyFastPass+ service and how to make the most of it.  It assumes that you already know what FastPass+ is and how it works, so if you have no idea what we’re talking about, please take a moment to read through my recent primer on that topic.  For the rest of you that know how to use FastPass+, be aware that FastPass+ should allow you to spend less time in line, but depending upon how you use it, it can either save you a lot of time, or essentially none at all.  This will hopefully help you fall into the former category!  Let’s go!  

Selection Strategy


FastPass+ Kiosk LogoSimply stated, your goal in selecting your FastPass+ selections is not just to reserve the attractions that are on your to-do list, but it should be to
select the attractions that are on your to-do list that generate the most significant waits.  For example, I love Mickey’s Philharmagic, and we make sure that we experience it at least once on every trip.  With that said, I would never spend a FastPass on it, because doing so wouldn’t actually save me any time in line. On the other hand, while Peter Pan’s Flight is nowhere near my favorite attraction, it remains a must do and not having a FastPass+ for it potentially sets me up for a soul-crushing wait of an hour or more, so it’s always one of my first picks, even over attractions that I prefer in the abstract. 

A detailed look at which attractions you should FastPass and which you shouldn’t is beyond the scope of this article (if you do want detailed advice for selecting your FastPass+ reservations, check out our advice pages for the Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Hollywood Studios and Animal Kingdom), but here’s a quick list of attractions in each park that are no-brainer options for FastPass+ if you want to experience them:

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The Basics: How to Use FastPass+

by on February 22, 2016

TouringPlans logoThis is a continuation of our Back to Basics Series. Scroll to the bottom to see our other Basics posts.

 

Even if you’ve never been to Walt Disney World before, you’ve probably heard mention of the mammoth lines that certain attractions can generate. You might be thinking that a trip to Disney is essentially an exercise in standing and waiting, with occasional bursts of fun. While lines will indeed be a part of any Disney trip, there are steps that you can take to minimize the amount of waiting that you do and one of the best tools you have in your arsenal is the DisneyFastPass+ service, which is a ride reservation system that allows you to experience headliner attractions with minimal wait at Walt Disney World.

FastPass+ is free to use for everyone visiting Disney and it can make an enormous difference in the enjoyment of your trip. There are few things that make me cringe quite as much as someone coming back from a trip and being upset because people kept jetting by them as they stood in line because they weren’t aware of FastPass+. They assumed either that it was some sort of VIP line, or that it was a special line for people that had paid extra on top of what is already a costly vacation. Don’t be that guy. Read on to learn what FastPass+ is and how to use it!

What is FastPass+?

ultimate-fastpass

Legacy FastPasses

First, a little history and background to put things in context. When Walt Disney World first opened, the queues for attractions were handled the same way they might be at your local carnival — you got in line for the attraction you wanted to do when were are ready to do it, and waited your turn, which often meant standing in a really, really long line. In late 1999, Disney developed FASTPASS as a way to minimize the amount of time you had to physically be in line. To use it, you would go to the attraction you wanted to experience, put your park ticket into a kiosk, and it would print out a little ticket with a time window for you to experience the attraction with little or no wait. Once you had one FastPass, you had to wait two hours or until the start time printed on the ticket before you could get another one. This same system is used at Disneyland today, in fact.

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Disney Parks Basics: All About Touring Plans

by on February 17, 2016

Disneyland Book Touring Plans

This is a continuation of our Back to Basics Series. Scroll to the bottom to see our other Basics posts.

In this Disney Parks Basics article, I am highlighting one of TouringPlans.com’s greatest achievements.

It has revolutionized how people see attractions and shows in the parks.

It is based on hours, days, months, and years of exhaustive research by dedicated park fans.

It is what got this little website off the ground in the first place.

It is…the touring plan.

Touring plans have been a staple of The Unofficial Guide books since the very first edition, and that has carried over to the TouringPlans.com website and Lines app. This is not just suggested material that will probably get you through a few more attractions in a day. The people in charge say that park guests can save four hours of wait time using touring plans.

Over the past five years, touring plans have increased in variety and become even more accessible, but this article will highlight some ways to get started with touring plans on your next Disney Parks vacation!

You can see my notes when I used this plan back in 2010.

You can see my notes when I used this plan back in 2010.

Background Information

I did my first touring plan back in 2010 when I was reintroduced to Walt Disney World as an adult. My friend Michelle had been doing them with her family, and wanted to do it with me, too. The two of us also listened to the WDW Today podcast, which featured Len Testa doing a few episodes about touring plans.

We each bought The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World 2010 as soon as it came out and gobbled up the giant book like it was a Harry Potter novel. In the back of the book (and this applies to the current editions as well) are some of the most tried and true touring plans that people have used. We used it and really did achieve so much more than if we’d just gone to the Magic Kingdom with no plan of action.

When I’ve used it in the past, I’ve always made sure to arrive at park opening, to maximize the amount of attractions conquered. Although I never have personally used a touring plan with children, I know that many people have and swear by them.

I have not only used the paper versions from the books, but have also utilized the TouringPlans.com website to customize my own, and have also used the Lines app on my phone to have my touring plan with me and be able to change it in the park at a moment’s notice.

However, I love to take a relaxing pace every once in a while. Touring plans allow for free time to be planned, but also can adjust if you’re not a Type A person and just want to do something that’s not planned at all!

How they work

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The Basics: Meeting Characters at Epcot

by on February 15, 2016

Character Meet and Greets

Nothing is quite so magical as meeting Mickey for the first time!

This is a continuation of our Back to Basics Series. Scroll to the bottom to see our other Basics posts.

One of the quintessential Walt Disney World experiences is participating in Character Meet and Greets. That magical moment when your child meets Mickey for the first time is right up there with their first spin on Dumbo or the first time blasting off on Space Mountain. Like most Disney adventures, I would also caution those adult-only travelling parties not to overlook character experiences as just for the little ones – you can still have a magical experience with Mulan or Aurora even if you’re in the over-18 set!

This is the first article in my series on Character Meet and Greets, in which I will tackle every park and give you a run-down of who you can meet and where. I’ve decided to start with Epcot (this is traditionally the first park we visit on every trip – why not begin at the beginning?!), so buckle up for a tour of Future World and World Showcase and the characters who live there!

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