FastPass+

The Basics: Walt Disney World First Timer’s Guide — The Minimum You Need to Know

by on February 8, 2016

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Over the coming weeks we at the TouringPlans Blog will be going Back to Basics. We often write our posts from the perspective of people who have visited theme parks many, many times and we sometimes forget that there are those who need more basic advice. This entry is our first “Basics” post with several more to follow on topics such as characters, FastPass+, dining, hotels, and how to use our Touring Plans and Crowd Calendar. If there’s anything specific you would like us to cover let us know in the comments. Enjoy!

 

 

Sooooo, you’re planning your first trip to Walt Disney World, and you go onto the internet and ask the masses for advice.  I see exchanges like this all the time:

You: Hi everyone!  I’m planning my first ever trip to Walt Disney World, and I’m not really sure where to begin.  What do I need to know?

Within seconds, responses start to pour in:

Helpful person number 1: Doug is the best Jungle Cruise skipper!  He’s worth waiting for, so try to get on his boat!

Helpful person number 2: If you go to the phone booth in Tomorrowland and pick up the phone, you’ll hear some funny chatter!  It’s a MUST do!

Helpful person number 3:  I’ve never done it myself, but I heard from a bus driver that there’s a secret passageway on the pathway between Space Mountain and Storybook Circus that you can use to get to Animal Kingdom!  Just whisper “Marcelline” into the third shrub on the east side of the path, and a Cast Member will appear and escort you to a high-speed underground rail that connects directly with Expedition Everest!  It will save you so much time AND you get to ride Everest without a wait!

…and so on and so forth — good info to have, and well-intentioned, but not really critical from a planning standpoint for someone that has never even set foot on Disney property.  Before you know it, the signal to noise ratio is unbearable, and you’re getting bombarded with so many niche tips and tricks that the information that is legitimately important for a first timer to have gets lost in the shuffle.     

The biggest problem a first-timer encounters is that they don’t know what they don’t know, and knowing where to direct your focus is half the battle.  With that in mind, I’ve tried to put together my “most important concepts” for a first time visitor that provides the bare minimum amount of information you need to successfully plan a trip, and then you can add on to that as you like.  There is probably nowhere on planet earth that rewards a little advance planning like Walt Disney World, so I’d encourage anyone reading this to move beyond this guide, but this will at least provide the concepts that you need to be aware of to plan your first trip that you can use as touchstones if you start to feel a bit lost.  Here goes with the most important things for a first time visitor to know:

  • While you Don’t have to plan every moment, certain planning is wise
  • Understand what FastPass+ is and use it liberally
  • Walt Disney World is probably larger than you think
  • Relax

There you have it, have fun on your trip!

Looking at what I’ve written with the benefit of a few seconds hindsight, it occurs to me that there might be a need for a little more detail.  I promise I’ll keep it light, though, and will limit it to stuff that will really move the needle for you.  Sooooo, without further ado, let’s jump in!

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Epcot FastPass+ Tiers Changing in January

by on November 17, 2015

2015-06-26 at 09-32-34One month ago, Disney officially announced that the mega-popular Epcot attraction Soarin’ will be closing for a long refurbishment. Starting January 4, 2016 one of Epcot’s few major rides will be closed, so it was expected that Disney would be shifting around their Epcot FastPass+ designations to compensate.

For reference, guests are allowed 1 FastPass+ from Tier 1 and 2 from Tier 2.

Currently, Epcot uses the following FastPass+ tiers:

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Adventure is Out There! (But I’d Prefer to Plan for It): Results of a Totally Spontaneous Day

by on October 21, 2015

Adventure is out there

How exactly do you unplan a day?

If you follow my articles, you know that over Labor Day Weekend I partook in a grand experiment in an unplanned day at Walt Disney World. Having now experienced that firsthand (and taking some time to mull it over) I’m ready to report back with this uber-planner’s perspective on completely making things up as I went along. What did I learn? Adventure is out there, but I’d prefer to plan for it.

For a quick review of my experiment, here are the rules that were applied to my unplanned day:

  • Votes were submitted via Twitter, Facebook, and the comments section of my All It Takes is Faith and Trust article regarding which park my husband and I would visit on Saturday, September 5th – we did not tally the votes until we were ready to walk out the door and go to the winning park.
  • We had to make our FastPass+ selections after we arrived at the park using one of the in-park kiosks (this was a rule change based upon a suggestion from a commenter on the original article – I was not allowed to use the MyDisneyExperience app on my phone).
  • We could not make a meal reservation for that day until after we arrived in the designated park, and we had to make that reservation by calling the reservation line (another rule change based on comments).
  • I would provide regular updates on Twitter and solicit feedback from people following along from home – they could make suggestions regarding what we would do once we were in the winning park and I would try to accommodate those requests.
  • I would be allowed to utilize the Touring Plans Lines app throughout the day.

If you aren’t interested in the play-by-play version of the day and you just want to know my reaction to it, scroll on down to the “So, What Do I Really Think?” section and enjoy!

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Disneyland Tested FastPass+ Style Self Scanning at Space Mountain Today

by on October 19, 2015

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If today was any indication, rubber RFID bracelet enthusiasts may soon have another theme park to enjoy them in. Disneyland conducted a test at Space Mountain using scanners similar to the ones used for FastPass+ at Walt Disney World. The scanners used during today’s test didn’t feature RFID technology; they simply scanned the barcode at the bottom of the FASTPASS ticket. After the FASTPASS ticket was scanned, a light turned green if the ticket was accepted. The Space Mountain FASTPASS tickets distributed today looked exactly the same as they usually do, which makes sense if you believe the rumors that say MagicBands may not be a part of Disneyland’s final system (barcodes on tickets, annual passes, and cell phones would be used instead). Is this an early step in FastPass+ and MyMagic+ being implemented at Disneyland? We’re going to say yes, but Disney hasn’t confirmed anything yet. It’s also worth noting that cast members stationed at the scanners were unable to answer any questions about the test.

On our Disneyland Resort FASTPASS page we’ve had the following text at the top for a couple of years now: “Although it is expected to make its way to Disneyland in the future, Walt Disney World’s FastPass+ (which allows ride reservations to be made days or months in advance) is not currently available in California.” Maybe soon we’ll finally be able to update that! Tell us what you think about the possibility of FastPass+ at Disneyland. What are your are your expectations or fears for the system. Let us know in the comments below.

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Seth Kubersky’s Best Week Ever October 15, 2015: Magic Kingdom Premium VIP Tour

by on October 15, 2015

Premium VIP Tour best week ever

The average Orlando visitor doesn’t have a bottomless budget for their vacation, so we here at Touring Plans are dedicated to helping you squeeze the most out of every buck. But every once in a while, it’s nice to get a taste of how the other 1% lives. Ever fantasized about a trip to Walt Disney World without worrying about dining reservations, FastPass+ bookings, or transportation to and from the parks? Welcome to the wonderful world of WDW Premium VIP tours, where the magic of plaid can make almost any Disney dilemma disappear. Usually, the Touring Plans team gets treated just like any other paying guest when we go to the parks. But for this very special Best Week Ever I was able to experience my first Magic Kingdom VIP tour…and I may never be able to go back to waiting in lines again!

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Your FastPass+ Priorities at Disney’s Hollywood Studios

by on September 4, 2015

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about updates to our advance and day-of FastPass+ reservation priorities at the Magic Kingdom. Today’s post covers Disney’s Hollywood Studios.

As before, each of our Studios touring plans suggests the FastPass+ recommendations you should make in advance of your visit, like this:

Suggested start times for FastPass+ reservations:
Toy Story Mania = 9 AM
Star Tours = 10 AM
Twilight Zone Tower of Terror = 11 AM

We’ve also added new recommendations for day-of FastPass+ reservations you can get at the Studios’ in-park kiosks, after you’ve used your original set. These are based on our statistician Steve Bloom’s excellent analysis of when day-of FastPasses run out for each attraction. Here’s what the new recommendations look like:

You should be able to get day-of FastPass+ reservations starting around lunchtime. Here’s what we suggest:

Great Movie Ride = 2:30 PM
Fantasmic! = (Check daily performance schedule for show times)

When I updated the plans, I kept count of many times each attraction was identified as needing FastPass+. If you’re building your own touring plan, or you prefer an unstructured tour, this list shows the hot spots in the Studios:

DHS-FastpassPlus

So while FastPass+ is offered at more than a dozen Hollywood Studios attractions, there are really only four that you need to worry about most of the year. Here’s why.

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All it Takes is Faith and Trust! (And a Little Bit of Help from the Touring Plans Readers)

by on September 2, 2015

All it takes is faith and trust

“All it takes is faith and trust!” – Peter Pan

It’s no secret that I am a planner. A crazy-nutcase-super-planner (I admit it). I don’t take even a short trip to Disney World without planning FastPass + selections and Advanced Dining Reservations at the earliest opportunity. I mean, have you read my articles on planning for spontaneity? If my introductory and advanced courses in leveraging MyMagic+ didn’t paint a vivid picture for you of my planning love, I’m not sure what would.

As I was planning for our upcoming trip over Labor Day weekend, a wild thought occurred to me. What if, for one of the days of our trip, I didn’t pre-plan anything? (Cue intense hyperventilation.) I know that some people are critical of MyMagic+, citing that it “forces” them to plan their trips months in advance. I don’t share in that sentiment, and even though I don’t personally go the non-planning route that doesn’t mean I believe it can’t be done. (Did everyone follow that convoluted sentence? I plan because I want to, not because I believe that one must plan in order to have a good time at Walt Disney World.)

Now you might be asking yourself, “How would this type-A planner know that someone can enjoy a day in Disney without planning?! She probably doesn’t even know how to have an impromptu day at Disney World!” Valid points, dear readers, and those thoughts are precisely what have led me to this particular experiment. And YOU are the key to this experiment. Essentially, I need you to tell me what to do.

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Disney World Preparation for the Disneyland Veteran

by on August 25, 2015

If you’re a native of the west coast, you may think you know what to expect from a visit to Walt Disney World, based on the many weekends and afternoons you’ve spent at Disneyland. However, even if you are an old hand at Disneyland, you’ll probably find Walt Disney World overwhelming.

WDW Entry Gates

Even the signage when you enter is bigger!

At over 27,000 acres, Walt Disney World is over 170 times as large as Disneyland. Disneyland consists of two theme parks, a shopping district, and three hotels. Walt Disney World consists of four theme parks, two water parks, two mini golf courses, four full golf courses, 27 lodging options, a shopping district, and its own vast transportation network. In Disneyland, park-hopping consists of walking the short span of the Esplanade between gates. In Walt Disney World, park-hopping requires at least one form of transportation, and a minimum of 20-30 minutes of time. In short, Walt Disney World is just an order of magnitude larger, and more complicated, than Disneyland.

Here’s what you need to know to survive the Big One – big theme park, that is.

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Magic Kingdom Attractions That Are Worth Your Time, Without Using FastPass+

by on August 19, 2015

The most attended theme park in the world can be a little intimidating, especially for a Disney “beginner.” With the advent of FastPass+ guests are clambering to ensure they select the right FastPass for the right attractions and the right time. Let’s take a look at the attractions at Magic Kingdom that don’t require FP+ so you can use those precious time slots for other attractions. We’ll also review the attractions that are definitely worth your time even if FastPass+ is not offered.

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Tomorrowland

Some Disney fans might say that Tomorrowland is the land that time forgot. The problem with lands and attractions based on the future, is the future comes a lot faster than you realize and suddenly the concept becomes outdated. Space Mountain or Buzz Lightyear Space Ranger Spin are decent FastPass+ options, but there are three attractions that are worthy of your time without needing to use valuable FP+ time slots.

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Disney World After Dark: 10 Tips for Night Owls

by on August 3, 2015

Just about every reputable planning guide for Walt Disney World (ahem, Unofficial Guide) strongly advises getting up early in Orlando – really early. During the winter holidays, making rope drop for an morning Extra Magic Hour at Magic Kingdom could have your family strolling up to the tapstiles shortly after 6:00. In the morning.

But if you haven’t seen a sunrise since the last time you stayed out all night, never despair. You don’t need to sacrifice your sleep-in to have a great time at Walt Disney World. In fact, the dark hours are some of my favorite times to be in the parks. Here’s how you can have a fabulous night owl-optimized vacation at Walt Disney World, without bringing an alarm clock into it:

Magic Kingdom at night. Main Street U.S.A.’s best hour.

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