X-Pass Testing in the Magic Kingdom

by on May 16, 2012 41 Comments

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On my recent trip I got to try out the X-Passes (FASTPASS + is another name being floated around) being tested in the Magic Kingdom.  As we previously reported the TouringPlans.com team got wind of Disney testing a new version of Fastpasses in the Magic Kingdom in early May.  We heard they were contacting guests who would be staying on property in during to see if they would be willing to participate in this test.  We also heard they were surveying guests when they arrived at the Magical Express (DME) desk at the airport.  First, one of our readers was selected which allowed us to bring you last week’s report.  A few days later my friend, Kim, saw cast members in the DME area when she was checking in to take a a bus from the airport to our resort.  Since she knew the testing was taking place and had heard people were being selected at the DME desk she inquired as to what they were up to.  Sure enough they were distributing X-Passes!  She was asked a series of questions about which Magic Kingdom attractions interested her party most.  She was able select four attractions she was most interested in experiencing during her trip.  She was able to select The Jungle Cruise, Splash Mountain, The Haunted Mansion, and Space Mountain.  Note not all of these attractions are considered “E-Ticket.”  Kim was only allowed to select two of the headliner attractions and two of the less popular rides.  What I found most interesting is the Haunted Mansion doesn’t usually use the Fastpass system, but it is one of the attractions being tested.

They were extremely accomodating and gave her the passes for the day she planned to tour the Magic Kingdom.  We did not have to rearrange our plans to fit into the test; instead we were able to make our own schedule.  We planned to be in MK on Sunday so they were happy to give Kim passes for that afternoon.  Our first time slot was at 3 p.m. for the Jungle Cruise with the others following at about every hour or so.  I was especially impressed they gave Kim enough passes for her entire party even though she arrived at the Magical Express desk by herself.  I couldn’t believe they gave her nine passes!  They even labeled each pass with our names so we wouldn’t get them mixed up.  You’ll see later why this is important.

On the morning we were able to use our X-Passes Kim received and email reminding her of the time slots we were assigned.  We could also get this information by scanning one of our cards at Guest Relations on Main Street or visiting a kiosk set up in Fantasyland.  If you are looking for the kiosk it is next to the Fastpass machines outside Mickey’s Philharmagic.  The cast members in both of these locations couldn’t have been more friendly.  If you have any questions about your return times I’m sure they would be happy to help.

Now that we’ve discussed all of those odds and ends let’s talk about how it all worked. We only had time to use it once, but it went very smoothly when we did.  We entered the regular Fastpass queue at the Jungle Cruise where a cast member greeted us and instructed us on how to use our cards.  Guests simply hold their cards in front of the RF scanner which has been installed in the queues of select attractions and wait for it to turn green allowing them admission into the ride.  If you try to use your card outside of your return time the light will turn red and the cast member will assist you.  The cast member manning the scanner has an iPad where all of your information will appear when you scan your card.

The gentleman working at the Jungle Cruise really freaked me out when he said “thank you, Kristen” when I scanned my card.  I had no idea my name and such would appear on his iPad, but Kim was behind him so she could see that my name as well as the rest of my card’s information became available to him when I scanned my card.  Now you understand why it was important for my friends and I to have cards with our names on them!  It is clearly stated on the back of the card that they are nontransferable.  I’m sure it would have worked if I gave my card to a female friend, but if I tried to give it to my brother he wouldn’t be admitted since a girl’s name appeared on the screen.  If X-Passes go into wider circulation I’m sure they will be put onto a Key to the World card which would eliminate any mix up potential.

Once through the queue guests will need to keep their X-passes handy to scan them again before actually boarding their ride vehicles.  At the point in the line where a cast member would normally collect a paper Fastpass, there is another RF scanner where you will need to verify your entry.  I didn’t realize this and had put my card away, but the cast member didn’t seem too concerned since I was with Kim who had her’s ready.

I’m not sure how I feel about the X-passes yet.  They were simple to use, and it was nice to not have to go to each of the attractions to collect Fastpasses to return later.  However, if they become the only Fastpass option in the parks I could see it becoming problematic for the kind of touring I often do.  In our case Kim wasn’t aware of the time we had a reservation for dinner so many of our return times overlapped with our dinner time and we were simply out of luck.  As you can see, it will take a fair bit of planning to make these passes work for your group.  If you are using a TouringPlan and you know exactly what you want to do and when you want to do it, they could be a great tool.  But, if you are heading to the parks for a spontaneous day of fun, this could be a real pain if they are the only option available.  I know some local friends are very concerned the X-Passes will only be available to resort guests which would leaving them in the lurch.

How about you?  What do you think of these new Fastpasses?  Or better yet have you had experience with them?  Let me hear your thoughts in the comments!

A special thanks goes out to Kim Knight for doing the leg work on this one and allowing me to come along for the ride!  

Posted on May 16, 2012

41 Responses to “X-Pass Testing in the Magic Kingdom”

  • by Kevin Devine on May 16, 2012, at 10:05 am EST

    I am really hoping that they link the XPass with your Key to the World or Annual Pass and also have information about your ADRs so you can have these all coordinated. How cool would it be to have the fast pass distribution smart enough to know to have your return time 2 hours after an ADR instead of right in the middle of lunch?

  • It sounds like it’s way more complicated than is necessary. How would it work with EVERYONE? Would every party staying on property have to plan their days ahead of time when they check in? (I don’t like that option…I like going with the flow, even if I’m using a Touring Plan. 🙂 ) What about people not staying on property? Would they have to schedule things when they get to the park? Does that mean waiting in yet another line in order to not wait in lines that may or may not be that long later?

    I trust that Disney has thought through some of the stuff I have questions about. However, it seems like it’s going to pan out poorly for the average guest. Especially average first-time guests who don’t know the ins and outs of which rides fill up at what times.

  • I think it is great you don’t have to go early to the park to get FP for (for example) Toy Story Midway Mania, you just put this on the X-pass. But I do hope the normal FP also stay

  • Personally, I think it creates more planning work for me, the tourist. I’d prefer the old system, based on what I’ve read. I have one recommended improvement: If I hold a Fastpass for later in the day, I should be able to get others as long as long as it doesn’t conflict with the one I hold, regardless of the time it matures. That would accommodate our style perfectly. Thanks for the write-up.

  • by Holly Hagelin on May 16, 2012, at 10:23 am EST

    Am using your touring plans site to plan our vaca in Nov and this would make it even easier . . . if I could say which rides I’d need to use FP. I already know when we want to eat and where ( making reservations this week ) so if they’re in place, we’ll be glad to have them!

  • This sounds like a brilliant idea, especially since they are enforcing regular fastpass expiry times, which has kinda put a lurch on our plans for out upcoming trip. If we could use these we can schedule in breaks without the worry of going back to the park and facing horrendous queues and no fastpasses left

  • I think it’s a great idea, especially for the rides that run out of FastPasses quickly like Toy Story Mania and Soarin’. Like others have said, I hope they aren’t only available for resort guests. And I hope there isn’t an additional charge for them.

  • I don’t like the fact that each X-pass is linked to a certain person. When our kids were too little to ride Space Mountain, we would get everyones FP’s and the adults would ride a couple of times. Then we could do the same for the kiddie rides.

  • We got to test this last week as well and it did not work so well for us. Our first ride was Space Mountain and only 2 out of the 6 in our group went on the ride. Once we go to our second attraction (Winnie the Pooh) the cast member informed us that we already used the passes for this ride and we couldn’t use them again. Huh? At the third ride, Peter Pan, the CM was not even checking the passes, he just waved us on when he saw our cards. Some glitches, but I could see using it in the future.

  • I can see how Disney would keep the original FP system running for day guests and give on-site guests the option to use either.

    The FP system could probably easily be tweaked to keep the number of FP’s handed out pretty consistent by matching the posted return times to the advanced ride reservations.

    And using these reservations with touring plans would be ideal, as you could really match the times with the approximate plan you are using.

    I’m going to be interested to see how this system will coordinate with the classic FP.

  • The name thing probably might not work very well with all of the unisex names out there. And, those that have unusual names anyway. For instance, my husband’s name is Brook!

    We do not stay on property so I would like them to keep the current FP system for day guests as mentioned above, but, I guess I’ll just have to wait and see how it all turns out.

  • I, for one, don’t like this idea at all. I think that all guests, whether they are staying on-site or not, should have equal access to Fastpasses. We all paid pretty much the same price to get into the park, after all, didn’t we?

    I know that to have a fun day at the parks, a touring plan is a good idea. Everyone should have one. However, sometimes it is fun to just go with the flow, and enjoy a little spontaneity at the parks. This system will chip away a little more at the ability to do that, I think. Much the way that the Dining plan and 180 day ADR’s have all but eliminated the ability to get same-day reservations in the more popular restaurants.

    I can see, though, if you were going to the park during a busier time of the year, that this would be a great perk.

  • We got to use the xpasses last week. We were picked at the airport. They worked around our ADR for dinner. It was great. We used all 4 xpasses plus normal fastpasses. We didn’t wait in line much at all that day. It does require planning. They sent the times for the xpasses to our email. We simply checked on our phones if we forgot the times.

  • I have yet to hear anything about this that makes me like it, and hope is stays 2000 miles away from Disneyland. If it’s just a perk for onsite guests, that’s fine. If they take away from others, though, then I’m firmly opposed. BTW, Jungle Cruise, Haunted Mansion & Space Mtn all required E tickets (Splash Mtn was built after the ticket system was eliminated).

  • The XPass system did not meet our needs satisfactorily at all. Flexibility is very essential when travelling with 3 kids, one 2 year old under 40 inches. The XPass times assigned overlapped not only with ADR times, but also with nap times and snack times. Finally, the XPass attractions had us walking from one side of the park to the other, for example to get from Space Mountain to Splash Mountain.

    We were excited to have a FastPass for the major attractions (Space mountain, Splash mountain, and Peter Pan). However, we were only able to use 1 XPass time.

  • we got to try it our last week as well. It was kinda cool – since it was attached to our reservation, and on my reservation it said that it was my wife’s birthday, she was greated with a Happy Birthday almost everytime we used the pass even though she wasn’t wearing a button that day. Kinda cool.

    On the other hand, I don’t really like the idea of now having to plan ride orders and fast pass times X number of days out. How long before we’re competing for prime fast pass reservation times like we used to for Cinderella’s Royal Table and Le Cellier? Not fun.

    I realize some, like Michael above, had frustrations with the assigned times. I can see where that would be frustrating, but I really think that this is only a characteristic of the testing phase. When it goes live does anyone think we won’t be able to select times in some fashion?

  • …and how long before all the rides are ridden this way to keep crowds balanced and limit wait times across all their parks? And how long before those not staying on Disney property go to the standby lines and watch all the X Pass people go before them. And then, “you can buy an X Pass” if you are staying off property. Slippery slope….

  • Im a local concerned about what effect this will have on me. I pay a pretty penny for those annual passes! I think it should be available to AP holders.

  • I’d be really interested in checking these out, especially if they continue the current FP system and are able to check my ADR’s. Even if it’s only for 2 rides of my choice on the day I plan to be at a park, it would be great! Now that return times are being honored it adds more challenges to using FP’s. In the past we would enter Epcot, head to Soarin’ and grab FP’s then go to our ADR in Norway. With return times being honored there is a good possibility that the return time will fall while we’re still at breakfast and if we wait to get them after b’fast they will be for times late in the day that may not work for all.

    Anyway, I trust Disney to work out the kinks and then decide if they want to continue this. If this system is offered along with the current system then I see it as a win-win for all!

  • I love the idea of xPass !! One of the things I love about my Disney vacation is the planning !! The ability to plan not just our hotel, which park we will be in each day and our meals, now I will be able to book our rides !! How fabulous, fun and convenient !! I hope they keep the regular FP’s too !! That way, if for any reason we miss the xPass reservation, we still have the option of grabbing a FP.

  • p.s. I hate that you have just a 15 minute grace period to use your regular FP now. I liked it better when you could use it anytime after the window – allowed you to take advantage of the opportunity for “magic” along the way.

  • BTW if the xPass was only offered to resort guests, that would GUARANTEE that I would never stay anywhere else!!

  • As the mother of an autistic child, I don’t see this as a big benefit. It’s different from regular fastpass benefit because I’d have to decide way in advance. If my child isn’t up to the higher sensory MK park and we decide that AK would have to be the park that day instead, we loose the opportunity. Or if a ride wouldn’t work for that day, I can’t just get a different xpass for another ride.

    I would much prefer that I could just stop at one kiosk in the resort or park or go online and choose fastpass return times the day of. Usually in the morning I can tell if he is going to have motion issues that day (Big Thunder Mountain Railroad) or if any park changes are necessary.

    Even for my NT kids and us adults, this is just too much scheduling. It’s part of the reason we’ve moved to renting houses (less than a value resort, which we’re too big of a family for, and nicer than a DVC 3 bedroom) and eating offsite. The more Disney “improves” things, the less it works for us and the more we move our money elsewhere.

    • Well said. I think its a ploy to get more of your money. Glad I’m going this summer before its in full force.

    • I agree, Misty. We are lucky if our typically developing children cooperate with a plan, and then throw in a special needs child, and you just have to go with the flow! (see my feedback below)

  • Big Brother is watching! I don’t want every random CM to call me by name, that is just creepy.

  • Back in Feb & March, when I was extensively planning our family’s first trip to WDW in April, the thought of this would have been brilliant! I planned down to every minutes, even using TP walking times, to be sure we packed in lots of fun, and meals, and breaks, etc.

    Then listening to WDW Today podcast today, I got the impression that this will REPLACE regular FastPasses, and that I am not at all happy about.

    When we actually got to Disney World, we had to throw much of my planning out the window: My 8 yr old special needs daughter caused some road blocks, my 6 year old son was interested in older stuff than I anticipated, some attractions temporarily closed, walking took longer, weather didn’t cooperate, etc. Our touring style definitely converted to “on the fly”!

    Many people are not able to, or would not choose to, plan anything any # of hours in advance. Things just come up, as many above have mentioned. So, you get to the FP machine (or consult your Lines app), and decide right then if you are willing to return in X amount of time or not. Who knows where I’ll be in a park at 3 pm, 1 week from now?! I thought I would know, and then reality hit!

    The only thing do I agree with is about the attractions that actually run out of FP’s. If there was a way to schedule SOME ahead of time, but leave old FP in place as well, then I’m all for it. If it’s added on as a resort perk, but the old system remains as well, then it will be an additional on-property benefit. But if it converts to exclusive, it will piss off the masses!

  • I’m not at all happy about the x-pass either. I have an AP, but I am not local. Sometimes we stay on property and sometimes we don’t. Sometimes we have a lot of ADRs and sometimes we don’t. We use the crowd calendar, but don’t use a touring plan. We wasted so many fast passes 2 weeks ago with the rules surrounding them now being enforced. The worst was getting a FP for TSMM in the middle of our Fantasmic dining ADR. I don’t want to have to do any more planning for our trips. We enjoy being spontaneous. We go on vacation to take a break from the rigid schedules at home!

  • We just returned from our Disney trip and had the chance to use these passes as well. I loved not having to walk back and forth through the park collecting fastpasses. With two smaller children, saving us any wasted steps really made up for having to preplan our ride times. On top of that during the test phase we were still able to obtain fastpasses for other rides with our key to the world cards. Double bonus!

  • I think this will put too much pressure on planning what is our most treasured vacations. We love the fun and variety for everyone that you have at Disney World and often divide up for part of the day so the girls can have their alone time and the guys have theirs. We don’t plan our trips down to the minute which has always made it exciting to discover new things and just stop and explore something that our kids have an interest in. Rushing around to make FP times will make us think twice about planning a vacation at Disney especially for my husband. He thinks they are too organized already. He puts up with my planning but as most men he wants to go with the flow and sometimes just puts on the brakes. I think having to plan your time around the FP system now is taxing enough when you get there, but you have so many other time options. I can’t imagine having to plan that far ahead and having not only to stick to that particular day at the Park but also that particular hour. I don’t see it working.

  • Its stuff like this thats going to drive people to the dark side! I just came home from a 3 nigh stay at the other park which must not be named. I had NO ADR headaches no advances planning for anything. It was SOOOOO relaxing and the Polynesian-clone hotel was a joy.

    I love disney but I’m not going to spend hundreds a year on APs and hundreds MORE a year on our day trips to have to deal with this headache.

  • I think I’m not liking this, though I haven’t tried it. We always stay on property (DVC), but with three children (8, 5, and 18 months) we have to be flexible. Sure we plan which park we’ll be at on certain days, and we usually do a few ADR’s, but that’s about it. We used to plan, plan, plan but now with small children of varying ages, I just don’t see this working for us. We’ll be there in July so we’ll see if we get to try it or not, but just reading about it makes me cringe…

  • by chris frantz on May 25, 2012, at 5:21 pm EST

    I often wonder why Disney only allows us to get a fast pass only at the actual attraction you are at. Why can’t they also have it where I could get a fast pass for an attraction across the park from where I am now. I hate treking across the park just for a fastpass and then treking back to where I really need to be. I wasted 1/2 hour. I might as well stood in line and waited the full time. I only use fast passes to return to the attraction to do it a second time. I always stand in the line for the first time. I purpose they set up stations across the parks so you can grab a fast pass for a ride you are anticipating at being near in a couple of hours.

  • I agree. This is what I have always wished for.

  • I’m not thrilled with this idea at all…it reminds me of the VIP passes at Busch Gardens where you have to pay extra to be able to cut to the front of the line. Great for those with the cash to spend on an upgraded pass, not so great for those who paid the regular admission and had to stand in lines for hours while others breezed right in. It made us feel like second class citizens and a lousy way to boost admission prices that were already high. We hated the system so much the last time we went to Busch Gardens that we never went back.

    Besides, you already have to pre-plan months in advance which Disney park you want to visit in order to get ADR, now you have to pre-plan which rides you want to ride at what times??? Give me a break…

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  • Just received Fastpass+ for our trip 12/10-12/17. We were able to choose 4 rides/experiences for Magic Kingdom and 3 for Disney’s Hollywood Studios. We are very excited to give it a try. I am a big planner anyway, so this concept fits right in with my normal vacation planning. We will be 2 adults only, so I know it is easier to keep to a schedule than when you have little ones.