Welcome back to the continuing saga of Walt Disney World’s recent roll-out of Annual Passholder Advance FastPass+ privileges to the general public. As explained in our last episode, all WDW annual passholders should now be able to make up to 7 days of FastPass+ reservations within the next 30 days through the My Disney Experience website and apps. Last time, we looked at how I set up my first week of FastPass+ selections, and saw how my first intinerary turned out at Epcot (TLDR: not perfect, but pretty good).
For this followup, follow me to Walt Disney World two least-popular parks for examples of how advance FastPass+ may (or may not) work to your advantage at Disney’s Hollywood Studios and Disney’s Animal Kingdom.
Disney’s Hollywood Studios FastPass+
Much like my day at Epcot, I arrived at the Disney’s Hollywood Studios parking lot a little after 1:00 p.m.
While waiting for the tram, I logged into my MDE account to confirm the FastPass+ returns times I has chosen a few days earlier, check current standby times, and see what other options were still available at that time of day.
Upon entering the park, I walked straight up Sunset Boulevard to my first destination: The Hollywood Tower Hotel.
The posted wait for The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror was 20 minutes. With FastPass+, my total wait until entering the elevator, including the preshow video in the library, was just over 4 minutes.
Upon exiting, I noticed that the old FASTPASS shelter has been converted to FastPass+ assistance kiosks.
Next door, the down side of FastPass+ can be seen, as Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster‘s often-short single rider line was inundated in guests who might have used a FastPass+ instead, if not for the tier system. I waited just over 30 minutes to board as a single rider, versus a 45 minute posted standby queue. Without the tier restrictions, you might chose to use FastPass+ here rather than Tower of Terror or Star Tours, but currently that would preclude obtaining a more-valuable Toy Story Mania or Fantasmic! reservation.
While waiting, I noticed that there were still same-day FastPass+ times available for top attractions like Toy Story Mania.
Intermission time! For lunch, I paid my first visit to the Brown Derby Lounge. This al fresco annex to the indoor table service restaurant has its own exclusive cocktails and small-plate menu, but you can also order from the full Hollywood Brown Derby menu. Best of all, you don’t need an ADR to eat here — just decent weather and a little patience.
The lounge patio is open seating, and I initially had trouble getting the attention of a server. Eventually, my waitress turned things around with pleasant (if not especially prompt) service.
The bourbon-based Jack Diamond cocktail I ordered hit the spot with classic Hollywood style; it also packed a punch, being nearly all liquor aside from the cherry.
My meal of mussels wasn’t as successful. Dubbed “big ones,” the shellfish were of a good size, though far from the largest I’ve seen, and the butter-based broth they were boiled in was heavenly. But nearly half the bivalves in my bowl failed to open their shells during cooking, which any chef will tell you is a sure warning sign not to ingest.
The kitchen thanked me for alerting them to the issue and graciously compensated me on my bill. But next time I’m at the Brown Derby, I’ll stick to the Cobb salad…
Now back to our regularly scheduled attractions. My first post-lunch appointment was at Star Tours: The Adventures Continue. FastPass+ turned the 30 minute posted wait into under ten.
Since I had some time to kill before my final FastPass+ appointment, I stopped in for my umpteenth viewing of MuppetVision 3D. There was no difference between standby and FastPass+ here, making it an amazingly inefficient use of someone’s reservation.
Finally, I finished my DHS vist at Toy Story Mania. Much like Soarin’, I am very rarely at the park at rope drop, and am therefore usually unable to ride this attraction in Disney World because of the absurd standby queue it attracts (unlike its less-crowded California sibling). With my FastPass+ reservation, I was happily exacerbating my carpal tunnel syndrome in pursuit of a stuffed beaver after only ten minutes, instead of the 80 posted above the standby entrance.
Final tally: I took in all four of Disney’s Hollywood Studios’ must-do E-Tickets, plus my personal favorite theater show and a table-service meal, in almost exactly three hours.
Disney’s Animal Kindgdom FastPass+
I made my third day of reservations for Disney’s Animal Kingdom, a park at which I rarely made much use of FASTPASS in the past. Again, I arrived at the park around 1:00 p.m. (are you sensing a pattern yet?) and walked into waiting for the next show of It’s Tough to Be a Bug — another spectacularly silly spot to squander one of your 3 precious FastPass+ opportunities.
Upon exiting the Tree of Life theater, I hiked briskly through Asia and Africa to my first FastPass+ appointment at Kilimanjaro Safaris.
Posted standby wait: 20 minutes. Actual FastPass+ wait: 6 minutes.
An unruly giraffe stretched my safari out to nearly twice its normal length, but I got some great close encounters with the fauna, including uncommonly clear sightings of monkeys and the male lion.
The safari whetted my appetite for wildlife, so I strolled through the Pangani Forest to say hello to the adorably ugly naked mole rats, as well as the family of gorillas.
At this point, it was time to meet up with Len Testa and Laurel Stewart, who were in town for the week doing research. We had some fun attempting to communicate with Russell and Dug’s “Bark-o-lator” at the pair’s meet & greet near the ITTBAB theater entrance.
It was past time for lunch, so I took one for the Touring Plans team and ordered the buffalo chicken waffle sandwich now being offered at Trilo-Bites near the gateway to DinoLand U.S.A.
I’m normally a sucker for chicken and waffle sandwiches, but the combination of pungent bleu cheese dressing and spicy-sour buffalo chicken seasoning overwhelmed the slight sweetness of the freshly-baked waffles, resulting in a sickly contrast of flavors. I suggest holding out for Cletus‘ at Simpsons’ Fast Food Boulevard instead.
Far too quickly after finishing my meal, it was time to hustle to the Himalayas before my Expedition Everest return window closed.
As it turns out, I was about 5 minutes late for my FastPass+ appointment, but my pass registered with no problem, thanks to an unpublicized 15 minute grace period automatically built in to every reservation.
Since I always make time for my feathered friends, I stopped for a duck selfie on my way to my last attraction
My final FastPass+ of the day was also my first “epic fail” experience with the system. When I arrived at DINOSAUR, the standby wait was posted as 40 minutes.
Unfortunately, I found myself waiting over 25 minutes in the FastPass+ return line, as the attraction appeared to be processing far fewer guests per hour than the mechanically-similar Indiana Jones Adventure in Disneyland does.
I noticed numerous ride vehicles dispatched with half-empty rows; it’s a shame Walt Disney World can’t devise a way to offer single rider access at this attraction as Disneyland does for Indy.
When I finally made it back from the Cretaceous period, I was a little behind my intended itinerary. But I still managed to enjoy every Animal Kingdom E-Ticket that doesn’t get you soaked, a show, an animal exhibit, and some indigestion, all within a 3½ hour span.
I was a self-admitted skeptic of FastPass+ plus before annual passholders had the ability to make advance reservations, but now I’m becoming a believer. Unlike out-of-town visitors who attend a park from rope-drop to closing, local resident annual passholders like myself often like to drop into Disney for a few hours in the afternoon.
Under the old FASTPASS, top attractions were often sold out before I even arrived, or those that were left were too late int the day for me to use. FastPass+ seems tailor-made for guests like me, who can now show up minutes before our scheduled appointments, and experience three E-Tickets in as many hours with minimal waiting.
Even if you aren’t a hit-and-run visitor like myself, you can still take advantage of my technique if you purchase a parkhopper. Make FastPass+ reservations for one park in early/mid afternoon, when queues will be at their peak. Then visit a different park at rope drop, experiencing the top attractions there with short standby lines, and leaving for the second park where you have reservations when waits begin to build.
Come back soon as I explore using annual passholder advance FastPass+ reservations at the Magic Kingdom, including the new Festival of Fantasy parade. In the mean time, leave your comments and questions on FastPass+ below!