Remember getting a FASTPASS at a Disney theme park? Outside of a popular attraction like Splash Mountain, you could insert your park ticket into a FASTPASS machine and it would spit out a paper voucher with a return time on it. Return at that time and give your voucher to the Cast Member at the FASTPASS entrance, and you were able to get on the ride with little or no wait -- even if the regular "stand-by line" was an hour or more long.
The FASTPASS essentially held your place in line for you, while you went out and had fun in the park.
Things have changed at Walt Disney World. As of today, all four theme parks at Walt Disney World are using electronic FastPass+, a new system that replaces the original FASTPASS machines. That's the Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Disney's Hollywood Studios, and Disney's Animal Kingdom. (This does not apply to any other Disney Parks properties, such as Disneyland Park in California).
FastPass+ allows guests to choose up to three attractions or experiences to enter with a minimal wait. Instead of getting their FastPass+ in front of the attraction, however, they'll get it ahead of time, via their computer, smartphone, or in-park kiosk.
With FastPass+, Walt Disney World Resort hotel guests are able to make selections up to 60 days in advance, and can change selections in the park on their smartphone with the My Disney Experience app. Resort guests will use their MagicBand, issued before their trip, to enter FastPass+ queues.
Although materials Disney has given to Cast Members states that all guests will be able to use My Disney Experience to pre-select and maintain their FastPass+ selections in the future, that’s not currently the situation. If you’re not staying at a Disney Resort hotel, you’ll need to use a FastPass+ kiosk within the theme park to make and change same-day FastPass+ selections.
The My Magic+ service centers, where FastPass+ adjustments can be made, are located all around the four theme parks. Cast Members can assist you whether you are a Disney Resort hotel guest or a day guest.
What does this mean for you?
If you’re staying at a Walt Disney World Resort hotel: Make sure you have made your FastPass+ selections when they become available, at 60 days before arrival. I choose FastPass+ experiences based on personal preferences, but also take into account how quickly or slowly an attraction loads, the queue experience, and time of day. Splash Mountain might be everyone’s favorite ride, but a FastPass+ time for 10 AM in September isn’t the best use of the service!
Then, be sure to download the My Disney Experience app for your smartphone and play with it until you feel comfortable making changes. That will help you keep your day flexible.
And do not forget to customize and order your MagicBands. All of your reservations will be stored on your MagicBand. If you wait until you arrive at the resort, you’ll be issued a standard gray MagicBand. Some people are also receiving large media kits with a Mickey Mouse flash drive along with their MagicBand delivery, so don’t miss out on the extras!
If you’re staying off-site and just visiting for the day: Arrive early so that you can make your FastPass+ selections before crowds arrive. Waiting in a brief line first thing in the morning can mean avoiding long lines later in the day! Have an idea of what you want already — just like ordering food at a counter-service restaurant, this speeds up the line for everyone. Your FastPass+ selections will be made, modified, and used with your RFID-enabled theme park ticket.
Get help before you go: If you are having issues with My Disney Experience, be sure to figure it out before you go. If you are considering a travel planner to help with your trip, be sure they have experience with the system and are able to solve minor problems on their own (and are prepared to get on the phone with the help desk when they can’t).
Natalie Reinert is a travel professional specializing in Disney destinations around the world. For more Disney travel information, visit her blog at ThatDisFamily.com and be sure to like her Facebook page and follow on Twitter. Questions can be answered at firstname.lastname@example.org