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Opening Magic Kingdom

Opening Magic Kingdom

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Fastpass Return Time Enforcement--We Made It Work

Walt Disney World guests are familiar with Disney’s Fastpass system for major shows and attractions.  Basically, Fastpass allows guests to by-pass Stand-by queues and use the Fastpass queue for various attractions.  Fastpass is free and can be obtained with any ticket media.  One of the ways we had used Fastpass was to get our Fastpasses and then proceed to the attraction at anytime after the initial time listed on the Fastpass—ignoring the hour window to use the Fastpass.  We weren’t the only ones who did this and while Disney didn’t post a rule saying you could use your Fastpass anytime after the initial time window posted on the ticket, they didn’t enforce return times.

Then, shortly before our trip in March, Disney announced that they would begin to enforce Fastpass return times.  This was to ready guests for the NextGen Fastpass system and to make the Fastpass queues more efficient, etc.  Click here to read about Disney’s enforcement of Fastpass return times.

Hmmm. . . after 8 trips, we had a park touring plan that made use of Fastpasses without the enforcement or return times.  The enforcement would mean an adjustment to our touring plans.  We would now have to be more vigilant about the Return Times posted above the Fastpass kiosks before obtaining Fastpasses.

We survived our trip, did use Fastpass, still had efficient touring, and returned to the attractions within the times posted on the Fastpasses.  Here’s what we did:

Sometimes we waited until a bit after park opening to get our Fastpasses rather than first thing. . . somewhat guessing at what the Return Time would be.   For example, if we knew we wanted to ride Splash Mountain in the afternoon, then we waited until mid-morning to grab our Fastpasses.  It worked, as the return times that were being distributed at the Fastpass machines were for a time we wanted.  If you have access to a mobile app that posts Fastpass return times, it would eliminate the “guessing” part of the equation.

We were even able to use a combination of the stand-bye queue and Fastpass system to ride Toy Story Mania 3 times on each of the two days we were at Hollywood Studios while still maintaining the return times.  And, during the busy Spring Break season.

It helped that we had a park touring schedule somewhat in mind that helped us navigate when to get Fastpasses and approximately what time we wanted for.  Which leads me to the announcement that Disney is testing the NextGen Fastpass system right now!   Some guests are trying out a system where they get to pick the Fastpass return times for attractions before they leave home via e-mail and have the times and attractions pre-loaded on a card that can be scanned at the Fastpass entrance of attractions.  Whew hew!  Sign me up!

Critics are saying that it means guests will have to “plan every moment” of their vacation.  I disagree.  I don’t plan every moment, but I can still tell you approximately when we will want to ride Splash Mountain when we are at the Magic Kingdom.

Also, the regular Fastpass system is still being used, which provides access for guests staying off site.  And, possibly, you could use both systems!  We’ve done that when the “Birthday Celebration” was in effect and guests coming to a Disney park on their birthday could either get free admission, a gift card worth a day’s admission, or 5 Fastpasses for themselves and up to a certain number of guests.  We picked the Fastpasses and used them in conjunction with the regular Fastpass system.  It was an amazing day!

We were skeptical prior to our trip that the enforcement of Fastpass return times would hamper our park touring, but it didn’t!  We saw guests being turned away when their Fastpass return time had expired.  But, we also noticed that for many attractions, there were still Fastpasses available later in the day, with some exceptions, like Soarin’ and Toy Story Mania.  We made Fastpass work for us and enjoyed our Walt Disney World vacation!

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