Update Fall 2021: Walt Disney World is no longer using FastPass+. This system is permanently suspended at the Disney Parks. In its place is Genie+, a new paid program to utilize Lightning Lanes. You can find out more information here.
FastPasses are one of the most vital aspects to understand prior to your trip to Disney World. Think of it this way: You have taken vacation time from work, you have invested thousands of dollars into your Disney vacation, kids are potentially missing school, and you have just had the very NOT magical experience of airline travel to Orlando. Do you want to spend most of your time standing in lines to see the rides you want to see? NO, YOU DO NOT. Go big or stay home, that is our motto!
If you have not read our overview of the FastPass+ system at Disney World, please start there. You need to understand how fast passes work before seeing how we use them on our Disney trips.
There are lots of ways that FastPass+ works for families on vacation at Disney World, but this is how our family uses FastPass+. FastPass+ selections require A LOT of planning but in the end it is completely worth it.
A Look Into FastPass+
Tip One: Use Magic Hours
First of all, we ALWAYS stay on the Disney World campus. There are a number of reasons that we do this, but one of the reasons is that there is early entrance to one park a day for Disney Resort guests. This is called Extra Magic Hours. You can find the calendar for extra magic hours here.
This brings us to our first Tip: Plan your park visits as early as possible. For example, Monday is Magic Kingdom, Tuesday is Epcot, Wednesday is Animal Kingdom and Thursday is Hollywood Studios. We have a helpful planning guide for you to make this process as simple as possible. Be sure to check this out as it will make reserving fast passes MUCH easier.
Go to the park that has extra magic hours and ride one of the main attractions – the ones that have the longest lines through the day – right away during Extra Magic Hours. This way you will not need to use a FastPass+ selection on that attraction.
Tip Two: Determine your top 3 attractions
We have established that you are staying on the Disney Campus and you have 3 FastPasses to assign to your schedule 60 days before your visit. Let’s say that on Monday you are in the Magic Kingdom. You have determined to hit up Space Mountain during Magic Hours (no FastPass+ needed). Therefore, what will you use your 3 selections on? Here is what we do. Find a list of the attractions in the Magic Kingdom that have the longest lines. This varies depending upon if new attractions have opened up or in the unfortunate event that one of the attractions is unavailable due to maintenance or refurbishment. A quick google search will help you determine the top attractions during your vacation time frame.
After you determine the top attractions, again top being the rides with the LONGEST WAIT TIMES, figure out which 3 are MUST DO ATTRACTIONS for you and your family. The bigger the group, the more important it is for you to get on this as soon as possible. Make a list of those 3 attractions and move on to Tip number three.
Tip Three: Look at a Map
So you have your top 3 attractions. LOOK AT A MAP OF THE PARK. There is a high likelihood that your top 3 attractions are spread out throughout the park that you are in. Again, let’s stick with the Magic Kingdom. Lets say that you are currently in Tomorrowland at Space Mountain. You do not want to have to book it over to Frontierland for Big Thunder Mountain for a 9am fast pass and then run over to Adventureland at 10 am for Splash Mountain.
If you plan things this way you may have successfully missed long lines but you have wasted your entire morning by running through the park and you have not enjoyed your time at all. Remember – there is so much to look at and you want to enjoy your time!
Now, this being said, there are times where it does make sense to burn that morning energy and hit the top 3 attractions right away in the day. This will mean zipping through the park and putting a lot of steps on your FitBit. Basically, take into consideration the map and be aware of what you are committing to when you make those FastPass Selections.
A very manageable option is to spread your FastPass+ selections throughout the day. Do one mid morning, one early afternoon and one later afternoon. Be cognizant of where things are at and also keep in mind – YOU NEED TO EAT.
Eating takes time at Disney World and you do not want to be rushed because you have to make it to a FastPass window. Speaking of eating, if you have dinner reservations you may want to plan on having a FastPass at an attraction near your dining spot! (We have 11 tips for getting dinner reservations here!)
It is possible to update and change your FastPasses after you have them booked but it is our recommendation that you do not rely on this option.
Thoughts on Adding Fast Passes
After you have used up a FastPass+ selection you have the option of adding on another FastPass+ using your Disney Experience App. This sounds great at first, but you need to keep in mind that ALL the major attractions that have long lines will not have any FastPass options left. There is a magical off chance that something may open up, but you need to not plan on that happening.
Here is how we use the extra FastPasses in our family. There is a variety of ages and interests in what we like to do at Disney. After we have used up the FastPasses and can add more we will see where we are in the park and check out the wait times at nearby attractions. Often we can quickly add in a FastPass for a handful of us who would like to ride, say, Pirates of The Caribbean. If not everyone can get a FastPass for a ride some of us might go hang out in the Tiki Room or just sit and people watch.
The last time we visited Disney one evening Jen and Rishi stayed at Animal Kingdom while the rest of us headed back to the hotel. They were able to add a couple FastPasses for just the two of them which saved them some time in lines. Adding on FastPasses at this point in the day honestly doesn’t help you all that much, but sometimes 10 minutes here and there adds up.
Sometimes, however, the stress of trying to add on extra FastPasses is too much and it’s worth it to just stand in line for 20-30 minutes. Remember, the lines at Disney are interesting so this is often not a huge deal at all!
Hopefully this helps you as you figure out how to best use FastPasses! Again, this is what works for our family. Planning is key and having a good attitude is what will make your vacation as magical as possible!