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One of the most debated questions in the Disney community is the optimal Walt Disney World Fastpass strategy. This post goes over our strategy (the one we actually put to use while we're in Walt Disney World, and it saves us hours) while explaining where other popular strategies fall short. We're going to start with a quick review of some important basics you need to know.
A Quick Review of the Things You Need to Know About Disney World Fastpass
- Fastpass+ (pronounced "Fastpass" or "Fastpass Plus" is the electronic/online system for booking rides at Disney World so that you can skip the lines (or wait in substantially shorter lines) for your favorite rides. Time is money at Walt Disney World, you get the most bang for your buck with good planning. If you need help, there are a variety of apps that are awesome for this purpose.
- If you're staying at a Disney resort, you can make Fastpass+ reservations 60 days in advance of the first night your stay. If you are not staying at a Disney resort, you can make Fastpass+ reservations up to 30 days into the future.
- Initially, you can make 3 Fastpass+ selections each day. Each has an hour window, they cannot overlap, and they must be at the same park. You can modify these once you have made them, subject to those rules.
- Once you have used or cancelled all 3 of your Fastpasses for a day you can make another one for that day at any park. Once you use or cancel that reservation, you can make another, and so on.
- Epcot, Animal Kingdom, and Hollywood Studios have tiered selections, where you can only choose 1 ride in the top tier in your initial set of 3.
Choosing Which Rides to Use Your Disney World Fastpass Selections On
There's not too much debate around this issue. It is subjective insofar as you can skip rides you don't care about or don't want to ride, but beyond that, you'll want to use Fastpass+ for the rides with the longest average standby times. You can find information on standby times on various sites, most notably Touring Plans.
In general, the most important (that is, difficult) Fastpass+ reservation you can get at each park in 2018 will be:
- At Animal Kingdom - Avatar Flight of Passage (the most difficult at Walt Disney World)
- At Epcot - Frozen Ever After
- At Magic Kingdom - Seven Dwarfs Mine Train
- At Hollywood Studios - Toy Story Mania! (Note: When Toy Story Land opens, this may change)
Scheduling Your Disney world Fastpasses: Two Bad Strategies
Bad Fastpass Strategy 1: Start the day quickly
The first bad strategy is to put your Fastpasses right at the start of the day. Putting one at the time the park opens is a baffling decision, as your wait time on your first ride will be short if you get to rope drop regardless. Besides Magic Kingdom and Pandora at Animal Kingdom, the parks don't really get going for a few hours, anyways. Plus, early Fastpasses limit your ability to respond to the chaos of opening. Rides will be down, rides will open late, the crowds will go different places, and you won't be able to respond to the best wait times if you have to be on one side of the park in the first hour.
Bad Fastpass Strategy 2: Space them out Too Much
An arguably worse mistake is to space your Fastpasses out throughout the day. If you park hop, this is a real waste because it keeps you locked into one park for too long. If you don't park hop, you're still waiting until you use that last Fastpass before you can start making new selections. This results in a sort of sunk cost fallacy, where you might hold onto the last Fastpass rather than searching for better opportunities. The spaced out Fastpasses also cause problems with waiting in standby lines, as you can't wait too long lest you miss your Fastpass window.
The Best Disney world Fastpass Strategy
The best Fastpass strategy has two parts. First, when you initially book, you book three Fastpasses in near succession, preferably between the hours of 10AM and 3PM (or else one to two hours after park opening through midday). Second, as soon as you use your first Fastpass (!!) you start modifying your next two, and you continue picking up Fastpasses throughout the day. Let's address these two parts in detail.
First, here's why scheduling your initial three Fastpass selections in near succession between 10AM and 3PM is best.
- It gives you full flexibility at rope drop. You can go where the lines are shortest for the first hour or two. Importantly, you can expect a short wait on the first ride you go to (except for Flights of Passage or whatever the newest ride is when you're read this) which saves you from having to waste a Fastpass on that ride.
- You minimize big gaps. Because your Fastpass windows are back-to-back-to-back, you can do two of your rides back to back, you won't have to waste hours waiting in lines or walking around the park waiting for your Fastpass times to arrive.
- You avoid the biggest mistake the experts make. You want to leave gaps of 15 minutes to 30 minutes between you Fastpass+ reservations in order to be sure you can modify your second and third reservations once you use your first.
- You Fastpass through the busiest time of the day. 10AM to 4PM tends to have some of the longer waits. You've scheduled your Fastpasses to avoid that. It doesn't matter what season or what the crowd calendars say, Disney lines can get wicked year-round.
- You're done early to get a new Fastpass and start park hopping. This is why we love this strategy. Once you've used your three Fastpasses, the World is your oyster! You can even pick your next park based the best Fastpass available. Or you can keep checking until your favorite ride opens up. There's not a single ride--include the new Pandora rides--that doesn't occasionally see an open Fastpass slot.
Now, here's why you absolutely need to open up your My Disney Experience app as soon as you've used your first Fastpass.
- You can move up your next two Fastpasses. If you scheduled a 10AM, 11:15, and 12:30, when you use that 10AM fastpass right at 10AM, you can hop on your app and move your 12:30 to 10:05, if a slot is available (and it often will be!). Even if it isn't, you can move your slots as early as possible., buying you more time for the rest of the day.
- Once you've used your first three Fastpass selections, keep searching, and you'll skip almost all the lines! As an example of how great this can get, on July 5, we got a Fastpass for Space Mountain via the app at 11:23 (if memory serves, we were on the bus at the time). The Fastpass window started at 11:35, just 12 minutes later, while the standby wait was 65 minutes! We were two people, and that means any two people hopping in that line at 11:23 could have saved nearly an hour of waiting in line if they had used this strategy! Then as soon as you use that Fastpass, start searching for your next one to do the same trick!
Fastpass+ is a system that is totally worth mastering. While this strategy is the best for us, it might not be the best for your circumstances. But you know what? The first thing you try won't be the best either. We're talking about hours of time waiting in line that you could avoid if you find the strategy that works best for you and your family. If you don't take this strategy in all its details, take the main ideas with you and put together the strategy that works for you!