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One of the most debated questions in the Disney community is the optimal Walt Disney World FastPass strategy. This very long post goes over our recommended and tested FastPass+ strategy (the one we actually put to use while we're in Walt Disney World, and it saves us hours). Our goal here is to equip you with all the tools and knowledge you need to get on the most popular rides at Disney World without a wait!
We start with some basic rules about Fastpass+ and the Disney World FastPass+ tiers, then we move onto examples of bad strategies. Finally, we break down our strategy, including the best rides to FastPass, tips about taking it to the next level, the secret Disney Fastpass hack we mostly think is real, and how to book for large groups.
Once you've read this post, we suggest moving onto our individual park-related posts, which can be found at the following links:
Once you've got a good idea of the parks and FastPass+ strategy, we also have an in-depth post about which parks and FastPass+ slots to schedule on what days. We'll be breaking this FastPass+ strategy into four parts: knowing the rules, picking your rides, scheduling your rides, and mastering the art of the "tap, grab, and modify" approach.
And if you want to see us put our FastPass+ strategy to work, we’ve got itineraries for each park as well:
If you’re looking into park hopping, we’ve got a post on park hopping between Hollywood Studios and Animal Kingdom.
Part 1. Disney World Fastpass+ Rules & Basics
In this section, we're going to quickly explain the Disney World FastPass+ rules. If you're already familiar with these, click here to jump down to part two of the post.
FastPass+ (occasionally called "Fast Pass," "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. FastPass+ is used at the four theme parks (Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Animal Kingdom, and Hollywood Studios). FastPass+ is not used at the water parks (Typhoon Lagoon, Blizzard Beach)
Unlike many of the other Disney parks worldwide, the Walt Disney World FastPass+ system does not rely on paper tickets. Instead, you schedule FastPass+ reservations online, through the My Disney Experience app, or through physical kiosks in the park. This is nice because it means those of us who master the ins and outs of Disney's FastPass+ rules get to have an extra magical time.
Unique to Disney World is the chance to book FastPass reservations before you even arrive at the resort. Time is money at Walt Disney World, and you get the most bang for your buck with good planning. If you need help planning, there are a variety of apps that are awesome for this purpose.
Fastpass+ Is Free, And That Means You're Already Ahead of the Curve
Unlike Disneyland's MAXPASS, which is paid access to an improved FastPass system, the cost of Disney World FastPass+ is just $0 (free). That means that the people who get the most out of it aren't those who pay more, but those who prepare most. You're here to prepare, and that puts you ahead of the curve!
There Are Three Ways To Get and Modify FastPass+ Reservations
The three ways to make and modify Fastpass+ reservations are:
On your phone Via the MyDisneyExperience App
In the parks at physical kiosks
Our individual parks posts discuss the locations of the kiosks, but you should know they do move on occasion.
How to Book a FastPass+ On the My Disney Experience App
Step 1. You begin by logging into the app (you can download the app here). You login using your same Disney credentials that you use for the Walt Disney World and Disneyland websites.
Step 2. “Get FastPass+” is the first option under “My Plans.”
Step 3. If you don’t have any FastPass+ reservations, you’ll see a welcome screen with an explanation of FastPass+.
Step 4. Select your party from your friends and family list. You need to select everyone you wish to book a FastPass+ for. You’ll be searching and booking for the number of people you select here.
Step 5. Select your date and park. If you’re booking far in advance, click the calendar icon to see all dates you can book for. If you have a hotel reservation, you should have access to those dates 60 days in advance (more on this below). Once you’ve picked your date, click the park to see what’s available that day.
Step 6. Search by time. You’ll have the ability to search by “Morning” “Afternoon” or “Evening” or hour-by-hour. The app shows what’s available in those times or when availability is limited, other available times.
Step 7. Select your time and confirm your reservation.
Step 8. Move onto the next reservation, either the same day or a different day. Typically you can just select “I’m Done,” but this is a good moment to highlight the glitchy nature of the app, as I couldn’t even get through this simple reservation without a random glitch where I’m not allowed to select that I’m done.
FastPass+ Availability Can Be Complicated
Everyone wants to know what FastPass availability is going to look like for their trip, and the truth is there's really no way to know. There are a few reasons for this.
First, Disney can change FastPass availability as they see fit. Disney occasionally "dumps" availability and opens a large number of slots. No one knows about this until it happens. We suggest getting on Twitter and following some Disney experts, keeping your eyes open for mentions of new availability.
Second, with Toy Story Land having just opened and with big changes coming in 2019 (Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway and Galaxy's Edge), FastPass+ availability is going to be in great flux. Tiers are changing and guest priorities are changing. Disney will probably be monitoring the situation closely and adjusting availability as it develops.
Nonetheless, here are some things you can expect when booking Fastpasses...
Fastpass availability is always best the furthest date out (the last day of your trip). This means when you can book, you'll want to look at putting the most popular rides at Disney World (the Toy Story Land and Pandora rides, right now) on the last few days of your trip, where you'll find better availability.
A group of four can find Fastpass availability on most Tier 2 rides while at the park. We'll discuss this in more detail later, but basically you can expect (but never count on!!) to be able to find space on all but the most popular rides while you're at the parks. Hollywood Studios has surprised us following the opening of Toy Story Land, and availability there is even easy to come by.
Availability can vary from person to person. You can confirm this yourself, as if you have two people searching for availability at the same park, they'll often see slightly different results. Disney's algorithms clearly home some amount of randomness built into them.
Select Hotels Get 60-Day Advance Fastpass+ Booking
The top question on everyone's mind: "When can you book Disney FastPass+?" Well, it depends...
This is the Disney FastPass+ rule (or perk, really) that actually does create something of a "pay-to-play" system. Some people can pay a little more (or at least plan a little differently) to get ahead of the competition.
If you're staying at a Disney resort (or select other resorts), you can make FastPass+ reservations 60 days in advance of the first night your stay. If you are not staying at one of these resorts, you can make FastPass+ reservations up to 30 days into the future.
If you're at these select resorts, you can book FastPass+ reservations for your entire stay starting 60 days before your first day. So If you're staying at Disney's Pop Century Resort ten nights from November 1 to November 11 and have 11-day tickets, you can book 11 days of FastPass+ reservations starting on September 2. This is true even if you have a split stay at two Disney hotels, as long as the stays are consecutive.
We have a Disney FastPass+ Calendar (or Disney FastPass+ calculator) to help you remember when you can start booking. Just click through this link here and you'll be taken to it. It's nothing fancy, but it gets the job done.
You Can Make Up To Three Advance FastPass+ Bookings For Each Day
This is probably the Disney FastPass+ rule most people know. When booking 30/60 days in advance, you can select THREE FastPass+ reservations each day. Each reservation (with very limited exceptions) has an hour window. These hours cannot overlap.
The three reservations must be at a single park. Epcot, Animal Kingdom, and Hollywood Studios have tiered selections (see below for the Disney World Fastpass tiers). When you make your advance three reservations, they can only include a maximum of one "Tier 1" ride.
The FastPass+ booking window opens at 7AM, Eastern Standard Time either 30 days or 60 days in advance. To find out what day you'll need to book your advance FastPass+ bookings, click here to access our Disney FastPass+ calendar.
If you don't trust us, visit google and search "60 days before DATE," substituting DATE for the first date of your trip.
Remember, if you're not staying at one of the select resorts with the 60-day window, your FastPass+ booking will open one day at a time, 30 days in advance of each day.
You Can Modify Your FastPass+ Bookings
Anecdotal evidence suggests you'll have better luck modifying a 10PM booking to a 1PM booking for the same ride, or even for a different ride in the same park, than you will just stumbling upon the 1PM booking. This means if you know you want to ride Flight of Passage on Tuesday and you see an opening for Tuesday at 8PM, just grab it! If a 1PM pops up later, you'll be able to modify into it.
You Can Get "Unlimited" Fastpass+ Bookings Once At The Park
This is one of the most sadly forgotten Disney FastPass+ rules. To be clear, you can't just show up at the park and book all the rides you want. Rather, once you have used or all three of your initial FastPass+ bookings 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. We discuss this in greater detail as part of our strategy below.
Disney World FastPass+ Tiers (2018 & Early 2019)
In this section we give you a full breakdown of the Disney World FastPass tiers.
Tier 1 - The Most Popular Rides at Disney World
Here are the Disney World FastPass tiers for 2018, beginning with the top tier (these are the rides most likely to be the most popular rides at Disney World)...
Hollywood Studios (Newest Rides In Bold) - Alien Swirling Saucers, Slinky Dog Dash, Toy Story Mania!
Epcot - Frozen Ever After, Soarin', Test Track, Illuminations: Reflections of Light, Epcot Character Spot
Animal Kingdom - Flight of Passage, Na'vi River Journey
Remember, when you book your FastPass+ reservations at these parks, you can only book one top tier ride in your first set of three Fastpass+ selections. Once you use or cancel your three, you can book a new tier one ride as your fourth (and/or fifth, and so on) selection.
Tier 2 - The Rest of the FastPass+ Rides at Disney World
And now, the second Disney World FastPass tier (book two or three of these in advance)...
Hollywood Studios - Beauty and the Beast, Disney Junior Live on Stage!, Fantasmic!, Frozen Sing-Along Celebration, Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular!, Muppet Vision 3D, Rock 'n' Roller Coaster, Star Tours, Twilight Zone Tower of Terror, Voyage of the Little Mermaid
Epcot - Disney & Pixar Short Film Festival, Journey Into Imagination with Figment, Living with the Land, Mission: SPACE, Spaceship Earth, The Seas with Nemo & Friends, Turtle Talk with Crush
Animal Kingdom - DINOSAUR, Expedition Everest, Finding Nemo - The Musical, Flights of Wonder, It's Tough to be a Bug, Kali River Rapids, Kilimanjaro Safaris, Meet Favorite Disney Pals, Primeval Whirl, Rivers of Light
Remember, there are no Disney World FastPass+ tiers at Magic Kingdom. All Fastpass+ rides at Magic Kingdom are one "tier."
Before we move on, we need to cover two special FastPass+ situations that fall outside of these rules.
Special Case 1: Club Level Access to Extra Fastpass+ Perks
You may have heard the news in early 2018 that Disney World has started offering access to extra FastPass+ reservations for an additional fee to Disney hotel club level guests. Guests who pay $50 plus tax per person per day will receive (paraphrasing Disney Tourist Blog):
Three additional FastPass+ selections per day
Ability to reserve these three additional FastPass+ selections in different parks if you have park hopper
Booking window of up to 90 days in advance for these three additional FastPass+ selections
Additional Fastpass+ selection can be used at multiple Tier 1 rides
Preferred viewing for one nighttime show per day
At this point we have no intention of updating our strategy with anything more about this. The reasons for this are twofold. First, we don't think many readers will avail themselves of this option, nor would we endorse it if you're at all on the fence about it. We don't value this perk at $50 per person per day, not even close. Second, you can take the essentials of this purchase and just modify our strategy to apply it yourself, it shouldn't be too hard. We don't want to complicate things with too much unnecessary content.
Special Case 2: Pre-Selected FastPass+ For One-Day Tickets
Another change in early 2018 is the introduction of one-day tickets that come with pre-selected FastPass+ reservations. Like the club level offerings, these don't impact our strategy. Most of our readers aren't visiting for a single day. Even if you are, the offered itineraries aren't very good. The only park we would use one of these tickets on would be Magic Kingdom. At other parks, we wouldn't even consider it.
Part 2. Picking The Best Rides To FastPass
There's not too much debate around this issue. The best rides to FastPass are subjective insofar as you can skip rides you don't care about or don't want to ride, but beyond that, a good rule of thumb is to use FastPass+ for the rides with the longest average standby times. Remember too that you'll have to keep the Disney World FastPass tiers (discussed above) in mind.
You can find information on standby times on various sites, most notably Touring Plans, which also has extensive FastPass+ content. We also have individual park guides linked to above and in the next paragraph.
In general, the most important (that is, difficult) FastPass+ reservation you can get at each park in 2018 and early 2019 (and thus the best rides to Fastpass) will be:
At Animal Kingdom - Avatar Flight of Passage
At Epcot - Frozen Ever After
At Magic Kingdom - Seven Dwarfs Mine Train
At Hollywood Studios - Slinky Dog Dash
There really isn't too much debate around which rides are best to FastPass right now, though the situation in Toy Story Land may shift as time goes on. As we get through our strategy, you'll find that sometimes the best ride to FastPass is simply the one with the next open slot.
Part 3. Two Bad FastPass+ Strategies
We're starting with bad strategies as a way to show you some of the counterintuitive aspects of FastPass+ planning.
Bad Fastpass+ Strategy 1: Start the day quickly
The first bad strategy is to put your FastPass+ slots 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 (covered more below) regardless. Besides Magic Kingdom and Pandora at Animal Kingdom, the parks don't really get going for a few hours, anyways.
Plus, early FastPass slots 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
A worse mistake is to space your FastPass+ bookings 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 FastPass+ 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 Fastpass+ reservations 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 new FastPass+ slots throughout the day. Let's address these two parts in detail.
Part 4. Scheduling Your Advance FastPass+ Reservations
First, you have to pick what days you’ll schedule which parks. There are a lot of factors that go into this, and while we won’t address all of them we want to give you a rough idea of some things to consider.
Later dates have more availability. If you’re staying at a Disney hotel and booking 60 days in advance of your arrival, the end of your trip will have more FastPass+ availability than the beginning. That’s where you’ll have better luck finding a FastPass+ for Slinky Dog Dash or Avatar Flight of Passage.
Are you park hopping? If you’re park hopping, it might make sense to book afternoon FastPass+ at one park and rope drop another one, particularly if you can get the FastPass+ at the park that closes latest that day.
You don’t have to combine Extra Magic Hours with FastPass+. If you have park hopper tickets, it can be a good idea to visiting morning Extra Magic Hours and then hop to a different park where you’ll use your FastPass+ reservations. This is especially true if you visit Magic Kingdom morning Extra Magic Hours, as you can cover a ton of rides by midday.
Do you need two days of Magic Kingdom FastPass+? It’s often advisable to do two days of FastPass+ at Magic Kingdom. If you arrive early for Hollywood Studios (at least until Runaway Railways opens) and Animal Kingdom rope drops, you can avoid needing FastPass+ reservations at those parks.
Once you’ve picked your days, here's why scheduling your initial three FastPass selections in near succession between 10AM and 3PM (or about 11AM to 3PM if you’re park hopping) 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 Flight 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 a gap of 15 minutes to 30 minutes between your first two Fastpass+ reservations in order to be sure you can move up your third reservation 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 that doesn't occasionally see an open FastPass slot.
Remember to check out our Disney FastPass+ Calendar to see when you should go ahead and plan to book your reservations. You can access it by clicking here.
Part 5. Mastering the Art of the "Tap and Grab"
Here's how the awesome ride-hopping folks over at Parkeology describe the "Tap and Grab":
Once you have used your initial selection of 3 FastPasses, the My Disney Experience app lets you pick up bonus FastPasses one at a time. As soon as you “tap” at the Mickey touch point to use your current FastPass, the app will allow you to grab a new FastPass.
Tapping and grabbing is an essential part of any good FastPass+ strategy. Some bloggers refer to it as a "hack" (it might be more fitting if we described it such). Others call it the secret to getting "infinite" Fastpasses. However you want to think about it, this is what drives getting the most out of FastPass+.
The best way to master tapping and grabbing is to practice. Magic Kingdom is the park where tap and grab is most essential, so we suggest practicing it at a different park in the days before you visit Magic Kingdom.
We constantly get asked "does this really work?" The answer is YES! Now are you going to get Flight of Passage, Frozen Ever After, and Slinky Dog Dash all in one day with this method? Probably not. But can you get some real winning slots? Definitely. For example, on a recent trip we grabbed a 6:20PM Fastpass+ for three people on Space Mountain. We grabbed it at 6:07PM when the wait for the ride was 75 minutes. That's over an hour saved for one of Magic Kingdom's most popular rides using tap and grab.
The Big FastPass+ Secret: "Tap and Grab" Starts After Ride One, Not Ride Three
We only quibble a bit with Parkeology prefacing "Tap and Grab" with "Once you have used your initial selection of 3 FastPasses..." While not entirely tapping and grabbing, the actual work starts as soon as you ride your first ride. This is the one secret to FastPass+ we think the experts ignore! 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 once you use your first
If you scheduled a 10AM, 11:15, and 12:15, 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.
Note that this doesn't have anything to do with your fourth FastPass selection. We're still just talking about your first three. All you're doing is modifying them once you've used your first. You can't schedule them for 10AM, 10:10, and 11:15 in advance, but once you use your 10AM, you can go ahead and move one up to 10:10.
Other Rules of Modifying Your Second and Third FastPass Reservations
At some point in the past few months the modification rules have been tweaked, which has created some odd rules. We’ve had to throw out our old playbook and update here, so here is the situation as of our most recent (October 2018) tests. This section is really wonky, to feel free to skip it if you’re not into the nuts and bolts.
First, in order to grab a second Tier 1 FastPass+ at the same park, you need to use—not just cancel—your three FastPass+ reservations at that park.
For example, I arrive at Hollywood Studios with FastPass+ reservations for Alien Swirling Saucers at 10AM, Tower of Terror at 11:15AM, Star Tours at 12:30PM. I use my Alien Swirling Saucers FastPass+ at 10AM. If I cancel the remaining two reservations to try to find an 11AM Toy Story Mania reservation, the app will tell me I’ve already used my Tier 1 reservation for the day.
In order to grab a Toy Story Mania FP+, I need to find a way to use my remaining two FastPass+ reservations. The easiest way at Hollywood Studios will just be to modify them to Muppet Vision 3D and Voyage of the Little Mermaid, tapping into those attractions without actually going on them.
Second, there’s a strange loophole (that we expect to close) where you can have FastPass+ reservations at multiple parks. Let’s say (again) I go ahead and use my Alien Swirling Saucers FastPass+. If I go ahead and cancel my the remaining two and then try and add two, I’ll be able to add two at separate parks, including a Tier 1 attraction at another park. Here’s the screenshot proof of that:
Okay—that’s messed up. I wouldn’t expect this loophole to stick around, but for now you could do some cool things with it.
Then once you've used (or abandoned) 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 grabbed a Fastpass for Space Mountain via the app at 11:23 (while on the bus to Magic Kingdom). 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!
Part 6. Rope Drop, The Most Important Part of Your Day
We didn't used to talk about rope drop in our Fastpass+ posts, but it slowly found its way in. That's because rope drop is the most important part of getting on rides besides Fastpass+. You really can't talk about one without the other, so this section is dedicated to really explaining rope drop.
What Is Rope Drop?
"Rope drop" refers to the time when a theme park actually opens in the morning. The term originates in fact that while most theme parks are gated with turnstiles, they'll usually let people through the gate before the actual opening time (more on that in a bit), blocking off lands or attractions with ropes which are then "dropped" at actual opening time.
As a verb, "rope drop" is used to mean what you do first in the morning when the park opens. If I say you should "rope drop Toy Story Mania!", that's shorthand for, "When the park opens you should immediately go to Toy Story Mania!" We'll also sometimes use it to refer to the rides you go to between the time the park opens and when lines start to build about two hours into the day.
Why To Rope Drop
Before we get into the nitty gritty of rope drop, let's cover why its important. Because rope drop is at the very start of the day, it is the time when lines are shortest. Although lines can build up, rope dropping is the easiest way to get a short wait on a ride without a Fastpass+.
Rope dropping is also almost entirely in your control. While there are rides that sometimes open late, you can guarantee yourself a short wait on any ride in Walt Disney World by waking up a little earlier than you're used to and getting to the park.
What Time Is Rope Drop?
The first thing to know about rope drop is that the time the park is scheduled to open is usually the absolute latest most of the park will be operational. On most days, the gates to the Disney parks open 15 to 45 minutes before scheduled park open.
On some days, rides will actually be operational before the park is scheduled to open. On a recent visit to Animal Kingdom, for example, we went for morning Extra Magic Hours and were actually off Na'vi River Journey before the scheduled start of Extra Magic Hours.
Extra Magic Hours
If a park has Extra Magic Hours, rope drop is really the time that Extra Magic Hours begin. If you don't have Extra Magic Hours, you're going to be at a disadvantage when you arrive at the regular opening time as EMH guests will already be in line. If you don't have access to Extra Magic Hours, you shouldn't start your day at a park with morning Extra Magic Hours for this reason.
Magic Kingdom is a special case for Extra Magic Hours. It's the only park where the majority of the rides aren't open for morning Extra Magic Hours. Tomorrowland and Fantasyland are open, but Liberty Square, Adventureland, and Frontierland are not. So if EMH begins at 8AM and the park opens at 9AM, those latter three lands won't open until 9AM. Anyone who arrived before 9AM will have equal opportunity to rope drop those lands as the people who had the extra hour in Tomorrowland and Fantasyland.
Rope Drop Tips
Rope drop strategy works in tandem with Fastpass+ strategy. While your Fastpass+ options are going to be constrained by a number of factors, including dumb luck, rope drop is more in your control.
Mind Your Fastpass+ Tiers
Three of the parks have tiered Fastpass+, which means you'll have Tier 1 rides you couldn't book in advance. At rope drop at those parks, you're going to be trying to get those rides done, as whatever you didn't book in Tier 1 should be more popular than the rides you didn't book in Tier 2. Consult our individual park posts for the Fastpass+ tiers:
Pay Attention To Ride Length
WDWInfo has a great list of the ride times at Walt Disney World (though it doesn't include pre-shows and prep time) . At rope drop, you'll want to avoid (as much as you reasonably can) the rides with long ride times. Long ride times give the other lines time to grow, which defeats the point of getting there early.
Not All Equal Waits Are Equal
A 30-minute wait at rope drop can be worse than an hour wait later in the day. At rope drop, your 30-minute wait is going to give all the other lines in the park time to go from 0 to 15+, which might leave you with just two or three rides before peak waits set in. If you stick to short waits, though, you'll finish plenty of rides and be left with just one or two long waits in the middle of the day.
When In Doubt, Don't Get Cute
For the most part, the crowds know what they're doing. And even if they don't, the crowds will form long lines, and it's often better to be in them now than later when they're even longer.
Part 7. Finally, Are There aNy Secret Disney World Fastpass Hacks?
Okay, we're not big believers in there being Disney Fastpass+ secrets, but we think there is maybe one. We don't have anything other than anecdotal evidence (both our own experiences and others) to suggest that this really is a Disney Fastpass+ hack, but here it is.
The Most Important Fastpass+ Hack: "Tap, Grab, and Modify"
Remember "tap and grab"? Well, actually, the optimal Fastpass+ trick is "tap, grab, and modify."
While we don't have access to Disney's internal algorithms to confirm this, our own experience and word of mouth pretty strongly suggest that there is one consistent, unspoken pattern to Fastpass+ availability, and it comes in two parts:
If you're looking to ride a ride at a specific time and aren't seeing slots at that time, you'll have better luck grabbing a later time and modifying the selection to an earlier time.
If you're looking to ride a ride and aren't seeing any slots on that ride, you'll have better luck if you grab any Fastpass+ at the same park and try to modify it to your desired ride.
That is, you're better off tapping and grabbing to get close to what you want and then modifying to get your actual selection than just repeating a search for a tough-to-get slot.
Let's assume Adam and Beth both want a Splash Mountain Fastpass for 4PM. They both have no current reservations for the rest of the day. Adam is on his phone constantly refreshing and conducting searches for Splash Mountain, making no reservations until he finds one he likes.
Beth grabs a 3:30PM Fastpass for Buzz Lightyear and then continually tries to modify that to a Splash Mountain Fastpass.
We think Beth has the better odds here. This might seem like complete nonsense, but there is a pretty good reason things might work like this, and that's that Disney doesn't want people with no real intention of going to a park to snag a Fastpass slot. In our example, Beth looks like someone who is trying to have a good day at Magic Kingdom. But Adam doesn't even have a ride booked. It makes sense that Disney might trust that Beth will actually use the Fastpass more than Adam.
This is a bit silly, of course, because it's premised on Beth grabbing the Buzz Lightyear Fastpass selection just to throw it away.
Here's an example of how "tap, grab, and modify" worked for us recently. While in the Fastpass+ line for Splash Mountain (having just "tapped" on) at about 1:30PM, we were searching for Jungle Cruise and finding nothing until after 6PM. I searched "afternoon," "1:30PM", "2:00PM," and so on. No luck. Finally, I just grabbed a 6:30PM and started modifying.
How did it go? By the time we were on the ride, I'd modified the Fastpass+ for three people five times, moving it from 6:30PM to 5:40PM, then to 3:55PM, then to 3:40PM, then to 3:05PM, then to 1:55PM.
Part 8. Getting Fastpass Reservations for Your Entire Group
One of our toughest Disney challenges was surviving a trip with eleven family members. Just kidding! But the real challenge was getting all the Fastpass reservations scheduled, especially when it came time to tap and grab.
Break the group up when you need to
Breaking the group up into two when Fastpass scheduling is fine if you getting overlapping slots. You might not be able to find availability from 11:30 to 12:30 for a group of eleven, but if you can get six at 11:05 to 12:05 and five at 11:45 to 12:45, you have a 20-minute window during which you can all ride together. This is annoying when planning your three advance reservations, but you should have better luck finding space for large groups on those, anyways. This means having two team captains who are making the reservations. It's not enough to have one person, because availability just comes and goes too quickly.
Pay attention to who is actually riding
If grandma and grandpa aren't going to ride Rock 'n' Roller Coaster, don't include them when searching for availability! If the little ones (or in our case, our 30-year-old brother) are afraid of Tower of Terror, then tell them to enjoy a turkey leg when you find availability for everyone who actually wants to ride!
Get Out and Ride, Ride, Ride!
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!
All Your Other Disney World Planning Questions Answered
Don't be overwhelmed by Disney World planning! Take a second to check out our most important content and you'll not only be an expert, but you'll save big $$$ along the way.
Just starting out? Check out our Walt Disney World planning guide! If you're still picking dates, we've got everything you need to know about Disney crowd calendars. For picking your hotel, check out our Walt Disney World hotels guide.
When it comes time to book, we've got you covered with posts on how to book cheap flights, how to get the best deal on your Disney hotel, and where to find discount Disney World tickets. And of course everyone wants to know whether or not they should get a Disney World dining plan!
Don't forget to master your Disney World FastPass+ strategy a few months in advance. We'll keep you out of long lines so you can maximize the magical time in the parks! We've got park-specific guides as well: Magic Kingdom FastPass, Epcot FastPass, Animal Kingdom FastPass, and Hollywood Studios FastPass.
Know what to ride with our guides to: Magic Kingdom rides, Hollywood Studios rides, Epcot rides, and Animal Kingdom rides! Plus learn about the water parks with our guide to Blizzard Beach and our guide to Typhoon Lagoon!
Finally, before you head out, be sure to check out our to-the-point packing list, 10 essentials you forget to pack for every Disney trip. And if you're interested in saving, there's no better list than our 53 Ways to Save on your Disney trip from start to finish.