Probably one of the most debated questions in the Disney community is the optimal Walt Disney World Fastpass strategy. Post a question on reddit about it, and you'll get a variety of strategies. This post goes over our strategy 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.
- 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 have back-to-back stays, you'll be able to make reservations for the entire length of both stays once you hit the 60 day mark. 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.
- 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.
The biggest exception to this is that some rides (Toy Story Mania! is a notable one) have lines that are fine to wait in because they are themed and indoors. Many people, for example, think the Peter Pan line is better than the ride.
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
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 is to book three Fastpasses in succession, preferably between the hours of 10AM and 3PM (or else one to two hours after park opening through midday). Here's why this is the best strategy:
- 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, which saves you from having to waste a Fastpass on that ride.
- You only have one gap to fill. Because your Fastpass windows are back-to-back-to-back, you can wait until the end of the first window, do ride one and immediately go to ride two. Then you'll have about 45 minutes before ride three, during which time you can grab a breakfast or midday snack. Alternatively, do ride one immediately when that window opens, then wait until the end of the second window and do rides two and three back-to-back. Fill that gap with some rides, a meal, or shopping.
- You Fastpass through the busiest time of the day. 10AM to 2PM tends to have some of the longer waits. You've scheduled your Fastpasses to avoid that.
- 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.
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!