For those of us who were used to visiting Walt Disney World and utilizing FASTPASS (FP), the change from FASTPASS to FastPass+ (FP+) was something that I wasn’t looking forward to.
I was someone who upon entry into the theme parks, would grab my wife and daughters’ tickets and head to an attraction’s FASTPASS machine while the rest of the family headed to a different ride to get in line. I would then race back and meet them in line with FASTPASS in hand for another ride. Then as soon as we had the ability to obtain another FASTPASS I collected all their tickets and made a run to another attraction to get another FASTPASS for us all. That was the strategy/plan at every park, everyday, every trip. That system worked for us. We knew how to utilize FASTPASS and always marveled at how many people would look at their park maps and read about FASTPASS, but think they either had to pay for it, or simply didn’t understand how to use it.
Enter FP+. I can say that my first thoughts about this were negative ones. Magic Kingdom has so many rides, yet I could only reserve three FP+ per day? What about at Epcot? I Love Soarin’ and Test Track, but I can’t FP+ both of those? And I am an Annual Passholder who loves to Park Hop. No more getting FP+ at separate parks in the day? These were all issues I was concerned about, and I wasn’t sure whether or not I would ever be able to tour the parks the same way with this new system. To me, it seemed Disney was penalizing those who knew how to use the old FP system to maximize their times at the parks. The new FP+ System was something that, once promoted, would provide easier access to rides for more people, although not the best news for me, it is actually best for Disney and it’s guests.
Since FP+’s inception, we have taken several trips to Walt Disney World, and I have to say I love FP+. Honestly, there is nothing better than knowing that you will be able to meet Anna and Elsa without waiting for 5 hours in line. There is a great feeling knowing that you do not have to line up 2 hours before a parade only to get pushed around, stepped on, or your personal space invaded by the last minute parade crashers. With FP+ you could select a FP+ for one of the parades and have a spot in a reserved area, avoiding most of those issues. Another example is that you do not have to run at rope drop to get to Soarin’ or Test Track because you have a reserved FP+ time already. If you have ever been to Disney California Adventure and experienced Radiator Springs Racers, you would love the option of FP+…trust me!
Disney did a wonderful job getting feedback about FP+ and Magic Bands (which I will discuss in a later blog) and tweaking the FP+ program to allow for maximum fun for everyone. Take for example the three FP+ limit. Disney recognized that many guests might reserve their FP+ for rides/parades for later in the day, thus not allowing use for early morning or afternoon of FP+. Conversely, if guests used their three FP+ options in the morning they were done for the rest of the day and night. After obtaining feedback Disney correctly updated their system and now once guests have uses their three FP+’s they can head to a kiosk and obtain a fourth FP+. After the use of the fourth FP+, they can head back to a kiosk and get a fifth and so on. That is something that traditional FASTPASS users love, and I can say that on the Rock Your Disney Side Day we ended up getting to our 8th FP+!!
Disney addressed the Annual Pass situation by allowing guests to schedule their first three FP+ at one park and then after those have been used, guests can head to a different park and go to a kiosk and obtain a fourth FP+ for the day.. The only thing I would like to see is Disney expand that option for Annual Passholders and allow them to simply choose three FP+ in one day regardless of the park. For example, as a family who loves to park hop, it would be great to have the opportunity to reserve, Seven Dwarfs Mine Train at say 10:00 am at Magic Kingdom, Soarin’ at noon at Epcot, and Toy Story Midway Mania at 3:00 pm at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. That would be a nice perk for Annual Passholders and truly make best use of Park Hopping and FP+. (Disney, if you are reading, kick that around 🙂
My guess is Disney will continue to get feedback and tweak the FP+ system to maximize things for their guests. After all, ultimately Disney wants their guests to have the best experience possible to ensure repeat visits. The FP+ system is a great step in that direction. As a friend of mine told me the other day, there was nothing better than telling his daughter that she will get to meet Anna and Elsa on her birthday! No five hour waits (I know you still may wait anywhere from 15-45 minutes even with FP+) for them. When a parent has the ability to make sure their child will be able to see their favorite character or ride their favorite attraction or see their favorite parade or show, that goes a long way for a family vacation. There are very few other vacations destinations that can provide such a guarantee.
In my view Disney has succeeded with FP+, and I am excited to see how it evolves as the years go by. Let us know on twitter your thoughts of FP+