Staying Off Site? How The New Fastpass+ May Change That.

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Editors Note: Disney has never said or implied that Fastpass+ and MagicBands would only be available to on-site guests only. As it stands, that is the current state of the program however. This is an interesting speculation if Disney decides to limit the service.

One of the first decisions you make when you plan a Disney World vacation is whether or not to stay on site. It’s an easy enough decision to make if money is not object, but if you’re on a budget, or if you need a lot more space than you can get in a Disney room, staying off site can be appealing.  Before the advent of the MagicBands and Fastpass+, the biggest benefit of staying on site was the ability to use Disney transportation exclusively. Sure, you also got extra magic hours, which can be really attractive during busier times of the year, and you got package delivery. You also were assured a clean room and good service. But I’ll be perfectly honest: As a travel agent, those things are hard to sell when a guest is looking at the bottom line: Cost.

All that has changed with the introduction of Disney’s new system. Now guests who stay on property can choose their fastpasses up to 60 days in advance. This means that not only do they get the best times for “e-ticket” rides, it also means that if enough on site guests use that system, then there are far fewer fastpasses for those attractions available to off site guest using the old “legacy” system for getting fastpasses.  Further, on site guests can, as of this writing, still use their room keys to access legacy fastpasses, just like off site guests.  Because so many people are utilizing fastpass+ and rushing for these legacy fastpass machines at park opening, we’ve been hearing that major attraction fastpasses are gone within an hour of the park opening many days. This will only be more problematic during busier times of the year–keep in mind, fastpass+ has only been tested during the slower months so far. Thanksgiving and Christmas are going to be a rude awakening, I think.

So what does this mean for the on vs. off site debate? Well to me it makes staying on site all the more attractive.  I’ll be honest, I’m completely biased toward staying on property already, but if Disney makes it easier to get fastpasses by staying in their resorts, I’m probably even more likely to stay on property. Of course, we don’t what kind of changes Disney will make to this system as its rolled out property-wide. Right now, we’re still in the testing phase and anything can happen. Perhaps Disney will take a cue from Universal and offer the fastpass+ option to off site guests who are willing to pay for it. Or perhaps they will stagger fastpasses so that off site guests, and local annual passholders, will have a better chance of getting a pass.

Meanwhile, I’m interested to hear your thoughts on staying off site and fastpass+. Does this make you more or less likely to stay in a Disney resort? How does this change how you’ll vacation in the future?

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About Christina Wood

For more travel planning articles by Chris, check out her Disney travel blog, Everything Walt Disney World. Chris is also a member of the Mouse Chat podcast team and an authorized Disney travel planner with Pixie Vacations, and visits the parks about 55 days each year. To get free planning and assistance with your next Disney vacation, please call her at 919-889-5281 or email at ChrisW@PixieVacations.com. You may also fill out a quick Disney Vacation Quote form here.
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9 Responses to Staying Off Site? How The New Fastpass+ May Change That.

  1. Disney Mike says:

    At this point, it’s all speculation, because the entire system is still in testing phase, and Disney hasn’t said what will happen after the testing phase is done.

    Everyone will eventually get MagicBands, whether 60 days before checking into their Disney resort or when they purchase a ticket at the ticket windows. Rumors I’ve heard from cast members are that people will be able to link park tickets to MagicBands up to 60 days in advance — if they’ve purchased their park tickets that far in advance — and make FP+ reservations like everyone staying on property. This remains to be seen, but it seems reasonable.

    Another rumor I’ve heard from cast members is that the paper FP ticket dispensers will be going away for good once the system is fully operational. When that happens, a percentage of FP+ reservations will be available 60 days in advance, with a smaller percentage (probably something like 20-30%) being reserved for “day of” reservations. You’ll get up in the morning and be able to make your FP+ reservations for the day on your smartphone, whether you’re at home or in a hotel in Orlando.

    I’ve heard that annual passholders will be able to link their AP to the MyMagic system and make reservations 60 days in advance, whether staying on property or not.

    Again, Disney hasn’t announced any of this, so we don’t know if it’ll actually happen this way, but it’s what the cast members are talking about. We’re DVC members (and passholders), so we’re always staying on property and we’re not particularly concerned about any of this. We’ve got our FP+ reservations set up for our December trip, and our MagicBands arrived in the mail a week or so ago, so it all seems to going according to plan (we were told that we were “testing” the MagicBands and that they weren’t being implemented resort-wide yet).

  2. Pat says:

    We have a son with autism and have been annual pass holders traveling from Indianapolis for about 10 years. First, our special needs pass has been taken away thanks to the cheaters, and now it sounds as if we will only be left with the crumbs when it comes to fast passes. We are seriously considering not renewing our annual passes when we come back at New Year’s, or we will be forced to only visit during slow times, which isn’t always easy to do.

  3. Pat says:

    BTW John, good to have you back. I trust whatever surgery you had went well.

  4. RB says:

    If WDW uses a “tiered” system for Fastpass+ (as it is currently testing in HS and Epcot), which only gives a guest one or two meaningful “headliner” Fastpasses (with the remainder of the 3-Fastpass allotment going to less popular attractions that don’t even need it), I can’t see how it would be a draw for anyone to stay onsite — at least, not enough of a draw to compensate for the vastly inflated cost of staying onsite vs. offiste. By forcing everyone to use FP+, Disney has spread the benefit of Fastpass so broadly that it just doesn’t offer much value to anyone anymore. It’s certainly dampened my family’s enthusiasm for visiting WDW at all. (We made frequent and effective use of the old paper Fastpass system and will lose out tremendously under the new FP+ regime.) If WDW were to reduce or eliminate Extra Magic Hours, I’m certain that would be the “last straw” for us as far as staying onsite.

  5. David says:

    I don’t understand how the logistics of Fastpass+ would even work for those staying off-site. How would Disney be able to even verify that a guest was coming in to town on a particular day (or week)? Wouldn’t the system get bogged down by people who MIGHT day trip in (I could reserve Space Mountain all week)? I shudder to think how that might even work with Disneyland’s 1M passholders. I suppose if you had to enter a paper ticket serial number that might work.

    I agree that on-site clearly now has an even heavier advantage. For those looking to be budget conscious, I think staying at the Swan & Dolphin and joining the Starwood rewards program with their credit card offer might be the cheapest option. It was for us with the free nights we were able to get this past Spring Break. It might not have the “Disney Magic”, but it at least has the perks.

  6. Dan Heaton says:

    This is such a mess. We typically go during off-season, so our next trip won’t have huge issues. We’ll just stay off-site and get a huge condo for a reasonable price and see as much as we can. I’m not going to Disney strong arm me into paying as much for a tiny room. Although they likely will offer FP+ to everyone, there almost certainly will be perks for on-site guests. Even so, it would take a lot to get me to fork over the money to stay there. The general perception among Disney fans is against FP+, and the main reason is that Disney is being so secretive. Rumors are going to fly until they give a lot more information.

  7. Amphigorey says:

    I am not okay with Disney tracking my every move, so I am not at all interested in the MagicBands. It’s creepy.

    Disney obviously is hugely interested in amassing this information, or they wouldn’t be pushing the MonitorBands so strongly. I don’t want to be that closely monitored by Disney. I prefer my anonymity. I don’t want to be tracked by the NSA, and I don’t want to be tracked by Disney. It’s the same thing.

  8. Rhonda says:

    I have visited Disney every year since 1999 at least once a year, and most years 2 and 3 times. I have purchased annual passes for a number of those years. I have stayed on property and off property. As much as I love the on property experience, now that there are 6 of us and we need one room, the cost of the hotel is not our budget. The limiting of fastpasses by Disney to those that stay on property may be the last straw for us. Although we do enjoy Disney, it costs a lot for us to get there from New York, plus the tickets in to the park, not to mention the cost of food while there (and if you think you are saving money with the dining plan, do some research…if Disney wasn’t making money off of you they wouldn’t still be doing it) and now I have to stand in line for every ride. We have a trip planned in February because the grandkids have been looking forward to it, but I think this could possible be our last visit to Disney. I’ll find another location that doesn’t class me out of things, because I can’t afford to stay in their hotels. I pay the same amount as everyone else to enter the park, I should be allowed the same privileges while in there.

    • gringomike says:

      This will be our first trip to Disney. Traveling with older kids and wanting to see Universal as well, staying offsite was a no-brainer . With the large amount of hotels offsite how could they not offer the FP or FP+ to those people trying to be fiscally responsible (I know, “fiscally responsible” doesn’t really go hand in hand with a Disney vacation). I would accept a charge for it if staying offsite. I know they want to rope you in and have you stay onsite and longer, but plenty of their crowd stays outside the gate so why not add a charge for FP+ to those guests? Currently Universal’s ticket prices are much more appealing and you get their version of the FP in a bundle. I’m getting 2 days with a third day free. Universal’s won me and we haven’t even been there yet. I guess we’ll fork over the one day fee for Magic Kingdom, to see it and say “we’ve been there” and sit like slugs in the lines.

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