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?