FastPass+ and MagicBands Takeover Walt Disney World – Part I: My Magic Kingdom Experience

Update: Welcome to NY Times readers. Please find the latest news on MyMagic+ and Fastpass+ here. See all of our coverage here.

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I went to the Magic Kingdom on Sunday to test how the FastPass+ (FP+) experience would work for someone who has time for a mid-day 4 hour visit. I’m still building back up to theme park conditioning, so anything more than that exhausts me. I’m a local and haven’t yet booked a night at at Disney resort, so I don’t own a MagicBand. Even though FP+ has been running in place of the paper (aka legacy) Fastpass system at Disney’s Animal Kingdom since before Christmas, this was my first experience with FP+.

Given that the FP+ system had been live for a few days already, I made sure to read various discussion boards about other people’s experiences and tried to determine an optimal strategy for myself and my son. Unfortunately, almost nothing turned out the way I thought it would.

My first attempt at accessing FP+ was a strikeout. I had read a few accounts of how guests were able to make FP+ reservations at the TTC via Guest Relations cast members armed with tablets. When we arrived at the TTC via the parking lot tram around 10:45AM there were no Guest Relations cast members to be found. Disney might have just been experimenting with that service earlier in the week. In theory, almost everyone arriving at the TTC is on the way to the Magic Kingdom, but you don’t really know until they’ve actually swiped their cards at the front gate. So I can see why they pulled that option.

After a quick ride on the monorail to the main gate, we immediately headed to the Main Street Opera House to score our FP+ reservations. I entered and went right to the MyMagic+ terminals, which would let me make a FP+ reservation if I was a Disney resort guest, but apparently not if I was a day-guest. There was a separate queue for that. A queue with a long-line as it turns out.

I knew there were other FP+ kiosks located in the park, so we zoomed off to Liberty Square and the Heritage House. The line was much shorter and appeared to be moving. Not too quick, as it turns out, it took about 10 minutes for the 6 -8 parties in front of me to be served by 5 – 6 cast members with FP+ kiosks. Then it was our turn.

The cast member issued friendly greetings, but did not offer any instructions as to how to best use the system. She then took our admission media and scanned both. I saw both our names appear together, after which we told her we were only at the park for a few hours and would like to get one coaster in (either Space Mountain or Big Thunder – we didn’t care) for my son and at least one other ride that I could experience (I currently have a physical restriction that means coasters and such are off the table for me) with my son, preferably Pirates of the Caribbean. If there was time for a third, we’d like a meet and greet.

The cast member handled our requests with out too much difficulty, managed to get us the times we wanted for our first two choices and was even able to squeeze in a third FP+ if we could extend our stay slightly. Then she hit save and — error —. We spent the next 10 minutes waiting as she attempted to troubleshoot the problem with her supervisor, but in the end, they were unable to fix it. We would have to visit guest relations.

There was no guest relations cast member at the Liberty Square location, but she told me I could find one in the Frontierland Breezeway or journey back to City Hall. We chose the closer breezeway location.

There was indeed one plaid attired cast member helping guests there. A long line of guests had formed to one side for the FP+ Kiosks, but we moseyed up and got in queue at the Guest Relations cast member with two parties lined up ahead of us. The problem with only having one cast member is that they have to serve the person facing them first, no matter how long that takes, no matter how many meaningless questions they ask. So, after the Guest Relations person finished helping one guest with a weeks worth of vacation planning adjustments that were apparently upset by Big Thunder Mountain Railroad being non-operational in the morning, that person was dismissed and the person in front of me was assisted.

Turns out he had the same problem I did. His passes wouldn’t work on the FP+ Kiosks. Now, the guest relations person had a tablet similar to other FP+ kiosk attendance, but it didn’t appear to give him access to the full guest relations system, just an augmented FP+ kiosk. So there was only so much he could do for the guest. In the end he ended up issuing three line pass coupons, which work almost like FP+, but don’t work for meet and greets, parades or fireworks. Final diagnosis, nothing he could do at this remote location, a visit to City Hall would be required.

For those keeping count, that’s now two lines with no rides at the end of them, no FP+ reservations, and the promise of the third line with no ride at the end of it at some point in the day. Like the guest in front of us, we did get line bypass coupons. Which is a good guest recovery for not being able to use FP+ that day, but poor compensation for having to waiting in three queues for a technical glitch not of our making.

At the end of the day, City Hall just replaced our cards, something that could have been accomplished at Heritage House had there been the correct equipment there (or just temporary cards for the day) thereby saving my party a ton of time and frustration. We did not ask for anything, but if there is an error at the kiosk, an attempt at guest recovery should have been made right there, not at some other location were uncertainty awaits. Give us alternate tickets to use for FP+ that day, line passes, or some other way of getting FP+ .

In the end, my first Fastpass+ experience was not good. I never even got to use the system.

As I said, I have read up quite a bit on how others have used the system. So before we get to my thoughts on FP+ in part two, I have some ideas that will help non-Disney resort guests maximize their FastPass+ experience, assuming they get to use it.

Strategy:

Before you arrive at the park. Identify the attractions you want to hit. For the most popular rides you will probably what to plan to arrive at rope drop or stay late and take advantage of short standby lines. With this strategy you can choose FastPass Plus attractions where you otherwise would not ride or wait if you did not have a Fastpass+ for instance Peter Pan’s flight or Aladdin’s magic carpet. Parade or firework viewing might be a good choice if you’ve already knocked out a few E-tickets you wanted to get on.

  • If arriving at rope drop on a non early entry day, head right to the one or two e-tickets you want to get on (or Fantasyland/Storybook Circus if you have young kids in tow), then choose a FP+ Kiosk with a short queue (Storybook Circus for instance).
  • If arriving later, head right to a FP+ Kiosk to get your reservations.
  • If arriving in mid to late afternoon on a busy day, plan to do minor experiences, shows, and non FP+ attractions first, then hit the E-ticket rides later in the day when standby queues grow significantly shorter. If you use FP+ try the Fireworks, Character Meet and Greets, or parade viewing spots. While others are waiting for the parade, you can be on rides, saving you the most time during those hours of the day.
  • Lines for FP+ kiosks tended to move fast, but one or two families with complicated issues in front of you can extend your wait significantly. The FP+ kiosks in the back of the park tended to have the shortest lines.
  • Although FP+ does not currently sync with Disney’s MyDisneyExperience app like it does if you’re a resort guest, you can still see your reservations. If you want to change them you just have to visit a kiosk.
  • Once you’ve used a FP+ for a ride you can change any remaining FP+ reservation to that attraction, as long as slots are open. For instance, if you want to ride Kilimanjaro Safari once in the morning and once at dusk (different animals are active at different times), make your first FP+ for the safari, then visit a kiosk and change your second or third FP+ to a later Safari time. Note, I am not sure how this works at the tiered parks that come online this week.

Part Two tomorrow: ruminations on the switch from paper Fastpass to Fastpass+ and the challenges the new system faces.

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24 Responses to FastPass+ and MagicBands Takeover Walt Disney World – Part I: My Magic Kingdom Experience

  1. Tom Peterson says:

    I for one really enjoy the new fast pass system. I used it for the first time this weekend, bringing my son and daughter for about four hours to the park.

    1st: I was able to get three fast passes, something that would have been impossible on the old fast pass system for a four hour visit. (one fast pass every two hours).

    2nd: The attractions we wanted to ride had fast pass available! The old system just used it for the “big” rides. (space mountain, Big Thunder, etc…) I was able to get Big Thunder, Haunted Mansion and Pirates.

    3rd: Inside the Main Street theater they have a ton of FP+ members helping out. With line, it took about five minutes tops.

    4th: Adjustable time / experience. On the old system, if I lost my fast pass I was out of luck. Now, I can readjust times, or even change the experience.

    5th: No more running around the park. Running over to Space Mountain, pick up fast pass, run over to Big Thunder, ride Big Thunder, run back to Space mountain, use fast pass, run over to Splash Mountain and pick up a fast pass… the park is so much more enjoyable now.

    I just can’t wait until we can sync our annual passes with the my disney app, and schedule our FP’s days in advance.

    • John Frost says:

      Hi Tom,

      Thanks for the comment. That’s just the experiencing I was hoping to have, but you can see how easily things go off the rails. A few thoughts…

      1 – Great point. Although this works counter to Disney’s goal for FP+ (to get you to spend more $$ on property). If I can be three and done, I might just return to my hotel and lounge at the pool, or use the FP+ system to park hop one day and use that extra day to visit Universal. This may be why we’ll never see Park Hopping added to the FP+ system.

      2 – That’s great. But Haunted Mansion and Pirates are people eaters. Except on the busiest days of the year, neither need fastpass to experience with a wait of under 30 minutes. Disney has basically said, because you really really want to go on pirates, you get to make all these other people in the standby line wait longer.

      3 – however many people they had helping out, they were well hidden. So you have to make a decision based on evidence available to you. I still recommend heading to the back of the park in case Disney decides not to staff that area so well in the future.

      4 – This is where I think Disney has out-thought themselves. All that was really needed was for a way to turn the old paper FP into virtual FP managed via mobile device or kiosk. Keep the same attractions, same rules, and give resort guests the ability to book one attraction ahead of time (but only in off-peak times). Heck, even allow changes remotely without having to run all over the park. Adding all those extra attractions to FP+ to handle capacity may backfire if people avoid booking FP+ on those attractions (for reasons of the attractions not needing FP+ in the first place).

      5 – See #4. There was a much simpler solution.

      Disney has promised that Annual Pass members would get magic bands, I hope they don’t go back on that promise

  2. David Andora says:

    Your #4 comment is the first time I’ve read that from anyone else. Seems like it would have been the most obvious and best choice to not try to mess too much with a system that already functioned. I’m so curious to see how this new system evolves. I’ve used both and much preferred the paper system and it’s hassles over the problems and minimal effectiveness I experienced with magic bands. I would love to see a virtual setup with much of the same rules. It seems much fairer and my overall experience was better with the previous system.

  3. Tom Peterson says:

    David, I’d disagree. The old system if you showed for a fastpass, and had a dinner reservation during that hour.. guess what, you are out of luck.

    John: As far as Haunted Mansion and Pirates being people eaters, remember, not every family has children over 40 inches, it’s a great option. On days that are exceptionally busy, where the fastpasses for the big attractions are gone within an hour, it’s nice to be able to fastpass something, even if it’s HM with a 45 minute wait.

    • John Frost says:

      We went through this once before. The added HM to the legacy FP system, but so few people used it, even on the busy days, it was removed. If it didn’t need FP then, it doesn’t need it now.

  4. Pingback: FastPass+ and MagicBands Takeover Walt Disney World – Part 2: Challenges and Solutions Ahead | The Disney Blog

  5. Katie says:

    I have had two experiences with the fastpass+ system this week and both have been terrible. I am a local and have an annual pass and I, too, often go in for only a few hours. The first day I tried to use it I was meeting my brother in the park. He had arrived a few minutes before me and gotten three fast passes. I immediately headed to a kiosk to get the same fast passes. There was no line and I was helped immediately, however when we scanned my pass to make the reservations, my mom, dad, and brother were listed, and my name was no where in sight. We spent about 30 min at this kiosk attempting to fix it with the kiosk cast members and the guest relations cast member, but to no avail. In the end the guest relations member said he had made three fast passes available on my card that could be used for any ride so I could ride with my brother and told me to call the number on the app to have the account reset (this all on my own personal time).

    We immediately headed over to space mountain to use the fast pass that was active at this point. My brother scanned his pass (he was using a cast member main entrance guest card for his entrance this day) and got a green light. I then scanned mine and got a blue light at which point I was told that I did not have a fast pass for this ride and therefore could not proceed. At this point I was very frustrated and explained that I was supposed to have 3 unlinked fast passes available. Eventually he finally relented and allowed me to proceed despite not having a fast pass available. Surprisingly when I scanned my pass at this location, he addressed me by my name, so apparently my name is in there somewhere.

    As we exited the ride we decided to make a change to one of our later fast passes. When the cast member offered to help me make to the change to mine we explained to him that my card would not work for it. He offered to try it anyway, and once again, my mom, dad, and brother showed up on my pass and not me. We were instructed to see the guest relations member over at stitch.

    We made our way over to stitch, spent another 20 minutes with this cast member who in the end told us there was nothing they could do and we’d have to go to the fastpass+ office at the front of the park. We now had spent an hour of our time there on this and I had to leave for a meeting.

    A couple days later I was in the park again, this time with my mom. We immediately went to guest relations to see if we could clear up the problem. We were taken to a fastpass+ kiosk, the card was scanned, and once again my mom, dad, and brother came up. She was able to make the fastpass+ reservations under my dad’s name (not my own), but my name was still unable to be put to my pass. She was completely clueless as to why I was saying there was a problem when she was able to make the reservation, but the reservation was in my dad’s name! In the end she offered to reprint my pass but she believed this would not make a difference but that it was probably a glitch that day and would be working fine the next day (keep in mind, this was already a different day from the first time I had tried it).

    In the end, my pass still lists my family rather then myself and I have still not found a way to fix this. I see that annual passholders and cast members really get the short end of the stick on this one since we are left to get whatever happens to be left over after hotel guests have picked over the available fast passes for the day. We were told that every ride would have fast passes available at the beginning of the day as before but this is a much smaller number then previously because hotel guests will have already taken up a large number of them, especially for the bigger rides. Now, during slow season, it does not appear to be difficult to get fast passes close to the time you enter the park, but when it gets to be busy I can see where this is going to be a disaster.

  6. Kelly says:

    I’m a local (sort of- an hour away) and a current AP holder. As someone who likes to go only for a few hours at a time, everything I have heard about FP+ sounds like the biggest headache and time waster. If I only have a few hours to spend at a park, I don’t want to waste 20 minutes hoping to get a FP+ that works that day. I have not heard any redeeming qualities to this system *as a local, AP Holder* and I’m about 99% sure that I will not be renewing my pass this year until they get it straightened out.

  7. Lynn says:

    I had my first experience with FP+ this weekend as well. I didn’t like it either. As a local AP, this is terribly inconvenient. Even if we planned where we wanted to go in advance, we aren’t allowed to book in advance (which makes me wonder if I will ever get to ride Toy Story Mania again). We must waste park time standing in line to book FP. Also, you can’t park hop. If you use one FP at one park, you must use the remaining 2 at the same park. Not to mention, the FP queue at the attractions are much longer now. It seemed to take a while to just get thru the queue whereas before we just walked on. I did like the fact that I could book more than 1 at time & didn’t have to go to the actual attraction to get the FP. There are many issues WDW needs to address with this new system.

    • Tom Peterson says:

      I do hope park hopping is a future update. I agree with you there.

      As far as FP lines, there were so many FP kiosks and FP cast members through out the park when I went, none had very long lines. Also, a good number of them are not at the attractions, I saw three the other day outside of Keystone clothiers in DHS. Zero wait, got all my rides within a minute.

      • Marilyn says:

        Tom, she isn’t talking about long lines a the FP+ki

      • Marilyn says:

        Tom, she isn’t talking about long lines a the FP+kiosks having long lines, she’s speaking of the FP lines at the attractions. We saw that personally today.

  8. Pingback: FastPass+ and MyMagic+ takeover Disney World – Part 3: The Marketing Push Begins | The Disney Blog

  9. Ljc says:

    Sounds like a lot of hassle to me. Seems to take a lot of spontaneity out of Disney vacations. I do not want to preplan every minute. I liked the old FP options.

  10. Tom Peterson says:

    Well, one thing is for certain. If you don’t like the FP+ system, you don’t have to use it. Disney has done a wonderful job of updating the line Queue’s on some attractions. (Haunted Mansion and Big Thunder come to mind.)

    Also keep in mind it’s brand new tech, I’m sure at some point they will iron the above mentioned kinks.

  11. Jessi M says:

    If you don’t like the FastPass+ system and choose not to use it…will the FastPass paper versions still be available?

    • John Frost says:

      The paper Fastpass machines (aka Legacy Fastpass) has been completely removed from the parks. It is all Fastpass+ from here on out.

      • Jessi M says:

        Ok, bummer…it makes sense though, especially after I read through the other parts of your Fastpass+ posts. Thank you for your reply!

  12. Ryan Truitt says:

    Hi! Quick question here for whoever can answer.

    My family and I are coming to WDW in July, and we are staying at the Bonnett Creek resort, which Disney does not count as an on property resort.

    We want to be able to reserve fast pass plus just as if we were staying on resort, and we heard that there was a way to do this by booking a one night stay at the campgrounds so that you would have fast pass plus for the entire duration of your visit.

    Is this really something that can be done?

    Any other suggestions?

    Thanks!

    • John Frost says:

      I have heard of people doing this, yes. But all party names must be on the reservation and you have to have an AP. No promises the loophole will still be open in July. Also there’s a chance FP+ earlybird reservations will be available to all APs by that date.

  13. Margi Dyer says:

    My husband and I went the last week in January – when the full FP+ rollout began. We are AP holders as well. I doubt we will renew until this mess can be straigtened out. Anyway, because we were not resort guests we were not part of the “first to get
    a Fast Pass” until we got to the parks. The resorts had first dibs.
    While I applaud what Disney is trying to implement – here in bullet form
    are my observations:

    • Annual passholders should be part of the Fast Pass website.
    We planned our vacation ahead of time but could not fast pass until we
    got to the parks even though I tried to register our annual passes on
    the website.
    • What about people who do NOT have a smart phone or ipad? If
    you are going to have these electronic fast passes, then have a text
    feature for those of us who do not have any of these gadgets. However,
    I go on vacation to be disconnected NOT connected. And, I have to write
    down when and where my fast passes are to take place? Time consuming
    and I have to keep a pen with me? Not convenient for those of us who
    wish to stay off the grid while on vacation.
    • 3 fast passes per park per day. With the old fast pass way –
    we could fast pass throughout the day to as many rides as we wanted.
    • 3 fast passes per park per day. What about if you want to
    park hop? You can’t get fast passes for the second park? Not a good
    idea. It should be 3 fast passes per park period.
    • Fast passes that you have to chose from? If I want to fast
    pass Tower of Terror three times, I should be able to. And, why can’t I
    fast pass Tower of Terror AND Rockin Roller Coaster? That is what I
    have done in the past. If you are going to limit people, then keep it
    simple. Disney is being TOO controlling by not allowing people to
    fast pass what they want. Disney limits us to 3 fast passes – let us
    chose what those 3 fast passes will be used for.
    • 3 fast passes ? seriously? Only 3 fast passes? We should be
    allowed 5 fast passes per park per day to whatever ride we want for how
    many times we want. I’m an adult -I don’t want to ride kids rides.

  14. Florida Residemt says:

    The new system is quite poor. First, instead of distributing fast passes throughout the park at the specific locations, now they funnel you into a few locations resulting in long lines just to be told that you can only pick one from one category two from another category. After that, if you try to add more than one guest half of the systems don’t process that properly and you end up with people getting fast passes with different times.
    Then, when you show up to the ride, like we did at Soarin’, there is a huge fast pass line because the verification of the system requires everyone to stop and scan and get verified before entry. This functions much slower than the single person looking at your fast pass card and time slot. This just slows up everything and is a horrible experience for the customer.
    On top of that, if you don’t have a smart phone, you better have a good memory, because they no longer distribute paper for when your fast pass times are. They either email it to your phone or you end up having to guess and remember what your fast pass times are.
    Overall, we are extremely disappointed in the new system. On top of being dictated how many fast passes you can have per day (3) and having an automated system pick some for you whether you want them or not, this whole experience has been horrible.

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