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.
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.