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This post brought to you by Christina Wood of Pixie Vacations, the preferred Disney vacation travel planner of The Disney Blog.


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Back when Disney opened up dining reservations for guests 180-days in advance of travel, there was  a lot of grumbling about how this meant too much planning and took a lot of the spontaneity of your trip. And they were right. It’s difficult to predict what you’ll want to eat next week, much less six months in advance. Add to that variables like heat, crowd levels, sick kids, grumpy uncles, and the occasional cash flow problem and it can be downright stressful to plan your meals that far in advance.  But here we are years later and most of us have adapted to the system just fine. Of course, now there’s a new wrench thrown into your plans: Fastpass+.

With Fastpass+, you’ll plan your fastpasses up to 60 days prior to travel (30 for off site guests).  Since you’re already planning your meals months before that, you’ll need to plan your fastpasses around those meals. Fortunately, if you’re using My Disney Experience and you’ve either made your reservations with that system or adding your confirmation numbers to your profile, your dining reservations will pop up when you make your fastpass selections, alerting you to any overlap.  You’ll choose your three fastpasses and then be offered up to four groups to select from. The first one is supposed to be ideal and usually doesn’t conflict with your dining time, but the rest will often have an overlap for at least one ride. Don’t fret about that. Instead, make your selection and once you’ve processed it, go back in and change that time–you’ll usually be given several other options.

So how do you organize all this?  I know a lot of you don’t like all this planning and what I’m seeing is that for the average guest, it seems like a lot of extra work, but with a little extra thought, it doesn’t have to be. Here’s a timeline to help:

MyMagic+ Takes the Guest Experience to a New Level with MagicBands

Annual Passholders who pre-ordered online are now receiving their MagicBands in the mail. I just received mine and you can watch my Instagram unboxing video below. All APs can now go through the My Disney Experience website to connect their admissions media with the My Disney Experience App and make Fastpass+ reservations as far as 30 days ahead. You may have any 7 days booked in that rolling 30 day window.

The latest rumor, although there’s no official word from Disney, is that beginning March 31st, just like Annual Passholders, off-site guests will be able to book their Fastpass+ 30 days ahead of time. Guests will be able to enter their ticket information via the My Disney Experience website and have access to the same booking window as APs.

Disney resort guests can book 60-days out. Which is Disney’s big incentive to get you to stay on property (although I always thought that being enveloped in the Magic was enough incentive).

As a local and an annual passholder, I never really know which park I’m going to be at until a few day ahead. If off-site guests and APs share the same booking window, it means I will have to plan at least 30 days ahead to make sure I’m not letting the 10’s of thousands of off-site guests ahead of me in line to reserve their Fastpass times. So far, with only resort guests having an earlier booking window, there have been good options to making FP just a few days out, but with everyone in the pool, it might get more difficult to secure that E-ticket FP+. Making plans 30 days ahead is definitely a change to how I do things now, but I guess I’ll get used to it or I just won’t get many FP+ for popular attractions.

Off-site guests will be able to use their RFID enabled tickets or upgrade to a MagicBand for an, as yet, unannounced price. If you plan to do this on your day of arrival, you might want to allow some extra time in the morning to configure your wristbands. A better strategy might be to head in and enjoy the park in the morning, then get your bands when the park is experiencing mid-day crowds.

Keep in mind that the system is still technically in testing (although as was pointed out to me, when everyone is forced to use it to the exclusion of the old system, it’s not really testing, it’s experimentation). So everything is subject to change.

More details on the MagicBand and Fastpass+ below the jump:

Update: Welcome to NY Times readers. Please find the latest news on MyMagic+ and Fastpass+ here. See all of our coverage here. Finally, I hope you’ll take a moment to discover my new book on the Magic of Disneyland.

In the last 24 hours we’ve looked at MyMagic+ and Fastpass+ from the guest perspective and tried to put a little historical and business sense behind it, now it’s time to turn our eye on how Disney is presenting these new products to the public.

Disney’s marketing has just released a series of video promoting MyMagic+, Fastpass+ and the digital photo package Memory Maker. Look for more videos like these to form the core of Disney World’s 2014 marketing message.

Fastpass+

MyMagic+

The switch from Legacy Fastpass (where select attractions were able to be reserved on a day-of basis as many times as you could according to the rules) to the Next-Gen technology driven Fastpass+ (where most major attractions and many minor ones now offer FP+ entry, but you’re limited to just three FP+ a day) is nearly as drastic a change as the transition from the famous A-B-C-D-E-Ticket ride coupons to a passport system where one ticket gets you in the park and on every attractions.

My memory is a little hazy, but I don’t recall guests getting so worked up about that switch. That’s because it was largely a switch in the method of accounting in the guest’s vacation ledger. With ride coupons park admission was merely a token charge, the real money was in the coupons. So grandma could take the kids and she would only have to pay a small amount for herself. Single admission changed that model forever. The new model meant Disney got more at the gate, but a savvy guest could work the system by staying from open to close (we called them marathon days) and ride many times more attractions than they could with a coupon book. Plus they wouldn’t be stuck with a bunch of unused A-tickets at the end of the day. So in the end, the ledger balanced for the guest.

A certain camp of Disney Imagineers believe this switch was the worst thing to happen to the parks. That the move away from ride coupons and to a single passport, meant that new attractions couldn’t be cost justified based on coupon purchases, that guest behavior was unleashed and less predictable, that minor attractions suffered in attendance, and that it made more difficult for a family to come and enjoy the park if they had to pay a large chunk up front just to get in. The counter arguments were: that most families on vacation had a set amount to spend and they’d spend it on passports or ride coupons just the same, that allowing guests to experience the park without worrying about buying another E-ticket for Space Mountain provided a better guest experience, and that the real money for Disney was in hotels, food, and souvenirs.