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Friday, March 9, 2018

Disney magic : FastPass+ extravaganza

FastPasses, oh my! This is probably the most confusing part about going to Disney World, after figuring out where you want to stay.... but I SWEAR once you get going with the process and actually physically do it, it's much easier. You get the hang of it quickly, I promise. But I'm not going to lie, I had a couple of meltdowns along the way just trying to research FastPasses.

OK so what is a FastPass anyway? It's your ticket to not waiting in line as long as you would if you didn't prep ahead of time, it's that simple.

There are kiosks in the parks, but not many of them that I saw. I used my app on my phone!

Tip: Because you are on your phone a lot working on FP choices, checking wait times, etc. you'll want a phone charger!

The deal with FastPass+:
  • Those staying ON Disney property can pick FP 60 days in advance.
  • Those staying OFF property can pick FP 30 days in advance.
  • You can sign up for 3 FP rides per day per park ahead of time. Once you use ALL THREE of those FP, you can sign up for a FP one at a time, even in other parks. At this point you can sign up for as many as you want the rest of your day, but only ONE AT A TIME. 
  • Babies do not need a FP- age 3 and under are free, no ticket or FP required.
  • You get a window of time where you need to check in to use the FP, an hour of time. For example your FP will say 9:05-10:05, so you need to be there within that hour, by 10:05 to get on the FP ride. People have said that you can show up about 10 minutes late, but don't chance it. I did arrive 10-15 minutes early a few times and they let me in, so if this happens to you try it!
  • FP meant we waited 5-25 minutes for rides. The longest we waited with a FP was for Jungle Cruise at MK and we waited 35-40 minutes with FP, when the standby line was 150 minutes. Not terrible. But this is a misconception, I think some people think with FP you won't wait at all... that's not true. You do wait, but MUCH less time.
You MUST plan ahead. This is a must. In order to get the best use of your FP choices, you have to have an idea of which rides your kids can ride height wise, where the rides are in the park, and which rides have long wait times aka meaning you want to get a FP.

Tips for planning ahead to decide which rides to FP:
  • MAPS- Look at a map to see where things are. You don't want to book a FP at 9:30 on one side of the park and another at 10:30 on opposite side of park, you'll probably not make it on time and you'll add extra walking onto an already tiring day. 
  • YOUTUBE- You will want to research what rides are even at the parks. Make a list of things you like. YouTube is awesome, you can basically look at any of the rides at the parks to determine if the roller coaster is too fast for your kids, or if it's a boring ride they have already gone on, etc. It's fun to research the rides!
  • KIDS- Know your kids' heights, preferences (roller coaster or not?), and whether the rides can sit two across or more people. For example, I don't do roller coasters, and I had the baby with me anyway... so that meant my husband had to go on rides with the two big kids. Well, some rides the seats didn't fit three across, so our oldest son had to sit solo. He was cool with that, but some kids might not be, so check ahead of time for certain ride situations like this to ensure it works OK for your family. 
  • HOURS- Look ahead of time at the opening hours for the parks. Some days there are Extra Magic Hours- this is when the park opens an hour early or stays open two hours later at night for those staying on property. 
  • CALENDAR- Put in your calendar the date you can get your FP so you don't forget. You can begin finding FP rides at 7 a.m. on the dot (don't worry, I tried to do it a minute or so beforehand and it doesn't work until exactly 7 a.m.!). 
  • DINING- If you already reserved your dining meals (which you can do 6 months in advance so you probably already did), then that will help you determine on which day you are going to which park. For example, if you already got a dining reservation for Be Our Guest in Magic Kingdom on Monday of your trip, then you are going to need to find FP rides for Magic Kingdom on that day, and so on. That is how I determine which park I'd do on which day, based on the dining reservations we'd already made, and starting with MK, we knew we wanted to do that one first before other parks. So have your dining reservations handy, times, locations in the park, etc. You want to make sure you get a FP that is near your dining reservation. Keep in mind that character meals are not short and sweet, that is the whole point: a big yummy meal that you get second helpings of AND lots of time with characters taking pictures, signing autographs, etc. So when prepping to schedule FP rides, make sure you give yourself 1.5-2 hours at character meals. I think you could get out in about an hour, but it'd be a bit rushed. Also, consider what type of ride you want to go on immediately following a big character meal. Unfortunately, I booked a meal in the morning, and then the first FP I could get for Thunder Mountain was within an hour of eating, not a great idea for the kids, but it worked out OK. 
  • WAIT TIMES- You want this ahead of time so you can start tracking what the wait times are for certain rides. Look online at Web sites also- there are tons of resources out there. I found a site that told me which days of the week were less busy and which were heavier, so I tried to avoid the heavier days when choosing FP rides. On the app you can see which rides never have long waits, so you can make a note to NOT use up a FP on those rides, and figure out which rides you need a FP for or else you won't get in, because the waits are too long. Doing your research helps you in the long run, I promise.
How does it work?
You log onto the Web site My Disney Experience. You have to have your tickets already registered in the site, connecting all people going with you on the trip. Do this ahead of time! We had glitches with one person's ticket, so had to call the help desk. This took a while. Do all of this prep work at least a few days ahead of the day you can get your FastPasses. 

I started by writing a small piece of paper and grid of which days we were going to which parks, including hours they opened. I wrote in which character meals we had scheduled already. I wrote in which day marked the 30 days in advance when I was able to start booking FP rides. I then made a Google Doc for each park of the rides I wanted to try to get FP for. I did this using a map, looking to make sure everything was within distance of another ride. I had backup ideas also, in case I didn't get a ride I wanted.

You then log into the site, go to FP, and pick the park you are going to. Then you pick based on time of day. 

Some parks like Epcot have a tiered system, where you have to pick a ride in tier one first (the most popular rides like Pandora), and only one in that tier. Then you can move to the tier two rides and get your other two FP choices. 

NOTE: I stayed OFF property so chose FP picks 30 days before the trip instead of 60 days like those who stayed on property. I only did not get ONE ride we wanted- 7 Dwarves Mine Train. I got everything else, including Pandora's Navi River. I was ready to go 30 days in advance at 7 a.m. Within 10 minutes I'd chosen my rides. About 10 minutes later some of those rides were GONE, like Frozen Ever After at Epcot went really quickly, as did Peter Pan at MK. But if you are prepared ahead of time, you'll get what you want even if staying off property, in my opinion. 

GREAT YouTube video to show you HOW to choose FP:

Tips for choosing FP:
  • Book the busiest ride FIRST. For example at MK, you want to get 7 Dwarves Mine Train if you can and if you want it. Don't do the other rides you are looking for first. Pick the busiest ride, the hardest to get on, first. At Animal Kingdom, that would be anything in Pandora. 
  • Book your first ride as early as possible. Once you use up all three FP ride choices, you can start using FP for other rides. OR choose to get to park early, get on rides with little wait time, then have the FP choices for the afternoon when it's busier. People have different ideas about this-whatever works for your family! 
  • Remember to book for just the people going on the ride. For example I was searching for a ride that I was not going on (because I was staying with baby) and hadn't updated my # of people to 3 instead of 4... which gave us a different time option. When I went back and changed it to 3 people (husband and 2 big kids actually going on the ride) the times changed that I could choose from. This meant I could go on a ride solo with baby instead of just waiting around. I didn't figure this out until I was there. It was great though! 
  • Go back and refresh to find another time. This can become addicting, but it's a great way to try to find an earlier time that works better for your family. 
FastPass+ system is crazy, overwhelming and busy. BUT it's amazing. I'm so grateful to Disney for doing this. It meant the world of difference for us enjoying our trip with kids who hate standing in lines.

Once you start picking FP choices things get REAL and exciting! It's like when you send out the invitations for your wedding- the planning before that is stressful, but the invitation sending and receiving RSVP part is so exciting and makes it real. Love this part about planning for Disney!

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