Well friends, we’ve booked our FastPasses for our upcoming trip to Walt Disney World.
Let me clarify: Tim booked our FastPasses for Walt Disney World. It turns out that the whole affair turned my stomach into knots and brought out the worst in me. You guys, I got completely overwhelmed the more I read online about tips and tricks and strategies to get the whole FastPass experience just right. I’m not too big on perfectionism at this season of my life, but my goodness did I want to get this perfect. So much so that I lost sleep over it. And that’s when I turned it over to Tim and begged him to do it for me so that I could let it go, Elsa-style!
And speaking of Elsa, we did have to let her go, or at least the idea of getting to do a meet and greet with her. I’ll explain exactly what our strategy was so that you can think about what you might like to do differently.
Tip #1: Every Family Has Different Needs
Let me save you some time researching: there is no such thing as the ideal FastPass plan, and that’s because every family is going to have different wants and needs. We are traveling with a 5-year-old and a 2-year-old, so the fact that Space Mountain is one of the very most popular FastPass choices at the Magic Kingdom is irrelevant to us. We are not likely to ride it at all on this particular trip, so why kill ourselves trying to get FastPasses for it? Another family might be traveling with teenagers who want to ride Space Mountain as many times as possible. So it just depends on what you want! So what if your top 3 ride choices aren’t the top 3 most popular FastPasses? Get exactly what you want…not what someone else wants!
Tip #2: The Early Bird Catches the Ana and Elsa
So we are traveling to the parks at a low crowd time of year, and we are doing so quite intentionally to minimize our wait times all-around. But we still want to take advantage of those FastPass opportunities: why wait in line for 20 minutes when you can wait in line for 2 minutes, right? But if you are going during a low-crowd time, and if you REALLY want to do something that you KNOW is super duper popular (currently the very most sought after FastPass is the Elsa & Ana meet and greet), then you really DO need to be at your computer at midnight EST on the day you are allowed to book your FastPasses. Tim booked ours the morning we were allowed to book them…so, around 6:30am, and Elsa & Ana were already gone, as was priority seating at the parade. The reason these can be gone so quickly is because families who are staying on property get to book 3 FastPasses per day in advance, and they get to book those passes for their whole trip 60 days prior to the first day of the trip. So in other words, at any given point, there are always going to be vacationers there whose trips started 1, 2 or maybe 3 days before yours who have already picked out FastPasses. Make sense? So while you DON’T need to be up at midnight for most things (again, I’m only talking about lower crowd times of year, as that is my point of reference), you DO need to do it if you are going to have an absolutely heartbroken child over a particular ride or character greeting.
Tip #3: The Early Park Goer Doesn’t Need Early FastPasses
My kids are EARLY risers, so we plan on being waiting at the gates of the parks as soon as they open, and we’ll be there an hour earlier on magic hour days! One tip I’ve read again and again (to the point where I trust it to be true!) is that the park is significantly less crowded in the first few hours that it is open than it is during the rest of the day and evening. So if you can get your crew to be up and ready to go early, you really can knock out several rides in your first two or three hours in the park without having to use one of your FastPasses. Book your first FastPass for around 11am so that you can take advantage of short lines once they are no longer short for everyone!
The reason you don’t want to just go ahead and book early morning fast passes is because you only get to book 3 in advance. Once you have used up those 3 fast passes, you can book additional ones while you are in the park, However, FastPass stations aren’t super plentiful, and you don’t really want to find yourself running around like crazy looking for them and chasing down FastPasses all day…kind of takes away some of the magic and fun, in my opinion! That’s not to say that you should ONLY use 3 FastPasses per park day, but in my opinion, it’s not fun to break your neck trying to secure 6 of 7. Enjoy those low crowd mornings, then make use of your FastPasses when the crowds swell, and then, if you want, get an extra FastPass or two.
Tip #4: Use Your Disney Travel Agent!!!!
My first Disney World vacation tips post included all the reasons why I’m so glad we worked with a Disney travel agent. Definitely go back and give it a read, because I’m NOT the type of person who uses travel agents, in general, and if you aren’t either, then you’ll appreciate hearing about what they can offer you, and about the fact that they are really and truly FREE.
The fun is NOT over with your Disney travel agent once you have booked your tickets and your hotel rooms, friends! S/he is available to help you along every step of the process, including developing a FastPass strategy! My agent sent me a list of all of the FastPass attractions at each park, as well as her personal recommendations for ones to consider going for based on their popularity. That was such a helpful start!
Additionally, my agent offered to book the FastPasses for us if we simply didn’t want to deal with it at all (I was sorely tempted to do this!). And she offered to look over our selections and make recommendations for changes, if needed, once booked. We DID take her up on this offer, and I’m so glad we did! She did suggest a few switches for us, and also put our mind at ease about the fact that we missed out on the priority parade seating. Because of the time of year when we are going, she said that we will not have any problem finding a great viewing spot as long as we are in the viewing area 15 minutes before the start time. She would have suggested switching out the FastPass for the priority seating if we had been able to snag it! We also had one show at Hollywood Studios on our FastPass that she said likely wouldn’t even fill up at this time of year, so we switched that out for a ride. Now we feel absolutely GREAT about our selections!
I’d love to hear from folks who have already had the experience of booking FastPasses in advance. What other tips do you have for a smooth process that doesn’t cause you to lose (much) sleep! Since I haven’t yet put my FastPasses to work, I’m only sharing advice here on the front end. Those of you who have already gone might have some ideas about things you would do differently the next time. I’m all (mouse) ears!
And if you are in the same boat as me, and currently in the planning stages of a trip to Disney World (or just dreaming of the day when you can start your planning!) take a look at our Walt Disney World vacation budget breakdown and our Disney World vacation tips for when you are just getting started.