There have always been suggestions for how to best maximize your time in the theme park. Long ago, the wisdom centered around arriving early, eating meals at odd times, and staying very late (even taking a midday pause if needed to make that happen). It also mattered WHICH rides you did first–books and websites have been written about this stuff.
The first FASTPASS system changed the logic a bit. With the ability to make “one at a time reservations,” now the strategy shifted more to *which* rides you did first, and which ones you simply waited in line for. It got more complicated.
The FASTPASS+ of today is more complicated, in that you can make advanced reservations – weeks before you get to the park. You get only three of them per day, or at least that was the rule until this week. A tweak to the system now lets you return to a kiosk after your third one is done and get one more! (and when that one is done, you can go back to the kiosk and get yet another one… it’s a “one at a time” system beyond the initial three).
So that begs the question: how best to maximize using TODAY’S system. A few ideas leap to the front as the best practices.
Tips and Tricks
- Make those hard-to-get reservations as soon as your window opens. If you’re staying at a Disney hotel, that’s 60 days before your trip begins (annual passholders and regular ticket holders not at Disney hotels get 30 days.
- Focus on hard-to-get reservations first, and plan everything else around that. Meeting Anna and Elsa is the hot ticket right now, and Toy Story Mania is still a big draw several years later. The Seven Dwarfs Mine Train is sure to be a hot ticket as well. Allow your top picks to be the main thing you worry about, and get the perfect time for that. You can adjust most of the rest – including E-Ticket rides – after the initial reservation is made (use the app or website for this – don’t wait for day-of to make changes).
- Do not believe the website’s first answer. The online reservation system implies that some experiences are sold out or not available at your desired time. If you’ve got ONE ride you wanted at least, just accept a different attraction for your second or third choices and finalize your reservations, then go back in to “change the reservation.” Often, you’ll find that your real second- and third-choice attractions really are available at the times you wanted.
- Front-load your advance reservations for the morning; don’t spread them out over the day. Now that you can get “one at a time” reservations after the initial three, you want to leave as much park-time as you can for that phase of the day.
- Use the mobile app rather than kiosks whenever you can. The kiosks are over-crowded – especially the ones that are highly visible (see below for advice on WHICH kiosks to avoid and how to find less-crowded ones). The mobile app lets you create, adjust, and change reservations. It can be clunky, but at least you’re not standing in a line to do the same thing (though you might be standing in a line to go on a ride!)
- Choose wisely. Even with the original FASTPASS, you needed to select carefully which attractions were selected for reservations, because some of them can be ridden with the regular Standby line with minimal fuss. That’s especially true of the FASTPASS+ system, which includes many attractions that sport no real wait times at any point in the day. Prioritize the “big” ones (or the ones you MUST ride) carefully. And keep in mind that the standby lines for even the popular ones vary. Small World is (usually) tolerable, but Peter Pan is not. Soarin’s standby line takes forever, but Test Track’s might be more manageable.
- The end of the night is again crucial. Just like the “good old days,” now you can again reap enormous benefits by being there in the final hour of the park’s operation. Here’s the real trick, though: the posted standby waits are not correct. Whether because the system “lags” real-world conditions or by deceitful design, the wait times are not usually nearly as long as the posted time. You may see a 35 minute posted time but a real wait time of only five minutes, for example.
- Save a screencap of your reservations-summary. Just in case the system suffers a glitch, you want to have some digital proof on your cell phone of what you had originally reserved. Some (not all) Cast Members will honor your screencap as proof of what you reserved, and let you through.
- Make use of the mercy windows. You have exactly one hour of window to use your reservation, they tell you, but there is an unpublished reality that you can show up and use your reservation five minutes early (no need to talk to the Cast Member; your media will ‘glow green’ as if you were right on time) and you can also use your reservation up to ten minutes late. Anything outside of THOSE numbers, though, and you have to convince the Cast Member to let you in.
Kiosk Locations (the ones with asterisks are less crowded):
- Guest Relations
- Town Square Theater
- Stitch’s Great Escape
- Monsters Inc Laugh Floor
- Adventureland bathrooms hallways
- * Hall of Presidents exit
- Mickey’s PhilharMagic
- * Storybook Circus tent near train station
- * Splash Mountain
- Guest Relations
- Future World info board
- * Innoventions (both sides)
- International Gateway
- Mission: SPACE
Disney’s Hollywood Studios
- * Sid Cahuenga’s at park entrance
- Info board near Brown Derby
- Voyage of The Little Mermaid
- Tower of Terror
Disney’s Animal Kingdom
- * Disney Outfitters
- * Creature Comforts
- Expedition Everest
- Kali River Rapids
- Primeval Whirl