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avoid long lines at Disney

To Fastpass or Not to Fastpass…That is the Question!?

We have all heard the stories before….”We waited 2 hours to get on to Soarin’, and there were no fastpasses left at Toy Story Mania when I arrived at noon!!!”  Blah, Blah, Blah,….. If I have gotten a certain question over and over again it is always, “can’t I pay for a fastpass?  I do not want to wait in line at Disney!”  The one thing I love about Disney is that you CANNOT pay for a fastpass ticket.  Yes, for a hefty price you can book a VIP Official Disney Tour Guide, but for most Disney guests this is not an option.  One of the things I love about Disney is that no one is treated different from anyone else.  Whether I stay at a Deluxe Resort or a Value Resort, I have the exact same access to all attractions as anyone else who is a Disney Resort guest.  Therefore, I pose the question…How can I easily and effectively use the Fastpass to maximize my time in the parks and NOT wait in 2 hour lines for the most popular attractions?

how to not wait in line for long hours at Disney

Here is the answer….there is a science to this!!! The first key is to arrive in the parks as early as you possibly can!  This may not be easy for some people, but research shows that the average Disney Park Visitor arrives around 10:30am.  Therefore, if a park opens at 9am or even 8am, you will have plenty of time to hit the major highlights BEFORE the crowds appear.

How Fastpass Works 101 – Specific attractions that are very popular in each park have what is called a Fastpass Option.  It is basically an advance reservation system which gives you a ticket to ride an attraction at a specific time.  For example, you show up at Peter Pan’s Flight and obtain a paper Fastpass ticket to come back during a one hour window later that day.  The time of your ride “window” is printed on the Fastpass itself and may begin 10 minutes to several hours after you obtained the Fastpass, depending on the crowds of the specific day you visit.  When you return at the specified time and present your Fastpass ticket to the Disney Cast Member staffing the attraction, you will be allowed to enter a special line reserved for Fastpass holders which allows you to board the attraction with minimal waiting.  You or someone in your travel party must walk to the attraction you wish to ride and insert your park ticket and any family member’s park ticket into the machine.  It will then issue you a paper ticket that will list the attraction, your riding “window” time for you to return, and will also tell you when you can obtain your next Fastpass.

avoid long lines at Disney

NEWSFLASH – starting in March 2012 Disney announced that they were going to start enforcing the Fastpass rules of returning within the timeframe printed on your Fastpass ticket.  Gone are the days that you could squander Fastpasses all morning and then return to the park at night to ride all those attractions in no time!!!  Disappointing….yes….however, there is another way to look at it.  Disney does not make changes without a good reason.  If everyone returned to the Fastpass line anytime they wanted at any point in the day, making the Fastpass line almost as long as the regular line, doesn’t that negate the reason for Fastpass in the first place????  Enjoy the fact that you will have an hour window to return to a ride and truly bypass the long 1 hour wait posted outside the attraction.

Not all attractions even have a Fastpass option, so it is important to learn which attractions warrant a Fastpass in each park.

When Not to Fastpass – yes, there are times that you do NOT need to use your Fastpass.  Remember that you may only have 1 Fastpass per person out at a time.  On your Fastpass ticket it will tell you when you can get your next one, and you must stick to that.  However, when you approach a ride and it is posted outside that the attraction has a 30 minute wait or less….do NOT Fastpass the ride.  Most of the wait times on the attractions can actually be about 10 minutes less than what is posted.  There is no need to use your Fastpass for these attractions. Another time you do not need to use Fastpass is when you know it will be difficult to return to that ride in a timely manner.  For example, to grab a Fastpass for Winnie the Pooh right before you are about to leave Fantasyland will hinder on your experience when you are in the middle of Adventureland and need to haul yourself back to Winnie the Pooh when you are in the midst of enjoying yourself half way around the park!!  Always stay one step ahead.

Magic Kingdom – the most popular attractions in each park usually have a Fastpass option.  You may have heard these attraction names a few times…. The Mountain Sisters!!! Splash, Space and Big Thunder!!!!.   As soon as you enter the park, 1 adult should take everyone’s park ticket and run to the attraction that you want to ride in about an hour or so.  The rest of you should head to the next attraction.  For example, 1 adult goes to the Fastpass for Space Mountain and obtains the Fastpasses while the rest of you head straight for Splash Mountain to ride immediately.  The adult that obtained the Fastpasses for Space Mountain will then join you at Splash Mountain.  Already, you have knocked out 2 main attractions!!!  Splash Mountain and Big Thunder Mountain are right next to each other so you may want to tackle both of those when you enter the park and save Space Mountain for later.  If you have small children and you do not see yourselves riding the “thrill rides” then you may enter the park and send 1 adult over to Buzz Lightyear Space Ranger Spin to get a Fastpass while the other adult heads straight to Fantasyland and rides Peter Pan first!  Now that the new expansion of Fantasyland is beginning to open, there will be even more attractions to keep everyone busy.  Goofy’s Barnstormer has a Fastpass, and we assume that the Mine roller coaster for Snow White will also have a Fastpass, these attractions will expect heavier crowds as the day progresses.

Epcot – the most popular attraction in this park is definitely Soarin’ which is located in the Land Pavilion.  When you arrive in Epcot head straight for Soarin’.   No need to worry about finding its location because everyone and their long lost cousin will be heading in the same direction.  I personally like to send my husband to get Fastpasses while I take everyone else to Test Track!!!  I love doing the other main highlights in Epcot while everyone else is waiting in line for Soarin’!  For lovers of a specific attraction, and people who KNOW they will want to ride a specific attraction more than once, always get your Fastpass BEFORE you ride the ride for the first time.  For instance, if the line is short when you arrive at Soarin’ and you know you will probably want to ride it again, get your Fastpasses first and THEN stand in line.  If you wait to get your Fastpasses after you are finished with the ride , the return time on the Fastpass may be much later in the day.  Hopefully, later in the day you will be relaxing by your resort pool instead of fighting crowds!

Hollywood Studios – They do not call it Toy Story Mania for nothing……I have never seen Jeff Gordon drive a car faster than people move their feet to get to this attraction.  I have even seen strollers collide, tip over, and the parent keeps on running even though the kid is crying!!!!  Not a joke.  People are insane over this attraction and rightfully so.  Most people come out of a 2 hour wait in line and say that it was all worth it….for myself, never!  I do not think that anything is worth a 2 hour wait with 4 kids and a cranky husband who is not patient.  I refuse to ever stand in a line for that long, and I make sure NONE of my clients do either.  Most people want to ride Toy Story Mania more than once.  Therefore, the secret to this park is to arrive when the park OPENS.  Toy Story Mania Fastpasses typically run out by   10am every single morning, regardless of how many people are visiting the park.  If the park allowed endless numbers of Fastpasses for each ride, the Fastpass line would not be so fast after all.  You want to go straight to Toy Story Mania when the park opens, and have one person get Fastpass tickets immediately, while the others wait in line.  Believe me it is worth it.  Regardless of the age of your kids or yourself, this is an attraction that delights and entertains the masses!  It is worth riding this attraction a second time.  If you have thrill seekers in your travel party, then the Rock n’ Roller Coaster and the Tower of Terror should be next on your list.  If you already have a Fastpass out for Toy Story, chances are you will not be ready to get a Fastpass again by the time you hit these rides.  Go to these early in the morning, and when you can obtain another Fastpass, use it for Star Tours so that by the time you reach that part of the park, you may be able to skip lines as well.  Also remember that some of the roller coasters also have single rider lines that are much shorter than the regular lines.  So what if you scream in some stranger’s ear, at least you are not going home with them!!!

Animal Kingdom – If there ever was a park that you could arrive a little after the time it opens, it would be Animal Kingdom.  I still push my group to get there by 9am, but there is something a little more laid back and calm about this one.  Not sure what it is, or how to explain it, but the crowds are usually not as intense here.  The park is well spread out and actually has many shaded walkways that seem to slow you down and make you enjoy the scenery.  The main attractions here that offer a Fastpass are Expedition Everest and Kilimanjaro Safari Ride just to name a few.  I always believe that it is better to do the Safari ride early in the morning before it gets too hot for the animals in the afternoon.  They always seem more alert when I do this between 9am – 10am.  It is a great idea to send 1 adult again to get Fastpasses for Expedition Everest while the rest of the crew goes to the safari ride.  I recommend going to the first Festival of the Lion King Show.  It is not far from Kilimanjaro Safari, so I like to make those my first two attractions.  Then it is on to Kali River Rapids and the use of the fastpass for Expedition Everest.  All before LUNCH!!!

There has been talk about Fastpass being used for the Festival of the Lion King Show and for The Finding Nemo Musical.  If those have been instituted by the time you read this blog, do NOT waste your Fastpass on shows!!!  This is true for the Magic Kingdom and Mickey’s Philharmagic as well!!!  These theaters hold a lot of people, and it can be extremely difficult to know what time of the day you want to sit for a show.  Since you can only have 1 fastpass out at a time, use it wisely!!!

I am sure there are many people who will read this and disagree with many points I made.  No worries, it is your vacation and you should do what you wish!  Maybe you are someone that enjoys waiting in long lines.  Maybe you enjoy standing for an hour or more while moving an inch every minute!  If so, at least make sure you have some cool Disney apps on your phone so you and the kids can play games to pass the time in line…..we wouldn’t want you saying that every moment was not Magical!!!

Randee Segal
Authorized Disney Vacation Planner
MickeyTravels, LLC
“Making Magic One Vacation at a Time…”


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