Walt Disney World: To Fast Pass or not to Fast Pass at #Disney #Vacations #TravelBlogs

To Fast Pass or not to Fast Pass at Walt Disney World #Disney #Vacation

By Michael Melville

Magic Bands and Fast Pass

 

As Stacey and I stood in line for spaceship earth AKA the giant golf ball at Epcot I heard an old man complain as we walked by. He said, “That Fast Pass is ruining this park!” bla bla la something about it being unfair. We in fact were in the Fast Pass line and he was not. Now you might be asking what is Fast Pass.

Fast Pass is perk that combines Disney’s Magic Bands.

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Magic Bands are a waterproof plastic wristband that you can get when you visit Walt Disney World and I assume Disney Land in California. The band in conjunction with Fast Pass is just an updated version of a ticket based system that existed at the park for years although many people were not aware of it and the old system was incredibly inefficient.  The bands look similar to a BitFit health band and store and transmit electronic information wirelessly. They come in several colors and you can also customize the bands with little add-ons when you visit a gift shop but that’s not the high-point because these are not fashion statement but they do look pretty cool.

The real benefit with the Magic Bands comes with all that you can do with them. It seems to me too really get the most out of them you need to stay in a Disney Resort on the Disney property like we did but you can get the bands at the park if you are staying at a hotel off site.

How It Works

To use Fast Pass (FP) you must go online to the My Disney Experience (requires registration) before or even during your time at the park using a laptop, iPad or use the My Disney Experience phone app(android or apple) and pick 3 attractions you also must get a Magic Band.  Now when I say attractions I mean anything you wait in line for which includes rides, most shows, meeting your favorite Disney character (yes even Elsa) and even special seating during fireworks at the Magic Kingdom and Epcot. In order to use Fast Pass with the Magic Band bracelet and pick attractions you must purchase a park ticket and have that ticket linked to your wrist band using My Disney Experience.

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You can customize your account and pick different Disney characters. I chose Carl and Stacey was Pocahontas 🙂

 

Once you pick the 3 attractions you will be given the opportunity to select a 1 hour time slot for each attraction on the day you will be at, let’s say the Magic Kingdom. Example: You pick Big Thunder Mountain (a roller coaster) in Frontierland and you choose your FP time for 1:30- 2:30 Pm (they are in 1 hour increments). You show up anytime in that time frame, get in the FP line, scan your Magic Band on the lighted circle scanner then once it turns green you go on in. You get to skip probably 75% of the wait in line. Note: some rides even have separate loading zones for FP holders. If you try going through the FP line outside of your time frame it won’t turn green and you will have to get in the normal line.

Now, this DOES NOT mean you won’t wait in line but your time in line on your chosen attractions WILL BE dramatically shorter and yes sometimes no wait at all. Every ride, attraction and character meet now has 2 entrances one for non-FP and another for FP. I would say the longest Stacey and I waited in line for our FP chosen rides was 15 or 20 minutes for the Pirates of the Caribbean. The non-FP wait was something like 50 minutes maybe longer.

The nice thing is (that I didn’t know when we were there) once you use up your 3 FP attraction picks you can then request additional FP attractions 1 at a time using My Disney Experience. This however is NOT a guarantee you will get them and it depends on how busy that particular park is.  Also using the My Disney Experience phone app you can look and see what the live wait times are for every attraction in the park so you can make adjustments to your FP picks accordingly or even just plan your next move in general.  I think that covers the ride subject of the Fast Pass but that’s not all the Magic Bands are good for.

So I say to that guy I talked about at the beginning who was in line griping like baby as we quickly passed him and he was stuck in line for another 30 minutes: Get over it old man.  FP users only get 3 and it’s your fault you’re not educated and travel savvy enough to plan ahead and take advantage of the FP and Magic Band feature.  We had to wait in our fair share of long lines (but not as long as I have in previous visits).

How I used Fast Pass and our Magic Bands

My DE homescreen
My DE home screen

 

Now for the rest of this travel post I will tell you how I used our wristbands and set them up so you can get a broader idea of what to expect and all the benefits that we had from using them on our trip to Disney World at the beginning of March 2015.

The Hotel

First using Disney’s website I made our hotel reservations for Port Orleans French Quarter (see my review on that resort here). Next I customized and ordered two Magic Bands on the sire. One for me and Stacey each, you can see those below. They were mailed to me in Michigan, free of charge, using 2 day express mail well before we left. They arrived with our names printed on the bottom of the band and came in a really nifty box. I am sucker for packaging and the box “had me at hello”. I then linked our Magic Bands to our hotel reservations at Port Orleans.

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Once we arrived and checked in at the hotel on Monday the Magic Bands also became our room keys so no keys to lose no cards to misplace. We just scanned them on the Mickey Mouse circle on our room door and poof the door unlocked. Now, during check in I had my debit card linked to our room for incidental purchases at the hotel like you normally would. However because we had the Magic Bands already linked to our room reservations this gave us the ability to purchase just about anything in the parks using our Magic Bands and it would charge to the card on file at the hotel and be deducted at checkout and a PDF of all our purchases were emailed to me at 9am the day of checkout. This came in handy throughout the park giving me and Stacey BOTH the ability to buy souvenirs and food at shops without having to be with each other if needed and without having to carry cash or pass the debit card back and forth.

You can do this option even if you are not staying in a resort at Disney. You just link a debit or credit card to your magic band using My Disney Experience. Also we checked out of our hotel on Tuesday at 11am but spent the whole day at Epcot and stayed until the park closed. All our post checkout purchases at Epcot using the Magic Band were then just deducted right from my checking account like a normal everyday card purchase. You can use this on souvenirs and all food purchases in all the parks at Walt Disney World. It’s incredibly convenient.

 

The Parks

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My mom bought our tickets for the Magic Kingdom and Epcot since she lives in Florida and gets a massive discount. Once she got those I went to My Disney Experience on Disney.com and entered the secret code from the back of the cards on the site. This linked our tickets to our Magic Bands. Which means our bands were then our tickets so when we arrived at the parks we just scanned them and were let in. They also take everyone’s fingerprint who has a Magic Band upon entering. This means no one can use that Magic Band for park access but you and you alone. For you parents going to the park with the kiddies, by linking these bands you remove the risk of losing your tickets especially if you have a lot of tickets and a lot kids.

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We had 2 for Disney and 2 for Epcot

 

1 week before we even left I went and picked out our 3 FP selections for Magic Kingdom and Epcot but you can do this up to I believe 30 days before you visit. For Magic Kingdom I chose Pirates of the Caribbean, behind the scenes meet and greet with Mickey and the always fun Haunted Mansion. For Epcot I chose Spaceship Earth, Soren and Nemo and Friends. The one regret with the FP choice for the meet and greet with Mickey was that I didn’t realize it was at the same time as the nightly light parade right outside on Main Street. So we fought a giant crowd to get there and basically got right in to see him since everyone was watching the parade.  This is normally a 60-90 minute wait I am told so theoretically this could have been a smart choice and I think it made Stacey’s trip.

MDE app showing current wait times for rides. Times are current as of posting this blog
MDE app showing current wait times for rides. Times are current as of posting this blog

For the more popular rides like Pirates, the Peter Pan Ride, It’s a Small World and popular character meets like Ariel, Elsa and others the typical wait is at least 60 minutes or longer so picking your 3 FP attractions is very important, strategic and very time saving. So, if you have a daughter who is insistent on meeting all her favorite Princesses that alone can easily take up an entire day without doing anything else since they are spread out around the parks and only available during certain times. So if you only have a day or two to spend in a park this can make life a little easier.

Who doesn’t love pictures at Disney? All around all the parks there are Disney Photo Pass photographers at key and special points of interest. If you have a Magic Band you can go to any of these, they will take your picture and then they will be automatically uploaded to your My Disney Experience page where you can purchase and download them. This also includes the pictures taken at meet and greets with your favorite character.  There is also the option of pre-paying for a Memory Maker package for 169.00 (advanced price) and this includes ALL of your Photo Pass pictures. If you don’t they are $14.95 each and you can order prints or download them.

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Photo taken by Disney Photo Pass photographers

 

 

Final Thoughts

I think to really get the most out your Disney experience you really do need to utilize the Fast Pass and Magic Band Feature. It just brings everything together in one place so easily. Another feature I forgot to mention is that you can made reservations at all of the table service restaurants in the Disney parks using My Disney Experience. If you try and go to one of these without a reservation you will be very disappointed especially with some of the more popular places to eat in Epcot and Magic Kingdom. Many such as the Crystal Palace or Cinderellas Royal Table in Magic Kingdom and some of the water front places in Epcot are reservation only.

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