Understanding the FASTPASS system
The fastpass system is a virtual queuing system that Disney has used to great success. Many people don’t understand exactly how this works. We’ve already shown you how you can benefit from this system. This article is intended to explain in a little more detail exactly how this system works, so that you can make better decisions.
How does the FASTPASS system determine the times?
Disney is well aware of the number of people that can ride an attraction in a given day. Once they have that number, they allocate a certain number of fastpasses. Then they divide that into 5 minute time intervals. When you first arrive at an attraction in the morning, you’ll see a FASTPASS time of 9:40-10:40. There will be a set number of fastpasses for that 5 minute interval. The number depends on the attraction. If they gave too many, then there would be too many people trying to return to ride the ride, and the FASTPASS line would be too long.
Lets use Peter Pan as an example. Imagine that Disney allocates 50 fastpasses for a 5 minute segment (a completely made up number btw). It’s 9:30 and you’ve just seen the Fastpass time change to 10:10-11:10. In the 5 minute time period between 9:30 and 9:35, we’ll imagine that Disney has 50 fastpasses to allocate. If 50 or fewer are allocated then at 9:35, the clock will move from 10:15-11:15 and it will remain a 40 minute wait. If 100 people get fastpasses, then TWO segments have now sold out. So now the wait time will be pushed out to 45 minutes. If 200 people get FP’s in a five minute window, then the wait time will push out to 55 minutes, and so on.
During very busy days or at popular attractions like Toy Story Mania, you’ll see the fastpass wait times quickly rise to 2-3 hours or more. In fact, Toy Story Mania will usually sell out for the ENTIRE day by lunch. Disney can’t continue to issue FP’s to people, because then the Fastpass line would get too long. As such, if you want a Fastpass for Toy Story Mania, you need to be there early.
Understanding the times on your FASTPASS
At the top of your FASTPASS are two times. You’ll see a time such as 10:00-11:00. This is the time period that you are able to use your FASTPASS. Some cast members will let you in a couple minutes early, but I rarely ask. In addition, some have said that there is a 15 minute “grace period” after the time expires, but some cast members will not honor this.
PLEASE NOTE – In previous years, the second time listed was basically irrelevant. Your fastpass was good beginning at the initial time, and remained valid until the park closed. Disney made a policy change in 2012, and this is no longer allowed. You must return within the hour window, with a possible exception being a small grace period after your FASTPASS ends.
Time at the bottom
At the bottom of your fastpass ticket, you’ll see the words “Another Fastpass ticket will be available after “. There are two ways in which that time is determined. If your time window is within 2 hours, you will be eligible to get another Fastpass as soon as your window arrives. If your window is more than 2 hours away, however, Disney won’t hold you hostage for that period of time. You will be able to get another Fastpass in 2 hours. So regardless of how busy Disney is, you can get a new set of fastpasses every two hours.
A couple Fastpass tips
Many people are so focused on that top time, that they don’t even notice the bottom time. Some people (and websites) still say that you can only have one set of fastpasses at a time. This is not true.
If your fastpass return window is 12pm to 1pm, you can pick up a 2nd set of fastpasses at 12pm. You will then be holding two sets! In fact, it does you absolutely no good to be waiting at the attraction in order to use your fastpass as soon as you are eligible. Instead, you should be looking at that bottom time. What you want to do is to be waiting at A DIFFERENT FASTPASS station so that you can get another set of passes as soon as you are eligible to do so. Then once you get those, you are free to go back and use your first set.
A runner – One of the problems with Disney World is that it is a huge facility. It’s a long walk from one end to the other. It might be difficult to get fastpasses at Space Mountain, run over to Splash Mountain and get fastpasses, run back to Space Mountain to use your first set, and then go BACK to Splash Mountain to use the 2nd set! That sounds exhausting just typing it!
However if you have one capable runner, he can do the work for everyone! Have him gather all the group fastpasses, make the run to Splash Mountain, get the fastpasses for everyone and run back. Then the group can use them and leisurely begin the long journey to Adventureland.
If you have a group of children, and some of the kids go to sleep, their tickets (if they are old enough to require tickets) still can be used for FASTPASSES. Also, perhaps the kids are playing in areas of the park that don’t require fastpasses. Their FP’s can still be used by those looking to ride FP attractions.
On one occasion my wife took my two children back to the hotel early. Before they left, I used their passes to grab four fastpasses to a favorite ride. Then I was able to ride that attraction over and over. That can come in a lot of handy if half of the group heads back and the other half stays.
In conclusion, the FASTPASS system is a system that you need to be taking advantage of. It’s highly sophisticated, but not all that complicated. Knowing how it works can keep you out of lines and allow you to enjoy the best rides at Disney World, without waiting long periods of time.