Walt Disney World is a place of strategy. Properly planning your trip to Disney World, using Disney fastpass secrets, and optimizing your time with the perfect Disney strategy can make or break your time in the parks. Regardless of what some people say about spending ‘too much time waiting in line’, the reality is, these people just are not implementing Disney strategies correctly. Disney World is manageable and this blog post is about to teach you how to accomplish a Disney day without waiting in lines and how to maximize your time in the parks
Lets get some details straight first, so you understand the tools and features you need in order to implement this strategy.
What is Fastpass plus and how do you use it?
Disney World’s fastpass plus (Fastpass) is an online booking system for rides and experiences available at Disney World. This electronic system provides a solution for wait times at the park by allowing each guest to skip the lines of 3 pre-booked rides or experiences per day.
Fastpasses can be scheduled between 60-30 days in advanced online or by using the My Disney Experience app. The fastpass plus system is unique to Walt Disney World as it is the only fastpass system that does not rely on paper tickets.
The fastpass system means that no matter what, guests will have the opportunity to experience at least 3 rides on each day of their visit to Walt Disney World. It also means that for those who wish to learn Disney fastpass strategies, you can add a lot more magic to your day, with a lot less stress, and a lost less waiting around. All you need to do is learn how to get a Disney fastpass.
Do you need to use Fastpass plus?
Let me give you some statistics. In 2017 roughly 20.45 million people visited Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World resorts in Orlando, Florida. Around 12.2 million people went to Epcot, 12.5 million went to Animal Kingdom, and 10.7 million went to Hollywood Studios. Are you still wondering if you need to use a fastpass? Well, the actual answer is, you don’t NEED to, but with that many people visiting the park everyday, it would be a mistake not to. Did I mention that fastpass plus is free. Take advantage of the online system. It is easy to use and can prevent you from waiting in line for hours.
What is a magic band and why do you need them?
A magic band is a special bracelet invented for Disney World which uses RFID technology to connect data to guests via the MyMagic+ experience. These bracelets are where information such as fastpasses, restaurant reservations, park tickets, room keys, Photopass and payments are stored. While you can load your fastpasses to your hard ticket, Magic bands are simply more convenient because everything you need to survive a day in the park will be in one place…on your wrist.
If you are staying on property at a Walt Disney World Resort then magic bands are complimentary. If you are staying off-site, you can purchase them almost anywhere on Disney property for $12.99 to $25.
Which Fastpasses are hardest to get?
One of the best Disney fastpass tips, is to know which fastpass experiences are the hardest to attain. This usually means that those rides/experiences will have the longest stand-by lines throughout the day. These difficult to obtain fastpasses might be the type of experiences that you will want to apply your newly learned strategies and Disney fastpass secrets too. Look at the infographic below to see which fast passes are hardest to come by, ordered by park.
How do you make a Disney Fastpass?
There are three ways to get a fastpass at Disney World.
1. You can create and log on to your account on the Disney World website and select your fastpasses from there.
2. You can download the My Disney Experience app, create and log into your account, and book them from your phone (a great tool for Disney fastpass strategy)
3. There are fastpass kiosks in the park where you can physically tap your card or magic band and select your fastpasses (these usually have lines, and you have to book same day faspasses, a disadvantage in strategy but still an option).
When can you make a Disney World Fastpass?
The age-old question of ‘when can I book fastpasses?”. If you are staying on property at a Walt Disney World Resort or Hotel, fastpasses are available 60 days from the day you will be at the park. If you are staying off-site, or are an Annual Passholder, fastpasses are available to book 30 days from the day you will be at the park.
You can book seven days worth of fastpasses, or 21/person before you need to use them to replace them (21 is the maximum each person is allowed to hold). Fastpasses can be made on the app or online at 7:00am ET, 60-30 days before your intended trip. This does mean that you must log on everyday 60-30 days before your trip, and book days individually. Putting in work in advance can make for a better chance at getting rides on the premium Disney fast pass tiers.
What are Disney World fast pass tiers?
Disney fast pass tiers were created to prevent guests from only choosing to fastpass the bigger more popular rides. Spreading out fastpass choices means that guests will get the chance to enjoy a variety of experiences throughout the park from thrilling rides to learning experiences. This also opens up more fastpasses on the bigger rides so a greater number of different people can experience them.
The tier system is used at Hollywood Studios, Epcot and Animal Kingdom. The Magic Kingdom fast pass strategy does not use the tier system.
Can you only get 3 fastpasses per day?
Fast passes are actually unlimited, especially if you use these Disney fastpass secrets. After using your first three fast passes, which were booked in advanced, you can book one additional fastpass at a time until the end of the day. This means that you need to use the 4th fastpass before booking the 5th and so on.
The three advanced fastpasses can only be booked at one park, meaning you cannot fastpass two rides in Magic Kingdom and one in Epcot. All rides must be fastpassed in the same park. After you have used your initial fast passes, and if you have a park hopper pass, you can book your additional fastpasses at another park.
Now that you are updated on what and how the fastpass plus system works at Walt Disney World, you can start implementing specialized strategies to enjoy the rides and experiences that you desire most. Below are 15 Disney fastpass secrets and strategies to help guide you through your ‘my Disney experience’.
The Strategy: Disney Fastpass Secrets
1. Download the My Disney Experience app
The My Disney Experience app is free to download to your phone and if you are looking to apply a fast pass strategy to your day, you will need it. The app allows guests to create fastpass reservations at their finger tips. Things like restaurant reservations to get into popular locations can also be made on the app.
The My Disney Experience app also provides updated wait times throughout the day for all rides and experiences, including character meet ’n’ greets. Monitoring wait times will help tell you which rides you actually need to fastpass, and which you do not.
Example: there would be no need to fastpass Monsters Inc Laugh Floor if you knew the wait time was only 10 minutes, the fastpass would be better used on Space Mountain at 60 minutes.
Having the app also allows guests to modify existing fastpasses, to create new fastpasses, and to use techniques you will learn about later such as the ‘tap and grab’. The app is free and allows you to make changes from anywhere. If you don’t have it yet, get it.
2. Know the best times to ride without a fast pass
There are certain points throughout the day in which fastpasses are not totally necessary. The crowds will ebb and flow. In the morning time, the parks are less busy, meaning you should be able to get on quite a few rides via stand-by. As I mentioned above, why would you use a fastpass on a ride with a 10 minute wait? At night time, during and after fireworks, lines also tend to slow down as the majority of the park guests make their way to a viewing point for fireworks (which btw are in the sky if you know what I mean). So let me give you a few pointers by park.
Epcot Fastpass low times:
-Frozen Ever After, Soarin, and Test Track have short lines before 10:00am
-Mission Space is busy in the morning, and at lunch hour, but during off hours the line is minimal (this is the first ride you will see when entering the park, so guests tend to head there first by default)
-Mission to Mars genuinely has a short line all day because this ride makes many people sick
Animal Kingdom Fastpass low times:
-Expedition Everest, Kali River Rapids and Dinosaur have almost no wait in the morning as everyone else is at Pandora
-Kilimanjaro Safaris wait between 9:00am and 10:00am can be between 15 to 20 minutes, not a bad wait for this popular of a ride
-Pandora lines move fast during/after rivers of light, this is one of the ways to get on Flights of Passage without a Fastpass.
-Primeval Whirl is only really busy in the afternoon
-use this specific Animal Kingdom fastpass strategy guide to maximize your time at the park
Hollywood Studios Fastpass low times:
-If you want to ride Toy Story Mania, you must be there at rope drop (We will discuss this later)
-Slinky Dog Dash and Alien Sauce Swirl are only slow during the fireworks
-Tower of Terror and Rockin’ Rollercoaster are walk ons in the early morning, and also at night during Fantasmic.
-Star Tours is strange, the wait time fluctuates frequently and sporadically throughout the day.
Magic Kingdom Fastpass low times:
-the big 4, Space Mountain, Thunder Mountain, Splash Mountain and Mine Train all have reasonable lines until about 9:30am, you can probably get on only one before it gets busy
-Jungle Cruise and the Haunted Mansion are without lines for the first one to two hours
-Peter Pans Flight has never not been busy, rope dropping is the only way to ride without a fastpass or a long wait
-later in the day rides like Pirates of the Caribbean, Its a Small World, Buzz Lightyear Space Ranger Spin, and the kiddie rides tend to open up for shorter lines
3. Know the Best Times to use a Fastpass
With regards to what you’ve just read, you need to know the best times NOT to use a fastpass, as well as the best times TO use a fastpass. A good base-line is to be using fastpass between 10:00am and 4:00pm. While you can get on almost every ride before 10:00pm or at rope drop, the fact is, there is not enough time to do them all in two hours. You also don’t want to be sitting around until 4:00pm waiting for lines to get shorter. Use your free fastpasses to keep you busy during the day. Most second tier rides are easy to get in the afternoon between your fastpasses.
4. Book your fastpasses in the late morning. Use optimal timing to get more fastpasses
This is definitely one of the best Disney fastpass secrets. When you are booking fastpasses, try to book them in the late morning at 10:00am, 11:00am and 12:00pm. Why? Well, once you have completed all of your fast passes, you will be eligible to book another! Finishing at noon means you will have nine to eleven hours to add extra fastpasses on to your magic bands.
Example: If you book your first three fastpasses at 10:00am, 2:00am, and 7:00pm, you wouldn’t be able to fastpass again until the 7:00pm one is used. This gives you only a few hours to use extra fastpasses, which at that time of day, might be sold out (they are not unlimited). This takes us to our next point.
5. Never book firework or parade viewing fastpasses
Just don’t. It is a waste of time. I talked about this in my Epcot Survival Guide, for some reason, people seem to forget that fireworks are in the sky. You do not need to be right in front of the castle, at the fence of the world showcase, or in the front row of Hollywood Studios. From almost everywhere (save for Magic kingdom where you must be on the front side of the castle), you can see the fireworks in the sky. Booking a fastpass for fireworks viewing literally changes nothing. You will have the same view, you will see the same thing, and there will still be people in front of you. The only difference is, you’ve broken rule #4, and have limited yourself to a maximum of 3 fastpasses that day.
The same goes for parade viewing, you will see the same thing, your fastpass is not really going to change the experience, use it for something else with greater benefits.
6. Take Advantage of Rope Drop and Park Close (Ultimate Disney Fastpass Secrets)
I have mentioned rope drop a few times in this post, so let’s look at it a little more closely. Rope drop is a massive part of Walt Disney World strategy. What is rope drop? Rope drop is the time during the day that the park actually opens. If you want to maximize your time at the parks, it is worth it to get there about 30 minutes before the park opens. They call this rope drop because cast members will actually slowly walk the crowd in behind a rope. They do this to prevent injuries from people being trampled on (actually).
Showing up 30 minutes before and being one of the first people in the park means that you should be able to walk on to every/any ride. At rope drop I usually average about 3 major experiences before the crowds build.
Park close is another way to get on rides you were unable to fastpass. It is a Disney rule that if you get in line for a ride while the park is open, you still get to ride. Hopping into the lines of major rides like Seven Dwarve’s Mine Train or Flights of Passage, 5 minutes before the park closes, guarantees your experience. As fastpass bookings close for the day, the standby line moves substantially faster.
7. Plan your Fastpass by Locations
I use this technique all the time. Disney parks are big places, like really big, like Princess Half Marathon big. If you were to be at Space Mountain with your next fastpass at Big Thunder Mountain, well that’s a heck of a walk. One of the ways I keep my Magic Kingdom itinerary together is by carefully selecting fastpasses in the same area of the park.
Example: If I have a fastpass at Space Mountain from 10:00am – 11:00am, I will try to make my next fastpass at Buzz Lightyear (next door) from 11:05am – 12:05pm. In this case, I can enjoy other rides, shopping, or shows or festivals until close to 11:00am. As I do have the full hour to get to my Space Mountain fastpass, there is no need for me to be there at 10:00am. Riding Space Mountain close to 11:00am means that when I get out, my fastpass to Buzz Lightyear will be open, and I will be able to hop on right away. This enables me to enjoy 2 experiences within 20 minutes of each other. Make sense? If you are still confused, let me know in the comments.
8. There is a buffer of 5 minute before and 15 minutes after fastpass times
If you are worried about missing your fastpass time, do not worry. Disney has a buffer on either side of the fastpass hour. There is no need to do the superhero dash across the park to get to a fastpass on time. It’s OK.
Now on to the technical side of our Disney fastpass secrets
9. Frequently Refresh the My Disney Experience app
If you are looking for a specific fastpass that you have not gotten just yet, make sure that you keep refreshing your my Disney Experience app (which you have downloaded after reading rule #1). With roughly 32,000 people visiting per day, there are going to be some pre-booked fastpass cancellations. Keep refreshing the app so that if a cancellation pops up, you can grab it before someone else does. You might also come across a fastpass at a better time. The My Disney Experience app is one of the best Disney fastpass tips.
10. You can Modify your Fastpasses on the My Disney Experience app
Say you have an existing fastpass, but it is not at an optimal time, that’s ok. You can ‘modify’ your fastpass throughout the day. It is easy to check for better times. The My Disney Experience app seems to give preference to the person who is modifying their fastpass over the person who is refreshing for a new one (waiting for the right time). This is because Disney favours the guest whom they believe is actually going to be at the park. By having an existing fastpass, Disney assumes you are committed to being at the park. The app will show more times to a modifier over a booker. If you are simply refreshing the app, not booking the ride because it hasn’t come up at your optimal time, the app assumes you are not yet at the park. On the other hand, the app assumes a modifier is actually at the park so it gives precedence to that request.
Example: If you want to ride Soarin around 3:00, and a fastpass hasn’t come up for then, but one has come up for 8:00pm…book it. Then go into you My Disney Experience app and click ‘modify fastpass selection’. You will not lose your 8:00pm fastpass while looking, but it will likely show more times. You will be able to slowly move the fastpass from 8:00pm to 6:00pm and so on until you reach your 3:00pm desired time. If you choose to just keep refreshing the app, ignoring the 8:00pm offer, you may never see that 3:00pm time.
11. Try using the ‘Tap ’n’ Grab’ technique
It is possible to hack the Disney system buy using the ‘Tap ’n’ Grab’ technique. Now this is one of the top Disney World Fastpass Secrets. The ‘Tap ’n’ Grab’ involves opening up your My Disney Experience app the minute you tap your first fast pass in the morning. Using this technique you can modify your fastpass times to get through them quicker, allowing you to book more fast passes throughout the day. Confusing I know, Let’s use an example.
Example: Say your three pre-booked fast passes are at 10:00am, 11:15am, and 12:35pm. This means that you cannot book your fourth extra fastpass until after 12:35pm. Let’s speed up the process. As soon as you tap your first fastpass of the day (10:00am), open up the app and immediately modify your 12:35pm fastpass to a time as early as possible. You have freed up the time between 10:00am to 11:15am because you are in line for the ride already at 10:00am. If you modify your 12:35pm fastpass to a 10:10am fastpass, you will be able to get off the first ride and on to the second right away.
You can keep doing this throughout the morning, potentially getting on all three rides in an hour and a half maximum, instead of three hours. Use the ‘Tap ’n’ Grab’ throughout the day to speed up the fastpass process and get your fourth, fifth and sixth fastpasses much more quickly. Lots of Disney go-ers will use the Tap’n’Grab technique to complete the Parkeology 47 ride challenge.
12. Modify your Tap ’n’ Grab
As mentioned previously, Disney favours those who they assume are already at the park. Using the above two techniques together, riders will have a better chance of getting a fastpass for a ride that is not even showing up for any time slots. This is done by tapping to get into a current fastpass, opening up the app and grabbing any ride available in your desired time slot. Afterwards you can attempt to modify that fastpass to another ride. This technique will give you a better chance to see potential ride openings that you wouldn’t see otherwise.
13. Booking overlapping Fastpass Windows
If you are unable to book a fastpass for everyone in your party, try separating the party into smaller groups, even if you are just two people. Sometimes booking for a large group at the same time can be frustrating. Separate the group, search for similar times, and pick one that overlaps.
Example: Say you are a group of 4 people and you want to ride Expedition Everest around 1:00pm but there are no fastpasses available. Search for a fastpass for two people around that time. If one comes up from 12:30pm-1:30pm, book it. Now it’s time to work on your next two fastpasses. Search for another time for two different people on Expedition Everest around 1:00pm. Say one comes up at 1:20pm-2:20pm, great, book it. Now both parties can ride together between 1:20pm-1:30pm. If you paid attention earlier you would know that there is a 15 minute buffer at the end of the fastpass, and 5 minutes at the beginning. This makes your overlapping time actually between 1:15pm (5 minutes before the second groups time) and 1:45pm (15 minutes after the first groups fastpass). That is a 30 minute over lap…I call this…Disney math.
14. Book for one person and add more throughout the day
This is similar to above, but I still want to mention that fastpasses can be booked individually. If you are wanting to get on one of the Magic Kingdom fast pass rides, start by booking a fastpass for just one member of your party, and add more people throughout the day. If a Mine Train comes up at 4:00pm for one, book it. Similar to above, search that time for each person in your party individually until you have your entire party sharing an overlapping window between 4:00pm and 5:00pm for Mine Train.
15. Pay to Purchase Fastpass Benefits
This is not so much a secret, but it is a reality for those who can afford it. As of 2018, guests who are staying at the Walt Disney Resort on club level can actually pay to have an optimized fastpassing experience. For $50 a day those guests receive three additional fastpass selections per day. They can reserve them in different parks, have 90 days in advanced to book them (so they will get which ever fastpass they desire), have preferred viewing for one nighttime show per day (which rules out firework viewing passes), and can select multiple disney world fastpass tier one rides. If you can afford it and are staying on club level, why not?
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I thought the Fastpass was the best thing EVER when it finally came into existence. I haven’t been since Fastpass Plus was implemented, but I agree…you don’t NEED or HAVE to, but um…it sounds like it makes life SOOO much easier. I would do it in a heartbeat! And I might just want to go to Disney again to get my own magic band since I see them so much and have never had one. Pink please! No surprise Space Mountain is on the hardest to get list. My favorite ride! Tier system was smart-whoever had that idea gets all the brownie points! Ooh…your Fastpass low times for the different rides are super helpful. I agree you need to know them, but it would be something I would hate to have to research!
Holy fricking moley this post is detailed! I love it! I probably will never use it for myself but I am going to pass it on to everyone I know who goes to the park. You have put so much work into this information and it shows! Congratulations on a really amazing guide!
Kimberly Erin says
<3! That is such a nice compliment I am absolutely beaming! thank you so much I am glad you appreciate the efforts <3333333 thanks Andi!
I guess I’m still in the old school mode, and thought you had to run to each and every single ride in order to get your fast pass. I’m really glad they are up and coming with the times (or maybe I was just lagging) and now they have a it on the app. I was ESPECIALLY excited to hear that you can now book those fast-passes online 30-60 days before! Wahooo!
Jenn and Ed Coleman says
Wow, what a detailed post. We live 10 miles from Disney and we (actually just Jenn) have only gone once since moving to town. She went with a guide of sorts, Ross, who was fastpassing it up everywhere but he moved so fast she never learned the system. We are definitely using this post on our next trip.
Juliann Jones says
You said it exactly: visiting Disney requires strategy. It’s insane that way. I did have the Magic wristband and a fastpass. It made a world of difference. I can’t imagine going there without planning ahead. It’s a fun family get away that requires a lot of work ahead of time, but don’t most vacations anyway?
Ashley Hubbard says
I’ve grown up going to Disney a lot so I feel like I know a lot of hacks and tips. I agree that Disney definitely takes strategy to see it all. Definitely going to keep this on hand for my upcoming trip in November. It’s just a quick trip – not what I’m used to at all!
Kimberly Erin says
Ill be there in November too :) Food and Wine marathoning!
Katie Diederichs says
Wow! I’m so glad I found this post! Thanks for sharing these secrets. I’m gonna go back to Disneyland! Wohooooo!
Robin Krohn says
Thanks for the info! Do we have to go check in to our resort to activate our magic bands or can we head straight to the park?
Kimberly Erin says
Your magic bands should already be linked to your my disney experience account. You can log on and check to see if your magic bands are linked in the ‘my tickets section’. and if you don’t see them you will link them with the code on the back of the magic band on the site. However if you are staying on the resort and you had the bands mailed to you complimentary, they should be linked. Always worth while to check though
Thank you for all the hard work you put into this post! Such great info all together in one place. We just returned yesterday from a 4 day visit. We make a trip once a year with our 5 big kids and this was the shortest stay we have ever had so I was looking to maximize our days. I googled “flights of passage without a fastpass” and found your post and wow was I impressed. 😁 we were able to rider switch at closing so my husband and two of the kids got in line at 8:55 with a posted 40 min wait that was really more like 20. Meanwhile the other two and the shorty 😉 rode Navi river with a 15 min wait and then used our rider switch FP to get on flights of passage after closing. There were about a dozen or so other who had done rider switch also so we all rode together about 9:30. It was great! All the kids were so happy! We have never ridden FOP so you can imagine how they all feel after we finished. Thanks again for all the tips. Enjoy your travels!
One other thing. In section 2 when you discuss Epcot ride wait times, did you mean Spaceship Earth instead of mission space? I was just a little confused because you listed mission to Mars next, which is Mission Space orange level.
Hi, this may be a daft question but can we still book our fast passes even though we won’t have wristbands? We are in the UK so won’t get our wristbands until we arrive at Disney but obviously would still like to book fast pass rides beforehand?
All this information is AMAZING, there’s so much to get your head around as a newbie eh :)
Many thanks in advance
Kimberly Erin says
Hey Bella! No worries! If you are staying on the resort you are able to book your fast passes 60 days in advanced and dinner reservations 180 days in advanced. All you need to do is create your mydisneyexperience account. Once you have the account you can link your park tickets and hotel stay in the ‘my reservations’ section (its easy, its like name, e-amil, confirmation code). If you purchased your things online, you might even have a linked account already! As soon as you have that done you should be totally good to go. Just log on 60 days before your trip, go to make fastpass and the first day should appear. When you arrive to the resort where you pick up your magic bands, you will just link the band to the individuals tickets (simple again its just a code you type in). But realistically the resort concierge will do it for you! just ask!
If you are not staying on the resort, same rules apply but 30 days in advanced, and you’ll buy your magic band from the store and link it the exact same way! Hopefully this helps!
Thanks for reading and of course I appreciate you commenting :)