Welcome back to my blog and this series of posts I’m writing about planning a trip to Walt Disney World. If you missed the first part you can catch up here.
Once you have decided which attractions you want to visit and which you don’t, you can start to plan how you will work all these into your day. Depending on the time of year you will visit, the opening hours will differ. If like me, you are visiting in the height of summer, the parks are open from early in the morning until late at night. The only exception to this being the water parks which tend to close earlier. (although they are still open until 8 pm when I’m going).
If you’re yet to decide on a time of year to visit you can take a look at a crowd calendar, which gives you an idea of when the park will be at it’s busiest. If you have the option to go at a quieter, cooler time of year I’d highly recommend it. But, if you’re restricted to school holidays or the summer you’ll have to be prepared for the heat, humidity and crowds. Here’s a crowd calendar I found online that gives a quick and easy at-a-glance look at projected crowds throughout the year.
Disclaimer: The following information is not first hand, as FastPass+ was only just being rolled out the last time I visited WDW. It’s an amalgamation of information I have found on planning websites, WDW’s own website and experience of people I know who have been more recently.
The ability to plan your day, almost to the minute, weeks if not months before you go is a real possibility now. You are able to make dining reservations up to 180 days from the day you visit. If you’re travelling at a busy time of year, the more popular time slots will fill up quickly, so this is why I recommend planning which parks you will visit on certain days so you won’t be disappointed when trying to land a lunchtime reservation at one of the more popular venues.
For instance, since we booked this trip last January we knew we wanted to eat at Be Our Guest, in the Magic Kingdom. The decor is stunning, resembling the ballroom from the 1991 animated classic, Beauty & the Beast. They even have the ‘grey stuff’ on the menu! This restaurant is very popular, so as soon as that magic 180-day mark rolled around we booked a table.
To save yourself an international phone call to Guest Services in Florida every time you want to make a reservation though, you should consider downloading the My Disney Experience app (which is available for iOS and Android) Using the app you can make dining and FastPass reservations, as well as see maps, wait times and show times.
For the uninitiated, Disney has had a system in place for some time to help reduce wait times for the more popular ride, this was called FastPass. The new FastPass+ system is an updated version of that. Before, you could take your park entry ticket to a Fastpass kiosk and print off a ticket to return to the ride during a one-hour timeslot later in the day. You would then join a special queue along with others that had been given the same time slot. This could reduce waits from two hours or more down to 15 minutes or less.
The updated system works in a similar way, with a few tweaks. You can now pre-book your FastPass time slots up to 60 days before your visit (if you’re staying at a Disney resort, 30 days if you’re off site).
If you’re staying on site, you will get a Magic Band that will act as your ticket. If you’re off-site, like we will be, you get a card. Both act in the same way, in that you scan them at the entrance to the park, and they contain all the planning information, such as dining reservations and FastPass+, that you save via the app or your Disney account. If you’re off-site, you can purchase a Magic Band starting at $12.99 plus tax from the retail outlets in the Parks or from the US DisneyStore website. While the US DisneyStore does ship internationally, you’re going to have to pay shipping and perhaps even customs charges, so I’m going to hold off and look at getting one in the Parks.
You can pre-book up to three FastPass+ rides. They cannot overlap and they cannot be for the same rides, meaning if you want to go on a ride twice in a row, you’ll have to choose the ‘standby’ line for the second one. Once your first 3 reservations have been used, or the time slot passes, whichever comes first, you can make a fourth. If you anticipate a ride being busy and book an FP+ for it but when you get there the line is short enough to wait in, you can change the reservation via the app.
Each Park has its headliner attractions, and I’ll go into more detail for those in different posts, but at the time of writing EPCOT and Hollywood Studios are implementing a tier system with their attractions. When you are booking your three initial FP+ rides, you can only choose one from Tier 1 and two from Tier 2. You are not able to choose three Tier 2 rides as an alternative.
As this part contained an awful lot of information, I’ll leave it there for now. The FastPass+ system does sound confusing, but I’m sure it makes more sense in practice.
Next time, I’ll do an in-depth look at the attractions in each park, along with my own recommendations.
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