I’m honestly not sure how you “do” Disney parks these days without a smartphone. With your device in hand and the help of the MyDisneyExperience app, you can plan and coordinate your entire visit, especially the Fast Pass process.
With a Fast Pass, you get expedited access to attractions, character meet and greets, and shows. After my recent visit, a few thoughts on how using the Fast Pass system intersects with six general life truths.
Planning Ahead Pays
If you want to avoid lengthy lines on the “big” Disney attractions, a Fast Pass is a necessity. When we went to Hollywood Studios, Tenley got fast passes for Tower of Terror, the Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster, and the Frozen Sing-Along Celebration in advance. Although I didn’t do the two thrill rides, it helped expedite our trip that Tenley and her friend could do them with a minimum of waiting. And we all enjoyed being able to walk right into the Frozen Sing-a-long without standing around in a line moving at a glacial pace.
If You Fail to Plan Ahead, You Have to Watch Everyone Else Who Did Move Faster
Disney has definitely mastered the art of making long lines look deceptively manageable from the outside looking in. Get in line for something with a 110 minute wait time, thinking “ah … that doesn’t look that bad,” and find yourself enviously watching the Fast Pass holders stream on by, on their way to their fast-tracked experiences.
Standing in Line Isn’t ALWAYS Bad
Although this directly contradicts the above, life is full of contradictions, no? We chose to stand in long lines for several attractions we did not have Fast Passes for, and we had some of the best experiences of the trip during those waits. We spent time talking to a fun family from Oklahoma, discussing the challenges of siblinghood, the pros and cons of uniforms for school kids, and lots of other fun topics. Time flew.
We also played Heads Up! (mostly the Broadway version) and discovered a) how generational some Broadway knowledge is and b) how much fun you can have waiting in line (thanks, technology!).
Sometimes Planning Ahead Doesn’t Make THAT Much Difference
While Tenley and her friend were on Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, I chose to do The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh. The Fast Pass available to me was 35 minutes away, and the regular wait time was 40 minutes. BUT … I chose to get a Fast Pass so I could squeeze in a little errand I wanted to do. Technically, though, having a Fast Pass only saved me five minutes.
Overplanning Can Result in Missing Out on Serendipitous Happenings
The Fast Pass process can lure you into thinking only the Fast Pass activities are worthwhile. I think much of the Disney Magic is generated by being open to the unexpected, the small-but-magical, the discoveries you can’t force. We ended up doing pictures with Mickey Pretzels at Hollywood Studios (after I oh-so-brilliantly observed “oh, the pretzels are Mickey shaped! (SIGH….)). The lighting at that spot was perfect. Any other angle of the sun and it wouldn’t have worked. We were there at the right time, no Fast Pass required.
The Big Things Have Limits
Anyone remember paper tickets? How after a day at Disney your “E” tickets would be history while you would still have a fistful of the less valuable “A” tickets? The same principle still applies, just via an app. We still can’t (or shouldn’t) do ALL “big things” — discovering the hidden gems matters.
NOTE: There is plenty of fine print with Fast Passes, like who gets the earliest selection window (60 days for people with reservations to stay on Disney Property), how many you can get at a time (three), and more. Read up ahead of time to get the most out of your Fast Passes (I linked to the official Fast Pass site above but Undercover Tourist has great tips here too)!