6 Life Truths From Fast Passes

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.

Disney Philosophy

If only the magic could have taken care of my cowlick!

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.

Disney Philosophy

Belle and Lumiere were enchanting, even without Fast Passes.

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)!

17 thoughts on “6 Life Truths From Fast Passes

  1. I love the convenience of fast passes and yet I always feel sorry for guests who head there without having the app on their phone or knowing about them. It’s such a huge advantage, it’s a shame to miss out.

    • Hi! I just ran across our early (very) morning picture when we met up for coffee at Disney in Nov. 2015! I can imagine how much of a crimp it would put in your trip to arrive with no FP, no access to the app, etc.

  2. I’m so glad you shared this today because I sought yesterday and I got distracted by my miles and miles and miles of walking. I adore this perspective and I’m sending it to my sister as she plans her trip

    • I hope she has a magical trip! Every venture to Disney is like a twist of a kaleidoscope for me — and maybe that’s as it should be — this time I was especially struck by the unanticipated — the fact that we saw (although we really didn’t realize it was happening until after the fact) a PROPOSAL while in line to take pictures with the “Tangled” lanterns, and other serendipitous events you can’t get Fast Passes for.

    • SO TRUE (about the things we can miss)! My daughter is the true guru — having done the College Program, she learned lots of little things that enhance the experience. It was also key that we were flexible re: our expectations of staying together the whole time (obviously not an option when traveling with little kids). I felt no pressure to do ALL the things they wanted to do and vice versa. It helped me indulge my inner observation-loving introvert.

  3. We’ve used fast passes (and equivalents) at most parks, and have been lucky enough to be chosen at random from a long line to take a fast pass. Reading this makes me want to return for a roller coaster fix! Thanks for sharing.

  4. We have only used the Fast Pass once for a couple of attractions – We didn’t stay on property, which very much limits its usability since most dates are booked up by the time you can Fast Pass. But, we also got pulled out of line to meet Mickey, which was the perfect end to our day.

    The biggest advantage that we missed was that we couldn’t get a reservation to eat anywhere. Next time, hoping we can afford to stay on property!

    • Yeah – I hear you on the limitations if you aren’t staying on property —- they’re just “regular” rooms in many ways but the transportation and other related perks are a definite plus. I *love* the story about meeting Mickey – what a magical moment!! 🙂

  5. Paula,

    Even though I haven’t been to Disney since the opening of EPCOT, I can only imagine how much the crowds must have grown. I enjoyed your article and learned about “fast pass”.

    The picture of you and Tenley is great.

    • Yes, the crowds do require a bit of an attitude adjustment to stay magically-minded but I try to focus on vicariously enjoying others’ experiences (minus kid meltdowns of course). I love the picture – thanks.

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