In 1999, Disney revolutionized the park industry (yet again) with the introduction of FastPass, its attraction reservation and line-skipping program. For some of its most popular attractions, visitors no longer had to wait in humongous lines, but could get tickets that allowed them to return at specific times and hop right on board. In 2014, Disney World tweaked the program considerably when it fully rolled out FastPass+.
Note that FastPass+ is only available at Disney World in Florida. The parks at the Disneyland Resort in California still use the original FastPass program. In 2017, Disneyland introduced MaxPass. That program allows visitors to use their mobile devices to make ride reservations, but, unlike FastPass+, it costs extra, only one reservation at a time can be made, and the system only allows day-of reservations.
So, how does the FastPass 2.0 version compare to the original? There are a number of considerable differences, which I highlight below.
Get FastPasses in Advance—Way in Advance
Perhaps the biggest difference between the old FastPass program and FastPass+ is that guests can book ride times and other experiences in advance of their visit. Previously, the time tickets were only available in the parks on the day of your visit. Now, you could reserve a ride on, say, Expedition Everest up to 30 days before you plan to actually encounter the Yeti. (As a perk, guests staying on property at Disney World hotels can book FastPass+ experiences up to 60 days in advance.) To learn how to book experiences in advance, how to use FastPass+ in general, and how to use Disney World‘s planning app, see my overview of My Disney Experience.
No More Paper Tickets
With the original program, guests had to insert their park passes into FastPass machines at kiosks in front of the attractions. The machines would then spit out paper FastPass tickets, which guests would hand over to Disney cast members when it was time to board the rides. Now, everything is handled electronically, and the information is stored on either wearable MagicBand bracelets or credit card-like park passes. Both are embedded with RFID chips. When it's time for a FastPass+ experience, guests tap their MagicBands or passes on Mickey-shaped readers to transmit the info and gain entry.
You Choose the Time—Sorta
It used to be that you walked up to the FastPass kiosk at an attraction and were offered the next available reservation time, take it or leave it. Now, the MyDisneyExperience site or app will generally offer a number of times for a particular ride or experience. You still can't name the exact time you'd like, but you at least have the option of different times from which to choose. If the times offered are not optimal, you could book them anyways and change (or cancel) your reservation later. Sometimes, better times may be available for experiences closer to or on the day of your visit.
Get Up to 3 FastPasses at a Time
You were generally only able to get one FastPass at a time with the original system. Now, you can reserve up to three experiences in advance per day of your Disney World visit and map out a good portion of your park itineraries before you ever set foot on the property. After you have used your three advance-reserved FastPasses, you can get additional ones in the parks, but you can only get one of those at a time.
Make Changes on the Fly
You are no longer locked into the time stamped on your paper ticket. If your plans change, or you want to make changes to your FastPasses for any reason, you can use the MyDisneyExperience site or smartphone app to change your reservation times (or even change to different experiences altogether) both before your visit and once you are at the parks. Learn other power-user My Disney Experience Tips.
There are Many More Experiences Available
With the original program, select attractions were available for reservations. Disney has more than doubled the participating experiences with FastPass+. In addition to a whole bunch more rides, guests can now book times for character greetings as well as reserved viewing areas for parades and nighttime shows.
It's Still Free
While many things have changed, one important thing has stayed the same: It doesn't cost any extra to use FastPass+. Unlike other parks, including Universal Orlando, which charges additional fees to bypass the lines of its rides and attractions, Disney includes its program as part of general admission to its parks.
No Need to Run or Zig-Zag
Every morning at Disney World, there used to be a FastPass ritual. When Disney cast members dropped the ropes, allowing entry into all areas of the theme parks, guests would make beelines to the most popular attractions, pump all of their family members' admission passes into the FastPass machines to get the earliest and best times, and then run back, time tickets in hand, to meet up with their gangs. Later in the day, guests would have to crisscross the parks on behalf of their families to pick up additional FastPass tickets. Now, since reservations can be made in advance, guests can hang out with their park posse.
Arrive in the Afternoon and Enjoy Popular Attractions
Let's say your plane lands midday, and you want to visit Epcot in the afternoon after you arrive at the resort and unpack. In the old days, it might have been virtually impossible to get a ride on Soarin'. Since the ride has always been in such high demand, the FastPasses were typically all distributed early in the day, and the machines were covered and no longer issuing tickets in the afternoon. The standby lines often swelled up to two hours or longer, making that option a dicey proposition. Now, you could reserve afternoon times for even the most coveted E-Ticket attractions weeks before you get to the parks.
While My Disney Experience and the FastPass+ system offers many ways to do advance planning and save time at the parks, it does require effort. If you would prefer a seamless, carefree theme park visit, and you wouldn’t mind paying for it, learn how to skip all of the lines at Disney World.