If you’ve been to Walt Disney World over the past 20 years or so, chances are you may have used a FastPass or two. The system was introduced in 1999 and has been changed and enhanced ever since. It’s a way for theme park guests to avoid long lines for rides and other attractions by reserving a time to come back and wait in a minimal queue, ahead of most people who don’t have a FastPass and who are waiting on a “standby” line. If used correctly, it can save vacationers lots of time from standing on queues, albeit with some problems that occur because of the system.
Anyway, not long ago, a local Orlando newspaper wrote an interesting piece on the possibility of the FastPass program getting another upgrade, this time in terms of upcharges.
It was penned by one of the regular writers at the Orlando Weekly, which is a popular Orlando-based alternative newspaper that’s been around since 1990.
Click here to read the article: “The Long-Rumored Upcharge FastPass Program at Disney World Looks Like It’s Finally About To Launch” by Ken Storey
Briefly, the article discusses the history of FastPass-for-payment and why it looks as if the program is about to see more pay-to-play options introduced.
Our take on this:
We’ve already written in this post why we’re not fans of the current FastPass system: having to secure FastPasses, paid or not, removes a whole lot of spontaneity from your trip. Whereas you used to be able to “wing it,” most Disney vacationers nowadays have something to the effect of 3 FastPasses at Animal Kingdom on Wednesday (including Flight of Passage at 2pm!), 3 at Disney’s Hollywood Studios on Thursday on Thursday, 3 at Magic Kingdom on Friday, then 3 at Epcot on Saturday. And if they’ve paid for more Fastpasses, then there’s even less ability to be spontaneous.
FastPasses also make for a “better than” system within the parks, with those staying at Disney’s resort hotels being at an advantage over those staying off-site or who live locally. Having a paid FastPass system makes for even more of a class system, with those who can pay more getting more benefits.
Now, I “get it.” Pay-for-play seems to be the way of the world nowadays. Whether it’s your status at a hotel chain, getting a middle versus aisle or window seat, etc., the more you’re willing to pay, the more benefit you’ll be able to reap. But if that’s the case, I guess those who can afford to pay more at WDW will be getting even more. Again.
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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary
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I wouldn’t mind, infact i’d welcome a pay for play fastpass system so long as it’s done the right way.
Ideally, you don’t loose the current free fast pass system. This includes less free passes available. I’m willing to bet however that this is one of the changes Disney has in mind. To offer a limited number of free passes – and then of course the free passes are gone within hours of becoming available – but then plenty of availability for purchased passes.
What i would like to see, and even wouldn’t mind paying for, is first early access to passes. I am going on a trip in a couple weeks (end of January – not exactly one of the park max capacity times for Disney) and staying on property. I booked fastpasses at 55 days (just a few days after the 60 day pass opening). Yet i couldn’t get passes for the most popular rides on any of the days i was going – Mine train, Flight of passage, ect. I would have been willing to pay extra to book early for those. Second I didn’t have enough passes especially with the tiered system, i would be willing to pay for extra. When you are trying to pack everything in – passes are essential and having to choose 1 pass among rides like Frozen, Testrack or Sorin is quite the buzz kill and will most likely now take away from the time i would have liked to go around the world and spend more money on drinks, food and gifts.
Finally while there are certainly “class” considerations in paying for fast passes, there is one aspect that i think many overlook and that is the free nature of the passes. I wonder how many people book these ahead of time and end up never using them because it didn’t fit in with their schedule at the time? Unlike restaurant reservations, there is no penalty for not using a pass. If you are paying for the pass then chances are you are going to use it and hopefully weed out those who book them “just in case”.
Disney keeps squeezing more and more people into these parks as they expand hotel capacity much much faster than they have expanded ride capacity. In the last year they have added 545 room with the Gran Destino Tower expansion and another 489 rooms with the Riviera – which being a DVC resort means most rooms will have a larger capacity. Over the next 3 years they will be opening the Star Wars hotel, The Cove – swan/dolphin expansion, and the 12th(on on WDW property) DVC resort – Reflections. Many of the new rides are replacing old one, thus having a minimal impact on capacity – with the excepting of Star Wars Land and Tron. I suspect some, like Guaranis, will infact have less capacity than the ride they are replacing – although that is just a personal option with no supporting facts. Thus as much as i don’t want to pay for a fast pass, the future only looks bleaker and i may end up being just another expense i will have to eat vs spending more by adding another park day to my trip
Ummm… in a very real and practical sense, the current fastpass system already isn’t actually free. It costs everyone something, ie. time and effort (and planning), to make effective use of it.
It’s more “democratic” than “pay-for-play” because everyone is on roughly equal footing — well, certainly, those who can barely afford to go and have the 60-day window will have a very chance just like you or I…
IF you want to pay for better results w/out making the time and effort, you can probably pay someone else to more effectively book them for you. Certainly, you should be able to do better than trying to book your fastpasses 5 days after your window began, no? Maybe arrange and pay a travel agent to do it for you during the first morning of your window…
FWIW, if you do some homework (and even pay for something like the Touring Plans app), you might find additional ways to make the most of your Disney vacation(s). Yeah, it does take a bit of effort — no free lunch afterall — but it’s not necessarily impossible to get desirable fastpasses on any given day at the parks (or seemingly the several early mornings or late nights just before… as I’ve found)…
Buy the stock, avoid the park.
I’m waiting for the day, and the way Bob Iger and friends are trying to keep the riff raff out, they will put pay for use toilets in all the restrooms. Not cool and certainly not what the Disney brothers intended.
The Disney brothers wanted a clean-cut, family friendly park. Not the trash that is coming in and having fist fights in the middle of Toontown. #welcometolifetimeban
Disneyland Paris offers 2 types of pay for Fast Passes. The Ultimate and Super. We chose not to spend over $300 for one day and 8 attractions in both parks. The difference between the two programs one allows only one Fast Pass use per attraction and the Ultimate allows unlimited use.
It’s rare these days with the parks so crowded that you save time with Fastpass. Basically for every ONE standby line you wait in you have to use 2 to 3 Fastpasses just to break even is “saved time” compared to a no Fastpass system. The system worked when there were only a few rides using it and the crowds were less. These days that just not the case.
Now get rid of free admission for everyone that got flown to Disney Florida to participate in cheerleading tournaments and such. The rest of us aren’t paying good money to see hundreds of gibberish-yelling kids clog up the ride lines who got in for free.
Cheerleaders don’t get free admission – just discounted.
LoL since when does ANYONE get into WDW for free?? HAHAHAHAH that is hilarious.. and if you dont like dealing with the cheerleading crowds, go another time. It is very easy to look up when the competitions are so that you can avoid them. We did this last year and arrived at the tail end of these crowd types.. best trip ever!! Back to the Fast Passes. If WDW gets rid of free Fast Passes then families like ours will seriously begin to debate if the Disney trip is worth it anymore. We do everything possible to find ways of saving money, from staying off property, driving to FL, minimizing meals inside the parks, bringing water and snacks, purchasing our park tickets at a discount. We have found ways to still have all the fun while not paying the full price (and staying in some real nice 2 BR/2BA condos I might add) and if Disney wants to find another way to keep nickel and diming us (keep raising those parking prices too !! Ugh) we will look to other destinations. It is only a matter of time I guess.
Like Las Vegas, it’s becoming continually tougher to find real value with Disney World. While I haven’t given up on Disney completely, this crass nickel-and-diming bothers me as it does you. Ultimately, every time Disney makes one of these moves it just makes other vacation options look better. That’s why my wife and I visit less than previously.
I like the idea. I remember back in the early 90s as a young child how fun Disney was. There were lines especially for the newest attractions but it was not like it is today. Even 2002 was ok. But now it is hard to enjoy. The 3 fast passes are ok because 3 top or new rides is a decent number. But when that is at 10AM, 3PM and 7PM, your whole day is built around these attractions crisis crossing the park and waiting if you are 45 minutes from your time and don’t want to risk it waiting for another ride before. Let people pay for unlimited fast passes.
I certainly love the demographic that Disney attracts and certainly support the majority of people in Florida more than up north but the discounts for Florida residents does saturate the parks. If I were Disney I would end the discounts for Florida residents as generating a positive experience for guests, especially those who are spending at their on site hotels, leads to long term patronage. There might be a day when people are restricted to a 2 week window every 2 years based on fingerprint given that Disney is not going to get less crowded.
I live in Florida and I hardly go because of the prices. Residents and hospital employees barely get a discount. So, when my son’s school got Disney’s Animal Kingdom tickets for $65, I couldn’t say no. It was nice, but some of the animal attractions were closed, then the avatar ride broke down, and we couldn’t use the fast pass because people booked the rides days in advanced. I didn’t care for the fast pass. The pass were free, but I wouldn’t pay for it. In the end, we waited 2 full hours to ride the avatar ride. It was worth it, but I doubt I’ll be returning to Disney anytime soon. I agree with another comment that people should be charged if they are a no show for the ride.
It’s much better than US/IOA where the express pass for rides is ludicrously priced out of most people’s budgets, and doesn’t include all rides, to boot . . .