Saturday, April 18, 2009

More on the FastPasses

(Note: The FastPass entry is right below this one, but you have to scroll to see it.)

To be fair to park guests, Disney limits you to one FastPass until your window starts, or 2 hours from the time the FastPass was issued, whichever comes first. You can then get a FastPass for another ride, but you cannot hoard FastPasses all at once for every ride you want. Therefore, as you enter the park in the morning, head for the ride you want most, and get that as you first FastPass. Or ride it right away, if the line is not too long yet.

FastPasses are available for select (but not all) attractions in the parks.

The FastPass machines will only accept park tickets that have been scanned at the park entrance. Therefore, you cannot take your entire family's batch of tickets with you to the park and get them FastPasses while they sleep in at the hotel. This is another way Disney ensures a fair distribution of these precious commodities.

The FastPass System -- Basics

Let's face it, you're going to Disney World to enjoy some rides, right? At least, that's one purpose of your trip. And rides mean lines. Sometimes REALLY long lines, if the ride is very popular. Disney does an amazing job of making the lines to most rides really entertaining and fun (a notable exception is the Speedway Race Cars, where you just stand in a drab line and breathe fumes). But even the most whimsical, creative, and interesting line in the world gets really old if you've been standing in the same spot for the past 15 or 20 minutes.

Enter the FastPass system.


The FastPass system stands in line for you. Basically, it is a slip of paper that gives you a designated window of 1 hour to come back to the ride. When you come back within that window, you go through the FastPass line, which is generally short and sweet (the longest I ever waited was 15 minutes, on the weekend before Christmas). You walk past all the people waiting in the regular 60+ minutes line, and if you're like me, try really hard not to snicker.

Here's an example: The Standby wait time for Splash Mountain on a particular day at 11 AM reads 75 minutes. You walk to the FastPass machine situated next to the ride's entrance, insert your park admission ticket, and the machine gives you back a small slip of paper that says your return time is between 2:20 - 3:20 that afternoon. You spend the next 3 hours doing other fun stuff at the park and having a great lunch, come back at 2:20 and walk straight through.

Or you can spend 75 minutes standing in line in the sweltering FL heat. Some people, for some reason, do this.

The sign above the FastPass area will let you know what window of time the machines are currently dispensing, so if you have a meal reservation, for instance, you won't find out when you get your pass that your window conflicts with your reservation. You can decide if the window works for you, or come back later to see if a later window is available.

Be aware, though -- FastPasses do run out. Depending on the ride and / or time of year, they can run out as soon as 10 AM (1 hour after official park opening). I've seen this happen with Soarin' a lot.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

"What's so Special About Disney, Anyway?"

Well, that's a really good question. What I love about Disney World, the Disney Cruise Line, and Disney movies and music is more the feelings I get from them, rather then one single factor. There are many many details that combine to make a Disney World visit, for instance, very special.

The most important thing about Disney, if you truly want to enjoy it, is to have a sense of wonder about you. What tickles that sense of wonder is pretty personal. For me, it could be anything from seeing some really great topiaries to hearing the music coming out of the bushes as I walk along the paths in the park. It's the feeling I get at night, sitting on the white sand at the Polynesian Resort, watching fireworks explode over Cinderella's Castle across the Seven Seas Lagoon, reflecting in the water, with soft Island music playing in the background.

Or this (the tiger is real -- Disney's Animal Kingdom Park, Photos by Yours Truly):

More than sites and sounds, though, the Disney magic in the parks and ships is about the people who work there, known as Cast Members. The Cast Members, and the Disney policies that allow them to do the magical things they do, really make the parks and resorts extremely special.

It isn't necessarily anything big. But even small unexpected surprises can make your whole day special.

For example, this past December my son (who is 12) wanted to ride Big Thunder Mountain, a fairly tame rollercoaster, as those things go. (I am NOT a rollercoaster person. They sideways motion does nasty things to my body and psyche.) We wanted to get a FastPass (explained in my next post) to come back later, since the line was 60 minutes long. I asked a Cast Member named Edgar if I needed a FastPass just to walk Keith through the line (I don't let him wait in line by himself. I trust Disney employees, but not the visitors -- I've seen all types in the parks). Instead of answering my question, Edgar said, "Oh, just come with me." He took us to the back exit of the rollercoaster, where the cars unload. He asked my son whether he wanted to ride in the front, middle, or back, and while we waited (all of 5 minutes) entertained us with jokes and stories. Keith got to ride in the front, like he wanted to, and all we had was a 5 minute wait. We didn't ask for it. It was just given. And these exceptional human touches keep me coming back.

You'd be hard pressed to find a place as well maintained, as beautiful, whimsy, and artfully made as the Disney resorts where you are also treated as if you are royalty. With very few exceptions, I have had nothing but the most amazing customer service from Cast Members, and what's more, they always make you laugh.

More on the magic of Disney in future posts...

About Me

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When not planning my next Walt Disney World vacation, I write about medicine and science for various publications. I'm a bookworm and have recently fallen in love with knitting. I am owned by 2 dogs, 1 cat, and a 12 year old son who loves Disney as much as I do.