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New RFID FastPass Testing First Hand Report!

There has been lots reported about the Next Gen FastPass system. Recently, Walt Disney World performed a test for approximately 2 weeks to see how things were progressing.

In addition to our Report on AllEars, guest blogger John Leary writes in with his experience!

My family had an unexpected bit of magic added to our recent trip to Walt Disney World. Shortly after landing at MCO, we were greeted by a hostess at the front of the Disney Magical Express queue. She asked if we had a few minutes to take a brief survey and try out in a new Fastpass service. We hastily agreed, grinning ear-to-ear, and followed her over to one of the small tables in the nearby sitting area.

There, two cast members explained the testing process. They asked for our email address, and the best day and time bracket for us to use the new Fastpass system. We then picked four Magic Kingdom attractions we wanted to visit, two from each side of a survey card. The cast members explained that we'd receive an email confirming our schedule of selected attractions, spread throughout the day and time range we selected. Each attraction on the schedule had the typical one-hour window in which to use the Fastpass. Finally, each member of our party received their own Fastpass card, and we were off to our Resort.

fastpass-pref-survey.jpg


Being Disney Park veterans, we were familiar with the current Fastpass process. We arrived at the start to an attraction's Fastpass line, a cast member would place our card next to the new Fastpass reader (which look like a ball on a pole), and make sure we were scheduled for that attraction at that date and time. We noticed our Fastpass cards did not have a magnetic strip or bar code, so we assumed it used RFID (radio frequency) technology to identify each of us. Each cast member was also equipped with an iPad in a case, which displayed our first names when our card was scanned, or other information if needed.


fastpass-confirmation-email.jpg

If the Fastpass card was valid at that time and location, the Mickey icon on the card scanner glowed a bright green. If you arrived at the wrong date/time, the icon glows blue, and alerts the cast member via their iPad to your correct Fastpass schedule. We also witnessed the icon glow red, when it seemed the cast member was having technical issues scanning another guest's card.

fastpass-glow-green.jpg

Continuing down the Fastpass line, the second cast member (who typically takes your paper Fastpass ticket) also scanned our card, and we joined the main ride queue as usual.

Throughout our day, we noticed different card reader devices. The most typical Fastpass card reader was the "ball on a pole" version. But at our visit with Mickey at the Town Square Theatre, the cast member read our cards through a sensor on the back of her iPad. And when passing Stitch's Great Escape, we noticed a card reader that looked more like the current Fastpass ticket distribution kiosks.

Admittedly, we had the most fun using both our paper ticket Fastpasses and our Fastpass card at the same time throughout the day. Between Fastpasses and short morning lines, we rode Buzz Lightyear's Space Ranger Spin to our heart's content. We unfortunately missed one of our scheduled Fastpass card reservations due to an unexpected nap for our toddler, but the cards worked without any problems throughout our testing experience.

Imagining how Disney could use this new system for our future visits, I have mixed feelings. The organizer in me loves the idea that we can potentially plan a day's worth of Fastpasses before our vacation begins. But part of my disappointment has to do with their need to now enforce valid return times on Fastpass tickets because of this new system. I know, I know - this was always their policy - I just got used to the convenience of the rule being bent.

Being an avid ParkHopper ticket user, I would find less value in park hopping if we were locked to one or multiple day's Fastpass schedule if we were restricted to one park. Being near-obsessive with planning table-service meals, I'd be worried that the Fastpass system would assign us a Fastpass attraction that conflicts with a previously-booked restaurant reservation. And though it's of little consequence, having cast members scan my card twice at each attraction felt a little redundant to me.

As a whole, we found the new Fastpass system as easy to use as it was fun, and we have great hopes for how Disney uses this new technology to make our future trip planning that much more enjoyable.


The previous post in this blog was Disney’s Newsies, The Musical.

The next post in this blog is A mom's tips for finding Disney Crocs for all sizes.

Comments (34)

zach2992:

Are you only allowed to use the fastpass once in the hour like normal, or can you use it as many times throughout the hour as you want?

Dawn Smith:

I am not sure I love this for the same reason you mentioned. As long as you came after your fastpass time, there was no need to worry about any reservation conflicts or unexpected delays. There should be a way to block out times when you know you will not be available in order not to tie up your fastpass allowance.

Peg:

I hate the idea of this new fastpass system. Talk about taking the spontaneity out of a vacation. For my husband and I half the fun of a Disney vacation is waking up with no plans, going to whatever park we feel like and just wandering the parks with no agenda. Having to book our dinner reservations 6 months in advance took a big bite out of any spontaneous days but we are still able to go with the flow for the most part. With this new fastpass system now we'll have to plan what parks we'll be in on what day and what times we will be there. Where exactly is the fun in that? I guess it could be fun if you are a Type A control freak personality.

John Leary:

Zach2992: I believe you can only use the Fastpass once in that hour, just like the current paper Fastpasses.

John Leary:

Dawn, I definitely agree - there should be a way to block out the unavailable times. Wouldn't it be great if there was one simple online tool that helped map out dining, Fastpass, and special event reservations?

I can tell you that the new FP was pretty cool, although I did not participate I watched rides that normally do not accept FP suddenly have FP lines. Haunted Mansion, for instance, had a separate entry for FP ticket holders. I feel the new system is really a statement for the RFID technology which is supposedly becoming an integrated part of more than just this new FP system. Without FP, it would be very difficult to enjoy the parks as much as FP allows you to do (especially when it is crowded)!

Mark:

Peg,

You can just choose not to use this new system and have just as much spontinatity as you have always had.

Patti Higgins:

Dawn,
We too were selected to try out the new Fast Pass system AND we were able to block out certain times when we chose our 4 rides at the airport. We knew that we would not be in the park until 1:00 pm and the cast member simply entered that information into the system and our 4 rides started after 1:00 pm!
It DID cut down on the spontaneity, but it sure was nice knowing that we did not have to stand in a long line for each of our rides!

amy:

Sounds like a nice plan for those who aren't avid park hoppers like most of us. I am like you...the new time policy has pretty much stopped us from park hopping as we are now bogged down to the park waiting for the right time to use our fast pass. Last month, we had to miss 2 fast pass times because we had dinner reservations during the time allotted. I asked a cast member if there was anything we could do because of this, and she basically just said no. I think maybe they should have some kind of dining policy if like maybe you can show them your dining reservation confirmation, they will let you in the fast pass line later if you show up late.

Lynn:

I dont think we will care for this new fastpass system. We like to come and go as we please and dont want to be forced to ride/see an attraction when we dont feel like it. It is a vacation, and dont want to adhere to a schedule like we do in every day life! I hope this is not here to stay. THe current fastpass works perfectly fine and allows you freedom and to be able to enjoy your vacation.

Deb:

This seems to be too controlling. Vacations are about relaxing and having fun. Our lives are full of schedules everyday, we would like to leave them behind on vacation. And I know I dont want to have to check my email all the time either. I hope they leave the current fastpass alone.

Mike Venere:

Not liking this whole new system in general.....Has Disney ever came out and said WHY they are all of a sudden cracking down on times?
I will freely admit that one numerous occasions my wife and I walked into a park, I went one way and she went the other with the girls. I would run and go grab fast passes and then we would start the day in Fantasy Land. Were we late for out "proper" fast pass times??? MANY TIMES.....but never did I think that impeded on my coming after. Never did it suddenly crowd up a fast pass line. Why mess with something that I thought worked quite well.

Denise:

What i dont like is that there are times when there are minimal lines are some of the more popular rides. When this happens we can then use the fastpass for differ rides. Like to have spontanity.

kirsten:

I agree with the dining problems. I think if you get a fp while you are at a dining reservation the restaurant should have a stamp of some kind to validate the fp and then you just turn in the fp with the mark from the restaurant.

Mackenzie D.:

I have to say I'm really surprised at all the hostility towards this idea! I think its fantastic. One of the things I and my family like most about going to Disney is that once you're there, it really feels like everything is taken care of. Having pre-set FP times makes that even more true! Rushing from ride to ride to grab fast passes and then hopping maniacally around the park to meet them is not "spontaneous" for us, it's stressful. Knowing times in advance, however, is comforting.

Of course, we've always either gone during our allotted time or not at all. Given that the point of the fast pass was to stagger guests throughout the day to minimize crowds, I understand why they would be enforcing the times! To be honest, I've had fast pass lines reach nearly the length of the standby line because they were full of people who came at the "wrong" time. Maybe it makes me a "type A control freak" or a fuddy-duddy, but I cannot WAIT to use this new fast pass system!

John Leary:

Because we all vacation differently, I'm hoping that Disney offers us a choice: either schedule fastpasses before our trip, or walk up to an attraction to get fastpasses for later that day, regardless of the technology behind it. It seems like they're also testing the best way to remind us of the fastpass return time. Is it by paper ticket? Email alerts? Maybe TXT alerts? What about tapping the new Fastpass card at helpful kiosks throughout the parks (like price scanners in a retail store) to get upcoming return times? Or maybe alert us in a message at the bottom of a food receipt if we purchased the meal using our Key to the World (room/park ticket) card? All speculation aside, I'd imagine we're going to see more testing in the upcoming months.

Karen:

I'm fine with planning our meals months in advance to get decent ADRs. But I really dislike the extra walking these new fastpasses will cause for us. Having such a planned schedule will mean crisscrossing the parks multiple times to get to the correct ride for fastpass times. I don't like the fastpass times being enforced as it cause much more walking. This new system will be even worse.

David Adams:

I don't look forward to the opportunities that will be lost when we fail to show up on time. Fast pass was a time saver, now I will delay filling time before my return window for fear that I will miss it. Am I mistaken that this will benefit families that make their reservations months in advance rather than plan on a last minute basis?

John:

Something tells me this will not be available to all guests when trials are finished; otherwise fastpass lines will be as long as regular lines. Instead, I think it will only become available to Disney resort guests. Perhaps even replacing extra magic hours.

TJ Mahan:

Hmm, I wonder if this is a step to go to a paperless FastPass? Either use a smartphone app or kiosk to 'loosely' plan your day as you enter the park, then your park ticket/room key with RFID chip will be your fastpass for the day based on the schedule you selected via the app or kiosk. Would kind of take the hassle of juggling the fast pass tickets, and having to walk to say Space Mountain to pick up a fastpass, then to Frontierland, then back to Space Mountain when your time comes. I just don;t hope it becomes a pay & play system, or eliminates us local Floridians who come for just the day or weekend from utilizing the FastPass system.

Christina Lilly:

Wow... this would be awsome!! I love getting fastpasses but I hate having to run back and forth all over the park to get them and then go back... especailly if you can do some of this from home while you are planning your days with naps and lunches etc... if you could put in the computer the rides you want and the times you want to block... ie when there is a parade, fireworks, lunch etc. I can't wait to see how this evolves... Way to go Disney for always leading in innovation!

Trudi:

I was in WDW this year and it was my first time using the Fast Pass. I grew up in Florida and spent hours, I mean at least an hour per ride and usually longer standing in horrid, hot lines. I thought FP was unbelievably cool and it made our trip so easy.

Carol Hawkins:

I don't think I like this either. It seems too controlling. Do you have to only pick one park per day? Don't they make money on park hopper passes? What about poeple who don't have computers on their trip with them or phones with e-mail? It seems a little elite!!

Is this somehow related to the Universal Studio's easy ride system. There you have to pay more to get on rides easier. I hope Disney does not have plans to charge for this in the future. Tickets are expensive enough as it is. It would be a shame to make Disney less accessible to all.

Carolyn:

I have mixed feelings about the new fastpass tickets. I'm someone who can tell you already which day we'll be in which park and have some restaurants built into the week so we will not need park hoppers. However, I use a touring plan so that we are done all the major rides by lunch and heading out for a bite to eat and some pool-time. We usually re-enter the park just after dinner or for dinners we've booked.

I'm always happy to give up spontaneity
for time off in the afternoon. So,I'm just wondering whether you'll be able to book the times you want or will this result in trapping you in the parks all day. Also a second down side of this would be the commitment to attending a particular park on a particular day. Although some of our time there is locked in due to restaurant reservations, I always leave a few flexible days. That way there are days that can be switched around due to weather.

Waterparks, beach trips, and Animal Kingdom are always left on flexible days since who wants to be in AK when it's 100 degrees? I realize each restaurant commits us to a park and now the fastpasses would lock us in even further.

laurie:

I would love to see Disney move to a "Fast Lane" pass for those who would be willing to pay for it. While I agree that a Disney vacation is already expensive enough as it is, I personally would be willing to pay for the convenience of not having to waste time in lines or criss-crossing the park. My sons and I went to King's Island in Ohio last weekend and tried out their new "Fast Lane" wrist bands and absolutely LOVED THEM!! They were pricey, but we saved so much time, they were very much worth it to us, as we could ride and re-ride anything we wanted, all day long. They saved not only time but also foot pain/exhaustion, too, because we would ride something multiple times in one area of the park before moving on to another area- it was wonderful.

Sal:

I understand and love the FP concept and this new technology seems to be a positive move, but it would take some getting used to. There are always positive and negative views because of everyone’s park hopping habits. Although, I also need to point out that the present FP concept needs to be reassessed. We had a bad experience with an attraction at Hollywood Studios. The Toy Story attraction has a FP entrance, but it seems to bog down the people standing in line without a FP. The wait time was way off. Instead of 30 mins wait time it took over an hour to finally get on the ride. The reason being is that the FP pass holders were just coming and coming, which slowed down the waiting line considerably. They need to somehow balance the two. I saw a lot of upset people, which I do not normally see with any of the attractions. The line just didn’t move. They need to monitor the wait time closer to make sure that the FP doesn’t cause issues for the people waiting in line.

Trisha:

I can't say I'm a n of the new system, mainly because it penalizes people who do not stay on property. I'm also afraid they are going to a pay for it fast pass system as Universal has done. I like that they are enforcing the times. We were there 2 summers ago during peak South American Tour Group season (July) and the tour groups would show up en masse to the fast pass lines regardless of their actual return time. It made for very long and aggravating waits at the fast pass return spot. Regarding the need to plan your meal times around your fast pass return time, the time of the return window is very clearly stated when you walk up to get your fast pass. If you know it's going to conflict with a return time, don't get the fast pass!

Jon:

I have been feeling they needed to update the fastpass system for awhile now. With today's technology, there is no reason why you can't have as many fastpasses as you want at one time provided that they are for different times. I would think it would be very logical to have system where you go to a screen and pick the fastpass times you want from a list of all available times. You should be able to do it for every fastpass attraction all at the same time as long as there are no overlaps.

Melissa:

I've seen several comments in regards to this new system saying that it takes away from the spontaneity of your vacation. Ok, yes, maybe it does...but doesn't it also ensure that you see all of the rides and attractions?

The current fastpass system requires you wait 2 hours to obtain a second fastpass. The new system will allow you to have several at one time, and it does not appear that there is a mandatory 'waiting period' between how closely you can schedule rides (ie, the 2 hours). Look at the images: 1 ride was from 4:10 to 5:10, another at 5:50.

The current system goes as follows, at least for me anyway:
Arrive at the park, get fastpass for ride #1 - fastpass isn't valid for 2 hours from current time. Now, I walk around the park, looking at wait times for the other rides, hoping none of them are too long and knowing I'm not allowed to obtain another fastpass. So, 2 hours later, I finally get to use fastpass #1. Now, I get to get fastpass #2, but, since 2 hours have gone by, that bumps the return times to late in the day... now fastpass #2 isn't valid for 4 hours. What do I do now?!?

Moving on to the new system: Knowing that Disney plans to include most, if not all, of the rides in the parks, I would schedule my rides in the way in which I walk the park. If I enter Magic Kingdom and head straight for Space Mountain, I would do my best to schedule all of the rides in Tomorrowland around the same times. Essentially, this system would allow me to stand in line for 1 ride while I'm actually enjoying another. It's not a fastpass as much as it is a scheduling tool. No one will "force" you to use it, but for those of us who want to get the most out of our day, I see it as a great opportunity.

Also, someone mentioned missing fastpass ride times because they had dinner reservations to get to. Um, why on earth would you obtain a fastpass for a time you knew you couldn't use it?!? The current system clearly states you must return between specific times. If you went to the ride and saw that it conflicted with your reservation, why did you get one in the first place? Just confused...

I had the opportunity to test the new system Universal is working towards. While I'm not at liberty to say anything about it, I imagine the two parks are working towards the same idea. If so, you would likely be able to tailor your schedule based on your day. If you spend your morning in Magic Kingdom then hop to Epcot, you should be able to tell the program that and it will allow you to schedule rides there, as well.

Tina :

Not loving this idea at all!! The only time my day is not structured is when I'm on vacation. This puts me in mind of the "Theme Park Commando's" as I call them, you know the ones you see running from here to there to follow their itineraries, loudly herding their families from one place to the next. Disney is all about the magic moments for my family and yes the attractions are all a part of that but so are the times when you are just soaking it all in and letting Disney wash over you. I do use the current FP system for attractions like Toy Story Mania that always have huge lines but I would not want to "schedule" my whole day that way. But then again I should add that we usually vacation in September when the crowds are usually lower and this type of advanced planning is not needed. I've met some wonderful people waiting in a line for this or that, that's part of the Magic too!

Linda:

Mark - Sorry but I'm with Peg on this one. If you don't make your dining reservations 6 months in advance then the chance of having a nice meal at a place like Le Cellier is impossible. I imagine it will be the same way with this new FastPass system. I hate the idea of having to decide, months in advance, what park I'm going to be visiting. Not to mention that the FastPass shown has a time range of 10:25am to 6:50 pm. Anyone with small children can tell you that being in the parks for that long a time only breeds cranky babies. I feel that I'm being forced to conform to Disney's idea of the "good guest" who will do what I'm told, when I'm told. So much for the fun, carefree Disney vacation :-(

Sal:

I don't like this at all. The fact that i have to pick the times we'll be at an attraction before we even get to the resort seems out of touch to me. Nobody knows how your day will go! Specially when traveling with little kids. I have a 4 year old and he pretty much picks and chooses where he wants to go. Try telling a 4 year old he can't see Snow White because we have to go see Peter Pan! Unless they keep the current system as well as the new one, or perhaps go to a system similar to what Universal has (i think they got it right!), this has FAIL written all over it. I'm all for the new technology, get rid of the paper tickets, whatever, but this reserving your time slot before you leave your house is a bit much.

Chris:

I know this is a pretty old post but I just returned from my 17th (I think) trip to Disney World on father's day. I remember reading about the RFID card system before we went and the whole wrist band idea seemed chintzy and too kid friendly to me, for an adult's purpose. This obviously wasn't my first time with a FastPass but by the time I was finished I had some realizations or observations I would like to point out. Deb...I hope you're reading, this seems like a no-brainer to me.

I'm a 31 year old dude, still somewhat concerned with being "cool" so bare with me...lol. Observation 1: the wrist bands OR a lanyard system would be great for adults too. It was a minor (yes only minor) inconvenience to always be pulling out my room card (or park ticket if you have one) and then doing the FastPass thing. However easy a lanyard might be and I'm sure people are already doing that, imagine how if it was the wrist band or lanyard without having to stick your card/ticket in a machine; you walk up, touch the Mickey, and bang you're in like mentioned in the article.

Observation 2: if it got wet, you're ok, you wouldn't have to worry about reading it. Too simple.

Observation number 3: upon running into the other minor problem is that sometimes I forgot to throw an old FastPass away if I didn't use it, then dug out the wrong one while standing there looking for the correct one in a backpack, (a la Expedition Everest) so again, the wrist band or a lanyard system might again be better.

Observation number 4, and the last one: I think I read somewhere that you'll be able to check-in to a ride via 'My Disney Experience' with your RFID. Now, if that means set up a certain time slot for your FastPass, that would be ultra great. There could be x-amount of open slots to choose from right on your phone BEFORE you even get to the park and that way you could go ride or watch whatever else, all while avoiding the horrid FastPass lines like at Toy Story Mania. Again, I'm not really suggest my ideas are awesome and Disney should hire me, just that I can see the potential here, even for adults using the wrist bands. Thank you.

CECILIA:

I think what this new system will do is "trickle down" wait times. With the new "fast pass +", the standby lines will be 3rd as far as who gets on the rides first. The first guests will be the "fast pass +" holders, then the "fast pass", then standby. I agree with most responses. Why go from your regular home schedules (work, school, activity, church, etc.) to WDW schedule. What fun is that? If the line is too long, go back later. No plan, no schedule, just enjoy! Take a break; ride the people mover; take a ride on one of the less popular rides, and usually the lines will get shorter. I know of several times we just happened to be in the right place at the right time and got right on a ride with no wait. It can happen! Where is the "magic" in a pre-planned, rigid schedule! For some people it is fine; for me, I like "go with the flow"!

* * * * * *

Cecilia,

Good points. In fact....aren't surprises magical in a way?

Mike

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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on May 14, 2012 6:50 PM.

The previous post in this blog was Disney’s Newsies, The Musical.

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