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Introducing the "New" AAR System at Disney

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Over the last several years I have noticed a few things and kept reminding myself to mention them to friends and colleagues who also frequent both Walt Disney world and Disneyland.

I'm speaking about the FastPass system that has been in existence for sometime now. You know how it works...you bring your admission media to an attraction FastPass Distribution Box and after inserting it, you are then rewarded with a FastPass that tells you when you can report to the attraction later on that day, and not have to wait in line.

The funny thing about this system, now that I think about it, is that as the years have gone by and the crowds have grown, that the system is not so fast.

In fact, I am hear to suggest that for 2012 we rename FastPass to a more appropriate name, similar to the Advanced Dining Reservation (ADR) system and name it the Advanced Attraction Reservation System or the AAR.

Why? Well, in many of the most popular headliner attractions, it has gotten to the point that getting a FastPass that has a return time that works with your schedule is like getting a winning Publisher's Clearinghouse number....it never happens.

Okay, maybe I'm overstating it a bit, but when guests find themselves getting to the Toy Story Mania FastPass distribution boxes mid day and find that all the FastPasses are gone for the day, they aren't happy.

I myself have grabbed a FastPass around 10:30 am or so for that attraction and was surprised to see that my return time was 4:15 pm. Well that doesn't work if I have a 4:00 pm ADR at Le Cellier in EPCOT.

I recall one time flying into Orlando around 10:30 in the morning and after getting off the plane, grabbing my luggage, picking up my rental car, driving to my resort, checking in, unpacking, eating lunch, and then finally heading over to EPCOT for a few hours, and was kind of shocked to see a 70 minute wait for Soarin' and, at 1:45 in the afternoon mind you, would have to settle for a 7:35-7:45 pm return time on a FastPass.

That's not going to work when I have a 7:00 pm ADR at Kona in the Polynesian before heading to Magic Kingdom to see Wishes.

Have you noticed this problem lately? Have you figured out what to do?

The obvious response is, "Well Mike we both know that once you start getting into the late morning and early afternoon hours that it becomes more of a challenge to find those favorite attractions with short queues and decent FastPass return times."

Good. You're paying attention.

This all goes back to healthy park touring habits, especially during those crowded times during the year.

Keep the following points in mind:

- Even though you're on vacation , if you want to get the most out of your theme park visits then be there when the turnstiles open. The first two hours following theme park opening are the best two hours of the day...use them wisely.

- FastPasses can work well if you know how to use them. When you get into the park early think about which attraction you would like to secure a FastPass to and get that FastPass before doing anything else. If you can, get in the stand-by line and squeeze in an extra ride.

- Regarding Extra Magic hours, it still holds true that Extra Magic Hour mornings will always be your best friend. Note that parks which have Extra Magic Hour mornings will draw a lot of resort guests and so you can expect that theme park to perhaps be a little more busy during late and early afternoon.

- Extra Magic Hour evenings can be your friend too, but not how you think. I'm not telling you to be sure and go to a park that has Extra Magic Evening Hours. I'm telling you to AVOID that park because the crowds will be somewhat heavy because of EMH evenings. More people sleep in than get up with the chickens. But what you can do is take note of which park is conducting EMH evenings and make it a point to hit that park's turnstiles early on the morning afterwards. You see, the night before will have high crowds...guests who won't be looking to go to that park early the next morning. Trust me. this works.

- I'm a little hesitant to give you this last piece of advice so it comes with a caveat that it may not work. I have tried it and it has worked for me in the past. One day I made it a point to arrive at one of the theme parks just before park opening. During the day I loaded up on Fast Passes. I would grab a FP and not use it, visit some of the less popular attractions, and then when I was allowed, grabbed another FP. On this particular day I think I had accumulated four or five FPs and used them when I wanted to. Sure, the return times on the ticket may have passed but they were honored. Came the afternoon when crowds were high, I found myself using my FastPass at my convenience and....here's the best part....in many cases the FP line was quite short. Will that work today? Don't know....but if it's worth mentioning then it's worth a try.

There is rumbling that sometime over the next year or two we may, and I emphasize the word "may," see an adjustment in the FastPass system. It may involve some perks for those guests staying in certain, read that Deluxe resorts. We'll see.


The previous post in this blog was Beauty and the Beast in 3D: A Review.

The next post in this blog is One More Disney Day: A Preview.

Comments (32)

Erika Loboda:

Hi Mike,

Great Blog! Several years ago, we were rushing to make it to an attraction before our Fast Pass "window" closed. A Cast Member told us there was no need to rush, Fast Passes are honored anytime after the start time. We have been back to Disney many times since then and have never had a problem using a Fast Pass after the return time had passed.

* * * *

Thanks Erika.

These days it depends upon the CMs as to whether or not they will honor the FPs well after the distributed times...more often than not they will be honored.

Peggy:

Mike:

I think the best solution for the lack of fastpasses for Soarin and Toy Story Mania would be building new rides at these parks. In particular, rides that the whole family can ride. That's really the only way to distribute crowds to other areas of the park.

Have a great day! Peggy

* * * *

Hi Peggy,

We'll be able to test this theory when the FantasyLand expansion takes place in TMK.

Mike


Brian Jones:

IF or When "some perks for those guests staying in certain, read that Deluxe resorts." WDW will lose magic for me.

* * * * *

Brian,

Time will tell.

Mike

Jill:

It would be a shame if those who have more money (and stay at deluxe resorts)get preferential treatment regarding fastpasses. One of the things I love about Disney is everyone is equally sprinkled with pixie dust.

* * * *

Hi Jill,

Let's wait and see if and when this happens but there is "noise" around the possibility of this happening. The big word is "if."

Mike

christine:

Mike,
Great article! We have been doing a lot of the same things during our trips. When a park has evening EMH, we always go to that park the following morning. We always take advantage of the morning EMH at Magic Kingdom, but we usually go to a park the day after it had the morning EMH. We find it to be less crowded. We follow your fastpass advice also.

And speaking of fastpasses, I can understand that guests of deluxe resorts get extra amenities because they pay more. But if we all pay the same amount for a park ticket, then shouldn't we all get the same benefits? We can't all afford to stay at a deluxe. If something along this line does happen, Disney will have many disgruntled guests.

* * * * *

Hi Christine,

My sentiments exactly. Where guests stay should have no bearing regarding theme park perks. Sure, you can give EMH perks to resort guests but where you stay on the resort should not play into this.

Here's another thought. Let's say you have x amount of vacation dollars for this year and you could visit WDW twice and stay 5 days each visit at a moderate resort or visit once and stay 7 days at a deluxe resort.

Which would be a better win-win situation for both the guest and WDW?

Should you get more perks for going to a higher priced resort three fewer days?

Interesting thought.

Mike

Tina Santacroce:

Great tips! I have use all of them! We always go in the summer since we have school aged children and still manage to ride TS Mania, and BTM many times during each trip.

I have always thought that FP should only be for Disney guests staying on property. Thanks for the great article as usual!

* * * * *

Actually Tina, great point. How about FP distribution boxes for resort guests as well as non-resort guests.

Mike

Caleb R.:

Similar to what Erika said earlier, I have used fastpasses outside of the time window on the ticket. Actually, I almost always use my ticket after the time window has passed. I just want to say that I have never been denied entrance into the fastpass line after the window expired. I couldn't imagine a cast member telling you that you cannot get on the attraction if you have the fastpass for it, especially if you at a dining reservation during the time stated on the fastpass ticket, they are very understanding.

* * * *

Caleb,

I think those days are gone with the new policy to be started next month.

Mike

Heather Macdonald:

Great advice Mike! I travel frequently to WDW and have adopted the 20 minute rule--it's how long I will wait for any attraction. I do exactly what you suggested--I ride whatever rides have less than a 20 minute wait in the mornings while collecting FPs for all of the FP rides. After lunch I start using those FPs one by one--still riding anything that has less than a 20 minute wait using the SBL or SRL. I've found this method usually keeps me busy through to dinner time with almost no waiting.

* * * * *

Hi Heather,

I think we all will need to be a bit more creative as come next month there will be a new FP policy regarding return times.

Mike

John:

Several years ago, in addition to Disney we spent a few days at Universal, and "their" version seemed a much better solution (don't recall now what it was called). We were able to pay an additional fee that allowed us to go once to each attraction, and get in the "preferred" queue. Much like in the case with Disney CM's monitoring FP entrances, they had people at each entrance to ensure only the guests who had paid for and not yet used the privilege for that attraction were admitted to the express queue. If you wanted to go on that attraction again, you used the standard queue. Were I to go to Universal again, if this option is still available I would choose it again in a heartbeat. I believe the amount they charged for this also varied depending on the season, during times of heavy traffic it was more expensive. This system seems to provide an advantage because we didn't have to go criss crossing the park to get FP's only to have to return to that part of the park several hours later just to use our FP.

* * *

John,

Perhaps you mean Universal's Express Pass. It would be nice to at least have that option at a Disney theme park, especially for those guests who do not visit that often and need better access to the attractions.

Mike

Patty Newton:

Mike,
I have also gotten that 4:15 fastpass to toy-story mania. It was especially disappointing, because I dragged my family out before rope drop for the character breakfast (we are not morning people) and still got that return time.

Occasionally, a little pixie dust has been scattered and we have received those magical "the time is now" fastpasses. Wouldn't it be great if everyone on staying on property got 1 or 2 per person at check-in. That way if you only get 1 day per park, you don't spend all of it waiting for the one ride you (or your kids) really want.

* * * *

Hi Patty,

I like that idea. Maybe resort guests upon check-in would get one Magic FP they can use just once for any attraction in any park.

Mike

Valerie:

On our last trip to the world(way to long ago) my family was given fast passes to Toy story Mania by a cast memeber. I noticed they were expired and he told us they could be used at anytime after the start time. I was skeptical, but it was worth a try. They worked and the CM barely looked at them.

On a different topic, we are planning a trip to Disneyland in June. Do you have any recomendations for books that will help me plan the trip?

Thanks. And write more often! I enjoy your blogs!

* * * * *

Hi Valerie,

This new FP policy may change all that.

I recommend the Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World as a reference tool for trip planning to WDW.

Mike

Cindy:

I'm in minority on the Fastpasses for deluxe hotel guests. There are already differences between guests based on whether they purchase just hotel/tickets or both of those and a dining package for their vacation at Disney. There are huge differences in what you get with the counter service only dining plan (some meals and a cup) and what you get with the platinum plan (3 three meals, unlimited recreation, tours, etc). Why would it be so wrong to include a fastpass if you stay at a certain resort or include a fastpass with certain add-on packages?

I do like the idea of there being separate FP machines for resort guests - maybe with shorter wait times, or no wait times, in between FP's- and non-resort guests.

* * * *

Cindy,

It makes sense to distinguish between resort and non-resort guests. I agree with you that when it come to distinguishing between the level of resort guests, it just doesn't sit right.

Mike

Hi Mike -
When my family and I took a DVC tour, at the end they gave us a "Super FastPass" which was good for INSTANT FastPasses for five attractions in any park (I don't remember if there was a time limit on their use). It would seem that the timing to get another FastPass is variable based on the ticket media and/or how it is encoded.
Perhaps a more equitable idea lets all park guests get FastPasses, but gives a slight perk to all WDW Resort guests. This would be done by changing the wait time until you could get another FastPass to be, let's say, a half-hour less than day guests. This way everyone gets FastPasses, but instead of waiting 2 hours to get another if the 1st FastPass is not used, Resort guests would only have to wait 1-1/2 hours to get another. In a 12 hour park day, that would be just 2 extra FastPasses for Resort guests, 8 instead of 6. A perk that almost really isn't, but a great gimmick. If Resort guests only had to wait 1 hour betwen FastPasses, that would be a nicer perk - 12 FastPasses instead of 6. Just an idea.

- Jeff

* * * *

Hi Jeff,

Interesting idea. It would seem fair that resort guests should be considered for things like FP perks.

Time will tell.

Mike

Marjorie:

Hi,Mike. I believe it was just announced that the Fastpass system is being changed sometime in March. The window to come back will only be 15 minutes after the end time. CMs will no longer allow guests to come back whenever.

* * *

Hi Marjorie,

There were rumors that this might happen. I feel badly for those CMs who have to turn guests away...guests who may not be aware of this new policy.

Mike

Rachel:

Well, looks like this article may already be outdated if the internet rumors about enforcing fastpass time as of March 7 is true. Would love to see a before and after blog if they do enact the rule.

* * * *

Hi Rachel,

The hope was that the rumors were just that rumors.

Guess not.

Mike

Marlene:

borrowing from Touring Plans blog page:

FASTPASS Return Time Enforcement Begins March 7, 2012

by R. A. Pedersen on February 6, 2012 121 Comments

Cast Members at the Walt Disney World Resort have been informed that enforcement of the FASTPASS return time window will begin on March 7, 2012. This means guests will be allowed to return to an attraction with a FASTPASS during the time frame indicated on the FASTPASS – not anytime after the window as with the previous policy until now.

Some leeway is being built into the new policy – guests can now return 5 minutes prior to the window (ending the backlog of guests who arrive a few minutes early), and Cast Members are being told to accept the FASTPASS up to 15 minutes after the window as a courtesy.

Currently this new policy is anticipated to roll out on Wednesday, March 7, at the Walt Disney World Resort, though there is still time for Disney to change the exact date and time this goes into effect. There is no word of a similar policy for the Disneyland Resort at this time.

* * * * *

Thanks Marlene...we had a feeling this may happen sometime this year.

Mike

Ashley:

We were just at WDW two weeks ago & had similar problems with some of the rides. At Magic Kingdom, Peter Pan routinely had hideous waits even with FP (like coming back 4hrs later) and at Pooh there was a 15min wait in the FP return line! The FP we got for Soarin was for also for about 4 hours later, but we didn't get it first thing in the morning (did that our other Epcot day & only had to wait 2hrs). Only had about 1 1/2 hours for Expedition Everest, which was perfect as we went into the park so my aunt could go grab the FP tickets & then we had breakfast at RFC. Worst was at Hollywood Studios. We got FP at Midway Mania around 9:30 with a 1pm return & when we got back there the FP were all out! It was so much fun (my first time) and I really wanted to ride it again so my aunt relented & we stood in the regular line in the last hour before the park closed (sign said 80min, cast member said 60min, and actual wait time was about 35min).

* * * *

Hi Ashley,

Sometimes you never know if those posted wait times are accurate. They are only as accurate as their most recent survey.

Mike

Myma:

My first thought on the fast pass - deluxe resort thing would be that they would give out however many tickets to the fast pass queue per day (with no return time set) for each deluxe resort guest.

* * * *

Hi Myma,

There are all kinds of options they could go to. We'll see.

Mike

Kyle:

Unfortunately, changes are coming for the FASTPASS system. Starting March 7 2012, it is expected that the FASTPASS return windows will be actively enforced, with a 5 minute early arrival and 15 minute late arrival allowed.

* * * *

Kyle,

Yes we had a feeling this was coming but did not expect so soon.

Mike

Aubrey:

Hi Mike!

Just wanted to give a heads up that several sources (one being our friends over at Touring Plans) have stated that the Fast Pass Return Time window will be more strictly enforced soon--as in March 7th! I, too, have often advised others that if you can't make it back during your return time, no sweat! It seems that Disney is gearing up for a crack down on this previously unenforced rule.

* * * *

Hi Aubrey,

Thanks for the heads up. I was aware that something was coming sometime this year as last year there were reports of spotty refusals to allow guests to use their FPs well after the distribution times. The question was if/when this would be an official policy.

Mike

Shirley:

I've always thought that Fastpasses should be for resort guests only (after all, we do pay a premium to stay on-site), but, since Disney has so many resorts, I think there should be a tiered system, depending on the level of hotel you choose. This is already in place, somewhat, for the free dining plan. I, as a guest staying at Wilderness Lodge, for instance, should be able to obtain more Fastpasses, than say someone staying at one of the All Star hotels.

It would be great if Disney had the resort line as Universal does, but I suppose, with the number of on-site guests at Disney, that system wouldn't help reduce the wait time much if at all. And it used to be at Universal that you couldn't purchase access to that resort line; you had to be an on-site guest. One caveat if you do use this line: don't make eye contact with anyone in the extremely long regular line (if looks could kill!).

I never knew you could use your Fastpasses after they expired. And now I won't be able to--story of my life! LOL

I'm anxious to see what Disney comes up with.

* * * *

Hi Shirley,

I sort of agree with you on the FP but when you come to think of it, everyone benefits with the FP and that's the way it should be.

I often wondered how it would work if resort guests only could get FPs before Noon.

Mike

Al:

I guess I'm in the minority when it comes to this. I have, in the past, been turned away from an attraction because of a FP that had "expired" for the day. I specifically remember being turned away a few years back at BTMRR as well as Space Mtn.

I'm not surprised this is happening, although it really is unfortunate :-/

* * * *

Hi Al,

I think there are more changes coming later this year.

Let's see if I'm right.

Mike

Emily:

Sometimes FPs can be tricky...a CM made us wait outside of Peter Pan because we were five minutes before our entry time. I think sometimes those things can depend on the CM, which most of the time is a good thing.

* * * *

Hi Emily,

I agree. Although 5 minutes is ONLY 5 minutes...I think it's important to follow the rules.

Mike

Michelle Schaefer:

Great blog as always Mike:) I guess I just don't think outside the box enough, or to me the rules have just always been the rules. In all my visits to Disney I have never thought to use a Fastpass that was past its return time window, much less using one from a different day. So for me, having the return time windows enforced won't make any difference to me. If anything, the FP lines should be much shorter than they have been in the past because only the number of people they anticipate to come back and ride at certain times will be there. I do hope that they don't decide to give people staying at Deluxe resorts more of a priority than other guests. But having some additional perks for all onsite guests could be nice. I guess we'll just have to wait and see:) Thanks for keeping us in the loop!

* * * *

Hi Michelle,

I think we all try to stay within the rules, and in fact, I wonder if everyone HAD stayed within the rules would the FP rules have changed?

Mike

Dear Mike,
This messes up my plans a bit. We always use our fastpasses all day long, after the return time, of course. We also would use them all week long. As long as it was after the return time, we have never been denied. As soon as we could get a fastpass, we did. I was like a fastpass-aholic. Every 2 hours, I ran to our next kiosk by myself and gathered my family's fastpasses. We would have a stack for our vacation. I loved it and I don't think many people knew you could do this. You weren't supposed to do this, but you could. The only attraction we did not try this for was Soarin'. Those CM's are strict. They scare me.
We are returning this September, so I will be anxiously awaiting updates on the new system and just how strict CM's are with enforcing it. Disney will be starting this change during busy times of the year so I am curious how well it goes. Thanks for the info.
Karen

* * * *

Hi Karen,

I'm curious too as how this will work. I feel anxious for the CMs who are the front line on this policy. It's important that guests are well informed of this new policy ASAP and that means signs at all the FastPass distribution areas.

Mike

Pam:

Just an FYI, if not mentioned, use your iphones! We have all "anything Disney" related to the parks on our iphones and there are apps that will tell you which parks are in the red to avoid for the day. That also helped us in Dec.

* * *

Hi Pam,

Yes, who would have ever thought many years ago that we would be using our cell phones as tools to tour the theme parks?

Mike

Jeremy :

Mike

Let's face it, I love Fast Passes, but....
We need to remember that it is simply a courtesy to those guests who plan their day accordingly. I Love WDW, and have taken my family every year for as long as my kids have been around. Fast Passes help, but at the end of the day, the result of FP can be a disruption if you do have other plans.

Point is, if you know the policy (right or wrong in anyone's opinion), plus the return time as it is posted, then you can plan accordingly. If you have ADR at another place at 5, and the return time doesn't work, no biggie. Choose to wait in line, or not to ride. You really only have yourself to blame if you miss out.

Spring Break or Christmas, if I want to ride Toy Story, I know I have to line up for 30 mins to get a FP for an afternoon return. If it is earlier, it's a blessing.

The company is trying to make it the most convenient, and although most folks won't have an issue, there are always exceptions to the rule.

I will however be completely dismayed should Deluxe guests get better access because they pay more to stay at the park.

* * * *

Hi Jeremy,

I think you hit the nail on the head. If we all plan our day accordingly, and are a bit flexible, then we should be fine.

Mike

Martha Tischler:

Thanks for the day after late Magic Hour touring tidbit. Will take your advise gleefully.
The loss of the FP extended return time is boohoo sad. I usually asked the CM though when I picked them up if I could return late - wonder if they'll hold fast to the 15 min or what. Can't see them denying entrance if you're a 1/2 hour or so tardy. Customer Service will be overflowing with ticked off guests. Well we'll see.

As always a great blog.
Martha

* * * * *

Hi Martha,

The CMs will certainly be on the front line for this.

I think the extra 15 minutes was added to help delays...30 minutes may have been considered but may not have been felt was needed.

Mike

Melissa :

Before Universal had the Universal Express Pass that you had to pay for.. I remember they had a free 'fast past' type system where you would insert your ticket into the machine with a touch screen, and then you could choose between different times (with the one hour window still in place) that would definitely help with previous plans and such :-)

Mala:

I wish they would just leave it alone...they can enforce the times but I have hearing of "paying your way to the front of the line". For many of us...we save and save to go to Disney and simply do not have the luxery of paying even extra for perks like this. What I love about Disney currently is that everyone is equal once we walk into the park. I do not know a deluxe resort visitor from a value visitor. I love that about disney...and hate to see that end.

* * * *

Mala,

It will be interesting to see how all of this plays out, if indeed there is a change.

Mike

Robby:

Any word on the supposed March 7th implementation of new fast pass return time rules?

So far so good.

Duane:

I loved your hints though just to let you know My wife and I have a friend who works as Disney at a Fast Pass attraction. About two weeks ago she was sharing that they were no longer able to honor Fast passes that have expired and the upset comments from some of the guests. Don't know if this is just at her attraction or across the board management decision.

* * *

Thanks for the info Duane.

Mike

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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on February 4, 2012 5:00 AM.

The previous post in this blog was Beauty and the Beast in 3D: A Review.

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