Planning Your Trip – Where to Start – Fastpasses

UPDATE – It would seem that some of the info I have is out of date. Fastpasses at Disney are now unlimited but you can still only book 3 in advance per person per day. These can be booked 30 days before each day of your visit when offsite.

Universal do include some of the Harry Potter rides with the Express Pass, however it doesn’t include Hogwarts Express, Gringotts and Forbidden Journey.

Current lists of what rides are included can be found on the official park websites

There is so much information on the internet about Fastpasses for all the parks and My Disney Experience (MDE) and as I’m told on a daily basis ‘it’s a bit of a minefield’ researching an Orlando holiday I thought I’d try and condense it all a little and give a bit of a guide to how it all works.

DISNEY

My Disney Experience is for want of a better word – amazing! It’s a complete hive of information and will give you pretty much everything you need to be able to plan your days within the Disney parks and resorts.

How much do they cost?

Fastpasses are included free of charge with your Disney tickets.

So how do I start?

You need to either download the MDE app search your app store for ‘My Disney Experience’ it’ll have a Mickey Ears logo or you can do it online

You just set up an account much like you would a social media account with your email address and you’re away. If you’re visiting with a very large group I recommend setting up one account and giving the log in details to the others in the party.

If you have an on site booking you can input your booking number in ‘add reservation’ and all your details will come up.

If you’re off site, once you receive your park tickets you are able to ‘add tickets’ to the account. To do this you can either scan the QR code or type in the number on the back – you need to scratch off the silver panel to do that – it will NOT invalidate your tickets. You are able to assign tickets to certain members of the party. It’s worth either writing names or initials on the back of them so you know who’s is who’s if there is a large group as when it comes to getting in the parks fingerprints are taken so you need to be using the same ticket every day.

This is also where your Memory Maker photos will go (I’ll get into that on another post) so it’s easy to keep them all in one place.

How many fastpasses do I get?

You get 3, per person per day. These can be booked in advance and you’re able to book 1 more on the day.

How do I book?

When you log in you should see this:

mde

You are then able to choose a date and a park and select the rides you wish to book for, It will then give you the choice of times you can book. If there is more than one ticket connected to your account it will ask you who you want to book the passes for. You can choose all or some.

NB : You are able to book these 30 days before you go if you are staying off site and 60 if you are onsite. If you’re trying too soon – as I was – it will then tell you the date you can start booking them.

If you are able to book once you’ve selected your date/park this is what comes up to show the timings.

mdefastpass

Once you have picked your time you have an hour window from then to ride. All your fastpasses will show in your MDE account so with the free Wi-Fi in the parks you will be able to see day by day what your plans are.

Once you get to the ride at the right time you need to go to the fastpass queue and you scan your ticket (or Magicband) on the mickey and in you go.

disney-scan-band1

Its that easy!!

How do I choose which rides to fastpass?

The app for MDE has all the current wait times showing for all the ride and some of the character meetings. If it’s something you are able to fastpass it will show you. (Not all rides/experiences have fastpass enabled)

My advice is to download the app once your holiday is booked and dip in and out of it on different days and times. This will then show you which rides tend to continuously have long wait times, these are the ones you would need to fastpass. In some of the parks they catergorise the rides. Epcot is one of those. You are not able to book 3 fastpasses for the premium rides for example. So you wouldn’t be able to book Test Track, Soarin’ and Mission Space. All this information will come up when you go to book.

Some of the more popular character greetings you are able to fastpass – Mickey in Toontown Theatre for example always has a pretty long wait – unless you go straight there as soon as the park opens or during a parade – this is well worth booking a fast pass for! For those of you with Princesses of your own, meeting the likes of Cinderella, Belle and Anna and Elsa is a must whilst at Disney – these always have pretty long queues.

UNIVERSAL

Universal have their own version of fastpasses – called Express Passes. These are only available through Universal directly and allow you to enter the rides via a different queue. You are not able to book these rides in advance.

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How much do they cost?

The prices of these vary and are seasonal. There are also 2 types of them, Express Passes and Unlimited ones.

You can buy passes in advance from the official Universal Bookings UK site. You can buy 1 day 1 park passes or a 1 day-2 park pass which I think are much better value. You can easily do all of the rides in both parks in one day with an Express Pass, you can then visit again another day and not have to worry about getting on everything.

Alternatively you can buy the unlimited ones on the gate or from the UniversalOrlando.com website.  They are more expensive but they do include unlimited rides on all Express Pass enabled rides.

Do the include the Harry Potter rides?

No they don’t express passes do not include any of the rides within the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.

Is there any other way to get Express Passes?

Yes there is. Select Universal hotels will include unlimited Express Passes as part of your room rate. If there is a family of 4 it actually can work out cheaper to do that rather than purchasing the express passes. For a one night stay you would be given 2 days of Express Passes, one for the day you check in and one for the day you check out.

All Universal hotels allow you to enter the park early giving you access to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter before the park opens to the public.

TOP TIP: If you don’t mind splitting up your group and going on rides alone most rides have a single rider queue which is another way to get on the rides a little quicker than the regular line.

SEAWORLD PARKS AND ENTERTAINMENT

Seaworld and Busch Gardens have their own versions of these as well called Quik Queue you are able to buy these in advance from any of the ticket resellers.

These work exactly the same way as Express Passes and vary in price according to season and also if you want unlimited or not.

These do work out cheaper to buy in advance before you go, although you can purchase on the gate and you are also able to purchase one time tickets for use on one particular ride.

You can get these free if you stay in any of the Seaworld Resort hotels.

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To Plan or Not to Plan…..

I’m now at my 37 day mark and to say I’m organised is a bit of an understatement. As you are well aware I’ve booked all my FastPasses, checked in to my hotel and booked an ADR (advanced dining reservation) for those who don’t know.  All my reservations/stuff we’re doing have now been put in a spreadsheet – yes I am that organised with it all – and the whole 14 days is pretty much planned out for us.

Is this planning a little TOO much, well for me I don’t think so. Having been to Orlando before I know how much there is to do and it’s impossible to do everything in 14 days, besides the theme parks there’s over 100 other attractions in Orlando and if you wanted to do everything it has to offer you’d need at least 67 full days there! It’s not all about the themeparks you know!!

I am well aware that I have probably planned FAR too much but I know some of the things that are really unmissable so you have to make sure you cater for that sort of thing. Disney, Magic Kingdom especially has some ridiculous wait times for rides so if you don’t want to spend most of your day queuing for rides – or to meet Frozen characters if you have girls – then it is wise to book some fastpasses and plan a little for those days. The rest of the day leave to chance.  Planning and booking those rides that your kids just HAVE to do is also a great way to avoid disappointment and tantrums!!

You can do Disney without planning but be prepared for LONG queues and stress.

Universal Studios as well needs a bit of planning. We all know that the busiest part of those parks are the Harry Potter parts so unless you want to be queuing for ages for those it’s good to plan to do them first or last thing. Universal offer an express pass that will allow you front of line access to each ride once during the day which is a really good way to avoid planning. However it doesn’t include the Harry Potter rides. You can buy express passes before you leave the UK for a much cheaper price than on the gate, £50 for 1 park and £57 for both for one day. You can get them from the UK Universal Bookings Site Universal UK Bookings

If you want to go to Discovery Cove, particularly over the Summer months then that again needs some planning. Discovery Cove gets booked up from 6 months in advance.  Working for a travel company and having calls over the last few weeks from customers who are wanting to book every day I’m experiencing first hand the disappointment from people who just cannot get a booking after leaving it so late.

There is no real need to book every day down to the minute but it is an idea to pre book a few things that you really want to do and then do the rest when you get there. Orlando is a place that you really need to research before you go there are so many amazing forums and websites with info and people who will give you honest opinions on what to do and not to do. A good one for planning advice is the Facebook group‘It’s Orlando Time’ loads of people who love Orlando helping you make your trip as magical as it can be.  A little bit of research will really help your trip run smoothly.