Disney World planning…oh how times have changed!
Our family is headed to Disney World later this summer. In the old days, we’d book flights, hotel and theme park tickets and be ready to rock. Our tickets would be waiting at our hotel when we arrived and we’d hit the parks with military like precision. The old fast pass kiosk system meant that mom and dad kept all the tickets and zig zagged the park to obtain fast passes for the family. At any one time, we could have 4 to 5 passes for each of us. I’m gonna throw modesty out the window and say that we rocked it.
That system no longer exists. Enter the fast pass+ or magic band system. Disney World planning…oh how times have changed. We can argue all day about whether this new fast pass+ system takes part of the magic of Disney away…or not. But it’s the system we have to work with, so I’ll do my best to explain the issues I had with it.
First, I booked a Disney World hotel for the perks of early entrance into the parks. Under this new system it also allowed us to book fast pass+ reservations for up to 3 rides in each park/day during our stay up to 60 days in advance. If you stay off property, you can only book up to 30 days in advance.
Issue #1 – Unexpected budget timing: In order to book fast pass+ reservations, I had to purchase our theme park tickets at least 60 days in advance. We could not book fast pass+ reservations without tickets. Therefore, 60 days prior to our vacation, we spent almost $2000 on 4 day park hopper tickets for our family of 5. I’m all for buying tickets early so that we don’t buy tickets at the gate, but a few weeks before our visit used to be enough. So for those of you working within monthly budgets, beware that the park ticket charges will need to occur much more in advance of your trip than ever before.
Issue #2 – It’s much more difficult to travel with another family and coordinate days/rides: This trip we are meeting up with another family of 5 from Poland. A few weeks before the 60 day window opened, I registered our online family account, and they registered their online family account. Then we tried to link them so that we could book fast pass+ attractions as a group. They are coming all the way from Poland so we can hang out, so we’d like to stick together. We did all the email inviting and followed the prompts in order to link our accounts, but none of it worked. Finally, we gave up and called into the help desk and they did it manually. We had a 3 way conference call (it was almost midnight in Poland) in order to link the accounts. The customer service was helpful, fastidious, and courteous, but it was still a pain.
Issue #3 – One person was in charge of making the fast pass+ reservations for our group of 10 people: That’s a lot of pressure to put on one person. After we linked our US and Polish family accounts, we still needed a few days to plan our fast pass+ reservations before our window opened. I’m glad we had those days to talk and plan. We picked one park for each day of our stay and went over the rides that we wanted to use our magic 3 reservations for each day. Thank goodness we have kids clustered around the same ages. It definitely made it easier that there were not very many discrepancies. Then we picked one person to book them all when the system opened to us 60 days before our visit. I did not volunteer to be that person. That’s a lot of pressure to get everything booked on the right days and at the agreed upon times.
As of yesterday, all of the fast passes for our group of 10 have been booked. We can go online and look at our ride reservations and even change them if we want to. Providing there is availability. I know that things would have been easier if we were visiting as a nuclear family of 5. But what’s the fun in that? Traveling during non-peak dates always makes things easier, but with middle school aged kids, that’s not an option for us right now. We could always buck the new system and forgo fast passes for this trip. Although the high ticket prices make me want to squeeze out every bit of the experience, this system seems to be Disney’s attempt to help you do just that. After our trip, I’ll post about how smoothly everything went. It’s the power of positive thinking, right?
In this planning process I assumed that I could easily navigate this new system. I mean, I graduated from college, how hard could it be? Uhhhhhh. Your turn to give it a try and tell me what you think. wink…wink.
PS. I was so obsessed with the fastpass+ reservation system for rides that I completely forgot about making dining reservations. Dining reservations are open to Disney resort guests 180 days in advance. Oops. Looks like counter service food for us!