The Disneyland FASTPASS system is a stroke of Genius; the Guru explains...
The Disneyland FASTPASS is a great invention on a par with the mouse trap (hitting close to home with that one). It is most useful to help you enjoy a very busy summer day in Disneyland—not as important if you’re coming during the off-season.
The concept is like making a reservation for dinner rather than just showing up at the restaurant and waiting for a table. If the system works, you may wait a few short minutes with a reservation, but even on a busy night you cut your waiting time way down. You breeze past the hungry faces in the waiting area in the restaurant.
One difference between a Disneyland FASTPASS and a dining reservation is that you move around a lot more once you’re seated in a Splash Mountain log. And you don’t get any food. More importantly and less obviously, the FASTPASS reservation actually lets you bypass the regular line for a much longer period of time. If you’re more than 15 minutes late at Claim Jumper you’re likely to lose the reservation.
FASTPASS is good for a window of time, typically around an hour duration after a specific date. How far into the future is your FASTPASS return time? Could be as little as an hour and as many as like 6-7 hours. In fact, you’ll sometimes see FASTPASS closed in the later afternoons even though the park is open until late night. Depends on overall demand; they no doubt issue a predetermined number of tickets for each hour time slot and eventually run out on a busy day at a super-popular ride.
Another difference is that you can’t phone in your FASTPASS reservation. You go to a little kiosk adjacent to the entrance of the ride you’re interested in, insert your coded guest pass and then receive a ticket. That ticket confirms the time you may return to enter the ride by way of a special queue, said queue permitting you to walk past the huddled masses yearning to jump into your lane, and on up to near the front of the line. One of my fondest memories at Disneyland is walking past hundreds of miserable wretches in line at Splash Mountain on a hot summer day.
There are a few interesting details to be aware of. First, you generally cannot hold multiple passes at a time (stay tuned for important exceptions). You take a Pass and then get another one after the time specified for you to return to the ride for your reservation.
BUT, there is a little-discussed 2-hour blackout period that starts the moment you receive a Disneyland FASTPASS ticket. That means you can get another ticket 2 hours later, regardless of whether you’ve redeemed the first one.
There is a time slot stated for your Disneyland or California Adventure FASTPASS return, figured by the Master Computer based on demand for the ride. But we’re told the cast members allow you to come back any time after the time stated on the ticket. So you should be able to have flexibility as to when you use a ticket, as long as you redeem it after the time printed.
Another important exception is that Disneyland and California Adventure run on separate computer systems. So you can get a FASTPASS for each park. That’s not quite as simple and cool as it sounds, as it takes time to run between the parks (assuming you got a Park Hopper pass).
But you could get to the park early and make a quick stop in DCA at say Soarin’ Over California (do not miss this ride!) for a FASTPASS ticket that would probably set a mid-or late-morning return time (you’ll actually use it in the afternoon). Next, walk over and get a Disneyland FASTPASS on Space Mountain, Indiana Jones, Big Thunder Mountain, Splash Mountain (especially on a hot day).
Then run to your first choice and wait in line for it, hopefully a shorter line earlier in the morning (remember Disney hotel guests sometimes get early entrance). You then do your thing until the first Disney FASTPASS ripens; they say to grab the next FASTPASS at a favorite ride before you redeem the first one but after the 2-hour minimum or the stated return time comes and goes.
You spend the morning and into the afternoon in the Mouse House. For a break, you mosey over to California Adventure where the lines likely will be shorter after lunch (when Disneyland can be pretty rough—a real rat race). Before leaving, you grab a FASTPASS for the road, from a ride you’ll want to do later in the afternoon (assuming you’ll want to wander back to Disneyland hours later in the cool of the late afternoon or evening) you go get a FastPast in DCA and go redeem the pass for Soarin.’ You get the idea.
As you can imagine, there can be quite a strategy to the whole FASTPASS and ride schedule phenomenon. Right now trying to get it straight might be making your head spin (especially if you’re reading this while riding the FantasyLand Teacups). Once you get into it, you’ll figure it out quickly.
If you’d like to read more about it and get a list of specific rides included in the system, check out this link to a good specialty web site on the Disneyland
concept (which also will lead you to the official Disney page). That web site is an interesting (but sometimes cynical) source of insider news at the Resort.
While we’re on the topic of ride strategy, there is a service called
(as usual, a new window will open) that you might want to check out. We’ve not used it, but it offers to help you schedule your Disney day based on what they claim is a sophisticated software program that analyzes typical crowd activity, and mathematically determines the best order to proceed in visiting attractions. The cost is around $20 for an unlimited number of computer runs, so you can think about varying plans of attack.
We have two suggestions. First, a Disney FASTPASS won’t be much use if you’re coming during the off season; the system is intended to help you navigate your way through the busy summer throngs.
Secondly, we suggest you first spend time checking out some of the other web sites we recommend here; learn about the attractions and formulate your list of preferred targets. Then take that list to RideMax. If you try it, let us know if and how it helps you.
To return from the Disneyland FASTPASS page to the Disneyland Resort main page without waiting in line, click here.