An unofficial Walt Disney World news and trip planning guide!
The FASTPASS system was introduced at Disney parks in 1999 as a way for guests to avoid long queues. Since each attraction has an operating capacity, some guests were finding that they would stand in line for hours, only to find it was closing time by the time they reached the front. Since nobody wants to spend half their vacation queueing, Disney came up with the idea of operating a booking system, where guests can come back to the ride at a given time, and walk on with little to no queueing at all.
Whilst not all attractions offer a FASTPASS service, most of the popular or busy ones do. Disney has also been known to run temporary FASTPASS distributions on shows and parades when it gets really busy.
There are two queue lines. The 'standby' queue, which is your standard line that most people go down, then theres the 'FASTPASS Return' queue. Above this line is a clock showing the current time.
When you want to get a FASTPASS you go to the attractions 'FASTPASS Distribution Area', which is where there are a number of ticket dispensing machines. You simply insert your park ticket and it will give you a FASTPASS ticket. This will have a return time, and you must return to the ride within that return time otherwise you won't be allowed on.
You can now go away and ride something else while you wait for your allocated time. When you come back, you just approach the cast member at the FASTPASS Return queue, who will let you through. You'll find that you can then walk pretty much to the front of the queue!
The return times are set by a computer which calculates the closest time it can return you without causing the standby queue to get even longer. You'll find that very busy attractions such as Soarin' at Epcot, will quickly close its FASTPASS distribution as its a very busy attraction. If you don't get a FASTPASS early, you'll find your return time could be very late in the day.
You can only have one FASTPASS per park ticket at a time, the distribution machines simply won't issue you a new FASTPASS if you've still got one that hasn't reached its return time yet. This is to stop people abusing the system.
You can't return outside your allotted time. Usually if you are around 5 minutes late, you'll be allowed in but this is at the cast members discretion, they can refuse your ticket if you are late. You also will not be allowed in early as this messes up the whole timing of the system.
Ok, lets say you've just entered the Magic Kingdom at opening time. You know you'll want to ride Splash Mountain, Big Thunder Mountain, Mickey's Philharmagic and Space Mountain. First you head to Frontierland, grab a FASTPASS for Big Thunder, and you should have a return time of around 45 minutes. While you wait, go on Splash Mountain, that will kill a good 15-20 minutes (the queue should be short as the park just opened). If you've got 30-40 minutes to spare, head around the corner into Adventureland and ride Pirates of the Caribbean, or chill out with a Dole Whip at Aloha Isle - don't rush around, its a vacation after all! Now its time for your FASTPASS return at Big Thunder. Head on the ride and stick those arms up in the air as you fly around the canyon!
After you're done, head over to Space Mountain and grab a fast pass - your return time will be at least 1 hour. While you wait, go into Fantasyland and go on Mickey's Philharmagic. The queue will be around 15-30 minutes depending on the time of year. After you're one, you'll probably still have a good 30 minutes before your Space Mountain FASTPASS return is up, and since you'll have an hour on top of that in which you can return, you've got time to kill. Why not check out 'its a small world' and then head over to Storybook Circus and have a go on the Barnstormer, or if you prefer, go on Buzz Lightyears Space Ranger Spin over in Tomorrowland. After you've done a few of these, you'll be able to go on Space Mountain, and there you have it. In the space of less than 3 hours you've done all the parks busiest rides, with little to no queueing!
Take a look at our detailed attractions pages for each theme park, where we've noted on each attraction page if it offers a FASTPASS service or not. Alternatively, on all park maps you'll see a red 'FP' if the attraction offers FASTPASS.