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How to Make the Most of Disney's Fastpass Line System

Lose Some Wait


Disneyland Disney World Fastpass photo

Signs at the entrance to all Fastpass-enabled attractions indicate the return time.

Arthur Levine
  • What: Fastpass virtual line program eliminates waiting in long lines for popular rides.
  • Cost: Free (included with regular admission)
  • Where: Disneyland Resort
    Walt Disney World

Video: Tips for Navigating Lines at Disney Parks- Exclusive About.com video includes Fastpass info and other line management strategies.

Note that in 2014, Disney World introduced FastPass+, a major overhaul of the original FastPass system that uses "NextGen" technology and allow guests to make ride reservations in advance of their visits as well as take advantage of all kinds of other cool features. Learn more:

Disneyland is still using the original Fastpass system, which is described below:

A ride on the Mad Tea Party tea cups is an archetypal Disney theme park experience. But the 90-or-so seconds of pure joy is frequently preceded by another archetypal Disney theme park experience: the dreaded 45-or-so minutes spent standing in line.

It is an absurd irony that we toil away all year at our oppressive jobs, scrimp and save for a big vacation, and fly halfway across the country...so that we can inch along in the hot sun for hours while we listen to our kids whine. But we love theme parks, and lines are a necessary theme park evil, right? Well, not necessarily.

Fastpass, available for selected attractions at the two Disneyland Resort parks in California and the four Walt Disney World properties in Florida, eliminates lines. There are some caveats, however. The most important: Guests can only have one Fastpass at a time unless two hours have lapsed since picking up a Fastpass ticket. That means you'll still have to wait in some of the old rat-maze queues, now called "standby" lines.

Disney Takes a Pass at Lines

"It's our number-one guest complaint," says Dale Stafford, VP of Planning and Development for Walt Disney Attractions, referring to lines. Rubbing elbows with tens of thousands of people, most of whom are vying for a seat on Space Mountain, it's no wonder guests get cranky.

Instead of watching those cheesy projected asteroids fly overhead ad nauseam, Disney's Fastpass allows guests to wander freely around Tomorrowland before blasting off into hyperspace. Depending on the time of day, the number of people in the park, and the popularity of the attractions, Fastpass return times can vary considerably. On very crowded days, the waits can quickly jump to three or four hours -- or the passes can run out completely.

With Fastpass ticket holders cutting to the heads of the lines, one would assume the standby queues would be hopelessly longer. But Stafford, one of the developers of Disney's virtual line system, claims the opposite is true. "Through a self-selection process, Fastpass has reduced most standby lines," he says. "At peak times, our research shows the lines aren't any longer than before Fastpass."

That's the company's take on it anyway. I'm still not convinced. Regardless, if you visit a Disney park, you really should learn how to use the Fastpass system and use it to its full potential.

Next page: Learn more about how Fastpass works and discover tips to get the most out of the program.

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