Disney World has begun testing a program that allows certain guests to purchase extra Fastpass reservations. This announcement teaches some very interesting things about what Disney is thinking. There’s no question that Disney World continues to grow in popularity. There are always crowds around the holidays. However, over the past few years the crowd size has increased during traditionally quieter times.
Up until now, there hasn’t been a path for guests to buy extra FastPass opportunities. All guests got the opportunity to book 3 FastPass reservations per day ahead of time. Additionally, if you were staying at a Disney World resort (including some new ones just added) you got access to FastPass 60 days ahead of time instead of 30 days. For the most popular excursions, a 60-day window was a huge head start. This created a pretty big incentive to book a stay at one of the Disney World resorts instead of staying offsite.
Disney World tweaked the FastPass program a bit last year, changing access times and allowing additional FastPass reservations on the fly inside the parks.
Now, guests who book a vacation in certain club-level rooms at Disney World will have extra FastPass benefits available. Thanks to Mike L for bringing this one to my attention. What exactly do they get?
- Guests will have the opportunity to purchase 3 extra FastPass reservations per day for $50/day. There’s a minimum 3-day purchase required per guest.
- These guests can book FastPass reservations 90 days ahead of time.
- They also gain access to preferred viewing for nighttime events such as Happily Ever After, Illuminations, Fantasmic and Rivers of Light.
- Guests can book these additional FastPass reservations in more than one park, though they can’t book the same ride more than once per day.
Is It Worth It To Buy Extra FastPass Reservations?
Let’s keep in mind that the people booking club level rooms are already spending a ton of coin. Disney World isn’t cheap. Club level rooms are considerably more expensive than a normal room. It’s almost a guarantee you’re spending at least $500 a night on a club level room (and possibly much more). Another $50 a day per person for extra FastPass reservations isn’t really going to blow the budget.
Consider that a VIP guide is over $300 per hour at the busiest times of year. While there are other benefits, the VIP guide is essentially a human FastPass. Paying $50 per person is likely to be considerably cheaper. 6 FastPass reservations is a pretty solid day at Disney World. At my best, I’ve been able to get 9 FastPasses in a full day at Disney. By aggressively scheduling and timing each new request, we had some pretty packed days. A “normal” Disney World day with 6 FastPass reservations and a few other activities thrown in would be plenty.
Add in the value of better placement for nighttime festivities, and $50 is actually a pretty darn good deal.
What Else Did We Learn?
There are a couple of nuggets here that are very interesting to me. There have been rumors from customer surveys and anonymous Disney employees that changes have been coming to the FastPass program for a while. Consider these details from the announcement:
- FastPass reservations can be booked ahead of time for more than one park. That’s something Disney hasn’t implemented ahead of time before. It’s very telling that they put the plumbing in for a feature like this. I imagine we’ll see wider implementation of this in the future.
- A 3rd booking window (90 days ahead of time) implies that some folks aren’t getting everything they want at the 60-day window. That’s not surprising. I was able to get our favorite ride (Seven Dwarfs Mine Train) reserved on the first day of our 60-day window for an upcoming trip. I was ready right at 7am when our window opened. Availability just a few hours was much more limited.
- The FastPass system is built to prevent guests from booking the same ride multiple times, even when expanded to 6 per day. That seems to be a sign that Disney feels multiple bookings could be a problem in the future.
The Final Two Pennies
This program is announced as a limited test for guests at just a few resorts. It’s set to expire at the end of 2018. However, I won’t be surprised to see it continue in some fashion. Some folks decry changes like this, claiming that Disney is abandoning its philosophy of giving all guests equal access. That’s just not realistic. And, it’s not indicative of the current conditions. Disney already offers packages that give access to top rides like Frozen Ever After and Seven Dwarfs Mine Train.
Offering extra FastPass reservations for purchase is just another extension of these money-making efforts. Keep in mind that other recent changes allowed guests to book more FastPass excursions while in the parks. So, the argument that Disney hasn’t added anything extra for “normal” folks (read, not rich) isn’t accurate.
In the end, $50 for 3 additional FastPass slots ahead of time is a great deal. That’s why I don’t think the program will last in the current configuration. To expand it, I suspect they would need to raise the price. Disney World could also decide it interferes with the overall flow of the FastPass lines. I really doubt they will. This program may see some tweaking, but I suspect some form of it is here to stay.
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