Opinion: Walt Disney World visits sub-optimal for non-resort guests right now

Posted | Contributed by Jeff

Right now, Disney is going through an awkward tech transition phase that in its current incarnation rewards guests staying at Disney-owned resorts at the expense of everybody else. It won't last, but it will be uncomfortable until advance access to the new FastPass+ isn't just limited to its overnight patrons.

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Jeff's avatar

I think Rick is right-on about this, but I would also add that part of the issue is that operationally the use of the new system isn't smooth. Lines stack up outside of attractions (scanning tickets/bands is sloooooow), and the UI for the kiosks is pretty terrible. The visiting guest who uses it once almost always needs help.

Jeff - Editor - CoasterBuzz.com - My Blog - Phrazy

I would agree, the issue is an operational one with FP+ right now. My experience in Animal Kingdom in December showed that people will flock to whichever kiosk is first in the park. In this case it was discovery island, leading to long lines just to get your times. And unlike the previous machines, each visit to the kiosk isn't completed in 1-2 seconds, it's a few minutes to get the details worked out. I also saw, like Jeff, long lines trying to get into the FP lines, there just are not enough touch points to move the lines in.

kpjb's avatar

Wondering if they limit the availability of attractions to the resort guests. It seems that even on a not-so-busy day that AP holders and the GP as well could be out of luck for popular attractions if the resort guests can scoop them up ahead of time.

I'm interested in seeing how this pans out. I wasn't particularly impressed when we experienced it.

Last edited by kpjb,


Definitely seems like a year to bypass WDW in lieu of this and Potter.

Can hardly wait to see how FP+ rolls out to California. The very vocal local market will not tolerate these operational snafus. If they don't get it right in Florida before moving west, it will be ugly.

Lord Gonchar's avatar

kpjb said:

I'm interested in seeing how this pans out.

Me too.

To me, the idea of tiered access is a given. I can absolutely see Passholders and off-property guests getting less or getting second choice at the expense of on-property guests. And I can see deluxe resort guests getting more then moderate resort guests who, in turn, get more than value resort guests. I can see guests who stay 7 days getting more opportunity than guests staying 4 days.

Operationally, I would expect things to get ironed out. You don't spend the resources they did on a new system to reduce your operational efficiency.

In terms of who gets preferred access to what, I think the gaps are only going to get bigger as they work out the operational kinks. The beauty is that as those kinks get worked out, the differences become less obvious. No one knows who is a 'have' and who is a 'have not' inside the park.

Jeff's avatar

The inside baseball version of the story is that the people building out the system didn't listen much to the concerns of the operational people, but that could all be gossip as far as I can tell. I'm sure kingdom building (see what I did there?) and poor communication had a lot to do with it.

I know there has been some intent for tiered access, but hesitation to pull the trigger. I understand it to be entirely configurable. The problem is that Disney is already viewed to some extent as a very premium product. The intent of Fastpass has always been to improve the guest experience overall, which in turn can lead to more revenue and repeat customers. I'm sure they have the data to prove that out. If they change that dynamic, they risk reversing that.

I really can't imagine that they're going to use this at Disneyland. It seems too different to make sense.

Jeff - Editor - CoasterBuzz.com - My Blog - Phrazy

From my own experience, I'm not sure the resorts guests have all that great an advantage. Here goes...

We will be deluxe resort guests starting Sunday. I've mentioned briefly in other posts how unhappy I've been with the process, and I've spared you all the gory details because I didn't want my head to explode again.

With regard to kpjb's concern, it's impossible to know how we as resort guests stack up against day customers. Since resort guests have the option of loading fast passes so many days out, I'd imagine they can know in advance what kind of resort-based usage to expect and act appropriately. Perhaps they finally limit resort fast passes if they sense that the day customers will be left with nothing. What, perhaps? Of course they do.

We are seasoned Disney visitors, and I see the value to planning the trip in advance. We've done it many times. This trip is a little different in that Jim is going as part of a big convention and his time to participate will be different than mine. Since we are so familiar, we don't necessarily need or want to do any particular park from open to close. We thought we'd try to take a more casual approach, get five day park hopper tickets, and maybe hit a gate in the morning, pay attention to extra magic hours, take in the big, most fun attractions, then go to EPCOT or someplace nice for drinks and dinner.

When I first tried (and tried and tried) to load our fast passes on line, this was about 2 weeks ago, I was dismayed to discover that all three of the fast passes you're allowed must be used at the same park. So much for the advantage of park hopping. Even if you choose only 2 experiences it gives you the third anyway. There are suggested itineraries that pop up, too, and that's nice as you can choose from time frames, and I was early enough that I could pretty much pick from morning, afternoon, or evening and try to plan our day. A downfall is, even though your dining reservations are loaded to your bands, it doesn't know that and will lay fast pass times right over when you need to be at dinner instead. I tried to head this inconvenience off by putting our fast pass schedule in front of me and calling for dining reservations. It worked fine until the end of the contact when I realized the reservationist had no way to pull up our existing schedule or reservation, and needed credit card confirmation when we were already on file with that information as part of our resort stay. It only works on line. I hung up.

So I have, so far, only Sunday and Monday loaded with park activities and dinner at odd times (3:30 dinner at Coral Reef anyone?) to accommodate that schedule. We have Cat Cora's Kouzzina on valentines day and California Grill on Saturday. Be Our Guest was sold out for the entire week as was Le Cellier and Spice Road. As for the rest of it we're gonna take our chances, see how we feel, what the weather is, and what we can snag in advance from the app or the hotel. This isn't the busiest time of the year, so maybe it won't be so bad. But regardless, it looks like if we want to ride Test Track, Soarin, and see Illuminations without dealing with huge crowds we'll have to visit EPCOT on three separate days. And none of those days can be the days we want to run in and hit Toy Story or Space Mountain without waiting too long, either. And these restrictions, I'm sure, are to test out ways to make sure the day guests' experience is less impacted.

I know improvements are coming to the system and even though I lean toward the "all's fair for everyone" side of things, it irks me that we're paying big money for Grand Floridian and five day park hoppers and so far it sucks and I'm unable to plan our magical week the way we want it. I'd bet a tiered system will allow resort guests more flexibility eventually, or there's pay to upgrade on the way as well. They better watch it, though... They stand to piss off thousands of guests that stay in Kissimmee everyday. Which is the topic of this thread after all, right?

Btw, our Magic Bands arrived UPS in only one day's time. They sure are cute, are the colors we chose, have our names on em, and arrived in very expensive looking packaging. We are still waiting for our Magical Express luggage tags which were mailed USPS on Jan. 26th. My guess is they ain't coming and we'll either be presenting our bag claim checks and hoping they find em for us or schlepping our own bags.

Oops, gotta go, my head just exploded.

Last edited by RCMAC,
Jeff's avatar

Forcing you into three does seem silly. On vacation weeks, it was pretty rare to use more than two. As a local, it's typically one. Does this lead to massive amounts of unused reservations? I'm guessing yes, because rides like Thunder Mountain get booked up late in the afternoon. Assuming unchanged standby ratios, that implies forced (and potentially wasted) crowd management.

Jeff - Editor - CoasterBuzz.com - My Blog - Phrazy

Right. We have no intention of going to Kilimanjaro Safaris at 1:30 so, yes, it's wasted. It'll be a walk on that week, or a short wait, and we'll probably pick it up when we go by. Or not. Actually, now that I think about it, we bailed entirely on our Animal Kingdom fast passes (which was not an easy task, btw) so goodbye Everest and good seats at Nemo because later in the day we want Toy Story Mania and it's more important to us. It also gave us TOT (fine) and Star Tours which we can't do because we'll be at the Brown Derby for dinner. Where, incidentally, dinner was available but dinner and Fantasmic combo package wasn't. This was over two weeks ago.

Another problem I heard from the girl behind the desk at the eye doctor's office (I told her her husband should've sent her flowers for managing their vacation for them) is lets say you have Character Meet n Greet at a certain time and when you get there you find the attraction is down. (I'm not sure why that would be, but it happened to her. Her kids were none too happy...) You may not reschedule another fast pass for later in the day, for that attraction or any other, even though there may be availability. The system sees that your time has passed and counts it as a fast pass used and you're out. Or, relegated to stand by at a later time, I should say.

Gone are the days of hitting WDW on a manageable week and picking up fast passes for attractions as you go along. I suppose you can say we're spoiled and Disney has the right to diddle with this "free" service all they want, and I should contain my disappointment. But Jeebus, if I had spent a billion dollars on this cluster I'd be askin for my money back.

Another weird thing. Our 5 day park hopper is supposed to be loaded to our Magic Bands. The other day we recieved in the mail two swipe cards labeled 5 day park hopper tickets. They came mailed to me, and our reservations are in Jim's name with me as the party. (?) Maybe we got them because on mailing day all four parks weren't on line (I might prefer that, actually) but I understand by the time Feb 9th rolls around they will be, if not already. So I'm nervous about it and I'm taking them along with us, trust and believe, just in case.

When we used FP+ in Animal Kingdom, and Everest was closed during our FP+ time, I got a message that I could use that unused FP time for any attraction at any time in the park. I just had to tap the bands, and the CM would see the note, and override the system.

Also, when we used FP+ in Magic Kingdom, and we didn't use one of the FP+ times, we were able to change it to something else, even after the original window had passed.

That's good to know, thank you. The woman I talked to went in November, so it's been a little while, perhaps there's been a fix since then?

Jeff's avatar

Yes, you can change your time and attraction up to 20 minutes before your window starts, so if you're proactive, or have the mobile app, you can keep up that way.

Jeff - Editor - CoasterBuzz.com - My Blog - Phrazy

Jeff said:

so if you're proactive, or have the mobile app

YOU MUST HAVE THE MOBILE APP. Sorry for the caps, but do yourself a favor and load that app. You do not want to be stuck in a line for a kiosk, when you can manipulate the app instead. You're paying big bucks for a diminished value vacation as it is (sorry, multiple feedback from my sources and your own impressions to date), so take the one advantage you can, and get the mobile app. That puts you ahead of the day visitors or uninformed who haven't downloaded it.

Does Disney have Wi-Fi?

If they don't, it strikes me that the vast majority of foreign visitors are unlikely to use the mobile app. You should see what roaming data costs...

Good idea, and we intend to. A nice young man at a help desk told me it was easy to use, and better than trying to navigate the maze that is their website, especially once we're on property and are trying to add, change, or even check our schedule. Thanks.

kpjb's avatar

All of the Disney parks are Wi-Fi now, Richard. When we went last month, it was pretty consistent throughout the parks. It was strong in midways, although it didn't work inside many buildings.

The park hopper thing is something I didn't think of. That's a real disservice to guests that are shelling out extra money for the hopper tickets. I see no reason why you couldn't set up FP+ for multiple parks as long as you had the hopper tix.


Jeff's avatar

The wi-fi can get a little bogged down if the park you're in gets super busy. It was borderline not usable at Magic Kingdom a few times last summer, and once at Epcot during Food & Wine.

And the bastards haven't ported the app to Windows Phone. :) I'm sure that makes some people giggle, but trust me when I say that's an issue for the European tourists, where now slightly more than 1 in 10 is using the platform. They're even outselling iPhone in Italy, strangely enough.

Jeff - Editor - CoasterBuzz.com - My Blog - Phrazy

It won't last

I haven't listened to the earnings call yet, but apparently Iger made a statement that suggested that it might last for a while...


I suspect it will come down to how much blowback they get from day guests in the current model.

We've got a stay booked at Bay Lake Tower for the kids' spring break this upcoming April. If that hadn't come through, I would have booked a throwaway night at one of the Values to get access to the advanced FP+ reservations. (For the moment, you can book FP+ reservations for the length of your ticket, even if the length of your stay is shorter.)

There is no way I'd be willing to visit as a pure offsite guest right now.

Jeff's avatar

We go almost twice a week. It isn't that bad. Then again, as long as my kid can get on the People Mover, it's all good.

Jeff - Editor - CoasterBuzz.com - My Blog - Phrazy

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