Friday, March 27, 2015

Disney Prep: FP+ Tips For Extreme Newbies

I'm always really grateful for the existence of specialty bloggers when it comes to things like planning a vacation. It's nice to get a personal experience of something rather than taking an official website's word for it. However, I'm noticing that the people who are educated enough in all-things-Disney to be able to host an entire blog for it sometimes forget about us extreme newbies. They use lingo and abbreviations that I am totally clueless about, and sometimes their "it's super simple, no worries" explanation of things still leaves a lot to worry over.

Beginner FP+ Tips for Extreme Newbies

So, disclaimer: I'm writing this post as a fellow extreme newbie. I'm not an expert, I don't know everything, and this probably isn't the only advice post on this subject you should read. But I will break this info down in the ways I wish it had been for me.

Here we go!

1. Make your "must do" list.
I've already talked about this a little, but to review - make a list of all of the attractions that are important for you and your family within each of the parks you'll be visiting. Maybe even rank them. The majority of the advice I've gotten about touring parks is to knock out your biggest priorities early in the day, wiggle the rest of them into the time you have left, and be forgiving of whatever you don't make it to. So make sure you know exactly what's important to everyone before setting up your fast passes - you want to make sure you have your top 3 ready to go!

2. Prioritize hard-to-get fast passes.
Many Disney bloggers can tell you which attractions are the trickiest to get your hands on (there's an article from WDW Prep School about it), but I can tell you from seeing it myself and from other bloggers saying it that some of the trickiest are - Meet Anna & Elsa (MK), Seven Dwarfs Mine Train (MK), Toy Story Mania (HS), and Soarin' (E). You can also look up details about individual attractions you're interested in at to see how popular it is, and how long wait times typically are. Be prepared to book these most popular things first. When I made our list of things to do and see, I put 3 stars next to the "can't miss it" things, 2 next to the things we'd really like to do, and 1 next to anything we'd like to do if we can find time. Also keep in mind that Epcot & Hollywood Studios have Fast Pass tiers, and you can only chose so many passes from each tier at a time. You can check out what those are HERE.

3. Don't bother with an itinerary just yet.
I misunderstood how the process of booking fast passes would go, and I assumed I'd have more choice about the time frames. That said, I created a loose itinerary for every park day, thinking I could just plug the fast passes in where I needed them. Nope. The system doesn't work like that. I ended up having to rearrange all of the days - in one park, we ended up doing everything completely backwards. It couldn't be helped, though - that's all that was available. You'll save yourself some time and disappointment by waiting for your fast pass times before setting up your daily schedules.

4. Staying up til midnight might give you a hand.
I did not stay up til midnight on the day our choices became available. I heard that there was more wiggle room here vs dining reservations (since those can be booked so far back, and ideal times are scooped up quickly), so I didn't think it was necessary. I did get up just after 6am, though, and still found myself a little left out. (Out of 9 possible fast passes, I only ended up with 1 that was scheduled exactly as I wanted it to be!) I'm not entirely sure if my experience was really due to the time of day or just how things are organized on the site, but I've heard from multiple sources that you have the best shot at getting exactly what you want at midnight.

5. Booking FP+ selections isn't fully customizable.
As I've kind of eluded to, don't expect to grab your choices one at a time and then select a time frame. Instead, you'll have to select all three at once (and if you only select 1 or 2, the site will fill a random one in for you, so you might as well just pick 3 you like). The site then calculates what makes the most sense based on location in the park and timing. You are given 4 choices, but many of the times offered aren't carried over from one choice to the next. This annoyed me, because say...option 1 would have 2 perfect times but one bad one, and when I went to the other options, those 2 perfect times weren't an option. Also, the site tries to lump them all back-to-back, so if you want 2 in the morning and 1 in the afternoon, it won't do that for you, either. Expect this part to be a little annoying like that, but don't stress too much, because....

6. You can edit things a little bit after you make your choices.
Yeah. I wrestled with the choices for too long before finally realizing things could be wiggled around afterwards. Once the fast passes exist, you can go into Update FastPass+ from your itinerary screen (there's also an option on the screen that follows booking them, but I can't remember the wording on it now). From there you can adjust time frames (there's more options here, and you can space them out this way), add or subtract people from your party, and even change it to another attraction all together. You can also make changes from your My Disney Experience app once they exist on your account.

7. Remember, it's a time frame.
Once silly hurdle I was having is that I was trying desperately to find fast passes that started at the time I wanted to visit each attraction. I guess we're all kind of programmed to be somewhere at a start time, right? Well, it's a silly thought in a Disney park - they give you a time frame for a reason. There was one attraction I wanted to visit at 9:45, and the time frame they gave me was 9:15 - 10:15. I kept trying to move it to be a little bit later when I finally realized, duh....the time I want to be there is already in the range I have, that's totally fine. Even if your plan is to visit an attraction at the end of your time frame, it still counts. So remember to be a little flexible.

8. Check back.
The day dining reservations for lunch at Be Our Guest started, I couldn't find a single thing. Later that day, about 2 in the afternoon, a whole bunch opened up. My travel agent had warned that some people get over-excited and book multiple times until they know which one they want and then later release them. That seemed to be the case, because I ended up getting a time that works for us when there was nothing before. The same can happen with fast passes. Check the times available later in the day when your booking date started, or even a week or two later. Better time frames might open up.

9. Now make your itinerary.
Once you are sure of your fast pass selections, now go ahead and plot them out on park maps, along with your dining reservations, and fill in the blanks with what you'll do between them. Be sure to still schedule 10-15 mins of waiting in fast pass lines, and it may also be helpful to look up details on each attraction you're visiting to see how long of a ride or show it is. I like to use for that - they give you lots of details on what the ride or show is like, what ages will enjoy it, what times are best to visit, how long wait times are, and how long the attraction lasts.

I hope these tips help! I wish I knew all of this ahead of time - it would have saved me a lot of frustration! But next time we go? I'll be a pro ;)

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