I’ll share everything you need to know before heading to Walt Disney World for the first time! What are Magic Bands and how much does a FastPass cost? Do I really need the Disney app? I’ll answer all these basic questions without overwhelming you with information.
Everything You Need to Know
There are so many great blogs out there, and lots of other Disney loving moms that have written amazing posts about Disney tips. If you search for “Disney tips for first-timers” on Pinterest, you will find an abundance of information! I know the internet doesn’t necessarily need more Disney tips, but there are still plenty of people out there that are wondering about FastPasses and Disney apps.
I have had multiple friends head off to Disney World recently, who had no idea that FastPasses were free, or that they needed the Disney app on their phone. This is crazy talk! I will make it my mission, to see that no one goes to Disney World unprepared. I do not want to find out that you went to Disney World and stood in lines all day. You do not need to make rookie mistakes, because I’m going to share all the most basic things you need to know before heading to Disney World for the first time.
“I will make it my mission, to see that no one goes to Disney World unprepared!
Step 1: Create a Disney Account
Before doing anything, make sure you have a Disney account set up. If this is done first, everything will go much smoother. Start at disneyworld.disney.go.com/plan You will need to create an account, if you don’t already have one. Get it set up for yourself and make sure all the adults in your party have their own as well. You can create profiles for your kids to include in your plans, but they won’t have a separate login. Under the “My Disney Experience” tab, click on “My Family and Friends.” You can request to link other adults to your account, which will make sharing reservations and other plans much easier.
TIP: If you run into any issues with the app or linking friend accounts, just call or chat with a Disney cast member and they will take care of it for you!
Step 2: Park Tickets
Whether you are purchasing tickets directly from Disney or have gone through a money saving site like Undercover Tourist, you will need to link your tickets to your Disney account. In many cases, they will be automatically linked and will show up in the “My Disney Experience” section under “My Plans.” If you purchased tickets through an outside source, you will be given a ticket number that can be linked manually. Within the Disney Experience area, you will find a place to link tickets. Once tickets are all linked or showing up on your account, you can assign them to the different people in your planing party.
Step 3: Disney Resorts and Magic Bands
If you are staying at a Disney resort, you will be given Magic Bands for free! You’ll have the option to personalize each Magic Band for everyone in your party. You can choose the color and what name will be on them. You will have the option of spending an additional fee to upgrade to a special Magic Band, or choose the free ones.
Magic bands are great because they allow you to go into the park without carrying anything! They are the key to everything at Disney World. Your Magic Band can get you into your room, charge any purchases (if you have linked a credit card to your account), get you into the parks (if tickets are linked on your account), and get you into rides without waiting (if Fast Passes are linked on your account). Be sure to personalize your Magic Bands right away to receive them in the mail before you leave, otherwise they will be waiting for you at the resort check-in desk when you arrive.
Step 3: My Disney Experience App
Once you have your account set up, all the members of your planning party are linked and tickets are showing up on your account, download the My Disney Experience app to your phone. Once you have the app on your phone, you will login using the same login you use on the Disney site. You’ll be able to open the app and see all your plans, including tickets, dining reservations and Fast Passes. Here are some of my favorite reasons to use the Disney Experience App:
- Book FastPasses while in the park
- Make dining reservations
- Make changes to existing reservations while in the park
- Mobile order a Dole Whip while in the park and save yourself from waiting in line!
- Use the wait time map to see what rides have the shortest line
- Use the map to find your way around the park
Step 4: FastPass+
First off, you should know that FastPasses are absolutely free at Walt Disney World. They are different from the MaxPass that can be purchased at Disneyland. FastPasses are free and available to anyone that has purchased a park ticket, even if you’re not staying at a Disney hotel. I’m going to share the FastPass+ basics, and some advanced info you can choose to take advantage of, or skip if it sounds too confusing!
FastPasses are the awesome invention that allows you to skip long lines at Walt Disney World. You book a specific time-frame for everyone in your party to enjoy a ride, and you enter through a special FastPass entrance to the ride. Here are the basic things to keep in mind:
- You will be given a window of time to utilize each FastPass, and you can show up at any point during that window of time.
- Book FastPasses online or on the My Disney Experience app.
- Get FastPasses up to 60 days in advance if staying at a Disney resort, and 30 days in advance if staying off property.
- You can only book FastPasses at one park per day.
- You’re allowed to book 3 FastPasses at a time.
- Once you use up those 3 FastPasses, you can book more through your app, 1 at a time.
- You cannot book more than 1 FastPass for each time-slot. If you have something booked for the 4:35 to 5:35 window, you won’t be able to book anything that overlaps that time.
- You will enter through the FastPass line of each ride, scan your Magic Band at the entrance and wait until the Mickey lights up green. A white light means there is a problem or you are outside of your return window.
- If you are not staying at a Disney resort, you will be handed a card upon entrance to the park. This card is linked to your Disney app and any FastPasses that you have booked will be on that card. Scan this card at each FastPass entrance.
There are all kinds of advanced FastPass hacks that will leave your head swimming! I’ll try and summarize a few of them for you.
- There are different tiers of rides at Disney World, and FastPasses are limited for the more popular rides.
You are only allowed to book ONE tier 1 ride at a time. Tier 1 rides include those that are most in demand and can change at any point. Currently, the tier 1 rides are: Avatar Flight of Passage and Na’vi River Journey at Animal Kingdom, Frozen Ever After, Soarin’, Test Track and Epcot Forever at Epcot, Alien Swirling Saucers, Slinky Dog Dash, Toy Story Mania!, Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster and Tower of Terror at Hollywood Studios. After February 18th of 2020, Hollywood Studios tier 1 rides will change to Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run and Slinky Dog Dash.
- Book all three of your FastPasses early in the day.
This is an advanced strategy, because it can be tricky to find rides and time slots that line up precisely enough to get them all used within the first few hours of the day. But, once you have used up all three, you can start booking additional rides as the day goes on. In theory, this is a great plan because you could go all day without waiting in any lines! Start the day off with 3 rides, then check your app for the next available time slot and hit that ride next without having to wait. As soon as that FastPass has been used, you can book your next one!
- Use the refresh feature!
This is a trick not many people know about. When you are in your app looking for FastPasses, and you don’t see the ride you are looking for or the time you were hoping for, refresh the page. You can refresh by clicking on a time of day or specific time at the top. I have used this tip many times to find rides that originally said “none available” and all of a sudden showed up after refreshing a couple times.
- Adjust the time of a booking.
Did you know that once you book a FastPass, you can adjust the time? If you have a specific, hard-to-book ride (like Flight of Passage) show up, you should grab it up and lock it in before you miss out. Even if the ride is for a crazy time of day or later, after you were already hoping to leave. Once the FastPass is locked-in, go back to the main screen to see your plans. Click on the FastPass you are hoping to change. You should see the option to “modify” it. Click on “modify” and you will be directed to a spot where you can either change the time or the ride all together. If you have selected a hard-to-book ride like Flight of Passage, you may not see other times available. Don’t give up! Keep checking back and refreshing the page! Try at different times of day. With a little persistence, I have almost always been able to change to the time I wanted.
- Go as a smaller group.
If you’re traveling as a large family, you will probably have greater success with popular rides, if you are willing to split up. This works well for our family because there are only 3 of us that are die-hard ride goers. When booking the more intense thrill rides (which are usually the more popular ones), I only have to find FastPasses for 3 of us instead of all 7.
- Book as soon as you can.
60 days in advance for resort guests and 30 days in advance for off-property guests. Book as soon as you can, but keep checking back in if you didn’t get what you wanted right away. People are always canceling or changing their reservations, and Disney has been known to release secret batches of FastPasses at different times during the month.
- There is a little wiggle room in the time.
Did you get stuck on a ride and think you’ve missed the window for your next FastPass? Don’t panic! There are Disney cast members stationed at each FastPass entrance and most will give you a little grace. We’ve arrived up to 20 minutes before and after our scheduled time and been allowed to enter for different reasons. Keep in mind, if the ride is extremely busy, they may not let you through, but it’s worth asking!
There are so many other tips and tricks you could utilize on your trip to Disney World. There are post out there written about everything! From packing the right things in your diaper bag, what outfits to wear, what to eat, what snacks to bring, where to find free ice water and how to meet your favorite characters, there is a lot you could dive into here.
I have a whole section of Disney tips that you can find here: Disney Tips
Because this is a post about the basics, I’m going to stop right here and try not to overwhelm you!
The most important thing to remember, is to stay relaxed and enjoy every minute! If you didn’t read all 10,099 blog posts about Disney World and create matching family t-shirts, it will be OK. Disney World is a magical and wonderful place. Even if you don’t ride half the rides you want to, you’ll still have an amazing time!