Booking your first trip to Walt Disney World can be daunting. Which Disney Passes do I need? Where should I buy them from? Are there any discounted tickets I should know about?
We often get asked for advice about booking up and what to do. Walt Disney World offers so much entertainment, dining options and experiences that it is easy to get overwhelmed. Where else in the world would you start to consider booking your restaurants 6 months in advance? It absolutely crazy. Although if your wanting to get the most out of your Disney holiday, this is a quick guide to the Disney Passes that you will need!
For a first timer to Disney, quite often a Disney Pass will be referred to as their entry ticket. Years ago these were giant card tickets that were great souvenirs. Now the park tickets are either credit card sized paper passes or incorporated into a Magic Band (wrist band). If you have booked your holiday at a Walt Disney World Hotel and booked your tickets through Disney then your park tickets would be handed to you on a Magic Band.
The Magic Band became available in 2013. The idea being that a wrist band with an RFID tag inside would be more convenient than the paper based system. It also meant that all your paper based tickets could get linked into one place. You magic band is now good for use as your room key, park tickets, resort payments, fast passes and photo passes. Everything you would need for a day in the parks is there on your wrist.
Any “paper” tickets now are also RFID tagged which means that you can still link fast passes and photo passes. However if you really feel that you want the convenience of the Magic Band, guests can buy one and link your tickets information to it.
To be able to access and build you holiday plans you will need a My Disney Experience account. This is a free service to aid your planning for your holiday. As Disney gets very busy through out the year here are some important points.
ADR Bookings – ADR is Disney’s Dining Reservation service. It is possible to book your ADR upto 180 days in advance. If you are also staying on Disney property you can book 180 days in advance, plus 10 into your holiday. Which means that if you had 2 weeks booked on the 1st of August, you could start booking your restaurant reservations on the 1st of February for teh first 10 days of your holiday.
Some restaurants actually do book out in advance. These include Cinderella’s Royal Table, 50’s Prime Time Café and Le Cellier Steakhouse.
Fast Pass+ – Fast Pass+ allows you to book your attraction fast passes up to 60 days in advance. If you are staying on Disney property for your holiday you can book 60 days in advance. If you are staying off property, you are limited to 30 days in advance. This can be a big deal on saving time during your park days. And certain fast passes can book out at that 60 day point.
Memory Maker / Photopass – While on the My Disney Experience you can link your Memory Maker packages or Photopasses to your account. Photopasses can be added later.
Disney Park Passes
Disney Park Passes / Tickets is a whole other level of confusion… unless your from the UK. Generally as a UK traveller you will be offered the simple choice of 7 days of park entry. Or 14 days of park entry with a pretty standard discount deal of “for the price of 7 days”. So 1 week for the price of 1 week or 2 weeks for the price of 1 week.
Disney Fast Passes
At Walt Disney World Fast passes used to be little cardboard tickets. A nice useful system that didn’t need to be thought about too much. You would head towards the attraction you wanted to go on. Then realise there was a queue of around 90 minutes. Instead of stand in that line you would pick up a ticket that allowed you entry into a separate queue between a 1 hour time slot. Occasionally this was also used to push guests to very quiet attractions, by printing out some bonus tickets to the empty show building (usually a 4D cinema show).
As guests became more savy, the strategy of entering the park at “rope drop” and racing to the FastPass machines for your second attraction came into play. If your first in the park you may as well sit your bum on a popular ride, while also holding the queue jumping ticket for the next one.
Fast Pass+ changed this to instead of picking up the ticket on the day, it turned into a book your time slot several days before you even arrive into the country. In fact guests stopping at non Disney hotels have been struggling to gain a fast pass for the most popular attractions (princess meet & Greets! and Avatar’s Flight of Passage).
Disney’s Photo Pass
Disney’s PhotoPass is one of the best services that is on offer… if you use it. Through out the park there are lots of official Disney photographers ready to capture that special moment. If like me your usually stuck behind the camera instead of being immortalised in front of it, then now is your moment.
Simply walk up to a photographer they will take several photos and scan it to a card (or your magic band). Occasionally you will be asked to create some wild action poses and this is for a special reason. These are Magic Photos. When the photo is added to your account there is usually some magical additions on there.
With the Disney Magic Band there are now stealthy taken on ride photos and videos. Here is our family on the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train.
It is so easy to get swamped in decision making when your sorting out a Disney holiday. The main thing I will say is that unlike your Mediterranean beach holiday where you just rock up and hope for the best. A well planned holiday at Walt Disney World really makes the difference. Plus there is an element of building up the excitement months before you even board a plane. Your more than likely to have a friend that is desperate to help you plan your next trip as we were for our friends the Clarks. If they offer you really should take up the advice and spend more time enjoying the experiences instead of standing in lines.