Because of this…
la magnifique mer de l’homme
It is the one, it is the only, it is every reason to really understand and use FASTPASS to your complete advantage at Tokyo DisneySea (even more so at Tokyo Disneyland because that place is magical… magically mad with people).
DisneySea and it’s magnificent sea of humans is not something you’ll want to navigate through multiple times just to check if the lines at any of the rides are longer than 45 minutes. Yes, they are, and you better bloody get yourself a FASTPASS at any opportunity you can.
WHAT THE HELL IS A FASTPASS?
Disneyland does not have, what we Singaporeans are very familiar with, “Express Theme Park Passes”. At Universal Studios Singapore, we’re used to paying a premium for our ticket so that we can get to all the rides via the shorter express queue system. It works because not many would pay for the express tickets and you benefit from that extra bit you pay for with drastically shorter waiting time of a couple of minutes tops.
But, this won’t work with Disney and the reason is really quite simple: Disneyland and DisneySEA is a magical place. It is so darn magical that even if a crazy premium was levied on a park ticket that would allow the ticket holder to cut their waiting time, every single person in the theme park would most likely opt for it – fanatics (and there are so many of them, you’ll know them when you see them) and regular folks like you and me, who just wants to enjoy a theme park while on holiday, alike. Everyone gets infected with the contagious Disney excitement from the moment you see the grinning friendly park attendants wave to you from afar as you walk over to the ticketing booths. The Disney marketing is so solid that they’ve created a good problem: Too many people are crazy about them.
Related: Read all about how I ate my way through DisneySEA and enjoyed A Table is Waiting at DisneySEA
Merchandising alone could probably build a small nation – and yes it has, it’s called Disneyland
So, since a ticket with full access to shortened ride times within the entire park wouldn’t work, what Disneyland has in place is the FASTPASS. The FASTPASS allows you to access the express queue of selected rides and attractions between a stipulated time. This is open to every park visitor. The only catch is after obtaining one FASTPASS, it usually takes about two hours (sometimes more) before you can grab your next FASTPASS. If a stipulated time belt has been completely distributed, then the next time belt is issued. As there are only a limited number of FASTPASS available for each ride based on the ride’s capacity, if you try to get your FASTPASS too late, it might not be available.
Essentially, if you really sit down to think about it, this is basically a very effective crowd control mechanism that works for the theme park and the park visitors. You don’t pay a cent for the shorter queues, you just need to be fast about it. They’ve found a really good way to work out crowd flow in the park and created value for the customer.
If you’re wondering how they would know if you’ve waited out those number of hours before your next FASTPASS. They’ve also worked that out. You need to scan your admission ticket at any of the FASTPASS machines before you are issued one and this is how they’ve contained and obtained information for issuance of these express tickets. One admission ticket issues on FASTPASS that is valid only for one person.
Scanning our admission tickets for our FASTPASS to the Tower of Terror
This is a very important ticket you shouldn’t lose
HOW CAN I MAXIMISE THE USE OF FASTPASS?
As irritating as this sounds, some form of strategy is absolutely needed to make sure your Disneyland or DisneySea visit doesn’t drive you nuts or cause you to lose your mind while standing in 300-odd minute queues (it actually does happen). Here are my tips after my first Disneyland experience:
1. Make sure you arrive at the park as early as possible
Both Disneyland and DisneySea opens from 8:00am and closes at 10:00pm with exception of certain days. Check the Park Operation Calendar to make sure you choose a day when it doesn’t close early.
Arriving at 8:00am means getting access to more FASTPASS for the various rides. Within a span of thirty (30) minutes, the time belts issued can vary by an hour or more. For instance, we got our FASTPASS to DisneySea’s Tower of Terror at 10:58AM and our time belt issued was between 2:25PM to 3:25PM. We could only obtain our next FASTPASS an hour or so later. By the time we got our next FASTPASS, the time belts were issued for close to 5:00PM or later.
In DisneySea, the crowds are not as aggressive and queues are shorter, so FASTPASS just helps to maximise the number of rides and shorten unnecessary waiting time. But in Disneyland, expect a packed theme park and super long queues. Even with a FASTPASS in Disneyland, there may be at least a thirty (30) minute queue! With this in mind, it’s important to get to the park as early as possible to get the earliest time belts for your FASTPASS tickets.
2. Check The Park Information Board
The Park Information Board is probably very useful for you when you plan your route around the Disney theme parks as it helps you gauge which attractions are more popular and require longer wait times. It provides an overview on attraction wait times, FASTPASS ticketing status, and highlights which rides have FASTPASS access. You can then decide by weighing the existing wait time and FASTPASS availability if you’d like to grab FASTPASS for any attraction and which ones you’ll be waiting for in between grabbing your next FASTPASS.
3. Grab a Park Map
Maps in English are easily available from park attendants and staff members around the theme park. Navigating around Disneyland and DisneySea may be a bit confusing at first, so these maps help. Also it highlights which rides have FASTPASS access, so you can take a pen and just note down your route once you’ve figured out your strategically-planned route.
4. Take Note of Wait Times
Most wait times of under ninety (90) minutes for popular attractions are considered a God-send. Grab the chance if it doesn’t rob you of other opportunity costs. Don’t spend too much time second-guessing your decisions as well about how long you should wait. Every second spent wondering if you should or shouldn’t queue for an attraction is time that could have just gone into queuing.
Certain attractions see a tapering down of wait times after 7:00PM. Plenty of park visitors are actually Japanese and a lot of them have an annual pass. They might be just checking out the rides they missed or revisiting their favourite rides. After dinner time, many people start leaving the park and some rides see a drastically shortened wait time from a ridiculous 120 minutes down to around sixty (60) to ninety (90) minutes.
When a parade is on, wait times definitely shorten as everyone crowds to get a glimpse of the Disney characters. If you can live without watching the parade performances, or if you can catch it at a later time, then maybe you’d want to get into the queue, pronto!
5. Stay Away From Insane Crowds
I am not a queue person so I preferred to just do what I could with my time at Disneyland and DisneySea. I also tried to stay away from crowded areas and both The F Man and I made it a point to go against the wave of people. In other words, we noticed where the packed rides were and intentionally stayed away from them and opted to queue and wait for other attractions at a different area.We noticed that with each influx of visitors to the park or each major event like a parade, there would always be a bottleneck at certain places and a particular route that was used. We tried to stay clear if we could and not go in a very “systematic” list to “beat” the crowd. That said, we didn’t manage to get on all the rides (especially at Disneyland).
6. Make Key Decisions About Your Experience Before Arriving
Some of us will think running is completely awesome and do that throughout the day to get to all the FASTPASS machines and beat others who are milling around at a slower pace and there will be some of us who think that this rush is totally not a great way to enjoy your trip to the theme park. You should be the one to decide how your experience will go. Ask yourself if you are you gonna stress out over not visiting all the rides or can you just zen out? Do you actually love the thrill of the chase and think it’ll be fun to go all “Amazing Race”. There is definitely a real possibility that you won’t get to all the rides especially the uber popular ones (e.g. Toy Story Mania), so pick the ones you HAVE to visit and make sure you get the FASTPASS for them.
7. Avoid Weekends if Possible
Always do a visit on a weekday if possible. Even a Friday visit to Disneyland can kill. We checked the Crowd Forecast Calendar and the dates we visited were, according to the legend, yellow (DisneySea) meaning moderate crowds on a Thursday and orange (Disneyland) meaning crowded on a Friday. The difference in experience and amount of people in the theme park was startling.
I hope this comes in handy if you’re planning to visit Disneyland and DisneySea. These are things I didn’t consider when I visited and it was an eye-opening learning experience for me! Even if you can’t get to all the rides, the park is beautiful – take some time to admire it. I enjoyed the down time when I refused to queue taking photos, eating soft serves (so good) and just popping by the souvenir shops instead. If you’ve got your own Disney adventures, tips and tricks to share, please do leave a comment.
More Tokyo Disneyland Resources
Update: Recently, a friend of mine, Mark, wrote about his experience on Disneyland and the FASTPASS system. You can also take a look at his post to see if you can glean more tips!