It is the one, it is the only, it is every reason to really understand and use the free FastPass to your complete advantage at Tokyo DisneySea. 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 one at any opportunity you can. Here’s everything you need to know about getting and using a Tokyo DisneySEA FastPass.
Update: Tokyo Disneyland and DisneySea have retired the free FastPass system and replaced it with a new Priority Pass in 2023.
This article was updated on 11 September 2023 to indicate that the FastPass system has been retired.
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, you can pay a premium for tickets to get to all the rides via the shorter express queue system.
The DisneySea FastPass allows you to access the express queue of selected rides and attractions within 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.
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 issued on FASTPASS that is valid only for one person.
Related: Read all about A Table is Waiting at DisneySEA
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. Here are my tips after my first Disney Theme Park experience in Tokyo, Japan:
Arrive at the park as early as possible
Both Disneyland and DisneySea open at 8 am and close at 10 pm with the exception of certain days. Check the Park Operation Calendar to make sure you choose a day when it doesn’t close early.
Arriving at 8.00 am means getting access to more FastPasses for the various rides. Within a span of 30 minutes, the time belts issued can vary by an hour or more.
- We got our FastPass to DisneySea’s Tower of Terror at 10.58
- The time belt we were issued with on our ticket was between 2.25 pm to 3.25 pm
We could only obtain our next FastPass an hour later
- By the time we got our next FastPass, the time belts were issued for 5 pm or later.
In DisneySea, the crowds are not as aggressive and queues are shorter. FastPass helps to maximize 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 30-minute queue! It’s important to get to the park as early as possible to get the earliest time belts for your FastPasses.
Check the Park Information Board
The Park Information Board is probably very useful when you plan your route around the Disney Theme Parks. It helps you gauge which attractions are more popular and require longer wait times. It provides an overview of attraction wait times and FastPass ticketing status. You can also find out which rides have FastPass access. Then, you can decide by weighing the wait time and pass availability if you’d like to grab FastPasses for any attraction. You can also think about which passes you’ll be waiting for in between grabbing your next FastPass.
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.
Take Note of Wait Times
Most wait times of under 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 pm. 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 favorite 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 60 to 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!
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.
We noticed where the packed rides were and intentionally stayed away from them and opted to queue and wait for other attractions in a different area. 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.
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. There will also 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 going to 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 that are non-negotiable to visit and make sure you get the FastPasses for them.
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 downtime when I refused to queue and took photos instead. I ate soft serves and just popped 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 Disney Theme Park Resources
- One of the most comprehensive Tokyo Disneyland Tips and Tricks articles
- A friend of mine, Mark, wrote about his experience with Disneyland and the FastPass system.