Sunday, February 23, 2014

Planning Fastpass+ at Hollywood Studios

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Finally, it's only 2 months (60 days) until you leave for Disney, which means that you need to start making Fastpass+ selections!  However, you aren't sure which lines are typically longest and which rides you should skip entirely, which makes the 3 ride limit even more difficult to contend with!

I'm here to help.

Here are some things to keep in mind:
  • Regardless of what you pick ahead of time, you can make last minute changes with your smartphone.  This is especially important to keep in mind if you get to a ride you have reserved, only to find that the stand-by line is really short.
  • The Fastpass+ system is new, and that could throw off what typically has a long standby line and what doesn't.  This also means that the Cast Members might still be learning all of its quirks too.  Have patience.
  • If you can, you might want to go to Hollywood Studios multiple days to take advantage of more than one Fastpass+ in the first tier rides.
  • For more information about reserving Fastpass+ in general, check out this page: Reserving Fastpass+

This breakdown will be a lot like the last Fastpass+ post I did, Epcot, because of the tiered system in these two parks.

Since you can only pick one of these, I'm going to suggest preferences based on multiple factors/experience.

First Priority
  • With a speed of 0-60 in mere seconds, loops, and rock music blasting into your ears for the duration of the ride, Aerosmith's Rock 'n' Roller Coaster is fast, fun, and truly worth riding when in Hollywood Studios.
  • Because it is one of the most intense roller coasters in Walt Disney World, the lines to this ride are often really, really long.  It is unlikely that you'll want to skip it, so grabbing the Fastpass+ is likely your best bet.
Why Not:  If you've ridden this roller coaster before, and decide that you want to experience one of the other Fastpass+'s in the first tier, this is one you can skip.  Especially when it's a lot easier to get Fastpass+ for the roller coasters in Magic Kingdom and Expedition Everest in Animal Kingdom.

Second Priority
  • This was a REALLY close contender for first priority, because of it's popularity.  The lines for Toy Story Midway Mania are often just as long as Rock 'n' Roller Coaster.  When paper Fastpass's were still being distributed, most planning websites instructed vacationers to go straight to this ride to get their Fastpass when entering the park.  They often ran out by lunchtime.
  • The advanced technology and friendly competition associated with this ride make it a must-do for all ages (thus leading to long lines).
Why Not: Toy Story Midway Mania is really an amped up version of Buzz Lightyear Spaceship Spin in Magic Kingdom.  If you end up riding that, you might find that this one is worth skipping so that you can have the Fastpass+ for Rock 'n' Roller Coaster or the other first tier rides.

Third Priority
  • Though the 10,000 person amphitheater is huge, it often fills up.  To avoid having to arrive far ahead of time, grab a Fastpass+ and relax.
  • This show is really an amazing spectacle, more than just fireworks, and is a must-see.
Why Not:
  • It's a 10,000 person amphitheater.  If you arrive early enough, you will be able to find a seat.
  • There are two showings a night, and the second is often less crowded than the first.  Since you're likely traveling without a small child, there is no need to get back to the hotel for bed that early.
If you don't get a Fastpass+, here are some tips:
  • Arrive around an hour early for the first show, and 45 minutes early for the second.
  • If possible, go to the second showing.
  • The first 12 or so rows can get sprayed by the mist from the show.  If you don't want this, make sure to sit a little further back.
  • There is a concession stand in the back of the amphitheater for a snack while you wait for the show to begin.
  • There are no "bad" seats.  The action surrounds the island that the story takes place on, so don't feel obligated to sit in the front and center.

Fourth Priority
Why: Fans of Beauty and the Beast will really enjoy this live-action, shortened rendition of the show.  It's very well done and definitely worth attending.

Why Not:
  • There are usually around 8 showings of this a day, and it is advised that you only show up 20 minutes in advance to get a seat, so there is likelihood that you really won't need the Fastpass+.
  • There are enough princess themed things in Magic Kingdom and even Epcot.  You might want to skip this one if you're not exclusively about the Princesses.  There are a lot of other really cool shows in Hollywood Studios.
If you don't get a Fastpass+, here are some tips:
  • Sit in the middle or back of the theater in order to be able to see all of the set and props throughout the show.
  • Arrive 20 minutes before your desired showtime.

Last Priority
  • Why: This ride showcases some of the great movies, and features many authentic props from movie history in the queue and on the ride.
  • Why Not:
    • Some people consider this to be a must-ride, while others think it's boring and not worth the time spent riding it.  If you've never gone on it, you might be better off just waiting in line and not getting the Fastpass+.  The line is mostly inside and typically not too long of a wait.
    • If you are a group of two, you can go to the "Party of 2" line and get on the ride much quicker!

Other Attractions

These are the other options available to fill the other 2 Fastpass+ spots in Hollywoods Studios.  There are some really good options here, many of them with typical long waits to ride, others that you can often hop right on.  

There are some pretty obvious choices in this category, especially if you have an interest in a specific movie (i.e. Star Wars or Indiana Jones).  But for those having a hard time making the choice for the last two spots, here's an analysis of each ride.

  • Pick this: Because really, Tower of Terror is a Disney World staple.  And for good reason.  It's seriously awesome.
  • Why: It's a classic that is still really thrilling (scary, even?) every time that you ride it.  If this is your first trip, you can't miss it.  If this is your 34th trip, you can't miss it.  There is nothing like the windows opening up and letting you look out at the park for that split second.  And the stand-by line is basically never short.
  • Why Not: you don't like heights.  (Boyfriend refuses to ride this with me.  So I just ride it myself)

  • Pick this: if you are a big Star Wars fan.  Or, really, if you have never seen Star Wars.  This ride is really awesome regardless.
  • Why: The virtual reality of this ride is really cool, and makes you really feel like you are a part of the Star Wars movies, whipping through space and encountering characters from the movie. And honestly, I hadn't seen Star Wars until this past summer, so I never knew the story line when riding this.  It was still one of my favorite rides.
  • Why Not: if virtual reality makes you sick.  Or if you aren't going during a peak season in Disney.  Since this ride has a large capacity, the lines often don't get any longer than 40 minutes.

  • Pick this: because really, just look at the title.  It's pretty much one of the most bad-ass things on Disney property.
  • Why: This show will have you on the edge of your seat.  You'll be afraid that the cars are going to crash so. many. times.  And just completely impressed that the drives are so precise and amazing at their jobs.  It's a must see.
  • Why Not:  There are a few shows a day, and the stadium is huge.  Sure, the Fastpass+ would probably guarantee you good seats, but there are huge screens that project the highlights clearly, in case you miss something.

  • Pick This: If you are a huge Indiana Jones fan, or like nostalgia.
  • Why: This show might be a little less intense than Lights, Motor, Action, but what it lacks (which is very little) in fire and explosions, it gains in story telling.  If you've seen the Indiana Jones movies, and reference to this show in media (Full House, anyone?), or just want to have some fun, definitely make a point of going to this one.
  • Why Not: There are multiple shows a day, and plenty of seats.  It is really unlikely that you'll need a Fastpass+ to get a good seat.
  • If you do go to this show:
    • In the queue line, pull the rope if you have never done so before.  Disney magic is fun.
    • If you want to be part of the show, sit as close to the front as you can.  When they ask for volunteers, do not hesitate.  Not even for a second.  And don't be afraid to act crazy, because it's all about having fun!

  • Pick This: If you are a Muppet fan or if you need a good laugh.
  • Why: This show, though it probably needs updated, it really funny.  Even the queue line provides silly things to look at while waiting, though you probably won't have that long of a wait.
  • Why Not: Lines are not that long.  Go, but don't get a Fastpass+.

I think this speaks for itself.
If you go to this, I really hope you have a young child with your party as well.

If it wasn't obvious...
My recommendations for this tier would be:
First Priority: Tower of Terror
Second Priority: Star Tours, Lights, Motor, Action, or Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular

This really is up to your discretion, and what you are most interested in about this park.

Other things I want to add:
Reality is, many of the attractions are time consuming in Hollywood Studios.  Much of what is available are shows, and even some of the rides (The Great Movie Ride, Studio Backlot Tour - not a Fastpass+ option) are time consuming themselves.
  • Definitely try and plan what you're priorities are and take a look at showtimes before entering the park.  It's a pain to make such a detailed itinerary, I understand, but to get the most out of Hollywood Studios it's pretty necessary.
  • If you don't feel like planning everything precisely, stack your Fastpass+ choices (for rides, primarily) in the evening.  The times of the shows are concentrated before 5:00, so for your best chance at seeing everything you want, schedule Fastpass+ after 5:00 pm.
  • Table-service dining options aren't spectacular in Hollywood Studios.  Keep that in mind in your planning as well, because you might need to skip table-service that day, or leave the park to dine at a nearby resort instead.

My next Fastpass+ park will be Animal Kingdom...
but my next post will likely be a Frozen-themed cocktail (since the digital copy of the movie is being released on Tuesday!!)

Until then, comment with feedback or questions.
I really want to know what you think!!

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