Disney with Special Needs: FastPass Killed the Spontaneity Star?

Do you plan everything? Always.

Yeah, me, too. I’m actually…no, I’m not a planner. I would say I’m a kind of fly by the seat of your pants kind of gal. You know, moment to moment. That’s me. That’s….yeah.

OK, so I might have stolen that beginning just a little bit, but it illustrates what I want to talk about today. There are some people who are meticulous Disney planners and like to know all of the details about everything. That’s me. I plan planning. Then there are people who don’t do the whole planning thing and just kind of go along for the ride. That’s the hubster. He’s all…”Do we leave this week? Next week? What resort are we in? Did you make our dining reservations yet?”

Of course, much like my superhero buddies, there’s a spectrum when it comes to planning for a Disney trip, from the ultra-planners like me to those who are willing to hop in the car and start driving toward the parks without a resort reservation or ticket in hand, and a whole bunch there in the middle. No matter where you happen to fall on this range, there is one issue that affects us all and that has started countless heated conversations…FastPass+.

Back in the day, FastPasses were little paper passes that you had to retrieve from the attraction itself, meaning you had to haul yourself all over the park trying to grab your passes, and the machine would give you whatever time it felt like. You had no choice but to accept it. That all changed, though, with the advent of FastPass+, which introduced the concept of setting your FastPasses before you even stepped foot in the parks. Some celebrated this as a way to simplify the trip and not waste precious vacation time, while others bemoaned the demise of the spontaneous, go-with-the-flow type of family trip.

How do you think I feel about it from the perspective of a family with a variety of special needs?

Long live the FastPass+!! 

Surprised? Probably not, but just in case you are, I’ll explain why I am such a big fan of this innovation and think that it is one of the best things to ever happen to a Disney World vacation for any family, but particularly for one who might be dealing with special needs.

The Necessities. Hello, my name is Taryn, and I have rescheduled a Disney vacation because of a ride refurbishment. Yep. That happened. When we planned the trip, everything seemed fine. Just a few weeks later, though, the announcement came. Mad Tea Party was going down for refurb while we were there. Missing the Tea Cups was just not an option for us, so we changed it up for after the scheduled period was over. There are a few attractions that we just absolutely have to ride while we are in Disney and it makes me anxious to think about missing them. FastPass+ eases that anxiety for me. When I set those times, I know for certain that we will get to do those important things and will not have to wait for hours to do them. This helps me feel much more at ease for the rest of the planning and journey

The Structure. One thing that many people don’t know about Aspies is how crippling decisions can be. Having too many options can be totally overwhelming and cause us to just kind of shut down. For example, this is how a conversation about going out to eat with the hubbykins might sound…”What do you want to eat?” “I don’t know.” “Does anything sound good?” “Nothing specific. What were you thinking?” “Pizza? Chinese? Salad bar? Sushi? Teppanyaki? Mexican?”……… “Peanut butter sandwich at home?”

Yeah. It’s super fun. That’s kind of what it’s like walking into Disney without structure. You have this entire World ahead of you…and absolutely no idea what to do with it. Now, there are touring plans you can do. You could just start on one side of the park and make your way across. That would work, but it can also waste a lot of time and still leave you feeling out of control. Instead, FastPass+ gives me structure. When I set those times, I know where we’re going to be and when. This means that I know what area of the park we are going to be in, and what time we need to be in the next place. This isn’t just about structuring out the rides. It also means we can time our quick service meals and know which restaurant to choose, fit in visits to favorite stores, and figure out when to settle in for a parade or a snack. With a structured day ahead of me, I feel more relaxed and at ease, allowing me to enjoy myself much more

The Time. Have you ever stood in line for three hours to ride Seven Dwarfs Mine Train? Yep, I have. You know why? No FastPass. Now, I know there will be people who proclaim “I would never wait more than 30 minutes for a ride!” and say that it’s my own fault for standing there when I could have just skipped it. Sure. I could have. But I’m not that kind of mother. Avalon wanted to ride Mine Train and we had already missed it earlier in the trip, so I promised her that she would ride it before we went home, no matter what. So on our last night, we did. It took us three hours, but it was worth it to see the look of joy on her face. But that’s just how I roll. Of course, I would rather have been scooting my way right up that FastPass lane and be done in 20 minutes. That’s why FastPass+ is so spectacular. While others are standing around for hours waiting, you can glide on past and then head to your next destination. This is valuable to everyone, but when it comes to my group, it is critical. Having a senior with us means that sometimes Tutu gets a bit tired. My heart issue means that I need to be able to drink regularly and can wear out quickly, especially in heat, sun, or after standing. The time that we save by planning our FastPass+ reservations in advance means that we get more done and still feel our best

The Stacking. I have some shocking news. My mother won’t ride the Tower of Terror. I know. It’s stunning that the woman who would rather stop at a rest area and sleep for four hours than let hubby drive, and who prayed her way through Mine Train because we told her that the whole family needed to ride the brand new ride together would not want to freefall several times. That means that she and the baby have to do something else while us “grownups” go try to solve the mystery of the disappeared section of the Hollywood Tower Hotel. Their go-to is the Frozen Sing-Along. We are not permitted to see it. That is “their thing” according to Avalon. Timing these two experiences can be hairy if you are just winging it. You have to hope that the waits will be the right length that we end up finishing around the same time so that some of us aren’t just sitting around waiting, which can be extremely stressful for me. That’s when my mind wanders and I slip into the dark place of “we’re going to miss our dinner reservation”, “we won’t be able to ride anything else”, “what if it starts raining?”, “what if they are already out and we missed them and we won’t be able to find them?”.

FastPass keeps this from happening. We time these two experiences so that they are close enough together that we are able to split off, do our things, and then come back together with little waiting in between.

Yes, my trip is not as spontaneous as some people’s. Other families might like that feeling of walking into the park and doing whatever it is they want to do as it comes up. That’s fantastic. If that’s you…don’t schedule FastPasses+ slots. They aren’t necessary. They aren’t a requirement. They are just a perk that can make visiting the World so much less stressful and more enjoyable. You can be as spontaneous as you want — you can even skip the passes that you do make if they don’t fit into your day as it is going, and make a new one once the three for the day have already been used, cancelled, or skipped. So much freedom!

If you are staying onsite, you get to start reserving slots 60 days ahead of check-in for your entire stay. If you are staying offsite, you can start 30 days ahead of time, one day at a time. That day is always fun for me. By then I have lists and am ready to book the hottest passes first, then fill in from there. Keep in mind you have to have theme park admission already purchased and linked to your My Disney Experience in order to make your reservations.

Find out how the FREE services of a Disney World travel agent can make planning your Disney vacation simple and STRESS FREE! 

Taryn was born and raised, and still lives in Richmond, Virginia. Neither she nor her husband ever had the opportunity to visit Walt Disney World when they were children, but when their daughter Avalon came along, they decided she was not going to follow in their footsteps. They brought Avalon for the first time when she was 3 and have been hooked ever since. Now along with Taryn’s mother and equally Disney-loving older brother, they go “home” at least once a year, and by the time she is staring longingly at Cinderella Castle from the ferry on their last night, Taryn is well on her way to planning the next trip. As a group consisting of two adults with Asperger’s, including one who is also vegan, a very accommodating husband, an only child, a senior, and a service dog, they are a pretty special family, but Taryn is excited to show that the World really is The Most Magical Place on Earth and that there is a place there for everyone. When she isn’t thinking about her next Disney adventure and trying to come up with a Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party costume that will beat her Oozma Kappa nerd look, she is a professional blogger and novelist.

Want to know when Disney announces special savings and deals? Sign Up to Learn About the Latest Disney Promotions!

This entry was posted in Disney Vacation Planning, Disney Vacation Tips, Special Needs at Disney World and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *