Heading to Disneyland? Beware the Fastpass rules change

May 30, 2013 | 2:05 p.m.
Guests wait in line to enter Walt Disney Co.'s California Adventure Park, part of the Disneyland Resort, in Anaheim, California, U.S., on Friday, May 24, 2013. (Patrick T. Fallon/Bloomberg)

Guests wait in line last week to enter Walt Disney Co.’s California Adventure Park, part of the Disneyland Resort in Anaheim. (Patrick T. Fallon/Bloomberg)


A word of warning if you’re headed for the maddening crowds at the Magic Kingdom this summer – the line situation just took a big step backward.

I’m not one to exaggerate, but mapping the human genome was nothing compared with the development of the Disneyland Fastpass, which can cut wait times for major rides by a half or a third. And now a critical benefit of the glory and envy of the civilized amusement park world has been quietly changed for the worse.

Earlier this year the Disney time lords apparently decided that when a Fastpass provides a window of an hour to return to your chosen ride it means you better zip-a-dee-doo-dah do so – or else you can kiss that short Fastpass line goodbye and say hello to the hordes in the standby line.

MORE: Disney is reanimated with ‘Big Hero 6,’ ‘Frozen’

For years, the very pillar of family excursions to the Happiest Place on Earth was the pre-arrival strategy – and the on-the-ground improvisation – of avoiding onerous waits.  The linchpin in skirting the longest lines for the best rides (Space Mountain, California Screamin’, Tower of Terror, Grizzly River Run) was stockpiling as many Fastpasses as we could for late afternoon or evening.

So imagine my horror (again, I never exaggerate for dramatic effect) when I happily presented a fistful of Fastpasses to a cast member at the entrance of “Soarin’ Over California.”

“I’m sorry, sir.” (Cast members are unfailingly polite, even when delivering bad news.) “I can’t accept these because they expired three hours ago.”

When I came to, I was informed that the rule change was made in February. Why would Disney, a source of enlightenment and progress in queuing theory  (that’s not an exaggeration or a fabrication, it’s actually the hard science behind line management), want to push park visitors back to stone age?

The move is akin to having a DVR with 200 hours of storage, then having it cut to 50 hours. Yeah, I’m still glad to have my DVR, but it isn’t what it used to be. Also, it’s harder to make eye contact with Goofy now.

What’s next? Banning the app for Disneyland wait times?

What do you think of Disney’s Fastpass rule change? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.

– Martin Miller

Follow us on Twitter: @LATHeroComplex


'Thor: The Dark World' poster‘Mickey and the Magical Map’ redraws Disneyland plans

‘Thor 2’: Wielding the hammer in a new poster

Super Bowl: Smaller crowds at Disneyland?

‘X-Men: Days of Future Past’: Claremont’s agenda

Walt Disney, a guest essay by Jon Favreau

‘Avengers’: Joss Whedon should be your hero

Disneyland’s Matterhorn: Abominable sounds

Ifans: ‘Spider-Man,’ like ‘Hamlet,’ begs us to revisit

Damon Lindelof: Why Spider-Man sticks

Star Tours: A video tour of the revamped ride

Marvel, circus company join forces


56 Responses to Heading to Disneyland? Beware the Fastpass rules change

  1. @nsbulk says:

    It's not a rule change, it's a rule enforcement. Return times have always been printed on the Fast Pass. You just chose to ignore it. Here's a quick tip though, after you wait in line for a Radiator Springs Racer Fast Pass, you should be able to get another DCA Fast Pass right away.

  2. Jim says:

    Isn't that how Fastpass always worked? I was under the impression the ticket had a "return between 4pm-5pm" printed on them. I didn't know that they used to accept a FP ticket several hours after the window had elapsed.

  3. Disneyland Guest says:

    Yet another victim of self-entitlement. God forbid Disneyland actually enforces a time restraint and actually rewards those who show up on time with shorter lines. Hope you enjoy the back of the line, Martin Miller.

  4. Anonymous says:

    The rule is not changing, they just began enforcing the time window that has always been on the Fastpass. When you receive a Fastpass, you are given a 1-hour window during which time you can bypass the standy line. Too many people, like yourself, would stockpile the Fastpasses and use them at a later time. This has a negative effect because too many people will be in the Fastpass line since they came outside their window. I think Disney should do away with Fastpass all together and go back to just having the standby lines. Wait times used to be less in the pre-Fastpass days.

  5. Frumper says:

    The exact situation you described is why they should keep the change. Whats so fast about everyone just stocking up for the afternoon. This should result in shorter fast pass rides.

  6. Fas says:

    Wait, you never honored the time printed on the Fastpass? Your perspective made me laugh today. Thanks,

    • Outside the box says:

      I think it's funny that people did "honor" the fast pass times. Nice to see he worked they system like many of us did. But, you're right, now we can wait in line like the rest of you "simple thinkers"

  7. Tom says:

    This changes nothing for me. That is always how they have been printed, and that is always how I have used them. The FP lines always got worse as the day went on because of people abusing the system. Glad to hear they are finally expecting people to pay attention, read the ticket and follow the rules. It will make for an all around better day in the park.

  8. Rosemary says:

    As far as I know, isn't this the way it always was? I've been doing fastpass for years at Disney World in Florida, and my fastpasses always had a one hour window. You had to come back wihtin that time period or the fastpass was no good any more. Were the rules different in California?

  9. Blessed says:

    Never have needed to use this. If you don't want to wait, simply don't go. You know you're going to wait at the Disney parks, so expect it and deal with it. No wonder so many people are lazy. Our luxuries seriously need to be appreciated instead of just expected. Rant over.

  10. Steve says:

    Just as there are always rules, there will always be those who try to bend, twist and break them. Fast past Hoarders like you are nothing more than pure line-cutters, and are the very reason it's finally time this rule be enforced. Hopefully this eliminates saturating fast passes by 11am, as has been the recent trend over the, last year!

  11. Walt says:

    I'm kinda pissed to learn that people weren't using the fastpass as it was intended, regardless if it was enforced or not.

  12. Paul Atkinson says:

    Here's a tip… Return when the time is printed on the pass. We always do, and we always get on the ride. You want to whine over this? Then let me whine about people like you who think the rules shouldn't apply in your own "magic kingdom". Also, you could also just become one of the new jerks hiring handicap people to travel to the park with you. That way you could bypass the lines all together. Sounds like it's right up your alley.

    • Sam Edwards says:

      OMG best idea ever "hiring handicap people to travel to the park with you".
      it is a win win they get a free trip and i get a free fast pass.

  13. Todd says:

    This is how Disney maintains a good flow in its lines. You get a faster entry by returning at the time that has always been on the ticket.

  14. hotairfl says:

    Disney implemented the same fastpass enforcement at Walt Disney World as well. This is to prep for the deployment of the new MyMagic+ program with Magic Bands and FastPass+ rolling out later this year. Fastpass, as we know it today, is going away eventually.

  15. Starthrower50 says:

    Oops… Martin, looks like you've been roundly chastised. And I don't exaggerate either. *chuckle*

  16. belkis says:

    i thank God for the fast passes i never knew they were for later times… shurgs…

  17. momof3 says:

    Completely pathetic that you’re whining over a program being enforced so it works the way it was intended. Grow up.

  18. Ced says:

    My last year of having the pass

  19. Guest says:

    I, for one, appreciate that Miller actually informed us about the rule enforcement change. Disney should have let us (Premium) Annual Passholders know of this change directly, but because they did not, Miller's article offers important information.

    FYI, to the folks chastising the author, many frequent visitors to the parks spend a lot of time understanding how things actually work, talking with Disney staffers, asking questions, etc. Just because you did not do so, and ended up in longer lines than necessary, does not entitle you to disparage those who did.

    • Greg W says:

      I agree that it is ignorant for these people to chastise those of us who have spent a lot of money figuring out how it works.

      They changed expectations.

      It is like a right-of-way in law. If one allows passage (right-of-way) on their property (to others) for long enough, then it becomes a legal access-way to those other people, regardless of what the the original title/deed says.

      DLand spuriously changed it. They dislocated expectations. That is the problem. If they had always enforced it, we would not be having this discussion.

    • Guest says:


      • guest says:

        FOR REALS! I just came back from disneyland and was so upset that the castmember didn't even let me go on space mountain when I had no idea they wouldn't let us anymore! I asked her nicely, even on my birthday, to let us in this once and we'll get back on the "following rules" part. I go to disneyland often, so I have always used my fast passes after it expired! In fact, a CAST member even told me I could…so…when someone who works there tells you you can, you will. It was very disappointing.

    • al - disney fan says:

      Again, someone trying to find a way to get around the rules that the rest of us follow….are you too special to follow rules?

  20. Justsayin says:

    Why write this article? To prove you didn’t know how to read?

    This is not a new FP change at all. If you don’t wanna show up when you’re supposed to just get in the back of the line.

    I can’t believe you wrote this expecting sympathy or people to be outraged with disney when this was your own fault.

  21. lisa lingard says:

    I can tell you as a former cast member in CA, that the fastpass rule was not upheld in at our resort until this year. When selling tickets at the booths we told the guests to stockpile them and use them late at night!! WDW has always enforced it.

  22. Angie says:

    I’m surprised no ones mentioned the Single-rider lines. I went to Disneyland yesterday and collectively I think I saved almost 2 hours of waiting time when going on the single-rider line. Although the chance of separation is pretty high, it’s better than waiting an hour on a line when you can wait 15 mins instead.

  23. Kris says:

    Thanks Master of the Obvious!
    That has always been the case. Also, depending on what staff member, they won't even let you use the fastpasses 5 mins early. The worst is when you have 3 fastpasses and the 4th comes out with the next window.

    Thanks for the laugh! And also for one of the people making the lines longer in fastpass. :P

  24. Park Aficionado says:

    As someone who has gone to the parks several times a month for over over sixteen years, I am disappointed in the new enforcement. Since this change, the fastpass lines have never been longer. Disney Fastpasses are distributed to a designated number of people per time window. Now that the time window is being enforced, everyone who has the same time window as you has to rush to the ride to get their use of the Fastpass. This results in a bulky fastpass line. With the system before it was actually more convenient because people would come back to use their fastpass at any time of the day, which allowed for more flow in the lines. Not all of us stockpiled our passes. For a lot of us it just meant we could enjoy our time at the park without having to rush around like maniacs only to find a fastpass line practically as long as the regular line.

    • canyonlakeqt says:

      I agree withi this. The Fast Pass lines are longer now with this new "Enforcement" of rules. Also, most lines at Disneyland are roughly 30-60 minutes, we got stuck in another line and missed our cut off time by 15 minutes and lost our fast pass. I always thought the rule before was, as long as you showed up within your hour time frame, or anytime after they would honor the fast pass. I dont see why are enforcing this so much, the system was working just fine.

  25. T.B. says:

    With 5 kids and a budget that only lets us go to Disneyland once a year I try to get the most of it The late fastpass routine was the only way we could get on rides and enjoy the shows too.We discovered this by accident and made sure it was all right with the staff. If someone thinks this Is taking advantage then they can just stay in the other lines and compare the wait time.

  26. Baunie says:

    Call him a Whaaaaaa!-bulance.

    I should be so lucky to go to Disneyland once a year, let alone all year. I would reminisce about the days when Southern California residents could purchase a special pass for $99. YES!!! $99 go both parks any day except blackouts. And the blackout days were usually days a normal person wouldn’t want to go to the park (e.g. Major holidays, hot summer months, Saturdays) due to massive crowds.

    Now, nobody can even afford the low-end annual pass without a monthly payment plan. That opened the park to everybody and their uncle and now EVERYDAY is crowded. I found no pleasure in being at the park anymore because of whiny, line jumpers like the author of this article. Disneyland used to be fun. Currently, it’s just too expensive and too crowded. Be appreciative that you can afford to set foot in the Park, while the rest of us just look on with contempt.

  27. cutey says:

    I agree this is a shame and changing this is now making the return lines longer. What is the use if it is more inconvenient for people and making people wait in lines longer so they can't enjoy the rest of the park during that time and could be spending more free time and $ on shops and food? I do understand if it because of Fast Pass + coming up but I don't see why this has to be changed now when I doubt that will come to DLR for a LONG time (not even up in WDW yet!).

  28. mmmm says:

    Why is it that people are complaining now that Disney is enforcing this rule? Fair is fair. Why should you (the late FP holder) be the exception to any Disney rule? My family and I are there to enjoy the park as much as the next family, if you can’t be patient and wait your turn then just don’t go. This is the reason they have multiple parades and there shops are open until late. Stop trying to make excuses.

  29. ezgoin says:

    "Fair" is only fair if the enforcement of this policy truly benefits all of the whiners here who seem upset because they weren't privvy to the old flexible policy. I defy anyone to prove that the Fast Pass lines have suddenly changed for the better because of the stricter enforcement. As some have noted here, they've actually gotten fatter because everyone now bunches up for the tighter window. All this has done is removed the flexibility that many park-goers had availed themselves of. As for me, my Annual Pass just expired this week, and I've had it with the shameless greed of a big corporate conglomerate that keeps pushing families beyond their means, all the while paying its boss Bob Iger an incredible $31.4 million windfall. How many families get to scrape by so they can pay inflated ticket prices that fund that largess? Sorry, Bob, I won't be paying my share of your bloated paycheck from this day forward!

  30. M. Mouse says:

    If you are upset at Disney for finally enforcing the way the fast pass system was suppose to work in the first place, and you are outraged at this enforcement, then I say you are already behind the curve. As a national story has already broken, if you really want to bypass the line, why don't you try out the handicapped tour guide method? Same train of thought right? You are using the "rule" provided to handicapped guests to gain an advantage? With this you have an even shorter line than fast pass. I for one am glad they are finally enforcing it the way it was meant to be.

    • Ridiculous. says:

      Your condescending comparison is ridiculous, actually. No one is suggesting they want to unfairly take advantage of the system. The reason people are upset is because the strict enforcement is causing families to not be able to do half as much stuff as before because of having to choose between parades, other rides, and making their Fastpass time. Having flexibility so that you didn't have to miss out on anything was the nice part of the old system.

  31. Amanda says:

    Maybe they should enforce single rider lines. I go to Disneyland alone quite often and I am tired of groups going in the single rider line and then complaining about not being in the same ride vehicle. Today, in fact, a group of 15 showed up in the single rider line while one person in their group(all wearing matching shirts) stood and held their spot. The cast member just stood and watched and let it happen. How about enforcing that? Also, you can’t control the time of your fastpass return and on Saturday I had 3 fast passes that all happened to be around the same 90 minute time frame but I had a Blue Bayou reservation. So lucky me I missed them all.

    • BCLA says:

      That's not breaking the rules for a large group to use the single rider line as long as they're not specifically accommodated as a group. Now if they're insisting on going together, then the cast member should just tell them either go when they say it's OK or get in the regular line.

  32. The Big Picture says:

    Here's the thing. If they want to enforce the Fastpass times there isn't much we can do about it. The unfortunate thing though is that often times the hour windows will conflict and then you end up having to choose which ride you want to go on more. The best thing about the flexibility before was that you didn't have to stress about deciding whether to watch a show or make your Fastpass time. You were able to do everything, all the rides and the shows.

    Contrary to what everyone has been saying, the old Fastpass times were not mandatory at Disneyland; nowhere on the Fastpass did it say you HAD to return between that time, the preferred time was just listed on the front. The new "grace window" isn't much of a grace window considering everything going on in the park. Doesn't sound very magical to me.

    Families who can't afford annual passes are now forced to try and cram everything into the day or two that they get, and I'm afraid many will be disappointed with the lack of shows and rides they will be able to see. The people who are commenting on how "fair is fair" and "I'm glad they are enforcing this" are very closed-minded and are refusing to see the bigger picture.

    • No kidding! says:

      I totally agree…the bigger picture is more important here. I get what Disney is trying to accomplish (how can people fault them when it appears that all of us were rule breakers and taking advantage of the system? Of course it's going to pit those that never knew against us that did). But I really don't think the fastpass clumps were a problem to begin with…I come to Disneyland a lot and pay attention to those sorts of things. It's ridiculous that this person is getting so much backlash on the article. Yesterday in the park, I felt like I spent so much time and energy trying to make it back to the rides that I probably went on half the amount of rides that I normally can fit in a day. And with prices rising to get in….no thank you!

  33. Really? Get over it. says:

    Yesterday was my first day experiencing the enforced fastpass times….and I was not impressed. If I saw the fastpass lines were more spread out and not as crowded in the afternoon/evenings, I can admit that their reasoning makes since. I'm all about businesses making decisions that will help the ease and comfort of their clientele. The truth is, I have never experienced longer and more hectic fastpass lines than I did yesterday…and the afternoon/evening actually got much worse! So I'm sorry Disney, I don't believe you made the right call here. It's been since February and the kinks should be worked out…apparently this is the new reality you expect the guests to deal with. And by the way, the price hike on tickets and annual passes makes this change even more of a low blow.

    Here's how I see it: If they hadn't started enforcing, the people that knew they didn't have to rush back during the 1 hour window would be happy and the people that didn't know would have kept on going as usual-No harm no foul. Because they started enforcing, now they've ticked off the people who have lost their main strategy to navigate the parks and they've ticked off the people who never knew you could. So….what's better….everyone ticked off?? Or everyone not ticked off?? And to those that say we were causing fastpass lines to be too long later in the day, I've been using this strategy for years and I've never felt like the fastpass lines were too long. If they were, I'd move on and come back.

    This is the first year I will not be renewing my Annual Pass since 2004. Between the fastpass change, price hike and inability to use family or friends park hoppers to upgrade to an Annual Pass to save money…we're out. But I'm guessing that was their goal all along…weed people out because it's getting too crowded.

    Mission accomplished.

  34. No kidding! says:

    Yesterday was my first day experiencing the enforced fastpass times….and I was not impressed. If I saw the fastpass lines were more spread out and not as crowded in the afternoon/evenings, I can admit that their reasoning makes since. I'm all about businesses making decisions that will help the ease and comfort of their clientele. The truth is, I have never experienced longer and more hectic fastpass lines than I did yesterday…and the afternoon/evening actually got much worse! So I'm sorry Disney, I don't believe you made the right call here. It's been since February and the kinks should be worked out…apparently this is the new reality you expect the guests to deal with. And by the way, the price hike on tickets and annual passes makes this change even more of a low blow.

  35. scott says:

    Or you can just hire me to go with you. I'm a disabled vet and will happily accompany you to Disney for 500 dollars a day. and you and 4 other people can skip the lines

  36. juan says:

    I used to go twice a year with my daughters with my hard earned money. If it is too crowded why dont they build a new park. Why dont they expand it. Why dont they offer more….. wait lets make the lines longer…. the idiots who are already in the line will scream wait for your turn. Lets hit the pillers and the baby swaps. Lets make reservations to have aaaaaaal year full… hey we might never close… you want to ride it… ride it at 3 am…

    Its not about give more. Its about put more ppl in line keep it full if they dont ride doesnt matter they shop and eat and farth… so for me…

    I take my kida twice to seaworld aquatica bush and nasa this year in low season. You aint going to rip me off… either you give more… or you get me out of the line.. or i take my money elsewhere.

  37. Lisa says:

    CMs openly encouraged people to use their fast passes after the return window if they needed to so I don't think it's fair to slam the writer if Disney wasn't enforcing it's own policy. A detailed analysis has been done on the flow of traffic through the FP lines at WDW now that they've been enforcing FP return times for more than a year now.

  38. Guest 2 says:

    HAH. I find it FUNNY that most of you are chastising the fact that someone actually had the guts to come after an expired time. In fact, if you all didn't know, cast members let us know a little secret that we COULD in fact use the fast passes EVEN after the expired time. It was a secret so that it could still prevent the long lines but it was informational for those who wanted to get to know the park MORE…and let in of all its tricks. All great places have its tricks. I actually enjoyed this because it helped a lot with planning the shows and other stuff like the parade. It was less stressful. I'm glad this fellow here is actually letting us know about the reinforcements because someone like me, had a surprise when they went in and expected to let in after its time only to know now that they're much stricter on it. And, the cast member even said it was effective in FEBRUARY of 2013, so, that basically means that they knew of the "it's-okay-after-expired-time-fast-pass-let-go-thing." Of course Disney wouldn't have announce it publicly, that would ruin their reputation… No one is really right with this topic, but I wouldn't bash on someone because he knew of the trick and was only informing those who also knew the trick that now Disney is being more strict. Thank you!

  39. guest says:

    I actually will NOT go to Disney if this is the case. How can they enforce it when the reason I am late might be because I got slow service at their restaurant that I went to on their Dining Plan?

  40. nugun says:

    Just going to say….

    I think FastPasses are a horrible concept. Why? What's it do? Well most parks charge a premium for FastPasses. So I am actually kind of glad that Disney does not. That said, MagicBand, FastPass+ provide "pre-scheduling" of fast passes for "resort residents".

    Essentially, FastPasses are horrible because it let's a rich person have a better experience at the expense of a less wealthy person.

    Now if you can afford to stay on a resort. You can pre-schedule your fastpasses. You're lined up to go on all the rides.

    Joe average, at best has to try to collect fast passes. Which will already be largely booked by premium members. So he'll have to wait a few hours in line. Or worse, at parks like Six Flags where it cost extra $$$ for FastPass. Those with the $$$ get to run around riding tons of rides. Those without it not only have to stay in longer lines. But those lines are now much longer because the FastPass holders are allowed to "cut in front of the line".

    And that hasn't been cool since Kindergarten.

  41. Barbara Burg says:

    great post

  42. jane says:

    I went to Islands of Adventure mid 2013 and they allow you to buy a fast pass. This fast pass allows you to skip lines ONCE on every ride. This is MUCH more convenient for the visitor. I don't know why they don't do this for Disney World and Land.

  43. Katie says:

    Ok this is all very enlightening to me as an advid fast pass user!! I am currently standing in a very long line at WDW space mountain!! I was shocked and discourage to find out about the new fast pass system as my family and I loved the old system. We always came back at our allotted time!! I never new people could do it differently! We would run all around the park using and getting fast passes at the allotted times. So now I know as ussual the abusers of the system ruined it for the rest of us!!! Also to the whinning person w 5 kids who can only go to Disney once a year??? Really??? Wake up call your very fortunate….

  44. Landlover says:

    I understand most of you look at not following the time window as "being a rebel" but the fact remains that for YEARS the worker bees (ALL of them!) at Disneyland have allowed us to ignore the time window…. This in itself is just as good as giving their permission. Why? Because they did not mind, or else they would have enforced it. This is Disney people, they are not so feeble as to just let themselves be taken advantage of. So in response to the many people criticizing the poster, I don't think you should be so harsh. Just because you all never reaped the benefit or had any knowledge of going outside the time window doesn't mean the poster is just as bad as a line cutter. I was a Fast Pass hoarder and feel guilt free about it. I enjoyed it while I was able to and ALLOWED to by Disney and now I am happy to oblige by the rule enforcement with out complaining.

Leave a Reply

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

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title="" rel=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <pre> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

E-mail It
Powered by ShareThis