Hacking Walt Disney World

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At a frequent flyer get together late last year, I had the pleasure of dining with a woman who is an expert in all things Disney (or, at least, much more expert than me in anything Disney, so that’s good enough for me).  She was telling me a number of tricks for getting the most out of Disney World when I suggested that it would make a great blog post.  It turns out that she had already written up many of her secrets on a thread in the Saverocity forums.  So, she emailed the information to me, with permission to publish.  What follows is a combination of her original work and my commentary.  Her work is indented as quotations…

This is only good at Disney World Orlando

I don’t think she ever goes on to explain why these tricks won’t work at other Disney locations.  Maybe she just hasn’t tested elsewhere?  Or, maybe they have different technology at different parks?  Moving on, the author describes the basics of Disney’s Fastpass+ system…

Fastpass+ is the Disney system for ride reservations.

You can reserve, in advance or day of, three rides where you will go through the special line and not have to wait 30-240 minutes.

You get three, once all three are used you can then get another one based on what is left.
If it is busy nothing will be left.

Last time I went to Disney I didn’t know that you can reserve Fastpass+ before going to the park.  As a result, even though we went in the morning, the only useful passes were for late in the evening.  Since we didn’t plan on staying that long, the whole Fastpass+ system was useless to us.  The author moves on to cover more of the basics…

So, you are going to WDW. Yay!?!?
You set up my Disney experience for each family member and linked your reservation and tickets.
Or just tickets if staying off site.
Well done. You can pick 3 rides or attractions for each person for each day.
Grab those at 60 days for onsite or 30 if staying in a non Disney bed.
Marvel at how cool this is if you are a first time visitor.
Use a map of the parks to try to keep crisscrossing the park to a minimum.

Hold the phone! You can reserve passes up to 60 days in advance?! No wonder nothing was left when I went!  Next up, the author alludes to tricks that we should have known and used before (but in my case, I didn’t):

If you have been before maybe you knew the old Fastpass hacks: disconnected rides, double dips, never ending return times, and so on. Odds are you used 5+ Fastpass a day.

Now she moves on to more tips for making the most of the current system:

Three is not nearly enough, although the ‘fast’ 20 minute line feels really fast if you just waited in a 90 minute line to see a Princess (or was that a fairy?). Or a 240 minute line to see a Snowman (fist fights can be found on YouTube), I kid you not. I never wait more than 30 minutes for any ride unless the ride breaks down and I get trapped. This trick plus the two most important tricks to avoid lines combine to really shorten wait times.

Trick 2: get to the parks about 45 minutes before they open. Lines are shortest from open to 10 AM.

Trick 3: go to the right park. Avoid Extra Magic Hour parks (for the most part) and try to go to the park that had extended hours yesterday.  Advanced player mode: know ride capacity per hour to figure out which lines get long first.

Now the “hacking” begins:

Time is money and in the magical land of Disney time is big money.
No CC or status is going to get you out of those lines. But this will: Create a second mydisneyexperiance account.

Use a unique email, and do not link it in any way to anything you linked to the first one. No tickets, no reservations, no dining reservations. Book a new reservation that is at least 31 days away, 40 is better. Pick your colors and names for your magic bands. Have fun with the names, it helps you keep the Magic Bands straight if you use different names.

They will ship to you around the 30 day mark. As soon as you get them cancel your fake reservation. You may need to change your arrival date (no charge) in order to be far enough out to get a 100% refund. (Hint, that works with all the big chains for last minute cancellations too).

You can do both the change and cancelation in one call. The agents can not override the fees if you are too close to your arrival date, but the nicer ones will suggest this method, it is how I learned the free cancelation trick. We did this to get Magic Band set 2.

If you are the type of person who has made peace with the fact that you will be going to Disney again in 3-5 years you can buy your park tickets now to lock in the price. Ticket prices go up and up, it is a sure bet. You can add these future use tickets to Magic Band set 2 and put fast passes on them 30 days out.  That is because when Disney changed over to the new system they dropped the check that required a ticket had been used to enter the park that day to be able to use it with the Fastpass system. Read that again, it is the key. This might change but I kind of doubt it will, they are a hot mess with server overload already.

UPDATE 6/9/2017: It looks like Disney may be checking for this hack and shutting down accounts that do it. Please see: Disney attacks Disney hacks.

There was a brief magical time when anything with a magnetic strip could pull a Fastpass. I digress.

If you are not wanting to invest $1600 in future use tickets, you can still get 3 extra Fastpass per day with Magic Band set 2 Because they don’t need to have a ticket attached to work. You enter the park with Band1 which has your park tickets and 3 Fastpass+ selections stored on it for prime rides between 1-5pm. You set that up 30 or 60 days ago. You put those in your daypack (you do need a day pack). You pull out Bands2 and find someone with an iPad or a kiosk. You act like you have never heard of this fast+ thing except for the video on the bus. They will help you add three Fastpasses to each band and explain how to use them. Be sure to mention you have plans to go back to your room and swim between 1-5 or whatever hours you already have Fastpasses for.

Next, the author explains why it is worth your time to set this stuff up…

Too much work?
If you have young kids this will save you hours each day.
Do the math.
Four tickets at an average per day cost of $50 is $200.

If you are fit and heat tolerant and have kids that are troopers and past nap age, maybe you can do a 12 hour park day. My kids can do 10, plus 10 makes the math easy. But be honest, you can not spend 16 hours riding rides and do it again the next day.

A family of 4 just in park tickets pays $20 an hour to be in the parks. Three extra Fastpasses even for minor attractions (if you have to wait until you enter the park) is going to save you at least 3 hours a day. It also gives you the real option to park hop. So the effort is worth at least $60 a day.

And, she follows up with good advice (for almost any hacks):

Do this now even if you have no trip in the near future. Right now Disney is sending out free Bands to everyone with a reservation. However they have already started selling them at $12.95 each for people not staying at a Disney Resort. They have said all along that they might start charging a fee, even for Resort guests, at some point. Do this now if you think you might, possibly, go to WDW at some point.

I predict the Magic Bands will become another Disney fake ‘free’ offer. Free Magic Bands for guests staying between x-Y, book now. Limited time offer. I also predict they will start giving them out at check-in instead of mailing them to you 30 days in advance. So this is like the US Bank Visa Buxx card, you will wish you had set it up once it is gone.

More Disney tips…

Start with dining:

Just in case you don’t know this, the Free Dining offer Disney loves to offer is not Free, it is more expensive than just paying for your food. Room only offers of 25% or more are the best deals. They are often a great value on Club Level rooms at Animal Kingdom Lodge. Those rooms come with the best savannah view for only a little bit more than a regular room with that view. It is a dark resort and kind of far from the Magic Kingdom, but it is really unique.

Consider getting the Disney debit card rather than the credit card:

Chase offers a Disney Debit card checking account that I’ve only ever seen in branch. My son has one. This card will get the in park perks (a special photo and free 5×7, entrance to Chase lounges during special events, maybe in store discounts although I’ve never tested that). To get the Disney CC with $100 offer, book a dummy reservation. Public offer is $50. Order free CD from Disney website (vacation planning CD) to get the $200 offer on the premiere card.

Consider saving money with a Disney Vacation Savings Account (load with gift cards!):

Disney Vacation Savings Account, open and load $1. When you book a trip or buy tickets from Disney, load the account a few days ahead of time (free with any form of payment including Disney Gift Cards) then use account to pay for trip/tix and Disney will give you $20/$1000.

Save money on Disney gift cards (then use them to buy tickets directly or to load a Disney Vacation Savings Account. See above):

Buy Disney Gift Cards online from Target. Set any Red Card as default payment and the free s/h and 5% off will be added to your account even if you use another form of payment. Target gift cards can be used for merchant gift cards, typically they are 3-4% off from resellers, higher around Christmas, they were 8% off this year. I’ve also seen Target GC at grocery stores.

Buying tickets:

Disney ticket broker: Undercovertourist is my go to for tickets. But I always do the math, sometimes the Disney Gift Card with % off is a better discount.

I realize that some of the above may read like gibberish if you’re not familiar with Disney.  Please ask questions in the comments below.  If you’re lucky, the author of these hacks may find time to answer.  Otherwise, I’ll do my best…

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