Our visit to Magic Kingdom continues as we head to Frontierland to use FastPass+ at the two priorities there, beginning with Splash Mountain. If you’re wondering how we got here, then you can pull up the last post in this series, which includes links back to how we started the day on Main Street with a couple of leisurely Omnibus rides and a focus on the sights and sounds prior to the Park officially opening.
If you’re rope dropping Frontierland to start your day, then I typically recommend riding Big Thunder Mountain Railroad in standby before Splash Mountain. The runaway mine train roller coaster is a shorter ride and you’ll be on your way to Splash that much sooner, which should translate to a combined wait between the two attractions that adds up to less time than if you were to do things in the opposite order. Most people head to Big Thunder first thing, or will head there after stopping at their first attraction, which typically causes waits to build at Big Thunder quicker. If you ride Splash Mountain first, and don’t make it to Big Thunder until about 9:25am, then you may find an actual wait of 20+ minutes if only one side is loading first thing. As far as whether it makes sense to use FP+ at Big Thunder or Splash first, it probably doesn’t matter. Potentially, you might book Splash Mountain first, since the speed of Big Thunder will probably help dry you off a bit.
In my case, the fact that I’m heading to Splash first is just how the timing worked out when I was setting my day up. Here are my pre-booked FastPass+ reservations:
You’ll remember that I saved about 75 minutes in line at Seven Dwarfs Mine Train when I arrived there and used FP+ around 10am. By putting Splash Mountain off until the end of the return window, I’ve taken as much advantage of short standby waits elsewhere as possible. I waited just about ten minutes for Pirates of the Caribbean when I got in line there at 10:33am. If I rode Splash Mountain and Big Thunder with FP+ first, and got in standby for Pirates at 11:30am instead, then I’d easily wait three times as long.
Crowds remain significantly lower than they would have been without the travel and health concerns. In Disney’s case, the timing is particularly unfortunate because hotel room rates and ticket prices are among the highest of the year with spring break and Easter travel from the beginning of March into the third week in April. Over the last several years, summer attendance has been soft as people push their trips into the fall, when temperatures are cooler and special events are more common.
Once Disney World reopens, I’d expect crowds to be even lower, though we’ll also likely see lower staffing, which may either keep wait times similar to what we see today, or even push them higher. Disney was obviously staffed for peak spring break attendance on the day of my visit, and actual crowds resembled something closer to what you’d expect during a Mickey’s Party date in August.
Of course, that still translates to a considerable number of people occupying the most visited theme park in the world…
As we head down towards the Frontierland priorities.
I’ve also got FastPass+ for Big Thunder, which should save me at least 45 minutes after I’m done with Splash.
Splash was posting just 35 minutes at 11am, which is less than half of what it would have been under ordinary spring break conditions.
The average wait at this point in the day is 55 minutes, so we’re considerably below average.
With FastPass+, I was on-board about three minutes after initially getting in line.
As you are probably aware, about 90% of the water that will hit you during Splash Mountain is sprayed in your direction via a variety of whatever you’d call the sprinkler pipes, rather than the “natural” motion of the logs. Disney had apparently turned all of these sprayers off, likely as a way to reduce spreading contamination.
On cooler days, you’ll typically see the sprayers turned off as well.
While not exactly a look down from a helicopter on a closed day, I can’t remember the last time we’ve seen this few people in Frontierland at 11am. Crowds were actually higher on the last day Magic Kingdom was open before the shutdown at the end of the day on March 15th.
A few more pictures from Splash:
Splash Mountain took less than 25 minutes with FastPass+, which is well below-average, as the posted wait time has gone up a meager five minutes during my ride.
Big Thunder Mountain’s posted wait had gone up by ten minutes, which makes sense, since we’ve been reinforcing the idea that wait times generally go up as it gets later in the morning and more people have an opportunity to arrive and get in line for something.
With FastPass+, I was on-board in less than seven minutes. It’s possible that a 70-200mm lens is not congruous with the front row of a roller coaster:
Big Thunder took 12 minutes, which is three or four minutes below average.
Immediately after scanning my ticket/MagicBand at the entrance of my third FP+ attraction of the day, I’m eligible to open up the My Disney Experience app and make a 4th FastPass+ reservation, based on availability.
This is what I initially saw:
Even with crowds and wait times that are well below-average, day-of FastPass+ availability remains rather dire. Even as a party of one, checking before 11:30am, the earliest return time for The Barnstormer is more than three hours out. Initially, the earliest return time for Buzz is 6:35pm.
The next four attractions all have return times that are sooner:
But none of these are particularly desirable.
It may be comforting that Mickey’s PhilharMagic is showing immediate availability, but also a little scary that the earliest return time for Monsters, Inc. Laugh Floor is 3:20pm. That’s almost four hours away.
And then that’s it as far as available attractions are concerned.
That means that with this refresh, the following attraction have no day-of FastPass+ availability whatsoever:
That’s a dozen attractions with no availability, and of course, they’re some of the best experiences that you could pull.
Refreshing FastPass+ availability is your friend, as I’ll do so in order to see what else becomes available:
You can refresh FP+ availability in the My Disney Experience app by clicking on a time at the top. After refreshing just one time, The Barnstormer is showing much earlier availability than before, and Big Thunder Mountain, a high-priority attraction, has evening availability, when it originally had none.
From here on out, I’ll only be able to book one additional FastPass+ at a time. Once I scan my ticket/MagicBand at the entrance of my third pre-booked FP+ attraction, I’ll then be able to book an additional FP+ experience. If I were to book The Barnstormer for 12:40pm, and then scan in at 12:40pm, I’d be able to book a 5th FastPass+ right at 12:40pm. If I took the 7:50pm Big Thunder Mountain, and scanned in there right at 7:50pm, then I would be eligible to book a 5th FastPass+ at 7:50pm.
Thus, when booking additional FastPass+ experiences, you can employ a couple of different strategies. Refreshing FP+ availability persistently for a priority attraction with a close return time is always an option for those who don’t mind clicking the button on their phones over and over. Eventually, Big Thunder with a return time much earlier in the day will become available as someone will inevitably change/cancel their plans. You may instead prefer to book easier-to-get, lower-priority FastPass+ opportunities, one after the other, to constantly move through attractions. If you were planning a lengthy afternoon break, then a FP+ return time in the evening may also be exactly what you’re looking to get.
Here on the same refresh as the previous screen, there’s a 12:30pm Space Mountain return time:
The fact that it’s the only return time available means someone recently cancelled it, which is what makes it available. Since Space Mountain’s current wait time, at 85 minutes, is the longest in the Park, it would make some sense for me to grab it. Since it would be about 50 minutes before I could use it, I could eat up some time at an anytime attraction, and lunchtime is right around the corner.
At the same time as Space Mountain is showing availability for 12:30pm, Pirates is all the way out to 6:10pm, or more than six hours in the future, and the closest Tomorrowland Speedway is out to 7:05pm. With more refreshing, I’d be able to find additional attractions that might tempt me as each refresh brings up a new set of return windows.
Space Mountain would look good on my list of successes, but I wasn’t in the mood to try to cram my large frame and oversize lenses onto a rickety space rocket destined for the chiropractor, so I eventually went with an easy attraction in it’s a small world that I can use right now.
Briefly, it’s worth revisiting a somewhat recent change to the way you modify FastPass+ reservations on the My Disney Experience app. After booking a FastPass+ experience, you can either change the attraction or change the time of the attraction that you’ve already chosen. Previously, modifying a FastPass+ would have listed all of the other attractions currently available, along with additional return times for the attraction that you had chosen, if available.
In some cases, the change in how you’re able to modify FP+ experiences may not affect you. Other times, it might be a little more annoying. For example, let’s say that it’s 11:38am, and I booked my 4th FastPass+ for Big Thunder Mountain for 1:30pm. In this scenario, I’d like to move Big Thunder earlier in the day, so that I can ride it sooner. On the app, I would click “Change” to the right of the “Arrive between” time and see if an earlier return window comes up. But I won’t see availability for any other attractions in that search. During my refreshing of Big Thunder return windows, all sorts of other attractions might become available, with some of those attractions and return times preferable to what I currently have. For example, a Seven Dwarfs Mine Train for 11:45am might become available. In the “Change time” screen for Big Thunder, I would have no idea what other, potentially better attractions have FP+ availability as I go about my search for an earlier return time.
You can get around this restriction by instead going to disneyworld.com and modifying the FastPass+ there. On that screen, you’ll see both the available return times for your currently-selected attraction , and all of the available FastPass+ return times for other attractions.
With my first three FastPass+ selections of the day, I saved 75 minutes at Mine Train, 35 minutes at Splash, and 55 minutes at Big Thunder, according to the waits posted at the attractions, for a combined savings of 165 minutes, or just 15 minutes shy of three hours. Considering I’m not yet three hours into my day, that’s pretty good.
By 11:40am, crowds had picked up considerably, but wait times remain below average, at least as far as the last couple of years are concerned. Once the theme parks reopen, this may be “slammed,” relatively speaking.
Haunted Mansion had seen a lot of unexpected downtime in the days leading up to the theme park closures, with the ride down for technical trouble on four straight days earlier in the week. It then went down for lengthy amounts of time on the following days, and was down until 6:45pm on the day of my visit.
small world’s queue refurbishment continued, which meant that about 70% of the covered queue off to the right was behind walls, and the majority of the extended queue spun off to the left. The “standby” and fastpass+” lines, which are all stylized in lowercase, were also switched to accommodate the flip.
The re-routing of the queue also caused my wait with FastPass+ to be a little longer than it usually would be, since the merge point with standby was much further up the line.
Still, I was on-board the happiest cruise that ever sailed in about ten minutes:
I arrived at “it’s a small world” with FastPass+ at 11:44am, and was back out front at 12:11pm, for a total experience time of 27 minutes, which is a few minutes longer than average due to the queue reconfiguration. You can see the walls up on the right with the standby queue waiting under the sun ahead of us.
We’ll close things out with lunch at Columbia Harbour House and then venture across Fantasyland and into Tomorrowland to see what’s going on over there.