Disney vs. Universal: Who has the best way to eliminate long waits?
One of the worst parts of any theme park vacation is having to stand in seemingly endless lines. The Walt Disney World theme parks and Universal Studio Florida/Islands of Adventure all have systems in place to lessen wait times for some guests. How do these systems compare between these two destinations?
Fastpasses, which are available for several rides and attractions at each of the Disney World theme parks, are a form of “reservation.” Guests use their admission ticket to get a Fastpass for a particular attraction. The Fastpass shows a return window when the guest can come back and ride or see the show with a minimal wait. For example, let’s say that you want to ride Splash Mountain. It’s noon, and the line is already nearly an hour long. You insert your ticket into the appropriate Fastpass machine and it spits out a Fastpass with a 3 p.m. to 3:15 p.m. return time. When you come back in that timeframe, you enter via the Fastpass line and your wait will normally be mere minutes.
Fastpasses are never honored before their start time, but depending on the crowd level they may be honored after their stated return time. For example, let’s say you were busy waiting to see the fairies at Pixie Hollow and suddenly realized that it was 4 p.m. You would probably still be able to use your Splash Mountain Fastpass, although it would be at the Cast Member’s discretion.
Generally you can only hold one Fastpass at a time. In other words, if you tried to get one for Winnie the Pooh after getting your Splash Mountain pass, the machine would spit out a voided piece of paper. But when there is a long gap, you’ll be allowed to get another Fastpass after a certain length of time, even if the window for the pass you are holding hasn’t begun yet.
Fastpasses are free for all guests.
During the busy season, Fastpasses for the most popular rides can run out quickly. For example, in the summer, Fastpasses for attractions such as Soarin’ at Epcot and Toy Story Mania at Disney Hollywood Studio can be gone long before noon.
Not all rides and shows use the Fastpass system. For example, the highly popular Nemo musical at Disney’s Animal Kingdom doesn’t have Fastpasses.
Universal Express utilizes a separate line to let guests from its onsite hotels and certain others bypass the standby lines to experience rides and attractions more quickly. Guests staying at one of the Universal Resort hotels get unlimited Express privileges. Other guests can purchase Express privileges that allow them to use the Express line once for each ride or a deluxe version that gives them unlimited access. Holders of the Premier annual pass get unlimited Express use after 4 p.m.
Express is available for virtually all rides and shows. The most notable exception is Pteranodon Flyers, a slow-loading kiddie ride at Islands of Adventure.
Express is unlimited for most users, other than purchasers of the one-time-per-ride pass, and you don’t have to get a special “ticket” or return at a certain time.
Express is not free to all guests. You must either stay at a Universal Resort hotel, be a Premier passholder, or purchase your Express privileges.
Both of these systems can be invaluable in the summer or during holiday periods. If you typically visit Orlando during the peak season, weigh the advantages of Fastpasses and Universal Express and see if you can use one or both of these systems to make your visit more enjoyable.
For more information on Universal Express, visithttp://www.universalorlando.com/universal_express.html.
For Disney Fastpass information, visithttp://disneyworld.disney.go.com/wdw/common/guestServicesDetail?id=FastPassGuestServicesDetailPage.