Monday, June 10, 2019

Changes to FP+ Tiers at Hollywood Studios

If you're headed to Disney World after August 28th, you're going to want to read this.  Last week, Disney announced major changes to the FastPass+ tiers at Hollywood Studio.  And, yes, Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge opens on August 29th.  It will be interesting to see what happens to wait times and FP+ availability after these changes take place.

If you're not sure how FastPass+ works, you can read my post Your Guide to FastPass+ HERE.  Obviously, the tiers outlined there for Hollywood Studios are outdated.

When we visited WDW last year, Toy Story Land had only been open for a couple of months and the tier structure had been changed to absorb the expected crowds.  The first tier consisted of the three Toy Story Land rides (Slinky Dog Dash, Alien Swirling Saucers and Toy Story Mania) and all other rides/shows/attractions were in the second tier.  Initially, you could make one FP+ reservation for any Tier 1 ride and then two FP+ reservations for any non-Toy Story Land ride/show/attraction.

Here's what the new tiers will look like on August 29th:

Tier 1 - Choose 1
  • Slinky Dog Dash
  • Toy Story Mania
  • Alien Swirling Saucers
  • Rock 'n' Roller Coaster
  • Tower of Terror
Tier 2 - Choose 2
  • Star Tours: The Adventure Continues
  • For the First Time in Forever:  Frozen Sing-Along
  • Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular
  • Voyage of the Little Mermaid
  • Disney Junior Dance Party
  • Muppet Vision 3D
  • Beauty and the Beast - Live on Stage
  • Fantasmic!   

Personally, I find this super frustrating because you really do not need a FP+ for shows.  Word on the street is that this new tier structure will create more FP+ availability for those Tier 1 rides.  When we visited Hollywood Studios last August, I rode all five rides in the new Tier 1 category.  I had FP+ for three of them and waited in line for the other two.  If I want to ride all five under this new structure, I'd only have a FP+ for one, and I'd have to wait in line for the other four.  (Unless, I'm able to reserve one as my 4th FP+ later in the day.)

What about the rides for Stars Wars: Galaxy's Edge??  Only one ride (Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run) will be available to guests when the new Star Wars Land opens on August 29th.  The second ride, Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance, is scheduled to open later this year.  As of right now, FastPass+ will not be available for either ride but it is assumed that this will change in the future.  Oh, if you're curious about height requirements, both rides do have restrictions.  You need to be 38" inches or taller for Smugglers Run and 40" inches or taller for Rise of the Resistance.

I think it's safe to say that most guests are going to want to experience at least three of the Tier 1 attractions and this is going to be tough to do without waiting in long lines.  I also think it's safe to assume that many, many guests are going to flock to the new Star Wars Land right when they arrive at Hollywood Studios.  You have to think about what time most guests arrive to the parks though.  Go read a hundred different articles/books/blog posts outlining strategies for successfully touring Disney parks and every single one will tell you to arrive at the park before the gates open.  How many guests actually do this?  Not many.  People are on vacation.  People don't want to get up at the crack of dawn.  People were up late the night before watching fireworks.  This wouldn't be listed as a touring strategy over and over again if everyone followed it, because then the parks would actually be crowded with long lines right when the parks open.

From August 29th through August 31st, Hollywood Studios will open at 6:00 AM for all guests.  From September 1st through November 2nd, Hollywood Studios will have EXTRA Extra Magic Hours daily from 6:00 - 9:00 AM.  Keep in mind that EXTRA Extra Magic Hours are for guests of Walt Disney World and affiliated resorts.
Die hard Star Wars fans will take advantage of those Extra Extra Magic Hours and arrive at park opening and other guests will filter in throughout the morning.  I'm not a morning person at all so I completely understand not wanting to get up at 4:00 in the morning during vacation but if you want to avoid lines, your best bet is to arrive before 6:00.  I think even getting there at 7:00 will give you an advantage.  Again, for most guests, this is not a Disney trip.  It's a vacation and they want to treat it as such.  If you arrive early, you'll see park attendance slowly increase throughout the morning.  At 10:00, they'll be many more guests than there were at 7:00, 8:00 or even 9:00.

Decide what's most important to you and head there first.  I would also keep an eye on wait times.  Suppose your top two rides are Slinky Dog and Rock 'n' Roller Coaster but you weren't able to secure FP+ for either.  If the wait time for Slinky Dog is at 90 minutes when you arrive at HS, but RnR Coaster is at 30 minutes, it makes sense to head over the shortest wait time first.

Don't forget that once you use (or the time expires) your three FP+ for the day, you can book another one.  And after you use that one, you can reserve another.  Because of this, it makes sense to choose times in the morning for those initial three FastPasses.

When all else fails, a typical touring strategy for Hollywood Studios is to wait for the last couple of hours prior to closing.  Disney is obviously trying to make Hollywood Studios a full day park but guests, for awhile at least, are going to hold on to that half-day mentality.  If you need a break in the middle of the day, take it and then return after dinner.

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