Walt Disney World has recently finished rolling out FastPass+, which replaces the legacy FastPass queue-jumping system. We've already taken a detailed look at how FastPass+ differs from its predecessor. Now, we thought it would be useful to see how it compares to Universal Express, the queue-jumping system over at the rival Universal Orlando Resort.
First, the basics: both systems are designed to cut users' wait times for attractions at the two resorts' theme parks. In both cases, they enable guests to skip the regular "standby" line for an attraction, instead queuing via a shorter FastPass+ or Express line.
With that similarity in mind, let's take a look at the big differences between FastPass+ and Universal Express.
There's a pretty stark difference here. FastPass+ is free to use for all guests at Walt Disney World's theme parks. Universal Express, meanwhile, carries a significant extra charge (which varies according to whether you are visiting on a peak day or not). On peak days, you could pay upwards of $100 for a Universal Express pass.
The exception is for guests at Universal Orlando's three luxury on-site hotels (the Hard Rock Hotel, Loews Portofino Bay Hotel and Loews Royal Pacific Resort , who receive complementary Universal Express access.
With FastPass+, guest reserve a time slot during which they can return to an attraction and avoid using the standby line. Universal Express does away with these time windows - instead, holders of an Express pass can simply turn up to the desired attraction at any time of day and join the Express line.
Booking in advance
FastPass+ enables guests at on-site Disney hotels to pre-book time slots up to 60 days in advance. This isn't the case with Universal Express, although as you can turn up and join the Express line at any time this would be unnecessary in any case.
Perks for on-site guests
As mentioned above, guests at three of Universal's on-site hotels receive complementary Unlimited Universal Express access. That means they can join the Express line at any Universal Express-enabled attraction, at any time.
FastPass+ is available to all guests at Walt Disney World's theme parks. However, only those staying at Disney's own hotels can pre-book their time slots in advance. Those staying elsewhere will have to make FastPass+ reservations when they arrive at a park, on the day.
FastPass+ reservations can only be made for a single park per day, so if you're "hopping" another Walt Disney World park later in the day, you'll be stuck in the standby lines there. The same restriction does not apply to Universal Express, as long as you purchase one of the varieties that covers both Universal Studios Florida and Islands of Adventure
Tiers and limits
The restrictions on a Universal Express pass depend on which variety of pass you buy. The basic pass allows you to jump the line once for each Universal Express-enabled attraction. The Unlimited pass, as the name suggests, has no such limit.
FastPass+ is much more restrictive. You can only make reservations for three attractions per day, in the same park. And the attractions are split into tiers. This means that while you can reserve time slots for three attractions at Epcot, for example, only one of them can be a tier one attraction. Naturally, these are the most popular attractions, such as Test Track. And it's not possible to make multiple reservations for the same attraction on the same day, even if it's in a lower tier.
Prior to the introduction of FastPass+, the legacy FastPass system was only available for a handful of attractions in each Walt Disney World theme park. That's now changed, with FastPass+ being available for even minor attractions.
Universal Express covers the majority of major attractions at Universal Orlando. Crucially, however, it does not include the hugely-popular Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey (or the under-construction Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts).
Which system do you prefer?
Which is your preferred queue-jumping approach? Do you like Disney's "free, but with restrictions" approach, or Universal's "expensive, but all-encompassing" alternative? Let us know in the comments section below!