Shanghai Disney Part 1
Oh Mickey, you're so fine, you blow my mind!
By Juliette Gustavsson
If you haven’t been to Shanghai Disney yet, brace yourself! This is not the Disney theme park of your childhood. My childhood Disney memories include waiting in long lines, getting a glimpse of my future at the Carousel of Progress, and taking what I thought were frame-worthy photos with my pink Le Clic camera, only to discover after I developed the film weeks later that my finger was over the lens in half of the photos. Well, these days, the sophisticated Fastpass reservation system minimizes wait times and gets you to the fun faster. Tomorrowland is more like Todayland and friendly Disney cast members can take Instagram-worthy photos of you and send them directly to your mobile phone.
Shanghai Disney’s technological advances make a visit to the park more enjoyable, and the world-class rides have come a long way from singing skeletons and international-themed dolls dancing to “It’s a Small World.” But all the innovation can be a little overwhelming for first-time visitors. To help make your Disney day more enjoyable, I’ve compiled my Shanghai Disney tips and tricks exclusively for Courier readers. In this, the first of a two-part article, the focus will be on purchasing tickets and utilizing Fastpass.
Last year, I purchased the Shanghai Disney Spring Seasonal Pass. Since the pass allows for unlimited visits, I took my then four-year-old daughter to Disney six times—three rides and one show each time. Getting a season pass and making magical moments with my daughter is something I’ll always cherish. I loved witnessing her joy when she first saw Cinderella, and we laughed at action photos taken during our rides. Together we built the excitement for our Disney visit days in advance by planning her outfits according to the area of the park we would be visiting. She was Wendy Darling as we soared through Neverland on Peter Pan’s Flight and she was a Pirate Matey when we climbed aboard Siren’s Revenge in the Treasure Cove. A great benefit to the season pass was that I never felt guilty about leaving the park too early—before my daughter got too sleepy, too hungry, too hot, or simply overwhelmed! She always left the park with a great big smile on her face, eager to come back.
Based on my experience, I highly recommend the Seasonal Pass and can’t say enough about enjoying Disney at a leisurely pace. During our six visits, we experienced all the rides and shows and spent time just strolling in the gardens and around the castle (which I think is the grandest castle to date).
Shanghai Disney is again offering Seasonal Passes and this year has a Spring- Summer Seasonal Pass. Along with your pass, you’ll receive a wide array of benefits exclusive to pass holders, including a 20 percent discount on dining in the resort and resort hotels. Be aware, Disney’s definition of “summer” may be slightly different from yours and mine, as the pass expires on July 31.
Just like one glass slipper doesn’t fit all feet, there are several different Seasonal Passes:
Anyday Annual Pass: 365 days of park access, may exclude some park hours for special events
Weekday + Sunday Annual Pass: Subject to the pass calendar, offers a minimum of 250 days of park access during pass validity period, includes most weekdays, Sundays, and part of the Summer and Winter Holidays
Sunday Annual Pass: Subject to the pass calendar, offers a minimum of 45 days of park access during pass validity period, includes most Sundays
Currently, one-day tickets are RMB 399 for each guest above 1.4 meters on weekdays and RMB 575 for weekends. During holidays and peak summer weekends, the price rises to RMB 665 (prices subject to change, be sure to check their website for current price). The Weekday Pass is a great value if you plan to visit the park more than four times. The Spring-Summer Seasonal Pass includes both a twenty percent dining discount and a twenty percent discount on Disney merchandise. If you have young children who lose their mind in the Disney souvenir shop, then the shopping discount might just pay for the entire Seasonal Pass!
You can purchase a Seasonal Pass from the official Shanghai Disney Resort Fliggy Flagship Store, the resort’s official WeChat and QQ accounts, the Shanghai Disney Resort Reservation Center, the Shanghai Disneyland main entrance ticket booths, the resort’s official store on JD.com, through Ctrip, Dianping, H.I.S. (three of the resort’s official travel providers) as well as ICBC, the resort’s official retail bank. If you purchase your ticket anywhere other than the resort’s main entrance ticket booth, you will still have to go to the ticket booth to get your photo taken and linked to your Seasonal Pass. I suggest you buy your ticket at the main ticket booths because you’ll end up there anyway, and it’s the most English-friendly and secure option.
Opening and closing times vary throughout the week. Friday, Saturday, and Sunday are the longest days: 8am to 8pm. Double check the daily calendar because times do change.
If you don't plan to purchase a Seasonal Pass, you can easily purchase one or two-day passes via the official Shanghai Disney Resort app. This fantastic app is like having a Disney cast member in your pocket. The app— downloaded in English automatically—is where you’ll
purchase your day passes, link your Fastpass (Fast what?!! —we’ll get to that in a second), and get real-time wait times for the attractions. You can also use foreign credit cards to purchase your one or two-day tickets through the app. Don’t forget, you MUST bring your passport with you on the day of your visit to collect your tickets.
Here is my fool proof formula to follow:
1. If you don’t have a Seasonal Pass, purchase your one or two-day ticket using the Shanghai Disney Resort app anytime before your visit and take a screenshot of your order number. You’ll have one order number regardless of how many tickets are being purchased.
2. On the day of your visit, go through the security checkpoint. You do not need your printed ticket. Don’t bring any glass bottles as you cannot take them inside. Once past security, get in line for the entrance gate. Do not go to the ticket counter, you already have tickets! The entrance lines on the left are faster. Note, I’ve asked Disney officials if there is a special line for Seasonal Pass holders. Sadly, there is not.
3. Once at the entrance turnstiles, show the greeter your passport and the screenshot of your ticket number. Individual tickets will be printed for everyone in your party.
4. After you get your printed tickets, you can start linking your Fastpass, so let’s chat for a moment about Fastpass ...
With Fastpass you can reserve a time in advance for the
park’s most popular rides, including:
• Soaring Over the Horizon
• Roaring Rapids
• TRON Lightcycle Power Run (height restriction of
122 cm or taller)
• Buzz Lightyear Planet Rescue
• Seven Dwarfs Mine Train
• The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh
• Peter Pan’s Flight
Once you have your printed ticket, you can scan it from the Shanghai Disney Resort app and link all the tickets together as a “party.” Now, your party can select a Fastpass for a specific ride and a specific time frame. Guests with a Fastpass reservation will enter rides through a dedicated Fastpass line and skip the queue. Fastpass reservations are free, but you can only hold one Fastpass slot at a time. In other words, if you have a Fastpass for Roaring Rapids at 11:20am, you won’t be able to make another Fastpass selection until after 11:20am. This is where a bit of strategy comes in. During my visits, I noticed that the Fastpasses for the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train and Soaring Over the Horizon attractions often run out. Once they are all distributed, no more Fastpasses are available that day. Both of these rides always have excessively long wait times for those without a Fastpass. I reserved the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train Fastpass first to ensure we locked it in for the day. Buzz Lightyear Planet Rescue typically didn’t have a long standby line, often just five minutes, so I would never prioritize a Fastpass for this ride. I was never able to get more than four Fastpasses in one day. I recommend that you figure out ahead of time which rides you don’t want to miss and prioritize those Fastpasses - this is not the time to “wing it.”
With Fastpass, you can go about your day enjoying the other rides and the amount of time you spend waiting in long lines is minimized. If you miss your Fastpass window (they give you one hour to complete your ride) and the Fastpasses have all been distributed for the ride
you want to visit, there is another option (it’s Disney after all, making all your dreams come true). You can pay-to-play and buy a single Fastpass from the Shanghai Disney Resort app by selecting the Disney Premier Access option. Each person in your party can purchase a one-time, one-ride Fastpass for RMB 50 per person/per ride. Note, the price can vary every day depending on availability. The app will display the current price. The premier option will ensure you can ride your desired ride at any time, even if the free Fastpasses are unavailable.
If you can’t be bothered with linking Fastpass, you can purchase the high-roller Disney Premier Access Set for an additional RMB 275 per person. This will allow you to ride the seven Fastpass rides and Pirates of the Caribbean Battle for the Sunken Treasure at any time. Again, the price of the Premier Access can vary depending on availability. The app will display the current price.
If all else fails, you can always break away from your party and opt for the single rider line. Attractions such as Pirates of the Caribbean Battle for the Sunken Treasure and TRON Lightcycle Power Run have a special, under-the-radar line for those who don’t mind riding alone or with complete strangers.
There's also “child swap” (unfortunately this doesn’t mean you can exchange your child for someone else’s when yours is acting up). Disney knows that parents are kids too, so most of the rides in the park will allow parents to take turns; one parent can ride the attraction while the other waits with the non-rider in a designated area. When the first rider finishes, the second rider can board without having to wait in line again. Just remember, this only works if you have a child!
There you have my advice for getting into the park and on the rides. Next time, I’ll share my favorite food outlets, rides, and entertainment. I’ll explain the Disney Bounding concept and, of course, I promise to tell you where to find the best bathrooms!
What we pack in our Disney bag:
(Mandatory to purchase and retrieve tickets)
(you go from pitch black rides to bright sunshine, so bring them for the kids, too)
• Healthy snacks
• Hand sanitizer and tissues
(there are no towels in the bathrooms)
• Backup charger for your phone
(the app drains the battery)
• Some “I Spy” books to entertain the kids while in line
• Mouse ears (of course!)
About the author:
Juliette Gustavsson is Mrs. Jet-set, a provider of luxury and unique shopping tours of Shanghai. Gustavsson has a Master’s Degree in Luxury Brand Management from the Instituto Marangoni in Shanghai and has traveled to over 40 different countries. An American, Gustavsson lives in Shanghai with her Swedish husband and world-traveling four-year old daughter, Mini Jet-Set.
Original Courier publish date: May, 2018