Take everything you know about theme park lines and just throw it away. Just kidding ... well, kinda. Disneyland recently revamped its free FASTPASS system, which is still in place, and introduced an optional paid service called Disney MaxPass. Since it's debut, we've spent our days literally hopping from one ride to the next without standing in line or running all over the park to collect FASTPASSES. While our daily step count is down, our ride numbers are way up!
We’ve hopped between both parks to review Disney MaxPass (and its accompanying Disney PhotoPass)! We've tried to anticipate the questions you have and played around with Disney MaxPass to see what works, what doesn’t and, most importantly, how to conserve phone battery in the park.
Disney MaxPass – What You Need To Know
What is Disney MaxPass?
Disney MaxPass is an optional paid program. It allows guests to book Disney FASTPASS reservations through the Disneyland Resort Mobile App and allows unlimited Disney PhotoPass downloads for the day. The price for Disney MaxPass is $10 per person, per ticket, per day. Guests may purchase Disney MaxPass when they purchase their ticket or as an add-on through the Disneyland Mobile App once they enter either theme park. Annual Passholders may purchase just a day through the app after entering the park, or purchase an annual plan for $75 that expires when their current pass expires. All guests still have the option to scan their park tickets at individual FASTPASS attractions with no additional charge.
It is important to understand that all FASTPASS reservations — Disney MaxPass and paper FASTPASS — are now electronically linked to a guest’s park admission ticket (or annual pass). This has some positive benefits that we'll discuss!
Does the $10 cover my whole family?
Disney MaxPass is $10 per ticket, per person. So, a party of 4 x $10 = $40. Each member of your group will connect his or her park admission ticket to Disney MaxPass. You may do that ahead of the day you're visiting, but it won't be active until the day you visit. If someone in your party does not enjoy most of the attractions that offer FASTPASS or is too short, you might avoid buying them a MaxPass and use the Rider Switch service as well.
Rider Switch has also changed to a new digital system. When the first riders are ready to ride, the entire party must check in at the FASTPASS return line. You'll be divided into the first riders and the supervisors (those staying with the child). A cast member will scan the ticket of a supervisor, giving them an extended return time window (usually adding 15 minutes to the return time) to use after the first party has returned to take their turn in supervising the child. The supervisor can usually bring up to two guests with them when they ride.
One of the good things about Disney MaxPass is that it offers flexibility. Some, but not all, members of a group may have MaxPass. People can manage themselves or a parent can manage everyone. Even a little of both can occur! Anyone who uses their device to log in to the account can reserve rides, view upcoming FASTPASS reservations and use PhotoPass. If you are managing a group, each time you reserve an attraction you can specifically select which party members to go on each ride. You might all want to ride Soarin’, but then a smaller group might feel like braving California Screamin’ while others want to go on Goofy's Sky School at the same time. Some park hopping party members might want to break off and visit attractions in the other park. Disney MaxPass allows for that flexibility.
You can even have party members in your profile who do not have benefits that day. If some members of the group are using the free FASTPASS paper ticket service, you can still link their ticket to your phone, and see their own FASTPASS plans show up in the app (parents like keeping tabs on older children this way). As long as everyone’s pass is synced to their device, one parent can manage the family, but the same information can appear on the group member’s app on their smartphone. Having the information on multiple devices makes it easy to adjust if group members decide to split off for a while or one of the devices runs out of battery.
How can I prepare for Disney MaxPass?
Before your trip, download the free Disneyland Mobile App to your smartphone and anyone else’s smartphone. Play with it so you can get familiar with how it works and to research the wait times, where to find characters, make dining reservations, or see the types of parades and shows in the park. Put your credit card into the app. You can purchase park tickets with or without Disney MaxPass through the app and set up your profile. Note your username and password! Share the log in and password with family members who also want to log in and use Disney MaxPass on their device. If you are instead purchasing Disney MaxPass in the app once you have entered the park, this will make for a smooth process, allowing you to reserve FASTPASSES right away.
How do I purchase Disney MaxPass?
You can get MaxPass when you purchase your tickets. You can also purchase through the Disneyland Mobile App once you are in the park. All guests with mobile tickets or tickets printed from home will be given a paper ticket upon entering the park. That paper ticket can be used to obtain regular FASTPASSES or scanned into the Disneyland Mobile App to be managed and purchase MaxPass.
Note that if you choose MaxPass for a multi-day ticket when buying in advance, it will charge you an extra $10 per day per ticket. So a 3-day ticket would have an extra $30 added to it (per person). If you do not want to buy MaxPass for all three days, do not select the option to upgrade. You can hold off if you just want to try it out for a day. There is no multi-day discount for reserving in advance.
Keep in mind that a person may manage up to 10 people on one account, so if you have a larger group, you might have more than one manager. We have found it much easier to have as few people as possible making the reservations for the whole group. This ensures you can all get the same return window.
Making the purchase in the park:
- Open the Disneyland Mobile App.
- You’ll see the MaxPass opening screen and select Get Started.
- Click Get FASTPASS.
- Create a FASTPASS Party.
- Scan Barcodes from tickets or annual passes to add party members.
- Select the members you want to purchase for (you can have party members who are not buying that day but might buy another day) and select Continue to Purchase.
- It will confirm which party members you are and are not buying for. Click Continue to Purchase.
- Sign in to your account (again, it is easier if you have already set up the account at home)
- Then Confirm & Purchase and select Purchase.
- You should get a, "Confirmation. Congratulations! You may now start reserving rides."
- Make your first FASTPASS reservation immediately.
How do I Reserve a FASTPASS with Disney MaxPass?
You can reserve your ride time in the Disneyland Mobile App on your phone from anywhere once activated by entering a park. With MaxPass, park hoppers may reserve a FASTPASS for Disneyland if they're in Disney California Adventure, and vice versa. Here’s how to do it:
- Open the Disneyland App.
- Slide the Mickey head up.
- Under My Plans, click Get FASTPASS.
- Create FASTPASS Party — select the people who want to ride on the selection you are about to make. Deselect anyone who does not want a FASTPASS for that ride or does not even have a valid MaxPass for the day (if members do not have a valid pass and you select them, it will take you to purchase. Don’t re-purchase anything unless you want to add them on to MaxPass).
- Hit Continue.
- Select a Theme Park (if park hopping).
- Choose an Experience by browsing through the available attractions and times to find the ride and time that works for you.
- Select the timeframe.
- Review and Confirm — hit Confirm.
- It will say, “Congratulations! Your selection is confirmed. This party can make a new FASTPASS selection at such and such time.” Note that time. You can make a new selection even if you have not used the other FASTPASSES yet. Each ride may have different FASTPASS party members.
- Click View My Sections and you should see the ride and the return window. The window is an hour, but you can use it 5 minutes before the return window and up to 10 minutes after.
- Scan your park ticket or pass at the FASTPASS return entrance (saves phone battery) or the app by clicking Redeem FASTPASS. It may also just pop up on your device when the pass is ready.
- Take a screen shot of the reservation just in case you have trouble accessing the app or you need to check what time you can reserve your next FASTPASS without opening the app.
How will I use the FASTPASS at the attraction?
Both Disney MaxPass and regular FASTPASSES are scanned at the FASTPASS return near the ride entrance. Cast members will scan either your park ticket or mobile phone at the FASTPASS return line. The park ticket works because all reservations are linked to that park ticket. A screen shot of the digital FASTPASS also works with the scanners. You can even text this screen shot of the FASTPASS to your party members if needed. For some rides, you may need to scan a second time (usually where the standby line and FASTPASS lines merge).
How long is the waiting period between making FASTPASS Reservations?
The waiting period can vary depending on how far off your return window is from when you booked it. If a ride’s return window is less than 30 minutes away, then the waiting period is 30 minutes (unless you activate the FASTPASS within that 30 minutes — once you scan it at a ride, you are free to make another reservation). If the return window begins between 30 and 90 minutes from when you booked it, then the waiting period ends as soon as the return window begins (if at 2 p.m. you reserve a ride that has a return window of 3:15 to 4:15 p.m., you can make your next reservation as early as 3:15 p.m.). If you choose a ride that has a return time that begins more than 90 minutes from booking, then your waiting period is 90 minutes. Being able to see all the available choices can help you plan and make decisions to best manage your day.
What if I change my mind?
With Disney MaxPass, you can exercise your prerogative to change your mind by simply canceling the FASTPASS. Under "My Plans," tap the name of the ride. On the bottom left, you can click the x that says "Cancel" under it.
There are a few steps so you don't accidentally delete it. It will ask you which guests want to cancel. Check the canceling guest(s), then select Cancel Selections. It will disappear for that member. We love the flexibility of this feature because you can cancel for some party members but not all if some still wish to ride. This cancellation feature is another good reason to link the park tickets of people who might be using the paper FASTPASS system. If they are using the app, they can cancel a reservation.
What if the ride breaks down or closes during my return window?
This is our favorite part of using Disney MaxPass. If the ride breaks down in your return window after you've scanned your pass but before you have a chance to ride, it is like a fairy godmother waves her wand over your smartphone! Your FASTPASS turns into a Multiple Experiences pass. The pass automatically pops up on your phone with balloons and allows you to take this FASTPASS to ANY RIDE that offers FASTPASS in that park. You can even use it on rides that have ran out of FASTPASSES for the day. If you open the pass and scroll down, you can see a list of available ride choices. This Multiple Experiences pass expires when the park closes, which means you have all day to use it. Insider tip: if you reserve a ride that is broken down or keeps breaking down, you increase the likelihood of getting a Multiple Experiences pass.
This benefit is not limited to Disney MaxPass users, but the notice with balloons only comes up in the app for MaxPass users (at least in our experience). Traditional FASTPASS users can also take their park ticket to any attraction if their ride breaks down, but they may not even know about this great benefit. Disney MaxPass users have the advantage of the notice, and the screenshots can be easily shared via text with others in your group.
What Are the Advantages of Disney MaxPass?
For most people, the biggest advantages are convenience and time. While we stick to our park plans, MaxPass allows us to see all of the available return times for rides without walking anywhere. We're big on hopping between Disneyland and Disney California Adventure on our visits, so we like to make FASTPASS reservations in the other park and use the wait time to walk over.
There are several advantages to Disney MaxPass over traditional FASTPASS:
- You can cancel a MaxPass FASTPASS through the app.
- Many return windows are just a short time away, as in zero to a few minutes away. Reserve and ride — instant gratification.
- You can see all available rides and return windows in one park at once.
- You can reserve another ride in a much shorter time window. As soon as you scan your ticket at a ride, you can immediately reserve the next ride while you wait for your current ride.
- The longest period of time between making reservations is an hour and a half instead of two hours with traditional paper FASTPASS.
- The return time windows are offered through MaxPass are often sooner than the traditional FASTPASS windows that are being distributed at the same time.
- It saves paper. The traditional free FASTPASS issues a paper reminder ticket. People use their pass or park ticket to use FASTPASS, so the paper is not needed except to remind you of your return window.
- All PhotoPass photos taken on a day you have MaxPass are available for free download and sharing.
- Multiple Experience notification in case of ride closure.
- It saves a lot of walking and time.
- You can make FASTPASS reservations while in line, at a restaurant, while on the Monorail or from the other park.
- It makes reserving as a group much easier.
Is Disney MaxPass worth it?
This is the hardest question to answer. For certain people, we think it is worth it. Guests who are making shorter visits — 1- or 2-day visits, especially during busier times — will most benefit. For these people, it mostly saves time and allows them to ride more rides. Annual passholders, who make a big chunk of the Disneyland-going population and have the luxury of visiting any time, are less likely feel the pressure to get it all in. Passholders get good at maximizing their time, so if the annual fee is in their budget, they may start using the service more.
After using Disney MaxPass for several months, we can say the investment (especially since it comes with PhotoPass downloads) makes for a more fun experience with zero lines, even on a busy peak day. Yes, a theme park ticket is already pretty pricey, but time is money. For $10, you can trade hours of wait time for riding more rides or getting to enjoy more aspects of the parks. Save the $10 somewhere else. Perhaps only drink free water in the park, and don't buy expensive soda that day to break even.
Disney MaxPass is the best investment for someone who plans to arrive early in the day (especially if visiting Disney California Adventure) and stay most of the day. It's also great for those who come prepared with external phone chargers and loves thrills rides. MaxPass is a useful tool for people who like to park hop.
If you are not interested in the FASTPASS attractions (you can find a list of FASTPASS rides here), then Disney MaxPass is not a great value for you. You can get it for some family members and not others. If you reserve a return time for three party members, you can bring three people in. In our experience, nobody checks to make sure they are the same three people who purchased Disney MaxPass. So you could play with the app when traveling with a group and substitute people if you need to here and there. Technically speaking though, Disney MaxPass is not transferable. Another way to save money is to use MaxPass on just one day of a multi-day journey and then use traditional FastPass the other days. You could also just focus on other rides and attractions in the parks the other days.
There are a few quirks still being worked out while Disney MaxPass is relatively new. Disneyland Resort wi-fi is spottier than a speckled frog. Wi-fi hot spots tend to be near the Information kiosks. The app does not connect well inside buildings, so choose your selections when you are outside. You do not need to open the app to use the FASTPASS because your park ticket or a screenshot of the FASTPASS will work. If you have technical difficulties, you can usually get help at an Information kiosk. The answer always seems to be to delete the Disneyland Mobile App, restart the phone and reinstall the app.
.How much does Disney MaxPass affect phone battery?
The biggest downside to Disney MaxPass is that it drains your phone battery! Do not use MaxPass without a portable charger. They sell them in the park for $30, and they come with unlimited cartridge exchanges. You can also buy one elsewhere. There are a few electrical outlets in the parks. You can find some near some restrooms, but sitting outside a restroom to charge your phone for an hour is not why you pay for an app that helps you save time. We played with a few ideas to help conserve phone battery.
- Put your phone on low-power mode and turn off Bluetooth and Wi-Fi when you're not using them.
- Use a portable battery charger or battery phone charging case.
- Take advantage of charging lockers, which can charge your phone in a secure locker for $2 per hour.
- Take a screen shot of the FASTPASS and use the photo, which saves you from opening the app.
- Scan your park admission ticket or annual pass at FASTPASS return instead of the app. It is linked to the app so once you reserve on your phone you can use the ticket instead of turning on the phone to scan the code for entry.
- Avoid using your phone for miscellaneous uses while in the park. Check to see that photos have made it into PhotoPass, but don’t edit and dwell on them. If you want to add an on-ride photo to PhotoPass, snap a photo of the photo number and add it in later. Enjoy the photos later from your hotel room.
- Put your phone in airplane mode when you go underground in Pirates of the Caribbean or Indiana Jones, Soarin’, or deep in a building like Guardians of the Galaxy. This way, your phone is not burning battery trying to find a signal.
Where can I be to reserve a FASTPASS?
You cannot reserve any rides until you have entered a park and activated Disney MaxPass. Hop Tip: the Monorail turnstile is an official entrance to the park, so once you activate your park ticket to ride the Monorail from Downtown Disney, you can start reserving your first FASTPASS while waiting. After you have activated your park ticket, you can be anywhere that has a strong enough signal to make a reservation. You can be in either park, Downtown Disney, your hotel room or really anywhere. The key is activating the ticket at any park entrance. After that, it does not matter.
How many reservations can I have at a time?
There is not a max amount of reservations you can have in one day or at one time. You will have a waiting period after reserving each ride, but you can book your ride as soon as that waiting period ends (even if you have not ridden the first ride or two yet), meaning you can have several reservations in the lineup.
You should note the return times and choose rides that are realistic so you can arrive inside your return window. Choosing a return window several hours off works well if you have a meal or a show or ride that does not offer FASTPASS to occupy you in the meantime.
What doesn’t work in Disney MaxPass?
We played around with Disney MaxPass, trying to think of every scenario that might come up. There are a few things you cannot do with MaxPass:
- You may not reserve World of Color or Fantasmic! You have to pick up the paper tickets in person.
- You cannot book the same ride twice in a row until you have used the first FASTPASS for the ride. So no going on Thunder Mountain or Buzz Lighyear Astro Blasters 10 times in a row, Tad! At least not without using the previous FASTPASSES first. Once you scan your ticket at a ride, you can book a new reservation for that ride if you like.
- You cannot cheat the system by using your park ticket to get a traditional FASTPASS while you are in a waiting period for your next selection window. ALL FASTPASS reservations are linked to your park ticket.
Can I Book FASTPASS for future visits, similar to FastPass+ in Walt Disney World?
Disney MaxPass will only allow you to book day-of FASTPASS. There is no advanced booking option. You have to enter the park to start reserving. We think this is a very fair system and leaves many FASTPASS options available for guests who are actually in the parks.
Will paper FASTPASS tickets continue to be distributed for free?
They still are and we expect them to continue to be, although they have evolved to an electronic system as well. Now the paper ticket is just a reminder of your return window. You scan your pass or park ticket to enter the FASTPASS return line. Disney MaxPass and FASTPASS users use the same scanning system to enter. This electronic scanning process does lead to some longer FASTPASS return lines at the ride entrance, but it’s usually just a few minutes longer than it used to be.
Will Disney MaxPass cause some attractions to sell out faster?
In our experience with MaxPass, we have been pleasantly surprised to see that it has not really changed the speed at which FASTPASSES are distributed. We will continue to assess the situation. Guardians of the Galaxy and Radiator Springs Racers still run out the fastest, especially on days with Extra Magic Hour (because of higher crowds). But it’s possible that as more people start using Disney MaxPass the FASTPASS distribution may speed up. Disney California Adventure runs through all of its FASTPASS distribution a lot faster than Disneyland, which still has many options closer to closing time.
Because more people seem to be using FASTPASS (both via MaxPass and traditional), the regular wait seems to be longer because they are letting more FASTPASS users in. That means that obtaining FASTPASS reservations is a priority in maximizing your day. The MaxPass user booking via the app isn't having to physically walk to get the FASTPASS. Plus MaxPass users enjoy somewhat shorter waiting periods before making their next reservation so the MaxPass user can access more FASTPASS opportunities. MaxPass useres can also go on more rides than the traditional user due to being able to book from anywhere. We think the most popular attractions in the park could reach their max FASTPASS distribution for the day sooner, especially on crowded days.
FASTPASS sell-out depends on crowds, demand and attraction popularity. We've been at Disney California Adventure when Radiator Springs Racers was sold out for the day by 11 a.m. Expect Space Mountain to sell out first at Disneyland. Keep in mind that during the winter holiday, they can add rides to the FASTPASS system, such as the holiday version of "it's a small world." Stand-by waits were quite long - over 90 minutes!
Are there any attractions or entertainment that are exclusive to MaxPass?
How does the PhotoPass of MaxPass work?
Right now you're familiar with PhotoPass and the friendly cast members who take your picture in front of Sleeping Beauty Castle and such. With a Disney MaxPass purchase, you'll be allowed unlimited downloads of those pictures taken that day (but you do not have to download them that day). You can also download your on-ride photos by typing the ID number into the app. For those of you who cherish those pics, Disney MaxPass may be a great purchase. If you have three days of MaxPass, then you can enjoy three days of downloads. However, any PhotoPass photos taken the day before or after your MaxPass will not be free for downloading.
If getting PhotoPass benefits is your main motivation for getting MaxPass, you can save money by just having one person sign up for MaxPass. Just make sure that that the MaxPass holder presents his or her phone so all the photos are in that account. The MaxPass holder can share photos via social media, text or email right from the app. You have 45 days to download the images before they disappear. You can choose to print the photos for free at home or at a discount location. You can also print photos inside the park (for a premium fee) if you want to take advantage of some customizing souvenir features.
If you are participating in a character dining experience, your PhotoPass photos from that event will be included in your Disney MaxPass benefits. But, you must have paid for MaxPass and entered a park with your park ticket the same day as the dining event — benefits only kick in once you have activated that park ticket!
Here's how to use PhotoPass with MaxPass: Whenever a cast member takes your picture, you can show them the code in the app (under My Photos click "Link PhotoPass"). They will scan the code and the photos should appear under My Photos in about 20 minutes. If you link your pass to the photo account, you can also provide your pass instead. If the photographer hands you a PhotoPass card with a code, you can link the card to your account. Under the code in the app it says "Link Photo, Card or purchase." Scan the barcode from the card. You can also enter an ID such as from a ride photo where it says "Enter an ID" underneath the scan box. You should confirm while you are in the park that the photos have appeared without watermarks. If you have any trouble, hop into the photo shops in either park for assistance. They have helped us track down missing photos and assisted in linking our passes to the account.
How does Park Hopping work with MaxPass?
Disney MaxPass is an especially helpful tool when park hopping. If you have a Park Hopper ticket and MaxPass, you can reserve rides in either park. First, you will select the park you would like to make a reservation in. Then, you will choose a ride and return window that works for you. We recommend starting out in Disney California Adventure and then hopping over to Disneyland Park. There are plenty of FASTPASS reservations in Disney California Adventure early in the day, but the choices are much slimmer to nonexistent by early evening. Disneyland has a lot more FASTPASS choices later in the day. The rides that run through their distribution the fastest are Radiator Springs Racers, Guardians of the Galaxy and Space Mountain.
What does this mean for Annual Passholders?
Annual Passholders can choose one day for $10 per day like any other guest (activated via the app in the park) or pay $75 per year (at ticket booth or via phone) that expires when the current pass expires. There is no pro-rating if you activate Disney MaxPass the week before your pass expires, so purchase wisely. Signature Plus Passports and Disney Premier Passports get MaxPass for free. If you renew your annual pass a few weeks early and add MaxPass to the new year or upgrade to a pass that offers MaxPass, the MaxPass benefits will not activate until your new year becomes active. Online early pass renewals can wipe out your existing MaxPass before the pass expires, so we suggest reserving over the phone or at a ticket booth to ensure you keep your benefits.
Can half of my party use Disney MaxPass and the other half use paper FASTPASS on the same attraction?
Yes, you can, but the people getting paper FASTPASS will not necessarily get the same reservation times as the people using Disney MaxPass. Check that the return windows overlap before doing this option. A MaxPass user may choose to collect a paper ticket to get the exact same return window as people using the paper tickets. You can link the park tickets of guests who do not have MaxPsss to the Disneyland Mobile App to manage those traditional FASTPASSES from the app (in case you want to cancel or want to scan the barcode from the app when entering a ride’s line). But if you are at Space Mountain and decide to reserve Splash Mountain, the free FASTPASS users are at a disadvantage due to distance.
My tadpoles or parents don't have their own phones!
No worries! One person in the party will be able to manage all Disney MaxPass FASTPASS tickets on his or her mobile device. You do not have to go on the same rides to do this. You can even go on different rides at the same time. They do not have to be with you as long as they know the return window and have their park ticket. Children age two and under do not need a FASTPASS to ride (as long as they are tall enough). Make sure the parent riding with the kids has their park tickets handy or give your kids a safe place to keep their tickets, such as a lanyard or zippered pocket.
But, my data usage ...
There is in-park free Wi-Fi, but it is not throughout the park, and it can be slow. When you find a signal, you will need to sign in and accept the terms. After that, your phone should pick it up where it is available. It is not available in ride buildings. We are hoping Wi-Fi coverage improves. People using foreign phones may have trouble using Disney MaxPass, and should look for Wi-Fi hotspots.
Will I be able to have more FASTPASS tickets per day with Disney MaxPass over paper tickets?
So far in our experience, definitely! That may change as more people catch on to Disney MaxPass. Busy days and big crowds usually mean more people will be grabbing FASTPASS tickets. Less crowded days mean less demand for FASTPASS. We have used MaxPass in all kinds of crowds and found that we can get on a lot more rides in a shorter amount of time with MaxPass.
Do I need to purchase MaxPass in order to enjoy a day at Disneyland and Disney California Adventure?
You can certainly enjoy the parks without Disney MaxPass — we’ve all been doing that for years! But you will get a lot more done if you use MaxPass because the periods of time between making reservations are much shorter and the return times are a little earlier than the standard FASTPASS tickets. You also save a lot of walking time, being able to make reservations while standing in line for another ride or while eating a meal. We happen to love the convenience! That said, we know people are hesitant about any kind of premium add-ons such as preferred parking, additional checked bag charges, premium viewing areas and more.
We see this as a good tool to maximize time. If you have restless tadpoles, the convenience of not running between FASTPASS machines could be a plus. The same with those of us who can't walk long distances and want to avoid unnecessary walking. Families with other special needs or who already require DAS services may really appreciate having one more tool to help them maximize their day. You can view FASTPASS reservations and DAS reservations in the app, helping to keep your plans straight.
By now, you've probably come up with your own Disneyland FASTPASS retrieval system. One member of the family takes the tickets and heads to Space Mountain to collect FASTPASSES while the others move to Autopia. This divide-and-conquer strategy will still work.
We're still trying to find more details about Disney MaxPass and leaving no stone (or lily pad) unturned. So be sure and drop us a line in comments and let us know what you think or if you have questions we haven't answered.