Alright everyone. Take everything you know about theme park lines and just throw it away. Just kidding ... well, kinda. Disney MaxPass is here to shake things up. We just spent the day 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. Disneyland recently revamped its free FASTPASS system, which is still in place, and introduced an optional paid service called Disney MaxPass. The wait is over.
This optional paid program allows guests to book Disney FASTPASS reservations through the Disneyland Resort app and allows unlimited Disney PhotoPass downloads for the day. The initial 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. Guests still have the option to scan their park tickets at individual FASTPASS attractions with no additional charge.
We’ve hopped between both parks to review how this program affects a family's visit. Here are our thoughts on how to take Disney MaxPass to the max to maximize your time in the park and explain how it works.
We've tried to anticipate the questions you have and played around with Disney MaxPass (and its accompanying Disney PhotoPass) to see what works, what doesn’t and most importantly how to conserve phone battery in the park. We will keep on it and updating this post with all the information as we sleuth it out.
Disney MaxPass - What You Need To Know
What is Disney MaxPass?
From the Disney Parks Blog: "Disney MaxPass provides unlimited downloads of high-resolution PhotoPass images along with mobile booking and redemption of Disney FASTPASS return times through the Disneyland App. Disney MaxPass will be available for an introductory price of $10 a day." It isn't replacing the existing FASTPASS, it will be used concurrently with it and with existing FASTPASS queues.
Does the $10 cover my whole family?
Disney MaxPass is $10 per ticket, per person. Each member of your group will connect his or her park admission ticket to MaxPass. You may do that ahead of the day you're visiting, but it won't be active until the day you visit. Everyone in your party needs an individual FASTPASS, so everyone will need Disney MaxPass. Party of 4 x $10 = $40. 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 user Rider Switch as well.
The good news is that even though you can manage your whole party on one device if you want to, you can specifically select which members want to go on each ride. You might all want to ride Soarin’, but then a smaller group might feel like braving California Screamin’. Disney MaxPass allows for that flexibility. You can even have party members in your profile who do not have benefits that day. 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 in their smartphone.
How can I prepare for Disney MaxPass?
Before your trip, download the free Disneyland Mobile App to your smartphone. Play with it, so you can get familiar with how it works and to research the ride times, where to find characters, make dining reservations, or see the types of parades and shows in the park. You can purchase single day tickets with Disney MaxPass through the app or load your pre-purchased tickets or annual passes by scanning the bar code. If you buy in advance, then scan the tickets in advance and set up your profile. Note your user name and password. Put your credit card into the app. If you are purchasing Disneyland's new MaxPass in the app once you have entered the park, you will be glad to have had all the legwork done in advance for a smooth process. Then you can get to reserving FASTPASSES right away.
How do I Purchase Disney MaxPass?
There are a couple of ways to purchase Disney MaxPass: You can get it when you purchase your tickets or through the Disneyland app once you are in the park. If you are buying your tickets online, you can choose to add Disney MaxPass to your ticket. Note that if you choose MaxPass for a multi-day ticket, it will charge you an extra $10 per day. 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 just wait to add one day to your ticket once you enter the park if, say, you do not want to pay for it every day or you just want to try it out first. There is not discount for reserving in advance so there is not risk in waiting.
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 (If you bought your tickets in advance or have annual passes, you may add your party members in advance to save time in the park)
- 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.
How do I Reserve a FASTPASS with Disney MaxPass?
It will work much like the current FASTPASS ticketing system, except you won't need to walk to a physical FASTPASS station. Instead, you can reserve your ride time in the Disneyland Mobile App on your phone from anywhere in or near the parks (once activated). You get your FASTPASS reservation and once your window to reserve another one opens, you may reserve another. With MaxPass, you may reserve a FASTPASS for Disneyland if you'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—that means to select the people who want to ride on the selection you are about to make. The whole party you manage will be selected, so 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, which can be confusing. Don’t re-purchase anything unless you want to add them on to MaxPass)
- Hit Continue
- Select a Theme Park
- 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. Just like regular FASTPASS the window is an hour with about 5 to 10 minutes of padding on either side.
Click Redeem FASTPASS. It may also just pop up on your device when the pass is ready. Take your device to the FASTPASS Return entrance.
How will I use the FASTPASS at the attraction?
Both MaxPass FASTPASSes and other FASTPASSes are scanned at the FASTPASS Return near the ride entrance. Cast Members will have you scan your mobile phone at the FASTPASS Return line. You can also scan your theme park ticket or annual pass instead of your phone to save battery life. This works because because they are linked. Another option is to click Redeem FASTPASS and take a screen shot of it, which also works with the scanners. That helps in case of a bad signal preventing you from accessing your information during your return window and can be faster and easier to access.
You will usually scan your phone or ticket at the entrance to check you in and confirm you are returning in your window. Then you might scan again in line to erase your FASTPASS from the system (usually where the standby line and FASTPASS lines merge).
What if I change my mind?
How many times have we gotten a FASTPASS and then were frustrated when we were barred from picking up another FASTPASS for two hours or changed our minds and didn’t want to ride that ride anymore? With Disney MaxPass, Mommy Frog can exercise her prerogative to change her 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. Don’t worry. There are a few steps so you can’t accidentally delete it. It will ask you which guests want to cancel. Check the guest(s) who wants to cancel then select Cancel Selections. It will disappear for that member. We love the flexibility of this feature, especially because you can cancel for some party members but not all if some still wish to ride.
What Are the Advantages of Disney MaxPass?
For some people, the big one will be time. We're big on hopping between Disneyland and Disney California Adventure on our visits. While we stick to our park plans, occasionally we'll wing it. We'll be in Mickey's Toontown, and suddenly the desire to go on California Screamin' will bite. FASTPASS! Under the current system, we'd be going from the back of Disneyland to the back of Disney California Adventure just to get our paper tickets! And perhaps the return time window doesn’t work for us after all. Instead of making the haul through the exits, across the esplanade, and all the way to Paradise Pier (only to find out that the return time is too late for us), we can simply open the Disneyland App and reserve a ride time.
There are several advantages to Disney MaxPass over traditional FASTPASS.
- You can cancel a MaxPass FASTPASS
- Many return windows are just a short time away, as in minutes away. Reserve and ride—instant gratification.
- You can see all available rides and return windows at once.
- You can reserve another ride in a much shorter time window. Many times we could reserve a ride and then a second ride 20 minutes later and a third a short period of time after that. We were in Disney California Adventure and were able to reserve our next three rides over in Disneyland all within short windows of each other. We hopped over to Disneyland and did not have to wait for any rides. At one point we selected a ride with a return time that was three hours away. We were able to select another ride in an hour and a half instead of the traditional two hours.
- The return time windows, at least the day we visited, were often sooner than the traditional FASTPASS windows that were 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. Using MaxPass saves paper.
Is Disney Maxpass worth it?
This is the hardest question to answer. For certain people, we think it will be worth it. Guests who are making shorter visits—1- or 2-day visits, especially during busier times—will most benefit from the service. For these people it mostly will save time and allow 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 to benefit from it. But the Passholders do get good at maximizing their time, so if the annual fee is in their budget they may start using the service more and more. After using Disney MaxPass for one day, we can say that the $10 per person investment (especially since it comes with PhotoPass downloads) made for a fun day with zero lines on a busy summer day. Yes, a theme park ticket is already pretty pricey, but time is money. For $10 you can take hours of standing in line and apply that saved time to riding more rides or getting to enjoy more aspects of the parks.
Disney MaxPass will be the best investment for someone who plans to arrive early in the day and stay most of the day, comes prepared with external phone chargers and who loves thrills rides, since most of the FASTPASS rides are the more exciting rides. If you are not interested in the FASTPASS attractions (you can find a list of FASTPASS rides here), then 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.
There are a few quirks still being worked out while Disney MaxPass is new. Disneyland Resort wi-fi is spottier than a speckled frog. The app does not connect well inside buildings, so make your selections when you are outside. There were 10-minute windows where we could not access the reservations or book any new ones no matter where we stood. Disneyland was very apologetic, as this was happening to a lot of guests. We expect them to continue to streamline that process.
How much does Disney MaxPass affect phone battery?
The biggest downside to Disney MaxPass is that it drains your phone battery because you are constantly going in and out of the app or searching for a signal. Do not 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. MaxPass can take you from 100% to 5% in 3 to 4 hours! 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 (turn off bluetooth and wifi when you're not using them).
- Use a portable battery charger or battery phone charging case.
- Take a screen shot of the FASTPASS and use the photo, which saves you from opening the app (this is useful if you have a period in which you cannot operate the app or get a signal in your ride return window).
- 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 Pirate’s of the Caribbean or Indiana Jones, so 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. Then you can be anywhere that has a strong enough signal. You can be in either park, the esplanade between the parks, Downtown Disney, possibly your hotel. We checked it from 40 miles away from the park and we could still reserve ride times and cancel them from afar.
What doesn’t work in Disney MaxPass?
So 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.
- 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. It is all linked.
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 have entered the park to start reserving.
Will paper FASTPASS tickets continue to be distributed for free?
Well, sort of. Maybe. Disney MaxPass is an optional way for you to get FASTPASS. The familiar, primary FASTPASS system remains free, but the system is changing. Now the paper ticket is just a reminder. You scan your pass or ticket to enter the FASTPASS return. MaxPass and FASTPASS users use the same scanning system to enter.
Will Disney MaxPass cause some attractions to sell out faster?
It's possible, but we're not sure. Let's assume that the same number of FASTPASS tickets per hour are distributed at each attraction under the new system. Theoretically, the person who walks up to Space Mountain AND the person who uses Disney MaxPass to book Space Mountain at the same exact time will each get a FASTPASS within the same booking window. That said, the person booking via the app isn't having to physically walk to get the FASTPASS. We do think the most popular attractions in the park could reach their max FASTPASS distribution for the day sooner.
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 Radiator Springs Racers, Guardians of the Galaxy and Space Mountain to sell out first.
Are there any attractions or entertainment that are exclusive to MaxPass?
Nope. All attractions and entertainment will be available through paper FASTPASS and Disney MaxPass. In fact, two attractions—Matterhorn and Toy Story Midway Mania—recently joinined the FASTPASS lineup. This is a benefit to all guests, not just those who are using Disney MaxPass. Shows are exclusive to the paper FASTPASS system.
So I can book my FASTPASS from my hotel room that day? Sweet.
Sorry. You need to be inside a Disneyland Resort theme park to initiate FASTPASS reservations through Disney MaxPass. Later on you may be able to make them from your hotel room.
How will 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 MaxPass purchase, you'll be allowed unlimited downloads of those pictures taken that day. 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, but any PhotoPass photos taken the day before or after your MaxPass will not be free for downloading.
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) that expires when the current pass expires. There is not pro-rating if you activate Disney MaxPass the week before your pass expires, so purchase wisely. Signatue Plus Passports and Disney Premier Passports get MaxPass for free.
Can half of my party use Disney MaxPass and the other half use paper Fastpass on the same attraction?
The people getting paper FASTPASS will not necessarily get the same reservation times as the people using Disney MaxPass. Check that the windows overlap before doing this option. You can use a paper ticket if you are within a selection window so you can ride with people using the paper tickets.
My tadpoles or parents don't have their own phones!
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. They do not even have to be with you as long as they know the return window. They can use their park ticket or annual pass to scan in at the FASTPASS return entrance. Children age two and under do not need a FASTPASS to ride (as long as they are tall enough).
When will Disney MaxPass be available?
It was launched July 19, 2017!
But, my data usage...
There is in-park free wifi, but it is not throughout the park and is 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.
Will I be able to have more FASTPASS tickets per day with Disney MaxPass over paper tickets?
We will keep our eye on this. We visited the first day of Disney MaxPass (July with summer crowds), and we used five FASTPASSes in less than two hours across two parks. Many of the return windows offered are very close to the time you are selecting them, which means reserving and using and then quickly reserving the next FASTPASS in a shorter period of time. That may change as more and 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 did not have trouble getting any FASTPASSes, but we decided to wait in the relatively short standby line for Guardians of the Galaxy because the return window was a long way off.
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. 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.
Right now, we see this as a time-saving option. If you have little ones or 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—take Flora's dad for example. He loves visiting the park but can't always keep up with the kids. Giving him some down time while we go online to get passes can give him a breather.
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 while the others move to Haunted Mansion. 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. Now ... the game's afoot! Yes, I said it twice.