Adventure Guide to the Disneyland Maxpass System
When it comes to ride reservation systems, MaxPass is the new kid on the block. Whether you’re a Walt Disney World regular used to FastPass+ or a Disneylander who hasn’t been in a few years, this guide will break down for you the major differences between this new system, the way things used to be, and the way FastPass+ works out in Walt Disney World.
Before I go any further, perhaps I should explain what a ride reservation system is. Basically, it’s a way for you to reserve a spot in line for a popular attraction while you and your group continue on your merry way through the park. We call this virtual reserved spot a FASTPASS. You can use the time you would have spent in line to do anything else - get a snack, watch a show, ride another attraction (although you’ll have to physically wait in that line.)
Now that you understand what a FASTPASS is, let’s talk about how you actually acquire them at Disneyland with MaxPass. For those of you familiar with Walt Disney World’s FastPass+ system, I’ll offer points of comparison to it as well.
The biggest difference is that MaxPass does not give you reservation ability. You cannot begin grabbing FASTPASSes until you’ve scanned into either park for the day.
At first glance, this might seem like a major downside. After all, isn’t it nice to know 60 days before your arrival at the Magic Kingdom that you have a FASTPASS for Space Mountain at 10:40 - 11:40 am, Seven Dwarves Mine Train from 12 - 1 pm and Splash Mountain from 1:30 - 2:30 pm?
That is a nice perk of FastPass+, but that same perk makes it hard to get more than a couple of additional FASTPASSes in one day at Walt Disney World once you’ve used the three you reserved. Most of the time slots have already been allotted in advance by other parkgoers’ reservations. It also means that you’re pretty much locked into your plan once you hit the 60 day reservation window.
With MaxPass, you can easily reserve and use more than five FASTPASSes in one day. It requires less advanced planning, and you can change your plans during the day on a whim if you like. That’s because everyone arrives at the park on equal footing. Nothing is reserved ahead of time.
Actually, if you’ve read our rules of engagement and know the importance of arriving before rope drop, you DO have an advantage over other park visitors. You can get a head start on grabbing the day’s FASTPASSes, because you’re among the first to scan into the park.
Second major difference: unlike FastPass+, MaxPass is not free. (You can still use the free paper FastPass system if you want.)
As of the time of this writing, MaxPass costs $20 per ticket per day. If you’re considering using MaxPass for your trip, you have two ways to purchase it.
You can add it on when you purchase your Disneyland ticket(s). This requires you to buy MaxPass for every day. So if you’re buying a 4-day ticket, you will have to pay $80 up front to add MaxPass to your ticket for all four days. Verified Disneyland ticket resellers (like Getaway Today or Undercover Tourist) do sell this ticket option, so you can still score some savings on your ticket price while also getting MaxPass.
You can add it on one day at a time through the Disneyland app. This is simple, fast and can be done at any time during the day once you’ve entered either park. Just open the app, tap the “+” icon at the bottom of the screen and tap “Get FASTPASS with Disney MaxPass.”
Some of you might be affronted at the idea that you have to pay for MaxPass, especially since FastPass+ is still free at Walt Disney World. Well look, if you’re penny pinching, you can still use the old paper FastPass system. Me? I think MaxPass is 100% worth it.
For one thing, it eliminates backtracking. You don’t have to go over to the attraction twice - once to pull the FASTPASS and again to use it. You don’t have to worry about keeping track of a paper FASTPASS and your paper ticket either. All of those things are now stored digitally in the Disneyland app. That saves you a lot of time, headache, and walking. And that’s just the beginning of the additional benefits of MaxPass. There are three more major perks that make MaxPass worth the added daily cost.
Perk #1: MaxPass includes PhotoPass for photos taken on the day(s) you had MaxPass added to your ticket.
That includes attraction photos, anything taken by a PhotoPass photographer and of course those adorable magic shots. Since PhotoPass itself isn’t that expensive ($80/week) and that cost can always be split between members of your traveling group, this isn’t the biggest perk, but it’s still a plus.
Perk #2: MaxPass users only wait a maximum of 90 minutes - not 120 - before pulling another FastPass.
This boils down to simple math. Let’s assume it’s an average weekday when Disneyland is open from 9 am to 10 pm. That’s 13 hours of park time. At a rate of 90 minutes between FASTPASSes, you’re looking at a minimum of 8 FASTPASSes that you can grab in one day. (At the beginning of the day, you’re likely looking at a return time of 40 to 60 minutes later to use your FASTPASS, and you can grab another one as soon as your current FASTPASS’ return window begins.)
With the paper FastPass system, you have to wait 120 minutes maximum to get your next FastPass, so your minimum on that same day would be 6 FASTPASSes. You also eat up extra time having to walk over to the attraction you want another FASTPASS for. With MaxPass, you can scan into the FASTPASS return entrance at Big Thunder Mountain, then while in line, grab a FASTPASS for your whole group for Space Mountain. You don’t have to wait until you finish Big Thunder, then get off and walk back over to Tomorrowland to use the paper machines. And that brings us to the biggest perk of all….
Perk #3: Once their ticket has been scanned that day, MaxPass users can grab a FASTPASS for either park using the app and can also do this from outside the park.
To understand why this is so amazing, you need to know a little bit about the geography of Disneyland. The two parks sit directly across an esplanade from each other. Their entrances are about 300 feet apart, which translates to a one minute walk turnstile to turnstile. (Side note - this is why you’d be absolutely crazy not to get ParkHopper tickets.) Downtown Disney sits to the west side of the esplanade. Again - the first restaurants in Downtown Disney are about a one minute walk from either park’s turnstiles.
Now that you know how easy it is to park hop or to zip out to Downtown Disney for food or shopping in the middle of your park day, you’ll understand why this is such a HUGE perk for MaxPass users. Not only can you grab a FASTPASS for Space Mountain while in line for Big Thunder, you can grab that same FASTPASS while you’re over in California Adventure in line for the Incredicoaster. Or Guardians of the Galaxy: Mission Breakout. The reverse is also true. And, as long as you’ve scanned into either park for the day, you can reserve a FASTPASS for either park while you’re sipping a HippopotoMai-Tai at Trader Sam’s in the Disneyland Hotel. Or while you’re back in your hotel room taking your mid-day nap.
So what’s the bottom line?
In summary, our answer is that yes, adding MaxPass to your ticket is worth the additional $20 per person per day. This is exponentially more true if you’re visiting during the busy season, but even during the slower times, it removes a lot of the hassle from your trip.
If you’re hesitant about the added cost or you’re a “see it to believe” person, there’s no penalty for not purchasing it in advance. You can purchase MaxPass for the day each morning in the Disneyland app with just a few taps on your phone screen. We’ll warn you though - once you try it, you’re not going to want to do Disneyland without it.