BREAKING NEWS August 18, 2021: MaxPass at Disneyland is officially being retired for good! In its place will be a new system that adopts some of the features of the MaxPass system.
This new service is called Disney Genie and will be offered at Walt Disney World and at Disneyland, integrated into the official parks app. The baseline Disney Genie product to help guests minimize wait times is free, but that doesn’t offer access to a faster line like MaxPass/Fastpass did.
Instead, guests who want a MaxPass or Fastpass feature will need to pay to upgrade to Disney Genie+. This service will be offered at $20 a day at Disneyland starting some time this fall. Disney Genie+ allows guests to access a shorter “Lightning Lane” (former the Fastpass lane) on one of 15+ attractions at Disneyland by booking the next available return time. A few of the most popular attractions like Radiator Springs Racers won’t be available on Disney Genie+. Instead, guests can only access those rides’ Lightning Lanes by paying a separate fee on an a la carte basis.
I will be keeping the rest of article live with the details of how MaxPass operated as of the Disneyland park closures in March of 2020 so that we can evaluate the differences between MaxPass and Disney Genie+. Check out my complete guide to Disney Genie+ and Lightning Lane at Disneyland for all the latest updates.
Starting in summer 2017, big changes were put in place with Disneyland’s FASTPASS service. A new paid option, Disney MaxPass, was unveiled. We were first here at Trips With Tykes to give you all the details back then. Of course, things at Disneyland are ever changing, and one thing that always seems to go up and never down is the price. There was a major update to MaxPass in January 2019, and another one was just announced in February 2020. Keep reading to find out how pricing on Disneyland’s MaxPass has now changed.
As with any still new system, there is a lot to learn beyond just cost. If you are not a frequent Disneyland visitor or were not entirely familiar with the regular FASTPASS system, this additional MaxPass wrinkle is probably even more confusing.
But never fear! I’ve gathered all the questions I’ve heard from fellow Disneyland guests – regulars and first timers – and am answering them all so you can be prepared for your next trip. I have had the chance to give MaxPass quite a few tests runs in my many Disneyland vacations the past year and a half. For the most part, I’m very pleased with the results.
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Disneyland MaxPass Questions Answered
1. What is FASTPASS? And what is MaxPass?
Let’s start with the most basic of basics. FASTPASS is Disney’s digital queuing system. It’s similar to any theme park cut-the-line service. Guests pre-book a ride reservation time and return later through an express queue with reduced waits. It has been around for years and mostly has stayed the same until MaxPass was introduced.
MaxPass adds an additional change on top of the old system. MaxPass allows guests to book FASTPASSES on a smartphone. The old FASTPASS system required guests to run from ride to ride and use their ticket to pull paper slips with FASTPASS return times. MaxPass makes it all digital. You link your ticket in the official Disneyland app and manage it all from your phone. You can even manage all the tickets for everyone in your family with just one phone.
2. How much does MaxPass Cost?
The regular Disneyland FASTPASS system was free. MaxPass unfortunately is not. When it was first released in Summer 2017, MaxPass cost $10 per person per day. On January 6, 2019, however, Disneyland officially announced a new price for Disneyland MaxPass of $15 per person per day. On February 11, 2020, a further price increase was released – $20 per person per day.
For bigger families on a longer vacation, the costs can obviously add up – and even more so now with the price increase. (Kids under 3 who don’t need a ticket, of course, don’t need MaxPass.) But keep reading to find out why I think this cost may very well be money well spent for most guests.
3. Do I have to use MaxPass?
No. The good news is that you are not required to buy MaxPass just to use the FASTPASS system. Guests can still book FASTPASSES from the kiosks outside each ride that offers FASTPASS.
The system is slightly different, however, than what guests were used to from the old paper ticket days. You still scan your park ticket and receive a paper slip “reminder” time of your FASTPASS reservation time. But when the time comes to redeem your FASTPASSES, you don’t use the reminder slip anymore. Instead, you scan your park ticket barcode or you can scan the barcode in your phone if you have linked your tickets to the app. (Note: some rides have two scanners in the FASTPASS return lanes and some have one which is a bit confusing.)
Trips With Tykes Tip: As you can probably imagine, all this taking out and putting away of park tickets could easily be a recipe for a lost ticket. Take a photo of the park tickets’ full barcode for every member of your traveling party when you get them so you can replace in the event of a loss. Or be sure to link your ticket in your app even if you aren’t using MaxPass.
4. When and how can I purchase the MaxPass add on?
If you already have park tickets, you can purchase MaxPass on your smartphone in the Disneyland app as soon as you enter the parks for the day. I highly recommend having the app on your phone before your trip with a credit card linked so you can make this process as seamless as possible. Link your ticket and go to the screen below and click “Get FastPass.” Follow the prompts to complete the process.
If you buy your tickets directly from Disney (either in the app or online), you can pre-purchase tickets that include MaxPass. The extra charge is built into the total price. You can only purchase MaxPass for all of the days of your ticket this way – no picking and choosing to include it some days but but not others.
But I don’t recommend buying your tickets from Disney. Why? You’ll pay full price! Friends don’t let friends spend unnecessary money at Disney. I have a partnership with the largest seller of Disneyland vacations, Get Away Today, where you can always buy your tickets or Disneyland vacation packages at a major discount off of the Disney prices. Get Away Today delivers e-tickets so there’s no waiting in lines at a ticket window when you arrive. Use promo code TYKES10 for an extra $10 off all package stays of 2 nights or more. These tickets can also be pre-purchased with MaxPass if you’d like to save time!
5. What rides have MaxPass?
The very same rides that offer FASTPASS are available for MaxPass booking (see Disneyland’s full list of FASTPASS attractions here). Most of them are the more popular thrill rides with height minimums, but a few family-friendly rides are on the system too. Most notably, these include Toy Story Mania in California Adventure and Buzz Lightyear and it’s a small world at Disneyland Park.
6. When can I book my FASTPASSES digitally using MaxPass?
Disneyland’s MaxPass service is only available to book FASTPASSES same day. If you are used to booking FASTPASSES using My Disney Experience at Walt Disney World 30 or 60 days in advance, this isn’t that. This gives locals and last minute guests the same leg up as guests who plan their vacations many months early.
Additionally, you can currently only purchase MaxPass and book FASTPASS times after you scan your ticket and enter the park for the first time for the day. No cheating from your hotel room while eating breakfast or in the esplanade in line!
7. Do I have to be in the parks to book FASTPASSES on the app using MaxPass?
No. Once you enter any park and have your ticket scanned for the day, you can book MaxPasses anywhere for the rest of the day. So if you take a mid-day break to back at your hotel, you can keep booking MaxPasses from there. In addition, you can book MaxPasses for rides in either park no matter which park you are in.
8. Is there a limit to the number of FASTPASSES I can get with MaxPass?
No. Just as with the old FASTPASS system, the sky is the limit! If you can grab them and use them quickly, you can easily get 10 or more in a single day with efficient use of the system. Remember – this is not like Walt Disney World where guests are limited to three pre-booked Fastpass+ reservations (and cannot get another Fastpass until they have redeemed all 3). Use the system to your advantage! At one point during my trip, I had 4 at one time waiting in my account without even trying too hard.
Of course, the system has rules. You can’t just get a bunch of MaxPasses right in a row when you enter the parks first thing in the morning. Usually you have to wait between 30 mins to 1.5 hours after you book a first MaxPass before you are eligible to book another. Watch the prompts on your phone that tell you when you are eligible again. Even consider setting a timer to remind you to hop back on the app to book your next one.
9. How is MaxPass different from FASTPASS+ and the Walt Disney World system?
While we are on the topic of Disney World, it’s a good time to compare the two systems more generally. While MaxPass certainly uses some of the same technology under the hood that Walt Disney World uses with FASTPASS+ and MyMagic+, the systems are very different. The major differences of note are:
- Disneyland’s system has same day booking only. No pre-booking in advance of your trip.
- Disneyland does not have MagicBands like Walt Disney World. You use a barcode on your smartphone or your ticket barcode to redeem MaxPasses.
- You cannot get additional FASTPASSES at Walt Disney World until you have redeemed all three of your pre-booked ones. At Disneyland, you can amass many in your account, subject to the time rules the system will tell you about when you are eligible to book a new one.
10. Can I still grab regular paper FASTPASSES using my ticket at the kiosks and also use MaxPass?
Not exactly. If you are dreaming of double-dipping, it doesn’t work that way. You can’t both book MaxPasses in the app and also use your ticket to get the regular FASTPASSES. The systems are linked.
You can, however, still book FASTPASSES at the kiosks using your park ticket instead of using the MaxPass system even if you have paid for MaxPass. But there are a few reasons I would not recommend that. First, walking to any kiosk takes time. There’s no reason to waste even a second of precious time at Disneyland!
Second and more importantly, however, is the fact that the two systems do not give you the same return time for the same ride. In every instance I observed, I was able to snag an earlier and better return time on MaxPass than what the regular FASTPASS kiosks offered. See the example below at Guardians of the Galaxy – Mission: BREAKOUT!. The FASTPASS kiosks were offering a return time of 7:55-8:55pm, but I was able to reserve on my phone with MaxPass at that very same second for 7:05-8:05pm.
11. What are the features and perks I get with MaxPass that I don’t get with regular FASTPASS?
As I already mentioned, there is pretty strong evidence that guests who use MaxPass get superior return times. But MaxPass offers a few more features that FASTPASS only guests don’t get.
First, MaxPass gives guests more flexibility. MaxPass allows you to cancel FASTPASS reservations you have and rebook right in the app. So if your dinner reservation is running long or your plans change, you can change on the fly without having to let FASTPASS reservations go unused. (With regular FASTPASS, you can cancel in the app, but you can’t rebook, meaning you’d have to send a runner to get a new FASTPASS during that dinner that is running long – not exactly convenient.)
Second, MaxPass currently includes Photopass! MaxPass gives you access to all your digital photo downloads as part of the $20 per person price. If you used to always purchase Photopass on your Disney vacations, that service just got cheaper for you.
12. Speaking of PhotoPass, can I use MaxPass just for PhotoPass?
Yes! A lot of families are doing just this to save money on PhotoPass. Even if MaxPass for the whole family isn’t in your vacation budget, you should still considering paying for 1 person to get MaxPass each day. For just $20 per day, you can collect all your PhotoPass memories at a discount.
To make this work, you have two options: 1) either scan the smartphone of the person with MaxPass when you get your photo taken or 2) ask the photographer for a PhotoPass card and later enter the code into the app for the person with MaxPass.
13. How’s the WiFi at Disneyland?
Since MaxPass is all done on your phone in the Disneyland app, you probably realize this requires WiFi or data service. Unfortunately, I cannot promise that the Disneyland WiFi is up to snuff. If you are used to Walt Disney World’s WiFi everywhere, Disneyland is just not there yet. It has hotspots set up in strategic locations but the dead spots are plentiful. In addition, I have even had some technical trouble getting my phone to connect to the network at all. The system would boot me off regularly, and I’d have to start all over with reconnecting.
As a result, I tend to rely on cell data during significant portions of my trips. And as many guests know, the park has a lot of cell data dead spots, depending on what carrier you have. (I have Sprint and I routinely get no service in most of Hollywoodland in DCA and inside nearly every ride building.) So, plan accordingly. You can always use your park ticket to redeem a MaxPass if your phone won’t connect. Alternately, take screenshots of your MaxPass return times and barcodes and scan those. And of course, if you are from out of the country or have limited data with your cell phone plan, these strategies are even more important.
Here’s to hoping WiFi keeps improving. It’s better than it was in summer 2017 when MaxPass was first released, but still has a long way to go.
14. Using my smartphone all the time for MaxPass is going to drain my phone battery. What should I do?
The easiest thing to do to keep your cell phone charged is to bring a portable battery pack charger with you in your Disney day bag. My favorite is the Anker PowerCore 10000, which holds 3+ full iPhone charges from a single recharge. No more searching for outlets to juice up your phone or paying for a cell phone locker to leave your phone to charge for awhile. You can just charge it from your pocket or in your purse on the go.
Disneyland offers one brand of charger, the Fuel Rod, in small vending machines in the parks if you find yourself in a pinch. The cost is $30 so it’s not necessarily an entirely competitive price, although Fuel Rods can be found in many airports for just $20. The advantage of Fuel Rods (besides the obvious convenience of being there when you’re in a bind) is that you can trade them in. So if you use all the charge from one up, you can trade them in for a new fully charged one in any of the park kiosks. I must admit that Fuel Rods have grown on me over the years. My husband got one in an airport for the reduced $20 price, and they have come through for us in a bind at Disneyland.
15. How does MaxPass work for Annual Passholders?
If you have an AP, then MaxPass choices are a bit more complicated, depending on what pass you have. The top-level Disney Premier Passports (good at both Disneyland and Walt Disney World) and Signature Plus APs include MaxPass for free. Of course, the prices on those APs just went up significantly in early 2019, so keep the overall price in mind!
All other annual passholders can add MaxPass for $125. Alternately, lower level annual passholders can opt for the daily a la carte option at $20 per day. This might be a smart budget choice for annual passholders who tend to time their visits mostly for low Disneyland crowd days.
16. How does MaxPass affect Rider Switch?
Disneyland’s Rider Switch is a system that allows parents to trade off caring for little kids too small for certain rides while having to wait in line only once. While the same bones are in place, there is now a time limit to redeem Rider Switch passes and a limit of one at a time. See my guide to Rider Switch and MaxPass for more details.
17. How does MaxPass affect Disney’s Disability Access Service (DAS)?
The same DAS rules that you are already used to are still in effect. See Disneyland’s guide to DAS or some of the stories below from bloggers I trust who have first hand experience with it at Disneyland:
- Disney’s Disability Access Service from Love Our Crazy Life
- Tips on Making Disneyland DAS Work for You from Mom Rewritten
18. Does MaxPass work during Extra Magic Hour? How about special events like the Halloween Party?
For many years, FASTPASSES were not available until the regular park hours started. Guests who entered during special early entry methods like “Extra Magic Hour” or “Magic Morning” could not get a head start on FASTPASS. But that rule slowly was bent awhile ago and is no longer the case under MaxPass. When I visited, I was able to book MaxPasses for any ride in either park after I entered the parks during Extra Magic Hour.
Disneyland doesn’t offer MaxPass during special events like Oogie Boogie Bash, the new ticketed party event during Halloween Time. Photopass, however, is included in the party ticket price at least.
19. Can I use MaxPass to book evening shows like World of Color and Fantasmic?
No. Both the evening shows, World of Color in California Adventure and Fantasmic in Disneyland Park (when running – they are current both under refurbishment as of January 2019), offer FASTPASSES for reserved seating. But you cannot book those digitally in the app with MaxPass. You need to go to the in-person distribution centers to get old school paper FASTPASSES. These passes are not tied into the other digital systems so they do not affect your ability to book other FASTPASSES or MaxPasses at any time. There are rumors that this may change, so stay tuned!
20. Any hacks or tricks with MaxPass I should know about to maximize it even more?
You guys know I’m all about the hacks here at Trips With Tykes! So for more advanced users, here are the best tricks I know so far to truly maximize MaxPass.
(Of course, I’m on the lookout for more. Send me an email or Facebook message if you discover something not mentioned here).
First, as I already mentioned, since MaxPass includes Photopass (which runs $39 a day), one hack that many guests are using is for one member of the family to purchase MaxPass at $20 simply for the Photopass privileges alone. Instant savings.
Second, there is still some hackability left with Rider Switch for families with babies and toddlers. See this post that details how to split the team to get more rides. Occasionally, there are reports that cast members will ask whether everyone in the group has a FASTPASS, but I’ve never had an issue using this method.
Third, another trick (h/t to Casey at Disneyland Daily for this one) to know about is that you may be eligible for a new MaxPass earlier than you think – and earlier than the system tells you. One example to demonstrate a common loophole:
- At 11:50am, you go onto the app to book a MaxPass.
- You see that a MaxPass is available nearly right away for Space Mountain for 12:00pm-1:00pm window. You book it.
- The app will then tell you that you are eligible for another MaxPass starting at 12:20pm – exactly 30 minutes away. This is the minimum wait time the app will give you between MaxPasses.
- At 12:01pm, you get in line for Space Mountain and redeem your MaxPass.
- You will find you are immediately eligible to book another MaxPass in the app even though your 30 minute window isn’t complete. In short, redeeming your MaxPass can make you eligible again early!
Fourth and finally, the system gives you a little perk if a ride you have a MaxPass booked for a ride that goes down. You will find that your MaxPass turns into a “Multiple Experiences” FASTPASS for any ride in that park. When I visited, Soarin’ went down right before I was due to ride it. So I received a free FASTPASS for any ride in California Adventure I could use all day. It can be a great way to sneak in an attraction that you otherwise would miss! (Note that in the past, some of the most popular rides were blacked out, and we anticipate this feature will probably return when Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge opens).
21. Is MaxPass Worth It?
Last but certainly not least is the question I’ve heard the most: “Is MaxPass worth it?” Before the 2019 price increase, my short answer was YES! I had a little more reservation recommending it at $15 per person per day, and I have even more reservation recommending it at $20! But I anticipate my family will still always choose to purchase it at the increased price.
Not everyone tours the parks the same way, but I really loved how much time it saved for me. We are a family that heavily uses FASTPASS. This meant that my husband logged a lot of extra miles running from kiosk to kiosk to grab them for our family. MaxPass saves us a ton of time and energy – well worth $80 a day for us as a family of 4. I’d rather save money elsewhere – on dining, hotel, etc. – than skip on this perk.
At this point, I’m only speaking from anecdotal experience, but I also felt I was able to get more FASTPASSES and ride more rides more often with MaxPass. The longest the app ever made me wait to get a new MaxPass was 1.5 hours. The old FASTPASS system had a maximum of a 2 hour wait. That half hour makes a difference. I also found that the MaxPass system had a number of rides that I could book a MaxPass for almost immediately. It wasn’t uncommon that I saw options like this:
In addition, the flexibility of being able to cancel a reservation and make a new one no matter where I am is especially valuable. If you have little ones like I do and are tied to their schedule and needs, often unexpectedly, you know what I mean.
Of course, if you aren’t planning to ride more than just a couple of the rides that offer FASTPASS, it’s probably not for you. You can still use the old FASTPASS kiosks in person. If you are a family with little ones, parents can still hit the thrill rides by using Rider Switch and single rider lines.
And if you are a large family, this increase hits you hardest. For longer trips, it probably isn’t possible for many guests to purchase this every day for everyone. But consider budgeting for it for a day or two and make those the days you hit the most popular rides the hardest. There’s no reason you can’t have a different touring strategy each day!
But my bottom line is: I still think MaxPass is pretty darn great, even with the price increase. Families on a strict Disneyland budget may have to plan a bit more to make the most of it, but there’s still a lot of value in what it offers even at $20.
Disclosure: Disneyland has provided me with the occasional complimentary ticket with MaxPass on some of my recent visits as a member of the media, but I’ve also purchased MaxPass at my own expense. As always, all opinions are my own.
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Looking for more MaxPass resources? These are the best of the best around the web.
- Official MaxPass Information from Disneyland’s Website
- Fastpass Guide for Disneyland and DCA from Disneyland Daily
- Tested Tips for Using MaxPass from Mom Rewritten
- Disney MaxPass from The Happiest Blog on Earth
- Disneyland’s Digital Fastpass System from Love Our Crazy Life
- Disney MaxPass Secrets and Best Disneyland Fastpass Tips from Stuffed Suitcase