How to Make the Most of Disneyland's Fastpass and MaxPass

Lose Some Wait

Radiator Springs Racers Sign
Sam Howzit/Flickr/CC BY 2.0

Special Update

In August 2021, Disneyland announced that its parks would be ending Fastpass and MaxPass. (FastPass+ is ending at Walt Disney World in Florida as well.) After closing due to the COVID pandemic in 2020, Disneyland and Disney California Adventure did not offer either line-skipping program when the parks reopened in April 2021. Now Disney has made it official that it will replace them with Disney Genie, a digital park planning service that will include line-skipping options. The company says that the new service will debut in fall 2021.

Looking Back at Fastpass and MaxPass

The following information is about the now-defunct Fastpass and MaxPass line-skipping programs.

Visiting the Haunted Mansion is an archetypal Disney theme park experience. But the note-perfect attraction is frequently preceded by another archetypal Disney theme park experience: the dreaded 45-or-so minutes spent standing in line.

It is an absurd irony that we toil away all year at our oppressive jobs, scrimp and save for a big vacation, and drive or fly for hours...so that we can inch along in the hot sun for hours while we listen to our kids whine. But we love theme parks, and lines are a necessary theme park evil, right?

Well, not necessarily.

Fastpass, which used to be available for selected attractions at the two Disneyland Resort parks in California, eliminated lines. There were some caveats, however. The most important: Guests could only have one Fastpass at a time unless two hours had lapsed since picking up a Fastpass ticket. That meant you still had to inch along in some rat-maze queues, called “standby” lines.

Let’s run down how Fastpass worked, explain the advantages that the extra-charge MaxPass program offered, and review some tips about how to get the most out of Disneyland’s time-saving features.

By the way, Walt Disney World offered FastPass+ at its Florida resort. It was a major overhaul of the original FastPass system that used "NextGen" technology. It allowed guests to make ride reservations in advance of their visits as well as take advantage of all kinds of other cool features, such as wearable MagicBands. Disneyland did not use the FastPass+ system.

How Fastpass Worked

  1. Fastpass was free with a valid admission ticket to the parks. MaxPass required an additional fee (see below).
  2. Once visitors decided to use the Fastpass system for an attraction, they went to the bank of Fastpass machines near that attraction's entrance. They inserted their admission ticket, and the machine spat out a Fastpass ticket indicating the time they needed to return.
  3. Visitors had a one-hour window. For example, the Fastpass may have read "Please return anytime between 1:10 p.m. and 2:10 p.m." They could enjoy other things in the park and return to the Fastpass line at the attraction during the designated time.
  4. A cast member (Disneyspeak for employee) checked guests’ Fastpasses before allowing them into the line. At many of the attractions, a second cast member re-checked the Fastpass before letting guests board the ride. That prevented scofflaws from sneaking from the standby line into the Fastpass line. (Not that you would do anything like that.)
  5. They couldn’t get another Fastpass for any attraction until it was time for them to return for the first attraction OR two hours had passed since they obtained the first Fastpass (whichever came first).
Haunted Mansion exterior at Disneyland.
Disney. Used with permission.

Which Attractions Used Fastpass?

Not every ride accepted Fastpass. Some of the popular attractions, including E-Ticket rides, that didn’t offer the line-skipping option included Pirates of the Caribbean, Peter Pan's Flight, the Jungle Cruise, and Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage. In addition to rides, Fastpass was available for two of the resort’s most popular shows, Fantasmic! and World of Color.

The following attractions and shows accepted Fastpass:

Disneyland Park

  • Big Thunder Mountain Railroad
  • Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters
  • Fantasmic!
  • Haunted Mansion
  • Haunted Mansion Holiday
  • Indiana Jones™ Adventure
  • “it’s a small world”
  • “it’s a small world” Holiday
  • Matterhorn Bobsleds
  • Roger Rabbit’s Car Toon Spin
  • Space Mountain
  • Splash Mountain
  • Star Tours – The Adventures Continue

Disney California Adventure Park

What was Disney MaxPass?

Disney MaxPass allowed visitors to make Fastpass reservations using their mobile devices. It followed the same rules as the regular program and did not allow guests to obtain any additional Fastpasses. Also, reservations could only be made once guests were in the park. (Unlike Disney World’s FastPass+ program, which enabled users to make reservations up to 60 days in advance.)

MaxPass was a great time saver. Instead of having to run around to the physical Fast pass distribution machines, visitors could make reservations using an app on their phones from anywhere in the park—even while they are waiting in line for another ride. Also, it was relatively inexpensive. (In 2019, the cost was $15 per day, per ticket.)

In addition to the Fastpass reservation feature, MaxPass users received unlimited Disney PhotoPass photo downloads. Disney PhotoPass+, which allows unlimited downloads of Disneyland photos captured over a week, cost $78 (in 2019) alone.

To purchase and use Disney MaxPass, visitors downloaded the Disneyland app. To make a reservation, they clicked on the “+” sign at the bottom of the screen and then clicked on "Get Fastpass with Disney MaxPass.”

Fastpass Tips

  • The most important tip was a general one: Plan ahead and get to the parks early—particularly during holidays and other peak periods. Visitors would have been able to get Fastpasses with quick return times for the most popular attractions right away, and they probably would have been able to walk onto some attractions as well. Later in the day, when the Fastpasses were gone and the lines had swelled up to two hours, they could have hung out in Downtown Disney with a frozen drink.
  • To save time and energy, guests could have given the quickest one or two members of your touring group all of their admission passes and had them get the Fastpasses. They could start some other activity while the couriers were traveling back and forth across the park.
  • Visitors could have looked at the posted standby line times. If they just a few minutes, it probably was not worth wasting a Fastpass. They could have waited in the standby line and used Fastpass later for a more crowded attraction.
  • Guests could have checked the standby line times for all attractions by using the Disneyland mobile app. It was a great way to plan visits.
  • Visitors could have looked at the posted Fastpass return time. There were signs at the entrance of all Fastpass-enabled attractions that indicated the return times. If it was much later in the day, and they were planning to go somewhere else, they may have wanted to skip the Fastpass.
  • Guests could have asked cast members if any Fastpass machines were distributing "Surprise" Fastpasses. These bonus tickets, given at the same time as a regular Fastpass, allowed visitors to skip the lines for a second attraction.
  • Guests could have looked at the posted Fastpass return time and the standby line time. If they were close, they may have been able to get a Fastpass, wait in the standby line, then returned the Fastpass line for an immediate re-ride.
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