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

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, available for selected attractions at the two Disneyland Resort parks in California, eliminates lines. There are some caveats, however. The most important: Guests can only have one Fastpass at a time unless two hours have lapsed since picking up a Fastpass ticket. That means you'll still have to inch along in some rat-maze queues, called “standby” lines.

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

By the way, Walt Disney World offers FastPass+ at its Florida resort. It is a major overhaul of the original FastPass system that uses "NextGen" technology. It allows 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. Unfortunately, Disneyland does not use the FastPass+ system.

How Fastpass Works

  1. Fastpass is free with a valid admission ticket to the parks. MaxPass requires an additional fee (see below).
  2. Once you've decided to use the Fastpass system for an attraction, go to the bank of Fastpass machines near that attraction's entrance. Insert your admission ticket, and the machine will spit out a Fastpass ticket indicating the time you need to return.
  3. You have a one-hour window. For example, the Fastpass may read "Please return anytime between 1:10 p.m. and 2:10 p.m." Go enjoy other things in the park. Return to the Fastpass line at the attraction during the designated time.
  1. A cast member (Disneyspeak for employee) will check your Fastpass before allowing you into the line. DON'T DISCARD YOUR FASTPASS TICKET! At many of the attractions, a second cast member will re-check your Fastpass before letting you board the ride. This prevents scofflaws from sneaking from the standby line into the Fastpass line. (Not that you would do anything like that.)
  2. You can't get another Fastpass for any attraction until it's time for you to return for the first attraction OR two hours have passed since you obtained the first Fastpass (whichever comes first).
    Haunted Mansion exterior at Disneyland.
    Disney. Used with permission.

    Which Attractions Use Fastpass?

    Not every ride accepts Fastpass. Some of the popular attractions, including E-Ticket rides, that don’t offer the line-skipping option include Pirates of the Caribbean, Peter Pan's Flight, the Jungle Cruise, and Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage. In addition to rides, Fastpass is available for two of the resort’s most popular shows, Fantasmic! and World of Color. Note that for now, none of the attractions in Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge accept Fastpass.

    The following attractions and shows accept Fastpass:

    Disneyland Park

    Disney California Adventure Park

    What is Disney MaxPass and Should I Get It?

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

    So, why should you get it? Mostly, because it is a great time saver. Instead of having to run around to the physical Fast pass distribution machines, you could make reservations using an app on your phone from anywhere in the park—even while you are waiting in line for another ride. Also, it’s relatively inexpensive. (In 2019, the cost is $15 per day, per ticket.)

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

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

    Fastpass Tips

    • The most important tip is a general one: Plan ahead and get to the parks early—particularly during holidays and other peak periods. You'll be able to get Fastpasses with quick return times for the most popular attractions right away, and you'll probably be able to walk onto some attractions as well. Later in the day, when the Fastpasses are gone and the lines have swelled up to two hours, go hang out in Downtown Disney with a frozen drink.
    • To save time and energy, give the quickest one or two members of your touring group all of your admission passes and have them get the Fastpasses. You can start some other activity while they're traveling back and forth across the park.
    • Look at the posted standby line time. If it's just a few minutes, it's probably not worth wasting a Fastpass. Just wait in the regular line and use Fastpass later for a more crowded attraction.
    • You can check the standby line times for all attractions by using the Disneyland mobile app. It’s a great way to plan your visit.
    • Look at the posted Fastpass return time. There are signs at the entrance of all Fastpass-enabled attractions that indicate the current return times. If it's much later in the day, and you're planning to go somewhere else, you may want to skip the Fastpass. Remember, you can't get another Fastpass until it's time for you to return for the first attraction (or two hours have lapsed).
    • Ask cast members if any Fastpass machines are distributing "Surprise" Fastpasses. These bonus tickets, given at the same time as a regular Fastpass, will allow you to skip the line for a second attraction.
    • Look at the posted Fastpass return time and the standby line time. If it looks close, you may be able to get a Fastpass, wait in the standby line, then get back in the Fastpass line for an immediate re-ride.
    • Once you get a Fastpass for later in the day, try not to plan an itinerary that will have you crisscrossing the park. The time you save from Fastpass may be wasted walking all over the park.
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