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In 2017, Disneyland released a new Digital Fastpass system, which was quickly followed by the release of Disney’s MaxPass. There seems to be a lot of confusion about Maxpass and Fastpass, and I want to help clear that up. So, before you hit “purchase MaxPass” on the app, or head to the standby line, read this post so that you can make an informed decision.
In the Disneyland with Kids Facebook group, MaxPass and Fastpass are one of the most common topics we see. But even though MaxPass has been around for over a year, we still see a lot of misconceptions and just outright wrong info being shared. So today, I am going to help you navigate the differences and info on both the digital Fastpass system and MaxPass.
*This article originally covered just Disneyland’s Digital Fastpass system, but has been updated to cover both “front of the line” options.
Disneyland’s Digital Fastpass- The Basics
In theory, Disneyland’s Digital Fastpass system works the same as the paper fastpasses. You take your tickets to a fastpass distribution machine, scan them, and get a FP return time. You then can not get another fastpass until your return time or two hours later (whichever comes first).
You will still get a stub that prints out with your return time and yes, it will have a barcode on it that matches your ticket (more on this later). When you return to the ride, you will still enter through the fastpass line, except now you will scan your park admission ticket or annual pass. You do not need your fastpass stub, and it will not gain you entry to the fastpass queue. And yes, the digital fastpass system is still FREE to all park guests with a valid admission ticket.
Disney’s MaxPass – The Basics
So all that sounds great right, a totally free front of the line system. So what is this Disney’s MaxPass everyone keeps saying you should buy?
Disney’s MaxPass is the Digital Fastpass System within the Disneyland App. It allows you to make your fastpass selections from your phone, without going to the kiosks. It also allows you digital downloads of your photopass photos and ride photos taken (must be downloaded within 45 days).
But there is a cost. The cost is $10 per ticket per day. To some people this cost is totally worth it, and to others MaxPass is not worth the cost. Only you can decide if it is right for you and your travel group.
Disneyland’s Fastpass and MaxPass – Scanning into the queue
No matter whether you use the free Fastpass system or Disney’s MaxPass, you will utilize the same Fastpass return line to access the ride. This has been a point of confusion for many as all signs within Disneyland are marked Fastpass (not MaxPass) Return.
For guests that have visited Walt Disney World, the fastpass scanners will look vaguely familiar. Yes, they look a lot like the scanners for Magic Bands.
When you go back to a ride and enter through a fastpass line, you will scan the bar code on your ticket or phone (in the Disneyland app). Be sure to hold it under for at least a few seconds but preferably until the light turns green (hopefully). Then you will continue on in the line.
Here is where it can get confusing. SOME RIDES will require you to scan your ticket a second time. Other rides only require you to scan your ticket once. Even more confusing, sometimes a ride will have two scan points one day, but not the next…yes, we recently had a trip where the first time we visited Splash Mountain we had to scan twice. When we went back (after being walked off Splash Mountain) we only had to scan one time.
Once you scan your ticket or phone one (or two) times, you can put it away and continue on to the attraction.
Disneyland’s Digital Fastpass/MaxPass and the DAS
The biggest question I have seen is regarding Disneyland’s Disability Access Service (DAS) system. Another Disneyland focused site reported in a facebook live that she did not believe the DAS and a fastpass could be obtained at the same time. She let her readers know she had no personal experience with the DAS.
As I have shared in the past, my oldest has cognitive disorders, so we do utilize the DAS. This trip, we had a large group though, and so we did not plan on utilizing it but we chose to utilize it for a few rides to test how it works with the new digital fastpass system.
I am happy to report that DAS and fastpass are still considered separate. You CAN hold a current DAS return time as well as a fastpass return time. This is a huge relief for those of us who have children with cognitive disorders where the wait is an issue.
While the DAS and the digital fastpass system are still separate, the new digital fastpass system has changed how you use the DAS at attractions with fastpass machines.
Before, every attraction, a cast member would use a hand held scanner to scan tickets and check the DAS. This is still true at non-fastpass attractions. At fastpass attractions however, the fastpass scanners will be used to scan the tickets. It is important that the person that has the DAS accomodation has his/her ticket scanned FIRST! Otherwise you will get an error when you scan your ticket. Then the remaining party members can scan their tickets afterwards.
Looking at it, the DAS has bascially been a digital fastpass system for a little while (since they switched to scanning tickets) and the only real change for this is using the machines on fastpass rides.
Disneyland’s Digital Fastpass/MaxPass and Rider Switch Pass
Disneyland’s digital fastpass system has raised a lot of questions about the Rider Switch Pass. MaxPass did change how the Rider Switch Pass at Disneyland works. Basically, instead of getting a return slip of paper that is good all day, they scan tickets and put a digital return with a one hour return window on the tickets of those who will “parent swap.” Leslie, one of the co-founder’s of Disneyland with Kids and the writer behind Trips with Tykes has all the info on how Rider Switch Pass works with the system.
Fastpass and MaxPass- A Quick Guide
If you want a super quick breakdown of what is different and what is the same between Fastpass and MaxPass, I have you covered.
Things that are the same between Fastpass and MaxPass
- Both give you a return time of one hour, where you will have access to a shorter, Fastpass return line
- Both Fastpass and Disney’s MaxPass return times may be viewed and cancelled on the app
- You can use your ticket or phone to scan in for both options.
- Both work together with the DAS and Rider Switch Pass in the same manner
- No matter which option you utilize, to obtain a Fastpass viewing area for night time entertainment, you will have to use the old system and go to the kiosk.
- The two systems are tied together, meaning you can not purchase MaxPass and hope to use the kiosk to somehow “double dip” and get extra Fastpasses
- Both can still use the kiosks. More on this soon
Differences between Fastpass and MaxPass
- MaxPass return times are fluid. By that I mean, you might see a return time offered of 7:50-8:50, but go back in 10 minutes later to see a return time of 4:45-5:45. When people cancel return times, those times are opened up to MaxPass users
- MaxPass includes photos
- MaxPass may obtain Fastpass without the kiosk once scanned into the park. This includes if you leave the parks and are in downtown Disney, or even at a hotel. Yes I have made MaxPass selections from my hotel rooms many times.
- MaxPass, as mentioned before, has a cost of $10 per ticket per day. That means if you want to use MaxPass for the app access to Fastpass, for a family of 4, you will pay $40 for one day.
- MaxPass includes photopass services
Downside of Disneyland’s Digital Fastpass (And Solutions)
There are several downsides to Disneyland’s Digital Fastpass system(compared to the paper system), but thankfully, after a full week of being in the parks, I think I have found some solutions to most of the downsides. Of course, there are also a few downsides to MaxPass. So we will cover those later.
- No paper fastpasses means no giving away extras. This is a big change for locals or other regular park visitors. While fastpasses were never meant to be a share system, there were times when we knew we just wouldn’t be able to get to our fastpass. It was always fun to hand off your pass to a family in the standby line, or to a random person. There is no work around to this. For the first few days, cast members were allowing guests to scan the fastpass reminder tickets, but by the third day of our visit, they had stopped allowing that, so you definitely can not give away your FP without giving away your ticket- which you don’t want to do.
- Taking tickets and passes out more = bigger chance of a lost ticket. This happened to our group. One of my friends teenage son’s lost his ticket during the constant taking it in and out. Some tips for helping this: Have a pouch or designated ticket spot. A phone case that can hold credit cards are a great solution. Or a waterproof pouch. Having a specific spot you put your ticket when you are done scanning it will help rather than just sticking it in any random pocket.Also, take a picture of the back of your ticket. Be sure the entire bar code (and the numbers under it) are visible and clear. Our friend’s son had heard me say take a picture, but he accidentally covered the numbers. It made it a huge ordeal to get it replaced. Finally, if you have littles, have a designated ticket holder. In fact, we saw several groups where mom and dad would scan all the tickets at the scanners and have each child walk through as they scanned their ticket. This is a great way to keep all tickets together and usually adults are less likely to lose a ticket than a child.
- Water rides. I strongly believe that if Disneyland is going to have us scanning our tickets to gain access to water rides that all tickets should be plastic/hard stock. I have gone on vacations with five day tickets, where we have done Splash Moutain and Grizzly River Run over and over, and by day 5 our tickets won’t work in the fastpass machines anymore. BUT, since Disneyland is most likely not going to start giving everyone hard stock tickets, your best bet is to have a waterproof pouch to store your tickets in. Bonus is that we saw several people that realized their tickets could be scanned through the pouches at the machines. So you don’t even have to take them out (and risk losing them). I am currently ordering these ones for our family. (Click the picture to order on Amazon)
- Running to get more fastpasses. The biggest drawback we found with the new digital fastpass system is that we could no longer gather all the tickets and run and get more fastpasses while some of our party went through a fastpass line. With paper fastpasses, guests would show their fastpass return reminder to access the line, meaning another member of their party, could carry their ticket and go get more fastpasses while those guests were in the fastpass line. This was pure genius on Disneyland’s part to release the digital fastpass system now because of this. Why? Well, that is what I am going to talk about next.
Disneyland’s MaxPass Downsides (and Solutions)
MaxPass definitely has some downsides. When you hear people online brag about it, be sure to keep these things in mind. However, there are also solutions for most of the downsides.
- Cost. I can not give a full solution to this, so I figured let’s put it first. MaxPass may be totally affordable for those with small families or large budgets, but if you are visiting Disneyland on a budget, or a large group, MaxPass can be out of reach for some. There are ways to minimize the cost, such as not purchasing for children under 40″, or only purchasing a day or two during your vacation, but basically, there is no way to get MaxPass for free, and there is no way to purchase MaxPass at a reduced price.
- Cell phone woes. MaxPass causes a lot of headache for many people. First, the Wifi at Disneyland is spotty at best. So you will either have to rely on spotty wifi to access the app and make Fastpass selections, or you will need to use your data. Second, the Disneyland App itself can be clunky and can often experience downtime. In fact, I visited the parks nearly a year after MaxPass first launched, only to find that MaxPass was still down multiple times each day. As in, the app was not connecting to the live MaxPass system to pull return times, or grant access.But the biggest cell phone woe from MaxPass is the drain on your battery. Utilizing the app and MaxPass can have your battery drained before lunch. Thankfully there are few ways to help this.
- Purchase a backup battery pack. I love Jackery battery packs when I am traveling. They are a great pack that can charge multiple devices, or one device multiple times, before needing to be recharged themselves. However, for the park, one of my best must-read Disneyland tips is to invest in a Fuel Rod. You can change out your used Fuel Rod at stations around the park for new ones, at no additional cost after the initial investment.
- Use your park ticket to scan into the Fastpass line. This has helped our battery life a ton. We scan our tickets instead of our app when enterting a Fastpass line.
- Collect Photopass cards. Just like accessing the lines, we find it helps our battery to collect or use a photopass card to collect our photos, and then scan them all in later (downside – you might lose a card)
- Turn off Wifi/Location tracking. If you find the Wifi spotty, and decide to use your data, turn off Wifi on your phone. That way you won’t waste battery searching for a Wifi signal. The same goes for your location/GPS. Turn that off to help save battery life.
If you are still confused about Fastpass and MaxPass, or have other questions about your Disneyland with Kids vacation, I am excited to announce that I have written a book with the co-founders of Disneyland with Kids. You can click below to buy on Amazon, or you can download directly from the Disneyland with Kids website.
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