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Oh boy, I may get some hate for this one… But all I ask is you read this entire article before leaving comments saying how wrong I am. Now that the price of MaxPass has increased from $10 per ticket per day to $15 per ticket per day I think it is more important than ever to take a critical eye to this add-on.
If you know me, I am all about getting the best value for my money, even when at Disneyland. When we went to Disneyland over Spring Break in 2018 I spent the money to utilize Disneyland’s MaxPass. I was excited to be able to use it during a peak week, and was sure I would love it.
What I learned is that the cost of MaxPass (now $15/day as of January 2019) may not be worth it for everyone. Don’t get me wrong, if you have the budget, MaxPass is great but if you are budget minded, you may find that you can skip the MaxPass, especially if you fit one of my scenarios below.
When we went in Spring 2018, I actually felt like we had wasted money on MaxPass. I hated feeling like we had wasted $10 per ticket per day, and so I want to make sure others don’t make that mistake. Before we get into why I think it was not worth the cost, I want to cover the basics of MaxPass and Fastpass so you know the basic information.
What Is The Difference Between Disneyland’s Fastpass and Disney MaxPass?
I think it is important that anybody reading this understand the difference between fastpass and Disney MaxPass. If you are a Disneyland regular, you may already know this, but I have talked to people on their third or fourth trip who still don’t know about fastpass.
Disneyland’s Fastpass – Free And Great Exercise!
Disneyland’s fastpass system is a completely free system that let’s you reserve your place in line for select attractions. That is right, Disneyland Fastpass cost is a big fat NOTHING! You have no clue how many people, even before the release of MaxPass, thought you had to pay for Fastpass. You don’t!!!
But you do have to pay with your time. The free Fastpass system requires running to kiosks to put in your ticket, and be issued a Fastpass return time. Then you would go do something else, until your return time. At that time, you would return to the line, and enter through the Fastpass queue, cutting your wait time dramatically.
I have loved Disneyland’s Fastpass for years and had figured out how to make the most of Fastpass for our visits.
The Introductions of Disney MaxPass
In July 2017 Disney MaxPass came on the scene. When Disney announced that you would pay $10/ticket to receive the ability to make Fastpass choices through the app, I hoped that Disneyland guests would band together and say “no way are we paying for that.” I mean, Walt Disney World has a similar feature for free. But alas, people paid, and people fell in love with it…
I did too. The fact that we could make fastpass selections from anywhere in the park was amazing. Heck, I was even able to make MaxPass selections from my hotel room during our midday breaks. Yeah, I hated the cost, but the convenience factor was so nice!
Now, you should know, that when you use MaxPass, you enter through the same line as the “old school Fastpass” holders. Both Fastpass and MaxPass can scan their tickets (or bar codes on the app) at the same kiosks. The only difference is that you make your selection for Fastpass on your phone. Some people have reported that MaxPass has earlier return times, but we honestly did not experience this during Spring Break. They were maybe a 5-10 minute difference then the ones being given at the Kiosks.
So back to the story at hand…I was pretty happy with MaxPass. That was until I used it for a full week. During Spring Break.
Guys… There were times that I felt like MaxPass was a total waste of my money.
So, I am going to tell you when it was a waste and you might just forgo Disney MaxPass and stick with the old Disneyland Fastpass system.
Some Tips Before Purchasing MaxPass
Before I get into the times you shouldn’t purchase MaxPass, I need to cover a few things.
Do not purchase MaxPass already included with your tickets.
If you purchase your tickets directly through the Disneyland website or app, you will be given the option to purchase a ticket that already includes MaxPass. DON’T DO IT.
For starters, if you purchase the tickets through Disney directly, you will miss out on the best Disneyland ticket deals. Purchasing your tickets through places like our partners at Get Away Today can save you several dollars per ticket. It may not seem like much but when you add it up from several people, it can buy a round of Churros or maybe even dinner. Or use that discount to make up for the price of MaxPass.
Second, when you purchase MaxPass in advance, there is no backing out of it. So if you find that it is not worth it, you can’t simply “not buy it” the rest of your trip. You have already paid for it every day, worth it or not. Also, there is no discount for purchasing MaxPass already attached to your ticket*, via purchasing it daily as you walk through the gate.
*With the 2019 Spring Disneyland Ticket Deal and recent price increases, I am currently checking if this is still accurate. Some members of Disneyland with Kids are reporting a Spring Ticket Deal Loophole.
Instead, I suggest having your ticket information, and payment information, loaded into the Disneyland App. As soon as you scan into the park each morning, you can decide if you want to purchase MaxPass. You will simply need to purchase it and confirm the 3 digit security code on the back of your card to purchase and begin making MaxPass selections.
Even if you think it is not worth it, have one person in your party purchase it.
Even if you decide that, for one of the reasons below or some other reason I didn’t think of, MaxPass is not worth the cost, one person in your party should purchase MaxPass. Why? Simply for the PhotoPass benefits.
At $15/day, the MaxPass beats any photopass special out there for Disneyland Resort. It includes your ride photos, and any photos taken by photopass photographers. You only need one person to purchase MaxPass to take advantage of the photo services, even if they are not in the pictures.
To get your photos when you have purchased MaxPass you will either have the photopass photographer scan the QR code on your phone, OR they can give you a green card that has a code for you to scan. You can save the cards and scan them all when you get back to your hotel at night if you prefer.
For ride photos, you will need to get the code off the photo preview and type it into your app. We find it easiest to simply snap a picture of our preview photo and then enter them into the app each night.
Photos from MaxPass expire 45 days after they were taken, so be sure to download them before they expire. In case you forget when they expire, the photo will have the expiration date under it in the app.
5 Ways Disney MaxPass Is Not Worth The Cost
So now that we have covered the basics of MaxPass, let’s get down to why I think it is a waste of money… or more what situations will make the MaxPass less desirable.
1. You are arriving after 2 pm
If you are arriving after 2 pm during a crowded season, like Spring Break or Christmas Break…MaxPass is probably not worth the cost. We found during Spring Break that Disney Fastpass selections were running low, both via the kiosks and via MaxPass, by noon. Normally, on other days, Radiator Springs Racers, Guardians of the Galaxy:Mission Breakout and maybe Space Mountain might run out. But during Spring Break, by 2-3 pm, we were looking at Goofy’s Sky School and Haunted Mansion as the only available fastpasses.
It would have been a total waste of money to purchase the MaxPass for $10/person and then not been able to use it on any rides. So if you plan on heading to the parks late in the afternoon, check the availability of MaxPass and fastpass via the app before purchasing. Chances are you are better off utilizing single rider lines, rider switch pass, and just saving your money.
2. You use the Disability Access Service
If you or someone in your party utilizes the Disability Access Service (commonly referred to as the DAS) you may feel MaxPass is a waste. the DAS kind of works similar to fastpass, and you don’t have to worry about them running out like you do Fastpass or Maxpass. Many people with the DAS may be content to utilize just the DAS service, and maybe utilize the digital fastpass system. Since the digital/old school fastpass cost is nothing, it may not be too big of a deal to use it only when needed in conjunction with the DAS.
3. Your kids are all under 40″ or don’t do thrill rides
If you have short kids (like mine) and they won’t be doing any rides that have a height requirement of 40″ or more, or they don’t like thrill rides, the MaxPass probably isn’t worth it for the kids. The majority of rides with Fastpass (and therefore MaxPass) have a 40″ or taller height requirement. So buying MaxPass for kids that are 36″ tall is probably a waste of money.
In this case, you could get away with the one parent puchasing it (for the photopass service) and having that parent use MaxPass, then use Rider Switch Pass to let the other parent ride.
Another option is utilizing the single rider line when available. Often times, single rider lines are faster than Fastpass return lines anyways.. Each parent can easily go through the single rider line just as quickly as utilizing MaxPass and then Rider Switch Pass, and you don’t have to drag every member of your party to the entrance to set up Rider Switch Pass. So yep, Mom can take the kids to go get a Mickey Premium Ice Cream Bar, while Dad heads over to Grizzly River Run, and they can meet up at the exit and switch off.
4. If you are visiting during the slow season
If you are visiting the few weeks of the year when Disneyland crowds seem non-existent, MaxPass may not be worth the cost. This will most likely be mid-January through February, and possibly some weeks in September, beginning of November, and beginning of December.
During the slowest weeks, you may find that queues are as short as five minutes, even for popular rides. I remember going a few times and even Radiator Springs Racers only had a 20 minute wait. If that is the case, you may choose to save your MaxPass money and use it to buy dinner instead.
5. You are going for a few hours at rope drop
Even during the busiest weeks, if you are getting to the park for rope drop, you may not need MaxPass. We went a few days at rope drop during our week visit there. Both of which, we secured later MaxPass choices for the day, which left us without MaxPass for the first few hours. We were able to do a minimum of ten rides during those two hours…and one of those was even a day we spent the first hour at a character breakfast.
Here is an example of how we worked our day without the character breakfast.
We were a few minutes late getting in the park, which opened at 8 am. But my husband and oldest went straight for Star Tours and walked right on. I took the twins on Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters. Then we rode the Astro Orbitor (“the rocket ships” as my twins call them) and headed over to ride Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage.
Then my oldest and I quickly rode Matterhorn (while husband repeated Buzz Lightyear with the twins) before heading to Fantasyland. We did use the DAS for my son to reserve a time for Alice In Wonderland, and while we waited for that, we rode The Mad Tea Party, Mr Toad’s Wild Ride, Pinnochio’s Daring Journey, Snow White’s Scary Adventure, and King Arthur’s Carousel, plus had some photos taken through out Fantasyland to utilize the Photopass Service portion of MaxPass. Then we rode Alice In Wonderland. All of this was done well within the first two hours of park opening.
If you are going to take a break from lunch to dinner on a long day, even if you will be there early in the morning, MaxPass may not be worth the money. You can see we were able to get a lot done without utilize MaxPass. At 10 am we headed to Mickey’s Toontown for a rest, and then my family went on Gadget’s Go Coaster. By then it was lunch time.
So Is MaxPass ever worth it?
I guess with the reasons I listed, you are wondering if MaxPass is ever worth the cost. Yes it is. If you are a family of taller people, who spend most of your time in the park running from Thrill Ride to Thrill Ride…MaxPass is defintiely worth it.
If you are a group that wants to make sure you get on to certain rides without a wait, and not have to send someone to run and get Fastpasses…you might find MaxPass worth it.
If you are on a budget, it is also okay to forgo MaxPass. Disney is still offering a FREE fastpass service to all guests. Something that no other theme park in the area does.
Many others charge over $75/day to have a similar service, and those are limited to being used once per ride. So it is great that Disney not only has a free option still available for anybody with a ticket to use, but they have MaxPass which is a much better deal than you get at other parks, especially considering it includes Photopass services.