Did you know that Disney World and Disneyland have very different FastPass systems? While Disney World moved to the advanced reservation FastPass+ system a few years ago, Disneyland stuck with the old paper FastPass system that debuted in 1999 until just a few weeks ago. Disneyland debuted their new FastPass system last month, with a new premium option called MaxPass.  I tested out MaxPass during a day at California Adventure just a few days after it debuted.

Here’s everything I learned from my day with MaxPass.

What is different about Disneyland’s new FastPass system?

For guests who don’t opt for the MaxPass add-on, the FastPass system remains essentially the same. You scan your ticket at the attraction’s FastPass kiosk and get a return time ticket for when you can go in the FastPass line. The biggest difference for most guests is that this return ticket is just a reminder: you have to scan your park ticket to enter the FastPass line instead of handing in a paper FastPass ticket. This change sounds small, but almost two decades of guest habit is hard to break. The FastPass entry at most of the attractions I went to featured signs and cast members urging guests to scan their park ticket, not the paper FastPass reminder. It’s a little confusing, and it’s leading to quite a bit of congestion to get into the FastPass line. This will probably be smoothed out with time.

However, the biggest change is MaxPass.

What is MaxPass?

MaxPass is a premium add-on that gives you two big bonuses:

  • After you scan your park ticket, you can make FastPass reservations from the Disneyland app. You can only make reservations for same-day FastPasses.
  • You also get access for PhotoPass downloads for that day.

MaxPass is $10 per guest per day, or a one-time $75 add-on to Annual Passes.

What are the differences between MaxPass and FastPass+?

While they both have app-integration, FastPass+ and MaxPass work very differently. Disney World’s FastPass+ lets guests book 3 FastPass appointments up to 60 days ahead of time. After guests have used their 3 pre-reserved appointments, they can then make additional reservations (one attraction at a time). In your first 3 reservations, you cannot make reservations for a ride more than once in a day, and all the parks except Magic Kingdom have tiered FastPass systems that limit your choice. FastPass+ is free.

MaxPass works similarly to the original, old-school paper FastPass system. You can only make MaxPass reservations for the same day. Once you make one reservation, you cannot make another reservation until your current FastPass starts or from 2 hours when you got the FastPass (whichever comes first). So if the timing works out right, you can hold multiple FastPasses at one time. MaxPass is a premium add-on. While FastPass+ includes some shows, MaxPass does not include FastPasses for World of Color or Fantasmic.

The Good of MaxPass

Groot at Disneyland

As someone who goes to both Disneyland and Disney World, I really appreciate how WDW’s FastPass system removes the “FastPass runner” role from the theme park experience. While getting advanced reservations can sometimes be a hassle for Disney World, removing the need to run from FastPass kiosk with my party’s tickets in hand absolutely makes the day at the park a bit less hectic. Without MaxPass, I still have that FastPass running experience. Disneyland is a small park, but it can definitely add some extra running back and forth.

The most positive thing I can say about MaxPass is that it completely removes the need to bop from one part of the park to the other to grab FastPasses. Grabbing FastPasses with the Disneyland App with MaxPass really is easy and convenient. It is also a much more efficient way to use Disneyland’s FastPass system. I was able to book many more FastPasses than my typical day. Here’s what I was able to get FastPasses for at California Adventure:

  • Radiator Springs Racers (3 times)
  • Soarin’ (2 times)
  • Guardians of the Galaxy – Mission: Break Out
  • Toy Story Midway Mania
  • Goofy’s Sky School

8 FastPasses, plus a paper World of Color pass, so 10 passes in total. That includes the park’s most popular ride 3 times! I actually could have squeezed a few more passes in if I wanted to focus on doing as many rides as possible. MaxPass allows you to be incredibly more efficient with FastPasses, mainly because as soon as you’re able to make a FastPass, you just have to pull out your phone and choose from a list of every FastPass attraction in the park and pick a time that works for you. Without MaxPass, you can see what times attractions are distributing FastPass for via the app, but you have to physically make your way to that attraction’s FastPass distribution in order to get the FastPass. That takes up time and energy, and by the time you make it to that attraction, the distribution time might be later than it said in the app. MaxPass creates tremendous flexibility this way. If I know I can get another FastPass at 1 pm, it’s so easy to pull out my phone and see what options are going to work best for my group. Without MaxPass, I might skip trying to get a FastPass for an attraction that’s across the park, and certainly I wouldn’t park hop to just get a FastPass. With MaxPass, that’s not a problem. If rides and attractions are your number one priority at Disneyland, MaxPass is a valuable tool.

MaxPass Attraction Selection - Disneyland

I also found it extremely easy to use the Disneyland app to link tickets to manage and get FastPasses for my entire group.

MaxPass Redemption Disneyland

Tip: You can even refresh the list to see if a new time or attraction becomes available – I was able to grab my last Radiator Springs Racers FastPass by refreshing the list a few times.

PhotoPass is a tremendous perk. I love being able to download the attraction photos as well as pictures from photo ops and character meet and greets. It’s already included in my Annual Pass, but it should be noted that it’s a big plus of MaxPass for guests who don’t already have that included.

The Not So Good of MaxPass

Disneyland’s new FastPass system has a few growing pains. As I mentioned before, the lines to get into the FastPass line were lengthy in certain cases, mainly because guests are used to turning in their paper passes and not scanning their park tickets at the ride entry. All guests can use the Disneyland app and scan their phone if they’d like. It is nice being able to not have to take the tickets out of my wallet, and I was able to link all of the tickets in my party to the app. However, the scanning was a little fiddly, and you have to scan the barcode for each person in your party. I wish the app just let you scan one barcode for everyone in the current FastPass party. This is a minor complaint, but I found Magic Bands to be a much more convenient solution for this.

Radiator Springs Racers Fastpass

Another minor gripe: If you already have a FastPass for a ride, you cannot make another FastPass for that ride until your FastPass for that ride starts. For example, at 10 AM you make a FastPass for Radiator Springs Racers at 3 PM. At 12 PM, are now able to grab another FastPass, but you cannot select Radiator Springs Racers until you use your current FastPass for it. You can still grab another FastPass for any other attraction. This makes sense, but a minor bump that isn’t particularly intuitive.

Which brings me to the topic of the Disneyland app UI. Overall, it’s very straightforward and easy to make FastPasses with the app. However, there could be a few minor UI tweaks to make the experience easier. If you can’t make a reservation for a ride because you already have a pass for that ride, it shouldn’t show up in the list of available rides. Also, it can take a couple of clicks to remember when you can make your next FastPass. It would be good if the app displayed that information on the first screen, and it would be great if the app would send notifications about your upcoming FastPasses and when you can make a new FastPass.

Finally, the cost has to go in the negative column, especially because FastPass reservations are something Disney World guests are used to having as a free perk and you have to purchase a MaxPass for each person in your party.

Is MaxPass worth it?

This is a big maybe. I actually don’t think the $10 per person per day is a terrible cost, especially for guests who are taking a short vacation to Disneyland. Being able to get more FastPasses means getting to do more rides and spend less time in ride. Basically, you’re making the most of your time at Disneyland. Adding in the PhotoPass pictures makes it a very compelling option for those making a once in a lifetime vacation to Disneyland.

For the frequent Disneyland visitor, I’m not sure how necessary it is. I love the convenience of MaxPass, but I also visit Disneyland a lot as an Annual Passholder. My enjoyment of Disneyland doesn’t just come from doing the FastPass attractions. I love the food, the ambiance, the live entertainment, the history. There are no FastPasses available for those things. Since PhotoPass is already included in my Annual Pass, I’m still debating if I’ll opt for the $75 add on to my ticket (that add on wasn’t available for my ticket at the time I tested out MaxPass, just the $10 per day option). It’s undeniable that I was able to do a lot more big ticket rides because of MaxPass. But until I’m able to visit Galaxy’s Edge in 2019, I’m not sure if that’s worth an extra $75 per year.