No one likes Queuing, but it is an unavoidable part of the Themepark experience, in a way it can add to the experience of the ride, the anticipation building ready for the eventual payoff. But that is a hopelessly optimistic way of looking at it, in reality, it sucks. Disney has tried very hard to mitigate queue times in all their parks and get visitors more bang for their buck with their Fastpass systems along with decent ride queue areas that can actually be considered part of the ride.
Disney’s latest offering, at Disneyland Park California and Disneys California Adventure, is the MaxPass. Unlike their Fastpass and FastPass+Systems, which are free, the MaxPass costs extra on top of your ticket, $15 per person per day. This instantly elicits the question “Is the Disneyland Maxpass Worth It?” Our guide to everything MaxPass will help you decide. We also have some handy hints and tips to help you make the most of the MaxPass if you do decide to purchase it. So…
Is the Disneyland Maxpass Worth It?
The short answer is in most cases YES. We would not visit the park without it. It simply means you will get on so many more rides and queue a whole lot less than if you didn’t have it.
We think it is such a good idea we don’t know why it is not just included free of charge for everyone, like the Fastpass+ at Disneyworld, Florida. Sure it’s not as neat or as effective as Orlando’s Fastpass+ system but it’s streets ahead of the Fastpass that is included free at Disneyland. However, just telling you it’s worth it is probably not enough so let’s take a proper look at the system and see if it’s worth you parting with your money.
What is Disney Maxpass?
First, let’s clear up some terms to avoid confusion.
Maxpass – Disneyland California’s Paid for ride-booking system
Fastpass – Disneyland California’s FREE ride-booking system
Fastpass+ – Disneyworld Florida’s FREE (and only) ride Booking System.
In this article, we may compare the Maxpass to both systems at times so make sure you check which we are talking about. The article itself is most concerned with the Maxpass however.
The Maxpass allows the ticket holder to reserve a time on most of Disneyland Parks and Disneys California Adventure’s rides and attractions. This means once you have a reservation you turn up at the allotted time and use the much quicker Fast/Maxpass queue and bypass the standby line getting straight on the ride!
How Much Is the Maxpass?
The Maxpass System is $20 Per Ticket Per Day. This sounds really reasonable but when you add it up it can take a big chunk out of your budget. For Example, for a Family of 4 with 2-Day Passes that is $160 EXTRA on top of the ticket price. This is A LOT of money.
For this, it best have some real advantages and makes a real difference to the experience. The good news is we think it does for most people.
It also includes the Photopass meaning you get all ride Photos and any Photo’s taken by Cast Members At key Locales or with Characters or Disney Magic Shots. It’s a nice little benefit to be thrown in and gives you plenty of good souvenir moments.
One Bonus is you DO NOT need Maxpass for EVERY member of the Group or for EVERY day of the ticket. So for our 4 Person Family, you could upgrade to Fastpass for just ONE day of the trip and save $80 overall. We look at this in more detail later.
How does the Maxpass Work?
We read up on how the MaxPass worked, Watched videos, and absorbed as much information as we could, and still did not fully understand the process. It’s a bit of a quirky system that doesn’t make a whole lot of sense especially if you are used to the Fastpass+ system.
First of all the Maxpass is not active until you are in the park. There is no 60-30 day pre-booking of your rides like the Fastpass+. Until you have scanned your ticket at the turnstile the Pass is useless. Even in the queue to get in! The second the ticket has been scanned it’s active, but not one second sooner.
Once active you have the ability to reserve a time for any ride (that uses the System) in the parks you have tickets for. If you only have a one-park pass obviously you are limited to that park but with a park hopper, you can access both parks rides. It does not matter which park you are in you can reserve a Maxpass Time in the other. In fact, you don’t even need to be in the parks at all. Once you enter for the first time you can come and go as you please and still have access to the ride reservation, But only on that day. We have tried it at our hotels, in the cheesecake factory, anywhere. But you have to enter a park FIRST.
Once in the park fire up the App and make your first reservation. It is advisable to have it in the park you are in but do whatever you want. You will only be shown the NEXT available Maxpass slot. You can’t reserve for late in the day unless all the earlier slots are already booked. It’s NEXT slot only. Once booked. You have 90Mins until you can make another booking.
*This is not always the case when the park is very quiet or early in the day or your first selection the time frame can be shorter. The key is when you make your selection, the app will tell you the exact time you can make your next selection.
Use the app to locate some nearby rides with short queues and go ride them while you wait for the 90mins to pass or the Maxpass window you just booked to come around.
After 90Mins you can book another. This is where we always got confused. But simply put, that 90Mins is the ONLY restriction on booking. The next booking can be at any other time of the day on any other ride (next available only). It can be before, after, or during, it does not care a jot if they clash. It is simply every 90mins, you can pick any NEXT Available. If you, at 9 am, you pick Guardians of the Galaxy at 4-5 pm and then in 90mins time there is a slot on Thunder Mountian at 11 am That is fine.
Example – Book the Next Available Time on Say, Space Mountain, wait 90mins or less if you use the reservation, then book the next available on the Matterhorn Bobsleds.
We do hope that makes sense. As we were so used to Fastpass+ it takes a little to get your head around that you can only pick the next available and clashes are perfectly fine. If you are still not clear leave a comment below and we will try our best to clear it up. Despite reading everything on the internet we could not quite get out heads around the system until we tried it in person.
There are just a few more caveats and things to know but that is the essential system.
- Booking windows are 1-hour slots, but you can arrive 5 mins early and be 10 mins late.
- If your Ride slot is less than 90mins away, say its 9 am and you get a 9:30 am slot, once you have been on the ride you will be able to make another selection without waiting the full 90mins!
- You can not make a selection for the SAME ride while you have a pending Maxpass for that ride. Once you have been on the ride you will be able to select that ride again.
Why it is better than the Fastpass?
Several reasons, Obviously the BIG Fastpass advantage is it’s free. But that is where it ends.
Maxpass includes Photo Pass
Maxpass Wait time is 90mins Fastpass is 2 hrs!
Maxpass is App-based meaning you won’t lose tickets or get them soaking on splash mountain/river rapids
Maxpass is App-based so you can book rides FROM ANYWHERE. This is the killer advantage. You are stuck in a queue for Pirates of the Caribbean and desperately want to get a booking for Guardians of the Galaxy. With Fastpass, this is impossible as you would have to physically go to the ride to get the reservation. With Maxpass, it’s simple, just pull up the app and reserve.
This can save you miles of walking or hours of queueing. If you seriously want to get on all the best rides and not spend hours in queues then the Maxpass is basically essential.
MaxPass and Galaxies Edge
For now, if you want to Ride the Smugglers Run in Galaxies Edge you are going to have to wait in line. The Fast Pass System is not up and running yet. We are sure it will be added soon but it’s not there just now.
Who does the Fast Pass Suit Best?
The Pass is best suited to short visits 1 or 2-day visits, mainly because you will need to pack as much as possible in. You don’t have time to waste and need to get on as much as possible in the shortest time. The Maxpass will work perfectly for this.
For longer trips as the Pass is per day the costs can rack up significantly. You are also more able to focus on certain areas of the park and as such will not need to cover as much ground per day. This means you will be nearer the Fastpass Kiosk’s so limiting the advantage of having the App-based system. For these types of visits, we suggest still using the Maxpass, especially to access the Photopass service, but limit it to 1 or two days of the trip.
You do not need to add maxpass to EVERY ticket so using it for one or town days could save $100’s per party while still getting you on the best rides and getting a ton of souvenir photos.
Visiting at PEAK times. If it is liable to be very busy such as a weekend during peak season then a Maxpass is almost essential if you want to have a hope of getting on any rides.
Many people only visit in the evening, If it is a busy time it is possible ALL Maxpass time slots will be used. In this instance, a Maxpass would be a waste. We only really recommend the Maxpass if you are going to be there most of the day.
Park Hopper. The Maxpass works incredibly well with Park Hopper tickets. The Advantage is being able to keep track and monitor Ride Queues and Maxpass times on the popular rides in other parks. You are stuck in a queue for Pirates of the Caribbean for Example and notice the Queue times for Guardians of the Galaxy in California Adventure are soaring. Maxpass times are already running toward the end of the day and could run out soon. With the Fastpass system, you would either miss out or have to abandon where you are in the queue and trek all the way over to the other park to grab the FastPass! What a complete pain! There is no easy solution and this will almost certainly happen.
With Maxpass. It’s a 20second process on the App. Boom, Booked. No big queue, no huge trek, sorted.
Disney Photo Pass
The Photo Pass is a fantastic addition to the Maxpass. You really do not require the photo Pass as every Cast Member who takes set-piece photos will happily use your camera for you, including your phone. So without it, you can still have that shot with Mickey or your favorite princess or even Groot!
But with it, you will get a professional-level shot that has been practiced by the photographer millions of times on high-end kit. It’s bound to be better than them using your inferior kit they are not familiar with. You also get the option of Magic Shots where a digital character will be added to the shot. These really make phenomenal keepsakes.
You also get all your Ride Photo’s included in the Photopass! We all know how much these momentoes can set you back and the chances are they will end up in a drawer somewhere, but with Photo Pass digital copies are included. So you can print it out at home for pennies!
$20 is worth a day is worth it even for just the Photo Pass in our opinion!
Photo Pass Tips
- You only need one MaxPass! We said the MaxPass is worth it just for the Photo Pass, well if you agree and just want the Photo’s you only need to buy ONE MaxPass per Group. All the Photos can be linked to one account so it doesn’t matter who or what is in the photo, just link it all to the same account and you will get all your groups photos for the price of one MaxPass.
- The Process is not Automatic. You need to either have your pass scanned by the photographer or take the PhotoPass card and scan it later to have the Photos added to your account.
- You need to remember the Ride Photos 8 digit code! The easiest way of doing this is, after finding the Ride Photo Snap a quick photo of it on your phone.
- Remember to ask for the Magic Shots, The Cast Member will usually do it automatically but not always so just ask if they can do one at this location.
Tips and Tricks for Using the MaxPass
- Disneyland Wifi Sucks. It’s ok when it works but it is decidedly patchy.
- Don’t stop just after the entrance – On that note, a BIG Blackspot is right after the main gate for Disneyland. You will see loads of people stopping here fighting with their phone to grab the MaxPass’s as soon as they can. If you are relying on Wifi, don’t waste your time. Walk right past them toward your first ride and try it further into the park to get Wifi and grab your first MaxPass.
- Get there early, Like Rope Drop Early. On Busy days Timeslots sell out, and fast so you need to be in the park to snag the top rides, quieter days only the best rides sell out and it can take until well into the afternoon, but it still pays to get there early and make the most of the short ride times in the morning.
- Schedule BIG rides later in the day – MaxPass works best when rides are busy. There is nothing more satisfying than walking past a queue 2hrs long and straight onto a ride. Save rides with long queues until later in the day and make use of the MaxPass slots that are close to the current time. This way you can get maximum rides in, as once you have used the maxpass you will be free to make another selection. As the bigger rides, return times start getting late grab those, as you can continue to make other selection once the 90min window has passed.
- Don’t waste MaxPass on <10 min rides – While there is no limit to the number of rides you can book there is little point in choosing a ride with a short queue unless of course, they are ALL that short (not very likely!) If a ride has a really short queue just go on it and use the App in the Queue to book something with a longer wait!
- Check the app, and keep checking. You may find Return times become unacceptable late or clash, or just run out, especially on busy rides at peak times. However, the return time is fluid. Keep checking and it is possible a more appropriate time slot will open up so be ready to bag it!
- Have a Full Battery and a Power Pack! the Disneyland App is pretty battery intensive and you will be on it A LOT. If it is sunny you will probably have high Brightness on your screen too. This means around 3 pm it is likely to be dead! A power pack will give you the chance to recharge and keep going.
You need a good strategy for getting the most out of MaxPass, but the reality is all the best planning can go completely awry on the day. But it still pays to have a skeleton plan so you are not winging it completely with no idea.
Your strategy should depend on a lot of factors, which park you are visiting that day, which rides are most important to you. To begin with, choose MaxPass times that are very close in time and location this will get you on as many rides as possible in the shortest time. Never Wait for a Return time, Queue for something else instead.
As the day goes on and the MaxPass times run out to ensure you bag any key rides that you HAVE to go on. This means you will be operating on a full 90min wait time for the next one but if rides times are running out it means Queue times are rising FAST you may have to choose between mission out or waiting in a long standby queue!
Have Your Say
Let us know your thoughts? Have we explained the system fully to you? Is it all clear and obvious? If not what are you not clear about? Let us know in the comments below?
Have you Tried the MaxPass yourself? What did you think? Was it worth it to you? Did you get on everything you wanted? Or was it a letdown? Let us know in the comments below if you have anything at all to say about Disney’s MaxPass System