Everything You Need to Know About Disneyland Passes

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FastPass, MaxPass, Rider Switch Pass, Park Hopper Tickets, Disability Access Service Card… there are so many different passes. What are they, how do you use them, and where do you get them? We are going to help break it down for you so you can be an expert on your Disney trip. Let’s start with the basics.

Download the Disneyland App. Linking your Theme Park Tickets to the app will make all of the following passes easier. To link your paper tickets: sign in to your Disneyland app -> click on “My tickets” -> click the blue plus symbol -> select link tickets and passes -> enter the bar code or take a photo of your passes. You can and should link your entire parties tickets to your phone. Parents, this means your children cannot lose their passes (who am I kidding – this means I can’t lose my pass). It also means that you can apply several of the following passes to multiple passes (IE you can fastpass for your entire party). The App also shows ride wait times, which can help determine where you’d like to go in the park. If you don’t have data, wifi in the parks has vastly improved. You’ll get wifi near the fastpass return/distribution sections of the rides.

Theme Park Tickets

There are many different ways to acquire your park tickets. If you collect Air miles, this is a great time to use some of those points. Maybe you even have a family member that collects them and are willing to donate them. We love using Airmiles, it makes the trip so so affordable. We have often been able to get at least one adult and one kid free every other year. Whenever possible, shop online through airmileshops.ca. BCAA or AAA is another great option, we bought our tickets through them last year. We called and they gave us an absolutely amazing exchange rate, and it was the cheapest price we could find. A go-to for us throughout the years has been aRes Travel. They often have the best deals on tickets if you don’t have points or a BCAA membership or enough airmiles. It’s always scary buying tickets through a third party site online, but we have used this one several time and never had a problem. If you want to explore some of the other theme parks in California, buying the California City Pass might be a great option for you. You can usually find them in Costco in California or online at costco.ca One thing to note is that the other options on the city pass are in San Diego, which is about an hour and a half from Anaheim. It might not be worth it unless you are planning to stay in San Diego for part of your trip. This year we ended up booking our tickets directly through the Disneyland website. They were offering a 25% discount for Canadian citizens which ended up being a great deal for us. We find that the best bang for your buck is min 3 days, but more often than not we do the 5 days. It helps alleviate some of the pressure to get everything in. We find that we are able to go at a reasonable pace without feeling stressed out about getting everything in. You will find Disney the most expensive when trying to book 1 or 2 days.  Be wary of any sites that are offering smoking deals that aren’t ones you’ve heard of.  You don’t want to get to Disney thinking you got a great deal to find out your tickets aren’t legit.  Stick with the above names, and you’ll be fine, as well as Expedia, etc.

*NOTE: sometimes when you purchase tickets online (for sure with aRes) you have to go to one of the kiosks in Downtown Disney outside the main gates to pick up your tickets. You have to have a valid passport for EACH TICKET, including children. This doesn’t take very long but you do want to make sure you do it before your actual Disney Park day. We usually head straight to Downtown Disney after we check in. You can really get a feel for the Disney atmosphere.

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FastPass

Fast Pass is available to every ticket holder, regardless of whether or not you are staying at a Disney Hotel, or if you have a one day, or multi day pass. Not every ride has the Fast Pass option, but this is a How it works: You go to a ride, then locate the Fast Pass station close by (you may have to ask a worker with help to locate). The Fast Pass times are always located above the entrance to the rides that have it. These show what the return times for the ride are. So, for instance, you know your family loves Splash Mountain… well instead of waiting in the regular “stand-by” line, you can take your tickets and put them in a machine, and they will print a fast pass ticket with a time for you to return at, by-passing the regular line. This saves significant time and can also really be beneficial depending on how strategic you are. You can time it so that you can be back at your favorite rides at peak times. For example, get a Fast Pass for a water ride when it is hot. “Peak” times are generally any time after lunch. There is a finite amount of tickets given out per five minutes. So, you will see the “Fast Pass” times go up in increments of five. Sometimes when we have Fast Passed as a group, half of us will have a return time of 10:05-11:05, and the others will have a return time of 10:10-11:10. If this happens, go to the fastpass return line with your whole group at the soonest overlapping time.



Just remember to keep eye on your return time, you don’t want to miss it! My experience with Fast Pass is they will NEVER allow you to go in BEFORE the time stamp, but they almost always will let you use it AFTER the time stamp… especially if the ride has been “down” (when they have to shut the ride down for various reasons)during your Fast Pass return time. We always start from the position of, “we get it if this doesn’t work, but do you think you could still honor this?”. Sometimes things just happen. We have noticed that they have become more strict about returning at your proper time now that there is the Max Pass.


Here’s a great tip: you can have more than one fast past at a time! The ticket that you get from the machine will also tell you when you can get another Fast Pass. Again, this is something you want to pay attention to. For example, any new ride will have a long line almost as soon as the park opens. You will want to Fast Pass these rides as soon as you get in the park (Currently, on the DCA side, Guardians of the Galaxy Mission: Breakout!, Incredicoaster, and Radiator Springs Racers). Send one person ahead with all of your groups tickets so they can fast pass everyone at the same time. It often takes a min to get settled when you get inside the gates so this is the perfect time to send someone ahead to fastpass.

One more note about Fast Passes: you can fast pass World of Color or Fantasmic (nighttime entertainment) WITHOUT it impacting whether or not you can Fast Pass a different attraction. So in California Adventure, we Fast Pass Radiator Springs Racers right away, then go to the Grizzly Rapids area to get our World of Color Fast Passes.

 

MaxPass

This is the latest “upgrade” if you will to the Disneyland Fastpass system. You must use the app in order to use this pass. For ten dollars per ticket per day, you can Fastpass from your device rather than having to physically travel to whatever ride you are Fastpassing. If you have a three day pass, you do not have to upgrade to Maxpass for all three days, you can choose which days to Maxpass. You can also Fastpass rides in either parks (you just need to have a park hopper ticket). Because you are using the app, you are able to see what ride wait times are like, and what the fastpass return time is.

Another perk is you have a shorter “next Fastpass window”. For example, let’s say that California Adventure Park has just opened. You pull out your app, and you fast pass Guardians of the Galaxy: Breakout. Because it is a relatively new attraction, many people have had the same idea. The return time isn’t until 3:15 PM – 4:15 PM. Now, does this mean that you’ve wasted $10 USD since it’s only 9 AM and you can’t use your Fastpass until the late afternoon? Nope. On your Fastpass, it will have a “next Fastpass available at” with a time on it. If you do not have the Maxpass, the time will be two hours (so in this scenario, 11 AM) until you can Fastpass again. However, if you have the Maxpass, you can Fastpass after an hour and a half. Once you’ve used your Fastpass, you can select your next fastpass.


Purchasing the Maxpass also gives you a photopass. This means that any of the Disney photographers that you see strategically placed at all of the best photo ops will scan your ticket, take your picture, and you will be able to download and keep those photos. You can also download any of the ride photos (just make sure you scan your ticket once you find your photo). This is great for several reasons. For families, it means you don’t have to get everyone in place, and then hand a stranger your camera and hope that they know how to use it. The photos are taken with professional cameras by photographers, so expect them to offer pose suggestions. They will also add animation, such as Tinkerbell in the palm of your hand.

Rider Switch Pass (Baby Swap Pass)

This is pretty much one of the best things for families, especially if you have kids that are tall enough to ride on everything as well as babies or kids that don’t quite measure up. We often go to the parks in big groups and it’s a nice way to split up the group so everyone gets a chance to ride.

How it works:
When you approach the ride, there is a greeting Cast Member. You must have the child with you to receive the Rider Switch Pass. Your party will be split in to two groups. Party A will continue to the ride, standing in the regular or Fastpass line (if you happen to have a Fastpass for the ride). Party B (consisting of the supervising adult at least 14 years or older and up to two more people who will ride) will then have their tickets scanned. You must have all three people present at this time. Technically, you are supposed to wait in a “Designated Area” while Party A is on the ride. We have found that Cast Members don’t mind if you wander in to the stores or even on to another ride. It used to be that Party B could return at any point during the day to use the Rider Switch Pass. Now, once Party A exits the ride, Party B should return as soon as possible to the greeting Cast Member where your ticket will be scanned, and you will be allowed to go through the Fastpass line up (whether or not you ever had one) or through the exit.
Rides that participate in the Rider Switch Pass are: Autopia, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, Gadget Go Coaster. Goofy’s Sky School, Grizzly River Run, Guardians of the Galaxy – Mission: Breakout!, Indiana Jones Adventure, Jumpin’ Jellyfish, Luigi’s Rollickin’ Roadsters, Mater’s Junkyard Jamboree, Matterhorn Bobsled, Radiator Springs Racers, Silly Symphony Swings, Soarin’ Around the World, Space Mountain, Splash Mountain, Star Tours, Tuck and Rolls Drive em’ Buggies, and the Incredicoaster.

Disability Access Service Card

If someone in your party is unable to wait in line due to a disability, you can go to Town Hall and request a Disability Access Pass. It’s almost directly to the left as soon as you enter Main street. You do not need documentation, or proof of disability. Essentially what this pass will allow you to do is to check in to a ride, and then return at whatever the wait time is at. So, if you approach Space Mountain, and it is a 45 minute stand-by wait time, your ticket will be scanned and you can return in 45 min to ride the ride.

Wheelchair Accessibility

ALL rides are wheelchair friendly! When you approach the Cast Member at the beginning of the Standby lineup, they will direct you as to how to proceed. Many of the rides the party can go through most of the lineup as normal, and then they will take you through a separate part of the line once you get closer to the ride loading area. (A Cast Member will usually greet you and ask you and your party to come with them). Some of the rides require a completely different entrance for a party with a wheelchair, which the Cast Member at the standby lineup will help you to find if you don’t know where it is already. For most of the “mountain” rides the wheelchair access is via the ride exit.
Some of the rides do have a limit as to how large your party can be that can go with the wheelchair, as it can be a quicker lineup for those in a wheelchair, and Disney is trying to prevent those who might be trying to beat the system. Read about this and more in our Wheelchair Accessibility in Disneyland blog!
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Park Hopper Tickets

You can upgrade your park tickets to a Park Hopper for an additional cost. They enable you to hit up both parks in one day! A single park pass only allows you to enter one park per day. We usually tend to use these further on in our trips, as we like to spend the first couple Disney days focusing solely on one park at a time to get the full experience. Then we utilize the Park Hopper to re-do our favorites, both rides and shows! As there is so many amazing shows to see in Disney, it’s nice to be able to space them out, and not be limited in one park all day. Especially since California Adventure often opens later and closes earlier, then you can go into Disneyland early, and then pop into California Adventure, and back again! There is a lot of walking still, so we do recommend trying to plan out what rides you are wanting to do so that you don’t waste time going back and forth.

Magic Mornings

When you buy a ticket that is at least 3 days (both single park tickets and park hopper tickets)  you will be given a “magic Morning”.  This is a one time deal where you can enter one of the parks an hour early! You need to check the app or the website to strategically plan which day you are going to use this on.  Not every day will have this option. To get the best bang for your buck, you want to get there early to be early. If the park opens at 8, and your magic morning is 7, you want to be there at 7, or as close to as possible.  Look for the top of the entrances and a couple of the kiosks will say “magic morning”, that’s where you want to go.  If you haven’t been to the parks in a while, plan to use this on your 3rd or 4th day. Have a plan as to what ride you are going to head to, to get the most of the hour.
If you are lucky enough to stay at a Disney Hotel, every day is a magic morning for you! Definitely on my bucket list.

 
While these things may sound confusing, once you’re there it quickly becomes clear. Cast Members are always ready to help and answer any questions you may have.
Have a magical day!
Heidi, Erica, Danielle and Elisia
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13 thoughts on “Everything You Need to Know About Disneyland Passes

Add yours

  1. Thanks for the article – it’s super helpful

    For the rider switch pass, if we are a family of 4 with 2 adults, 1 baby and 1 four year old, can the switching adult take the kid back on the ride?

    For example, my husband takes our 4 year old on the ride while I am waiting with our baby. When they are done the ride, I switch in. I’m hoping I can bring my 4 year old back on the ride so I don’t have to ride by myself. Do you know if this is allowed?

    Like

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