Updated March 2020
Disneyland and Disney’s California Adventure Park added something called the MaxPass in the summer of 2017. It’s an enhanced version of their FastPass, except that instead of being free they charge for it. Originally the cost was $10 USD, but in January of 2019 Disney announced they would be raising the price to $15 USD. As of February 2020, it’s now $20 USD. That’s per day, per person. So is it worth it? I have used the MaxPass on three separate trips so I will tell you my personal experiences with it. Now that I have used the MaxPass several times, I feel like I have a love-hate relationship with it. I wish they would’ve left well enough alone and either kept paper FastPasses, or have everyone on the app like WDW. I think $20 USD is stupid high, but it’s definitely something that adds to your day and makes things much more enjoyable and stress-free. For contrast, Universal Hollywood’s “Express Pass” is $79.99 USD per person, so I suppose they think that because they are “well under” the cost of their competitors it’s justified.
What is the MaxPass and How Does it Work?
The first step to getting your MaxPass is to make sure you sync your regular passes (it works with Park Hopper and Single Park Passes, as well as Annual Passes) with the Disneyland app. You can and should do this before you get into the park. Try not to do it day of. When you get into the park, then you can add the MaxPass. As soon as you add it you can start using it. (The regular FastPass system is also still available.) The difference between the two is that with the MaxPass you can choose which rides you’d like to MaxPass right from your phone. With the classic FastPass system you have to physically go to each ride kiosk to get your passes. So that is a perk for sure. Just like with the regular FastPass system, when you MaxPass a ride there is a certain amount of time that you have to wait until you can choose another ride. However, this wait time is slightly reduced compared to the FastPass wait time. Make sure you use a phone that has a solid battery life, since you’ll be using it all day to book passes and show passes. We like to bring along an external battery pack with us.
Another perk to getting a MaxPass is that PhotoPass is included. This means that every photo taken by a Disney photographer, you get to keep. It even includes the ride photos… you just have to make sure to put the code in and grab them after. When you get off of a ride, there is a wall where all the pictures are displayed. Go over and find your group’s photos. There will be a code on the picture. You enter the code into the Disney mobile app and it will link it to your pass. You have to input each ride photo. To save time, we would just take a photo of the codes and input them on a day off. Another great time saver is to screenshot the PhotoPass code and make it your screensaver. The photographer will scan it after they take your picture and it will link directly to your phone. That way it’s right there and you don’t have to fumble with the app. This includes character photos!
When to Use It
1. Peak Season
The first time I used the pass was this last summer when we had five day Park Hopper tickets. I was determined to not have to use it. Passes are expensive enough without having to add an extra $40 (which is now $80) per day for my family of four. Being a DL native I felt that we knew enough about how to maximize the regular FastPass system. But after the first two days we gave up. We were there at peak season and it just felt like we were not able to get on enough rides. Because of the added MaxPass users the Stand-By line-ups have all seemed to increase. Their priority is to get the MaxPassers through the line quickly. Because if you are paying for it, it better deliver, right? I honestly felt like we didn’t have a choice which was very upsetting. Unfortunately if you are going in peak season, it seems to be the only way to go. I would not worry about it in the off season. On a less busy day, you can get on every ride, no problem.
2. Only One Day in the Park
Back in November we had an adults only trip to Palm Desert. We decided to do the hour and a half drive and do a Disney Day without kids (do you even remember what that’s like?). We were tackling both parks so we wanted to maximize our day. Because we only had to pay for my husband and I it was totally worth it. Plus we were able to do every major ride in BOTH parks. Minus Guardians of the Galaxy… but that was literally the only big ride we didn’t get on, and a third of our party wasn’t into it, so we had to sacrifice something. This was one time that it totally worked to our advantage. We felt super accomplished at the end of the day. If you are only in the parks for one day, I would highly recommend doing this.
3. Blockout Days
More recently my family of four was visiting my cousin for the week. We were not planning on doing the parks at all. Normally when we travel to Southern California that’s our main purpose, so this trip we wanted to explore other things in the area. Not to mention the cost of a single day is astronomical. The best value is doing multi-day passes to be sure. My cousin ended up pulling some strings and we were the guests of one of her friends who works for Disney. AMAZING! Disneyland was blocked out that day for employees, and I’m assuming Annual Passholders as well. This increased the crowds in DCA (not that I’m complaining!). On the app we could see the lines in DL vs. the lines in DCA and it was a crazy difference. Almost every line was over an hour in DCA. Radiator Springs Racers was nearly 3 hrs for the whole day. So we ended up purchasing the MaxPass. Even so, we still needed to do Stand-By for Radiator Springs Racers and Soarin’ Around the World. Not too bad at all!
How to Maximize Your MaxPass
We have learned some tips and tricks along the way. Managing the MaxPass was a little stressful at first. When you are spending that extra money on the pass, you want to make sure it’s worth it. Here’s what we have learned:
1. Identify the rides that are priority.
On our most recent day, we did not get to the park right for opening so the passes were already for later in the day for the popular rides. One downside to doing the bigger rides is that you have to wait longer in between MaxPasses. For example, Radiator Springs Racers had a returning time of 6:00 pm. If we chose to MaxPass it right away we would not have been able to select another ride to MaxPass until three hours later. Incredicoaster had a much sooner ride time and we thought we could still get the MaxPass for Racers after we used one. So we chose to wait and not MaxPass Racers until after we’d used our Incredicoaster MaxPass, and we ended up paying the price. This ride was consistently a 3 hour minimum wait throughout the day. We did not get a pass for it and ended up having to do Stand-By. Thankfully, we did catch a dip and only had to wait an hour and a half. Still a LONG time.
2. Choose the soonest available rides.
As soon as you use a MaxPass you get to select another one. The way to maximize the pass is to select the ride that has the soonest ride time. This is where you have to find the balance of doing the “big” rides like Racers and the rides that you can just get on quickly. But make sure not to wait too long for the bigger rides or you might miss them entirely. Radiator Springs Racers definitely fill up the fastest, just like with the regular FastPasses.
3. Stop for photos.
Since you are paying for the PhotoPass… USE IT! There are photographers all throughout the park. Yes, there will be a line-up, but you won’t regret having those photos. Even we have to remind ourselves to stop and take a picture. When I’m in the park, I just want to get stuff done. I want to go on rides, and get the passes, and go go go. It can feel frustrating to stop (especially with a big group) to get a photo when you’ve just gotten to the park, but I’m always disappointed with how few photos I’ve taken. Ultimately those are the things that will last. So take a minute and get the photos.
For more information on how passes work, check out our post Everything You Need to Know about Disneyland Passes.
Do you have any tips that we need to know about? Let us know in the comments, or head over to our Instagram @stressfreemickey.
Have a magical day!
Heidi, Elisia and Erica