Using Fastpasses at the Disneyland Resort

Fastpasses Offered How the Fastpass Machines Work Determining Availability & Return Windows Strategy

This page does not specifically cover Maxpass, but the information presented here will be generally applicable to this system.
  UPDATES: The minimum wait time (of about 40 minutes) until the return window opens has been eliminated.
Paper Fastpasses are no longer distributed - instead the machines print "reminders" (see photo below).  The guest's Fastpass is scanned from the ticket or AP.

For those who are familiar with the FP+ system used at Walt Disney World: [Temporarily] forget what you know.
Although there are similarities, trying to use knowledge of the WDW system can impede your ability to make the best use of Fastpasses at the Disneyland Resort.

There is no charge for Fastpasses beyond the cost of admission to either park. Do not be confused by some travel agencies and ticket resellers that imply that Fastpasses are included with their tickets or travel packages as some sort of "bonus".  Every guest, whether using a ticket or Annual Pass, can get Fastpasses after their admissions media have been initialized at Disneyland Park or Disneyland California Adventure Park on a particular day. Children under the age of 3 do not need a ticket to enter either park, so can't get Fastpasses, but that is not a problem, as these children can enter any attraction (for which they meet the height requirement) that accepts Fastpasses with their families.

Your ticket or annual pass is initialized each day as you first use it to gain admission through the turnstiles of either park.  
One person cannot take the whole family's tickets, enter a park for the first time, and get Fastpasses in that park for the other members of the family.
Text on the Disneyland web site implies - and visitor reports confirm - that it is possible for the whole group to enter either park, and then one person take everyone's park hoppers or APs, go over to the other park, and get Fastpasses for everyone in the other park.

This page details the how, what, and when of using Fastpasses.  Fastpasses can not only save you from having to wait in some long ride lines, but will get you "more for your money" as you can enjoy more attractions that you could without their effective use.  As you read further, remember this: the sooner you get a Fastpass, the sooner you can get another Fastpass.

Attractions that offer Fastpasses

Disneyland Park

Big Thunder Mountain Railroad
[E] Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters
Haunted Mansion [+ "Holiday" version]
[S] Indiana Jones Adventure
[EFS] Matterhorn Bobsleds
Roger Rabbit's Car Toon Spin
[EF] Space Mountain  [+ "Ghost Galaxy" version]
[S] Splash Mountain
[E] Star Tours: The Adventures Continue

Disney California Adventure Park

[ES] California Screamin'
[AEF] Guardians of the Galaxy - Mission: BREAKOUT! 
[S] Goofy's Sky School
[S] Grizzly River Run
[EFS] Radiator Springs Racers
[E] Soarin' Around the World
[EF] Toy Story Midway Mania!
[FN] World of Color

A: reportedly during the late afternoon on some days: after-hours Fastpasses being distributed only to Annual Pass holders at Radiator Springs Racers Fastpass location
E: ride operates during Magic Mornings / Extra Magic Hours
F: Fastpasses may be distributed during Magic Mornings / Extra Magic Hours; apparently when the early entry hour at one park coincides with first hour at the other park
N: not "connected" to the wider Fastpass network, so Fastpasses may be obtained independently of any others
S: single rider queue available

How the Fastpass Machines Work

When a guest attempts to get a Fastpass by inserting their ticket or Annual Pass into the barcode reader, the machine verifiies that it has been initialized at a turnstile that day.  Next, it checks to see if you already have a Fastpass for the same attraction - the machine will "give" you a Fastpass and print a reminder only if ... [UPDATE: unclear as of June 20].  If you don't have a Fastpass for this attraction, the machine then checks to see if you have a current Fastpass for another ride.

The rule on what constitutes a current Fastpass at another attraction is more complex and is important to getting full use out of the system. The way it works is that once you have a Fastpass for Attraction A, you will not be able to get a Fastpass at Attraction B until either the return window of the Attraction A Fastpass has begun or about 2 hours have passed since the Attraction A Fastpass was issued - whichever is earlier. The easiest way to check this is to look at the bottom of the first Fastpass where it will state "Another FASTPASS ticket will be available after ##:##"

The return window for any ride Fastpass is generally one hour in length and starts with the minutes at a five-minute increment (##:#0 or ##:#5).

This Fastpass was obtained at 12:10 PM - the time is printed at the bottom right in 24-hour format.  In this case, since the return window begins less than 2 hours from the time the Fastpass was obtained, another one may be obtained when the return window opens at 1:10 PM.  ["reminders" printed now]
Since this Fastpass was issued at 1:21 PM and its return window does not open until more than 2 hours later, another one may be obtained at 3:20 PM - not exactly 2 hours later, but the closest time ending in :#0 or :#5.
["reminders" printed now]

Fastpasses for Matterhorn Bobsleds, "Toy Story Midway Mania!and "Guardians of the Galaxy - Mission: BREAKOUT!" may be obtained across from the rides' entrances.   Radiator Springs Racers Fastpasses are distributed next to It's Tough to Be a Bug.  The Star Tours Fastpass machines are located across the pathway next to Buzz Lightyear Astroblasters - the machines for both attractions are in the same area, but there are two distinct queues set up.  World of Color Fastpasses can be obtained from portable machines located by The Little Mermaid ~ Ariel's Undersea Adventure

Fastpass machines are turned off when an attraction experiences a temporary closure and are turned back on when the attraction returns to normal operation.  If you are unable to use a Fastpass during the printed return window because a ride is temporarily out of operation, you may be allowed to use it later in the day after the ride re-opens.

Determining Fastpass Availability and Return Windows

Electronic signs at each Fastpass ride - usually located by the machines - show the return windows of the Fastpasses currently being issued.  No times will be displayed if the ride is not operating or the day's Fastpasses have all been distributed. 

You can also use the Disneyland app.  Search for fastpass on the Attractions list view^, as seen below. Tap on the name of an individual ride - not "Disney FASTPASS Service" - to see availability and return times.  Add California to the search term to see only Disney California Adventure Park Fastpass attractions.  Search for fastpass "Disneyland Park" - including the double quotes - to see only Disneyland Park Fastpass attractions.
^Click here for an explanation and illustration of the app's list view.

If you search for "fastpass" on the Attractions list view, this is the result. 
Tap on "California Screamin'" to see the current Fastpass return window.
The standby wait time is again displayed, with the return window of Fastpasses currently being issued under the words
"Now Distributing".
Searching for fastpass california
(the "c" does not have to be capitalized) brings up this list.
Search for fastpass "disneyland park" (include double quotes - capitalization does not matter) to bring up only  Disneyland Park Fastpass attractions.


Fastpass Strategy

Currently, before you've even used one of the networked machines, you could hold a World of Color Fastpass.
Once you get a ride Fastpass, you may not get another ride Fastpass within either park until one of these two events happens:
It is later than the opening time of the return window listed on the Fastpass, or two hours have passed since receiving the Fastpass

Now that there is no minimum amount of time until a return window opens, you may be able obtain a number of Fastpasses early in the morning.
Strange at it seems, you can even get too many - the return windows may coinicide to such a degree that you couldn't use the all Fastpasses in time!

* Examples:
* You get a Space Mountain Fastpass at 9:13 AM which is valid from 9:45 AM to 10:45 AM. 
In this case, you could get your next ride Fastpass at 9:45 AM, and that would be the time printed toward the bottom of the reminder.
* Suppose instead it's 11:02 AM when you get a Space Mountain Fastpass, and it is good between 1:40 PM and 2:40 PM. 
In this case, the next ride Fastpass would be available to you at 1:00 PM, about two hours after the Fastpass was issued.
[UPDATE: unclear as of June 20]  There is one additional rule in that you would not be allowed to get another Space Mountain Fastpass until the window opens at 1:40 PM.
* One of the most important ways to maximize your Fastpass usage is to get a new networked Fastpass prior to using the one you already have. 
If you have an Indiana Jones Adventure Fastpass that will become good at 12:35 PM, you could get a Space Mountain Fastpass at that time (let's say it is good for 3:10 PM to 4:10 PM) and then go back to ride Indiana Jones Adventure. Then at 2:35 PM (don't forget the two-hour rule), you might pick up a Big Thunder Mountain Railroad Fastpass before riding Space Mountain. You can continue to use this tactic throughout the day.

Another way to maximize the number of rides you enjoy in one day is to use the Single Rider queues - see the rides marked "S" above.    Single Rider lines generally move faster than Fastpass lines#.   If you are willing to use SR queues or can take advantage of early admission (see rides marked "E" above), there will be fewer attractions for which you will want to obtain Fastpasses.
#Visitors have reported that being a single rider on Matterhorn Boblsleds or on Radiator Springs Racers may not save time over using a Fastpass. 

In Disneyland Park, the distribution of Space Mountain Fastpasses generally ends before that of any other ride. 
As there is also no Single Rider queue available, these Fastpasses may be considered the most "valuable" and (if you desire to get one) should be obtained relatively early in the day.
The Fastpasses that will "run out" next are usually for Indiana Jones Adventure, Matterhorn Bobsleds, Star Tours: The Adventures Continue, or Splash Mountain (on hot days).

In Disney California Adventure Park, Guardians of the Galaxy - Mission: BREAKOUT! Fastpasses will "run out" first - and again, with no SR queue - are especially important to get sooner rather than later.  The distribution of  Radiator Springs Racers Fastpasses will probably end next, followed by those for Soarin' Around the World or "Toy Story Midway Mania!"

Fastpasses Offered How the Fastpass Machines Work Determining Availability & Return Windows Strategy