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 alternative system.
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 - for the one park - as you first use it to gain admission through the turnstiles. 
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.
It is not clear if it's 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.

Attractions that offer Fastpasses

Disneyland Park (DLP)

[40] Big Thunder Mountain Railroad
[E, I] Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters
[N] Fantasmic!
[I] Haunted Mansion [+ "Holiday" version]
[I] "it's a small world" [+ "Holiday" version]
[S, 46] Indiana Jones Adventure
[E, F, S, 42] Matterhorn Bobsleds
[I] Roger Rabbit's Car Toon Spin
[E, F, S, 40] Space Mountain  [+ "Ghost Galaxy" version] 
[S, 40] Splash Mountain
[E, 40] Star Tours: The Adventures Continue

Disney California Adventure Park (DCAP)

[E, F, S, 48] Incredicoaster
[E, F, 40] Guardians of the Galaxy - Mission: BREAKOUT! 
[I, S, 42] Goofy's Sky School 
[S, 42] Grizzly River Run
[E, F, S, 40] Radiator Springs Racers
[E, F, 40] Soarin' Around the World
[E, F] Toy Story Midway Mania!
[F, N] World of Color (no shows currently - expected to return in late 2018)

E: ride operates during Magic Mornings / Extra Magic Hours (generally - DLP: Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday; DCAP: Sunday, Monday, Wednesday, Friday)
F: Fastpasses may be distributed during Magic Mornings / Extra Magic Hours (first ride return times begin at regular park opening)
I: most likely to have return windows that open immediately or soon after the Fastpass is obtained
N: not "connected" to the wider Fastpass network, so Fastpasses may be obtained independently of any others; cannot obtain Fastpasses using Maxpass
S: single rider queue available
##: required minimum height of riders in inches - all of these rides offer Rider Switch

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 one of the park's turnstiles that day.  Next, it checks to see if you already obtained a Fastpass for the same attraction.  If so, the machine will "give" you a Fastpass (by digitally attaching it to your admissions media) and print a reminder only if you have used the older one or its return window has closed.  If you don't have a Fastpass for this attraction, the machine then checks to see if you have an "exclusionary" Fastpass for another ride - that is, if it now before the time stated on the reminder as "Another FASTPASS selection will be available after ##:##"
exception: When the "another Fastpass" time is thirty minutes* from the time a ride Fastpass was issued, you may get a second one as soon as you use the first one.
*The minimum wait time - as printed on a reminder - to get another Fastpass is one half hour.   The maximum wait time to get another Fastpass is two hours.

At ride entrances, the Fastpass is scanned (once or twice) from the ticket, annual pass, or either attached to the user's account on the Disneyland app.

This reminder was obtained at 9:32 AM - the time is
 printed at the bottom right in 24-hour format. 
Since the return window began more than
30 minutes, but less than 2 hours from the time the
Fastpass was issued, another one could be obtained
when the return window opened at 10:35 AM
Since this reminder was printed at 11:40 AM and its return window wouldn't open for more than 2 hours, another Fastpass could be
 obtained at 1:40 PM, which was 2 hours later.

[Reminders no longer have the bar code seen in these images.]

Fastpasses for Matterhorn Bobsleds and "Guardians of the Galaxy - Mission: BREAKOUT!" may be obtained across from the rides' entrances.   Radiator Springs Racers Fastpasses are distributed next to the ride, on the overlook area, towards Pacific Wharf.  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.  Fastpasses for Fantastmic! "are distributed along the Rivers of America, adjacent to Frontier Landing".   [no shows currently: World of Color Fastpasses were obtained from portable machines located by The Little Mermaid ~ Ariel's Undersea Adventure.]

Determining Fastpass Availability and Return Windows

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.  See the screencaps and captions below for instructions. 

Click "Filter" when you are on the  Attractions screen of the app. Scroll down to "Interests - More Options", choose "FASTPASS" and the click "Apply".  (You could have also have chosen either DLP or DCAP under "Location".)
Click "Show List" to make the Attractions screen look like this.  Click on the name of a ride to see Fastpass information.
The return window of Fastpasses currently being issued for the chosen ride can be seen under the words "Now Distributing".


Fastpass Strategy

You can obtain and hold a World of Color Fastpass (no shows currently) and a "Fantasmic!" Fastpass without any effect on your ability to get ride Fastpasses.
In general, once you get a ride Fastpass, you may not get another ride Fastpass within either park until the "Another FASTPASS selection will be available ..." time.
There are exceptions:  If that time is 30 minutes from when the Fastpass was obtained, and you make use of it before that time, you can get another Fastpass immediately afterwards.
                                    You can't obtain a second Fastpass for a particular ride until you've used the first one or the return window has closed.

At park opening - on days without early admission - the return windows for Fastpass rides will open in 30 minutes .
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).

Although not publicly announced by Disney, many visitors' reports indicate that there are grace periods of five and fifteen minutes at the start and end of the window, respectively.

* examples of effectively obtaining and using Fastpasses:
* You get a Space Mountain Fastpass at 9:11 AM which is valid from 9:50 AM to 10:50 AM. 
   In this case, you could get your next ride Fastpass at 9:50 AM, and that would be the time printed toward the bottom of the reminder.
* [based on actual experience - Sunday, 8/20/17]   At 10:05 AM, you obtain a Fastpass for Buzz Lightyear Astro Blaster Fastpasses with the return window opening at 10:10 AM.
   Even though the reminder lists 10:35 AM as the time you can get another Fastpass, you can use the BLAB Fastpass right away
   (since you're within the 5 minute grace period) and get another Fastpass (for Star Tours or some other ride) immediately after you exit BLAB.
* Suppose it's 11:02 AM when you get a Radiator Springs Racers 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 1:02 PM,  two hours after the Fastpass was issued.
   You would be able to get another Radiator Springs Racers Fastpass when you've used the old Fastpass or after 2:40 PM.
* You have an Indiana Jones Adventure Fastpass that will become good at 12:35 PM, which is also when another Fastpass may be obtained.
   You could get a Space Mountain FastPass at that time (assume it's valid from 3:10 PM to 4:10 PM) and then go back to ride Indiana Jones Adventure.
   Then at 2:35 PM (2 hours from when the second FastPass was obtained), you might pick up a Matterhorn Bobsleds Fastpass before riding Hyperspace Mountain
*  If you obtain a Fastpass and can't use it because the ride is out of operation during the return window, you will be issued a multi-attraction Fastpass.
    This can be seen on the Disneyland app if you have linked your ticket/AP.
    Disney has provided no information about this new feature.  A CM at a ride entrance can confirm that you have one.

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" aboveSingle 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. 
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 Splash Mountain, Indiana Jones Adventure, Matterhorn Bobsledsor Star Tours - The Adventures Continue.

In Disney California Adventure Park, Radiator Springs Racers Fastpasses will "run out" first. 
Those for Incredicoaster or "Toy Story Midway Mania!" will probably be the second to be completely distributed.
Next, Guardians of the Galaxy - Mission: BREAKOUT! Fastpasses - with no SR queue - are especially worth getting (if you didn't ride during EMH).

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