So to preface, a lot of what you’re asking about is highly likely to change with the addition of Galaxy’s Edge & it has been rumored for months (on the west coast since MaxPass was first offered) that the addition of the Star Wars lands will inevitably change FP and MaxPass as we know it, but most importantly, that the price of MaxPass will be pushed as high as the market will bear once Galaxy’s Edge is added to it (maybe a tiered solution with/without Galaxy’s Edge will exist, but that is all TBD).
But if you still want to learn about how it works today, here’s what I know
There’s a whole bunch of logic that goes into determining when you’re next eligible to get a MaxPass that I’ll happily go into below, but the only information you need to know to make the most of MaxPass is:
- When you book a MaxPass the confirmation screen will tell you “This party is next eligible to select a FastPass at” (or something like that) and give you a time.
- Make note of that time & set an alarm on your phone so it doesn’t go by unnoticed. (You can also check Important Details/Information on the FastPass in your app to see this again if you don’t immediately remember to capture it from the confirmation screen)
- Once this time comes up you can select your next FP regardless of if you’ve scanned or not scanned into any FPs you have already obtained.
If you go by the above, you’ll do fabulously and don’t need to know any of the logic in order to maximize your FP usage and you’ll find you it you can have 2-3, even 4 FPs stacked up & ready to go. And be sure to note that even if you leave the park for a break at the hotel/pool (or anywhere else really) you can continue to book FPs for your return in the evening, just keep watching those times it tells you when you can next get a FP.
If you were curious to the more of the ins & outs of the logic…
read on by clicking the arrow at the start of this line.
The only time that the stated time isn’t necessarily the next time you select your next FP is if the return time starts in less than 30 minutes, then it will be whichever comes first out of you scanning into the ride or the 30 minutes has passed that it will officially tell you that you have to wait. Which means if at 10am you pull a FP that is good for 10:15am then you can scan in as early as 10:10am and then from the FP line, immediately on your phone scan your next FP for whatever return windows are currently available.
For a return time that’s farther than 30 minutes away but less than 90 minutes away you will only have to wait until the start of the return time (so for your example below):
For this situation you will NOT have to scan your Big Thunder FP in order to select your next FP, you will just simply at 9:40am grab the next FP and scan into Big Thunder at your convenience in the return window.
Then for anything that has a return time beyond 90 minutes, you will be eligible to grab your next FP in 90 min. There are no limitations to what time your subsequent FPs return windows can be, just that you cannot be in 2 virtual queues at once (i.e. holding 2 FPs with 2 different return times for the same ride by the person at once) so the answer to your below scenario
is: as long as you pick any other ride than Big Thunder, YES absolutely! (of course subject to availability of the times being distributed as once a return time has passed distribution isn’t available again unless someone who holds a FP, cancels it).
As for what is in most demand, Galaxy’s Edge will very much change the game. But today most days Radiator Springs Racers is the quickest to go (often times distribution for the day is done by 11am-12pm). It’s very rare that anything tops that. Although I have seen it happen, especially if they limit a ride like Soarin or Star Tours or Guardians of the Galaxy: Mission breakout to a fraction of their loading areas thereby decreasing the overall capacity & then by default the FP pool for that day.
Then after that it can really fluctuate dependent on what capacity Disney runs the rides & as well as crowd patterns (i.e. if DCA has an early entry & therefore FPs have been available to book for an hour earlier than in DL, they will move quicker than DL FPs). I always like to pull up the Disneyland app a week or so before our trip & start tracking days with similar operating hours/schedule as to when we’ll be going to get a sense of how it’s trending at the moment. Disneyland is very subject to change so I don’t like to spend more than 2-3 weeks in advance looking into this since it’s all so subject to change anyway.
As a rule the big headliners in DCA (Guardians of the Galaxy: Mission Breakout, Toy Story Midway Mania, Soarin and of course Radiator Springs Racers) will distribute/run out before the big headliners in DL (Space, Indiana Jones, Matterhorn, Big Thunder, Splash) largely bc DL will stay open another 2-3 hours beyond DCA so has another few hours.
If Paint the Night is running when you go, absolute must-do. We also LOVE the daytime parade- Soundsational and it is a not-to-be-missed parade for us. World of Color is good for sure, and so is Fantasmic but Paint the Night is king (IMHO).
For Fantasmic, it is absolutely worth getting a dining package as they cram the FP section to the gills & you’ll have to show up an hour before the show to get a decent spot within the FP section.
World of Color is easy to see with the free FP and much more enjoyable to camp out as it is not so crowded, hard to get in like Fantastmic’s viewing area (along the Rivers of America).
As for fireworks, Disneyland has been changing up shows every year or two since we’ve gone so there’s not a consistent one but they have all been good, some of them better than others, but they’ve always been a staple of our Disneyland experience so I would try to see whichever one is showing by next summer (although rumor has it that Disney, with the city of Anaheim’s nudging, is moving away from offering a full-fledged fireworks show to simplify the problems that fireworks in a residential, highly-congested area, present). They have started a new Mickey’s Mix Magic show that is advertised as a projection/laser show dance party with ‘pyrotechnic elements on select nights’ I haven’t yet seen it, but have heard that the show minus the fireworks is still great and that the fireworks are the least spectacular part about it which make me sad as we’ve always enjoyed a good Disney fireworks show, so who knows what next year will bring.
And then finally, if you’re not sick of me yet, to your last question:
In DCA you should still hit up some of the headliners first in order to take off the pressure of getting FPs for everything that runs out so fast. Depending on what you’re most interested in I would hit either Toy Story, Soarin or Guardians first. We like starting at the Pixar Pier best as we can get Toy Story & Incredicoaster as well as the slow-loading no FP Pixar-Pal-Around that our kids really enjoy (the non-swinging side). Use MaxPass to help you get multiple rides of Toy Story/Incredicoaster if you so wish when you start out at the pier or select an early(ier) FP for Radiator Springs Racers to start your day.
In DL the following are slow-loading & have no FP & are best to hit early: Alice in Wonderland, Dumbo, Storybook Land Canal Boats, Finding Nemo Submarines, Autopia, Astro Orbiter. The Tomorrowland rides are also great to hit during fireworks as the lines seem pretty low at those times. All of them except Alice are good to hit in the last hour or so of the park as well, so you don’t have to rush to them all at the start if you will be burning the candle on both ends.
Alice may get down to a 15-30 min at the end of the day, but usually doesn’t so we like to do it first. Peter Pan as mentioned already gets a crazy line 20 seconds into rope drop that doesn’t decrease substantially, ever. Although both Peter Pan & Alice can see reduced waits during a 3:30pm (or thereabouts) parade. We’ve been more successful with Alice have that reduced wait (we’ve seen as low as 10-15 min) than Peter Pan (still tends to stay at 25-30 min.). The best strategy I know for Peter Pan is either to run/speed walk at rope drop from the rope to be in the first 50-100 people in the queue for Peter Pan (can be fun if you like the competition of rope drop & are ok with some agreesiveness) or (the more calm option) get into line just before park close to avoid the time you spend in line be time you could spend doing other rides with less wait. You’ll still wait at least 20-40 min but when done with the ride you’ll have a quiet Disneyland to walk out of & Peter Pan as a final send-off of pixie dust for the day can be quite magical.
To close, no apology needed, ask away & happy planning!!!