Should We Purchase the MaxPass at Disneyland?

 We waited no longer than 30 minutes at Disneyland in the Summer!!  How? Read below!

Yes! It’s true. Our family visited our favorite place in August 2017 and initially we were hesitant about visiting during what we consider a very busy time of year. In fact, we’ve never visited in the summer because we avoid those crowds at all costs. BUT it was the only time we could go. And when given the choice between Disney or NO Disney- we always choose Disney! Rather than park hopper tickets, we decided to just spend one day at each park (which is that we usually do. We prefer the ‘one park per day’ tickets.)  We only had two days and to maximize our time, we decided to give Disney’s new MaxPass a try!

SO, WHAT IS DISNEY’S MAXPASS? The quick answer is that MaxPass is Disney’s fastpass system accessible through the app on your cell phone!

DOES IT COST MONEY?  While the Disney App is free, the MaxPass does cost $10 PER PERSON. For our family of 5, it cost $50 per day ($100 since we spent two days total).

IS IT WORTH IT? YES! During peak time at Disneyland we were able to avoid lines and really enjoy all the rides and attractions without any issues.

IS ANYTHING ELSE INCLUDED WITH IT? Yes! Disney’s PhotoPass is also included in that price. We were thrilled to have access to this awesome feature- no more asking random strangers to take your group shots. Disney’s photographers are there for that- and don’t forget those awesome magic shots (our family’s favorite! We love getting those and seeing surprise Disney characters show up in our pictures.) You can also download and share photos from select dining locations, attractions, and Character Greetings.

See our MAXPASS Schedule below!

California Adventure Photo Magic at Disneyand

Here is what our time at the Happiest Place looked like with the MaxPass:

Disneyland – August 14

9:00 a.m. Monorail
9:20 Inside Disneyland
9:30 Astro Blasters and Space Mountain separately
10:00 Astro Blasters again (Max pass temporarily stopped working)
10:15 (Max passes working again, pulled Matterhorn for starting at 10:40)
10:26 Snow White
10:40 Casey Junior
11:06 Matterhorn (MaxPass) – Pulled Max Pass for Indiana Jones for starting at 1:15
11:20 Rider Switch at Matterhorn
11:30 It’s a Small World
Noon Made reservations for Orleans Café
12:06 Winnie the Pooh
12:30 Eating at Orleans – Pulled MaxPass for Splash Mountain at 12:32
1:00 Splash Mountain
1:40 Haunted Mansion
2:05 Indiana Jones
2:15 Rider Switch at Indiana Jones
2:30 River Cruise
2:36 Meet Moana
2:35 Indiana Jones again (Bigger kids)
2:45 Tarzan House (Little kid)
2:55 Pirates of the Caribbean
3:30 Tarzan House again
3:41 River Jungle Cruise again
4:00 Take a rest and save seats for parade
Quick Tiki treat
4:30 Watch parade
5:00 Peter Pan
5:32 Finally ride Peter Pan after technical difficulty
5:42 Mr. Toads Wild Ride
6:15 Storybook Island
6:30 Alice in Wonderland
6:53 Pinocchio
7:20 Pirates of the Caribbean
7:48 Dinner Bengals Barbeque
8:30 Parade (should have gone earlier but still got a decent spot on the side of Tomorrowland)
9:20 Pulled MaxPass for Star Tours and rode 10 minutes later
9:38 Autotopia (5 minute wait)
10:03 Finding Nemo
10:30 Done with Nemo – half asleep
10:44 Matterhorn
10:50 Monorail

MaxPass on Grizzly River Rapids

California Adventure – August 15

10:20 Inside California Adventure – Pulled MaxPass for Radiator Springs Racers for starting at 12:20
10:25 Grabbed World of Color MaxPass
10:30 Grizzly River Run (10-minute wait in standby line)
10:55 Registered for Avenger Training
11:05 Monsters Inc.
11:15 Jeff waited to meet Spider Man; Emily and kids rode Monsters Inc. again
11:45 Met Spider-Man – Pulled Toy Story MaxPass
11:50 Bug’s Life – Meimlich
12:05 Bumper Bugs
12:20 Radiator Springs Racers (bit of a wait – not more than 30 though)
1:00 Lunch at Flo’s — pulled MaxPass for Guardians of the Galaxy for between 5:15 and 6:15
1:35 Toy Story
2:00 Ariel’s Undersea Adventure
2:15 Bus Life again
2:30 Jeff in line for Frozen play
3:00 Frozen play
4:00 Pulled Max Pass for Screamin’ California
4:15 Screamin’ California
4:20 Check-in at Avenger Training
4:45 Avenger Training – Kids on stage – Pulled MaxPass for Toy Story for starting at 7:55
5:02 Guardian of Galaxy (down to three cars – slow 30 minute wait)
6:15 Watch Pixar water parade in shade (Emily saved seats while we were at Guardian)
6:46 Tow Mater
7:02 Luigi’s dance
7:29 MaxPass on Soarin’
8:10 Kids and Emily ride toy story, while Jeff save seats for World of Color
8:30 Kids and Emily ride King Tristan’s carousel
9:00 World of Color

World of Color with MaxPass

The Long Answer to what exactly is Disney’s Max Pass is that any ride that has a FastPass  option, you can ‘reserve’ your spot through your phone. Instead of running around to each of the FastPass rides and scanning your ticket to reserve your spot, you simply reserve it on your phone! The cool thing is that when you open the app to reserve your spot, you can see what the available FastPass options are. Some you may be able to reserve and ride almost immediately! It is quite efficient! It’s important to note that ONLY rides with FastPass options are available in the MAX pass option- so if ride (like Peter Pan) doesn’t have a FastPass option in person, it won’t have a MaxPass option either.

Here are a list of the current FASTPASS Ride Options:

Disneyland Park
Big Thunder Mountain Railroad
Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters
Haunted Mansion
Haunted Mansion Holiday
Indiana Jones™ Adventure
“it’s a small world” Holiday
Matterhorn Bobsleds
Roger Rabbit’s Car Toon Spin
Space Mountain
Space Mountain Ghost Galaxy
Splash Mountain
Star Tours – The Adventures Continue

Disney California Adventure Park
Goofy’s Sky School
Grizzly River Run
Guardians of the Galaxy – Mission: BREAKOUT!
Guardians of the Galaxy – Monsters After Dark
Radiator Springs Racers
Soarin’ Around the World
Toy Story Midway Mania!
World of Color

How to Purchase and Use Disney MaxPass If You Have Tickets:
1. Download the Disneyland app.
2. Enter the park you wish to visit using your tickets. ***This is an important step.  You MUST be inside the park to purchase the MaxPass. ***
3. Open the Disneyland app.
4. Tap the circular character icon at the bottom of the screen.
5. Sign in with your Disney account.
6. Tap “Get FASTPASS with Disney MaxPass”.
7. Select all Guests in your party who wish to use the Disney MaxPass feature—if someone is not listed, link their ticket or pass.
8. Purchase the Disney MaxPass feature for any Guests who do not already have it.
9. Make your FASTPASS selections and enjoy your Disney PhotoPass downloads.

Other Disney questions you may have:

Where is the best deal to buy Disney Tickets?  Our favorite place that always has the very best deals is Getaway Today!  It is the only place we buy our Disney Tickets. Not only do they have the best deal, they have the best customer service. We accidentally reserved our tickets for the wrong weekend (my bad! In my excitement I didn’t double check our dates). Not a problem for Getaway Today, though. They quickly worked with Disney to get our tickets ready for us. If you have any questions or issues, give them a call. They frequently visit the parks and nearby hotels and can give you a personal account and help answer any questions you might have!  We also buy our Character Dining Vouchers from them. For more information on Character Dining at Disney, check out our post about that here.

Where is the best place to stay? Well, it really is just a matter of preference, but we prefer to stay as close to the parks as we can for cheapest price we can find. For more details on where we like to stay, check out our post on that here.


Our Favorite Things at Wizarding World Harry Potter-Universal Studios Hollywood

1. Ollivanders

Wands at Ollivanders

Ollivanders was hands-down our kids favorite experience at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios Hollywood. Our (almost) 11 year old insisted we visit Ollivanders first thing. We entered the park and went straight to the line, which had about a 40 minute wait. They take back small groups of about 20 people- our group consisted of mostly adults and teens. Our little guy was standing front and center when the presentation began. Whether you plan to buy a wand or not, you should definitely attend a wand selection! When our son was the chosen one we seriously almost cried. He was bursting with excitement and the magic did not disappoint. Plan for 20 minutes once you enter Ollivanders. After the presentation we were given the choice to buy my son’s wand (as well as wands for our girls). They offer two types of wands- the interactive kind that can cast spells in the park and the non interactive wands. They look exactly the same. We opted to go with the interactive wands, but know that they are fairly expensive (plan for about $50 per wand, although some are less or more.).

Ollivanders at Hollywood Studios Wands at ollivanders Hollywood

Ollivanders line at Hollywood Studios

There are 11 interactive wand spots that with the right flick of the wrist, you too can cast a spell! Each interactive wand comes with the map (pictured below) to find each spell location as well as the right spell to cast!  (It can be a bit tricky to cast spells and younger children may find this frustrating- we recommend this activity for at least ages 5 or older!) The spells were very fun and we had fun trying each and every one.

wand map for harry potter spell map for harry potter hollywood

2. The Shops at Hogsmeade

chocolate frogs at honeydukes treats at honeydukes

If you’ve ever wished you could step inside Honeydukes and eat a chocolate frog, exploding Bon-Bons, Bertie Bott’s Every Flavour Bean or any other sugary novelty, this is your chance! We had so much fun looking at (and eating!) these yummy treats. Zonko’s Joke Shop is also attached to Honeydukes and here you can find a variety of novelty jokes and magic tricks.

owl post at hollywood studios hogsmeade

Take time to wander through Hogsmeade and explore the different shops. At the Owl Post you can mail a postcard to your favorite muggle with a Hogsmeade Postmark and all.  At Dervish and Bangs you can find your favorite Hogwartz apparel from scarves and sweaters to pins and bags, it has it all!

windows at harry potter universal studios

3. Butterbeer


Oh Butterbeer! MMMMM. We tried both the frozen and non frozen variety and even though we visited in cool January, we definitely preferred the frozen drink! You can find this yummy drink at any beverage cart inside Harry Potter and Three Broomsticks.  Honorable mention: Pumpkin Juice which was surprising sweet and tasty! Give that drink a try too.

4. Three Broomsticks

Three Broomsticks Hollywood Studios California Three Broomsticks Hollywood Studios California

Dig in to yummy English food at the Three Broomsticks! This is the only restaurant inside Harry Potter.

menu at the three broomsticks

Although it was a bit pricey, it was actually really yummy and filling food. We opted to go with The Great Feast (pictured above) and this was more than enough food for our family of five (our kids are ages 10, 7 and 5). You walk in and order at one counter and move to another counter where you pick up your food. Seating fills up fast- even during off peak time. As soon as we saw a table, we snatched it up. There is also seating outside.

three broomsticks ordering at the three broomsticks

Three Broomsticks

And Bonus: Of course the RIDES!

5: Flight of the Hippogriff.

Hagrid's cycle waiting in line for the hippogriff

Children must be 39 inches or taller to ride- again, we recommend for children 5 and older. This is one of two rides inside Harry Potter and is short and moves fast. There was no line when we were there, so we stayed on and went around a dozen times or so. We may have been a bit dizzy when we got off, but it was as close to Hagrid as you can get at HP!

6: Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey

harry potter forbidden journey harry potter forbidden journey harry potter forbidden journey

Riders must be 48 inches or taller to ride, although anyone can walk through the castle (which we suggest you do whether you ride or not!).  BEWARE- this ride is not for those who get motion sickness. Seriously. It’s not a scary ride at all, but if you get queasy easily, maybe stay in the waiting room at the top (also a great place for parents to switch off with each other when you have little ones not tall enough to ride).  This is one of the coolest rides we’ve ever been on- you feel like you are a part of Harry Potter as you ‘ride’ on a broomstick and zip and zoom through Hogwartz, play a game of Quiddich, zoom away from spiders etc. We could only handle riding it twice and both times people on our ride got “sick”.  Nuff said.  You’ve been warned. Plan accordingly.

harry potter forbidden journey harry potter forbidden journey


EXTRA BONUS you must check out the bathrooms! (REALLY!) Moaning Myrtle just might be there to say hello!


Lastly: Tickets.

The best deal on tickets we found was at Costco. We opted to go with the season pass, which is about $130 per person. Yes, it does have black out days so this may not be the best option for everyone. We prefer to travel off peak anyway, so for us it is no issue. We’d never want to go in July. However, for an additional fee, you still can use your pass even on blackout days. Last we checked, it was an additional $30 per person per day to use during peak days.  Also, Universal does offer special times when you can use the passes on black out days- we just received an email from them that with an advanced RSVP we can use our passes on Memorial Day (most holidays are black out days). Overall, it’s a great deal. If you plan to attend more than one day- you will get your money’s worth.


For all things Harry Potter at Universal, visit their official website here.



Our Favorite San Diego-Area Beaches

There are so many options for tide pools in/near San Diego but we decided to check out Cabrillo’s! We also wanted to see the Lighthouse, so it was win-win. As you can see, the entrance fee is $10 to enter and the pass is good for a full week.


Cabrilllo National Park


Path to Cabrillo Tide Pool path to tide pools at cabrillo

It was an overcast, semi foggy morning (as so many San Diego mornings are!) when we visiting in June. The guard at the entrance told us that was the best weather to visit the tide pools. The parking lot at the bottom is pretty small (maybe about 20 spots or less) so we drove to the upper parking lot. As you can see, the upper lots are definitely not stroller or wheelchair friendly, so just keep that in mind. Other than that it was less than a 10 minute walk down to the tides. Be sure to keep a close eye on little ones, though, as there were a couple steep 10-20 foot drop-offs.

cabrillo tide poolscabrillo tide pools

This was actually our family’s first time visiting a tide pool- we don’t exactly have these in the desert of Utah!  We weren’t sure exactly what to expect. But WOW! We found hundreds- thousands?-of tiny crabs ALL OVER! It was so fun to see these little creatures. We must of just sat on one rock for 20 minutes or so before we started to venture elsewhere.  They were fascinating. The water is pretty shallow, although the rocks can be slippery to walk on.

cabrillo tide pools  cabrillo  cabrillo tide pools

cabrillo cabrillo


cabrillo tide pools, san diego

cabrillo tide pools, san diego

Oh it was SO fun!! We can’t wait to visit more tide pools!

Lighthouse & Gift shop

Cabrillo Lighthouse   Cabrillo Lighthouse

A short drive up from the tide pools is the Cabrillo Lighthouse and Giftshop.

Cabrillo lighthouse stairs Cabrillo lighthouse

The kids really thought the spiral-and steep- staircase was cool!

Cabrillo Cabrillo lookout from museum

San Diego San Diego


And the views were gorgeous too!

Coronado Island

We spent an evening on Coronado and LOVED it! How can you not?! The first thing we did was rent a Surrey from Bikes and Beyond. There is a nice trail that goes along the ocean, past the shops and restaurants and even past a little park. We biked along that until we hit a major road, then turned around again. It took about an hour and was SO fun. The only funny thing (depending on who you ask- haha) was that on our way back I (Emily) commented how easy the Surrey was to pedal. Then I noticed poor Jeff was just sweating and huffing along. We looked down and noticed that my pedals weren’t connected at all. Jeff was hauling all five of us around by himself. Hahaha. Poor Jeff.

Surrey rental on Coronado Surrey fun on coronado Surrey rental on Coronado View of San Diego from Coronado

Hotel del Coronado Coronado at Sunset

We loved eating dinner at Lil Piggy’s Bar-B-Q and getting ice cream from  Moo Time Creamery at the Hotel Del Coronado.  Visit this link for more info. on our favorite family friendly eats in SD.  The beaches and powdery sand- heavenly! So fun to play in. Next time we’d love to stay on the Island. Where do you  like to stay when you visit Coronado?