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Think of the all the Fastpass machines in a park as a computer network, with each attraction being a "node" in that network. When a guest attempts to get a Fastpass by inserting their ticket into the barcode reader, the machine does two things. First it checks to see if you already have a current Fastpass for the same attraction (that is, a Fastpass with a start time later than the current time). If you don't, it then checks to see if you have a current Fastpass for another attraction on the same network (Fastpass attractions at Disneyland and Disney California Adventure are completely separate).
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 starting time of the Attraction A Fastpass has passed or 2 hours has passed since the Attraction A Fastpass was issued. The easiest way to check this is to look at the bottom of the first Fastpass where it will state "Another Fastpass will be available at XX:XX."Also a Fastpass always has a minimum return time of 40 minutes.
Issues that affect Fastpass strategy
It is no wonder that Disney doesn't advertise these "tricks" as it is hard to explain to a park guest. You will find out that many cast members have no idea about what is a "standalone" machine, or other information mentioned here. They do know the information as described on the official Web site, since this is what Disney has taught them. They generally have no idea about the "secrets".
There are two networks: one for Disneyland Park and the second for Disney California Adventure. They are totally separate, so you can always get one at least one Fastpass for each park. Let's look at the Fastpass attractions in each park:
Disneyland Park (DL)
Disney California Adventure (DCA)
Now, what is not so commonly known is that not every Fastpass attraction in a park is actually connected to the larger Fastpass network for that park. Currently there are two "independent" Fastpass machines that operate on a standalone basis:
+ Note that visitors usually report Caliornia Screamin' as "independent", but at some times, it is apparently "on the network".
Also note, the Radiator Springs Racers Fastpaases are distributed next to It's Tough to Be a Bug. (The machines used to be used for ITTBAB, and Disney opted to place them away from Radiator Springs Racers entrance). The Star Tours Fastpass machines are located across the pathway next to Buzz Lightyear (The machines used to be used for BLAB). The World of Color Showpasses are distributed at Grizzly River Run. (The machines are split, some for GRR and others for World of Color, until World of Color Showpasses are fully distributed.
*Some Fastpass attractions don't offer Fastpasses year-round, but only on weekends, and weekdays during peak and holiday periods. The attractions listed with an "*" above do not offer Fastpass during the slower weekdays. The Times Guide handed out at the turnstiles when you enter the park does list which attractions will be offering Fastpasses on that day. It has been wrong, though, so it is recommended you check the status at the actual attraction.
Note: Fastpass machines are turned off when an attraction experiences a temporary closure and are turned back on when the attraction returns to normal operation.
Disney has discontinued Fastpass on Pirates of the Caribbean ", it's a small world holiday", Muppet*Vision 3-D, It's Tough to Be a Bug, Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters and Haunted Mansion Holiday (as of the 2013-2014 season).
Fastpass attraction strategy
The best strategy for "independent" machines
The independent machines are nice and simple. Each of the attractions has its own machine operating all by itself, and you can get one Fastpass for each of these rides without affecting any other Fastpasses you might want.
Note: All times are an example, and should not be a reflection of the time you really get on your Fastpass.As of February 19th, 2013, the Disneyland Resort has started enforcing the end time on the FastPass, which means that you have one hour to use it. (This is a major change from the past, where Disney didn't enforce the end time). If you are a few minutes late, more than likely the Cast Member will accept it if you have a decent explanation why you were late. But if you are over 15 minutes late, more than likely you will be turned away. Also, exceptions will be made if the ride breaks down during the valid period of the FastPass, and you can use it at a later time.
So what can you have, before you've even used one of the "networked" machines? Currently, you can have one Radiator Springs Racers Fastpass one California Screamin' Fasptass+, and one World of Color Showpass. And if you remember to pick up a new Fastpass before using one, you'll always have an current Fastpass for these attractions.The best strategy for the "networked" machines
You can have, in most cases, one Disneyland and one DCA networked Fastpass in addition to the above standalone Fastpasses. Once you get one networked Fastpass, you are not allowed another "networked" Fastpass within the same park (either DL or DCA) until one of these two events happens:
One of the most important tricks to maximize your "networked" Fastpass usage is to get a new networked Fastpass prior to using the one you already have. Let's look at an example:
So, at any given time a Fastpass user can theoretically possess one or two Fastpasses for each of the stand-alone Fastpass attractions plus one or two of the networked attractions in each park (depending on return times in relation to the two-hour rule).
Another thing to think about to maximize the number of rides you get into a day are the Single Rider Passes available on Splash Mountain, Radiator Springs Racers, Grizzly River Run, Soarin' Over California, California Screamin', and Goofy's Sky School. With the exception of Soarin' Over California and Radiator Springs Racers, use of single-rider lines is generally faster than Fastpass, so if you are willing to use them this will free up the list of attraction for which you will want Fastpasses.The best strategy for using Fastpass
Rather than thinking of Fastpass as two systems (Disneyland and DCA) think of it as five systems (California Screamin'+, Radiator Springs Racers, World of Color, the Disneyland networked system, and the DCA networked system) and that you can have one or two from each system at any given time. To make best use of Fastpasses, do not use a Fastpass from one of the systems (with the exception of World of Color) before attempting to get a new Fastpass from that system.