Disneyland Vacation – Disneyland is the happiest place on earth. I love Disneyland as I have been to the park every year for the past 25 years.
The park is like its very own small world and can be overwhelming for the first time traveler.
Knowing ahead of time on what to expect, and how to prepare can make a huge difference on your visit to the park.
I wrote this post for those who may have never had a Disneyland Vacation before, and provide some tips and tricks that I have learned over the years.
Topics like where to stay near Disneyland, the first things to do when you enter the park, and so much more will be covered.
Here are my top 35 ways to master your next Disneyland Vacation and make it the best vacation ever.
35 Awesome Ways To Master A Disneyland Vacation
While Disneyland California has gone through some major changes recently that have included a new Star Wars Theme area to the park since the last time I have been to the park, the tips below still hold pretty strong no matter what happens to the park in the near future.
Here are some great tips that you can make your next Disneyland Vacation the best ever.
Use crowd calendars to plan your trip
Although you can certainly still have an enjoyable time when Disneyland is swarmed, it’s a lot nicer to visit during off-peak times when possible.
To master your next Disneyland Vacation, make use of crowd calendars from isitpacked.com and rmhtravel.com to discover the ideal times to go and find out about events that might make the park more congested than usual.
Avoid weekends when possible
Another way to master your next Disneyland Vacation, Steer clear of weekends wherever possible especially holiday weekends and other holidays.
Think Christmas Day might be a fun time to visit the park? So does everybody else on the planet. Don’t do it.
Go to the opposite park on Magic Morning entry days
Disneyland Vacation Tips – Everyone who purchases a 3-day hopper is allowed to enter Disneyland Park one hour before the posted opening time on either Tuesday, Thursday, or Saturday.
While those who stay at one of the Disneyland hotels and resorts get early admission to California Adventures on either Monday, Wednesday, or Friday.
This sounds great an extra hour before the crowds hit, but unless you are going to get to the park and stand in line an hour before your early entry time, your best option is just to go the other park on those mornings for fewer crowds (so head straight to Disneyland on M/W/F, and start at CA on T/Th/S).
Stay close enough to walk to the park if possible
Car parking at Disneyland seems as if it will help you save time and effort, however, it can be an enormous hassle, particularly when it’s busy (plus it costs $20 or more).
I’ve stayed at a hotel that was just three-quarters of a mile from Disney’s front gates, and it took less than 15 minutes to walk there every morning.
One day we chose to drive and waiting around to park then waiting around for the tram to the front gates took over an hour.
There are several places to stay along Harbor Blvd in the same block as Disneyland that offer easy walking access (Anything which says it is within half a mile of the park entry is doable for walking!).
Hotels I recommend:
- Best Western Plus Park Place Inn and Mini-Suites (Great Free Breakfast)
- Fairfield Inn Anaheim by Marriott at the Disneyland Resort ( Great for large families)
- Howard Johnson Anaheim- Family Destination ( Great for large families)
- Sheraton Hotel Anaheim ( Across the street from California Adventure Park)
If you can’t walk, look into the ART shuttle
The ART shuttle, provided by the city of Anaheim, picks up near most of the Disney area hotels and drops off near the entry gates.
Depending on how many people are in your family, it may even be cheaper than parking and will usually be faster.
Tickets are sold at most area hotels. Just remember you’ll have to fold your stroller to board it.
Get to the park early
You’re on vacation, and want to sleep in. I get it.
Everyone else wants to sleep in too, which means that before 10 o’clock is the best time to be at the park.
To master your next Disneyland Vacation, Try to get to the park up to an hour before it opens to be one of the first in line to enter.
If you’re willing to get up early, you may be able to ride more rides in the first few hours than you can in the rest of the day combined.
It feels more fun to stay up late and be at the park in the evening, but it is worth going to bed and getting up early when possible.
Download the Disneyland app to keep track of wait times
The Disneyland app will help master your next Disneyland Vacation, simply because it provides a map that will help you get around.
Also, the application indicates the current waits times for all the rides.
Plus, the app notifies you of which rides have closed temporarily (on our visit, every day, a few rides closed for an hour or two due to humid weather or other maintenance issues).
This can be extremely helpful in keeping you from totally wasting time walking across the park to a ride that is closed. Or a ride that has a line longer than you want to wait in.
Fast passes are fantastic. They let you skip the lines for popular rides, so you only have to wait 10-15 minutes for them instead of 2 hours.
You get fast passes by going to the ride and inserting each of your party’s tickets into a fast pass machine.
Your fast pass will give you a one-hour return window when you can come back and skip the line (and you need to come during that hour.).
Some rides, like Space Mountain at Disneyland Radiator Springs Racers in CA, regularly have 2 hours wait times, so fast passes are the way to go.
Look for fast passes that have return times soonest
Tips for a Disneyland Vacation – Look for fast passes that have return times soonest and get those first (you can check this on the Disneyland app.).
One thing to know about fast passes is that you can’t get a bunch all at once.
Generally, once you have a fast pass, you can’t get another one until the return time on your pass.
So if it’s 9 am and you get a fast pass to Space Mountain which has a return time until it doesn’t start until 10:30, you won’t be able to get another fast pass until 10:30.
So if the fast pass return at Big Thunder Mountain Railroad is at 9:30, you should get that one first. Then at 9:30, you can ride Thunder Mountain and then get a fast past to Space Mountain(or something else).
Send a runner to get more fast passes as soon as you can
So if your Space Mountain pass starts at 10:30, send a runner from your party with everyone’s tickets to get your next fast passes before you go on Space Mountain (or if you have a runner willing to skip some rides, send them while everyone else is riding).
Keep in mind of popular rides
Remember that for very popular rides, fast passes will run out for the day. This can happen pretty early on when the park is very crowded.
If its summertime and you want to ride Radiator Springs Racers, you’d better get fast passes first thing in the morning.
Fast pass return time
If your fast pass return time is more than 2 hours away, you can get another fast pass in 2 hours.
So if it’s 10 in the morning and your fast pass for Radiator Springs Racers says you can come back at 6:30 tonight, remember you can get another fast pass in 2 hours, at noon, and you don’t have to wait until 6:30.
It’ll say so right on the fast pass.
Fantasyland / Tomorrowland / Galaxy’s Edge
Fantasyland, Tomorrowland, and Galaxy’s Edge are the busiest areas of the park, especially first thing in the morning.
If you have a 3-day park pass, take one day and head straight to Adventureland, Frontierland and Critter Country where it is much less crowded and wait times for rides are fairly short.
Use the single rider line
If everyone in your party is over 7 and you don’t mind splitting up for some rides, you can use the single rider line and get on certain rides much faster (or if only the teenagers want to ride something like California Screamin).
The next tip to master your next Disneyland Vacation is to Bring dollar store ponchos to wear on wet rides like Splash Mountain and Grizzly River Run.
Depending on where you sit on these rides, you can get quite wet, which means they will both have short lines early in the morning or anytime it’s not sunny and hot.
Grab cheap ponchos from the dollar store to wear so you can stay dry and ride these rides when no one else wants to.
Order inexpensive rain jackets from Amazon
Order inexpensive rain jackets from Amazon if rain is forecast during your trip.
Don’t skip Disney on rainy days lines are usually super short!
I Suggest Buying A Rain Poncho Jacket Coat Hooded for Adults with Pockets (Click Here For The Amazon Link)
They are longer than ponchos, have actual sleeves so your arms don’t get soaked, and the hoods can cinch up so your head stays dry even if it’s windy.
They cost the same as you’ll spend at Disney for a poncho but keep you much drier!
Plus you can fold them up, bring them home, and use them over and over.
Bring lots of snacks
Disney won’t let you bring in a full cooler packed with lunch, but they will let you bring in food, water, juice boxes, snacks, etc.
I have seen families bring in a ton of snacks and I have never seen a problem.
The more food you bring in, the less you’ll need to buy while you’re there.
Have kids wear fanny packs full of snacks
If kids each have their own fanny pack full of food, they can munch when they get hungry without always asking you for something to eat (because they’ll be hungry the minute you arrive at the park).
A pack of apple slices or a granola bar can make a long wait in line easier to deal with for little kids, and they’ll be able to wear the fanny packs on all the rides.
Try to delay eating lunch until 2 or 3 PM
A great way to master your next Disneyland Vacation is to eat when lines for rides are starting to get long.
If you eat lunch at noon with everyone else, lines for food will be long, but if you wait for you’ll spend less time in line and more time on rides.
Bring a small crossbody purse for the ladies or lanyard for the men
My wife uses a bag like this one because she hates keeping her phone in her back pocket, especially when getting on and off rides.
The lanyard is great to keep our tickets handy since you use them anytime you want to pick up a fast pass.
Get some apps for line time
Great way to master your next Disneyland Vacation, is looking for apps and games that your family can play together, instead of ones kids play on their own.
Heads Up! is a fun game where the players all give clues to the person holding the phone to help her guess a list of words.
Skip the parade and ride rides instead
If you’ve stayed late enough for the parade, consider skipping it because lines for rides will be shorter when everyone else is watching the parade!
Don’t try to leave the park during the parade
It’s extremely difficult to make your way down Main Street and out of Disneyland while the parade is running, and it’s also very busy right after the parade since many people are heading out then.
So plan to leave before the parade starts or stay for a while after it finishes so you can master your next Disneyland Vacation day.
Check the Disneyland Calendar
Another way to master your next Disneyland Vacation is to find out which rides will be closed for refurbishment.
While you’re there by checking the Disneyland calendar and clicking on each day you’ll be visiting.
It’s pretty disappointing to be looking forward to your favorite ride only to find it’s closed for your entire trip. Find out in advance to avoid disappointment when you arrive.
Take a small first aid kit with you
To master your next Disneyland vacation, make sure you have a handy kit available.
You won’t want to waste time hunting down band-aids when one of your kids gets a blister on his heel, so gather a few items in a baggies or small container before you leave home: band-aids, headache medicine, Dramamine (if someone in your party gets motion sickness), and Tums or Pepto are all a good idea.
Bring a t-shirt and a Sharpie for character autographs
Getting signatures in an autograph book is fun, but kids may never even look at it once they get home from the park.
Bring a Disney tee with you instead and get it autographed for a keepsake that will get used more often after the fact.
Find Mickey, Minnie, Pluto, Donald, and Daisy in the circle just after entering Disneyland
They will each have their own line for photos, so help your child decide which one he or she wants to see most (or plan to wait in a few lines).
Also, Find other characters in their designated areas throughout the day check the Disney app for where to find them.
Consider leaving your bulky camera at home and buying the Disney PhotoPass
There are photographers all over the park and anytime you see one you can ask for a picture, which means you don’t have to worry about lugging your camera around AND you get to be in all the pictures with your family.
You can download all the photos at the end of your trip for the cost of the Photo Pass (around $39 for a day and $79 for a week).
This includes all the photos taken on the rides (hello screaming Splash Mountain photo) and even includes photos with magical effects added which is a great way to master your next Disneyland Vacation.
Path of the Jedi
When it’s hot and you need somewhere to cool off, go see the Path of the Jedi movie near Space Mountain.
Honestly, the 12-minute movie is just a bunch of clips from the Star Wars movie put together, so it’s not that exciting, but the theater is the coolest place in the park! It’s nice to sit and rest on comfy chairs for a while, too.
Another way to master your next Disneyland Vacation is If you buy something and it breaks right away or your kids Mickey balloon pops, head to City Hall with your receipt for a replacement.
Disney is very good at customer service, just ask.
Also, if it’s a special occasion like a birthday or first time at the park, ask for a free button at city hall.
Head to one of the play areas when kids are tired of standing in line
The Redwood Challenge Trail in California Adventures is a huge playground that offers lots of things to climb, rope bridges to cross, and even ziplines.
It’s the perfect place to spend an hour in the afternoon when the lines are long for all the rides. Pirate’s Lair on Tom Sawyer Island at Disneyland is also a very fun place to explore.
Don’t forget the shows!
It’s easy to spend so much time racing from one ride to another that you miss the shows, which are very well done and will give everyone much needed time to sit and relax.
California Adventures especially has a good selection of shows.
Turtle Talk with Crush (from Finding Nemo)is a very fun interactive show that little kids will love!
And It’s Tough to be a Bug is also very fun and definitely worth a visit.
Find the schedule for shows on the Disneyland app, or a flier as you go through the turnstiles entering the park
Make reservations to your favorite Disneyland restaurants!
Oga’s Cantina is a must-see in the new Galaxy’s Edge part of Disneyland, and it’s best to make reservations starting 14 days in advance of your arrival to the park or at 7 a.m. the morning of your visit on the Disneyland website or the Disneyland app.
If you want to make advance Disneyland dining reservations, here are the some other great Disneyland restaurants that accept reservations:
- Blue Bayou is located in New Orleans Square.
- Café Orleans, also in New Orleans Square.
- Plaza Inn on Main Street does not require or take reservations for lunch or dinner, but advance reservations are recommended for the Minnie and Friends character breakfast.
- Carnation Café on Main Street does take reservations for breakfast, lunch or dinner, but they also accept walk-ins if there is availability.
- Tomorrowland Skyline Lounge Experience offers advance reservations for the balcony lounge at the Tomorrowland Expo Center.
Disney California Adventure Restaurants That Accept Dining Reservations
- Carthay Circle books up about two weeks in advance, depending on the season.
- Lamplight Lounge, one of the newest restaurants in California Adventure located on the Pixar pier.
- Wine Country Trattoria is a restaurant where it’s a cross between Napa Valley and Tuscany Italy. This location offers World of Color dining packages.
Just remember you are on vacation
Another way to master your next Disneyland Vacation is to Slow down.
A day spent at Disneyland can start to feel a bit frantic, and it’s easy to get stressed out when dealing with crowds, lines, and kids who might be getting cranky.
If it starts to feel overwhelming, take an hour to slow down. Find someplace to sit, get some food or a fun treat, and just watch what goes on.
Disneyland does an amazing job with mini shows and music that travel down the main streets of both parks.
If your hotel is very close, you may even want to head back to the hotel for naps in the middle of the day.