Last week a friend asked us for some advice on her upcoming Disneyland trip. It had been over ten years since she'd been to the Happiest Place on Earth, and it was another five years before that. So needless to say there was A LOT we could go over. And while we may have written a list of tips and ideas about the length of a Harry Potter book, it made us think: It's been a LONG time since we listed out our favorite tips
to make the most out of your Disneyland time (whether its been a month or 20 years since your last visit).
- Leave Plenty of Time if You Want to Be There First
- We love being at Disneyland for rope drop first thing in the morning. The park is still fairly quiet and we can get on a lot of rides before the crowds set in. But beware: being there on time for when the park opens at 8:00am, doesn't mean showing up at 8:00am. We recommend being there around 40 minutes early - especially during crowded times, and here's why:
- you have to get the main entrance from your hotel/the parking lot
- you have to get through security and that can be slow if you have bags
- you have to line up at the entrance gates
- they'll begin scanning tickets 20 minutes before the park actually opens and will let you in the parks to a certain point (either the end of Main Street or Buena Vista Street, depending on what park you're in)
- THEN you wait for the official rope drop at park opening time
- Mobile Order your Starbucks
- If you woke up early enough to be at the parks 40 minutes before they open, you'll probably want some coffee. On our last trip we came up with our new favorite way to caffeinate. You can change the timing to apply to you and your trip, but for us, we'd put in our Starbucks order using their mobile app to be picked up at the Downtown Disney location when we made it to the pedestrian entrance on Harbor Street (we walk from our hotel). By the time we got through security, one person from the group would run over and grab the order, it was always ready by the time we got there - no waiting! Then come back to deliver to the rest of the group waiting in the front gate lines. So convenient!
- Stay Up To Date On Disneyland Technology
- There's a lot to stay on top of, but let's try it
- Max Pass - for $10 a day, you can get your fast passes from your phone rather than from the kiosk at each ride
- Mobile Ordering - using the Disneyland App, you can order and pay for your food from your phone and then just pick up in person from the pickup window. Its not at every restaurant, so check with the app to see where its available.
- Play Disney Parks App - this app is designed to keep you busy and having fun while waiting in long Disney lines
- Ticket Back-Up
- Its happened to us, it could happen to you...you could lose your ticket! What would you do? Here's what we do:
- Take a picture of each ticket in your group and keep it on your phone. That way you have the barcode and can show it to Guest Services, where they'll print you a new ticket. Easy Peasy.
- Load your ticket into the Disneyland App. You can even use it for park entry and to check in for your fastpasses at each ride. You still need the paper ticket, though, to get a fastpass if you don't have Max Pass, so if you lost it, be sure to get a new one at Guest Services.
- If You're Short on Time, Prioritize
- One time I went to Disneyland just for the day with some friends who had never been there before. I didn't want to be overbearing with my Disney obsession, so I let them lead the way. We spent 55 minutes in line for Gadget's Go Coaster but didn't get on Splash Mountain. So think ahead on what you want to do if you're limited on time. Here are some things to ask yourself when making your plan:
- What are my five favorite rides?
- Do I want to meet any characters? (Check the app for where to find them!)
- Is there a new show or ride I want to be sure to experience?
- What new foods do I need to try or old favorites would I be sad to miss?
- What do I not mind skipping?
- Lots of Options for Fireworks Viewing
|Fireworks from the Teacups is pretty special!|
- Main Street is the best, most immersive experience for the fireworks, but sometimes you have to stand around and wait a very long time to get a spot there. Here are some other spots to try:
- Small World - This is often overlooked because not a ton of people are riding Small World at night. The projections are large on the face of the ride so its easy to have a good view. But be warned if you are sensitive to loud sounds or if you have small kids...its LOUD by Small World because you're so close to where they shoot the fireworks from.
- Rivers of America - If you're watching the first show of Fantasmic or just happen to be in the area, they'll do the projections on the Fantasmic water screens and there's a pretty great view of the fireworks. The upside is that because of Fantasmic, you don't stand around and wait for an hour to get a spot. The downside is that it can get crowded because of the shows (but a lot of people will leave right after Fantasmic is over and not wait there for the fireworks, so I think it's worth a shot!)
- Fireworks on the Go - Especially if you've seen the fireworks show before and don't care as much about getting the whole experience, you can see them while on the Matterhorn, the Mad Tea Party, Autopia, or just hanging out in Fantasyland (areas they don't close during fireworks) and Tomorrowland.
- Save 5% on Tickets
|Actual footage of my dining room table when I get ready to buy Disneyland tickets|
- Do you have a Target Red Card? Everything is 5% off, including Gift Cards and tickets (sometimes they sell one and two day passes right there in the gift card kiosk)! You can use Disney gift cards anywhere in the parks, so you can get a little discount on your tickets or on anything else you buy on your visit! Check out the full strategy here.
- See the Second Show
- If you're a night owl (or if you got a late night cotton candy and are running on a sugar high), the second showing of anything is always less crowded! We were there on opening night of Paint the Night at California Adventure in April. We waited two hours for a sidewalk spot to see the parade without an obstructed view...that was the first show. We happened to walk by again at 10:15 when the second show was starting and there were tons of spots so we just sat down and enjoyed one more time! (When can we do this again? 10:15 apparently!)
- Dining Packages Save Time But Not Money
|Maleficent chocolate dessert available with the Fantasmic dining package at the River Belle |
- We got amazing views for Fantasmicby doing a dining package. We were practically front and center and only had to wait about a half hour. It was pretty incredible! HOWEVER, as delicious as our meal was (check out that amazing dessert above!), it was pretty darn expensive so you should weigh out your options and what's most important to you when deciding on a dining package for Fantasmic, Paint the Night, the Pixar Play Parade, the Frozen show at the Hyperion Theater, or World of Color (when it finally comes back...eventually...someday). Check out the official info on Dining Packages here.
- Look at Your Fastpass Return Time
- This is a weird one, but totally worked in our favor on our last trip. Double check fastpass return times! Would you rather wait 20 minutes for Buzz Lightyear or get a fastpass that's up in 5 minutes? Look at our fastpass in the pic above. Return time is 10:10, and in the bottom right corner you can see we got the fastpass at 10:06!
- Check Out Our Phone Battery Life Tips
- We've got some great ideas for keeping your battery going during a Disney day. Check them out here!