It is absolutely NO secret that I am a huge, if not fanatical Disney / Star Wars fan. Yes… they go together. That is how they are. That is how it should be. That is how it is 😉
Well, this last week, I had the absolutely pleasure of going to Disneyland for an entire day with my in-laws. It was one of the smoothest and longest staying visits we’ve had for a while. Staying anything longer than 3-4 hours has been challenging because of our toddler. Well, this visit was pretty much as perfect as it could’ve been.
I then realized, I have yet to share my secrets on how to make the most out of a Disneyland trip. So, without further ado… Here are…!!!
10 Ways to Make Your Disneyland Trip, Perfect.
1. Make a flexible plan.
Disneyland Resort has made a bunch of maps available for your perusal. Download these and make a flexible plan as to what areas, attractions, and shows you definitely want to experience, might want to experience, would experience as a target of opportunity, and are only interested if there is time. Map this out, with each target with their own backups based on level of interest & vicinity to walk. By doing this, you would have created a flexible plan with many layers of backups — just in case the parks are insane in the membrane & you need to get the heck outta dodge!
2. Set your expectations.
Depending on when you’re going to visit, it may or may not be entirely crowded or empty in the parks. Also, depending on the time of day that you are visiting the park, it may or may not be feasible to do everything you plan to do. Getting to the park early is always going to be helpful in terms of cramming in attractions. Typically, if you’re there for the Rope Drop (when they let the guests storm the rides), you’ll get onto your first ride as a walk-on, your second as a mere 5-10 minute wait, and your third ride as a 20 minute wait or so. It’s a pretty good deal. Also, if you’re there super late, it’s more often than not that the more aggressive rides are walk-ons. That is, minute Space (now Hyperspace) Mountain and other super popular attractions as such.
3. Good Eats!
The Disneyland Resort is actually a wonderful place to eat. This is particularly true of the restaurants in Disney California Adventure. Regardless of where you go, most of the food is typically themed for a theme park / fair type experience. However, there are hidden sit down gems such as Flo’s Cafe in Car’s Land, The Plaza Inn, and the far side of Disney California Adventure — where the Boardwalk Pizza & Pasta is located. Also, be informed that there definitely exists various toddler menus such as the kids power pack — a healthy mix of fruits, snacks, and munchies, including chocolate milk. The price point is about 50-60% that of an adult meal and tends to contain combinations that kids are more likely to enjoy.
4. Find strategic rest points.
While most guests show up for the exciting rides and like attractions, it’s actually the shows, theaters, and exhibits that I look forward to. These areas are strategic rest points, in shade, cool air, and even air conditioning. Also, look to dark rides such as Ariel’s, Pirates, and even Small World as a way to rest, get out of the crowd, and just take a break from all that hustle and bustle. Oh, one more thing, the Grand Californian Hotel is just a walk down Downtown Disney. And, it has a marvelous lounge on the 1st floor and 3rd — wonderful places to catch a break.
5. Wear out the kiddos.
Whether you’re bringing kids or not, it’s important to be aware of their behavioral patterns… meaning, nap time, food time, and meeeeeelt down time 😉 If you’re coming from varying time zones, there are other elements to consider. However, the principle remains the same: Kids tend to meltdown at the same time, pass out at the same time, and eat at the same time… well, at least window of time. If you’re there without any kiddos, this is your prime opportunity to catch a few more rides. If you ARE there with kiddos, that means that eateries will be jam packed during those times. Use your instincts and your understanding of your kids; get some food before or after the rush.
6. Use hotels to your advantage.
As I mentioned, the Grand Californian is a great rest point. Also, any hotel on property gives you a huge advantage with Disney’s Magic Hour where park hotel guests are privileged to have an extra hour in the park before everyone else even gets to enter. Also, if your hotel isn’t far, be sure to use it as a mid-day staging area. Disney parks tend to have several patterns. Opening rush. 1030 rush. Lunch hour. Mid-day melt down. Afternoon lull. Dinner rush. Fireworks & everyone leaves. Everyone leaves… then, finally, the peace and calm of night. So, if you need a nap or whatever, plan around this and get that break you need. Trust me, you won’t be missing out on ANYTHING by hiding away for a few hours. Remember, Walt Disney wanted the parks to be enjoyed… not be sweltered within.
7. Know how to get around the parks.
Trains, monorail, areas of foot traffic bottlenecking (ie Adventure Land, the castle, and the entrance)… these are all areas to understand in terms of foot traffic. Also, understand that certain routes are blocked off during parade times as well as fireworks. There is also the option of the monorail from Downtown Disney into Tomorrowland. And, there is the side entrance into Disney California Adventure from the Grand Californian Hotel. Knowing your ins & outs are a great way of keeping ahead of the crowd and not getting bottlenecked into slow traffic or crowded areas with long lines. Take paths that are wider, less traveled, and be sure you have a way to double back in case you get roped in during a parade you didn’t intend on standing through.
8. Swim Like Salmon.
Speaking of foot traffic, swim like salmon! Go against foot traffic! As crazy as it sounds… it works. Just about everyone in the parks swim like sardines, in the same patterns and circles. People go into Tomorrowland, circle upward into Fantasyland, then bottle up. People go into Adventureland and immediately reach a bottleneck. People go through Frontierland are likely to rush into Big Thunder Mountain. So, wherever you intend on going, go against the foot traffic. Trust me, the crowd moves slower than those slivers you need to dip, dive, and dodge between to get to where you’re going when moving against it.
9. Know the lines.
Fast passes, switch rider passes (up to 3 guests) for those with children, or wheelchair access, are but some of the best ways of getting in and out of lines quickly. The best strategy is to grab a fast pass, then move into an attraction which doesn’t offer one. By the time you’re out of that first attraction, your fast pass times will open up and you can cut to through that line and enjoy. Repeat, and you can’t go wrong. Also, know which lines go faster. An example: The right side of Its A Small World goes faster than the left because the left side is where wheelchair access transfers in and out of… which takes longer per boat than the other line. Also, certain rides have single rider lines such as Soaring and Radiator Springs Racers. So long as you don’t feel bad about “ditching” the group or splitting up the group, you will get through the line just about as fast as a fast pass… which is practically, cutting into the loading zone.
10. Follow Disney on social media and/or apps.
Disneyland Today, Disneyland AP, or their Disney Parks app. Any one of these outlets gives you an inside look at how the park is doing for the day. There are announcements throughout the day, exclusive content, and most importantly, the daily mention of which passes have access to the parks. The more passes that can get in, the more likely the park isn’t so busy. However, if only the highest level pass is given access — Disneyland is going to be a zoo!
So, these are my tips… 10 ways to make your next trip to Disneyland, PERFECT! Just remember, the perfect trip to Disneyland doesn’t mean you get through every single attraction in the parks. It means the day was super smooth, enjoyable, relaxing, and magical. It means the trip wasn’t exhaustive, frustrating, filled with lines, and fits from the kiddos.
Disneyland was meant to be enjoyed as a park, not as a laundry list of tasks. So, enjoy it that way!
Personally, my wife and I constantly will check out lines for their wait times…. if something is over 20 minutes, we move into another area of the park and casually look for targets of magical opportunity to be enjoyed.
Like this… 😉 No one in front of me. I must have taken 20 pictures of this with my phone. Amazing.