25 Tips to Rock your Trip to Disneyland

I love taking the family trek to Disneyland.  But when you are a planner like me, it is best to know as much as you can before you get to the parks.  The following are 25 of my top Disneyland tips for making the most of your Disneyland vacation.

 

Make the most of your day at Disneyland and California Adventure

 

1. Go for the Park Hopper ticket.  If you are trying to decide whether to do one day at one park and another at the other park, I suggest the Park Hopper ticket.  On our latest trip we found this to be the best way to get on the most rides.  Plus, depending on the ages of your kids, California Adventure probably won’t take you a full day to do all of the rides you want to ride.  I usually buy my tickets before we leave for our vacation.  I have bought them from GetAwayToday.com and Disney’s Travel Agency.  Once you have traveled with Disney’s agency, they send you special offers throughout the year so if you like to stay AT the three Disney hotels (I love the Grand Californian!) these are some of the best package offers around.

Make the most of your Disneyland Vacation

 2. Do NOT go in the Summer, October, or December.  I hate paying a bunch of money to get into the parks and then not getting to ride many rides.  The kids don’t enjoy waiting in lines all day either, so avoid these times.  Why October?  It used to be a great time, but since Utah, Arizona, and Australia (yes Australia) all seem to have school breaks in October, many make the trek then.  And, there is the new Mickey Mouse’s Halloween Party event that close the parks early on those days (it used to just be at California Adventure).  So, everyone that has traveled to go to the parks chooses to go on full days.  Making those full or normal days VERY crowded.
3. Watch Disney movies en route to the parks.  We usually embark on a long 10 hour drive from Utah to Anaheim.  This gives us plenty of time to get familiar with our favorite Disney movies while enjoying the comforts of our minivan.  I know this is nerdy, but I usually bring only the movies that relate to a ride at the parks.  This can help even the tiny guests connect with what they are about to experience.
  • Pirates of the Caribbean
  • Peter Pan
  • Monsters Inc.
  • Nemo,
  • Toy Story
  • etc.
4. Download the MouseWait app.  This was the first trip where I used MouseWait.  While it is not perfect, it shows you how long the wait is for most rides.  I found it very accurate, especially for ride closures!  We wanted to ride the new Cars ride but it kept closing on us.  This app allowed us to stay at Disneyland and only venture back to CA Adventure when the ride was actually running.
  • Mousewait is FREE
  • Sprint has terrible service at the resort, so if you can, download it on a phone with a different carrier.

5. Bring a poncho.  If your kids are like mine, they will do anything to go on Grizzly River Run, even get sopping wet.  I bring a small poncho with me and jump right on without hesitation.  They are usually a little embarrassed of me and my get up, but once we get on the ride, they usually try to rip it off me and wear it for themselves.  I think I’ll bring extra next time.

Make the most of your day at Disneyland and California Adventure

6. Pack your own food into the Park.  The Disneyland Resort allows you to bring food and drink into the park as long as you do not have any glass bottles.  They check your bags on your way in, but won’t stop you for bringing you own stuff in.  While water cups are always free in the park, the following are items I pack in a backpack for each day.  These don’t replace our meals, but do curb my growing boys hunger pains as well as save me some coin.

  • Frozen Capri Suns
  • Granola Bars
  • Individual Chips
  • Snack size candy bars
  • Rice Crispy Treats (I make my own in the shape of Mickey Mouse)
  • Road Trip Chex Mix
  • Uncrustables
  • Any Disney treats available at the grocery store (Buzz Lightyear and Mickey Mouse fruit snacks etc.)

 

7. Take the Disney stuff you already have.  Again, this shows my cheeseballness, but I pack any Disney/Star Wars pj’s, underwear, t’s, slippers etc.  Then at night the boys wear them to bed or the next day at the park (this cuts down on the begging for the expensive stuff in the park too).   On our most recent trip, my toddler wore his Buzz Lightyear costume during the World of Light show.  It kept him warm and he loved all the attention it brought from the other guests.

Make the most of your day at Disneyland and California Adventure

8.  Park in Mickey & Friends parking structure.  This is the easiest, most convenient parking lot in my opinion.  Park as directed, take the escalator to the bottom, hop on a tram, and enter the park.  If you park in some of the other lots, you have to add a bus ride to that list, which none of us enjoyed.

9. Check the hours that the park is open for the day while you are there.  While Disney does a great job of predicting the number of guests that will come their resorts each day, sometimes they get it wrong.  On our last trip, they kept California Adventure open an hour later and added an extra World of Color show.  They also added an unscheduled ”Early Entry” for anyone that happened to get there early that day.  So get there early and stay later if you can.

10.  Carry Tickets in Ziplock bag or Zippered Lanyard.  This is for those flimsy day or two-day park hopper tickets.  It seems that we were always getting them in and out to get fast passes or switch parks.  I liked keeping them sealed in a waterproof bag or lanyard and knowing they weren’t getting wet on a ride.

Make the Most of your Disneyland Vacation

11. Rent a stroller.  For the Disneyland Resorts it costs $15 a day, but worth it.  I have read other people’s lists where they recommend you buy a stroller outside the park and then kindly give it to another guest when you leave town.  I don’t think you can get as nice a stroller for the money unless you are planning on staying a full week.

  • Pay for your stroller rental at a ticket booth, the lines are much shorter than at the stroller rental station.  Then take your ticket to the person handing out the strollers (this can save you 30 min on a busy day)
  • The strollers can now transfer from Disneyland to California Adventure without getting a new one at each park.  It wasn’t this convenient a few years ago when you had to get the stroller inside the park, not outside between the parks like you do today.
  • These jogging style strollers can hold a lot of bags as well as tired kids.
  • Only bummer?  You can’t take the stroller to Downtown Disney.
12. Enter the Parks at a Double line.  We got stuck working our way back to California Adventure in the middle of the day and couldn’t figure out why our line was moving so slow and the one next to us was booking.  Then when we switched over, and walked to the end of the much longer line, we realized that at the front, this line had 2 attendants letting in visitors.  Don’t let the line length fool you, send a runner up to the front to pick which line to wait in.
 13. Skip Toon Town.  The rides are small, annoying, and we were able to see all the characters that we wanted OUTSIDE of Toon Town without rushing off to this dead-end in the park.  We always seem to catch Mickey at the entrance late in the day as we switch parks, and often with only a two minute wait!

Make the most of your Disneyland Vacation

14. Get yourself a Dole Whip.  These are delicious little treats that I experienced for the first time in 2012.
  • Buy one at the “Tiki Bar” just next to the Enchanted Tiki Room in Adventure Land.
  • The shortest line is usually through the entrance to the Enchanted Tiki Room on the inside of the Tiki Bar (you do not need to actually watch the show to use the short line).
  • If you have little ones, buy one Dole Whip and ask for an extra spoon and cup.  Divide it in half for them to split or you will probably be throwing a bunch away.

15. If you like ham, get yourself a turkey leg.  These are perfect for anyone on a high protein diet, but I warn you, if you don’t like ham or cured meats (ME) this overly salty hunk of meat might not be for you.

16.  Get the salad at Pizza Port.  I’ve eaten a lot of food throughout the park, but this was one of the best I’ve had.  I chose the Asian salad and my husband got the antipasto.  Both were made while we were waiting in line.  They were very large, tasty, and actually worth the money.

17. The Blue Bayou is worth it, once.  A few years back I finally booked a reservation at the Blue Bayou, the restaurant that overlooks Pirates of the Caribbean as passengers embark on their journey.  I had always wanted to eat there, it looked so magical.  It was delicious and worth doing at least once.  Now when we ride Pirates, we always remember the meal we ate and how we waved to all the passengers.  Being the anxious person that I am, I did worry about all of the rides that we could have been riding while we were instead dining on an expensive meal, but since we had a 3 day park hopper for that trip, I got over it.

  • Make a reservation a few days or weeks in advance.
  • Be sure that you won’t mind spending the time eating at a sit down restaurant even though you’ll be missing out on rides.

18. Pick the best line at Autopia.  This sounds easy, and it is if you look ahead.  When you get toward the front and get to choose the right or left line, look down at the cars and see which line is being fed into TWO sides of cars.  Sometimes neither or both are.  But trust me, get in the line that gets passed on to twice the number of cars, even if it seems longer.

Make the most of your day at Disneyland and California Adventure

19. Use the Switch Pass.  If you didn’t already know, there are awesome things called Switch Passes for parents with small kids.  Lets say you want to go on the Matterhorn, but your youngest isn’t quite big enough to ride with you.  Just go up to the entrance to the ride and ask the attendant for a switch pass.  They will want to see your little one and the others in your group that are going to wait in line for the ride.  Then, while they wait in line, you can take the little one over to the carousel or what ever ride you wish.  Then, meet up with your group, pass off the little one and choose one person to go with you on the ride.  You get to either cut to the front of the line, go with the fast passers, or enter through the exit (depending on the ride).  You can go enjoy the ride with out all the wait!  And the little ones don’t have to wait in lines for rides they aren’t big enough for.  Not all rides have switch passes, so ask before you wait in any long lines.

Make the most of your Disneyland Vacation

20. Take your toddler to Disney Jr. Live on Stage.  I have never wanted to “waste” my time watching a play or show while at the parks.  This last trip, while my husband and three big boys were enjoying California Screaming, my 2-year-old and I wandered over just as they were opening the doors for the next show.  We went in and sat on the floor with the rest of the parents and toddlers.  It was short, sweet, and just what he needed. When we talked about going to Disneyland and seeing Mickey Mouse, he didn’t want to tour the “Hollywood Studios” or see the history of Mickey Mouse in a long line in his house in Toon Town.  He wanted to see Mickey’s Clubhouse, the show he watches everyday!   This was the perfect venue.  The stage hands got the kids involved calling out familiar phrases from their favorite Disney cartoons: Little Einsteins, Jake and the Neverland Pirates, Handy Manny and Mickey and his Clubhouse.  The stage was full of puppets that popped out of the floor and looked, talked, and acted just like their cartoon counterpart.

  • Short.  It was 15-20 min, just enough time for other family members to ride a big ride.
  • The characters toddlers love in the form they know.
  • Interactive dancing, calling out, singing along.
  • Great place to rest inside if it is raining or really hot.
  • There is a restroom in the back of the theater, perfect for potty breaks.

21. Go for the Single Riders lines when you can.  If your kids aren’t opposed, grab a single rider pass where available.  This can save a lot of time.  The two that we have used were for California Screamin’ (ask the attendant for a single rider ticket and they will tell you where to go) and Radiator Springs Racers (they have a separate line for single riders).

Make the most of your day at Disneyland and California Adventure

22. Check out the Pixar Parade in CA Adventure.  This is one of my favorite parades/shows Disney does.  Current favorites all show up, the streets are small so you are close to the action and seeing Buzz Lightyear or Mr. Incredible in person is priceless for little boys everywhere.

Make the most of your day at Disneyland and California Adventure

23. The Pirates of the Caribbean ride is always shorter at night.  This line is rarely a long wait, but when it is, come back at dusk and it will almost always be shorter.

24. If you really want it, buy it in the park.  While almost everything that is available in the park is also available for purchase at the giant Downtown Disney store, we found out that the buzzing, talking LGM that my son wanted was not.  He and the hubs ran back through Disneyland and had to beg one of the stores to re-open and let him buy one from their shop.  They were super nice and obliged, but the rest of us had to wait, exhausted and holding a sleeping toddler, in the Downtown Disney district while they shopped.

Make the most of your Disneyland vacation

25. Have Fun!  Even with overflowing crowds, crying kids, expensive meals, and the occasional lost child (it’s happened to us) Have Fun!  Heaven knows you’ve spent enough money to get there, relax and enjoy it.  From the mouth of a fellow patron (and now our family motto) “Roll with it!”

25 Tip for a great Disney day

Make the most of your day at Disneyland and California Adventure

What would you add to the tips list?  Leave a comment below.

Also, Check out my Road Trip Pack List printable

Complete Pack List for a road trip, camping, or vacation

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24 Comments

  • I loved your list! We do lots of these same things when we go. However, I have to disagree with #13. DON’T skip ToonTown; just time your visit well. Our family loves Gadget’s Go Coaster, so we try to get to ToonTown as soon as it opens. Then we can ride several times without a long line. We get our fix and then we leave ToonTown for the rest of the day. Happy Disney-ing!

    • Thanks for your thoughts Angie! Everyone has different things they love about Disneyland and I’m sure there are a lot of people in your camp.

  • Hi Amanda!! Thanks so much for linking up to my Show & Tell party today! What a fun trip with your family… we love Disneyland too. I hope you’re doing well :)

    Come party again next week!
    xoxo~ Ruthie

  • Great tips! And just in time for our Disneyland trip next week!

  • Great list…I have a few more tips for you if you didn’t know already as well:

    -the quick service restaurants in both Disneyland and DCA will give you free ice water. That saves you over $4 a bottle and the time of having to find a fountain.

    -use the hotel entrance at Grand Californian for entry if you are going into California Adventure. It’s faster and drops you off right in front of Grizzly River Rapids

    -use the Photopass service while you are in the park. We now have a service called Photopass plus which includes all the attraction photos, a screen saver cd, dining packages, and all the photos taken in the park for 99$. It’s a great deal and most photographers will take several pictures more if they see you have the pass. It doesn’t mean you can’t use your own camera it just gives you the extras for some great memories!

    -ask a Photopass photographer if they can do a magic shot. This is where we add a character (tinker bell in your hands, light saber fight with darth vader, the hitchiking ghosts) into your pictures. It’s a lot of fun. This is only available at certain areas and not if there is a character already in the picture. It’s free to add to the pictures!

    -try taking your little ones to the animation building while the big kids are on the attractions they can’t go on. Inside they have turtle talk with crush and coloring areas in the second level. You can sit in Beast’s library and find out which character you are most like, and sing a long with Ursula. My daughter loves just watching the movie clips and I get to sit on the couch and relax!

    I hope some of these help as well :) thanks for the great post!

  • One of the funnest and most memorable things we did at Disneyland/CA was Turtle Talk with Crush It was hilarious and lots of fun. I just wish they offered videos of each session, because I would have paid money to have a copy of the session we had with my son. We also found something fun with the Monsters Inc. ride. We were among the first people to arrive at it for the day and they had a screaming contest for the few kids that were there. My daughter won “screamer of the day” which earned us a front of the line pass for our whole group for that ride for the day.

  • There is a website called ridemax.com that is absolutely fantastic for helping you plan your itinerary at Disneyland or Disneyworld. It is the best $15 you will ever spend and helps you plan what you want to do. It is really beneficial for not wasting time wondering, “What should we do next? That ride is too long.” etc. I will not go to Disneyland without downloading this program. It also gives good advice on which lines are shorter, what time to go on rides, etc.

    • Candace, I debated back and forth as to whether or not to get Ridemax. My husband thought I was being a bit to over zealous in my scheduling and organizing as it was so I passed this time. Thanks for the advice, I’ll be sure to download it next time!

  • All great tips…I’m a grandma of three, and last year we surprised my 7 year old granddaughter with a trip to Disneyland and incorporated the surprise with a family reunion at the Park…it was fun…as a grandma…I didn’t mind waiting with the little ones while the big “adult” children went on all the fast rides…One thing I will recommend, for the old folks like me…get a wheel chair…being on my feet all day was a killer, and it would have saved my feet from all the pain later that night…I could barely walk the next day. Let alone stand. If you can afford it, break up the days at the parks and go to the beach, hang out at the pool, or a new favorite spot, was taking a self tour of The Queen Mary. It doesn’t take up a whole day, and you give yourselves a rest from being on your feet all day.

    • Great tip Tina, and I’ve heard that you can rent the electric ones cheaper outside the park and then take it to Downtown Disney as well.

  • My boyfriend & I are planning a surprise trip in 6 months to Disneyland & California Adventure for my family since my younger siblings havent gone.. Ive been putting off studying & looking up cool tips & diy things for this special trip.. All i have to say is, Holy Moley! your tips are by far THE BEST!
    Thanks SO much!

    PS: love the motto, mind if i use it? lol :)

  • Hi. Thanks for all the tips. The Disneyland website says that they do not allow food inside, but you said they allowed you to bring some in? We are frequent WDW guests (which allows food) but have never been to Disneyland, so this part is foreign to me. Thanks!!

    • Brittany, That is sooo odd?! They search everyone’s bags before you enter the parks and as long as you do not have GLASS, you are good to go. Have fun!

  • Don’t forget Fastpasses! I use those like crazy, and they are TOTALLY work it! You can also hop parks and get them to. But remember, everyone in your party must enter the park once that day in order for the pass to work. Get a new pass whenever the time on your pass says you can get it.

    Fastpasses allow you and your family to go on a ride together without having to wait a forever long line.

    • You are right about the Fastpasses Breanna. I use those as often as makes sense when we are there. Thanks for adding them to the list.

  • Great list!! We go to Disney almost every year, thanks for the info about October…also we pack in a lunch everyday and east in toon town. A character comes out of city hall every thirty minutes. Its exciting for the kids but that is all we do there. Last Christmas got really busy so we spent the day on pirate island.it was nice and not crowded.

    • Jana, what a fun tradition to eat where the characters come out! What do you usually pack in your lunch?

  • We’ve gone in October for the last couple of years and love it! We usually walk on most rides and even get asked if we want to stay on and ride again. We’re even there on Halloween – and can’t complain about wait times at all. – the busiest part is during the actual Halloween party than its packed and long limes- but during the day is great! Another tip I tell everyone is get a fast pass for world of color- you get better seats.

  • Thank you for the tips! I am taking my 3 kids for the first time ever to Disneyland next month. My littlest one is a month away from turning 3, and fearful of new things. My big plan to help him get used to Disneyland gently was to go straight to toon town, where we can just look at stuff and tour Ivey and Minnie’s houses before getting on any fast ides and freaking out my kid. I hope it works! Ps I love how you get into te spirit by watching Disney movies and dressing yoyr kids. I plan to be wearing polka dots in honor of Minnie, though mine might be a bit more subtle!

  • I don’t agree about visiting during October, although I’m a local, my cousins were there the week before Halloween and everything was almost a walk on. It was great. Especially the days of MHP. You can’t miss Toon Town, Roger Rabbit is a great ride and if you want a really want a picture of Mickey/Minnie it is the easier way to go to their house. To see the characters on Main St, stand out the Mad Hatter shop and they come in and out of the gate there. The same gate the parade comes out of.

    • Wendy, Hopefully last year was a fluke! I’m glad your family had short lines, October is such a beautiful time to visit. Thanks for your tips!

  • Great tips! I agree with many of these….we think alike! Just started my DLR site…..found you on Pinterest. Glad I did!

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