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.
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.
- Pirates of the Caribbean
- Peter Pan
- Monsters Inc.
- Toy Story
- 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.
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
- 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.
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.
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.
- 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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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!”
What would you add to the tips list? Leave a comment below.