I know, I know. There are like eleventy billion blog posts with Disneyland tips. And I’m probably not really shedding any new light on the subject. But just in case you haven’t read all those posts, here are some things that I learned from our trip to The Happiest Place on Earth*.
Disney Gift Cards at a Discounted Price
We bought our Disney Gift Cards from Target using our Target REDCard. By doing so, we got a 5% discount on them. You can use Disney Gift Cards to buy your park tickets, pay for your Disneyland Resort Hotel stay, pay for parking, dining in Disneyland or DCA, and for shopping in a few of the Downtown Disney shops.
Get There Early
If you and your family don’t mind getting up early, I HIGHLY RECOMMEND getting to the park gates anywhere from 30-45 minutes before the park actually opens. Cast members will start letting people through the turnstiles about 15-30 minutes prior to rope drop.
What is rope drop? Well, that is when the park is officially open (there is an actual rope that is dropped) and you can go on rides. However, before rope drop, some stores on Main Street (Disneyland) and Buena Vista Street (Disney California Adventure Park) are open. I recommend that you take some time before rope drop for a quick bathroom break.
If you are at all interested in meeting Anna + Elsa from Frozen or you would like to ride Radiator Springs Racers without a crazy wait, making it to rope drop is extremely helpful. For both scenarios I would suggest trying to make your way as close to the rope as possible.
Extra Magic Hour + Magic Morning at Disneyland Park
If you are staying at a Disneyland Resort Hotel you have the opportunity to enter either Disneyland or DCA one hour prior to regular park opening (valid room key and park ticket required). If you have a Southern California CityPASS or a 3-Day (or more) Disneyland park ticket, you have the opportunity to enter Disneyland (for one day) one hour prior to regular park opening.
The Extra Magic Hour + Magic Morning schedule goes as follows:
Disney California Adventure Park: Sundays, Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays.
Disneyland Park: Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays.
Sometimes the schedule changes so be sure to double check with a cast member as to which park is allowing early entry for that day.
If you’re a fan of rides like Space Mountain, Indiana Jones, or Big Thunder Mountain Railroad but don’t want to wait 45 minutes just to get on, I recommend getting a FASTPASS. These passes are COMPLETELY FREE and are typically distributed near the entrances for the rides. FASTPASSES are not available during Extra Magic Hour/Magic Morning Hour. They are only available during regular park hours.
To get one, just insert your park ticket into the FASTPASS machine and it will give you a pass designating a time that you can return to the ride. When you return, wait in the FASTPASS queue. Your wait will be significantly less than the stand-by line. Be sure to return to the ride within your designated time frame though. They are no longer allowing you to use your FASTPASS for any time after what’s on your pass.
You can only hold one FASTPASS per person at a time. Once it has reached the time stated on your FASTPASS, you can obtain a FASTPASS from another ride. Radiator Springs Racers and World of Color are not connected to the rest of the FASTPASS system so you are able to have a FASTPASS for these and another ride at the same time.
Rider Switch Pass
If you’re traveling with little ones, I recommend taking advantage of the Rider Switch Pass. Before getting on a ride, ask a cast member if you can have a Rider Switch Pass. This pass will allow the parent/adult who has to watch the child (who is too small for the ride) to ride it later in the day with minimal wait. The rider switch passes are good for up to three people.
Frozen Meet + Greet (Disneyland Park)
Once the rope has dropped, walk briskly (don’t run, they will most likely stop you) to the meet area. The second time we went to do this, a cast member walked the Frozen crowd to the meeting area. I liked that they did this. It helped to prevent people pushing, shoving, and running people over.
If you have more than one person in your party, I recommend taking turns to wait in line. Yes, this is allowed. While one person waits, the other can go take the kiddos on some rides, do some shopping, or get a snack. Then just switch off when the other person would like a break from standing in line.
Radiator Springs Racers (Disney California Adventure Park)
Once the rope has dropped, you have a couple of different options.
1) Follow the crowd heading to Cars Land and start lining up for the Radiator Springs Racers Stand-by queue. (Be sure to stay to the right. They will funnel people into a line to the right of the street.)
2) Head to the Fast Pass distribution area and line up there. It is located near the entrance to A Bug’s Land.
If you don’t mind being split up from your group, I recommend waiting in the single rider queue. It’s significantly shorter than the stand-by line and typically shorter than the FASTPASS line.
Don’t forget to wear sunscreen and reapply every couple of hours or so. No one wants to get sunburned. It’s not fun nor is it very pretty.
Drink LOTS of water. Southern California, while unbelievably beautiful, can get pretty hot. You don’t want to risk getting sick or fainting because you haven’t been hydrating.
Our daughters are 5 and 3. They need to eat every couple of hours or they become little monsters. Granola bars, crackers, fruit, whatever your kiddos like to munch on, remember to bring a couple bags full of them. Yes, you could just buy snacks at the park but we decided to save our money for lunch, dinner, and the occasional ice cream.
Take a Nap
I know that a lot of people just want to go go go when they’re at Disneyland. My family and I, for the most part, did not do that. We took a break nearly every day, right after lunch. We escaped the ridiculous heat (we were there when temperatures reached over 100 degrees F!) and retreated back to our room for a nap. It was so good to just relax on a comfy bed in A/C.
Take a Break
If you don’t want to (or can’t) break up your day with a nap, I still recommend that you take some time to just sit for a bit. Find a bench. Rest your feet. Get an ice cream cone and people watch. Take time to really enjoy being there.
Please be sure to do this, will ya? It is perfectly acceptable to skip down Main Street. To get excited over spotting Mickey or Minnie. To have a corn dog with a churro for lunch. To let all your worries go. To be a kid again.
Photos by Arbine Villanueva-Hoapili and Marcus Hoapili
*Note: This is NOT a sponsored post. I am in no way affiliated with the Walt Disney Company.