Ah Disneyland! The happiest place on earth.
That is, until your child has a meltdown and throws a tantrum.
Traveling with young children can be both an adventure and a challenge. You want to make sure your vacation time is well-spent.
So here are 21 tips to help you maximize your time at Disneyland, covering everything thing from what to do before you leave to where to eat and what to ride while you’re in the park.
I hope this list will help you make the most out of your precious time on your next family vacation!
Before you Go…
1| Download the Best Disneyland Apps
Start off your trip on the right foot by downloading Disney’s MouseWait app for the most up-to-date wait times for rides. You’ll also want to download Disneyland’s Mobile App, which is a one-stop shop for the most pertinent park information.
2| Prep the Whole Family!
Purchase a bit of Disney memorabilia like princess dresses or mickey ears prior to your trip. It’s a great way to get everyone in the Disney spirit and gives kids something fun to wear on the trip to Southern California or for their first day in the park. It’s also a nice money saver –souvenirs in the park are much more expensive!
3| Snag Discounted Disneyland Tickets
Buying tickets beforehand is a MUST for your Disneyland vacation! That way you’re ready to enter the park immediately upon arrival, right when the ropes drop. Here’s where you can find discount Disneyland tickets.
4| Schedule Downtime or a Rest Day
Spending all day at Disneyland every single day of your vacation can be tiring. It’s important to pace yourself while in the park and throughout your trip so you don’t go home needing a vacation.
Make a plan to hit up the beautiful beaches in So Cal or explore the OC a bit. After all, there is a lot more to Orange County than Disneyland! If you don’t want to travel too far, there’s plenty to do in Anaheim.
5| Stay Offsite to Save on Accommodations
Let’s be honest, the cost of a Disneyland vacation can quickly rack up. Staying offsite but still close by allows you to save money but not have to trek too far to get to the park. Keep in mind that staying in a vacation rental is unfortunately no longer an option as they’re no longer allowed in the city of Anaheim.
6| Visiting in the Summertime? Disneyland is Open Later
During the summer, Disneyland is open from 8am – 11pm, a few hours longer than during the rest of the year. Check their website for the most up-to-date park times during your vacation.
7| Visiting During the Off Season? It’s the Best Time to Beat the Crowds
Southern California has temperate weather and is usually warmer than most places in the country during the winter. For example, March, April, and September are slower months when Disneyland is less crowded, yet the weather is still relatively warm.
In the Park…
8| Ride the Non-FASTPASS Rides First
The lines for the non-FASTPASS rides get progressively longer as the day goes on, so jump on those first, but only after grabbing a few FASTPASSES!
9| Grab a FASTPASS after the ropes drop.
Arrive early, right when the ropes drop and grab a FASTPASS for your favorite ride. The FASTPASS will include the time you can go on the ride.
10| Psst! The Single-Rider Line Is Always Shorter
Along with the FASTPASS, the Rider Switch pass (or Stroller Pass) is a great pass for parents to switch off watching the kids that are too small to go on the bigger rides. Plus it allows you to use the single-rider lane which is always shorter. Or, if you don’t mind splitting up, just choose this lane every time you ride!
11| A Park Hopper ticket lets you Get Two FASTPASSES
A Park Hopper ticket allows you to get into both Disneyland Park and California Adventure in the same day (and hop parks during the day). Not only does buying a Park Hopper ticket save you the hassle of purchasing two park tickets, but it also allows you to snag 2 FASTPASSES upon entering the park! One for a ride in Disneyland Park and one for a ride in California Adventure.
12| Go on Rides During Parades or Shows
If you don’t mind missing the parade/show, the rides will have the shortest wait times. You may even be able to jump on multiple rides within an hour.
13| Taste the Most Popular Treats
Disneyland is home to several crowd-pleasing treats, like the Dole Whip and the Caramel Chocolate Marshmallows. They are definitely worth putting on your Disneyland bucket list. Best of all, most of them are under $5! Missed some treats during your time at Disneyland? Here are 12 copycat recipes you can make in the comfort of your own home.
14| Bring Food into the Park
Disneyland actually does allow you to bring food in the park (their rule restricting outside food seems to be lenient), so be sure to pack snacks. If the smells get to you then it’s a nice excuse to try a Dole Whip or — Downtown Disney also has affordable dining options.
15| Don’t Waste Time in the Starbuck’s Line!
Whatever you do, you will not want to waste precious park time waiting in the Starbuck’s line instead of the line to your favorite Disneyland ride. Drink your coffee at breakfast, bring it to-go, or purchase some iced coffee on your way to the park. After all, you didn’t travel this far and pay this much just to stand in line at Starbuck’s!
16| There’s a Flag Retreat Ceremony Every Afternoon
Did you know that Disneyland actually has a flag ceremony every afternoon where they honor all military service members? Well, it’s not widely publicized, but it’s a daily occurrence worth witnessing. Also, Disneyland offers discounted tickets to service members.
17| Shops are open 1 hour after Park Closing
After the park closes may actually be the best time to shop for souvenirs. The shops are open for an hour after the rides close, so spend the daytime riding the rides or watching the shows and parades, then use the last hour in the park to shop til you drop. Or, um, at least until Disneyland finally closes.
18| Grab a Complimentary Pin!
If someone in your party is celebrating a birthday or anniversary OR if it’s your first time to Disneyland, then grab a complimentary pin at the park entrance or information booths. This will ensure that you enjoy the perks of the pin throughout your day in the park.
19| Free Water is Available
No need to spend a fortune on bottled water for everyone in your party. Simply go up to the nearest food stand or restaurant and ask for a cup of water. Easy peasy.
20| Start at the Back of the Park
First thing when you arrive, walk straight to the back of the park and work your way to the front. This will allow you to go on rides with shorter lines since most park-goers start at the front and work their way to the back.
21| Ride Entrances Close at Park Closing
The rides don’t completely close down at park closing, just the entrances to the rides. So go ahead and hop in line for the ride of your choice at closing time….but probably not Space Mountain, as it is the most popular nighttime ride. In that case, it would be best to ride Space Mountain early in the morning.
How do you plan to maximize your time at Disneyland?
Please share in the comments below!