Disneyland and Disney World are SUCH different beasts. I know for Disney World there’s so much planning ahead of time which can be pretty stressful. Disneyland doesn’t require quite as much planning, but there are definitely some things to keep in mind and plan for so you can have a fun and successful trip. I’m here to give you a full rundown! From airports to hotels to ticket options to food and so. much. more. This could also be helpful for anyone planning a first trip in general, so give it a peek and comment below with any questions.
There’s probably a bunch of prep you’ll do before you book your Disneyland trip. Are there cool seasonal events going on? What’s the hotel situation like? Blockout dates?
All of the above are good things to take into account for sure, but there are a few more sneaky things you might take for granted and might get in the way of a good time (although like...you can always drown your sorrows in churros or some good old fashioned Disneyland retail therapy).
Luckily, all of these pesky things that could interfere with your picture perfect Disneyland trip are super easy to check in advance. So let’s dive in.
When you first go through the security checkpoints in the park, you’ll see a sign listing all the attraction closures for the day. Which can be a total bummer if some of the things listed on the sign are what you come to the park for.
All the attractions at the parks cycle through maintenance closures at some point while some attractions will close for holiday overlays (Small World Holiday, Haunted Mansion Holiday), and then close again to reset.
You can always check any closures on the calendar section of the Disneyland website pretty far in advance, along with a ton of other awesome park info for the specific days of your trip. This site also has a great easy guide to check up on closures as well.
Park Operating Hours
This is something I’ve definitely taken for granted in the past.
If you’re used to an 8am-12am park day, it can come as a shock to learn you get a shorter day, but the park hours change throughout the year. So while a 8am-12am day is standard in the summer, you could be looking at a 10am-8pm park day during an off-time of the year, which drastically cuts down on park time.
Checking the Disneyland calendar is definitely something to add to your pre-booking checklist to make sure you’re getting the most bang for your buck, and there aren’t any super-non-magical surprises. (Keep in mind the park times are subject to change.)
Are the reservations you want available?
If you have a tried and true tradition like dinner at the Blue Bayou, or garlic fries at Cafe Orleans, it’s worth it to call in and make your reservations as soon as you possibly can. You can book reservations up to 60 days in advance.
Since it’s so easy, I recommend first checking the reservations section of the Disneyland Website to check availability and book your reservation. However, if the website doesn’t list any available reservations for your trip, try calling Disney Dining (714)781-3463 to speak to a human. They’re usually pretty helpful and might be able to find something the website can’t.
And, if all else fails, you can always try going to your desired restaurant at the very beginning of the day and getting on a standby list in case of cancellations.
If you've never been to Disneyland, we got you. Here are five super quick tips to get your oriented if you have no idea what to expect. LETS DO THIS.
1. Buy tickets ahead of time.
Everyone tells you this I KNOW but seriously. If you’ve never been to Disneyland or it’s been a while, buy your tickets in advance. In the esplanade (the space between Disneyland and California Adventure), there are ticket booths where you buy tickets, and the main gates where you actually enter the park. If you buy your ticket ahead of time, you get to float on by the ticket booth right to the main gate. You can even buy your ticket on your phone while you’re on the tram from the parking lot and scan at the main gate. But if you buy at the ticket booth it can be more expensive and it’s a total waste of time.
2. Use the morning to your advantage.
Even though crowds can seem daunting first thing, if you pick a section of the park and stick to it, you can get through tons of rides when the park first opens. You can even blitz through Fantasyland if you skip Peter Pan (if you’re staying till close, just get in line right at closing time so it doesn’t eat up any of your day). We’ve gotten through the entirety of Adventureland and Frontierland in about an hour and a half first thing. Then you can chilly chill for the rest of the day, which leads me to my next point-
3.Use fast passes.
It’s first thing in the morning, you pick whichever land you want to dominate, you’re ready to go. Stop for a second. Remember to Fastpass. Fastpasses are an awesome and completely free way to skip the line for your favorite rides. Just scan your park ticket at a Fastpass kiosk, you’ll get a reminder that will give you an hour time-slot to return. Run off and ride, eat, and shop to your heart’s content, then return during your slot, scan your park ticket at the Fastpass line entrance and fly past that fat line. Not all rides have fast passes, but while you’re riding high on your land domination, stop and grab a Fastpass for later. Efficiency feels great.
4. Chill out in afternoon and rest up for the night.
Since you rode tons of rides in the morning, you’ll be a little more relaxed when the huge crowds start to pour in. Embrace the crowds, and use the middle of the day to see shows like the Tiki Room, Mickey and the Magical Map, maybe even the Soundsational Parade. Grab some drinks over at California Adventure or Trader Sam's, try out the Animation Academy, go shopping on Buena Vista. Keep Fastpassing, snack until you can't move. This is your time to take it slower than the morning to gear up for the night. Which is magical and you definitely want to stay around for.
5. Do later showings for smaller crowds.
Night at Disneyland is pure. Flipping. Magic. And you don’t want to miss it. The lights! The feel. It can’t be beat. It’s still pretty busy at night, especially if it’s a Friday and the locals are heading in, but there are some ways to still get the most out of your Disney day. In Disneyland there are a few nighttime shows like the fireworks, Fantasmic, and Paint the Night (which is returning soon thank god). Fun fact! Fantasmic and Paint the Night both have two shows a night. I highly recommend waiting around for the second showings. The crowds are much lighter, and you’ll get to spread out more. Then, once the shows are over, crowds are back to morning sizes and you can blitz through those remaining rides.
Have fun and let us know if you have any questions!