The Very Best Tips and Tricks for Disneyland
A trip to Disneyland can be so intimidating! With these tips, I promise your day will run smoothly and everyone will truly have a magical day! Before you continue, make you check out my tips on actually planning your trip Disneyland.
1) The Early Bird gets the worm!
One of the keys to having a great day and getting on every single ride you want, is to get to the park before it opens. You will beat the crowds and accomplish a lot before you even stop for lunch. I recommend getting in line for entrance 1 hour before they open the gate. If you are going to a park for their magic morning (special early entry), get in line 30 minutes before they open.
2) Working the Magic Morning
Disneyland and California Adventure both have special Magic Mornings. A Magic Morning is a special early entry into one of the parks. The parks rotate every other morning for their early entry. You can get a Magic Morning by staying in a Disney Hotel or buying at least a 3-day park ticket. You can check park hours to see which park has a Magic Morning that day. As mentioned before, get in line 30 minutes before the gates open. If you don’t have a magic morning, don’t go to the park that has early entry that day. Go to the opposite park.
3) Some entry lines move faster than others
I know it seems crazy but there are some lines at the entrance that move faster than others. I have found that lines 13, 20 and 21 are the quickest. Getting in those lines work every time!
We always stay somewhere with a hotel breakfast but it’s also great to grab a second breakfast on the way. We always get in the entrance line and while we are waiting, we send someone to grab food. Jamba Juice is in Downtown Disney and is the perfect mini meal. We grab smoothies or oatmeal there and remember… you can bring it into the park!
5) MaxPass Fast Pass
This is my crucial tip for Disneyland and California Adventure! In the Disneyland app, you can purchase the MaxPass Fast pass. Make sure your park tickets are loaded into the app. After you have scanned your tickets at the entrance, you can immediately purchase the MaxPass inside the park.
Go to “my plans” and select the MaxPass for everyone in your party. It is currently $10 per person for the whole day. This includes access to fast passes right on your phone. No more running to rides ahead of time! You can select fast passes while you are in line for an entirely different ride! Buying the MaxPass also includes all your park photos in the PhotoPass for the entire day. This means all pictures taken by the special Disneyland photographers and all ride pictures. No more taking pictures of a computer screen!
6) Working the MaxPass
If you do the MaxPass right, it is seriously the best invention ever. My first tip is to purchase the MaxPass as soon as you get through the gate. Choose the big rides you want to do first. My favorite is Indiana Jones. My strategy is to grab a fast pass via MaxPass for this ride first, as you are walking to the ride. That way, you will for sure get to ride it twice. You won’t need the fast pass the first time you ride because the lines will be short since the park just opened. You can then, use your fast pass for it once your ride window opens up. You can also use this strategy for any other big ride that usually has a long wait time.
You can grab another fast pass on the app at least 30 minutes apart, if your ride time window is open. I try to always have at least 2 fast passes at all times. And in some cases, we have had 3 fast passes at a time. Example: Say you have a fast pass for Space Mountain and your ride time window is 11:15-12:00, you can grab another fast pass to another ride at 11:15 as long as it has been 30 minutes since you claimed a fast pass. Your app will let you know when you can claim another fast pass, so check it often. This way, you can have a steady stream of fast passes available.
Another great benefit is that if you have a park hopper ticket, you can get fast passes for both parks with MaxPass. If you are in Disneyland, you can still get a fast pass to a ride in California Adventure and just go over there during your ride time window.
7) Get fast passes for popular rides first
Fast passes can sell out for the day even if you use the MaxPass. Make sure that you get all the popular rides on your MaxPass as early in the day as possible so you don’t end up waiting in a long line later in the day.
8) Ride Maintenance
If a ride breaks down while you have a MaxPass fast pass for it, don’t worry! Your pass will automatically turn into a flexible fast pass that you can use all day on any ride in the park, even the original one you had it for. If you have any problems with this, just ask a cast member at that particular ride when it is broken down. They can help you make sure that your fast pass turns into a flexible one. Also, make sure you check the daily Disneyland calendar to see which rides have a scheduled maintenance for your visit. This will save you from a lot of disappointment when you get there. Of course, if the ride is down for scheduled maintenance, you can not acquire a fast pass for it during your visit.
Make sure you collect as many pictures as you can while you are in the park with your MaxPass because it also includes PhotoPass at no additional charge. This is a great benefit to getting the MaxPass. When you get a picture taken by a Disney photographer, make sure to have them either scan your app code or you can scan the code card given to you anytime during the day. Sometimes it’s easier to keep a photo card handy and just scan it later in the day into your app to collect all of your pictures. Also, make sure you get those ride pictures. Those are my favorites. At the bottom of each ride picture, you will see a code. Type that code into your app in the PhotoPass section to get your picture. You can always snap a picture of the code to type it in later too.
Breakfast is usually taken care of before you enter the park. My trick is to pack lunches and bring them into the park so that we save money on that meal too. I make simple peanut butter sandwiches in the hotel for the kids. If sandwiches aren’t your thing, another great tip is to buy disposable Tupperware and divide a bagged salad into it. Just bring the dressing packet with you and dress it right before you eat. Utensils are provided at every eating station so no need to bring those. I pack a foldable cooler with with salads on the bottom and sandwiches on the top. I also bring lots of snacks with me too so that we have something to munch on while we are in line.
Staying hydrated is super important in the park. I bring frozen water bottles so that they stay cold through out the day and they defrost as the day goes on. Sometimes, I also bring a reusable water bottle so that we can fill it up at water stations through out the park. You can look at the map on the Disneyland app to find all the water stations. If you are a soda drinker, you can also bring cans or bottles into the park too.
We choose to always do dinner in one of the park’s restaurants and we have discovered our favorites! My number one favorite restaurant is Jolly Holiday, located in Disneyland near the entrance to Adventureland. They have a great menu that is also fairly inexpensive. My favorite thing to get there is the Grilled Cheese and tomato soup combo. It is delicious and can be ordered gluten free too! They also have amazing pastries and desserts. I always grab the chocolate croissant!
If you are in California Adventure, we love eating at the San Francisco Sourdough Company. Their soups in a bread bowl are delicious! There are a lot of other great options in that area too. Another great place to eat is Flo’s V8 cafe. They have so many great options for $14.99 and under.
13) Mobile Food Order
On the Disneyland app, you can now order your food ahead of time. This is a game changer!!! You can order on the Disneyland app at any time during the day. Click on the “order food” section and select your restaurant, arrival window and place your order. You can pay for it in the app too. Once you get to the restaurant, let the app know that you have arrived and then you can go ahead and find a table. You will get a notification when your order is ready. Click here for a list of participating restaurants within the park.
Everyday, I let my kids pick one snack to purchase in the park. We all have different ones that we like. On the healthy side, I love the packaged Mango. It is delicious! My kids love the giant pickles (actually I do too)! You can find either of these at the fruit stands located throughout the park. On the unhealthy side, we love the macaroons at Jolly Holiday, the churros around the park and my kids crave the popcorn there too. I swear it’s because they pump that popcorn smell around the park!
15) Cheap entertainment
Main Street has a lot of great things to offer if you need a ride break. One of my kids’ favorite things to do is look at all the penny movies in the gift shop next to Jolly Holiday. They are like an old time flip show and my kids were so entertained by them! Who knew?!
My kids also love to collect the special quarter souvenirs through out the park. They bring quarters and pennies for the coin press machines. At only 51 cents, this has got to be the park’s cheapest souvenir by far.
16) Be prepared for lines
With the MaxPass, you don’t wait in lines very often. But when you do, make sure you are prepared! I get in line with my backpack and hand out snacks and water. This is actually a great time to refuel. We also have the kids play games in line. One of their favorites is the Disney version Head Bands game on the app. It’s just like the normal version of Head Bands but the cards are on your phone and you just hold your phone up to your forehead while everyone else gives you clues to what your card says. You see how many cards you can guess in a certain amount of time. Group games work best while you wait so that everyone is entertained.
17) Take Breaks
Disneyland requires a lot of energy, especially if you are getting there early. Running from ride to ride can be exhausting. Plan a few breaks throughout the day to sit down and eat or just people watch. It will save you from hitting a wall. A great place to put your feet up is in the theater in Tomorrowland.
18) Check wait times with the App
Not only does the app have a map, it also has approximate wait times for all the rides. This is especially great for rides that don’t accept fast passes. Most rides in Fantasyland do not accept fast pass so this applies to the rides there. Peter Pan will always have a crazy wait so it’s a good one to check in on throughout the day. Speaking of Peter Pan, If you really want to hit that one, do it as soon as you enter the park.
I have a few bathrooms that we always stop to use. The first is outside, in the bottom of the Hungry Bear restaurant. They are big and not very many people know about this one. It is located near Splash Mountain, right on the river.
The second bathroom is more popular and is located near the entrance of Adventureland by the Tiki Room. It is easily accessible from Frontierland too because there is a lesser known entrance next to that bathroom.
On the Map, in the Disneyland app, you can choose to have it show you all the bathrooms instead of just attractions. This is especially great in an emergency!
20) Special events you might not know about
There are some really cool things that happen in Disneyland and California Adventure that you might not know about. During the holidays, it snows on main street! Every night, you can wait on Main Street as the Castle is lit up at 7:30 and 8:30pm. When it lights up, it snows on Main Street. It is really quite incredible. Don’t open your mouth though, that snow doesn't quite taste the same as regular snow falling from the sky.
At sunset, every single night, cars land lights up in quite a spectacular way. It’s like a mini light show with music and makes you feel like you are in the Cars movie when all the town’s signs light up again. Don’t miss it!
You can also use the Disneyland app to see which characters will be where at what time so that you can snag a photo with them.
Fastasmic and World of Color are really cool shows if you have time for them. Grab a fast pass for them first thing in the morning. This will guarantee you reserved seating in the fast pass section. You have to get physical fast passes and they go fast. Ask a cast member to direct you to the fast machines for them. They do not effect your ability to get more fast passes through out the day.