If you’re like most people, you have been planning your trip to Disneyland for weeks and as the days get closer, the excitement grows. Disneyland is of course the happiest place on earth, and whether you visit several times a year, or once a decade, each trip is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. In addition to the excitement, you are also dealing with spending 12 plus hours in the sun, navigating the crowds, and trying to stay in budget, it can be overwhelming. It is possible to do everything on your list and hang on to your sanity. Keep reading for my top 8 tips on how to make the most of your day
1. Get the apps!
Before you even get to the park you should already downloaded the Disneyland Park app on your smartphone. This is hands down the best app for navigating the park. It has a full map, including events, character locations, bathrooms, and restaurants. Best of all it shows the wait times for each ride and when the Fastpass return times are. This is by far the most important tool at your disposal. MouseWait, and Wait Times for Disneyland are two other popular apps that will show the line wait times and a virtual map. All three apps are completely free and will save you so much time, and help you navigate your day. Whichever app you choose make sure its downloaded and ready to go before you get to the park!
Pro Tip: Check the live crowd trackers and crowd calendars for Disneyland when you’re planning your trip. There are calendars that are updated regularly and show predictions on how crowded the park will be. You may not be able to change your date, but at least you’ll be prepared! My favorite is www.isitpacked.com .
2. Know The Park
The first and most important thing you need to know about planning your day at Disneyland is how the park is laid out. If you aren’t familiar with the layout you will waste hours and miles on your tired feet wandering from attraction to attraction. Download the Disneyland app, which is free, or grab a map at the front gate. Your feet and your timeline will thank you! You enter at Main Street and walk down toward the castle. From in front of the castle all the worlds are laid out at off shoots. Its best to tackle each world in order starting from left to right or right to left. Hitting Tomorrowland and then Adventureland makes no sense because they are at opposite sides of the park. Tackle on land at a time moving like a clock around the park will save time and save your feet from anymore walking then you have to do.
3. Get There Early
Get there early. Get there early. Get there early. When I was younger I always thought Disneyland at night was the most magical time, but as I’ve gotten older I have come to love the early morning hours at the park. Being one of the first ones through the gate is special and holds its own unique magic. When you walk through the gates and see the cast members lined up greeting everyone, you feel like you are a part of some sort of special club reserved only for the lucky few. Since most people don’t arrive until later in the day, being one of the first people in the park lets you get on the more popular rides without spending hours in line. I visited Disneyland right before Christmas last year, on one of the busiest days of the year, and because we were there right at opening we were able to ride everything in Tomorrowland and tackle Fantasyland all before 10am.
Pro Tip: If you are celebrating a special occasion, like a birthday or a first visit, stop at one of the shops on Main Street on your way in for a free celebration button. Cast members will great you by name all day wishing you a happy birthday or congratulations, making you feel extra special.
4. Make a List of Must Do’s
Even if you luck out and are there on a very slow day, you will most likely not have time to do everything. No matter how many times I get to go to the park, I always come with a list of a few things I want to do during my visit. Whether it’s watching the parade or riding all the roller-coasters, having your must-dos clearly mapped out will save you time and stress. Make sure your group agrees on the agenda, or even better let everyone pick a couple things and focus on those.
Pro tip: Most of the rides will let you on the ride as long as you’re in line before the park closes. So if you’re looking to get one last ride on Indiana Jones hop in line 10 minutes before the park closes. You may wait an hour to ride, but at least you won’t be missing out on precious park time.
Fastpass is by far the best invention to come to the park. It will save you countless hours standing in line and allow you to prioritize your day. If you have the Disneyland app, and you should, you can see when the Fastpass return times are, and which rides give them out. The Fastpass is basically a little ticket that gives you a time to come back and wait in the Fastpass line, not the Standby line, which can save you over an hour of wait time. The Fastpass distribution machines are located near the ride exit or entrance; you will need your park ticket for every Fastpass you get. The Fastpass ticket shows a time window, for example 10:15-11:45. This means starting at 10:15 and until 11:45 you can get into the much shorter Fastpass line. Since you can only hold one Fastpass at a time, you definitely have to prioritize. For the bigger rides, be sure to get your Fastpass early because many rides book up by mid afternoon. I like to head to the land, get your Fastpass, and then make your rounds in the land until your return time. For example, head to Tomorrowland early, get your Fastpass for Hyperspace Mountain, then ride Star Tours and if you have time ride Autopia, the submarines, and Buzz Lightyear.
Pro tip: You are eligible for a new Fastpass once the window opens on your existing Fastpass. So at 10:16 you can get another Fastpass, run back to use the first one and proceed like that throughout the day.
6. Know where the bathrooms are
Sometimes the longest lines I wait in are the bathroom lines. The most crowded bathrooms tend to be the bathrooms on Main Street, and the one at the enterance to Adventureland near the Dole Whip stand, but you can save time by knowing where the least crowded ones are. My top two no line bathrooms are the ones in Adventureland in the Tikki Room, which you can use even if you aren’t seeing the show, and the bathroom in Tomorrowland tucked behind Autopia. It’s a pretty good bet that these two have little to no line. Also a good tip is to synchronize your bathroom breaks. My rule is if one person goes, everyone goes. Stopping every 20 minutes because one person has to go is a huge time waster.
Pro tip: fill up your water bottles in the drinking fountains outside the bathroom.
7. Plan a break mid-afternoon
The afternoon between 2-4 tends to be the hottest and most crowded part of the day. I like to plan a meal and sit down around this time. It will give you a much-needed break and allow you restore. A quick hot dog at an outdoor café does not count. If you brought your lunch, the park does have a picnic area outside the park near downtown Disney. On hot days, the air conditioning is crucial so I take advantage of indoor restaurants with unlimited refills on drinks and a full service set up that lets us relax and recuperate. The two hours you loose resting will be totally worth it when you head back to the lines. Everyone around you will be loosing steam, and you will be ready for another 5 hours of fun!
Pro tip: use the app to make a reservation at a restaurant so you don’t have to wait for a table
8. Do your shopping after the park closes
The shops on main street stay open an hour after the park closes so load up on your souvenirs after the park closes. You may have a longer line, but who cares! Also the shops in downtown Disney stay open roughly two hours after the park closes. Check the hours when you arrive, so you don’t miss out, but unless you want a hat or a shirt to wear in the park, waiting until the end of the day to shop is your best bet.
Pro tip: if you find a goodie that you can’t live without but you don’t want to carry it around all day the post office will hold if for you until the park closes.