How to Plan a Trip to Disneyland:
Tips for First Timers
Lines are long. Lines are very long.
The good news is, the park is trying all kinds of line management schemes to shorten the average wait times for rides. The bad new is, it looks like they still haven't found the right one yet.
So until the day you don’t have to wait an average of 65-minutes to experience all 2-minutes and 30-seconds of Space Mountain, keep your kids tantrum-free while in line with these Disneyland trip tips:
① Pick a good date. The best months to go are September and January – just before the holidays and soon after them.
② Get there early. If you're staying in one of the many budget hotels outside the resort, up your chances of being first in line by being at the gates at least 30-minutes before it opens.
③ Make a “ride route.” To save a lot more time on the rides than waiting in line, print a map of the park and mark the attractions in the order in which you’ll ride them.
The Power of the Pass.
Consider buying passes when planning a trip to Disneyland. A pass reserves you a place in line so you don’t have to be physically in line. You can use one type of pass or a combination of passes to beat the long wait times while making more use of your time.
① FASTPASS assigns a Return Time on your ticket. All you have to do is be at the entrance of the ride (at your designated time) to skip the line. Now you can go ahead and do a Disney Princess selfie spree with the kids.
② Rider Switch or also known as the "stroller pass" are best for groups who have kids of mixed ages and/or heights. With this pass, one group goes on the ride first, while the next group waits until the "switch" to get on the ride without having to line up again.
Freebies! Freebies! Freebies!
While it may be the happiest place on earth, it certainly isn't the cheapest. So, if you're on a tight budget, make sure to load up on all these freebies to enjoy your Disneyland trip:
☺ A planning DVD containing an overview of Disneyland, Walt Disney World, and Disney Cruise Line, which you can use to plan your upcoming trip.
☺ Special buttons (e.g. 1st visit to Disneyland button, Birthday button) which entitles you to more free stuff. Like a makeover at the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique, a part in the Princess and the Frog show, autographed card from Disney characters, and so much more.
☺ If you find yourself at the Pacific Wharf, don't miss out on free chocolate from Ghirardelli Soda Fountain & Chocolate Shop and free bread from the Boudin Bread Factory. Afterwards, if you're feeling thirsty, there are also places where you can get free water. But if soda is more your thing, Club Cool in Epcot’s Future World serves free fountain drinks.
Finding a Cast Member almost always guarantees that you can get something for free. For example, you can get a balloon (as well as a replacement balloon, if the first one popped), stickers, trading cards, a map of the Jungle Cruise, ice cream, even cotton candy.
Snacks are friends. Yes, they are.
Whether you're on the road to Disneyland or walking around the park, the last thing you want is a hangry pack of kids (and adults).
If you're coming from out of town, you can fill a Medium Packing Cube with all your snacks for the days ahead. If you plan to be at the Disney parks for more than a day, you can take a Small Packing Cube with the snacks you need just for that day and leave the rest in the hotel room!
When packing snacks, choose snacks that are in spill-proof containers, don't need extra utensils to eat, and that have some kind of substance (protein). Avoid the sugary snacks that will make the kids even more hungry the next hour. Some of our healthy favorites include:
⑤ Fruits that require no cutting (bananas, apples, plums, grapes)
⑦ Peanut Butter Sandwiches
If you're on a budget, you can use a Large Packing Cube to pack a few breakfast items (granola, fruit, yogurt, etc) which will come in handy, if your hotel doesn't offer a complimentary breakfast.
What to Pack in Your Backpack:
A family trip to Disneyland with kids can be very unpredictable, so avoid toddler meltdowns and come (overly) prepared. Bring extra everything!
Click here to download our FREE Disneyland Family Packing List!
In a Large Packing Cube, you can fit:
① A change of clothes. You never know when an ice cream cone might spill.
② A cardigan / light sweater. It could get cold during the nighttime, so if you're watching the parade or the fireworks, best bring something to keep you and the kids warm.
③ A raincoat or poncho. Just in case it starts to drizzle. It's better than an umbrella since it's hands-free. Also works for water rides!
④ A hat. This is a very versatile item, since you can use it whether it's sunny or raining. It's also better than an umbrella since it's hands-free.
⑤ A pair of batteries / phone charger. You don't want your camera or mobile phone to run out of juice and miss out on taking photos & videos.
⑥ A pack of tissues / wet tissues. When you think you've brought enough of these with you, you probably need to bring more - especially if you're traveling with kids.
Check more of our must knows with locations of free performances, useful apps, and more on Part 2 of our Disneyland trip planner post.
Also, feel free to download our FREE Disneyland Trip Family Packing List!