Best Planning Tips and Tricks for a Magical Disneyland Vacation

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DLR 2 scaled

Best Planning Tips and Tricks for a Magical Disneyland Vacation 1

Planning a trip to the Happiest Place on Earth can be a little overwhelming. With two theme parks, countless rides and attractions, multiple dining options, you might wonder where to start. I’ve put together some of my best tips for making sure you have a magical stay at the Disneyland Resort.

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Stay on property or close by

If you can afford to stay at one of the Disneyland Resort hotels, do it! It’s so nice to be immersed in the Disney magic for your entire stay. You’ll also be within easy walking distance to the parks. If the Disneyland Resort hotels aren’t in your price range, try to stay at a Good Neighbor hotel that is within easy walking distance to the parks. That will save you from having to drive to the parks and pay the parking fees.

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Arrive at the parks early

I am not a morning person unless I’m at Disneyland. Mornings are the least busy times at the parks and the best times to get on the more popular rides! Especially the popular ones that don’t have FastPasses, like Peter Pan’s Flight and the newest Millenium Falcon: Smuggler’s Run in Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge. When you arrive at the parks before they open, you’ll be one of the first into the parks!

Use the Disneyland Mobile app

Download the Disneyland Mobile App before you arrive! It has wait times, show listings, character locations, park maps, restaurant menus and so much more. If you buy your park tickets with the app, you only need to show your barcode at the gate for admission when you first arrive at the park! You can also link your park tickets to the app if you purchased them elsewhere. Having the Disneyland Mobile app is necessary for using MaxPass, and Mobile Order is great for skipping some food lines.

Take advantage of the FastPass system

I’m surprised how many people don’t know that FastPasses are free at Disneyland! Certain attractions in both parks have kiosks that allow you to insert your park ticket and get a pass, called the FASTPASS, which gives you a return time to the attraction. Keep touring the park then hop back through the FASTPASS Line for a minimal wait.

There are a few fine points worth mentioning. You can only use the FASTPASS during the specified one-hour return time window (although you can arrive 5 minutes early and up to 10 minutes late). You can get another FASTPASS after a waiting period has passed since you obtained your most recent FASTPASS. Finally, many attractions do run out of FastPasses by evening, so don’t count on FASTPASSes to be available at the most popular attractions later in the day — especially at Disney California Adventure.

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Purchase MaxPass

MaxPass is so worth the price! It is $15 per ticket per day and gives you all PhotoPass photos and allows you to schedule FastPasses from the Disneyland Mobile App which saves you from having to go to the kiosks throughout the park. You can even make FastPasses for a ride in Disney California Adventure Park while you’re over in Disneyland park! Besides the convenience it gives for FastPasses, I really love the PhotoPass deal it comes with! You get unlimited downloads of all your PhotoPass photos, including ride photos.

Use Rider Switch

This tip is mainly for families with smaller children. When going on a ride that not everyone in your party is tall enough for, you can take advantage of what’s called the Rider Switch or Rider Swap pass. Take your whole group to the entrance of the ride and get a digital Rider Switch return window added to the supervising parent’s park ticket.

The Rider Switch pass is good for the supervising parent and up to two additional guests. One parent can supervise the smaller guest(s) while the rest of the party rides, then once the riders return, the supervising parent can have a turn to ride while skipping the line. We took advantage of the Rider Switch pass a lot when our children were younger.

Wait until evening to shop

There are so many stores with so many enticing souvenirs! But wait until the evening to do your shopping. There are a couple of reasons I wait until the end of the day for shopping.

1. It’s a pain carrying around the bags of stuff that you purchase! 2. My kids always change their minds! We let them pick out one item as their souvenir and it always happens that they see something they want but change their minds later! We have started taking pictures of what they like and letting them go through the photos on our phone at the end of the day to choose what they really want. Also, the shops on Main Street USA stay open an hour after park closing, so why use up valuable time shopping?

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Do shows later in the day

There are a lot of great shows at the Disneyland Resort. Since the parks are least busy in the morning, don’t take time to watch shows until later in the day. The shows are also a great way to rest your legs and cool off when the weather starts to warm up.

Book a character meal to see your favorites

There are a few characters that have dedicated meet-and-greet stations at the parks and you’ll also see some characters roaming the parks but the best way to see your favorite is to book a character meal. Character meals are a great way to get up close and personal with the characters!

If you can get a breakfast reservation for before park opening, that will allow you to enjoy the meal without using up any of your park time. Plaza Inn in Disneyland and Goofy’s Kitchen at the Disneyland Hotel have the best selection of characters and Napa Rose lets you dine with the princesses. Reservations are highly recommended.

Pack your own food & drinks

Disneyland allows you to bring in your own food and drinks! This is a big money-saver as food inside the parks can be expensive. It’ll also save you on hangry meltdowns when your kids are waiting in line and need a snack (right now!). Just make sure you don’t bring any glass containers or alcohol into the parks.

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Use Mobile Order Service

Many quick-service locations at the parks and some at the resort hotels offer the Mobile Ordering Service. You can order food from the Disneyland app. Make a food order while you’re in line for a ride, at the back of the long restaurant line or even in your hotel room. Just stop by the Mobile Order window and pick up your food when it’s ready.

These are just a few of my many tips and tricks to having a magical visit at the Disneyland Resort. If you’d like help planning and booking your magical Disneyland vacation, contact me today! I am a travel agent with Amazing Magical Adventures and my services are complimentary.

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