With so much happening at the Disneyland Resort this summer, there are bound to be many happy families excited to experience the new Cars Land and the newly unveiled Disney California Adventure Park for the first time. Just because the Disneyland Resort is crowded, doesn’t mean you can’t have an amazing vacation!
Here are my top 10 tips for how to make the most of your Disneyland vacation – even when it’s packed!
Choose Your Attitude: First off, if you know you’re going to be traveling during a peak travel time, you have plenty of time to plan. The best thing we can recommend is to choose to have a great vacation experience. Know that you’re not going to walk on every ride, but with a little planning, you can have an amazing vacation. Sometimes when it’s crowded, you have the opportunity to explore and do things you might not normally get to experience at the Disneyland Resort.
Buy at LEAST a 3-Day Park Hopper Ticket: We know you want to make the most of your vacation, but that doesn’t have to mean you cram every minute you have into spending time at the Parks. When you purchase a multi-day ticket, you don’t feel that pressure to spend all day every day at Disneyland. You have the flexibility to go back to your hotel to give your kids a much needed nap, take a dip in the pool, or spend some time at the beach. That way, if you start to feel overwhelmed, you can leave before that happens. Then, come back in the evening for World of Color, Fantasmic!, or the Fireworks display. Adding additional days to your Park Hopper tickets is incredibly affordable. In fact, to upgrade a 3-Day Disneyland Resort Park Hopper Bonus Ticket to a 6-Day Disneyland Resort Park Hopper Bonus Ticket, you’ll only pay $35 more per ticket – that’s twice the days!
Stay on Property: There is no place more magical or stress-free for your Disneyland vacation than the three Hotels of the Disneyland Resort. Each of the properties (Disney’s Paradise Pier Hotel, the Disneyland Hotel, and Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa) offer unique Disney theming throughout the hotel, so if you leave the Park, you still very much feel the ambiance of the Disneyland Resort. All three of the Disney hotels have amazing themed pool areas with water slides, which make your kids feel like they never left Disneyland. In addition to being the most magical places to stay, they are also by far the most convenient. You literally can park your car (or take an airport shuttle) and never leave the resort during your entire stay. You can walk from your hotel or ride the Monorail to Disneyland Park, or you can use Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa’s private entrance to Disney California Adventure Park. As a guest at any of the three Disney hotels, you also get Magic Morning early entry into Disneyland Park each day it’s offered during your stay, and get early access to Disney California Adventure Park to pick up tickets for World of Color. It’s true that these hotels can be a little bit of a splurge, but when you’re traveling during busier times, you need to factor in how much time staying off property is costing you. When you stay at any of the three hotels you don’t have to deal with waiting for shuttles, finding parking spots, etc. The last two times I traveled to the Disneyland Resort I was able to stay on property (first at the Disneyland Hotel, then at Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa). Both times were busy travel times (President’s Day break and Spring Break), and there is no way I would have been able to do everything I was able to fit in if I wasn’t staying on-property. If you’re asking yourself if staying at the Disneyland Resort Hotels is worth the upgrade – it IS.
Rise and shine with Magic Morning: All of our 3-Day or longer Disneyland Resort Park Hopper Bonus Tickets include one Magic Morning. Magic Morning allows your family to get into select areas of Disneyland Park one full hour before it opens to the general public on select days (currently Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday, and Sunday). Tomorrowland and Fantasyland are generally the two lands that are open for Magic Morning, which is perfect because the Fantasyland attractions do not include FASTPASS Ticket options and are obviously incredibly popular for families with small kids. Disneyland’s park hours fluctuate depending on crowd volumes, so that means if the parks are projecting large crowds, they’ll have longer hours. At really busy times of the year, Disneyland Park will open to the public at 8:00am. That means your early entry is at 7:00am. Is that early? YES! Is it worth getting up and getting the kids ready that early? YES! In fact, the earlier the Magic Morning, the fewer crowds you’ll experience. We recommend planning your day to arrive 5 – 10 minutes before Disneyland opens for Magic Morning to give your family the best head start possible. And remember, if you’re staying at any of the Hotels of the Disneyland Resort, you just show your room key and you can get in with Magic Morning each day it’s offered during your stay!
Buy a World of Color Picnic: World of Color is the the award-winning, not-to-be-missed, most amazing nighttime spectacular taking place nightly over in Disney California Adventure Park. During peak times World of Color will play two or three times each night. The second and third showings are normally less crowded than the first. Unlike other shows at the Disneyland Resort, you need a FASTPASS Ticket to get access to the World of Color viewing areas. You can get a FASTPASS Ticket in one of three ways. First, is using the FASTPASS Ticket distribution system outside of Grizzly River Run. If you’re staying at any of the three Hotels of the Disneyland Resort, you can get access to this line 30 minutes before Disney California Adventure Park opens. Whether you are staying on property or not, during busy travel times, this line gets long quickly. You can also get a World of Color viewing ticket by purchasing a World of Color Picnic lunch or reserving a World of Color prix fixe dining experience at Ariel’s Grotto or the Wine and Country Trattoria. The World of Color Picnics are available online for approx. $16/person and can be picked up at your leisure on the day of your World of Color performance. You can select from four adult meal options and two child meal options. All meals are served cold and are picked up from the Sonoma Terrace in California Adventure Park. We recommend picking up your picnic during off-peak lunch hours and enjoy a leisurely lunch. You can also make a reservation for either Ariel’s Grotto or Wine and Country Trattoria and you’ll receive a premium viewing ticket for the same day’s show. Once you have your ticket, you’ll want to get to your viewing area as early as possible for the best viewing experience. By purchasing either a World of Color Picnic or reserving a World of Color Prix Fixe Dining Experience ($30-$40/adult and $19-21/child), you avoid waiting in the FASTPASS line while making the most of your time at the Disneyland Resort. Plus, you’ve got to eat anyway, so why not enjoy dinner and a show?
Grab a FASTPASS: Ever since the FASTPASS Ticket system began, it has been popular. Very popular. Yet, there are still families that don’t take full advantage of the FASTPASS system. Basically, a FASTPASS Ticket is your reservation for a ride. Look for the FASTPASS Distribution Center by your favorite attraction, put your Disneyland ticket in, and get a FASTPASS Ticket in return. Your FASTPASS Ticket will give you an assigned time to come back and ride the attraction. We recommend getting as many FASTPASS Tickets as you can, as often as you can. By using FASTPASS Tickets, you’ll have more time to explore the parks, watch the parades, and just enjoy your vacation.
Book Disney Character Dining: Don’t spend time waiting in long lines waiting to meet your children’s favorite Disney Characters – let them come to you! The Disneyland Resort offers five distinct Disney Character Dining experiences where Disney Characters mix and mingle with your family during your dining experience. Goofy’s Kitchen (breakfast, lunch, and dinner), Ariel’s Grotto (for breakfast and lunch), Surf’s Up! With Mickey and Friends (breakfast), Breakfast with Minnie and Friends, and Chip n’ Dale’s Critter Breakfast provide the perfect atmosphere (not to mention delicious food) to get that one-on-one time with the Disney Characters. You can get your Disney Character Dining tickets in advance through Get Away Today and save up to 10% on your Disney Character Dining, plus our tickets already include your tax and gratuity.
Ride the attractions with quick moving lines: During your in-between FASTPASS, show, and dining times, you’ll want to focus on attractions that have quick lines. This normally means they’re quick loading, fit a lot of people, and/or are longer length rides. Some of my favorite rides that normally don’t have too long of a wait (even during peak travel times) AND are longer length rides (so you feel it’s worth your time in line when you do have to wait a little while) are Pirates of the Caribbean, Haunted Mansion, it’s a small world, and the new Little Mermaid ~ Ariel’s Undersea Adventure attraction in Disney California Adventure Park. There are others, but those are my stand out favorites.
Watch the shows: Disney always has a ton of entertainment, but when the crowds come, the entertainment gets amped up even more! That means that shows that normally play only once a day or only on the weekends, are offered more frequently during peak travel times. Billy Hill & The Hillbillies is a super fun singing/comedy show that takes place in Frontierland, the Jedi Knight Academy takes center stage in Tommorrowland, and Mickey’s Soundsational Parade hits Main Street U.S.A. All are definitely worth watching. Also, one of my favorite shows of all is Disney’s Aladdin which plays at the Hyperion Theatre in Disney California Adventure. This is a full 45 minute Broadway caliber musical production. The theatre is huge, so you have a great chance of getting a seat without waiting for a long time. I recommend grabbing a FASTPASS for Tower of Terror (which is nearby), then catching Aladdin. Turtle Talk with Crush plays throughout the day and is located inside the Animation Academy, also located in the Hollywood Pictures Backlot, and is totally awesome. Tiny tots also love Disney Junior – Live on Stage, again, in the Hollywood Pictures Backlot. Also, although not technically considered shows, Captain EO and It’s Tough to Be a Bug are 15 minutes-ish 3D experiences that are a lot of fun for the whole family.
Shop early: Most families wait until later in the day (or late evening) to purchase their souvenirs, which means the shops along Main Street U.S.A. and in Downtown Disney can get crowded – and quickly. If you shop first thing in the morning, you’ll pretty much have the shops to yourself. Plus, if you’re staying at one of the Hotels of the Disneyland ® Resort, you can have your purchases sent directly to your hotel room, so you don’t have to keep track of it throughout the day!
With the grand opening of Cars Land and so much more taking place this summer, the Disneyland Resort is THE place to be for your summer vacation! Get Away Today recommends booking your summer vacation NOW to ensure the best availability on our best hotel specials, and we’d love to help you at www.getawaytoday.com or call our office at 800.523.6116. Remember with the right attitude and a little planning, you will have a stress-free, fun-filled summer vacation at the Disneyland Resort.
For lots more Disneyland tips and tricks, check out (and pin) the Disney Everything! page, where all previous and upcoming Disney and family vacation posts are stored.
For even more Disneyland tips and tricks, check out these posts:
Our Disneyland Family Vacation, Part 1
Our Disneyland Family Vacation, Part 2
Our Disneyland Family Vacation, Part 3
Guide to Disneyland and California Adventure
Our Favorite Disneyland Tips and Tricks
More Disneyland Tips and Tricks
Disneyland Thoughts & Tips from a Real Pro
Avoiding the “Gimmies” While Vacationing at Disneyland