Planning a family trip to Disneyland? We've got you covered!
Disneyland is the place to be. Right? Chances are if you are reading this, then you agree. There’s something so special about this place. Magic is what they say. I’m always called back, longing to plan another family vacation to the happiest place on earth. And really, who isn’t? I’ve compiled this guide of all things Disneyland- from how to save money on your trip to what to pack in your Disneyland park backpack. Enjoy and happy planning!
Planning your vacation
Let’s talk the actual planning of your Disneyland trip. We all know how overwhelming planning a trip to Disneyland can be. Where do you even start? Find tips on all things planning here.
Looking for help planning? Vacations by Jackie: Fairy Tale Concierge specializes in Disney (along with Universal Orlando, Hawaii and Cruises) travel planning. She is ready to help you plan your dream vacation, at no extra cost to you. Contact her by email here or on Facebook.
So what’s MaxPass? It’s really an electronic FASTPASS. (In case you don’t know what a FASTPASS is: It’s a ticket you pull at the ride to come back at a later time during the day, allowing you to wait in a much shorter line, sometimes no line at all.) FASTPASS is free but MaxPass is $15/per person, per day. Please note this price just increased from the $10 per person, per day.
So why should you pay if FASTPASS is free? MaxPass allows you to pull from your phone, once it’s activated in the park. This means you can be in Disneyland and pull a past pass for a ride in California Adventure. You may be back at your hotel for a break, that’s okay! Pull a pass right there. Not only that but you get photos for free. There are many wonderful benefits of MaxPass, I highly suggest getting it. You can read more about MaxPass here.
You can find a list of all rides that offer FASTPASS here.
Saving money on your Disneyland trip
It really isn’t a secret that Disneyland is expensive, right? I’ve put together this list of 30 ways to save money on your next Disneyland vacation. And let’s face it, saving money is always a good thing!
Did you know Disney gift cards can be used to pay for your vacation? That's right! Plus they can also be used to pay on snacks and merchandise in the parks and more. They are a great way to save up for your trip too! (Tip: Use your Target Red Card for 5% off.)
All you need to know about the Disneyland Mobile App
What’s the Disneyland Mobile app? This interactive app is a must-have for your trip to Disneyland. It is jammed pack with great features for your days at the park, to help planning and fun for the kiddos. It is sure to help you pull off the best trip ever. Find out more about the Disneyland Mobile App and it's awesome features here.
What to pack in your Disneyland Park bag
How to have a successful day in the parks
What’s in a hotel?
Looking for hotels? Disneyland has three main hotels:
Disneyland’s Paradise Pier Hotel, Disneyland Hotel and Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel and Spa. All three are wonderful ways to keep the magic going throughout each moment of your trip. They also offer fun benefits for their guests. Looking to save some money? Disneyland offers what they call ‘Good Neighbor Hotels’. This allows you to book an outside hotel with your package, as well as some other fun benefits.
Our personal favorite is the Courtyard by Marriott Anaheim Theme Entrance. It truly is a wonderful hotel, especially for larger families like ours. The rooms are incredibly spacious, with a queen bed and bunk beds (every kid will love this) and parents will love the Starbucks in the lobby. It’s new, clean and seriously packed with fun. Located near many great restaurants, it offers plenty of affordable food options close by. You’ll find the walk to the park isn’t bad and your kiddos will love the water park.
Now, I’m the first to admit I love Disney. It’s really no secret. I could talk about it all day long. But please note the ideas expressed here are my own, they may prove to be very beneficial or you may choose to do something else. And that’s okay! I am no expert. The ultimate goal is for you to have the best family vacation to Disneyland.
Happy Disneyland planning!
Get the most out of your Disneyland Park day with these great tips.
Now that you’ve planned your trip, here are more than 65 tips for having a great time while at Disneyland. Have you checked our tips on planning your trip? Do that here!
Please note all of these are suggestions, if you feel otherwise or disagree, that’s totally okay!
First, make your arrival day, a relaxing day. Take your time getting to your hotel (with traffic that’ll be taken care of for you!), check into your hotel and unpack. Maybe have some rest time or check out the pool, depending on time. Next head to Downtown Disney for more exploring and dinner. Trying to fit a park day into the day you arrive can be incredibly stressful. If you are running late, traffic, cranky kids- it just makes for a very chaotic first day.
Tips for before you enter the park
Be sure you’ve already purchased your tickets. You can do this through the Disneyland Mobile App. (Read more about why this app is a must, and download here.) Chances are you can also grab tickets at your hotel as well. It’s tempting to wait until park day to grab these, but I promise having them ahead of time will make getting into the park much easier.
On that note, download the Disneyland Mobile App. You’ll need it to use MaxPass but that’s not the only reason. Find character locations, food options, wait times, order food and more. Read all about it here.
Have someone else in your party (as long as your tickets are on the same account) download the Disneyland Mobile App. This will allow you both to log in and use MaxPass. It also helps if your phone dies. Let’s hope that doesn’t happen!
Know what time the parks open in the morning. You can check this information on the app or the Disneyland website.
So which park are you going to do first? Typically you should visit the park that is not doing early morning opening (Magic Morning and Extra Magic Hour) unless of course, you are taking advantage of it.
Plan what time you want to be up in the morning. Now that you know what time the parks open, it's time to plan when to set that alarm for. Check your maps app to see how long the drive or walk will be. Know what time you need to get up in order to have enough time to get yourself ready, your family ready and out the door.
Plan to arrive 40-60 minutes before the park opens. (Summer months, holidays and long weekends may require extra time.)
Check the schedule for entertainment, characters, fireworks, and parades. Knowing ahead of time what you want to see and when will help keep you organized and avoid any last minute panicking.
Pack your bag for Disneyland. We use a backpack and I usually carry a fanny pack. (This is the one I use from Amazon and I adore it, plus its cheap!) Check here for a list of everything you should take with you into Disneyland and Disneyland California Adventure.
But remember not to overpack. Really only take what you need. You’ll regret carrying around a bunch of stuff you won’t use, that’s weighing your backpack down. Trust me!
Don’t take a bulky purse. I use a crossbody purse or a fanny pack- and yes, those are still in!
Do a quick read of the park rules here. Better to know than get there and be sorry.
If you haven’t already, find out what’s new here.
Disneyland provides services for guests with disabilities. Find more information here.
Did you do grocery delivery? If you didn’t, this is a great time to create a quick grocery order/place for next day delivery. (Or day of if you can schedule in time.) Grocery delivery is perfect for quick breakfasts, snacks, and drinks for park and ultimately is a big money saver.
Is your stroller ready? Toss some water into the bottom for a quick drink while in the park.
Tip: Drink mixer packs are perfect to use with water.
Make sure you have something on your stroller that lets you easily identify it in a crowd. Your stroller may be moved by a Cast Member if it gets in the way. Don’t panic, it should just take a couple of minutes to locate. Tip: If you do not have a stroller, you can rent one at Disneyland.
Be sure to put all you need in the stroller so it’s all ready to go.
If you have Magic Morning (Only at Disneyland, not Disneyland California Adventures), you can check for the opening time on Disneyland’s website here or your mobile app!
Plan if you have Extra Magic Hour- this is only for guests of the Disneyland Hotels. This happens in both parks, different days. Check the website or mobile app.
While I hope you never experience this, Disneyland is packed with people and losing a child is a very real possibility, that you should be prepared for. Know where to go and who to talk to if this happens. Use stickers or temporary tattoos to put contact info, should they get separated. Cast members are trained in this, but it’s best to be as prepared as possible.
Morning of Disneyland Park day
Get up early. I know you are on vacation but allowing yourself time to get up, get ready for the day, get your family ready for the day and walk to the park is essential in creating a no stress (or at least as stress-free as possible) trip. Promise.
Be sure to plan to arrive early to find parking, walk, wait in entrance lines and in the security line.
Eat breakfast before you head out in the morning or on the walk. Don’t skip breakfast, this will make for cranky, hungry kids and an earlier lunch.
Don’t forget your sunscreen before you leave the hotel! Apply to everyone and then toss in your bag for the park. We use this for adults and this for kids.
Double check you have everything you need before leaving. There is nothing worse than getting to the park and realizing you don’t have your park tickets, id or money.
Grab a light sweatshirt for everyone.
Wear walking shoes and comfortable clothes. Pay attention to the clothes you are wearing. Be sure to check the weather and plan accordingly.
Rent a stroller if needed before entering the parks. ($15/per day one stroller, $25/per day for two strollers.) You’ll find them right outside the Disneyland Park main entrance.
Get a locker if you need to. Thinking of walking back to your vehicle? While this seems like a great option (and maybe it is for you) it really does take a big chunk of time to walk there and back, go through security and entrance lines. Save yourself the headache.
Don’t let the security or entrance lines scare you. They will be long and that’s expected. At this point, you should be prepared for lines, take this time to practice your patience. Remember you are at Disneyland!
Once you are in, listen to the music about thirty minutes before the park is supposed to open. Maybe you can catch rope drop!
Don’t forget to grab your Starbucks. There’s two in Downtown Disney and one in both Disneyland Park and California Adventure park. Find the locations here or on the Disneyland Mobile app.
Remember to have your belongings and strollers ready to be checked in the security line. Take your jacket off as well.
Lastly, did you drive? Remember where you parked and be sure to put a note in your phone.
Note: Buena Vista Street (Located in Disneyland California Adventure) and Main Street (Located in Disneyland) open thirty minutes before the parks.
When it comes to meal times, eat a little earlier than you normally do at home.
Continually check the app for wait times. (We use this to decide where we will start, as well as what we’ll tackle throughout the day. We also will park hop if one park looks less busy, based on wait times.)
Midday breaks are awesome. This is something you should definitely consider. Taking a break to head back to the hotel for a nap or a swim will prove to be very beneficial.
Did you know: if your balloon pops, go to the vendor and get a new one for free.
The Baby Care Centers are lifesavers. Use the Disneyland Mobile app to locate these. You’ll find a nursing center, changing table, rocking chairs and more.
Take advantage of photo ops. Photos at Disneyland are my favorite. You can find where photographers are using the Disneyland Mobile app. See your favorite character? Ask for a picture! (Within reason of course.) Always the one taking a photo? Ask your spouse to help. Tip: photographers will always take a picture with your phone as well. Utilize this option!
Don’t rush! I know it feels like you have to do all the things, now. But just taking your time and enjoying it will feel so much better. No one wants to get all worked up and ruin the trip.
Use your Disneyland gift cards. You know all those Disneyland gift cards you saved up? Now is the time to use them.
Have a question that you’d like a quick answer on? Take advantage of those Disneyland Facebook groups you are in. Ask away!
Use the mobile app to find food options, view menu and order food. The new option for mobile ordering is great!
Wondering where the characters are at? Of course, you are! That’s one of the best parts. Check the Disneyland Mobile app- all characters for the day will be listed, as well as the hours and location. This is perfect in planning your day.
If you are heading into Disneyland and your little ones want to do the Jedi Training, head there to sign up first thing. These spots are first come, by reservation, and they fill up quickly.
Did you know if you are staying at one of the Disneyland Hotels you can have your purchases sent to your room? How cool is that?
No alcohol is served in Disneyland but it is in Disneyland California Adventure. You’re welcome!
Take the monorail in Disneyland or the Streetcar in California Adventure to save time, and just because they are cool!
What happens when a ride goes down that you have a FASTPASS for? You get a ‘Multiple Experiences’ pass- this means you can get on any ride that offers FASTPASS anytime. Please note this may be changing soon, a free pass will still be offered but within it's own group.
Make sure to pay attention, there is usually always something hidden and fun.
Remember to take time to rest. It’s okay not to rush at full speed the whole time and you shouldn’t. Find a nice spot on the grass, on a bench or stand for a couple of minutes to catch your breath. Take it all in and remember these great moments.
Check out the Animation Academy in California Adventure and get a free cartoon drawing! This is a really neat experience.
Did someone say free chocolate? That’s right! Grab your free chocolate at Ghirardelli in California Adventure. It’s bite-sized, but who can complain if it’s free.
Use the Single Rider Line. What’s this? It’s the line for those people with just one person. Not all rides offer this, check the sign out front.
Take advantage of Rider Switch- if you need someone to stay with a kiddo. It’s exactly like it sounds.
Thinking of planning a trip to the best place on earth? I say do it! Not sure where to start? I’ve compiled a list of everything to get you started on planning your Disneyland family vacation. View more Disneyland articles here.
The first step is to plan when you will be visiting Disneyland. Pay close attention to the dates. You’ll want to avoid, if possible, long holidays, spring break and busy holiday seasons. If you do have to travel at these times, don’t stress. You can still have a magical trip.
Check the crowd calendars- although Disneyland will always be its own kind of crazy, it’s always good to have an idea of how packed it’ll be.
Booking your trip through a travel agent is a great idea and no extra cost to you. They offer a wealth of knowledge when it comes to all things Disneyland, handle everything so the stress is off you and truly make the planning experience enjoyable. (Check out Vacations by Jackie: Fairy Tale Concierge for help planning your trip)
Decide if you want MaxPass. (Read more about MaxPass here.) I highly recommend getting this, although expensive. You’ll want to purchase before you go while booking your tickets so that you lock in the current price. Also then it’s done and doesn’t need to be included in your budget for the actual trip, more on that below.
Decide where you want to stay. Disneyland hotels are an awesome way to keep the magic going throughout your entire trip but they can be expensive. Another option is a Good Neighbor Hotel. There are many wonderful hotels within walking distance of Disneyland. Be sure to read the reviews and pick the one that best fits your families needs. Tip: If you choose a Good Neighbor Hotel through Disney you can still book your package through them and get all those benefits. (Check out our family favorite here)
Create a budget for your trip. I create three, all listed below.
Download the Disneyland Mobile App. Read more here on why this app is amazing.
Let your family and friends know that you are going to Disneyland! This is great if you would like to ask them for Disneyland gift cards for birthdays and holidays. These can be used to pay for your trip and while you're at the park.
Buy things ahead of time. Figure out what exactly you need for your trip, this includes summer clothes, swim, souvenirs, travel toiletries, sunscreen, flight snacks and more. Buying these items a couple of months ahead of time will cut down on the big price shock right before your trip. Plus you can get started on the packing fun early! Don't forget to stock up on those Disney gift cards.
Join Disneyland Facebook groups. My favorite is the Disneyland Planning group but you can find many others. These groups are great to search your questions, ask questions and get helpful tips from other people just like you. This was a savor when planning our first trips.
Plan if you’ll need a stroller or not. I always recommend taking a stroller. Disneyland days are so long and exhausting for us adults, it’s even more tiring for our little ones. A stroller is a perfect way to let their little feet get some rest, a quick nap and to store your sweatshirts, water and store purchases. If you don’t feel like you need a stroller outside the parks consider renting one. Disneyland has stroller rentals, as well as City Stroller Rentals.
Plan your groceries! Having groceries delivered to your hotel the day you arrive is something you should absolutely consider. Get your park snacks, quick breakfast items and anything you don’t want to take on your flight. (Think extra diapers, wipes, swim diapers, cups, utensils, paper plates, etc.) You can place your order three days before usually and most hotels will accept the delivery and hold if you aren’t there.
Book your dining 60 days before. This is something you absolutely want to do if you are doing a character dining or priority viewing for shows.
Check the weather before you go. Fingers crossed for sunshine for you but be aware that it does rain in California. Plan your outfits accordingly. I always suggest a light sweatshirt for early mornings and late nights. Don’t forget those comfortable walking shoes!
Be aware that it does rain in California! And that’s okay. Don’t let this ruin your trip. Check out ponchos here.
Plan how you’ll get to Disneyland. This is an important step. You can find information on getting to Disneyland here. (Tip: We use the Disneyland Resort Express. We’ve never had an issue. Just note it does take more time than usual to get to hotel and back to airport.)
Get your Disneyland planning video here. This is really cool! If you don’t use it for planning it’s still a fun way to get everyone excited to go. (As if you need another reason!)
Look over the current fireworks, parade and show schedule here to plan for your trip. You’ll find location and times plus you can filter to find exactly what you are looking for. (Tip: The schedule only goes out about forty days, so be sure to check back.)
Plan out what events and tours you want to do. Find information on that here.
Get a special journal or planner, just for your trip! Have the kiddos help decorate the front in all things Disney. This is a great place to store all information, notes, to do lists and all things for your upcoming trip. I personally love writing on paper but there are many options for apps as well. Tip: It's always fun to get the kids their own journal to document their trip.
Be sure to call your hotel and double check reservations ahead of time. Be sure they have you down for the correct dates. Our last trip our hotel had us Sunday to Saturday, when we were arriving on Saturday. How terrible would that have been to show up Saturday with no reservation?
Double check your shuttle, pick up information. Do you know where to meet your shuttle? What documents do you need? Knowing this ahead of time will minimize stress, especially with tired kiddos.
Get ready to meet your favorite Disney characters! Who are you most excited to see? What about your kiddos? Do you know that you can find where they will be and when ahead of time? That’s what the Disneyland Mobile App is for. Map out when to see your favorite characters, create a reminder in your phone or add to your phone calendar. This way you aren’t missing out on those beloved Disney characters and your kid will think you are the best!
Buy your Disneyland pins before you go. This will save money! Then you’ll be ready to trade with cast members.
Plan your outfits. Okay so maybe you don’t have to plan exactly what you are going to wear but have an idea of what to wear and what not to wear. Be sure to pack comfortable walking shoes for everyone. A lightweight sweater is a must. Wear clothes that you will be comfortable in and be sure to check Disneyland’s website for what you can’t wear.
Research and plan ahead of time on how you’ll keep your kiddos safe. What happens if someone walks off? Where will you meet? Bracelets or temporary tattoos are great to put your information should your child lose you. Now this most likely won’t happen, so don’t panic. But it’s better to be safe than sorry. And please know being prepared, having a meeting place and the fact that cast members are trained in this, will be so helpful in the event that this does happen.
If you are driving, know where to park. Remember you’ll have to pay for parking at Disneyland. Driving to hotel but walking into park? Be sure to check with your hotel about parking fees. Most do not have free parking as an option.
Remember Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge opens May 31, 2019. It’s anticipated to be incredibly busy, if you choose to go close to this time be aware of this. Research and plan.
Looking for more Disneyland planning tips? Check out our Disneyland Guide and other Disneyland fun here.
Enjoy your trip and happy planning!
Wondering what to pack in your Disneyland park bag? This is a great question! I’ve come up with the essentials needed in your Disneyland backpack for a smooth trip. What are your favorites? Comment below!
First off you need to find the perfect bag or backpack. I always suggest a backpack because it’s easy to carry around and has plenty of room for everything you need. You don’t want anything too big and bulky or heavy. A small backpack that fits good is perfect.
Now here’s what to have in your Disneyland bag:
Interested in more Disneyland planning tips? Check out our Disneyland Guide and other Disneyland fun here.
We understand that a trip to Disneyland involves a lot of planning and let’s face it, a lot of money. It’s expensive, especially if you have a large family. We’ve compiled the top thirty tips for saving money on your Disneyland vacation below.
Heading to Disneyland soon? First of all, yay! Planning a Disneyland trip is one of my favorite things to do, besides of course the actual trip. But we all know how overwhelming it can be. It doesn’t need to be that way. Have you checked out our Disneyland Guide? You can also find other Disneyland planning resources here.
So what is the Disneyland Mobile App? And why am I dedicating a whole article to it? Because it’s amazing and you need to download it now. Even if your trip is in five months. You’ll thank me later.
This interactive app is jammed packed with everything you need to make your visit to Disneyland and Disney California Adventure great. This official Disneyland app will become a great resource for your family vacation, and it's fun.
Here's all you can do on the app:
Check the wait times for Disneyland and California Adventure, all from your phone. This allows you to decide what you are doing even before you enter the park, when you are back at the hotel or while you are waiting in line for a ride. We often will decide if we want to hop on over to California Adventure for a while based on the wait times of Disneyland (always much busier).
Buy (or link) your Disney MaxPass (If you don’t know what this is, head on over to our Disneyland Guide for more information on how much easier this will make your Disneyland trip). You will be able to buy your Max Passes here when you first get into the park or link them. You’ll then be able to select from your phone! Super easy.
Find characters! This is one of my favorites. There are so many awesome characters to see and of course, find, but how do you know where they will be and when? That’s easy- just pull up the app. It’ll show you what characters are out for the day, where they will be and when.
View restaurants in both parks. Another awesome feature! We use this a lot for looking over menus, especially great if you have picky kiddos or if you want to find a place that everyone will agree on. Find restaurants, view menus and get an idea on price.
Order food! Now not only can you find food options but you can order from your phone as well. How cool is that? Just select where you want to order from, place your order from the app and let them know when you arrived. This is such a time saver and awesome for those with bigger families.
View park hours. The hours of Disneyland Park, Disney California Adventure Park, and Downtown Disney District can vary. Great to know ahead of time when to get there- remember to be early for the security line!
Buy your tickets on the app and link! Show your digital barcodes when you enter the park. Easy!
View showtimes. This will allow you to find schedules for fireworks, parades, and shows. It’ll give you the time and location. A great to do before you head out on your trip.
Find out which rides are closed for refurbishment. No one ever wants to look here, I don’t blame you. So sad to see your favorite ride on this list but hopefully that won’t happen. It’s good to have an idea of what will be closed, and give your kiddos a heads up.
View your photos from Disney’s PhotoPass Service. As noted before we use Max Pass and one of the main reasons why is because I love family pictures at Disneyland. It captures everything we love about our time here and all the wonderful memories we are making. And they are free with MaxPass. Yes, free. So even if you decide to skip MaxPass because of cost (I hear you there!) consider getting it for yourself just to get the photos. I am the crazy mom searching the app for the locations of the photographers and making my family stand in every line. It’s great, they love it.
View the following on the interactive map for Disneyland and Disney California Adventure.
Now that you know all the goodness that the Disneyland Mobile App offers let’s talk about how you can use it before your trip.
I always suggest downloading it at least a month before, but earlier is fun too. Sometimes you just want to dream you are there. I get it.
Ahead of your trip you can:
You can download the app here for iPhone and Google Play. Enjoy!
Looking for a travel agent that specializes in Disney? Vacations by Jackie: Fairy Tale Concierge is ready to help you, at no extra cost!
Reach out on Facebook here, by email or by phone at 425-359-1198.
north parent press
Find parent resources, local family-friendly events, tips, parent and family articles, giveaways and more.