Destination Disney: 9 Tips to Plan Your Disneyland Trip for First-Timers
Disneyland has been around since 1955 and this classic theme park attracts almost as many visitors as its sister park, Disney World in Orlando.
If you’re a fan of Disney vacations, or even just curious about these attractions, a visit to Disneyland is a must-do bucket list activity for you.
Here’s how to plan your Disneyland trip, so you can get the most out of the experience.
1. Buy Your Tickets Online
Buying your tickets online is an important first step when planning a Disney trip.
This will save you at least an hour’s worth of queuing when you arrive. It’s a good idea to buy a Park Hopper Pass that gives you access to both parks too.
Disney offers discounts to members of the military, so be sure to check these out if this applies to you.
2. Book Accommodation Nearby
Are you a DVC member on your first trip to Disneyland? You have access to some perks during your Disneyland vacation.
Foremost of these is the ability to stay at one of the nearby DVC resorts during your visit to Disneyland.
When you’re staying onsite at the Grand Californian, you can leave the park later. When you stay in a DVC resort, you’ll get free parking, and you can visit Downtown Disney and Disneyland on two separate days.
These benefits apply no matter how many hours you spent debating the merits of buying DVC resale vs direct, and what you decided in the end.
Keep tabs on correspondence from Disney Vacation Club regarding any new discounts or benefits.
3. Download the App
There’s an app for everything nowadays, and your trip to Disneyland is no exception. The Disneyland App’s indispensable for finding your way through the crowds.
You can check the wait times for each attraction, and the map is a must-have for your visit.
4. Rent a Stroller for Your Disneyland Trip
If you’re visiting Disneyland with a small child, renting a stroller really helps them rest in between activities. No matter how active your little one is, a long day walking around the park is bound to tire them out.
You can also use the stroller as a handy carrier for your bags and souvenirs when your youngster’s on foot.
5. Play First, Shop Later
The shops are open for a full hour after the attractions close at Disneyland. So don’t lose yourself in these fascinating stores during ride-time.
Rather cram all the activities and rides in as quickly as you can before indulging in souvenir shopping.
6. A FastPass Speeds Things Up
This simple system gives you priority access to sought-after Disneyland activities. All you do is choose one of the FastPass attractions in California Adventure or Disneyland and insert your park ticket at the ticketing kiosk.
You’ll get a return time for the selected ride. Simply come back at the designated time, and you’ll skip the line at the ride. It’s a simple way to save time during your visit.
You can only use the FastPass at the specified time. If the ride closes temporarily during your return time, you’ll automatically get a new time. All FastPass information is viewable on the app.
You can hold more than one FastPass at a time, but they’re limited, so arrive early and get your FastPasses as quickly as possible.
FastPass is free, but you can also opt for the paid MaxPass option. This gives you access to extra FastPasses, since you can claim them via the app, and you also get unlimited PhotoPass downloads.
7. Avoid (Most of) The Crowds
Disneyland’s never quiet and deserted, but there are certain days when the crowds arrive en masse. Weekends and holidays are the busiest times at any theme park.
Try to visit on a weekday if possible, you’ll get to see and do so much more during your trip. You can check the park calendar for clues about the busiest days of the year.
8. Mind the Weather
Although rain isn’t often an issue in California, the weather does cool down a lot in the evenings. Days are warm and pleasant but you’ll definitely need a sweater early in the morning and during the late afternoon.
Don’t assume California is the land of eternal sunshine. The weather’s great, but there’s a real chill in the air at times.
9. Seek Out Character Interactions
If you or your kids want to meet any of the Disney characters, you need to know where to find them. Get your hands on a Times Guide when you enter the park.
This printout lists all the special events, showtimes, and meet-and-greet activities for the day.
If you arrive at least 30 minutes before opening time, you could be one of the lucky visitors to get early access to Main Street USA, where some of Disney’s most beloved characters hang out.
The Royal Hall just to the left of Sleeping Beauty Castle, and you’re guaranteed to bump into at least three princesses at this official meet-and-greet station.
When you book a character dining experience at one of the Disneyland restaurants, you can meet as many as eight characters during your meal.
Planning Always Makes for Perfect Travels
Spending time at Disney World requires knife-edge precision planning, but Disneyland is a little more laid back. It’s a lot smaller than WDW for starters.
That said, planning your Disneyland trip well in advance will help you maximize your outing, and ensure you get to enjoy the park to the max. So spend some time figuring out the logistics surrounding meal stops, bathroom breaks, and priority attractions.
Explore our travel section for more tips and hacks, no matter where you’re going.