7 Tips for Making the Most out of a Trip to Disneyland

disney 1My family recently returned from another trip to Disneyland. This time we soaked up 4 days of Disney sun. By the end of those four days, we were Disney Masters. We had working the park down to a sweet science. For those that haven’t put too much thought into your trip to Disneyland, here is a quick list of tips to get your started.

 Know the Fastpass:

If I were to only give one morsel of advice, it would be to perfect the Fastpass. A Fastpass helps you bypass the long line for a much shorter one. You will find the Fastpass machines located near the entrance of the more popular rides. Slide each park ticket into the machine to receive the Fastpass for that ride. The machine will spit out a receipt with your return time printed on it. Come back during that time and you can bypass the regular line for a much shorter Fastpass line. (See the bottom of this post for more information on Fastpass.) Once the time on your Fastpass comes around, you can get another Fastpass.

If you stay on top of the times, it is possible to ride a bunch of rides in one day without waiting in long lines. Of course, using Fastpasses means you might add quite a bit of walking to your day, as the ride for which you hold a Fastpass might not be nearby when the your ride time comes around. And the next Fastpass you may want may be on the other side of the park from the ride you just rode. Sometimes, one parent would run and grab Fastpasses while the other parent went on a ride with the kids. We usually ride rides along the way from one Fastpass destination to another, but we do not ride all of the rides in one section, then move on to the next section. We walk a lot… a lot. But, we always ride all the rides with minimal wait.

Arrive Early (or stay late):

I am not a morning person and the rest of the family also has trouble adjusting to the morning. However, when it comes to Disneyland, the early bird gets the mouse. During our last trip to Disneyland, we arrived at the park about ten minutes before it opened and quickly walked to what would later in the day be the most populated spots. We could get in 3 or 4 rides in that first hour, without using Fastpasses at all. If you have Park Hopper tickets, go to whichever Park does not have early entry hours, since the park with early entry hours will be busier than the one without.

If you aren’t an early bird, plan on staying at the park until it closes. There are virtually no lines at the end of the day and you’ll walk on to some of the best. If you didn’t manage to snag a Fastpass to Radiator Springs Racers, get to the line five minutes before California Adventure closes and you’ll find that the wait time is a fraction of what it was during the day (20 minutes versus 3.5 hours). You can arrive early and stay late if you follow my next tip…

Take a Break from the Park:

It is possible to be Disneyed out. We spent four days at the Happiest Place on Earth, but at times I was grumpy. And kids need to rest their legs whether they or we like it or not. Usually around lunchtime, we head back to the hotel for a nap and a nice relaxing dip in the pool. (Well, as relaxing as you can get when swimming with a toddler.) Our short little breaks helped us get our attitudes in check and finish out the rest of the day with a healthy attitude.

Pack Lunches:

A trip to Disney is expensive. It will cause your wallet to turn to (pixie) dust in an instant. We usually eat breakfast at the park, pack one meal and eat it at the park, and cook another meal in the hotel room. We do budget for a couple of meals at the park, but we have found that the kids appreciate Disney meals much more if they’ve been eating packed lunches and dinners. Eating at the hotel and picnicking has other benefits; it’s nice to be able to eat without having to wait in lines and the kids can relax and walk around the area if they want.


Wait to buy your souvenirs until the end of your visit. You don’t want to have to carry around some big sword or stuffed mouse all day while figuring out what to do with everything while you’re on the rides. By waiting till the end, the kids can also get a good idea of what they want to blow their money on. I hate when my kids buy something only to want something else later on. I know, first world problems. One exception, if your kids want an item of clothing (a hat, etc.), buy it at the beginning, since they’ll wear it more during their visit to Disneyland than they ever will at home.

And if you are on a tight budget, there’s a Target Supercenter just up the street from Disneyland (on Harbor Boulevard) that has an entire Disney section. Buy the kids a t-shirt there for a fraction of the price at the beginning of the trip and let them wear it to the park.

Grab a Character When You Can:

Some of the lines for pictures with Disney character can get pretty long. I’ve seen them up to 3 hours long. If I see Mickey walking around, though, that’s a picture I’m grabbing. I must admit, the characters do a great job of moving along the path with rarely a stop, but they will oblige you with a picture. If you see one, ask for a picture. Don’t hold them up because they are on their way to wherever the boss told them to go. How often are you annoyed at work when you’re on the way to do something and someone starts chatting you up? Also, if you want to visit Mickey at his house without waiting in line, your best bet is to head over to Toon Town before the last parade of the day and tour his house. As soon as the parade is over, he’ll be posing for pictures again and you’ll be first in line.

Get a Rider Switch Pass:

disney 2Families with little ones that do not quite reach the allowed height for a ride can receive a Rider Switch Pass. We have a toddler that can’t ride many of the rides, but both my wife and I like to go on all the rides. The Rider Switch Pass is made for people like us. Take your toddler up to entrance of the ride and ask for a rider switch pass. One adult (and older kids) then ride the ride while the other adult takes the toddler off on his own adventure. When they are done, the other adult and up to two guests can ride the ride using the Fastpass lane. My two older kids got to ride each ride twice. My older kids were very lucky to have a little brother along for once. Added pluses – you can use the Rider Switch pass with a Fastpass (so that everyone gets to use the Fastpass lane) and you can save the Rider Switch pass to use later that day, since it doesn’t have a return time.



So that’s my list. What are some of the ways you have mastered Disneyland?


A few important things to know about Fastpass:

  1. Only park entrance tickets that have been scanned that day can be used to get Fastpasses, and the only way an entrance ticket is scanned is if the person to whom the ticket belongs is there in person. This means that you can’t send someone to the park early with all your tickets to collect Fastpasses.
  2. With some exceptions, you can only have one Fastpass at a time; you have to wait until the time printed on your receipt before you can get another Fastpass. The exceptions: if you have a park hopper ticket (both California Adventure and Disneyland on the same day), you can have a Fastpass from EACH park at the same time. You can also have a Fastpass to Radiator Springs Racers and World of Color at the same time you have a Fastpass to another ride. Note that the Fastpass station for Radiator Spring Racers is on your left as you first enter California Adventure (by Bug’s Land), NOT by the Radiator Springs Racer ride.

To read more about my trip to Disneyland, click here.

More Disney Trip Stories:
Having the Time of Our Lives On Board the Disney Magic
Midnight Basketball with My Kids On Board Disney Magic
Wine Tasting with the Kids in Provence – A Disney Cruise Story
7 Tips for Making the Most Out of A Trip To Disneyland
Freezing Moments and Creating Memories at Disneyland
Taking a Dog to Disneyworld

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