We just came back from a three-day trip to Disneyland over the MLK weekend. As I mentioned in the post that I wrote a week ago, this was the first trip to Disneyland for my three daughters (age 17, 13, and 11), but we have been to Disney World a few times. Many readers left awesome Disneyland tips and tricks in the post. Thanks to them, I felt a bit more prepared and less overwhelmed before we left for the trip.
[Here’s that post I wrote a week ago — I’m going to Disneyland… but I don’t even care]
We had lots of fun but were also super exhausted as we spent 14 hours each day at the parks. Just like when Dan was at Disney World (READ MORE: 5 hacks to keep you under budget at Disney World), I thought now that the trip is in the past, I thought I would share the 9 Disneyland tips and tricks I learned (not in any particular order).
Check Disneyland event schedules before you plan!
I had no idea there was a half marathon over MLK weekend until one reader pointed out! But it was too late for me to change plans as our flights were already booked. Had I knew, I would have picked a different weekend. Harbor Boulevard was blocked on Sunday from 5am to noon, and many roads around the park were closed to traffic. Taxi driver was able to drop us off as close as he could, but we had to walk almost 20 minutes to get to the entrance! So before you pick a date, check out the list by Undercover Tourist for best and worst time to visit Disneyland in 2017 and 2018! Mornings are much more enjoyable. By 11am, the parks gets very crowded!
Don’t try to do everything in the Disney parks!
Even though it was our first trip, we knew we really didn’t have to do every ride and see everything in the parks! Having this mindset really helped ease the stress dealing with huge crowds and long lines. We went with the flow and planned the rides based on wait time. We took breaks when we felt tired, we bought drinks when we are thirsty, and we ate when we felt hungry. While it wasn’t the most budget-friendly practice, it was definitely easier for us.
Disneyland tips and tricks – Don’t rent a car if you don’t have to.
You can find detailed transportation information on Disneyland website. We flew JetBlue’s new route from San Jose to Long Beach airport, and flew home on Southwest out of John Wayne airport. I found Johnny’s California Shuttle Service on Yelp and was so glad that I did. He was on time picking us up both ways. The cost of a roundtrip shuttle was about the same as Alamo rental car for three days, but we didn’t have to pay for parking at hotel and parks! If you do need a car, a Disney tip some readers suggested to park at the toy story lot on Harbor Boulevard and take the Disney shuttle.
Book a hotel with frequent shuttle service to the park.
The next of the Disneyland tips and tricks is if you don’t want to pay the high prices of Disney hotels. Many hotels around the park offer shuttle service between the hotel and parks. I booked the Hyatt Regency Orange County for $129 a night. We were upgraded to a two-bedroom unit thanks to my Hyatt diamond status. This hotel is not the closest to the parks, but it has a very reliable shuttle service that runs constantly. It starts 45 minutes prior to the parks open and runs until one hour after parks close. For $6 a day, you can ride as many times as you want. The shuttle drops you directly in front of the security checkpoint at the parks. If you have little ones, you can easily take the shuttle back to the hotel for that afternoon nap!
Buy 3-day single-park tickets. No need to hop between parks.
While the trip was booked months prior, I couldn’t decide between single park and park-hopper tickets until two days before the trip! Most readers recommended the park hopper tickets but a few suggested to go for single-park tickets. Knowing my girls, they would prefer spending as much time in one park each day instead of hopping between parks. We spent the first and last day at Disneyland Park, and the 2nd day at California Adventure. It was perfect! Not buying hopper ticket saved me $40 per person. The girls actually thanked me for buying only single park tickets!
Magic Morning is only for Disneyland Park.
We find out this the hard way! Our 3-day tickets came with one magic morning so we decided to use it for California Adventure on Sunday. After getting to the park at 7:30am and waited in line for half an hour, we found out that magic morning for California Adventure is only for guests staying at the three Disney hotels! It was very confusing and apparently we weren’t the only one in line who made the same mistake.
Book dinner reservations but be flexible with lunch plans.
One of the Disneyland tips and tricks related to food is that I didn’t book dinner reservations until Thursday morning. By then there were not many options left for weekend dinner slots. But I was able to secure reservations around 6-7pm at each park. I wasn’t sure where we would be during lunch so I didn’t make any plans. That actually worked out well. Through out the day, when we feel thirsty or hungry, we would find a place to order drinks or food, and rest our tired feet! By the time dinner came, everyone was hungry and super tired. Having a reservation without waiting in line was a big relief!
Designate someone to get fast passes
I wrote down reader’s Disneyland tips and tricks about rides in each park and the fast pass to get first. The most popular fast pass in California Adventure Park was Radiator Springs Racer. As soon as the park was open, everyone rushed to get fast pass for this ride and the line was so long it was nuts! While I was waiting in line, my daughters apparently went straight to the ride and they walked right on! By the time I got my fast passes, they were done and ran off to California Screamin’,
The girls took all four tickets and got four fast passes together at several rides. This allowed them to go on the same ride twice back to back! It worked out really well for us, especially for California Screamin’ and Space Mountain.
The popular “World of Color” show at California Adventure performs at 9:45pm most days. You can get fast pass for the show but they are for standing rooms only! According to some readers, this is the first fast pass you should get when California Adventure opens. Afterwards you can join the lines of people for fast pass to Radiator Springs Racer. We knew we wouldn’t last that long in the park since we started the day at 6am!
It’s ok to skip the “Frozen” show!
There I said it! “Frozen” fans please don’t shoot me! I did see the show and I thought it was great. But I am not sure if it is worth the 90-minute wait in line for this one-hour show. I really wanted to see the show because everyone thought so highly of it. My girls would prefer spending time on rides. Many little kids around us were crying the entire time and I really felt sorry for them and the parents. If you must see the show, come join the line about 30 minutes prior to show starts. You should be able to get in without any problem. There really aren’t any bad seats in the theatre.
Conclusion – 9 Disneyland tips and tricks
Because we didn’t want to miss any school or take more time off work, we could only visit Disneyland for 3 days. It might be a bit tight and very exhausting, but it worked out fine for us, If we were to go again, we will definitely follow the 9 Disneyland tips and tricks I learned from our first 3-day trip.