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I have a trip coming up next week. It was planned months ago. For whatever reason, I am not excited about it, but I really should be.
The one trip I am not excited about
Next week my girls and I are flying to Disneyland in Orange County to spend the long weekend. I am not into theme parks as they are too crowded for me. The idea of spending three full days with millions of people in long lines just doesn’t excite me. Plus, Disneyland park tickets are overly expensive!
We have been to Disney World a few times over Christmas holiday for a week each . The parks were at capacity by 9am almost every day and it was frightening. While I don’t think the crowd will be that bad next weekend in Disneyland, I just can’t get myself excited about it.
Our first trip to Disneyland
You would think we have been to Disneyland countless times since it isn’t that far from the San Francisco Bay Area where we live. Well, no. Personally I have only been there once, back in the mid 1990s. I have never taken my girls there, and they often joke that I deprive their right as children. I remind them that we are going to Disney World again this Christmas, and Disney World is way better than Disneyland. The girls just don’t agree.
Considering that my oldest daughter is leaving for college this fall, I decided that we would do a Disneyland trip in the new year. The trip was given to them as Christmas gift.
The trip is mostly booked except
Knowing that I would give the girls a Disneyland trip as Christmas gift, I picked the dates and started my planning, about four months ago. I got one-way fare for about $60 per person (used points of course) which is really good considering it is MLK holiday weekend. I also booked the Hyatt Regency on points and cash and applied my last Hyatt diamond suite upgrade to guarantee an one-bedroom unit for the stay.
But with one week left to go, I still have not booked the park ticket! I cannot decide on the type of tickets nor where I should get it from. I need to maximize the points I can earn for those tickets as it will cost over $1,000!
I really should be excited
I really should be excited about this trip, It is our first trip to Disneyland after all. And I don’t think I can do it any cheaper than what I will be paying.
- Airfare for each of us is only about $120 round trip, and I paid with points.
- We are flying JetBlue for the first time and I have heard good reviews about JetBlue.
- Hyatt Regency Orange County is known to treat Hyatt Diamond members well, and we get full breakfast for the entire stay, free of charge!
I cannot decide if I should buy the regular ticket or the hopper ticket, and where should I buy tickets? Should I rent a car or just use hotel shuttle for the park and find airport transportation? How does the fast pass system work? What can we do to avoid lines? There are questions I am still unable to answer, with the trip less than a week away.
Are you a Disney expert? If so, do you have any suggestions and advices, especially for Disneyland?
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I happend to live just 5 min away from Disneyland and have had Annual Pass for a couple years (not last year/this year so i might be a little behind some things), so i’ll share what i know:
Tickets: You should get the 3 day park hopper if you are going to Disneyland for all 3 days. There is no discount on Disneyland tickets (believe me, i tried). You can buy the tickets anywhere: at the door, online, or even at Grocery store for 5x.
Car: You can rent a car if you’d like to go to other places, otherwise LGB (Jetblue hub) is about $25 uber ride away. Keep in mind that uber/lyft cannot pick up from LGB for some reason (but uber black can), so you can try walking close to the streets outside of the airport (5-10 min) or just call an uber and ask if he/she can meet you somewhere in the airport. Taking uber to LGB is fine. If you are not planning to go anywhere else then you don’t need a car. There are plenty of chain restaurants (and some fancy steakhouses) within walking distance and a couple uber rides should be enough for your purposes if you want to go to other places. There is CVS nearby for your daily supplies too. Parking at HR is ~$27 daily i think, and Disneyland is $15.
Fast Pass: You can get a fast pass every 2 hours. On the fast pass it’ll tell you to return within a 2 hour windows – let’s say you got fast pass for a ride at 10am, then it tells you to come back at 2-4pm, then during 2-4pm you are able to cut in line on the ride and get in faster. Historically you are able to just return whenever you want, but i heard Disneyland started enforcing the 2 hours windows. Although in reality i don’t think they’d give you too much issues since it is the Happiest Place in the World, especially you are bringing your girls.
Avoiding lines: There is really no trick to avoid lines, only thing you can do is to get Fast Pass early for the most popular rides – Indiana Jones, Space Mountain, Splash Mountain…etc. Disneyland Adventure is a must because of World of Color (https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=world+of+color) – it’s amazing and sometimes i walk over to Disney just to watch that. Get that Fast Pass early on the day you go to California Adventure as they stop dispensing Fast Pass for that show around 3-5pm. You can still watch the show even if you don’t have Fast Pass, but fast pass gives you better viewing angle.
– Even though you are not supposed to, but you can still bring water, small sandwiches, whatever you want into the park. As you probably suspected, food in Disneyland is overpriced. Although the Starbucks inside is regularly priced for some reason.
– the biggest Disney store is not inside the park, it’s right outside in the downtown Disney area, you can’t miss it. Downtown disney is ~5-10 min walk from Disneyland. There is a La Brea Bakery right outside of the park you can get some pastry before you go in. The restaurants in downtown Disney are reguarly priced.
Earl of Sandwich is very good. http://tinyurl.com/jgxeh6v
– if you want to eat inside, the better restaurants are in the New Orleans district, although some of them might requre reservation so you can put down your name early. http://tinyurl.com/zy55lmv
Although Disneyland is super crowded, but the vibe is amazing. Everyone looks very happy and deservedly so. I met a cashier/girl in Egypt and she said it’s her dream to come to Disneyland (most instagram’ed place in the world for a reason). Millions of people fly across the globe just to visit it and yet it’s so assessible to us Californians. Enjoy your vacation! #Blessed
Thank you for such detailed suggestions! Our visit is really about 2.5 days as we have to come home on Monday evening. But I think you are right I should just pay for the hopper ticket so that we can go back and forth between two parks when we want to.
We are not going anywhere except Disneyland. I did reserve a car, as the total for the car is less than what we would pay for shuttles to the park and airport ride, and having a car will probably give us more flexibility. At the same time, I am not 100% convinced..
They have changed security procedure very recently and it’s hurried up the system a bit. You do have to go through a metal detector now, but it looked like the shortest lines were the ones by the hotel entrance to Downtown Disney.
Bringing food is not at all against the rules, don’t feel like you need to hide it or feel guilty. I take my two boys almost weekly.
Make sure you get either the Disneyland Wait Times app or the Disneyland official app. DWT has user reported wait times for every ride in Disneyland but doesn’t have the shows. The Disneyland official has lots of information including a map for easy navigation since you won’t be terribly familiar with how to get around.
I personally love the Royal Theatre Beauty and the Beast show that runs several times per day. I haven’t seen the Tangled version. It’s silly and fun and a nice little break from standing around in lines.
Totally agree with this person on all points… I like to add
GET EXCITED…about coming to Disneyland for your GIRLS…make this a part of the special memories you have shared with them.
Go on You Tube…..share some videos of upcoming rides or things you’d like to do at the parks with them.
My husband and I go to the Parks 3-4 times a month, even if just to get on a ride, enjoy a cup of coffee and people watch…..and always take a stroll through Mainstreet and Carsland.
Definitely get park hopper tickets and go on Cars ride a must in California Adventure.
I truly hope you enjoy your trip. Be sure to read all the comments….there are some great ideas!
Best to you and your family, have a safe, blessed and awesome vacation!
Haha yes I will eventually be excited! I am doing this for the girls and it makes me happy to see how excited they are. I am so grateful for all the suggestions here! Making notes as I go, and making the girls read the comments as well!
There is/was a amex offer for undercover tourist, which you could use for discounted tickets…
I checked! They only have DisneyWorld ticket, not Disneyland. 🙁
If you are going to DL I recommend you plan to get to the park at least an hour before it opens to get through security and get a warm cup of coco or coffee while you wait for the rope drop. Recommend you get your tickets with the free magic morning as you can get on most of the major rides before the park gets crowded… also check out wdwinfo.com disboards for other tips. Recommend you get the dinner meal for fantasmic show or you’ll not get a good view of it. Also program DL dine in your phone for reservations for meals 1 (714) 781-3463. Last, book a tour for midday peak crowds. You’ll get on a few rides ahead of others, a snack, a collectors pin… and if you have AAA there is a discount. We used the tour for primo seats for the parade so we didn’t waste time stalking out seats for the parade. Those things… usually make me excited because It’s my way of outwitting the crowds…
Ok it’s becoming overwhelming now! I can get 3 day hopper ticket online but where do I get the magic morning? do I just show up an hour and half before park open to get the free magic morning? I find dinner reservation on the website. There is no fantasmic show mentioned? I have to find the tour.
Fantasmic is closed until Summer 2017, so that’s why you don’t see it.
Magic Morning comes free with any 3-day ticket purchased from Disneyland.com. It should state it very clearly on your ticket.
Did you max out the Amex offer at Sam’s Club? I know they usually carry Disney Gift Cards….which you can use to purchase Disney tickets. I didn’t get the offer on any of my cards, but it would save you 20%
I don’t have that offer. And we also don’t have a Sam’s club nearby. 🙁
1.) You picked the WORST weekend to go to Disneyland. It’s during the Run Disney Marathon and the streets will be shut down. We stayed at the Hyatt OC during the marathon and the tram did not run until after 10:00 and it was a total mess. Even trying to Uber was difficult.
2.) Crowds will be at capacity due to the marathon crazies.
3.) Hyatt OC is awesome! I have stayed there 35 times and without using a suite upgrade cert, have been upgraded to a 1 bedroom or 2 bedroom suite 35 out of 35 times.
4.) The Hyatt OC Breakfast is among the best (and free for diamonds since no lounge).
5.) Disneyland is WAAAAY better than Disney World. We go to Disney World about once every three years and there’s no comparision….Disneyland is actually fun while Disney World is spent on transportation in a less clean theme park with CM’s who need serious training.
oh NO!!!! I picked this weekend because kids have Monday and Tuesday off. It is hard to miss school now that they are in higher grades.
Should I just cancel rental car and use hotel shuttle then???
This is MLK weekend right?
We loved the Hyatt shuttle. It’s $5/person per day. The parking fee (not waived for diamonds) was over $20/day plus Disney parking ($15+ per day), so its cheaper and easier to just use the Hyatt Tram to Disneyland (only 15 minutes tops and they run twice per hour).
The Hyatt OC is a lovely property. You’ll have a great time, but be prepared to deal with streets shutting down due to Marathon.
Yes the MLK weekend. The Shuttle is $5 per day not per ride?
I checked the Marathon website. It is on Sunday 5:30am right? but it seems there are something happening on Saturday 5:30am too.
It’s a Marathon Weekend, which means races on 3 days, along with the Expo starting on Thursday. And DLR parking is $18 per day. Also, you can bring in almost any food and beverages you like, just no glass. I’ve seen entire pizzas going in. I often take in Subway sandwiches.
We went last week and I parked in the Disneyland parking which was across front the Hyatt and my girls (11 & 12) and I decided to walk, on our way we stopped at CVS to get snacks and after all it’s not too bad of a walk, lots of people walk to Disneyland from their hotels.
And walk back at night.
Lines are long these days, have fun and be patient.
Use the Discover it Cash Card to purchase Disney gift cards at BJs. 5% with the Discover Card this quarter and 5% off at BJs. Combine the cards to purchase your Disney tickets.
Unfortunately I don’t have any Discover card. We also don’t have BJ anywhere around here.
You may be able to buy tickets through Chase using the 0.015 rate per point if you have the Reserve.
I will look into that. But I usually can redeem chase points for more than 1.5 cent/point by transferring to partners.
Another comment from a Southern Californian. The day of the marathon there will be an impact on traffic but the marathon is over by the time the park opens. We like to park in the Toy Story lot on Harbor Blvd, across from the convention center as the whole transportation seems to take less time than using the other big parking structure with the tram. For food, you can bring in food that is individually made up for you- eg. sandwiches in a baggie, water, snacks. These are all allowed. You cannot bring in a loaf of bread and a big package of lunch meats and make up sandwiches inside the park. I have seen them turn those away as well as large coolers for an entire family will be turned away.
Definitely get a park hopper. You will hop over between parks each day. I don’t have an annual pass right now but I have heard they are now enforcing the times for the fast pass windows. My pass has expired so I haven’t been in a few months.
For eating, Earl of Sandwich is good but that is a walk and it takes time to walk over there. Our favorite place to get out of all the noise and people is to eat at Whitewater snacks. It is the fast food restaurant inside the Grand Californian. The hot food is made to order and it is a quiet place to sit and recoup and they have free soda refills and even a microwave you can use. It is located down the hall from the special park entrance to the hotel. T There is a special entrance to the hotel right across from the Grizzly River Run Raft ride at California Adventure. Just go through the security there and get your hand stamped and go to the left down the hall and you are there. The security people can point it out to you also. I heard they do not want people from the other hotel to use that entrance as a short cut due to the new security they have but you should be fine if you are going there to eat.
Radiator Springs is a hard fast pass to get as they run out earlier. If that is important to you, the single rider line would take a lot less time.
Look up some of the singing groups or Disneyland Band on the schedule and go listen to them. Go on some rides but don’t feel you have to go on all of them. Look at some gift shops and of course, have a churro. They are everywhere in Disneyland, unlike Disney world. You will enjoy yourself if you don’t feel you have to do everything. I ask my kids what 1 or 2 rides they really have to go on and make sure we do those but since you will be there for 2.5 days. you can make sure you cover those at least They will remember the fun times and down time you have more than hitting every big ride after the trip is over. Try to get there early like someone else said. By 11 or 12 everyone is there but at 9 am there are definitely less people as they have not all arrived.
Go to on of the hat shops and take pictures with the different hats. The Matterhorn is a bumpy ride. You will see what I mean afterwards! The submarine ride is not worth the long wait but if that is important to you, then do it and skip something else.
They just changed the security with new security screening a few weeks ago so you will see that when you go. They now check you before you enter Downtown Disney or before you enter the trams.
I hope this helps. They have some great cast members so if you find someone in a shop and they are not busy, ask them your questions and they will give you some good ideas.
We don’t have BJ’s in Southern California. The best you can do for tickets is get a Disney Gift card with your Chase Ink for 5% off and use it to buy tickets. If you have a Target credit card, you can buy Disney gift cards and get 5% off them with the 5% Target cash back that you normally get.
When you go throught the turn stiles and they check your tickets, be sure to get the map and the separate paper that has the schedule of events for the day. If you loose that, you can always ask a custodian and they usually have some handy in their waist pack.
I hope this helps. You will have a great trip and don’t feel you have to do everything. My husband hates the crowds too so I make sure he has some downtime to sit and have a snack in the afternoon. You can sit and do some activities in the afternoon in the Animation building in California Adventure and the Frozen show in California Adventure is 45 minutes so a good show but you may need a Fast Pass for it, I am not sure about that.
Thank you so much for your suggestions!!
We just stayed at the Hyatt Regency a few months ago. We Ubered back and forth to the park rather than doing the shuttle. It was only about $5/way and much easier than dealing with the shuttle!
It’s easy to Uber from the park to the hotel?? There are 5 of us so we cant fit in regular Uber car. I wonder how hard is it to grab a taxi.
If you’re a AAA member, you can sometimes get ticket discounts from their office.
I will call my AAA office tomorrow to find out. But I heard they don’t have big discounts
My family is going in May this year. Get a copy of The Unofficial Guide Disneyland 2017 (there’s also a WDW one) excellent info. Their website touringplans.com ($14.95 for a year, customize for WDW too?) will let you customize a tour plan or use one of the general ones from the book, USE A PLAN! I’ve used their touring plans before and using one makes our trips more enjoyable than trips before we found the Unofficial books, they’re doing constant research and changes. A tour plan guides you toward rides at more optimal times for shorter wait times, read about how to use them.
MouseSavers.com is also an excellent resource, she focuses more on WDW but still has good info on Disneyland.
Discounts on tickets are ALMOST nonexistent, MouseSavers.com has a link to ares travel about $10/ticket off. We bought Disney gift cards at Target with a Target Red card which gets you 5% off ($100 Disney card for $95) deposited them into a Disney Vacation account and for every $1,000 spent they mail you a $20 gift card (think it’s a little late for your trip, next time you go to WDW?)
Check on ride closures so you’re not surprised, Disney’s website has a refurbishment calender that goes out 45 days.
You CAN take in your own food in small amounts, no glass containers, pre-made sandwich is fine but not the fixings (pb&j sandwich=yes, jars of pb&j and a loaf of bread=no) if you must buy food in the parks…eat early, start lunch about 11-11:30 and dinner 4-4:30. At counter service most lines have the same thing so look for the short line, sometimes it’s right at the end or just around a corner. Table service, get a reservation ASAP! Disneyland Resort Dining 714-781-3463 or go to the website and click dining. With a reservation you’ll wait 20 minutes max, without…I’ve heard as much as 90 minutes.
I’ve got more but this is your blog not mine…most important is to do one of the Unofficial Guides’ touring plans, you’ll have fun without one(it IS Disneyland) and you’ll have loads more fun with a plan.
Yes. I defiantly say get a park hopper. And also I wouldn’t rent a car, I would just use the shuttle. It’s much faster. And if possible you might even be able to hop the monorail though I don’t really know where it would be convenient for you to get on at.
Also, with the tickets. The more you play, the less you pay. And it is true. You get a good deal for it being Disneyland. I would recommend going to Disneyland early in the morning , and California Adventure anytime really. Ride lines aren’t long except for you’re really common rides everyone wants. Splash mountain and Grizzy River Run might be closed for maintness right now as it’s still “winter” I would also check what rides will be undergoing maintess and for how long because that’s always a bummer when you look toward to that one ride to find out it’s closed. Eating in the park is iffy. Its expensive but it’s also good, so that one is up to you.
You really should check out Disneytouristblog dot com its the best Disney planning site hands down! I’m not affiliated with them in any way – I’ve just found their reviews and posts invaluable in planning my Disney trips. They’ve saved me a ton of time and money.
I like to think I have one of the best systems for beating the lines, even on the busiest days. Although it requires some work (waking up early, walking a lot). I like to get into Disneyland as soon as it opens and grab Space Mountain fastpasses, as this ride usually has at least an hour long wait. Then I’ll make my way over to Indiana Jones and hop in line, it’s usually not too long in the morning. After that I go into California Adventure to get Radiator Springs Racers fastpasses (you are allowed one fastpass per park at any given time). This is a must, as this ride usually has the longest wait of both parks, and fastpasses will sell out by 12pm. After I get these fastpasses, it’s usually time to return to Space Mountain. I ride that and grab another fastpass for Star Tours, then ride something like Matterhorn or Pirates. At this point, the rest of your day will be dictated by your fastpass return times. Just be sure to go back and forth between the parks and have a least 2 fastpasses at a time if you really want to maximize your days. Pay attention to the fine print on these passes as well, they’ll tell you when you’re able to get another pass, so you can actually get up to 4 passes at once if everything lines up correctly. Have a great trip!
Use the fast passes. Always try to have at least 2. It may seem like a hassle to have to walk across the park to get them but you will save hours waiting in line. Also get a Disnyland appt that tells you the wait time, where shows are, if a ride has shut down. That will also save time.
We just got back from disneyland last week, get an apt that tells you wait times. You can plan your rides accordingly.
Out last trip to disneyland was a direct trip from Disneyworld for two of the Run Disney events. We made the mistake of trying to drive in the Disneyland area and I will not do that again. I highly recommend a shuttle from LGB to your resort and then using shuttles and public transportation. You really do not want to deal with paying for parking at the hotel and the park and then wasting time in traffic. We are a 10 hour drive from Disneyland or a 5 hour flight from WDW and for my money I will take WDW 90% of the time
I’ve had an Premium and now Signature Plus annual passport for the past 5 years with the pleasure of my little sister now being a castmember which helps me find out how packed it will be during the weeks. The 8th was the last day for the Holiday decorations in the park so the crowdedness should be going down now.
For the tickets, I’d have to say 3-Day 1 park per day tickets so you don’t have to rush around each park. Or maybe even a 2-Day 1 park per day and on the 3rd day have a park hopper. DCA usually has shorter lines than DL except for Radiator Springs Racers which is usually the longest wait at DCA, I recommend on the day of to go in at opening and go straight for a fast pass (located at the Bugs Life Theater across from the waterfall) as they tend to run out within an hour or so.
IMO, Disneyland is better than Disney World tho. Walking into Magic Kindom isn’t the same as walking into Disneyland, there’s just something missing over there. However Animal Kindom and Epcot are what makes DW a must go to, Hollywood Studios hopefully is better after Toy Story Land & Star Wars Land open.
I just went to Disneyland last May and also stayed at Hyatt Regency Orange County. Great hotel! I bought my park tickets right in the lobby, there is a Disney desk and it’s very convenient. We also used the hotel transportation. Easy peasy!
I disagree with most, and don’t think you need to buy park hoppers. I would plan one day in each park, and on your last half day just enjoy the hotel amenities (pools, tennis, etc.).
I also think you could just concentrate on the rides that Disney World either doesn’t have or rides that are the same name but different on the inside to make your park days more interesting. Indiana Jones is my favorite ride! Also, don’t miss rides like the Matterhorn, Submarine and Roger Rabbit. Pirates and Space Mountain are different from Disney World, so check those out!
For your California Adventure day, definitely head to Radiator Springs Racers first for either a fast pass or getting in line for the ride.
Have a great trip!
Do you have a Sam’s Club card? If so, you can purchase a pack of 3 $50. gift cards, ($150.) for $143. So $7. savings on each pack. You can buy as many packs as you need. Then use the gifts cards for the tickets. I do this all this all the time. Didn’t get to read all the comments, so not sure if someone already mentioned this. It’s a little savings!!
And you are allowed to take full meals in. Last time I was there, December, I saw family’s in line eating their sandwiches, chips, etc… I think Disney realized it’s just too much too feed a full family too!! 🙂 Have fun!
As mentioned before this will be a busy weekend due to the Star Wars half marathon events. I went last year and ran the half marathon. It was busy, but fast passes on key rides is what you need to focus on. Radiator Springs Racers (aka Cars ride) usually has the longest wait. Fast pass that one or even consider single rider. If you’re all in line together you will be separated most likely, but several times I’ve done this we end up in the same car or racing each other.
If you can swing it, I’d say to extend your trip to Wednesday and you’ll see a sizeable difference in crowds and wait times. If your kids are off on Monday and Tuesday already, just fly home early Wednesday. That slight adjustment will have huge payoffs.
Unfortunately we cannot extend the stay. I have work to return and the girls have other appointments. I wish there is way to go during weekdays but unfortunately we can only do either summer or Christmas break, along with all the weekends, when the park is the busiest!
Smazing commments — so helpful! How about soliciting the same kind of advice-n-tips for Disney World?
Yes totally agree! I will do that for a later post, but after I recover from Disneyland. My family is going to Orlando before Christmas this year. I will need to plan the park itinerary early for that one!
I live in Southern California and can’t believe your post. You need to stop travelling, donate your travel precious time to the Salvation Army or people in need. One day all will be gone: your suitcases, your car, your computer, your means of being smarter than the average bear; ony then will you look back and see what a gift this was.
“Millions” don’t go thru those gates. If you aren’t smart enough to know how to use the system, so you don’t wait in the long lines at Disney, then you are just a fraud…you don’t fly for $60. Buyer beware.
Here’s a short list of my favorite rides for the parks.
Indiana Jones, Big Thunder, Space Mountain (fast-pass this), Matterhorn.
I try to go to at least two of the above. Then for the smaller more charming rides I like
Peter Pan (long wait), Alice in Wonderland, Jungle Cruise, Storybook Canal, Small World (fun to spot the Disney characters) and Star Tours (great for fans, dizzying for me lol. 3D motion) and Buzz Lightyear (ride/laser game), Haunted Mansion (but only during Holiday season)
Shows/Parades! Try to squeeze in a couple of these if time permits. The shows really add that touch of Disney Magic. Good for breaks.
Mickey and the Magical Map, Disneyland Fireworks, Paint the Night Parade (comes on right before Fireworks in the same viewing area so very convenient, must-see imo).
Now onto DCA
Radiator Springs Racers (first thing you do when you walk in to this park is locate this fast-pass machine next to that Vineyard restaurant because it’s the only machine not attached to the ride. Coolest ride hands down). Toy Story (awesome game ride), California Screamin’. (I heard Soarin’ is now similar to the DW one so skippable.) Little Mermaid.
This one is tricky. The Frozen show is a must-see for Frozen fans. But the wait time is atrocious lol. You have to line up like an hour before each showtime and seating is limited so head over there and check with them. World of Color (must see and their fast-pass is on a separate tracker than ride fast passes so you won’t be locked out)
Hi! Having been to Disneyland Park quite a few times in the past years & most recently over the holiday break, here are a few pointers. The lines seriously aren’t a problem if you do it right!
For tickets, get the one-park-per-day at Costco. Significantly cheaper, & if you bundle it with hotel (but you already have Hyatt, so this point is for future reference), they throw in character dining (which is a premium feature) for free! For your three days, I would spend one at California Adventure & the two at Disneyland Park. California Adventure can be completed in half a day if you do it right by getting there at opening (8am), coupled with fast passes. Fast passes are included with your tickets, & all you do is insert your ticket into the machine & come back at the allotted time printed on your fast pass. For California Adventure, they have a spectacular night time water show at Paradise Pier called World of Color. Right when the park opens, get fast passes to this event first (fastpass distribution is by the huge bear by the water ride – you can’t miss it, it’s the only water ride in California Adventure), as they will give you the best viewing space to the show. When you come back at night, go to the viewing space in front of Paradise Pier at least 30-45 min prior to the show starting to ensure great views of the show! After getting fast passes to WoC, get fast passes to Radiator Springs Racers, as lines can be up to 2 hours. These are located in Bug’s Land. After that, it’s really up to you what you & your family want to do – I highly recommend the Broadway-style musical Frozen they’re running at the Hyperion, & even though I dearly miss the Aladdin show, the Frozen musical makes up for it! While going with my boyfriend over the holiday season, I elected to stand in line for an hour, & even though my feet hated me for it, I felt that was worth it because we had great seats (orchestra-level) in the center aisle.
As for Disneyland park, everything (all the major rides & yes, even the Peter Pan ride) can be completed in 2 days. Go right when the park opens, as by 11am, everyone & their Mama are going to be there. On the first time around to Disneyland Park, get fast passes Hyperspace Mountain, ride the bobsleds (as there are no fastpasses for the ride), & then if allowed, get fastpasses for Star Tours.
Have fun, & don’t be deterred by the crowds!
So me and my wife and daughter who is 2 years old just took a trip to Disneyland and Disney California adventure on the week of Christmas. We purchased our tickets through the disney travel agent. Park ticket prices aren’t much different unless you’re military. One big suggestion: don’t do park hopper!! Its more expensive and is too exhausting and too much walking!!! You’re feet are already going to fall off meandering in one park…imagine 2?? Get the one park per day tickets and maximize your experience in each park. If you’re going to do 3 days, do 2 at Disneyland because it is much larger and more crowded then California adventure. As far as riding faster…single rider is always faster, bus fast passes are nice too. However with fast passes, you’re limited on the amount you can have at one time, but there’s a trick….for example, Indiana Jones got so long they stopped the single rider line so I got a fast pass located at the ride entrance. It was good between 3:15 and 4:15. I can’t get another fast pass until 3:15 hits. So around 3:15 it was raining so the haunted mansion line was extra long…I got a fast pass for that ride good between 3:40 and 4:40. I went back and rode the Indiana Jones ride and by the time that was done, it was time to ride the haunted mansion. Just make sure to get your family’s park tickets to get the fast passes, one person can get every family members fast pass. Try to hit hyperspace mountain first because that line is the longest…and at California adventure hit the radiator Springs racers first…that’s the longest line there. And one more thing….don’t budget….eat wherever and whatever you want and get whatever souvenirs you want. My wife and I just used an empty credit card for all purchases at Disneyland parks and paid it off when we got back…so much easier!!! Have fun!!!
Yes I am leaning towards non-hopper 3 day tickets. My kids are older but while they are willing to walk most of the time, there will be a time they just can’t anymore. So walking back and forth between park doesn’t sound ideal for the first trip.
The best way to alleviate stress is to do research. That would have given you a head’s up that Martin Luther King Jr weekend is very busy among other important information. That said, you’re going to be fine because you’re not there yet.
Arrive early because most people don’t. Get there an hour before the parks open and you’ll be on line to enter when the opening ceremony begins at Disneyland.
Pack food if you can, no glass bottles or containers. That will save you time waiting in long lines at counter service eateries. You might not find availability at sit down restaurants at this point. If you can’t pack meals then plan on eating at odd times to help battle crowds.
Decide which attractions are the most important to you, perhaps those that aren’t found at Walt Disney World like Matterhorn, Snow White, Pinocchio, Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride, Roger Rabbit, Storybook Land Canal Boats, etc…
Need character photos? Watch as they head backstage because at Disneyland they have to stop, turn around and wave goodbye. This doesn’t happen in Florida.
As for CA Adventure, get FastPasses for Radiator Springs as these go quickly and the line can easily be over an hour. Cars Land is incredible.
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