“For $300 you could be this happy!”
Disneyland is a thing unlike any other. From bottom to top it is pristine and manicured enchantment. It’s a park meant to bring your mind back to “the good ol’ days”. A place to enjoy some good wholesome fun whilst eating a delicious treat in the shape of a mouse head. But the ‘Happiest Place of Earth’ can quickly become the “Worst Place on Earth” if we make some common mistakes . Enter this park unprepared and with the wrong mindset and you will unavoidably walk out disappointed. But if you follow these quick and easy tips, your trip to Disney will likely result in what is was intended to be – A great vacation. Here are 10 simple things you can do to make the most out of your next trip to Disneyland.
1. Bring a snack bag
“But lets be honest, it will probably more like Corn Nuts and Dr. Pepper”
It might seem like it would be a burden to lug around a backpack all day but it really isn’t. Every ride gives you a place for your things or is set up in such a way that you can either put your legs through your backpack straps or set it to the side. Throw in a couple bottles of water, some trail mix, and a few other snacks and it will give you plenty of energy throughout the day. You’ll be glad you didn’t have to spend $4 on a bottle of water and $9 on a hotdog.
2. Get a park hopper
“probably the only thing valued correctly at the park”
This is a question you might tussle with, but trust me. It is worth it. Just for the Hollywood Tower, California Screaming, Cars, and Toy Story, it is worth it. Yes, it is a smaller park and lacks some of the luster that Disneyland offers, but it’s a different kind of park. In many ways it’s more modern, with bigger walkways (so you don’t feel so cramped) and innovative rides like Cars and Toy Story. It’s an extra $50, but you will more than get your money’s worth.
3. Optimize your fast-passes
“Because you are better than waiting in a 2 hour long line”
No matter what you do there will always be lines at Indiana Jones and the Space Mountain. That’s why they created FastPasses. However if you aren’t on top of them, you’ll only get to use them once or maybe twice. If you use your fast passes right you can jump to the front of the line several times in a day. This will give you a lot more rides in a day and make that $300 admission ticket feel that much more worth it. Your order of operations upon arrival to the park should be:
1. Submit a fast pass as soon as you get to the park
2. Go on other rides until your first fast pass
3. Use your fast pass
4. Immediately submit another fast pass somewhere else.
If you do it right you should be able to skip ahead 4 or 5 times in a day to the front.
4. Know when to go front row
“There is a reason the 1st row lines are longer”
There are certain rides where being in the front will make all the difference. Riding Space Mountain in the 4th row is drastically different from the 1st. On the whole, you’re usually safe in just about any spot, but here is a good guide on knowing where to sit.
-Adrenaline rides: Front Row. On faster rides like Space Mountain, The Matterhorn or California Screamin’, you definitely want to ride up front. It feels twice as fast when you have the wind in your face.
-Water Rides – Not the front. Unless you are trying to get wet, sit yourself elsewhere.
– Novelty Rides – Be Strategic. This would be rides like the Cars ride or Toy Story. Make sure you are teamed up with the people you want to be. Some rides it really doesn’t matter where you sit, but on these rides, definitely make sure you are with your group.
–Nostalgic Rides – These don’t really matter. Just enjoy yourselves on them.
5. Enjoy the little things
“Can I somehow get a Dolewhip soft serve machine in my house?”
There are lots of ways to burn your cash in Disneyland. In fact it’s how it makes most of its revenue. It is banking on the fact that in between Space Mountain and Splash Mountain, you’ll gorge on a few giant pretzels and buy a few shirts and mouse ears along the way. But it’s easy to feel pretty stressed once you just spent hundreds of dollars on admission. You might not want to buy anything at all. But many of things little purchases will make the overall experience better. A good rule of thumb is 2-3 snacks per day. I recommend the Frozen Banana (There’s always money in the banana stand) the infamous Churro and of course the delicious Dole Whip. I also recommend 1 piece of merchandise for your trip. This will make you check every shop carefully and really pick out the one thing you want instead of impulsively buying the first clever thing that catches your eye. If you budget for it, then you won’t feel guilty indulging on it, and therefore you’ll never feel like you’re missing out on it.
6. Play games during long lines
“It’s probably worth investing in some Dr. Scholls too.”
There a lots of ways to avoid lines, but there are some times that you will just get stuck in one. Long lines are just like driving on a long road trip or watching water boil. The more you focus on it the longer it feels. One great way to take your mind off of the line is to play line games. Playing “who would you rather” or “21 questions” is a good way to pass the time. We had a lot of fun playing the app “Heads Up”, and there are plenty of other good phone games you can play. But even just some good people watching will pass the time (and usually thoroughly entertain you).
7. Go on a weekday
“Or go on Saturday and ride maybe 4 rides total”
When visiting the happiest place on earth you often will rarely find yourself alone. There are an average of 40k people who attend that park every day. One great strategy for maximizing the amount of rides you go on and minimizing the amount of “park stress” you might occur is to plan on attending midweek instead of the weekend. While this might not sync up with your PTO days at work, if have the ability to, absolutely go to Disneyland on Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday instead of the weekend. On the weekends you are not only competing with other vacationers, but also the locals who get off from school or work early to hit up a few rides. This invariably pushes ride times well past the 30min mark and upwards of 1 hour+. That’s a lot of waiting. Do yourself a favor and move up that vacation one day, enjoy the short lines and spend the rest of your weekend on the beach.
8. Download the Ride Wait Times App
“God bless technology”
Its free and it will save you lots of time. The app gives you a good guide of what rides have small wait times and which rides have closed. This can really come in handy, especially when you see a ride that has been closed has opened up and you can be first in line. It also helps take the decision making process out of it. Just go to the next best ride with the shortest line.
9. Don’t pay for parking
“Even the parking lot is magic!”
If you’re staying anywhere near Disneyland there is almost always a shuttle that will drop you off and pick you up in front of the park. If you are staying further away almost any bus will take you there. Unless you feel great about shelling out $17, there is almost always a cheaper route.
10. Go in with proper ride expectations
“I payed $300 for this?!”
It’s no secret that much of Disneyland is meant to be nostalgic. It’s not meant to necessarily impress you, but rather to charm you. It’s not extreme, it’s delightful. Keep this in mind when you travel to the land of Disney. If you go in expecting six flags type rides you will definitely be disappointed. There are several types of rides in Disneyland and I think a mix of all of them will make your trip the most enjoyable. Space Mountain and California Screamin’ will get your heart pumping. Buzz Lightyear and Toy Story will bring out your competitive side. It’s a small world and pirates of the Caribbean will bring you down memory lane. Going in with the right expectations, namely that this is a park geared towards families and children, will make the whole experience more enjoyable.
11: Look ahead to see what rides are going to be closed
Disneyland is like the Golden Gate Bridge. They are always fixing it. They will close portions and parts during certain months so that they are more pristine during the busier months. But there is nothing worse than expecting to go on a ride (because it’s your favorite ride) and finding out once you get into the park that it’s closed for 3 months. A quick check at https://disneyland.disney.go.com/calendars/day/ will let you know which rides are closed at the moment.
So is Disneyland worth it? Absolutely. There isn’t a place in the world like it. Would I recommend a seasons pass? Eh… Maybe if you live in California. I think once every few years is probably good enough. Just like most things, you get out what you put in. My advice is to go in with a game plan and be smart about it. Its easy to get caught up in Disneyland. Hopefully the next time you go to Disneyland (or if you are going for your first time) you’ll remember a few of these things and your experience will not suck. In fact, it might just be fun.
My personal favorites: Hollywood Tower and Space Mountain (if you’re in the front) and Toy Story
Not Favorites: Haunted Mansion, Buzz Lightyear, and Snow White’s ride.
Honorable Mention: Goofys Flying School