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50 Tips to Maximize Your Time at Disneyland

A trip to Disneyland, often dubbed "The Happiest Place on Earth," promises an enchanting journey through its myriad of attractions, character encounters, and timeless shows. However, the allure of its magic can be dimmed by the daunting prospect of long queues and crowded pathways, turning what should be a day of joy into a test of patience. To combat this, it's essential to arm yourself with a well-thought-out plan that maximizes your time and enhances your experience. These tips are designed to guide you through the park with ease, covering everything from the best times to visit each attraction, strategies for securing FastPasses, recommendations for dining, and advice on how to catch the spectacular parades and shows without losing precious time. Whether it's your first visit or you're a seasoned park-goer, these insights will help you navigate Disneyland's enchanting realm more efficiently, ensuring that your adventure is filled with nothing but joy and wonder.

Pre-Purchase Tickets Online

Buying your tickets online saves you from the long lines at the ticket booths and allows you to make park reservations in advance. This step is crucial, especially during peak seasons, as it secures your entry on your preferred dates. Additionally, purchasing tickets online often offers the opportunity to snag discounts or special packages that are not available at the park.

A girl in a pink princess dress is holding amusement ticket in her hand.
enchanted_fairy / Shutterstock.com

Choose the Right Time to Visit

Timing your visit can significantly impact your experience. Off-peak seasons, typically when schools are in session, see lower crowd levels, shorter wait times, and often reduced hotel rates. Research historical crowd calendars and consider visiting mid-week rather than weekends. Avoiding major holidays and school vacation periods can also make a big difference in maximizing your time at Disneyland.

Disneyland's Small World with chinese tourist model
KeongDaGreat / Shutterstock.com

Stay at a Disneyland Resort Hotel

Staying at a Disneyland Resort hotel offers several benefits that can enhance your visit. Not only are you closer to the parks, allowing for easy re-entry throughout the day, but you also get perks like Early Entry to the parks. This means you can enjoy select attractions before the general public, significantly reducing wait times for popular rides. Additionally, the immersive Disney theming and character experiences at these hotels can extend the magic beyond the parks.

Disneyland Resort Paris Hotel
Ferreiro / Shutterstock.com

Consider Nearby Hotels

While staying at a Disneyland Resort hotel offers unique benefits, nearby off-site hotels can also provide convenience, often at a lower cost. Some of these hotels are within walking distance to the park entrances, saving you time and parking fees. Many nearby hotels offer competitive amenities, including complimentary breakfasts and shuttle services to the parks, making them a practical alternative for budget-conscious travelers.

Exterior of the Marriott Anaheim Hotel building located on Convention Way in Anaheim, California.
Felipe Sanchez / Shutterstock.com

Streamline Security Checks

The security check is your first line before entering the Disneyland parks. To expedite this process, pack light and organize your bags to make inspections quicker and easier. Use clear bags or pack items in easily accessible places to speed up the screening process. Being prepared and efficient at security checks can save valuable time, especially during peak entry periods.

Disneyland Tickets

Arrive Before the Park Opens

Arriving early, often referred to as "rope drop," allows you to be among the first guests in the park. This strategy is key to experiencing popular attractions with minimal wait times. The first few hours after opening are when the parks are least crowded, offering an opportunity to enjoy multiple attractions more efficiently. Plus, experiencing the park's opening ceremony is a magical way to start your day.

Mickey and walt disney statues

Utilize Lockers

Renting a locker can significantly enhance your park experience by freeing you from carrying heavy bags all day. Store extra clothing, snacks, or souvenirs in the lockers located near the park entrances. This not only lightens your load but also makes it easier to navigate through crowds and enjoy rides comfortably. Lockers are available for a one-time fee, providing access throughout the day.

ocker in JR Maihama station near Tokyo Disneyland.
2p2play / Shutterstock.com

Download the Disneyland App

The Disneyland app is essential for maximizing your time at the parks. It provides real-time information on wait times, show schedules, and character meet-and-greet locations. You can also use the app for mobile food and beverage orders, saving time that would otherwise be spent in line at restaurants. Additionally, the app allows you to manage your park tickets, reservations, and PhotoPass pictures all in one place.

Magic Guide for Disneyland app in play store. close-up on the laptop screen.
PREMIO STOCK / Shutterstock.com

Invest in Genie+

Disney Genie+ is a paid service that offers Lightning Lane access to select attractions, significantly reducing wait times. It also includes unlimited Disney PhotoPass downloads from your day, adding value to your purchase. While Genie+ requires an additional fee, it can be a worthwhile investment for those looking to experience as many attractions as possible without the long waits.

Disneyland castle

Take Advantage of Early Entry

Guests staying at Disneyland Resort hotels have the benefit of Early Entry, allowing them to enter the parks 30 minutes before the official opening time. This extra time can be used to enjoy popular attractions with significantly shorter wait times. Planning your morning around Early Entry can give you a head start on your day, making it easier to experience your must-do attractions before the crowds arrive.

Disneyland rides

Opt for Dining Packages

Dining packages at Disneyland offer a meal at one of the parks' restaurants along with reserved viewing for shows like Fantasmic! or World of Color. These packages can save you time by combining dining with entertainment, eliminating the need to secure a viewing spot hours in advance. While these packages are an additional cost, the convenience and guaranteed, great view can enhance your overall experience.

Marceline's Confectionery sign in downtown Disney California
Kirk Wester / Shutterstock.com

Skip Popular Rides at Park Opening

While it might be tempting to head straight for the most popular attractions at park opening, this is when everyone else has the same idea. Instead, target less crowded attractions early in the morning and save the popular rides for later in the day, or use Genie+ to book your ride times. This strategy helps avoid long waits and allows you to experience more attractions with minimal downtime.

Dumbo ride

Use Rider Switch

Rider Switch is a system designed for parties with members who are unable or do not wish to ride certain attractions. This allows one part of the group to enjoy the ride while another part waits with the non-rider. After the first group finishes, the waiting party can board the attraction without having to wait in the regular line again. This system is particularly useful for families with small children or guests with restrictions, ensuring everyone has a chance to enjoy the rides they love.

Teacup ride

Designate a Genie+ Leader

Having one person in charge of managing Genie+ selections for the entire group can streamline your day and ensure that everyone's preferences are considered. This "Genie+ Wizard" can keep track of return times, make new selections as soon as they're available, and adjust plans on the fly based on current wait times and availability. This centralized approach to planning can save time and reduce confusion among group members.

People walking to disneyland

To Park Hop or Not

Park hopping between Disneyland Park and Disney California Adventure can offer more flexibility in your day, allowing you to experience attractions and entertainment in both parks. However, it requires an additional cost on top of your ticket. Consider your priorities and whether the extra expense is worth the ability to move between parks. For many, the variety and additional options justify the cost, especially during longer visits.

Disneyland Resort Station at night after theme park closed
argentozeno_th / Shutterstock.com

Prioritize Must-See Attractions

Before your visit, make a list of must-see attractions and experiences to ensure you don't miss out on your top priorities. This list will help guide your planning and decision-making throughout the day, ensuring that you allocate time for your must-dos. Be realistic about what you can achieve in one day, and consider using Genie+ or arriving during Early Entry to maximize your chances of experiencing these highlights.

ferris wheel at disneyland

Embrace MagicBand+

MagicBand+ offers a convenient way to access park entry, Lightning Lane entrances, and PhotoPass capture points with a simple tap. This wearable technology can streamline your park experience, reducing the need to pull out tickets or your phone for scanning. Additionally, MagicBand+ features interactive elements, enhancing your engagement with shows, attractions, and character experiences throughout the parks.

Disney's MagicBand Used to enter the parks, unlock your Disney Resort hotel room and buy food and merchandise.
Sadie Mantell / Shutterstock.com

Shop for Souvenirs Online

Consider purchasing souvenirs online before your trip or after you return home. Many Disneyland merchandise items are available on the Disney website or through other retailers, potentially at lower prices. This strategy can save you time and money, allowing you to focus on enjoying the parks instead of shopping. Plus, wearing your Disney gear to the park can add to the excitement and make for great photo opportunities.

Isolated Disneyland Mickey ear hat.
ItzaVU / Shutterstock.com

Shop at the End of Your Day

If you prefer to shop for souvenirs in the parks, do so at the end of your day. The shops on Main Street, U.S.A., and Buena Vista Street remain open for an hour after the parks close, offering a less crowded shopping experience. This timing allows you to enjoy the attractions during the day and shop without feeling rushed as the park closes.

Disney store at Disneyland Paris. Souvenir shop open.

Save Shows for the Afternoon

The first few hours after the park opens are the best times to experience attractions with shorter wait times. Save shows and sit-down experiences for the afternoon when the parks are busier, and you're ready for a break. This strategy allows you to make the most of the morning hours for rides and enjoy entertainment during peak times when you might appreciate sitting down and relaxing.

Interior of chairs and a pillar with purple light lamp against curtains on the stage in the theater of Disneyland
Stock for you / Shutterstock.com

Leverage Single Rider Lines

Single Rider lines can significantly reduce your wait time for certain attractions. This option is perfect for guests who don't mind being separated from their party on the ride. Single Rider lines fill in available seats that would otherwise remain empty, making this a fast-track option for experiencing popular attractions without the long waits of the standard lines.

Army men in disneyland

Meet Your Favorite Characters

Character meet-and-greets are a highlight for many visitors. Plan where and when to meet your favorite characters by checking the Disneyland app for locations and times. Arriving early for meet-and-greets or visiting characters in their designated areas during off-peak times can reduce your wait. Remember, character dining experiences also offer a fun and interactive way to meet multiple characters while enjoying a meal.

Waiting to meet mickey and minnie

Maximize Morning Hours

The morning hours are a golden opportunity to experience attractions with minimal wait times. Plan to arrive at the park before opening and prioritize rides that typically have longer waits later in the day. This early bird strategy allows you to enjoy several attractions before the parks reach their peak crowds.

california adventure attraction

Stay Late for Shorter Lines

As the day progresses, many guests start to leave, especially after the nighttime shows. Staying late can reward you with shorter wait times for attractions and a unique atmosphere as the parks light up at night. The last few hours before closing are often less crowded, offering a more relaxed experience and the opportunity to enjoy rides with minimal waits.

Disneyland Dinosaur at night

Mobile Order Your Meals

Use the Disneyland app to place mobile orders for meals and snacks. This service allows you to order food in advance and pick it up at a designated time, bypassing the regular lines at quick-service restaurants. Mobile ordering can save you significant time, especially during peak dining hours, and gives you more time to enjoy the parks.

popcorn at disneyland

Pack Snacks and Water

Bringing your own snacks and water can save you both time and money. Having snacks on hand means you can eat on the go and avoid lines at snack stands. Staying hydrated is crucial, especially on warm days, and bringing a refillable water bottle allows you to take advantage of the free water refill stations located throughout the parks.

Coca Cola Sign

Wear Comfortable Footwear

Comfortable footwear is essential for a day at Disneyland, where you'll be walking and standing for extended periods. Choose shoes that provide good support and are well broken-in to avoid blisters and discomfort. Your feet will thank you after a long day of exploring the parks.

Disneyland Shoes

Keep Your Bag Light

A light bag means more freedom to move around and enjoy the attractions. Pack only the essentials, such as sunscreen, a portable charger, and any necessary medications. Consider what you'll truly need for the day and leave unnecessary items behind or in a rented locker.

Lots of fish in a bag

Capture Memories with PhotoPass

Disney's PhotoPass service allows professional photographers to capture your group's magical moments throughout the parks. Investing in PhotoPass or Genie+ with PhotoPass included means you can enjoy unlimited digital downloads of your photos. This service ensures you have high-quality memories of your visit without having to constantly stop and take pictures yourself.

Kid near cinderellas carousel

Check for Ride Refurbishments

Before your visit, check the Disneyland website or app for information on ride refurbishments and closures. This preparation ensures you're aware of which attractions will be unavailable during your visit, allowing you to adjust your plans accordingly and avoid disappointment.

Sign at amusement/theme park attraction turnstile entrance: "This attraction is currently CLOSED"
Benjamin Clapp / Shutterstock.com

Celebrate Special Occasions

If you're celebrating a special occasion, such as a birthday or anniversary, make sure to mention it to cast members. You may receive a special button to wear, which can lead to magical moments and well-wishes from both cast members and other guests throughout the day.

Close up of a costumed actor of DOnald Duck in a float during a parade in Disneyland Paris park.
Maxew / Shutterstock.com

Find Less Crowded Parade Spots

While Main Street, U.S.A., offers iconic views for parades, it can also be one of the most crowded spots. Explore less crowded areas along the parade route for a more comfortable viewing experience. Ask cast members for recommendations on where to watch, or consider viewing from areas near the beginning or end of the parade route for less congestion.

Hongkong disneyland and parade show
Jarva Jar / Shutterstock.com

Rest During Shows

Shows and sit-down experiences provide a perfect opportunity to rest and recharge during a busy day at the parks. Plan to attend shows during the hottest part of the day or when you need a break from walking. This strategy allows you to enjoy entertainment while giving your feet a much-needed rest.

Disney characters at Disney on Ice show / cartoon heroes
ToskanaINC / Shutterstock.com

Plan for Weather

Check the weather forecast before your visit and pack accordingly. Bring layers for cooler mornings and evenings, and consider a poncho or umbrella for rainy days. Being prepared for the weather ensures you can continue to enjoy the parks comfortably, regardless of the conditions.

Elsa statue in green

Set Meeting Points

With large crowds and many distractions, it's easy to get separated from your group. Set specific meeting points throughout the parks in case anyone gets lost. Choose easily recognizable landmarks and make sure everyone in your party knows where to go if they can't find the group.

Its a small world building at disneyland

Keep Your Phone Charged

Your phone is a vital tool for navigating the parks, using the Disneyland app, and capturing memories. Bring a portable charger to keep your phone charged throughout the day. This ensures you can continue to access wait times, dining reservations, and your digital ticket without worrying about battery life.

Person taking picture with iphone

Know Height Requirements

Before your visit, familiarize yourself with the height requirements for rides. This preparation helps manage expectations, especially for young children and allows you to plan which attractions your group can enjoy together. Height requirement information is available on the Disneyland website and app.

Goofys sky school ride

View Fireworks from Different Locations

While in front of Sleeping Beauty Castle is a popular spot for fireworks, it can also be very crowded. Explore alternative viewing locations around the park for different perspectives and potentially less crowded experiences. Ask cast members for their favorite spots or consider viewing from areas like the Rivers of America or near "it's a small world."

Disneyland Fireworks

Use Park Maps and Guides

Familiarize yourself with park maps and guides, available both in physical form at the park entrances and digitally through the Disneyland app. Knowing the layout of the parks can help you navigate more efficiently, reducing the time spent walking back and forth between attractions.

Signs at disneyland

Make Dining Reservations

Popular table-service restaurants at Disneyland can fill up quickly, especially during peak seasons. Make dining reservations up to 60 days in advance through the Disneyland app or website. Securing reservations ensures you have a guaranteed spot to enjoy a sit-down meal, offering a break from the hustle and bustle of the parks.

Entrance to the Rose & Crown Dining Room from a recent trip to Walt Disney World.

Stay Hydrated

Staying hydrated is crucial for a long day at Disneyland, especially during warmer months. Bring a refillable water bottle and take advantage of the free water refill stations located throughout the parks. Keeping hydrated helps maintain your energy levels and ensures you can keep exploring the magic all day long.

Disneyland water tower

Eat at Off-Peak Times

Dining at off-peak times can significantly reduce your wait for food. Consider having meals during non-traditional hours, such as an early lunch or a late dinner. This strategy saves you time and allows you to enjoy popular dining locations with less crowding.

Disney's Plaza Restaurant vintage sign.

Be Flexible

While having a plan is important, sometimes the best moments at Disneyland come from spontaneous decisions. Be open to changing your plans based on current wait times, unexpected opportunities, or simply how your group is feeling. Flexibility can lead to discovering new favorite attractions or experiences you hadn't initially considered.

 Mickey Mouse and Friends in Tokyo Disney Land.

Use the Disneyland Railroad

The Disneyland Railroad offers a scenic and relaxing way to travel between different areas of the park. Use it as a means of transportation to save time walking between lands or simply as a way to rest your feet while enjoying a unique view of the park. The railroad makes stops at Main Street, U.S.A., New Orleans Square, Mickey's Toontown, and Tomorrowland.

Tomorrowland sign

Plan Your Park Route

Strategize your route through the park to minimize backtracking and save time. Consider the locations of your must-do attractions and plan a logical path that takes you from one to the next efficiently. This planning can help you experience more attractions with less walking, making your day more enjoyable.

Street at disneyland

Enjoy Lesser-Known Attractions

Don't overlook the lesser-known attractions at Disneyland. These can offer unique experiences with shorter wait times than the headline attractions. Exploring these hidden gems can provide a more relaxed pace and introduce you to aspects of the park you might not have experienced otherwise.

Spiderman at disneyland

Take Advantage of Photo Opportunities

Disneyland is filled with iconic photo spots, from Sleeping Beauty Castle to Pixar Pier. Take time to capture these memories, but also be on the lookout for unique photo opportunities throughout the parks. Character meet-and-greets, beautifully themed areas, and even candid moments can make for memorable photos.

Balloons at disneyland

Participate in Interactive Experiences

Many attractions and queues at Disneyland offer interactive elements that can enhance your experience. Engage with these features to make waiting in line more enjoyable and immersive. From playing games on the Play Disney Parks app to interacting with elements in queue areas, these experiences can add an extra layer of fun to your visit.

Sunset at Tokyo Disneyland

Respect Park Rules and Cast Members

Following park rules and showing respect for cast members and fellow guests ensures a positive experience for everyone. Listen to instructions, dispose of trash properly, and be courteous in interactions. Cast members are there to help make your visit magical, and a little kindness goes a long way.

Princess Tiana and Prince Nareen from The Princess and The Frog at Disneyland

Leave Time for Exploration

While it's important to have a plan, also allow for some unplanned time to simply explore and soak in the magic of Disneyland. Wander through the themed lands, discover hidden details, and enjoy the ambiance of the parks. These moments of exploration can lead to unexpected discoveries and enrich your overall experience.

Castle at disneylandBy incorporating these tips into your Disneyland visit, you're set to have a magical and efficient adventure filled with cherished memories and minimal wait times. Enjoy the magic!

Kyle

Article WriterKyle

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