Disneyland. Just the sound of it sends jolts of nostalgia and wonder through the hearts of all who have been there, and a sense of excitement and longing in the hearts of those who wish to go. No matter how many times you journey through the original Magic Kingdom, each visit is destined to bring new experiences, new joy and mold new precious memories.
Just how do you make the most of your trip to Disneyland? Especially if you’re planning a first visit, or you haven’t been to the park in years, how do you ensure your Disneyland vacation will be all you imagine and then some? You can start with this brand new, up-to-date Disneyland vacation planning guide, designed to get you on your way to a magical Disneyland vacation for you and your family!
Disneyland Vacation Planning: 2010 Disneyland Vacation Tips and Advice!
Disneyland is located at 1313 S. Disneyland Drive in Anaheim, CA. The Disneyland Resort in Anaheim, which encompasses Disneyland park, the Disney California Adventure Park, and three Disney Resort hotels, makes up 510 acres of Southern California fun (Walt Disney Parks & Resorts Fact Sheet). Though the park began as a much smaller, more intimate amusement park, Walt Disney’s famous vision of the park “never being complete” is ever-present. Thus, the Disneyland Resort, and all of its latest offerings.
Disney’s California Adventure Park, the under-themed and less-popular sister property to the original Disneyland park, opened in 2001. If the state of California were a giant postcard, so to speak, DCA was intended to allow guests the ability to step inside. Downtown Disney, located near the entrance to both Disneyland and DCA, offers visitors nearby shopping and eating choices that don’t involve costly admission to the parks. For now, we’re going to explore Disneyland. Check back soon for the DCA vacation guide!
Disneyland Vacation Tips: When To Visit, What To Bring and Where To Stay?
If you’ve decided to visit the Disneyland Resort, congratulations! You’re in store for the vacation of a lifetime, as long as you do the proper planning. First, you need to figure out the basics. Depending on your flexibility, you may not have a choice on the “when”. However, as experienced Disney guests, we can tell you the general rule says the park is likely to be most crowded during the summer months, holidays, as well as most Saturdays, and this usually rings true.
If your goal is to avoid crowds, try to plan your Disneyland vacation between mid-September through mid-October, mid-January through mid-February, or between Memorial Day and mid-June. Expect the biggest crowds on holidays, and Fridays and Saturdays (especially during the summer).
Now, on to where to stay! You have many, many choices in lodging in the Anaheim area. If you opt to stay at one of the Disneyland Resort hotels, you have three choices: the original Disneyland Hotel, Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa, and Disney’s Paradise Pier Hotel. You can find more information on all three of these Disney Resort hotels right here!
A more budget-friendly alternative to staying on Disney property is staying nearby. Consider one of the Disneyland Good Neighbor Hotel properties, many of which include free breakfasts and shuttles to the Disney parks. Of particular note, the Hyatt Regency Orange County. This gorgeous property boasts two pools, two restaurants, a fitness suite, well-appointed rooms under $100 per night*, complimentary full breakfast buffet*, a free shuttle to Disneyland, and even views of the Disney fireworks nightly in the south parking lot. The Hyatt Regency Orange County is currently our preferred hotel when staying in Anaheim, and we highly recommend the property.
Disneyland Resort: Vacation Planning & Tips
You’ve selected your hotel and booked your dates, and now you need to plan for the parks! To truly enjoy Disneyland and all the resort has to offer, a multi-day visit is recommended. A two or three-day pass is likely your best bet, depending on how much fun you can handle in one week. While only one day will limit you, more than three may have you crawling out of the parks on your hands and knees, begging for mercy.
Hot Tip: Save a few dollars (and we mean just a few dollars) off the regular gate admission by buying your Disneyland Resort tickets online and printing them out at home. A one-day, one-park ticket costs $68 for kids 3-9, and $76 for ages 10 and over. A two-day, two-park Park Hopper ticket will run you $146 for kids 3-9, and $161 for ages 10 and over. A three-day, two-park Park Hopper ticket costs $165 for kids 3-9, and $186 for those 10 and over.
For all current Disneyland ticket prices and promotions, click here. *All prices are current as of October 1, 2010 and reflect the rate for online purchase. Tickets cost slightly more at the park gates.
Disneyland Rides & Attractions: Tips, Tricks and Using FastPass
Only you know which rides are the “best” rides at Disneyland, because everyone’s favorite is subjective. Our votes for best Disneyland rides include Pirates of the Caribbean, Splash Mountain, Peter Pan’s Flight and the Mad Tea Party. Our official Kid’s Picks include Splash Mountain, Autopia, Dumbo the Flying Elephant and the Astro Orbiter.
The best way to enjoy the Disneyland rides is, of course, to be on them, and not standing around waiting for them. To avoid lines, use the FastPass system when possible. Some popular attractions, such as Splash Mountain and Autopia, offer the ability to obtain a pass that tells you what time to come back for your turn. When you arrive back at the FastPass entrance to your ride, you may only wait for five to ten minutes, maybe less, to board the ride. Without a pass, your wait time might have been up to an hour!
Hot Tip: Want to ride a popular ride twice? Get a FastPass for it, then stand in line and ride it once while you wait for your FastPass to be active. Then, you get to ride twice with only one wait on line!
Always get a FastPass for a ride as soon as you know you want to ride it, and go do other things during your “wait time”. Note: the FastPass queue may close for certain rides well before the park does. Only a certain number of these passes are doled out each day. Don’t miss out, ride the FastPass rides you care most about early!
Don’t plan to stack your FastPasses though; you can usually only have one FastPass out at a time. When you insert your Disneyland Passport into the FP machine, you get a printed pass. If you already have one in the system, you will usually have to use it before getting another.
Disneyland Rides & Attractions: More Tips
Kids love the Dumbo and Astro Orbiter rides because they can control the hydraulic lift system themselves, and make the car go up and down as it spins around and around by pulling a lever. Adults and brave children over 40 inches tall will love Splash Mountain for its log-ride feel and giant plunge down Chickapin Hill.
Hot Tip: Want to keep your feet dry? Disney cast members won’t allow you on Splash Mountain without shoes, but you can bring gallon-sized Ziploc bags to put over your feet! Yes, we’ve tried this, and it really works. An ounce of prevention (or a few baggies in your pocket) can help you prevent getting blisters from walking around in wet sneakers.
Keep in mind, many popular Disneyland rides and attractions do not offer FastPass, and you will likely experience delays. Rides such as Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride, Finding Nemo’s Submarine Voyage, Peter Pan’s Flight and Dumbo the Flying Elephant do not currently offer FastPass and often have a wait time of well over 30 minutes. If these rides are important to you, don’t be surprised you may have to devote quite a chunk of time on line to enjoy them.
Hot Tip: If your favorite ride is more exciting than watching a parade or the fireworks, try to ride during those times. A vast amount of park guests will be standing still or searching for a great viewing spot right before and during these special events, so this is a prime time to ride popular attractions without such a long wait.
Smoking and Drinking at the Happiest Place On Earth
If you smoke, you may be worried about the general non-smoking status of the state of California. You can’t smoke in restaurants, bars or even on the beach anymore, but what about Disneyland? While it’s true that Disneyland is mostly non-smoking, there are three designated spots where you can puff away without getting dirty looks or booted out of the park.
There is one smoking area located between New Orleans Square and Critter Country, on the banks of the Rivers of America, adjacent to the Haunted Mansion. Another smoking area can be found behind Big Thunder Mountain, on the path that leads from Frontierland to Fantasyland. The third and final smoking area in Disneyland is between the Matterhorn and the Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage.
Hot Tip: Want a glass of wine with dinner, or a nice, cold beer to break up the hot, sunny day? You’ll be out of luck at Disneyland. While you can imbibe at the Disney California Adventure park, at Downtown Disney and Disney hotel restaurants and bars, the Disneyland park itself is alcohol-free (with the exception of Club 33, an exclusive, members-only club and restaurant located in New Orleans Square).
Disneyland Vacation Tips: Staying Safe and Saving Money
Besides riding every ride twice, most people have two main goals while on vacation at Disneyland: to stay safe, and to not go over budget. With Disneyland Resort so full of hustle and bustle, and brimming with thousands of people daily, it is wise to go over important details with your children before beginning your adventure.
Have older children memorize your cell phone number, and ensure you have it with you and charged. For younger children, write important information on a slip of paper, and stick it in your child’s pocket, backpack or fanny-pack. Include your name, your child’s name, the hotel you’re staying at and your cell phone number.
Instruct children to approach a Disney cast member in the event you become separated, and point out examples of cast members as you play in the park. Also remind children it is usually safe to approach a family with children and ask for help calling Mommy or Daddy.
Hot Tip: Saving money at Disneyland may be a bit more difficult than simply staying together and keeping safe in the park, but it can be done. Though the Disneyland website says no outside food or drinks are allowed in the park, these rules are fairly flexible. We had success bringing water bottles and small snacks into the park on multiple days.
Bringing your own water bottle can save money and time for the first few hours of playtime, as you can simply refill it at water fountains near most of the restrooms. When you are ready to give in and buy a fresh bottle of ice cold water from a vendor, it will set you back $3 per bottle.
A few snacks are handy not just to stave off hunger on the cheap, but also to keep little ones occupied in line. A small bag of goldfish crackers, chips or an apple are great choices, and travel easily. When it is time to sit down for a real meal, look for decent value in your selections.
Snag a satisfying personal pizza at Village Haus (Fantasyland) and a drink for around $8, or sidle up to the counter of Bengal Barbecue (Adventureland) for inexpensive, yet tasty meat and veggie skewers. Top off your reasonably priced lunch or dinner with a churros or ice cream from a street vendor on the way to your next adventure for just a few dollars more!
Hot Tip: Want a fun treat found only at Disney Resorts? At $3.49, the Mickey Mouse-shaped hot pretzel available at some eateries (such as the Bengal BBQ) is sure to please your taste buds and your wallet!
Disneyland Vacation Tips: Shopping and Souvenirs
To continue enjoying your Disneyland vacation long after you’ve left the Magic Kingdom, you’ll need to bring a piece of the park home with you. While many guests stay on budget right up until they enter the shops on Main Street, you can find a balance if you try.
Disneyland pins and pressed pennies make great and inexpensive souvenirs, but don’t stop there. Take your time popping in shops as you play at the park, but don’t buy right away. On your last day at Disney, allow an extra hour for returning to shops you liked, and purchase select items then. You can find great screen-printed tank tops with Minnie Mouse on Main Street for under $30, and kids will love the gags available at the Houdini’s Main Street Magic Shop.
Hot Tip: If your kids choose their souvenir from the Magic Shop, they’ll often get a free magic trick performed at the counter with their purchase!
Hot Tip: If you’re inclined to purchase a photo of your trip down Splash Mountain for $14.99, think again. When you exit the ride and see your image on the screens, use your own camera to snap some pictures of it. When you get home, you can choose the best copy, crop it and adjust the exposure if needed and you’ll likely have a shot worth framing for free!
Author Visit – Personal Review: August 2010
Disneyland web site for ticket prices and some details