How to Make the Most of Your Disneyland Vacation

The Disneyland Resort is one of my very favorite vacation destinations. Even though I don’t live super close, I try to visit at least once a year. And being a travel agent that specializes in Disney destinations, I could talk about Disneyland all day! So much preparation goes into planning your Disneyland vacation so let’s talk about some things that will help you make the most of your trip!

Download the Disneyland App

Disney has an app just for the Disneyland Resort! You can do everything from the app! View the park maps, make dining reservations, view attraction wait times, arrange FASTPASSES via Disney MaxPass, order food with the Mobile Ordering option, etc. The app is super convenient and saves a lot of time. It’s really helpful to get familiar with the app before your trip.

Choose a Hotel

The Disneyland Resort has 3 great hotels; Paradise Pier Hotel, Disneyland Hotel, & the Grand Californian Hotel. My personal favorite is the Disneyland Hotel. So much nostalgia from when Walt was alive and the fireworks on the headboards are so cool! There are some perks to staying at one of the resort hotels: all are within an easy walking distance to the parks, guests get Extra Magic Hours at the parks, you can send your in-park purchases back to your resort, and you’ll be fully immersed in the Disney magic.

The Disneyland Resort hotels can be a little expensive though so if they don’t work with your budget, no worries! Disney has many Good Neighbor hotels in the area that are more budget-friendly. There are quite a few also within easy walking distance to the parks! My family and I have stayed at the Howard Johnson Anaheim, Best Western Plus Park Place, Desert Palms Hotel & Suites, Embassy Suites South, and Fairfield Inn by Marriott. We had great experiences at all of those.

Arrange your Travel to the Disneyland Resort

If you are flying in from out of state, we prefer flying into John Wayne Airport in Santa Ana. It’s a short drive to the Disneyland Resort. LAX is usually cheaper but it’s a longer drive and LA traffic can be a hassle. Also, if you decide to rent a vehicle while you’re there, keep in mind that some hotels charge a parking fee. If you don’t want to rent a car, there are lots of shuttle options to get you from the airport to your hotel.

Enjoy Park Hopping

Park hopping at the Disneyland Resort is a breeze! The entrances to each park are right across from each other with a little plaza area in between. It’s nice to be able to take advantage of FASTPASSES at each park throughout the day. If it’s your first visit, however, you might want to tackle one park at a time.

Plan Your Dining

There are so many different dining options at the Disneyland Resort! If you like to dine at table service restaurants, you can make those reservations 60 days in advance. Some restaurants fill up fast so reservations are recommended! There are also lots of quick service restaurants to eat at as well. Some of them offer Mobile Ordering which allows you to order and pay on the app ahead of time and pick up the food when you are ready.

Consider Getting Disney MaxPass

Disney MaxPass is an addition to your park ticket that allows you to make FASTPASS selections from the Disneyland App as well as gives you all PhotoPass photos. It costs $15 per ticket per day but is well worth it in my opinion. Be sure to take advantage of the PhotoPass photographers around the parks if you do purchase MaxPass.

Take Advantage of Rider Switch & Single Rider Line

Traveling with children that don’t meet attraction height requirements? Take advantage of the Rider Switch Pass! Talk to the Cast Member at the entrance of the ride. They’ll need to see the young child that doesn’t meet the height requirement then they’ll give a pass to the adult not riding that will allow them to bring 2 guests to ride with them in the FASTPASS line after the first adult gets off the ride. It is a great way for families with smaller children to still ride the bigger rides.

If you don’t mind splitting up your party on a ride, or if only one guest in your party wants to ride, take advantage of the Single Rider Line. The following attractions offer a single rider line:

Disneyland Single Rider Attractions

  • Indiana Jones Adventure
  • Matterhorn Bobsleds
  • Space Mountain
  • Splash Mountain
  • Star Tours

Disney California Adventure Single Rider Attractions

  • Radiator Springs Racers
  • Incredicoaster
  • Goofy’s Sky School
  • Grizzly River Run

Arrive to the Parks Early

There are so many reasons to arrive to the parks early but the top two are: beat the crowds and beat the heat! You can get so many rides/attractions done in the morning before the crowds start picking up. Also, California is a pretty warm climate so if you aren’t visiting in the winter, the temps can get high. Take advantage of the cooler weather by getting to the parks earlier in the morning. We like to get to the parks 30-45 minutes before park opening so we have time to get through security and get a good spot in line.

Get FASTPASSES First Thing!

As soon as you step foot in the park, book a FASTPASS on your Disneyland App with MaxPass or go to a FASTPASS distribution kiosk and pick up a pass. By starting first thing in the morning, you can get a lot more rides done with little wait time.

Best Times to Ride without FASTPASS

Did you miss one of your favorite rides? Couldn’t snag a FASTPASS? It’s ok! Head over to those rides during parades or nighttime shows. The lines will be shorter then since most guests will be watching the entertainment. If that doesn’t work, go back to the ride just before park closing. The lines will be shorter, but make sure you get in line before the park close time. They won’t kick you out of line and the park will be mostly empty after you get off the ride and head towards the exit.

Shop at the End of the Day

The end of the day is usually the busiest time to shop because Main Street is open 1 hour after closing and everyone has the same idea to wait until the end of the day to get their souvenirs. If you are staying at a Disneyland Resort hotel then shop whenever you’d like and have your items sent back to your hotel. But if not, do your shopping at the end of the day so you don’t have to carry your bags around with you all day.

Know What to Pack in your Day Bag

What you pack in your day bag can vary depending on who you are travelling with. I’m just going to go over the basics:

*Portable Phone Charger-this one is especially important if you like to take lots of photos and videos. You don’t want to be caught midday with 5% battery! *Park Ticket-If you purchase your ticket in advance, don’t forget to have it with you! Either the hard copy or linked to your Disneyland app on your phone. *Sunglasses, Sunscreen, Water-California is a sunny state! Sunglasses and sunscreen are must-haves for me since I burn easily. Water is great to pack in your bag so you don’t have to purchase it in the park (money saver!). *Medications-If you have specific medications you need to take during the day, make sure you pack them in your bag. I also like to pack ibuprofen just in case. *Snacks-This is also a money saving tip! You can bring your own snacks into the parks (just no glass containers).

Have Fun!

The most important tip for making the most of your Disneyland vacation is to always have fun! Things might not go as planned, it could rain, kids get cranky, etc. But don’t let it ruin your trip! Have fun and enjoy the magic of Disney. I’d love to help you plan a magical Disneyland vacation! Email me at for a free quote.



My name is Sara Solberg and I live in Alaska with my husband and 3 children. We love traveling, especially to Disney destinations! I am a Travel Agent and LuLaRoe fashion retailer.

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