Editor’s note: John Donald provided his top five tips when visiting Disneyland but said the past year — when he and his family made numerous trips to the park and Disney California Adventure — yielded even more. Here they are, just in time for holiday visits:
Assuming you are going multiple days to both Disneyland and Disney California Adventure, know which park has early entry on each day and start at the other one that day. If you go to the one with early entry and you don’t have early entry, the park may be already crowded by the time you get in. (Early entry is offered to guests staying at one of the Disneyland Resort hotels.)
Go during off-season. You can enjoy Disneyland while it’s hot and crowded, but it’s easier to enjoy when it is not. Likewise, it will be less crowded on weekdays than on weekends.
Select your entry line carefully. Split your group into two or more to hedge your bet on which line will move faster. There is a line at every turnstile/number, but some people form only one line — either that line will split into two, or you can form a new line at the number that is not being lined up in front of already.
Stay nourished and hydrated. Don’t wait until you or the kids get hungry and cranky to get a snack. Ask for cups of water at the restaurants or use the many drinking fountains. Also, take a break in the middle of the day when the park is hot and crowded. Go back to the hotel and take a nap or enjoy the pool.
To save money, stay at a non-Disney hotel. There are many decent hotels within a 10-15 minute walk of the gates, and many also have complimentary shuttles to the park, and some have free breakfasts.
Recognize and enjoy the kind of trip you are taking. If you are with small kids, enjoy the experience from their perspective — don’t make them go on scary rides or wait while you go. If you are with slow-moving people, accept it, and enjoy the finer details of the Disneyland experience rather than trying to rush to get on as many rides as possible.
Get a gift card and use it to pay at kiosks to save time and fumbling with change.
The phone apps that tell you how long lines are are not generally useful. You waste too much time looking at your phone, the times are usually not accurate, and any unusually short line will become longer by the time you hustle to the line.
Don’t wait in line to greet characters. But do take advantage of photo ops with characters when they are strolling through the park, or when they first come out. If you aren’t one of the first in line, forget it, you are wasting valuable time.
For more tips, we recommend touringplans.com. They have detailed information on Disneyland and Disneyworld and you can create your own personalized plan using their tools which will maximize your time in the parks. They even provide an estimate of how crowded the parks will be on the days you will be there. They also publish The Unofficial Guide to Disneyland which has a lot of great information.
We hope InMenlo readers have magical visits to the happiest place on earth!
Photos courtesy of Elaine Hammond and John Donald