Being a reader of this blog has its perks: These tips and secrets will help you cruise through Disneyland and California Adventure like a pro, improving your family’s trip to the happiest place on earth. Have fun!
1. MOBILE ORDERING FOOD
Long lines are not reserved for rides alone. You’d be amazed at how long the lines are for food, drinks, and treats. It’s crazy to us how much time is wasted while waiting in line to order food. The free Disneyland mobile app offers you the ability to order your food in a few quick taps – bypassing lines- easily saving 15 to 30 minutes each time you order(if not more). The first week of June, there was a major heat wave in Southern California. Temperatures were in the mid-nineties. As we walked by the Dole Whip station outside the Tiki Lounge, there were more than 30 people in line. We walked by them all, pulled out our phone and ordered, and within five minutes had our three dole whips! This service is offered for nearly all the quick-service restaurants at Disneyland and California Adventure.
We get that Disney is already expensive enough, so why spend an additional $15 per day per ticket on the MaxPass? If you are going to make the commitment to go to the park, do it the right way: make it more enjoyable for you and your children by bypassing as many long lines as you can, all from the convenience of your own phone. With a MaxPass, there is no need to run around the park chasing down Fast Passes. This past week, we rode Radiator Springs Racers a total of 10 times. During this period, the wait times were often 80 minutes, sometimes a whopping 120 minutes! That’s A LOT of time to be waiting in line! The only long line we are willing to wait in is Peter Pan! By purchasing the MaxPass, the longest line you will wait in is maybe 20 minutes for rides that offer FastPasses. In addition, PhotoPass is included with your MaxPass. We may have a small obsession with magic shots (ask a Disney photographer for details). Even without the magic shots, PhotoPass is such a nice feature that all five of us can get in a high-quality photo (no mom or dad hiding behind the camera!). For all the details on the MaxPass, see our previous post here.
Here is a sample of a day in the park with a MaxPass. We did this on the last day of our Disney trip in the midst of Star Wars-hype. Please note we were pretty exhausted and not trying that hard … We had no schedule and no plan as it was our fifth day in the park on the Park-hopper ticket.
9:45 Enter Disneyland
10:00 Order and eat Macaron
10:15 Peter Pan
10:35 Splash Mountain
11:00 Winnie the Pooh
11:30 Meet the Disney Princesses
12:30 Radiator Springs (MaxPass)
1:00 IncrediCoaster (MaxPass)
1:30 Soarin’ (MaxPass)
2 – 4 Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge Exclusive on Wristbands
4:00 Big Thunder (Fast Pass)
4:30 Enchanted Tiki Room
5:00 Matterhorn (MaxPass – ride broke, so we pulled Small World instead to get out of heat)
5:15 Small World (MaxPass)
5:45 Radiator Springs (MaxPass)
6:15 Dinner at Smokejumper Grill
6:30 Shopping at Off the Wall
7:00 Monsters Inc
7:30 Final Souvenirs and popcorn in California Adventure
8:30 Matterhorn (MaxPass)
3. MAKE A PLAN
Whether you are going for one day or five, having a plan will help you make sure you accomplish all that you want to do and see. Make a list of all the rides, shows, attractions, character greetings, and places you want to eat. Some of the sit-down restaurants like Lamplight Lounge or Cafe Orleans, can fill up quickly and we suggest making reservations (this can be done for free on the Disneyland mobile app). Some flexibility is required with the MaxPass, so the list will help you prioritize your way through the park. For example, the MaxPasses for Radiator Springs Racers are often gone by 3 p.m. If you are hoping to experience that ride twice in a day, the first MaxPass to pull would be for this. Then, you can pull a second MaxPass to ride it again later in the evening. Good to know: While normally you can only pull one MaxPass at a time, you can simultaneously pull a MaxPass for World of Color or Fantasmic AND a ride.
4. STRATEGIZE YOUR RIDES AT THE RIGHT TIMES
Here are a few pointers:
- Rides like Finding Nemo, Peter Pan, and Alice in Wonderland have slow-moving lines, so do these at the first of the day, end of the day, or during parades. Just recognize you will still wait in line, but not nearly as long.
- In fact, riding any ride during the parades, Fantasmic, and fireworks, you will typically find shorter lines (if you are ok to miss the parade or show or have already seen it). For example, riding Pirates of the Caribbean or Haunted Mansion during 8 to 9:30 p.m., you’ll have virtually no wait times as most people will be waiting for the show to start. Typically, if it’s a night that we are watching the fireworks, a show, or parade, we pack a blanket and have one of us parents stay with our stuff, while the other enjoys the rides with the kids.
- MaxPasses go quickly for popular rides, so pull those early and often. For example, as mentioned above, we always pull one for Radiator Springs Racers first because we want to be able to ride it on the MaxPass two if not three times in a day. If you want to ride Splash Mountain or Grizzly River Rapids on standby, even on a hot day the lines will be short before 10:30 a.m. (and yes, it’s plenty hot to ride first thing!).
Also, if you want to stay until the park closes (Disneyland specifically), and if you can stay awake that late (haha!), the lines are much shorter the last 1-2 hours.
5. TAKE ADVANTAGE OF COOL SPACES ON HOT DAYS
At Disneyland, It’s a Small World will give you almost 20 minutes seated in a relaxing cool place. Also, the Tiki room is another great option to get off your feet and out of the sun. It’s become a favorite place of ours to enjoy a Dole Whip and a cute little show. We recognize that Splash Mountain will be super popular during the heat of the day, but it isn’t the only place to cool down.
In California Adventure, you’ll find the coldest space in the Sorcerer’s Workshop. It’s not too crowded and geared toward younger children, but is still really cute and worth spending some time there especially during the hottest part of the day. We also recommend seeing Frozen at the Hyperion Theater to cool off. The play lasts almost an hour.
6. AS WALT DISNEY ONCE PREDICTED, “THE FOOD [WILL BE] AS FABULOUS AS THE FUN, TOO.”
For our family, we have some absolute musts where we eat every time we visit. They include:
- Cafe Orleans – Monte Cristo and Pom Frittes is the stuff of dreams
- Tiki Bar – Dole Whip. Yes, please!!
- Bengal Barbecue – Meat on a stick, what’s not to love
At California Adventure:
- Lamplight Lounge – Ohh, the nachos!
- Ghirardelli – The Brownie Sundae will have you at your first bite
- Smokejumpers – Underrated place, but food that’s pretty good.
For more on our favorite Disneyland Eats, click here.
7. STAY CHARGED
Found throughout the Park are many Fuel Rod Stations, where, for a one-time fee of $30, you will receive a portable charging rod with unlimited free swaps. It’s genius. As I tell my wife, ABC – which stands for Always Be Charging! We even had one of the cords break recently and their customer service was awesome. We simply called the customer service number and they asked us which location we were using and they sent us a new cord just like that.
8. STAY HYDRATED
Disney is concerned about the health and safety of their guests. At ANY restaurant, and at any time, simply walk up and ask for a cold ice water and they will give you as many as you’d like for free. During the heat of summer, they had them waiting, so no need to stand in line.
9. STAY SUNBURNED FREE
This might seem basic, but the day will fly by without you realizing it and if you haven’t applied and reapplied sunscreen you’ll be as red as Mickey’s trousers. More important than the SPF protection is remembering to reapply sunscreen every two hours. We typically reapply each time we stop for food if not more often.
10. STAY DRY
Right behind the Grizzly River Rapids there are free lockers as long as you remove your items before their 2-hour limit. You’ll be able to lock up your stuff so it doesn’t get wet. And, when you yourself get absolutely drenched, they have paid family-sized blow dryers. These are typically available only in the cooler months.
We hope that these tips help you make the most of your time at the happiest place on Earth. What tips do you have?