10 Tips to Help You Cruise Through Disney Like a Pro

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!


Disneyland Mobile

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. 


Soarin California

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.

Disneyland Small World

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)

9:00 Autotopia 


California Adventure

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. 


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.


Disneyland Small World


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.


For our family, we have some absolute musts where we eat every time we visit. They include: 


At Disneyland:

Cafe Orleans


  • Cafe Orleans – Monte Cristo and Pom Frittes is the stuff of dreams 


Dole Whip


  • Tiki Bar – Dole Whip. Yes, please!! 


Bengal Barbeque


  • Bengal Barbecue – Meat on a stick, what’s not to love


At California Adventure:

Lamplight Lounge


  • 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. 


Disneyland_Fuel Rod

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.


Disneyland food

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. 


Disneyland Goofy

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.


Disneyland California Adventure

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?


Our Favorite Hotels within Walking Distance to Disneyland

When choosing a hotel to stay at for your Disneyland trip, a quick google search will result in dozens and dozens of options. How to pick?!

For our family, it usually comes down to these 3 criteria:

  1. Walking Distance. The first time we went to Disneyland, we had a 1, 3 and 6 year old. Our two youngest were still taking naps and we weren’t sure we wanted to have to rely on a shuttle to get us to and from the park. We liked that we could come and go as needed, although we ended up not going back to the hotel for naps like we thought (turned out our girls took great naps in the stroller!). Fast forward, now our youngest is 7 and we still prefer to stay within walking distance. We don’t have to worry about parking at Disneyland or paying for the ART (shuttle) to get us to and from the park.
  2. Affordable. For us, we want to stay somewhere that doesn’t break the bank so we can spend our money at Disneyland! Paying a few hundred less for an hotel means we can splurge a little bit more at the Park on food, souvenirs and more food. Always food.
  3. Family Friendly. That can mean a lot of different things, but for us it means that the 5 of us can sleep comfortably in one room and the hotel is clean.


So, which hotels do we stay at? Read on below to see!


Castle Inn

1734 Harbor Blvd, Anaheim, CA 92802

Our kids love this hotel for obvious reason- it looks like a Castle! We like it because it often has special offers like pay 3 nights, get the 4th free. It is about a 20 minute walk from your hotel door to Disney’s entrance gate pushing a double stroller. Very doable. Our six year old easily walked the entire time. It is located on the South side of Disneyland along Harbor Blvd, along with many other hotels and food chains. They also updated the rooms a few years ago and have suites that can easily accommodate large families.

Breakfast Included: NO  Outdoor Pool: YES  Indoor pool: NO  Parking Fee: FREE for one car

Fairfield Inn Anaheim Resort

1460 South Harbor Boulevard, Anaheim, CA 92802

This is probably the closest non-Disney hotel to Disneyland. It is right across the street from the entrance, on Harbor Blvd, giving it about a 10 minute walk to the park.  This hotel consistently has low prices, but never really has deals or specials. They also have fun themed rooms and suites.

Breakfast Included: NO  Outdoor Pool: YES  Indoor Pool: NO  Parking Fee: $19 per day

Holiday Inn and Suites Anaheim

1240 S. Walnut Street  Anaheim, CA 92802

It’s no secret we are huge fans of Holiday Inn. They consistently provide quality rooms for great prices and offer great rewards to loyal customers. We love that this one is tucked behind Disneyland and our kids love that we can take the ‘secret’ entrance in to the Park. The secret entrance is really just the monorail located on the north side of Downtown Disney. After you’ve ‘activated’ your Disney ticket the first day, you can enter and exit the park here rather than walking all the way to the entrance. Time saver on those subsequent days for sure. It is about a 20 minute walk from the hotel to the Monorail entrance. A little extra if you walk through Downtown Disney and the enter through the main Disney gate. As the name suggests, they offer suites for large families included fun Disney-themed suites. We stayed in the Fairy room last time and our girls thought it was the coolest.

Breakfast Included: NO but kids eat free  Outdoor Pool: YES. They also have a splash pad. Indoor Pool: NO  Parking Fee: $12 per day

As always, to get the best deals, we always book with Getaway Today.  

During our travels, we usually do opt to stay at a hotel that also includes breakfast, however with our Disney trip, that isn’t a priority. Certainly there are many hotels that offer complementary breakfast, usually further away from Disneyland which means we can no longer walk, and sometimes with an increased cost associated. The main reason we don’t care if the breakfast is included is because we often arrive at the park early- 8 am. Rather than spend time eating breakfast at the hotel, we’d rather get to the park! What do you we do for breakfast? Well, we often bring things we can eat as we move: granola bars, protein bars, Bel Vita Crackers,  Go Gurts, fruit, trail mix etc.  All these hotels have mini fridges that can keep stuff cool, even if they don’t have full kitchens. Another reason we don’t care if the hotel serves breakfast is because we LOVE to have breakfast at Disneyland with Minnie and Friends on Main Street during our visit. The buffet is awesome!


So, what are your favorite hotels to stay at when visiting Disneyland?  What amenities or features do you look for?


Should We Purchase the MaxPass at Disneyland?

 We waited no longer than 30 minutes at Disneyland in the Summer!!  How? Read below!

Yes! It’s true. Our family visited our favorite place in August 2017 and initially we were hesitant about visiting during what we consider a very busy time of year. In fact, we’ve never visited in the summer because we avoid those crowds at all costs. BUT it was the only time we could go. And when given the choice between Disney or NO Disney- we always choose Disney! Rather than park hopper tickets, we decided to just spend one day at each park (which is that we usually do. We prefer the ‘one park per day’ tickets.)  We only had two days and to maximize our time, we decided to give Disney’s new MaxPass a try!

SO, WHAT IS DISNEY’S MAXPASS? The quick answer is that MaxPass is Disney’s fastpass system accessible through the app on your cell phone!

DOES IT COST MONEY?  While the Disney App is free, the MaxPass does cost $10 PER PERSON. For our family of 5, it cost $50 per day ($100 since we spent two days total).

IS IT WORTH IT? YES! During peak time at Disneyland we were able to avoid lines and really enjoy all the rides and attractions without any issues.

IS ANYTHING ELSE INCLUDED WITH IT? Yes! Disney’s PhotoPass is also included in that price. We were thrilled to have access to this awesome feature- no more asking random strangers to take your group shots. Disney’s photographers are there for that- and don’t forget those awesome magic shots (our family’s favorite! We love getting those and seeing surprise Disney characters show up in our pictures.) You can also download and share photos from select dining locations, attractions, and Character Greetings.

See our MAXPASS Schedule below!

California Adventure Photo Magic at Disneyand

Here is what our time at the Happiest Place looked like with the MaxPass:

Disneyland – August 14

9:00 a.m. Monorail
9:20 Inside Disneyland
9:30 Astro Blasters and Space Mountain separately
10:00 Astro Blasters again (Max pass temporarily stopped working)
10:15 (Max passes working again, pulled Matterhorn for starting at 10:40)
10:26 Snow White
10:40 Casey Junior
11:06 Matterhorn (MaxPass) – Pulled Max Pass for Indiana Jones for starting at 1:15
11:20 Rider Switch at Matterhorn
11:30 It’s a Small World
Noon Made reservations for Orleans Café
12:06 Winnie the Pooh
12:30 Eating at Orleans – Pulled MaxPass for Splash Mountain at 12:32
1:00 Splash Mountain
1:40 Haunted Mansion
2:05 Indiana Jones
2:15 Rider Switch at Indiana Jones
2:30 River Cruise
2:36 Meet Moana
2:35 Indiana Jones again (Bigger kids)
2:45 Tarzan House (Little kid)
2:55 Pirates of the Caribbean
3:30 Tarzan House again
3:41 River Jungle Cruise again
4:00 Take a rest and save seats for parade
Quick Tiki treat
4:30 Watch parade
5:00 Peter Pan
5:32 Finally ride Peter Pan after technical difficulty
5:42 Mr. Toads Wild Ride
6:15 Storybook Island
6:30 Alice in Wonderland
6:53 Pinocchio
7:20 Pirates of the Caribbean
7:48 Dinner Bengals Barbeque
8:30 Parade (should have gone earlier but still got a decent spot on the side of Tomorrowland)
9:20 Pulled MaxPass for Star Tours and rode 10 minutes later
9:38 Autotopia (5 minute wait)
10:03 Finding Nemo
10:30 Done with Nemo – half asleep
10:44 Matterhorn
10:50 Monorail

MaxPass on Grizzly River Rapids

California Adventure – August 15

10:20 Inside California Adventure – Pulled MaxPass for Radiator Springs Racers for starting at 12:20
10:25 Grabbed World of Color MaxPass
10:30 Grizzly River Run (10-minute wait in standby line)
10:55 Registered for Avenger Training
11:05 Monsters Inc.
11:15 Jeff waited to meet Spider Man; Emily and kids rode Monsters Inc. again
11:45 Met Spider-Man – Pulled Toy Story MaxPass
11:50 Bug’s Life – Meimlich
12:05 Bumper Bugs
12:20 Radiator Springs Racers (bit of a wait – not more than 30 though)
1:00 Lunch at Flo’s — pulled MaxPass for Guardians of the Galaxy for between 5:15 and 6:15
1:35 Toy Story
2:00 Ariel’s Undersea Adventure
2:15 Bus Life again
2:30 Jeff in line for Frozen play
3:00 Frozen play
4:00 Pulled Max Pass for Screamin’ California
4:15 Screamin’ California
4:20 Check-in at Avenger Training
4:45 Avenger Training – Kids on stage – Pulled MaxPass for Toy Story for starting at 7:55
5:02 Guardian of Galaxy (down to three cars – slow 30 minute wait)
6:15 Watch Pixar water parade in shade (Emily saved seats while we were at Guardian)
6:46 Tow Mater
7:02 Luigi’s dance
7:29 MaxPass on Soarin’
8:10 Kids and Emily ride toy story, while Jeff save seats for World of Color
8:30 Kids and Emily ride King Tristan’s carousel
9:00 World of Color

World of Color with MaxPass

The Long Answer to what exactly is Disney’s Max Pass is that any ride that has a FastPass  option, you can ‘reserve’ your spot through your phone. Instead of running around to each of the FastPass rides and scanning your ticket to reserve your spot, you simply reserve it on your phone! The cool thing is that when you open the app to reserve your spot, you can see what the available FastPass options are. Some you may be able to reserve and ride almost immediately! It is quite efficient! It’s important to note that ONLY rides with FastPass options are available in the MAX pass option- so if ride (like Peter Pan) doesn’t have a FastPass option in person, it won’t have a MaxPass option either.

Here are a list of the current FASTPASS Ride Options:

Disneyland Park
Big Thunder Mountain Railroad
Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters
Haunted Mansion
Haunted Mansion Holiday
Indiana Jones™ Adventure
“it’s a small world” Holiday
Matterhorn Bobsleds
Roger Rabbit’s Car Toon Spin
Space Mountain
Space Mountain Ghost Galaxy
Splash Mountain
Star Tours – The Adventures Continue

Disney California Adventure Park
Goofy’s Sky School
Grizzly River Run
Guardians of the Galaxy – Mission: BREAKOUT!
Guardians of the Galaxy – Monsters After Dark
Radiator Springs Racers
Soarin’ Around the World
Toy Story Midway Mania!
World of Color

How to Purchase and Use Disney MaxPass If You Have Tickets:
1. Download the Disneyland app.
2. Enter the park you wish to visit using your tickets. ***This is an important step.  You MUST be inside the park to purchase the MaxPass. ***
3. Open the Disneyland app.
4. Tap the circular character icon at the bottom of the screen.
5. Sign in with your Disney account.
6. Tap “Get FASTPASS with Disney MaxPass”.
7. Select all Guests in your party who wish to use the Disney MaxPass feature—if someone is not listed, link their ticket or pass.
8. Purchase the Disney MaxPass feature for any Guests who do not already have it.
9. Make your FASTPASS selections and enjoy your Disney PhotoPass downloads.

Other Disney questions you may have:

Where is the best deal to buy Disney Tickets?  Our favorite place that always has the very best deals is Getaway Today!  It is the only place we buy our Disney Tickets. Not only do they have the best deal, they have the best customer service. We accidentally reserved our tickets for the wrong weekend (my bad! In my excitement I didn’t double check our dates). Not a problem for Getaway Today, though. They quickly worked with Disney to get our tickets ready for us. If you have any questions or issues, give them a call. They frequently visit the parks and nearby hotels and can give you a personal account and help answer any questions you might have!  We also buy our Character Dining Vouchers from them. For more information on Character Dining at Disney, check out our post about that here.

Where is the best place to stay? Well, it really is just a matter of preference, but we prefer to stay as close to the parks as we can for cheapest price we can find. For more details on where we like to stay, check out our post on that here.