Disneyland was a huge part of my childhood. I lived just a few miles away during elementary school and our family had annual passes. Now that I’m grown up, I love Disneyland just as much. But planning a trip with kids can be pretty intimidating, especially if you have never been before. Today I’m sharing all my best tips for planning a successful trip to the happiest place on earth.
1. When To Visit. Go in the off-season if at all possible! It will make your trip so much more enjoyable. Disneyland is busiest in the summer, during Spring Break and from Christmas to New Years. We went the week of Halloween and I was amazed by how short all the lines were. We did not wait long for anything! Check out this picture of my kids standing in front of the castle. Notice anything?
Yeah… they are the only ones in the photo! That never happens at Disneyland! We had one Magic Morning entrance with our tickets, which means we got to go into the park one hour before it opened to the general public. We ran from ride to ride without waiting in a single line. It was amazing! One note about Magic Morning entry is that only Fantasyland and Tomorrowland are open, so plan accordingly. Hotels also tend to be cheaper during the off-season. Just another added bonus! And yes, we pulled our daughter out of school. She did all her homework in the car. It is what it is.
2. Buy Tickets. Definitely buy them ahead of time. It’s easier and a little cheaper than buying them at the gate. You don’t want to start your day waiting in a long line! Disneyland tickets are rarely discounted by much. Be careful to buy from a reputable source. There are a lot of scams out there. The most common scam is that they buy a five day ticket, use two days, then try to sell the remaining days. Don’t do it! Disneyland takes your picture when you arrive. If you buy tickets that belonged to someone else, they won’t let you in! Beware! I felt like the three day park hopper tickets were the best deal and three days is just the right amount of time to spend in the two parks.
3. Choose A Hotel. I did A LOT of research on this one. We purchased a ticket and hotel package deal through Get Away Today. It saved us about $150 to do it that way. At the time I wrote this post, I was not affiliated with them in any way. But I love them so much that three years later I became an affiliate for their program! Get Away Today is the best and I want you to know about them! They sent us our tickets ahead of time, too. This is the package they sent. It was a super exciting day:
The key to choosing a hotel is location. You want to be on Harbor Boulevard, which is on the east side of the park where the pedestrian entrance is, between I-5 and Katella Ave. Why? So you can walk to the park each morning! This time we stayed at The Castle Inn and had a really good experience. The room was clean, it had a mini fridge, microwave and free parking and the location was so convenient. And the kids loved that it looked like a castle. You may pay a little more (but not much) to be across the street from Disneyland but it is well worth it when your feet are sore and the kids are zonked.
The other reason for choosing a hotel that is across the street is so that you can easily go back for a mid-day meal and siesta each day. This is my best Disneyland tip. Before leaving each morning, we ate breakfast at our hotel. Some provide continental breakfast, but ours did not. We just brought granola from home (recipe) and bought a half-gallon of milk at a grocery store in Anaheim. We loaded our bags with snacks to hold us over in the park until around 2 or 3:00 when it was hot and most crowded. Then we walked back to our hotel and ate a huge meal that we cooked in the hotel room. We also made everyone take naps. That gave us the energy to stay until park closing time, which was midnight. On the nights that the park closed at 8pm, we just stayed the whole day and ate dinner really late.
That’s why it’s worth it to choose a hotel that’s close. You don’t have to eat out, so it saves you a ton of money. Read how we did our hotel room cooking HERE.
4. Check Park Hours. You can look up Disney’s calendar HERE. It’s critical to know what hours the park will be open when you are planning your trip! They do not have regular hours. Every day is different. The best time to be at Disneyland is early in the morning and late at night. That’s when the crowds are smallest. I am not a morning person at all. Ask anyone who knows me. But I got up at the crack of dawn on this trip and it was totally worth it. Ideally, try to be at the park a half hour before open. All the shops on Main Street open earlier and close later than the rides, so it’s a great time to shop or browse. If you are there first thing, run straight for some of the big rides—Splash Mountain, Space Mountain, or Fantasyland. We went to Space Mountain right as the park opened and rode it several times in a row without waiting at all. Totally worth getting out of bed.
5. Buy or Make T-shirts. (This is a craft blog, after all.) These are the shirts my kids wore:
I found the striped Minnie shirt at Target on the clearance rack for $3. Can’t beat that! I already had the baby onesie and I bought the plain red shirt for $5. Then I cut out the Minnie and Micky logos from plain black fabric backed with Wonder Under (the double sided iron-on sticky stuff) and fused them to the shirts. Minnie got a little ribbon bow attached with hot glue. It would have cost me $35 or more to buy three t-shirts in the park and I made three at home for $8. Big savings!
Hopefully these tips help you as you plan your trip. If you have questions, I’d be happy to help! Just leave a comment or send me an email.