5 Tips for a Successful Disneyland Trip
I adore Disneyland! My family and I have visited at least once a year since 2004 (and in the last couple of years we've had annual passes, which means we've been even more! That's really saying something considering we're 12 hours awayâ€¦) We have pretty much mastered the art of the successful Disneyland trip. The park may be known as the happiest place on earth, but it's also a war zone. You might think it's all about the laughs, but really it's all about sore feet and chafing, if you're not careful. If you're going in, it's best to be prepared. If you've been there before, you'll understand what I'm saying. If not, I'm here to give you some handy dandy tips to make your trip successful.
(I recently posted about getting the best possible photos at Disneyland as well. If you haven't had a chance to check it out, you can ready my post Ideas to Get to Best Disneyland Photos for Scrapbooking.)
Tip #1: Plan Ahead
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There are several things you need to do before you even leave that will help. Planning out how you will tackle both parks in an organized fashion can save your feet AND ensure than you get to see and do everything that you want to do.
Take a gander at the park schedule online
The Disneyland website will list everything you need to know before you even get there. So will the app if you want to install it. (Trust me, you will want to install it) Look at all the shows, performances, character schedules, etc and decide which of them are must-see. Plan them out on the calendar, keeping in mind which areas of the park you want to be in and when. I like to schedule these things first because they have fixed times and other things can be scheduled around them.
Look over the restaurants and menus
Probably the biggest detriment to a successful Disneyland trip is standing around deciding where and when you're going to eat. This gets accentuated when you throw kids in the mix and they are whining and hangry. There are a LOT of great restaurants with good options, but standing on Main Street in the middle of the crowd while you are all staring at each other is not the time to try and decide what you want.
Keep in mind where the shows are that you've already scheduled. No one needs to trek from the Corn Dog Castle in California Adventures to see Mickey and the Magical Map in the back of the other park 20 minutes later. Plan out what you want, then look at the events and plan when to go there. If you're thinking of going outside the park (more on that in a moment), don't plan to do it when you're headed to Frozen in 30 minutes.
Be aware of all the things to do in each area
I know it's tempting to dart from big ride to big ride, but it's a chafing error of the worst kind. If you're looking for big roller coasters, there are other amusement parks that might fit the bill better than Disneyland. The most successful trips to Disneyland will mean that you got to see and do everything!
Our last trip there we stumbled on a brand new show called Mickey's PhilharMagic--a 3D movie that was awesome! We also ventured into the Animation Academy and learned to draw Goofy. (Check the schedule because they do a different character every half hour, so you can learn to draw your favorites!) They were showing a preview for the upcoming Aladdin movie also. And don't miss the Pixarmonic Orchestra performing regularly on Pixar Pier.
Tip #2: Pack Properly
Did I previously mention chafing and sore feet? No? Well, just in case I didn't, let me mention it here. There will be sore feet. And probably chafing. This is not all fun and games, remember? It's all about the planning, and you can actually have a successful trip to Disneyland even if your feet hurt. You just have to be prepared.
You might think this is a great time to show off your cute new sandals, but you'd be wrong. If you wouldn't wear them hiking, don't wear them at all. After three days in the parks, I can attest that this is more of a marathon and less of a friendly stroll. My FitBit can prove it, since I logged over 72,000 steps in those three days, which roughly translates into 36 total miles of walking.
The #1 most important thing to pack for a successful Disneyland trip is good shoes. I always have at least two pairs of shoes--one pair of really good sneakers (good arch support and maybe some memory foam inserts) and some good hiking sandals. It does my feet good to be able to change in the middle of the day and I personally believe it helps alleviate sore feet. At least it has for me since I started doing it. Notice that nowhere in this paragraph do I use the term flip flops. Don't do it. You'll thank me later.
These Keen sandals are amazing. Another brand that I love are Teva. I also suffer from plantar fasciitis, so the shoes I wear are doubly important or I will really suffer. My latest and greatest discovery are these shoes by Orthofeet. They are not cheap, but considering I have such problems with plantar fasciitis and this is a marathon we're talking about, they are well worth it. I haven't had pain in my feet since I got them.
One might think that all socks are created equal, but they aren't. The absolute best socks on the planet are made by SmartWool. My sister and I invested in these socks years ago and we still both have our original pairs. THAT is how great they are. These socks are great at keeping your feet from getting super sweaty and they keep you cool. They might be a little pricey as socks go, but if you take care of them well they will last a very, very long time. I have had the same socks to wear to Disneyland since 2008, so that should give you an idea of how truly great they are!
If you'd rather not invest in expensive socks, that works too. Plan to bring extra pairs so you can change out if you need to.
If you are planning to go when it's hot, extra clothes can mean the difference between being comfortable and feeling nasty all day. Also, if you're planning to ride water rides, a change of pants can help with the chafing. We plan water rides right before we leave for a lunch break (more on that later) so that I can change my clothes. Walking around in wet pants is possibly the worst possible thing ever, especially if your thighs are best friends like mine are.
Tip #3: Take a Break Every Day
I learned early on that there is no possible way for me to have a successful Disneyland trip if I have to go nonstop from sun up to sun down. If you wake up on Day Two weeping silently because you can't move a single muscle, you've overdone Day One. There are several advantages to taking a break in the middle of the day. It's amazing what a couple hours of downtime can do to rev your engine for the rest of the evening.
Stay close to the park entrance
Staying close means you can walk in and walk out at will. A shuttle is good for resting your weary feet, but it's also time consuming to wait for it. We tend to prefer staying at a hotel that has both options.
Get to the park when they open, but leave around lunch time
When our kids were little, everyone actually looked forward to the lunch break. We would head back to the hotel, eat lunch outside the park (money saving as well) and the kids would swim. I would take a nap or shower or both while they were doing that. This rejuvenated all of us to go back and stay longer into the night. The other benefit was getting to leave during the hottest and most crowded part of the day.
If you have the option, pack a cooler and food
First I want to specify, we do NOT take our cooler into the park. This is reserved for when we take a break and go back to the hotel. We saved a lot of money eating sandwiches and chips for lunch during our breaks. I remember when I first mentioned to my husband that I wanted to do this and he wasn't exactly thrilled at the idea. The funny thing is, once it was all over with, even he agreed that it was a great idea. With all the heavy and fattening food you eat in the park, there is something about that simple sandwich that tastes amazing. Pack fruit, chips, yogurt and cookies and it makes for the perfect meal.
If you're not jiving with the whole "pack a cooler" thing (or even if you are and want an option for another day) go with pizza delivery. My personal favorite is Marri's Pizza. It's delicious and they will deliver to your hotel AND bring you paper plates! You can drive on over and sit in their schmancy Italian restaurant if you like, but nothing beats sitting in your nice air conditioned hotel room eating pizza and then taking a quick nap. Sorry, Pizza Port, but your pizza is nasty and too expensive...
Tip #4: Timing is Everything
Let's face it, everyone loves Disneyland and it's almost always crowded. I have been there when it was supposedly not going to be crowded, and it was still pretty crowded. Learning how to maneuver the crowds can really help make your Disneyland trip successful.
Get to the park BEFORE they open. Yes, you will be in a long line to get in, but then everyone darts off in different directions and the crowds in each area are relatively thin (unless of course you choose to head straight to the newest attractions).
If you're taking a break during the day, it's easier to stay in the park later. After the fireworks a lot of people leave and the crowd thins. Just remember that the next morning you want to arrive early again, so make sure you're balancing yourself.
Shop during the afternoon
If you're looking to grab some souvenirs, try shopping in the afternoon.. If you do it before taking your break, you won't have to lug around your purchases all day. No one is shopping at these times. If you wait until the end of the night, everyone is shopping.
Avoid Disneyland at parade time
Unless you are planning to watch the parade, don't go anywhere near the parade zone. You will be trapped in a sea of people and possibly not be able to move until the parade is over. However, during the parade is a great time to ride the most popular rides! Find an area out of the way of the parade and stay in that area. Don't try to move from Adventureland to Tomorrowland, or to leave the park or enter the park when the parade is happening.
Tip #5: Disneyland is NOT just for kids
I know everyone thinks it's all princesses and cartoons, but Disneyland is NOT just a place for kids. As a matter of fact, I'm going to go out on a limb and say it isn't necessarily a place for really LITTLE kids at all. One of my worst trips ever was the year I took a four year old and a two year old. It was better when they were older. Now this last trip was with my kids as adults. Not too long ago my husband and I went and didn't take any kids at all. That was one of our best trips ever, and as I looked around I realized that there really were a lot of couples just like us.
If you think you hate Disneyland, it's because you're doing it wrong. Or you've never done it at all but have a bunch of misconceptions about it.
I'm sure others have all kinds of tips that I haven't thought of yet. I'll be going back in October, and if you have some good advice, I'd love to hear it! Drop a comment on this blog post or find me on Facebook and let me know!
And last but not least, of course there is a set of printables to go with this post! Feel free to grab my Disneyland planning worksheet right here:
I hope these fun printables will help you plan your perfect trip!