To be completely honest, Disneyland wasn’t my favorite place as a kid. A natural introvert, I hated the heat, the lines, the crowds and felt that equally fun roller coasters could be found closer to home. It wasn’t until my best friend took me on a trip to Disneyland in 2016 that
I realized Disneyland is *so* much more fun as an adult
especially if you’re a bit strategic about how you plan your trip (and if you’re all about a slaying outfit with your squad). Here are a few things that I think really make the trip as magical as possible.
Choose compatible traveling companions
This is the most important tip of any vacation: travel with those that have a similar traveling style to your own. I understand that we don’t always get to pick who we travel with, but in the event that you do, look for someone that prioritizes the same things.
For my most recent trip to Disneyland, I road-tripped with two of my girlfriends; one I have been to Disneyland with many times, the other I have never traveled with, but my other friend had. We all knew that for us, the food, rides, and pictures would make our Disney trip amazing. All the other stuff (who gets their own bed, getting up early vs. sleeping in, who drives and for how long) was less relevant, and because of that, there were very few disagreements (none, really) and more time to appreciate the little fun moments.
Three is a crowd
It’s true what they say: three is definitely a crowd. While the 3 of us certainly had a blast, I can’t imagine a 4th person coming along and having as good of a time. While most of the rides are either 2 or 4 seaters our group was small enough to agree on things quickly and still not get unexpectedly separated by the hordes of strollers.
For example, during our first day at the park, we decided not to come back before Mickey’s Halloween Party the following day and instead visit for a few hours before we hit the road on our third and last day in Anaheim. While that did delay us getting home, we needed the refresh time because our costumes were so time-consuming! If a fourth person had been on the trip, we could have been tempted to split on our day 2 decision.
The more people you introduce into the travel crew, the more demands and expectations that must be satisfied. I say, 3 is just enough people that you’ll all easier agree on things when changes or decisions have to be made to the big picture plan.
Timing is everything
Especially at Disneyland, where high traffic months May thru October can cause lines that are 2-3 hours long. For this trip, we were specifically visiting for Mickey’s Halloween Party (hence the Guardians of the Galaxy cosplay), so the park was more packed than I’d ever seen it in recent years. Still, we never waited longer than 30-40 minutes for a ride, and the weather was just hot enough to be comfortable without a jacket until closing time at midnight.
When you plan your Disney trip, look at daily rates and check out stats of the best (and worst) times to visit based on crowds. While they aren’t 100% foolproof, it will give you a much better idea of what to expect and help you to make an informed decision on when to attend.
Don’t jam-pack plan
I am a planner and love to plan out a bunch of details for basically everything in life, but I have to resist the urge to do so at Disneyland. The best technique I have found is going in with a general idea of the things you want to get done per day and letting the day take its course. Trying to plan out what ride to get on when, what restaurant to try, when to be back at a certain area for a parade or character greeting…it makes the trip way more stressful than magical.
We like to have “per day” high-level plans for rides and an activity or two. We’ll get to the park around 10/10:30 and start by getting a Fastpass for either our favorite ride or a preferred ride that appears to be running out of passes. After that, we just ride what we like that’s most convenient and then in between, shop or get snacks that we’ve been craving since our last Disney visit. The day just evolves organically but having passes to specific rides as guide points help to make sure we do most of our favorite things within the allotted time.
*Bonus Tip* – we like to plan a little afternoon siesta for our full days at the park. Usually about (4-5) hours into the day we head back to our hotel (always 10 minutes away or less). We take about an hour break, charge our phones, change our clothes if necessary and head back out to the park for 6+ more hours of fun.
Plan more than one day of fun
Again, timing is everything with trips to Disneyland. Unless you live close by or visit frequently, plan *at least * (1.5-2) days per visit. This may not be a luxury you can afford, but it does make the trip much more enjoyable. If you don’t have an annual pass, a 2-day park hopper ticket allows you to visit both parks for (2) days, not necessarily in a row. You can make the first day your busy day, hitting up every must on your list, the parades and finale fireworks in the evening; then the second day you’ll be able to hit up anything you missed or anything you want to repeat, do a bit of shopping and try your favorite restaurants in spare time.
Since 2016, I’ve visited on average twice a year. Because of that, and because I am not a super crazy Disney freak, I don’t mind making single day visits to the park. Even so, visiting for only one day means I have to make sure to do what I am most looking forward to in the earlier part of the day, and I have to arrive a bit earlier to ensure I can get everything done.
Use the Disneyland mobile app
Ok so, there’s a Disneyland app; why did I not know about this before? The Disneyland App is a virtual park best friend. It tells you where everything is, what time special events are happening, and allows you to get Fastpasses and download photos right in the app. You can even link together the passes and tickets of those in your group to keep everything accessible on one phone. If you are in a group larger than (2) or visiting with kids, I can see this being particularly handy.
Invest in Disneyland Maxpass
Speaking of passes, have you heard of the Disneyland Maxpass? This is essentially a subscription that allows us as visitors to have access to an unlimited number of photos and download Fastpasses on our phones, rather than having to visit the physical ride and obtain a paper pass. It is so much more convenient – especially if you are in a neighboring park and don’t have time to walk over. Some annual passes come with the Maxpass while others have to be added on, and you can purchase it with your day or hopper ticket as well for relatively cheap. Comes in handy for capturing those in-park memories on the park employees’ high-quality cameras!
First order of business after you arrive at the park should be to check the app and see what Fastpasses are looking like. Certain rides (Space Mountain, Indiana Jones) are sure to be high traffic just because they’re *amazing* so grab those passes early and then decide to what do from there.