13 disneyland tips

24 May 2016

13 great Disneyland California tips for families

This was our first time to Disneyland in California as a family and I wanted to share some tips that I didn’t know when we went or wish I would have known: (this is NOT a sponsored or paid post!)

1. Download the Disneyland App! This is a must because you can see the wait times for the rides, what fast passes are available, where the characters are at that moment, where the bathrooms are, etc. We still look at it sometimes for fun just to see how long the wait is for Radiator Springs Racers. :)

disneyland entrance

2. Get there at least 15-20 minutes before the park opens because you’ll have to go through security lines and then lines to get into the park. This is prime ride time and when lines were shortest. My husband discovered this tip: the lines that go around the trees are the shortest because people can’t see that behind the tree there are 2 lines. Go for these ones!

shortest lines at disneyland

3. Sign up for Jedi Training first thing. This fills up fast -- you can sign up your 4-12 year old for Jedi Training (free) as soon as the park opens at the Star Wars launch bay. Just ask any employee in Tomorrowland and they will point you to where you need to go. We signed up first thing on our Magic Morning. They take the kids for about half an hour, give them a robe and a light saber to practice with, and then they get to fight Darth Vader or the evil lady (don’t know her name) on stage in front of the crowd -- and the employees take some great pictures that you can buy.

jedi training at disneyland

4. Bring a backpack  Did you know you can bring snacks, drinks, food, meals, into the park? And you can bring a backpack on all of the rides, even Tower of Terror and Screamin.  We just had one backpack for our family with:
* tickets! You need to keep these with you at all times to get in and out of the parks and for fast passes.
* sunscreen
* snacks: granola bars, fruit snacks, jerky, frozen peanut m&ms, string cheese, trail mix
* sunglasses
* water bottle (you can ask at any sit down/walk up eating place for ice water and they will give it happily for free so we just kept refilling it and sharing.)
* autograph books (pick these up before you go, or get them at Target or Walmart near your hotel)
* small pack of wipes for spills, sticky hands
* hand sanitizer
* portable phone charger – when you are taking all of your pictures and videos and checking the app your battery gets drained quickly. OR…

trees and flower disneyland

5. They have phone charging lockers – these are a lifesaver! You can pay $2 for an hour to get a locker with cords already in them that you can plug your phone into while you eat, ride, shop, whatever. What a great idea!
disneyland at night

6. On the night you plan on seeing World of Color, did you know you can get a fast pass for priority seating? Get these first thing in the morning, they were by the Grizzly Rapids when we were there. These also do not limit any other fast passes for the day.

fireworks disneyland

7. Paint the Night Parade The parades are so worth it! They do an amazing job with them and you get to see all of the characters. There are many tips on where to watch the parade and the best view of the fireworks but I would just say bring a blanket, sheet or towel to put down (around 6 p.m. or earlier, it wasn’t too busy when we were there) and then make friends with people around you so you can take turns going on rides, for food, etc. We didn’t go anywhere special to watch the fireworks, we could see them from wherever we were.

make your own lightsaber disneyland

8. Souvenirs & T-Shirts We gave our kids the option of doing a character dining or giving them $50 for souvenirs. They chose the money since we really don’t have anyone really into any of the characters. Their favorite was the build your own lightsaber (about $30-$40) and the leather bracelets ($8-$10) you can get your name on in secret jedi language. If you decide on a character dining, check out Costco Vacation Packages or Get Away Today – they had the best prices when I checked. We got our t-shirts from Kohls before we went – they ended up being $6-7 with codes.

best time to take pictures at disneyland

9. The best time to get pictures in front of castle is between 6-8 p.m. when they rope it off for the parade. Great lighting, hardly any people!

tea cups at disneyland

10. Strollers – you can rent them there for $15 a day. Our 7 year old was worn out on the last day and that stroller saved us! Also, take advantage of stroller passes. One adult goes with the kids on the ride and when you get off, tell the attendant you need a stroller pass and you will get 3 passes to walk on the ride (like a fast pass) so you can switch off if you need someone to stay with the stroller.

magical disneyland

11. Food! We loved this post from Picky Palette but I have to say I was not impressed with the Dole Whip Float – I didn’t even finish it. We liked the Crissy Fields cookie dough sundae but the Ghirardelli Lands End salted caramel brownie sundae?? Oh my. I still dream about it.
ghirardelli salted caramel brownie sundae disneyland

And the Monte Cristo sandwich at the Cafe Orleans is my personal favorite, the warm Mickey beignets from the Mint Julep Bar are perfect to grab before the parade – and a 6 pack are only $7.49, one of the best prices we found at Disneyland! We never saw the churro ice cream sandwiches and asked around and no one on Main Street seemed to know anything about them but I guess they are indeed in Downtown Disney. Can anyone confirm this??


12. Walking! Make sure everyone in the family has good shoes on. And of course it isn’t necessary but it is so fun to have a Fitbit to see how many miles you log. On our last day, we hit our record of 32160 steps in one day (13.4 miles!) and it made us feel completely fine about the food we had eaten that day :)

fitbit in disneyland

13. Disney Photo Pass: I wish I would have thought this one through. This is how it works: you will see cast members with big cameras all around the parks. They will  take AWESOME professional pictures (for free) and give you a code to view the pictures online. Individually the pictures are $12.99 (gulp!) to download but you can get ALL of the pictures from ONE day for $39.99. That would be so worth it! I would have chosen the jedi training day (they had such great pictures from that) and gotten as many pictures as I could that day of splash mountain, in front of the castle, with favorite characters, they will take your pictures waiting for the parade, etc. Next time! They look like this but when you pay you can download them and do whatever you want with them.

disney photo pass

And just some last thoughts:

* We got 3-day park hopper passes for everyone and it was perfect (I could have easily gone two more days but most of my family thought 3 was perfect.) The first day we just figured thing out: the fast passes, which rides were our favorite, eyeing what souvenirs we might want, where everything was, what food we loved. The next 2 days we had more of plan and were able to kind of map things out and it was much more efficient.

* The first part of May is a great time to go (try to go during week, avoid weekends) This free crowd calendar helped us with planning and it was pretty accurate. The temperature was 70-75 each day, so nice! We went 3 days in a row, if our schedule would allow it I would break it up with a beach day. We love Huntington Beach and eating at Ruby’s on the pier ♥
huntington beach and ruby's on the pier

* I already told you about the hotel we loved, and we got to Disneyland first thing in the morning, went back to the hotel around 3 to rest, swim, eat dinner, and then would head back at 6 for the rest of the night and would get back around 11. That worked well for us, but we didn’t have napping babies.

fireworks disneyland matterhorn

* We loved being able to go between the parks, but if you want to save money, you can do one park per day – it would really make you plan things out and probably save on walking too.

disneyland tips
* I love Disneyland, can you tell? It’s just a place where you can have a great time with your family. There really is something for everyone and they go all out with cleanliness, quality of productions, trying to make it an awesome experience.  Yes it is expensive, once you have your tickets, I feel like they try to help you out as parents with accomodating babies (they have an awesome baby care center,) letting you bring everything you need into the park, giving free ice water, being so helpful in every way, and just making it a magical experience. We can’t wait to go back!

I would love to hear your tips!! What would you add?

Here’s to the happiest place on Earth~


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