Many families and friends take a break from their lives to remember what it is to be a child again. The magic and the wonder Disney brings are unbeatable! (Except maybe by Harry Potter World, I am a fan of Universal too) However, navigating the enormous theme park and long lines is a struggle felt by many and I am here to tell you how to see it all, while still saving some money.
Don’t stay at Disneyland Resorts. Most of the time, you’ll wander around the park, not your hotel. So many splurge on fancy hotels at Disneyland and miss the point.
I stay at the Main gate Motel 6 every time I go to Disneyland. The rooms are clean and surprisingly nice for a motel. They also have a clean and large pool and hot tub for the parents that want to spend some time relaxing. Don’t forget to ask for a refrigerator in your room! You can buy some groceries and save money by packing lunches or coming home to nice snacks in the evening. This is especially important as this Motel doesn’t have a continental breakfast. Still, you can access hot water, a microwave, and a fridge. So you can have cereal, oatmeal, etc. This Motel offers a shuttle bus for a reasonable fee (cheaper than parking) to and from the park. The bus runs every half hour, from an hour before the park opens to an hour after the park closes. The best part is the shuttle drops you right at the front gate so you don’t have to walk extra.
Essentials to bring
Do pack your own lunch with some snacks and water. I like to bring little lunch-size cookie packs or chips pack for snacks around 11 or so. I also prefer to freeze my water bottles before I go, so they stay nice and cold.
Don’t bring a large backpack. Instead, get the slip-string sports bags. Some even have zipper pockets on the front for separate storage space. The nice thing about these bags is they are lighter, prevent you from overpacking and are easy to take on all rides.
Do bring a zip lock bag to put your phone and other essential items in. This prevents them from getting damaged during water rides and keeps everything together.
Wandering Disneyland park
Don’t wait to go to the park till after it opens. Get to the park just before the gates open. When you first get inside Disneyland, go straight to Space Mountain and get a fast pass for later. Then hop onto rides nearby like Finding Nemo’s Submarine, Autopia and Buzz Lightyear. These lines will be short now but very long later. After riding these rides, head over to enjoy your fast pass. After Space Mountain, lines will start to get very long. Next, hit up smaller rides like Pinnochio, Snow White, It’s a Small World and others inside Toon Town.
Do take a break around lunchtime. The park is now pretty full and line times are starting to be very long. Go and see Mickey and the Magical Map stage performance. Once you get seated in the shaded auditorium and wait for the show to start, you can pull out your lunch and eat. Enjoy your break and rest your feet while missing the long line times and hot sun.
Don’t feel obligated to stay. The afternoon is the perfect time to go home and rest if you need a break. The lines are long and will limit you to what you can ride. By sunset, you might not have the energy to stay. The evening is certainly not a time to miss. If you feel you can last the entire day, go hit-up rides like Winnie the Pooh, the Train, Alice in Wonderland, Tarzan’s Treehouse, and the boats on the river in Adventure Land. Maybe meeting a character or two.
Do take an early evening break and reward yourself with a treat. The day is still warm, and if you stay in the park instead of taking a break, your feet are once again tired. Go to the Tiki Room, order a Dole Whip, and enjoy a treat and show.
Don’t forget you have a second Fast Pass to use. (You get two a day.) So head over to Thunder Mountain and get your second fast pass. This is another ride that almost always has a long line.
Do take advantage of rides that have single-rider access. For example, head over to Indiana Jones and ride the single rider.
Don’t forget to get your fast pass for Fantasmic. If you really want to be super close, get your fast pass early in the morning; however, I feel you can see pretty good from any spot, including the stand-by section for those that forgot to get their passes.
Do take some time and find yourself some dinner. I especially enjoy the reasonably priced soup and bread bowls offered in two different spots around the lake. You can find some good food at a reasonable price in several places. Just ask anyone that works there.
Don’t waste your money on the Blue Bayou. I ate here with my family and while the atmosphere was fun, the service was slow, the food was not that great and still cost a small fortune.
The last couple of hours in Disneyland
Do take some time to ride any rides that have a time of 15 minutes or less while you walk back to the castle for the nighttime show. You may think the best place to stand is really close to the castle; however, standing on Main Street gives you a view of the castle and the images and effects that happen on Main Street during the show.
Don’t hesitate after the castle show is over. Leave as quickly as possible, going through Adventure Land (Frontier Land if they won’t let you through Adventure Land), and head to the lake to see Fantasmic.
Do make sure you use your fast passes for Thunder Mountain. (The scheduled time should fall around here if you work it out right).
Don’t leave the park yet. Everyone is headed home, and the park is only open for one more hour. This is the best time to take rides with long lines all day. The River ride, Splash Mountain, Pirates of the Caribbean, and the Haunted Mansion all have lines that are basically walk-ons during the last few minutes of the day.
- Don’t forget to take some fun pictures.
- Do have a churro.
And most importantly, don’t forget to have fun, laugh and even smile through the bumps in your trip; you’re in Disneyland after all!