Welcome to my comprehensive, in-depth Disneyland planning guide that will provide with all the necessary information and tools needed to plan the best, most magical Disneyland visit possible.
Although this guide won’t give you every single detail you’ll need to plan your amazing trip to Disneyland Resort, it will at least give you a great overview of various topics and then point you in the right direction by liking to related articles and guides on this blog.
That way you can dive into the nitty-gritty details and plan the perfect trip that fits your needs and preferences. So, with that said, let’s jump right in!
- Notable Dates to Look Forward To
- Disneyland Trip Planning Essentials
- How to Budget for a Disneyland Vacation
- Cheapest Time to Visit Disneyland
- Buying Disneyland Tickets
- What is Genie+ And Do You Need It?
- Booking Your Hotel
- Where and What to Eat and Drink
- Best Rides at Disneyland
- Character Meet and Greets
- Other Helpful Planning Essentials
- Final Thoughts
Notable Dates to Look Forward To
Before we go any further, here are some major things to expect and look forward to at Disneyland Resort in 2023 and 2024:
- August 31, 2023 – San Fransokyo Square opening
- Late 2024 – Splash Mountain reopening as Tiana’s Bayou Adventure
More future plans and updates are likely to be announced throughout the year so I’ll be sure to update this accordingly.
Disneyland Trip Planning Essentials
If you are currently planning a Disneyland vacation or day visit, then these resources and guides will help you make the most of your visit by providing you with everything from Genie+ priorities and snack recommendations to money-saving tips and hotel recommendations.
Disneyland Trip Planning Timeline and Checklist
Before embarking on your Disneyland adventure, I recommend checking out this straightforward Disneyland planning checklist and timeline, which will simplify the planning process by giving you a targeted schedule for completing essential aspects of your trip planning.
For instance, 8 months prior to your trip, it’s an ideal time to set your budget, select your travel dates, and keep a lookout for any upcoming attraction openings, festivals, or events. Additionally, when you’re 60 days away from your visit, make sure to secure any desired restaurant reservations and book special experience activities like Savi’s Workshop.
This timeline will guide you through all the necessary details and steps you should take 8 months, 6 months, 4 months, and 60 days before your magical visit to Disneyland.
Disneyland Bucket List
There are so many fun and incredible things to do at Disneyland that planning your visit might feel overwhelming because the last thing you’d want to do is miss out on anything great.
That’s why I recommend that you check out this Disneyland Bucket List that will tell you everything you must see, do, eat, and drink during your visit.
My personal favorites include eating a specialty churro, breaking your back on the Matterhorn Bobsleds, build a lightsaber at Savi’s Workshop, pairing a Mickey beignet with a mint julep, ride some opening day rides, ride Guardians of the Galaxy Mission Breakout during Halloween, and visit California Adventure during their food and wine festival.
How to Budget for a Disneyland Vacation
Disneyland in general is pretty expensive. There’s no way to sugarcoat. But there’s a reason why they make $21 million a day.
That said, if you are able to budget for a Disneyland visit without going above your means, you can easily have one of the best times of your life.
Choosing When to Visit
Before you even set a budget, the first thing you need to do is choose when exactly you’d want to visit the parks.
Like most vacation destinations or even Disney World, Disneyland experiences a large influx of crowds, tourists, and even locals during certain times of the year, while other times are surprisingly very relaxed, empty, and “affordable.”
If your schedule is pretty flexible, I recommend the you plan your visit around the holidays for the best decorations and parades, or around the beginning quarter of the year.
Regardless of when you want to visit, at the end of the day, the best time to come to Disneyland is when it works for you the best. Then from that point on, you can start to budget accordingly.
How much does it cost to go to Disneyland?
Disneyland is very expensive and unfortunately, prices are only going up.
Here is how much you should expect to pay on average each day when visiting Disneyland Resort:
- Park Tickets: Start at $104 per day plus an extra $65 for Park Hopper
- Food and Drinks: $70 per day per person on average
- Hotels and Resorts: Disney’s hotel rates range from $415 to $675 per night on average and around $200 per night off-property
- Transportation: $160 to $249 roundtrip from LAX on Uber/Lyft, plus around $10+ each way around Anaheim resort
These costs are only estimates and depend entirely on specific dates of the year.
For a more in-depth breakdown of a Disneyland trip cost, be sure to check out this guide:
Food Costs at Disneyland
Food and drinks (especially alcohol), are pretty expensive at Disneyland.
Here’s how much you should expect to pay for food and drinks at Disneyland broken down by Quick Serve, Table Service, snacks, drinks, and alcohol:
- Snacks = $8 on average
- Drinks = $4.59 – $5.29 each, bottled water costs $4.39
- Alcohol – $9 – $15 including beer, wine, and cocktails
- Quick Service = $15 – $18 per meal, excluding beverages
- Table Service = $36 – $60+ per meal
How to save money at Disneyland
Although saving money and Disneyland doesn’t appear to go together, there are surprisingly a number of ways that you can visit Disneyland on a budget.
Here are some of my favorite ways:
- Buy discounted park tickets from authorized sellers like Undercover Tourist
- Skip the Park Hopper if you have two or more days at the parks
- Stay off-property because Disney hotels are insanely expensive, even during the offseason
- Visit during the off season such as mid-January through February
- Bring your kids when they are under the age of 3 since their tickets will be free
- Skip out on souvenirs, especially balloons
Cheapest Time to Visit Disneyland
The cheapest time to visit Disneyland is from early January through February. The second cheapest time is late-August.
During late August and January, you’ll find the cheapest park ticket prices.
Of course you’ll want to avoid all of the major holidays like Thanksgiving week and Christmas, not to mention Orange County Spring Break and Easter week. This is generally the busiest (and most expensive) time of of the year which means that the crowds and wait times are miserable. Plus, this is usual when Genie+ sells out.
For a full breakdown of when it’s the cheapest time to go to Disneyland in terms of hotel room rates, park tickets, and travel/transportation, I got you covered in this complete guide:
Buying Disneyland Tickets
Due to the park reservation system, buying Disneyland tickets is by far one of the most important steps to planning a Disneyland visit. Although rare, both parks can sell out during certain times of the year so it’s always important to lock down your tickets as soon as you can.
Disneyland Ticket Prices
A standard Disneyland park ticket starts at $109 per adult and $104 per child (ages 3-9). Children under the age of 3 are free.
Ticket prices vary depending on the time of the year, the number of days, and any ticket add ons like Park Hopper.
Where to Find Disneyland Ticket Discounts
The best way to save money on your Disneyland tickets (besides taking advantage of military or Souther California resident discounts) is by practicing them from an authorized seller like Undercover Tourist.
The discounts are steep but if it saves you even a couple of dollars, the savings can add up to a free Dole Whip or churro.
What is Genie+ And Do You Need It?
Genie+ is a paid ticket add-on that will give you g unlimited access to the Lightning Lane during a specific time window at a majority of attractions in Disneyland Park and California Adventure.
Honestly, it’s just a worse FastPass+ system that can get pretty pricey. Plus, even as a Magic Key holder, you still have to buy it (at a discount, but still).
The one annoying thing is that some rides don’t participate in Genie+ but instead you’ll need to purchase access to them a la carte via Individual Lighting Lane Selections.
Here are some helpful resources on Genie Plus:
Individual Lighting Lane Attractions and Prices
Here’s how much Individual Lightning Lanes costs as well as which rides are eligible:
- Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway = $15 – $20
- Radiator Springs Racers = $7 – $20
- Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance = $20 – $25
Please note that you can only purchase Individual Lightning Lane Selections for up to 2 different attractions per day.
How much does Genie+ cost at Disneyland Resort?
Genie+ at Disneyland Resort costs between $25 and $30 per day.
Generally, the busier the parks are, the more expensive Genie+ will be, especially during peak season, holidays, and weekends.
Cheapest Day to Buy Genie+ at Disneyland
The cheapest day of the week to buy Genie+ at Disneyland is Friday with an average price of $25.60, according to Thrill Data.
The most expensive day is Saturday.
Sample Itineraries without Genie+
I believe that you can still have a ton of fun at Disneyland without buying Genie+. Here is a sample one-day itinerary that’s perfect for anyone that doesn’t want to cough up any additional money on Genie plus for the day.
Booking Your Hotel
Deciding on where to stay during your Disneyland vacation may seem frustrating due to the fact that the three Disney hotels are very pricey, but thankfully, there are a number of other hotel and resort options nearby that will fit any budget.
Disneyland Resort Hotels
There are three Disney hotels in Disneyland Resort:
- Grand Californian
- Disneyland Hotel
- Pixar Place Hotel
The Grand Californian is the flagship property but unfortunately, that also comes with a high price-tag. But if there’s one thing that separates this hotel with the rest, it’s the fact that there is a dedicated entrance into California Adventure.
The Disneyland Hotel is the most modern of the bunch but it’s also the furthest. But they do have very nice villas.
The Pixar Place Hotel is the cheapest of the three but it also comes with its own dedicated entrance into California Adventure. It’s not directly connect to the hotel like the Grand Californian’s is, but it’s still a fantastic perk.
The best part about staying at a Disney resort are the perks such as:
- Early Entry (enter the theme parks 30 minute before opening)
- Close proximity to the parks
- Preferred access to hotel dining reservations
- Next-day package delivery
Disneyland Resort Hotel Room Rates
Here are the average nightly rates for all three hotels:
- Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel and Spa = $584 – $767 per night (with rates as high as $1,000 a night during peak season)
- Disney’s Pixar Place Hotel = $355 – $466 per night
- Disneyland Hotel = $464 – $631 per night
For a more accurate range of room prices, see this chart.
Disneyland Good Neighbor Hotels
The Anaheim Resort area outside of Disneyland property is home to hundreds of hotels, motels, and resorts that can accommodate every budget.
But for the best options, be sure to book a Good Neighbor Hotel.
Hotels within Walking Distance to Disneyland
The hotels outside of Disneyland are very walkable, which is great if you plan on staying off-property.
Here are some of my favorite hotels within walking distance of Disneyland:
- Westin Anaheim (9 minute walk to Downtown Disney)
- Courtyard Anaheim Theme Park Entrance (9 minute walk)
- Howard Johnson Anaheim Hotel and Water Playground (11 minute walk)
- Hyatt House Anaheim (13 minute walk)
- Best Western Plus Park Place Mini Suites (4 minute walk)
Here is the complete list of every major hotel within 5 to 20+ minute walking distance to Disneyland:
Hotels Near Disneyland with Bunk Beds
If a standard room with 2 queens and a pull-out sofa doesn’t cut it, then getting a room with bunk beds is a great alternative, especially if you have kids.
Here are some Good Neighbor Hotels that have rooms with bunk beds:
- Anaheim Portofino Inn and Suites
- Best Western Plus Raffles Inn and Suites
- Courtyard Marriott Anaheim Theme Park Entrance
- Hampton Inn and Suites Anaheim Convention Center
- Homewood Suites Anaheim Convention Center
- Hyatt Orange County
Here are 12 more hotels that have bunk beds.
My Two Cents
As much as I love staying at one of the three Disney hotels (especially the Grand Californian), it’s just getting more and more difficult to spend all that extra money for something that I will only be in from midnight to 8 am.
That’s why no matter how “inconvenient” staying off-property may feel like, at the end of the day, I’m 100% with saving that Disney hotel money and instead putting it towards something fun inside the parks like special event tickets or even a VIP Tour.
So if you don’t mind taking a shuttle or walking, stay off property and save hundreds of dollars.
Where and What to Eat and Drink
I’m obsessed with the food at Disneyland. In my opinion, it’s a step above anything you’d find at Disney World.
One of the best things I love about Disneyland is that they offer some of the best, most unique food and drink options that you won’t find at any theme park.
Here’s a brief overview of my favorite things to eat and drink at Disneyland.
Best Snacks at Disneyland Park
These are my favorite snacks (and things to eat in general) at Disneyland Park that you can’t miss:
- Mickey Beignet
- Seasonal Funnel Cake
- Dole Whip
- Tigger Tail
- Blue Milk
- Beef Birria Toasted Cheese
Best Snacks at California Adventure
And these are my favorite food and drinks at California Adventure that I think are worth the money:
- Choco-Smash Candy Bar
- Corn Dog
- Beef Bulgogi Burrito
- Lobster Nachos
- New York Tastiest
- Funnel Cake Fries
Food and Drink Lists
Here are some food and drink recommendations that will help with your planning:
- Best Foods at Disneyland, California Adventure, and Downtown Disney
- 10 Best Disneyland Snacks (California Adventure too!)
Best Rides at Disneyland
There are so many incredible and iconic attractions at Disneyland that it might feel overwhelming when planning out which ones you’d want to hit between the two parks.
Best Rides at Disneyland Park
Here are the best rides in my opinion at Disneyland Park:
- Space Mountain
- Indiana Jones
- Haunted Mansion
- Pirates of the Caribbean
- Big Thunder Mountain Railroad
Best Rides at California Adventure
Here are the best rides in my opinion at California Adventure:
- Guardians of the Galaxy: Mission Breakout
- Radiator Springs Racers
- Soarin’ (Over California)
- Silly Symphony Swings
Which Day of the Week Has the Lowest Wait Times?
The best day of the week to visit Disneyland Resort in general is Friday which will generally have the lowest wait times of the week.
The best day of the week to visit Disneyland Park is Thursday with an average wait time of 26 minutes.
The best day of the week to visit California Adventure is Friday with an average wait time of 30 minutes.
Single Rider Lines at Disneyland
If you don’t mind splitting up your party in order to cut down your wait time at select attractions, hopping in the Single Rider Line is a great way to ride some popular rides without waiting for hours.
There are currently 9 attractions between both the parks that offer a Single Rider Line:
- Matterhorn Bobsleds
- Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run
- Splash Mountain (Tiana’s Bayou Adventure)
- Grizzly River Run
- Radiator Springs Racers
- Goofy’s Sky School
- Web Slingers: A Spider-Man Adventure
Disneyland Roller Coasters Ranked
Disneyland doesn’t have the crazy rollercoasters that Disney World has, but they still have some great hits including the second best Space Mountain of any Disney park.
The number one spot goes to Incredicoaster followed by Space Mountain (or Hyperspace Mountain).
For the full list of Disneyland roller coasters ranked, check out my top 6.
Fastest Rides at Disneyland
Although no ride at Disneyland cracks 60 mph (like at WDW), that doesn’t mean that adrenaline junkies won’t have a blast.
Here are the fastest rides at Disneyland:
- Incredicoaster – 55 mph
- Radiator Springs Racers – 40 mph
- Splash Mountain – 40 mph
- Big Thunder Mountain Railroad – 35 mph
- Space Mountain – 35 mph
- Goofy’s Sky School – 27 mph
- Matterhorn Bobsleds – 27 mph
- Chip ‘n’ Dale’s GADGETcoaster – 22 mph
Disneyland Ride Lengths and Duration
Here’s the complete listing of every attraction length and duration at both parks:
Disneyland Height Requirements for Every Ride
Here’s the full listing of height requirements for every ride at both park:
Every Ride That Doesn’t Have a Height Requirement
Disneyland Resort is without a doubt one of the best theme parks to visit thanks in part to the sheer amount of rides and attractions that don’t have a minimum height requirement.
Some of the popular rides (some of which are minor “thrill” rides) that don’t have height requirements are:
- Astro Orbiter
- Haunted Mansion
- Jungle Cruise
- Pirates of the Caribbean
- Inside Out Emotional Whirlwind
- Monsters, Inc. Mike and Sully to the Rescue
- Pixar Pal-a-Round (Swinging and Non-Swinging)
- Toy Story Midway Mania!
- Web Slingers: A Spider-Man Adventure
For the full list of 40+ attractions without height restrictions, check this out.
Character Meet and Greets
I’m not a huge fan of meeting characters so I really don’t have much to share on that topic. That said, here’s a resource on all of the character meet and greets you’ll find at Disneyland, California Adventure, and some Disneyland hotels.
Other Helpful Planning Essentials
Here are some extra resources that don’t really fit any of the categories above but are still pretty helpful:
Disneyland Abbreviations You Should Know
This is very random, but you might find yourself stumbled upon a secret language at Disney Parks, that may not make much sense at first.
Some popular ones include:
- DAS: Disability Access Service
- DCA: Disney California Adventure
- DL: Disneyland
- DLR: Disneyland Resort
- GR: Guest Relations
- LL: Lightning Lane
- ROTR: Rise of the Resistance
- FP: FastPass
For an entire list of Disney abbreviations and acronyms, check out this complete list.
Planning an Accessible and Sensory-Friendly Visit
The sights, colors, and loud sounds of a Disney theme park may be exciting for some guests, but they can also be pretty overwhelming to people with ASD.
Here’s my complete guide to planning an accessible and sensory-friendly Disney World vacation:
Planning for a visit to Disneyland might feel overwhelming at times, especially with all the updates, but with the help of some of these guides and resources, I’m confident that you’ll be able to plan the most magical time at Disneyland Resort possible.