Just like devoted Disney fanatics, we consider Disneyland to be our second home, with trips to the park as routine as a trip to the grocery store.
Drawing upon our extensive experience, we are here to share our insider tips and tricks to ensure that you make the most out of your Disneyland visit while saving both time and money.
The past few years has brought about significant changes, but we are delighted to say that things are finally returning to normal. As you embark on this magical journey to the Happiest Place on Earth, we want you to have an unforgettable experience.
However, we understand that Disneyland can also be one of the busiest and most expensive tourist attractions on Earth, which is why we are here to help.
So, hop along as we take you through a curated list of Disneyland tips and strategies that will maximize your time and enhance your overall enjoyment. With our guidance, you’ll be able to navigate the two parks like a pro, bypass long queues, discover hidden gems, enjoy some great eats, and even save a few bucks along the way.
Whether you’re a first-time visitor or a seasoned Disney enthusiast, our goal is to ensure that your Disneyland adventure is nothing short of magical. So, let’s dive in and uncover the secrets to creating unforgettable memories at the most beloved theme park in the world!
Disneyland Tips (and some insider’s secrets)
Here are some of my favorite Disneyland tips and tricks that I personally use to help maximize my time, while also saving some money:
1. Visit from mid-September through mid-November
According to Disney, the best time to visit Disneyland is from mid-September through mid-November (before Thanksgiving week).
During this time you can expect lower crowds and shorter wait times.
The only downside of visiting during this time is that some nighttime shows and fireworks will only happen on the weekends.
For a cheaper vacation, I would aim to visit in the last couple weeks of August as well as from January to early March.
2. Buy Tickets Online
Buying your park tickets online is the best way to almost guarantee entrance into Disneyland. If you wait to buy them at a ticket booth, there might be a chance that there’s no more park reservations available and you won’t be able to enter either park.
Plus, by buying your park tickets online (up to 120 in advance), you won’t have to wait in line at the ticket booth, especially during busier days where the lines could be massive.
3. Make a park reservation as soon as possible
You can make your Disneyland park reservations up to 120 days in advance.
And if you have a Magic Key, you can make them up to 90 days in advance.
4. Visit Disneyland Park on a Thursday
In order to experience the shortest possible wait times at Disneyland Park, the best day of the week is usually a Thursday.
As long as there’s no holidays or Spring Break during that week, you can expect an average wait time of 26 minutes.
The worst day is Monday with an average wait time of 31 minutes.
5. Visit California Adventure on a Friday
The best day of the week to experience the shortest wait times possible at Disney California Adventure is Friday.
As long as it’s not during a holiday or Spring Break, you can expect an average wait time of 30 minutes, according to Thrill Data.
6. Have a Planning Checklist
When planning a visit to Disneyland, be sure to first make a checklist of all important dates and deadlines so that by the time that you finally get to the park, you you’ll be 100% good to go.
I put together a simple Disneyland Trip Planning Checklist that will help make planning a little bit easier.
7. Use Mobile Order
Using the Mobile Order service within the Disneyland app, you can order food and drinks from almost every quick service or snack location at Disneyland (including the hotels).
This is by far the easiest way to avoid long lines by ordering ahead. Just hit the “I’m Here, Prepare My Order” button and your order should be ready in a few minutes.
I also love that when you use Mobile Order as a Magic Key annual passholder or even a Cast Member, your discount is automatically applied.
I couldn’t imagine visiting Disneyland without using Mobile Order!
8. Download the Disneyland App
The Disneyland App will be your best friend during your entire visit.
On this app, you can scan your tickets, make Genie+ selections, buy Individual Lightning Lanes, view your PhotoPass photos, mobile order food and drinks, make dining reservations, and so much more.
9. Eat all the snacks
As much as I love the rides and attractions that Disneyland has, there’s just something about the snacks that makes me so giddy inside.
Personal favorites include:
- churro (especially the seasonal ones!)
- specialty Dole Whips
- funnel cake fries
- Choco-Smash Candy Bar
- Mickey-shaped Beignets
- cold brew black caf
- Cozy Cone ice cream
There’s a lot more, but these are the ones that are at the top of my head right now.
10. Ride attractions with the longest wait time last
Some rides no matter what time of the day it is will always have a long wait. Since that’s the case, I recommend that you ride those rides last or at least right before park closing that way you’re not wasting any valuable time during the day.
However, if you do try to go on busier attractions towards the end of the day, you do run the risk that the ride breaks down or is temporarily interrupted. If that’s the case and if the park has already closed, you will have to exit the queue.
11. Use Genie+
If the goal is to save time and ride as many rides as possible, then buying Genie+ for the day is totally worth it.
If you are unfamiliar with Genie+, you can learn more in this in-depth guide.
Plus, you can check out these additional resources:
- Disney Genie Lightning Lane Attractions and Prices (2023)
- Cheapest Day to Buy Genie+
- How much does Genie+ cost? [Disney World and Disneyland]
- How many Genie+ selections at one time?
12. Buy Individual Lightning Lanes
If there are rides that you absolutely need to ride such as Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance, Radiator Springs Racers, or Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway, purchasing an Individual Lightning Lane is the best way to save time waiting in line, while also virtually guaranteeing your entrance onto these rides.
This is one of the few extra add-ons that are actually worth the price at Disneyland, in my opinion.
13. Rent a locker
If you plan on being at the parks for a while, I always recommend renting a locker.
This becomes insanely useful for storing sweaters and jackets for the evening that you don’t want to lug around all afternoon.
14. If you’re visiting, stay at a Disneyland Resort hotel
For the best experience at Disneyland, we highly recommend staying at one of the three Disneyland Resort hotels:
- Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel
- Disneyland Hotel
- Disney’s Paradise Pier Hotel (soon to be Pixar Place Hotel)
Each hotel is exquisitely themed and adorned with delightful Disney touches.
One fantastic perk of staying on-site is the hotel guest security screening, which typically opens before any other security checkpoints. This means that if you wish to be among the first guests at the park gates, staying on-site offers a significant advantage.
Guests staying at the Grand Californian can also enjoy the dedicated resort entrance to Disney California Adventure from the hotel—an exclusive benefit that enhances the experience. This is also the case for guests staying at Disney’s Paradise Pier Hotel, although you will need to cross the street towards the Grand Californian to get to your dedicated entrance.
If you plan to park hop, selecting Disney California Adventure as your first park of the day is recommended.
One major highlight of staying at a Disneyland Resort hotel is Early Entry. This exclusive privilege grants only hotel guests with room keys access to select rides, restaurants, and shops in either theme park (with a valid ticket and reservation) 30 minutes before the general public.
By choosing to stay on-site, you open the door to a range of advantages that enhance your Disneyland experience, ensuring that you can make the most of your magical journey.
15. Take advantage of Early Entry if your a Disneyland hotel guest
If you’re staying at either of the 3 Disneyland Resort hotels, you can enter either theme park 30 minutes before it opens to access select rides, stores, and restaurants.
Just make sure to have a valid park ticket and theme park reservation for that day.
16. Stay off-property
If the Disneyland Resort hotels are sold out or just out of your budget, then staying off-property can be just as cool!
There are so many hotels to choose from for a variety of budgets. Plus, many even offer rooms with bunk beds.
Some resorts offer shuttles to the parks and some hotels are even close enough to walk to the Toy Story Lot to catch a free Disney Shuttle.
My personal favorite hotel is the Westin Anaheim followed closely by the Homewood Suites, Hyatt Place, and Hilton.
17. Visit Disney California Adventure during a festival
Similar to EPCOT, California Adventure has annual food and wine festivals during certain times of the year, but at a smaller scale
This is the best time to sample delicious seasonal foods and alcoholic beverages found at the many booths.
And to save some money, you can even purchase Sip and Savor pass that can be used on food and non-alcoholic drinks at all of the booths.
18. Pre-order your food during the DCA festivals
During all of the specail food festivals at California Adventure, you can pre-pay and order food from all of the order booths.
Just go to any booth and then mention that you also want to order food and drinks at other booths. You then can just take your receipt and pick up your items at the other booths without having to wait in the sometimes massively long lines.
It’s a huge time saver!
19. Rope Drop
If the goal is to ride the most popular rides first, then rope dropping is the best way to beat the crowds.
Although you might see some Disneyland Resort hotel guests already there 30 minutes prior, rope dropping at least gives you a nice head start ahead of the late-comers.
Just plan to be at the park at least 60 minutes prior that way you can park, take the tram, or get through security before the park opens.
This is also a great time to snag a locker before they sell out.
20. Visit during Halloween or Christmas
The holiday decor at both Disneyland and Cars Land is top notch.
Visiting during these two times of the year is by far the most picturesque the parks will ever be, especially at night.
Plus, Haunted Mansion gets a cool overlay during these times!
If you want to visit during Christmas season, go during the first two weeks of December for lighter crowds and shorter wait times.
21. Research what to eat in advance
There are SO MANY delicious and tasty foods, snacks, and drinks at Disneyland that you must make a list of everything worth trying.
Thankfully, I got you covered!
22. Stay at Disney’s Paradise Pier Hotel
If you want to stay on Disney property, then this hotel is the best option. It’s the cheapest of the three, has a nice location, and it has a special entrance into Disney California Adventure that is only accessible by guests staying at this hotel.
Not to mention that this hotel is undergoing a massive renovation and upgrade as it becomes a Pixar-themed resort.
23. Understand that a lot of rides don’t have height requirements
If you’re visiting with little ones who are either too young or too short, don’t fret because there are so many rides at both Disneyland Park and California Adventure that do not have a height requirement.
Currently there are over 40 attractions that don’t have a height requirement. Here are some of my favorites:
- Astro Orbiter
- Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters
- Haunted Mansion
- Jungle Cruise
- Mad Tea Party
- Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway
- Peter Pan’s Flight
- Pirates of the Carribean
- Mickey’s Philarmagic
- 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
24. Use Rider Switch
Families with young children can rejoice, as Disneyland offers the convenient Rider Switch service.
If you have little ones who either don’t meet the height requirement or prefer not to ride, simply gather your entire party and head to the ride entrance. There, you can request a digital Rider Switch return window to be added to the supervising parent’s park ticket, allowing them and up to two additional people to ride later.
During the first round, one parent can stay back and supervise the child while the rest of the party enjoys the ride. Once the riders return, the supervising parent gets their turn to ride, bypassing the regular line. If some members of the first group wish to join the second group when it’s their turn, they must scan their tickets beforehand, as changes cannot be made later.
For detailed information on Disneyland’s height requirements and how Rider Switch works, hop on over to this dedicated post.
25. Use the Single Rider Line
If you want to save time by not waiting in massive lines, and if you don’t mind it if your party gets split up, then using a Single Rider lane is by far the best way to get on to a ride quickly.
These are all of the rides that have a Single Rider Line:
- Matterhorn Bobsleds
- Splash Mountain
- Millennium Falcon Smugglers Run
- Grizzly River Run
- Incredicoaster (fastest ride at Disneyland)
- Goofy’s Sky School
- Radiator Springs Racers
- Web Slingers A Spider-Man Adventure
26. Skip Club Level at Disney Hotels
Honestly, it’s not really worth the premium. It’s not like the Concierge level on Disney Cruises.
Yes, you get a private lounge with free snacks and drinks, but if you don’t plan on being in the room that much, I would just save that money for something you can do inside the park like a dessert party.
27. Keep an eye on the refurbishment calendar
If there’s a certain ride or attraction that you’ve been dying to go on, make sure that it’s not under refurbishment by staying up to date with the Disneyland refurbishment schedule.
28. If you want a good hotel pool, stay at the Disneyland Hotel
The Disneyland Hotel has the best pool area between the three Disney hotels. Just keep that in mind if this is something that’s important to you.
29. Don’t visit during Orange County Spring Break
I made the mistake of visiting during this time once and it was miserable.
Every Disney hotel is sold out and wait times are so insanely long that you’ll feel miserable.
If you do plan on visiting when school is out, then the first week of June will be your best bet.
30. Wear comfortable walking shoes
I can’t emphasize this enough. You’ll have to walk a lot at Disneyland. It’s not on the same level as you would at Disney World, but Disneyland requires a lot of walking and standing.
I recently started wearing On Cloud 5s and it has been an absolute game changer during long park days.
31. Look for Hidden Mickeys
Embark on an exciting quest during your Disneyland vacation by searching for hidden Mickeys! This super fun game adds an extra element of adventure to your trip.
Rumor has it that there are a whopping 419 hidden Mickeys scattered throughout Disneyland, Disney California Adventure, Downtown Disney, Disneyland Hotel, Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel, and Disney’s Paradise Pier Hotel.
Can you spot them all?
32. Check the Disneyland app for Character Meet and Greet locations
If there’s a certain character (Disney, Star Wars, Marvel, Pixar, etc) that you want to meet, check the Disneyland app to see their meeting locations and time.
If you love Marvel, then you’ll see so many iconic characters wandering around at Avengers Campus.
33. Take a drawing class
Pop into Animation Academy and learn how to draw your favorite Disney characters. This is a fun free activity at DCA that’s perfect for guests of all ages.
34. Bring a park bag
A backpack at any Disney park is a necessity and Disneyland is no different.
I always pack a small park bag filled with essentials like sunglasses, hand sanitizer, and a portable battery charging brick.
35. Get a free sourdough bread sample
At the end of the free Bakery Tour inside of California Adventure, you can get a free sample of world famous San Francisco sourdough bread.
It’s just nice to actually get something free at Disneyland 🙂
36. Make a reservation to Blue Bayou 60 days in advance
This goes for all of the Disneyland table service restaurants.
You can make advanced dining reservations for all of the Disneyland and California Adventure restaurants up to 60 days in advance.
Some restaurants like Blue Bayou or Lamplight Lounge can fill up instantly so be sure to snag those starting at 6:00 am PST 60 days before your visit. You can even some openings starting at 3:00 am so I would even check around then too.
37. Bring your own food or snacks
As much as it pains me to say it, but if you want to save money or eat a little bit healthier, the best thing you can do is bring your own snacks.
Disneyland is expensive, and that includes all of the delicious food, drinks, snacks, and cocktails.
38. Park Hop
If you only have one day, that’s it’s 100% required for you to Park Hop or else you’ll be missing out.
Each park is so different in their own way, but by only doing one park or the other, you’re sure to miss out on epic rides, delicious eats, and strong drinks.
39. Shop at the end of the day
Shopping at night or during the evening before you leave is the best way to make use of your time.
Personally, we always shop right after the park closes that way we don’t feel like were’ missing out on valuable time that could’ve been spent riding Space Mountain or enjoying a drink at Lamplight Lounge.
40. Do a character breakfast
If you or anyone in your party wants to dine with characters, then doing a character meal is by far the best way to do a meet and greet without having to wait in any lines.
Character Dining Experiences at Disneyland include:
- Minnie and Friends – Breakfast in the Park at the Plaza Inn (Disneyland Park)
- Mickey’s Tales of Adventures Breakfast Buffet at Storytellers Cafe (Grand Californian Hotel)
- Disney Princess Breakfast Adventures at Napa Rose (Grand Californian Hotel)
- Goofy’s Kitchen (Disneyland Hotel)
41. Bring your own water bottle
To keep yourself hydrated while also saving you some money, be sure to bring your own refillable water bottle.
It beats spending over $4 for a bottle of Dasani water.
42. Know when certain areas of the parks close
Some areas at both parks will close earlier than the rest.
Please note that Mickey’s Toontown, where you can meet beloved characters like Mickey and Minnie, as well as enjoy family-friendly rides, closes earlier than the rest of the park on nights with fireworks. However, it reopens later on to continue the fun. Typically, the land closes from 8-10 p.m. for fireworks shows.
For Star Wars fans, it’s important to check the operating hours of Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance, as it usually closes early. Arriving right before its closing time can lead to a shorter wait.
Over at Disney California Adventure, certain attractions, food, and merchandise locations in Pixar Pier and Paradise Gardens Park close before World of Color performances during regular operations.
However, in the upcoming weeks, Incredicoaster, Inside Out Emotional Whirlwind, and Jumpin’ Jellyfish sometimes have extended operating hours in the evening during “World of Color – One” performances.
The following attractions generally close prior to World of Color:
- Games of Pixar Pier
- Jessie’s Critter Carousel
- Pixar Pal-A-Round
- Inside Out Emotional Whirlwind
- Silly Symphony Swings
- Jumpin’ Jellyfish
- Golden Zephyr
Please keep in mind that Toy Story Midway Mania remains open during World of Color and often has the shortest line of the night during that time.
If you’re looking to experience the Incredicoaster at night (which I highly recommend!), you can ride it during World of Color for a limited time.
The park typically closes shortly before or after the last World of Color show, while the ride usually closes well before the first show.
Plan your visit accordingly to make the most of these special timings and enjoy a memorable experience at Disneyland Resort!
43. Go to the second showing of World of Color or Fantasmic
During the busier times of the year, World of Color and Fantasmic will have two showings.
The second showing is generally less crowded so if you don’t mind staying out later, then going to the second showing is by far the best wait to avoid crowds and maybe even get a better viewing spot.
44. Use Virtual Queue for World of Color
World of Color uses a virtual queue system for the main viewing area, so if you plan on watching this show and want a good spot, be sure to join the virtual queue (free).
There are also dining packages or dessert parties that you can opt for to get a reserved standing area.
45. Go on rides during nighttime shows
During the fireworks, World of Color, or even Fantasmic, wait times are generally at it’s lowest.
So if you don’t mind skipping those shows, this is the best time to knock out some popular rides like Pirates of the Caribbean, Toy Story Midway Mania, and Haunted Mansion, just to name a few.
46. Enter a queue right before the park closes
There’s just something about jumping in line right before the park closes that makes the ride even more special.
I love doing this because once you’re in line, you will get to ride!
47. Do a VIP tour if you have more than 8 people
If you have a large party, and you can swing it financially, a VIP tour is a great way to knock out as many rides as possible as well as get reserved seating for nighttime shows. I did one in 2022 to check it off my bucket list and you can read my full review here.
48. Get a celebratory pin
If you’re celebrating, stop by Town Hall and get a pin! Cast Members around the park will congratulate you or wish you a happy birthday throughout the day. It’s a cool way to experience a little bit of Disney magic.
49. Bring a Jacket (or even a rain jacket or poncho)
This tip is mainly for out of towners especially if you’re coming from Florida. Anaheim gets pretty chilly in the evening so be sure to bring a light jacket or spirit jersey with you.
50. Make a reservation at Oga’s Cantina if you love Star Wars
Olga’s Cantina is the hottest bar at Disneyland Park, and for good reason. Although the drinks are hit and miss, the atmosphere is what sets this apart.
So if this is something that interests you, I highly recommend that you make an advanced dining reservation. And if you can’t find any, you can always test your luck by joining the waiting list.
51. Watch the Flag Retreat Ceremony
In Town Square at Disneyland Park, the patriot flag retreat happens every day at 4:30 pm. It’s definitely something you have to view at least once.
52. Eat during off-peak hours
There’s no worse decision than eating lunch at the parks around 12:30 because every location will be packed, seating will be limited, and mobile order will be for an hour away.
By eating at weird or off-peak times, you’ll have a stress-free dining experience.
I recommend the you eat between 10:30 am to 12 pm and between 3 pm to 5 pm.
Or better, you can eat on the go!
53. Fly into John Wayne Airport
I hate LAX.
That’s why I always try to fly into SNA (John Wayne Airport) in Santa Ana.
It’s only 20 minutes from Disneyland Resort and it’s such an easier airport to navigate.
If the prices are the same, I usually fly into SNA even if it requires a layover.
54. Kids under 3 don’t need tickets
Children under the age of three do not need a park ticket to enter Disneyland.
55. Eat here, not there
Here are all of the restaurants that are worth eating at in my opinion:
- Rancho Del Zocalo
- Bengal Barbecue
- Lamplight Lounge
- Flo’s Cafe
- Cafe Orleans
- Plaza Inn
- Blue Bayou
- Jolly Holiday
- Ronto Roasters
- Honorable Mention: Pym’s Test Kitchen
That said, there are some other quick service spots that I didn’t mention only because they have one or two dishes that are worth getting like the Beef Birria Toasted Cheese at Cocina Cucamonga Mexican Grill or the Beef Bulgogi Burrito at Lucky Fortune Cookery.
56. Skip the balloons
Disneyland balloons are cool and all, but they really aren’t worth the the $12 to $20 price tag .
With these Disneyland tips in your back pocket, you’re now equipped to conquer the park like a seasoned pro.
By implementing our strategies, you’ll be able to save valuable time and money, making the most out of your Disneyland visit.
Get ready to experience the magic of Disneyland like never before!
“The way to get started is to quit talking and begin doing.” – Walt Disney