10 Disneyland Tips to Make Your Visit the Happiest on Earth

I’ve been a bit quiet lately, as I just returned from a trip home to California – more on that later! So while I’m getting caught up, today I feature a guest post from Tim Aoki, one of my very best friends from college whom I met on the first day of freshman year when he lived down the hall. I am an absolute Disneyland fanatic and former Annual Passholder (before I moved infinity and beyond miles away), but Tim puts my Disneyland appreciation to shame by visiting on a weekly basis. If there’s anyone who knows the ins and outs of the park, it’s him.

Disneyland Sleeping Beauty castle

The magic of Disneyland

Disneyland is the happiest place on earth, but it’s also the busiest place on earth, depending on when you go. Being an experienced Annual Passholder, I’ve accumulated a number of tips and tricks that will greatly enhance your experience at the park. These tips will hopefully help you get the most out of your time spent in Walt Disney’s original Magic Kingdom!

Be there at park opening and use fast passes.

If it’s at all possible, come early to the park, and I mean before the scheduled opening time! Guests are usually let into the park 15 to 30 minutes earlier than the posted opening time every day. Keep in mind, during this 15 to 30 minute time frame, you’re only allowed into a small section of the park (up through Main Street U.S.A.). When the official park open time comes, the employees (called cast members) will give everyone access to the rest of the park.

Once you get in, the first thing you’ll want to do is get a fast pass (a ticket to a shorter line later in the day) for a popular attraction before jumping into line for something else while you wait for the time slot printed on your fast pass to arrive.

Get free buttons from pretty much any cast member.

Yes, I know Disneyland is expensive. The tickets are expensive, the food is expensive (but scrumptious—don’t miss these great Disneyland desserts!), and the hotels are expensive. But believe it or not, there are SOME things that are free at Disneyland, and a highly popular one is buttons. Disneyland creates and distributes all kinds of buttons you can wear. They range from standard issue ones like “First Visit” and “Anniversary” to limited edition buttons promoting a new film or TV show. Any cast member at any shop has them, so just stop and ask if they have any, and they will give you as many as you’d like!

Disneyland buttons

A different Tim’s button collection from my (Kirstie’s) last visit to Disneyland

Utilize the package check-in stations.

It’s okay to buy big souvenirs towards the beginning of your visit; just leave them with a cast member at a designated package check in station for later pick up. Otherwise, you can even arrange to have them ship your souvenirs directly to your house for a small fee!

Keep an eye out for hidden Mickeys to have fun even while waiting in line.

The biggest complaint about Disneyland – or any theme park, for that matter – are the long lines. Fast passes (mentioned above) can really be a time saver, but, at the end of the day, if you go to Disneyland on a busy day, you will be in line for 40 minutes for some attractions. However, all is not lost!! All over Disneyland are “hidden Mickeys” that can help pass the time in a fun way. Hidden Mickeys are the iconic three-circle Mickey shape hidden in plain view on the wall, on the floor, or anywhere at all. They can be made by anything from deliberately designed smudges to cleverly positioned props that look like the iconic three-circle logo when seen from a precise angle.

A not so hidden Mickey, and one of my favorite Disneyland snacks, while in line for It's a Small World

A not so hidden Mickey – and one of my favorite Disneyland snacks – while in line for It’s a Small World

 Take advantage of single rider lines.

A lot of highly popular attractions have something called a “single rider line.” Guests in this line are used to fill up the inevitably empty seats on ride vehicles. For example, on the Indiana Jones Temple of the Forbidden Eye attraction, the ride vehicle consists of several rows of four seats. If, in any given row, an odd numbered group is seated, there will be an empty seat no one but a single rider can fill. If you and your group are willing to sacrifice sitting together, this can cut wait times drastically.

If you want to meet a lot of characters for photos and autographs but don’t have the time to wait in line, go enjoy a character dining experience.

If you have the time (and money) to spend on a nice meal at a full service restaurant, you might want to make a reservation at one of the many character dining restaurants around the Disneyland Resort. At these restaurants, Disney characters roam around the dining area as you eat your meal. Each character moves from table to table, spending several minutes at each table so that everyone can get a photo with them as well as a hug and an autograph!

Celebrating my 8th birthday with a character dining experience. (That's my cousin whose wedding I just went home for!)

Celebrating my 8th birthday with a character dining experience. (With my cousin whose wedding I just went home for!)

Take a guided tour.

Disneyland offers several different types of guided tours that often include exclusive souvenirs and/or VIP seating for a show! Again, this is only if you have the time (and money) to spend on top of your park entrance ticket. Each guided tour gives you a unique perspective on the park, and since it’s only two to three hours long, you still have the rest of the day to play as you wish.

Stay at an official Resort hotel to maximize the amount of Disney magic.

The Disneyland Resort sits smack dab in the middle of the residential area of the city of Anaheim. Once you step off of the resort property, you are plunged back into reality. If you have the money to spend on Disneyland Resort Hotel, I highly recommend it.

The three official hotels are the Disneyland Hotel, the Grand Californian, and the Paradise Pier Hotel. All three offer unique settings for rooms and restaurants. At these hotels, you won’t have to break away from the magic of Disney even when you come out of the park. Enjoy things like character dining breakfast with Mickey shaped waffles and fireworks from your room, complete with the show music on the room’s TV.

Grand Californian Hotel, Disneyland

The Grand Californian (photo credit)

Save continuously running indoor shows until later.

Disneyland actually doesn’t take up too much acreage in the city of Anaheim, but guests walk a lot and eventually in the day get exhausted. When your feet are tired or you want shelter from the summer heat or winter cold, that’s when you want to go into a nice indoor show where you can rest for 15 to 20 minutes. This is a great way to gather some energy while still enjoying a Disney show so you don’t waste any precious time!

Plan ahead.

The Disneyland Resort website is greatly helpful. If the website doesn’t have an answer to your particular question, always feel free to call Guest Relations. Also, Disneyland’s show schedule is posted on their website about a month in advance so you can prepare your day’s schedule ahead of time.

We sadly have no photos together at Disneyland, but here's one of Tim and I at the UCLA game while I was home!

We sadly have no photos together at Disneyland, but here’s one of Tim and I at the UCLA game while I was home. Thanks for the tips, Tim! Can’t wait to go back!

5 Responses

  1. Roshan says:

    What great tips! Perhaps Tim should start a tour guide service?!

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