Recently Alex and I spent a long weekend together in Disneyland. Alex took me to Disneyland for the first time about a year after we moved to Arizona and since we can make it to Anaheim in about a 6 hour drive, we’ve enjoyed taking the opportunity to go about once a year while we’re still close enough to avoid taking flights. This most recent time we got to go to the new Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge area of the park and ride both of the new Star Wars rides!
Over our few trips, we’ve figured out a few things that make the whole experience run more smoothly that I wanted to share! They work for Alex and I, being a pair of adults with no children, but may not apply to every group of Disney-goers. 🙂
First – When planning when to go, Alex and I make sure to check isitpacked.com. I first learned of this site when I told my advisor I’d be going to Disneyland. He immediately pulled up the site to see how the crowds would be. The site ranks each day one of four crowd levels; Ghost Town, Hey, It’s Alright, Yup, It’s Packed, and Forget About It. We discovered there is a notable difference between Yup, It’s Packed and Hey, It’s Alright and since then have tried to time our trips at the best possible time.
Next! For Alex and I in particular, we really appreciate staying in a hotel that is walking distance to the park. Not a “oh, 15 minutes isn’t bad” walk but a “I feel like it’s right outside the door” walk. When we had stayed at a hotel further away we took the shuttle in to the park each day and felt we ended up wasting so much time waiting around for the shuttle to pick us up – we could have just walked there faster! There are three hotels directly connected to the parks that literally make the park just outside your door, but they are much more expensive. While these Disney Resort hotels have a lot to offer aside from the close proximity, if you’re only looking for the connivence of being nearby, the hotels across the street work just as well. With walking through Downtown Disney and security, you end up with nearly the same walk distance either way!
When considering which tickets you should get to the park, I’d like to assure you that [for Alex and I who have the energy] Park Hopper and MaxPass are much worth it! Park Hopper allows you to go between the parks as much as you want, giving you more ride/experience options and the ability to change up your plans throughout the day. MaxPass allows you to do to the awesome fast pass selection (I’ll get to later) from the app as well as access to all the photos taken from the photographers around the park. Spending a little more on these tickets makes the park experience just that much more carefree.
If you’re like me, and enjoy starting your morning with a latte and a pastry, you may find yourself eyeing the Downtown Disney Starbucks as you walk to the park, only to ultimately be daunted by the line. Instead, there is a simple solution. Are you ready? Starbucks App Mobile Order. You can just pull up the app while you’re waiting in the security line, order what you’d like and it’s there waiting for you by the time you get there! Mobile Orders are also great inside the park, which I’ll get to next.
The biggest game changer for a smooth park experience has got to be the Disneyland App. There are so many different uses for it;
- Park Map! And wait times! Of course the most obvious use is to look up a map of the park. It is a cute, very detailed, cartoon style map, that you can filter to find specific things like restrooms or pretzel stands. When looking at the attractions, each ride has it’s own wait time listed so you can decide if it’s really worth the 40 minute wait to go on Peter Pan’s flight (and when you inevitably decide it’s not, you can go ahead and get on Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride because you can see only has a 5 minute wait time)
- Dinning Reservations, Menus, and Mobile Orders! Honestly this is three tips wrapped into one. First, you can use the app to make reservations – being the introverted millennials we are, we sure enjoy making a reservation with just a few taps on our phones. 😉 Before you make that reservation, you can double check the menu and see if there’s anything that sounds particularly good! Since we were able to see the menu beforehand, we ended up getting to go to the Blue Bayou this last time (the restaurant inside the Pirates of the Caribbean ride), knowing ahead of time that there would be a vegetarian option for me. And finally, mobile orders! For more of the causal food around the park you can make a mobile order and just pick it up when you get there! Does dole whip sound awesome as you finish up Astroblasters? Go ahead and order it as you get off the ride, and by the time you walk across the main square, there will be dole whip waiting for you! Final Note on the reservations – for the bigger dinner reservations, make them as early as you can; which is exactly 60 days out. You can cancel them up until 24 hours ahead of time, so there’s really not anything to lose. On this last trip, we made sure to make reservations for Oga’s Cantina in Galaxy’s Edge – which we learned you could only get into if you had a reservation.
- Photos! Throughout the park you can find park photographers that will take pictures of you and your group in iconic locations, with fun backgrounds, and with characters. You can easily get cute photos of your whole group. With the Disneyland app and a MaxPass, you can see and download these pictures in the app just a few hours after they are taken! I love having all the pictures I can get 😉
Next is the fast pass! Originally fast passes were designed in order to allow park goers to go enjoy their day rather than waiting in line – by picking up a fast pass at the start of a line, you would get a “reservation” for a specific time later in the day that you could come back to the ride and go through a much shorter line. There is a specific number of fast passes allowed for a given time frame to make sure the wait stays short. My mother-in-law was a logistical wiz when it came to fast passes, knowing how to traverse the park to pick up fast passes on the way to the next ride – maximizing ride time while minimizing wait time.
Now with the Disneyland App and a MaxPass, you don’t need to physically go by the ride to get a fast pass! You can simply use the app to browse all fast pass options and get one for a ride, regardless of where you are in the park! So, as soon as you redeem one fast pass, while you’re waiting in line, you can go ahead and make a reservation for the next one!
Alex and I also noticed that it is important to pay attention to the “You can make another fast pass reservation at -:–” notification. Sometimes, this would be as soon as the current one was active, sometimes, it would be 30 minutes before the current one was active, and sometimes it was exactly an hour after we made the current reservation. We weren’t able to figure out the rhyme or reason for these times, but by paying attention to them we ended up with three fast pass reservations at once! We were able to go from one ride to the next using a fast pass each time.
In regards to the newest Star Wars ride, using the app is key. Rather than getting a fast pass for the ride, you are granted access to the ride in “Boarding Groups”. At the start of the day, as soon as the park opened, you can use the app to get into a Boarding Group for the day. Since we were there only 10 days after the ride opened, this was almost like entering a lottery. The groups would fill up in less than a minute. Throughout the day the app would list which boarding groups were up, and we just had to make it over to the ride during the right window. They would make it through about 10 groups in an hour.
Now, equipped with your crowd calendar, mobile ordered latte, and Disneyland app, you are ready to have an awesome day at the park! Here are a few other things to keep in mind:
- Start your day getting a fast pass for a larger ride while waiting in a relatively short line. Instead of waiting an hour for Guardians of the Galaxy at the start of the day, you can enjoy the Incredicoaster once (or twice) before walking straight into the fast pass line!
- One of the perks of a walking-distance hotel is the ease of returning in the afternoon for a break. In the later afternoon, the fast pass times start filling up, the park starts to get more crowded and you end up needing to navigate around the parade. This is a great time for a break! Head back to your hotel, charge your phone, put your feet up, take a nap. Get a fast pass for something in two or so hours and take some time to relax before starting your evening.
- Bring a second pair of shoes! Obviously, comfortable walking shoes are a must. Bringing a second pair to change into (later in the day perhaps?) helps your feet not get too uncomfortable.
- Pass the time waiting in lines playing 20 questions! Alex and I like to do animated Disney characters. We’ve done everyone from Gaston to the pig in Moana.
- Get in the mood – or make it a game – listening to Disney songs on the way over! Alex has made an awesome playlist of songs from almost every Disney movie with notable songs. (From Frozen to Wall-E to Pinocchino. ) You can find it here!
Hope you’ve found this information fun and interesting! Is there any helpful tips you have that helps you have a great day at Disneyland?