Yesterday was Day 4 of our Epic Road Trip- Our Late Start to Summer

We went to Disneyland for Day 4 of our summer adventure. We are doing 10 National Parks in 2 weeks and since Disneyland was on the way, we decided to take a day to squeeze it in. The kids of course were thrilled! It was the twins first time at Disney. Brielle had been to Disney World, but she was less than 2 years old at the time. We went to Disneyland with the Perez family, as we are on this two week adventure together. She and I both researched the best ways to maximize park experience when you only have 1 day at the park. Our family spent a little over 8 hours there yesterday. The kids had a great time and I was thrilled we fit in so many rides and activities into one day! It was the tips we found online and in one specific book that made all the difference. Here are my top 10 Tips:

  1. Buy the Unofficial Guide to Disneyland 2017. It was my greatest resource in planning our day at Disney (besides my friend Elizabeth of course). This book has everything from specifics about every ride at the park, to the scare factor for every ride, to tour plans (these are maps of the park, with rides numbered and labeled, and lists of the order of rides to get on, in order to minimize your time in line and get on the most rides possible). We used the tour plan for doing the park with young children in the Disneyland park in one day (from the back of this book). I would post it here, but I don’t want to violate the author’s copyright info. I have to say for the $10 that Amazon charges for this book, the tour plan alone is worth the cost! I found the BEST tips of all in this book: Unofficial Guide to Disneyland 2017
  2. Get to the park before it opens. Try to arrive by 7am, an hour before they officially open the park. Now keep in mind the schedule for Disney changes, so check the specific time, but try to arrive a full hour before park opening time. We were able to pay for parking, get parked, ride the tram into the park, clear through security, get our tickets scanned, and actually get into Disneyland and line up in front of the castle before the park opened at 8 am. That means once the clock struck 8 am we were able to be in line for our first ride in less than 5 minutes. It was remarkable! I thought we would have to wait until 8 am for security to even begin working, but we were getting our bags searched around 7:15 am and then it was off to the tram. Getting to the park early was the best decision we made in our planning. If you don’t arrive before the park opens you can just about guarantee you will be subject to lines, longer waits, and bigger crowds.
  3. Buy your tickets before you get to the park. We purchased our tickets online at least a month before the trip. We printed them at home. It saved time once in the park, as we didn’t have to stand in the ticket line. We went from security, to the tram, and then right into the main entrance line to have our sheets of paper scanned. They scanned our tickets, took our photo right there, and gave us the small tickets that you carry on you and use to get Fastpasses all day.
  4. Hit up Fantasyland first thing when the park opens (this is if you have small kids). This is part of the tour plan we got in the book listed above. The rides here are all intended for young, preschool aged children. You can’t get fast passes for these rides, so it is better to go to these rides right away when you get to the park. Some of these rides develop very long lines during the day. It has more to do with the amount of time it takes for people to load and unload from the ride (such as the Dumbo ride) than actual interest in the ride. Other rides, such as the Haunted Mansion can get 2,400 people through each hour because it runs on a converyor belt and peo0ple are constantly getting in and out very quickly. The rides in Fantasyland tend to take longer to load and unload, thus the wait. Since they are the little kid rides, some people don’t have other options for rides. They can’t take their 2 year olds on roller coasters, so they will stick to these rides, which makes the whole area get bogged down as it is filled with people who have toddlers. My kids had the best time overall in Fantasyland. Our twins are 3 and our daughter is 5. Fantasyland was a great location for them for the first 2 hours at the park and we fit in 9 rides in 2 hours because we got there before the park opened! All these pics were taken while in Fantasyland at Disneyland-
  5. Make reservations to have a meal (brunch or lunch) with the characters. If you don’t do a character meal you may only get to interact with 1-2 characters the entire day unless you make a major effort and stand in lines to see characters and do photos with them. Don’t make reservations first thing when the park opens, as that is your optimal time to get on rides with lower lines. We had a 10:30 reservation for brunch at the Plaza Inn, right inside Disneyland. This brunch was a very good buffet and characters walked around to visit each table. It was a variety of characters, but each stopped by for photos and autographs. We were told by the staff at the Plaza Inn that they had more character interaction at their venue, than any other character dining meal experience in Disneyland. Here are some of the pics from our meal at the Plaza Inn. I even missed taking pics of some of the characters with the kids, as I was busy eating.
  6. Don’t hesitate to rent a stroller. Compared to other Disney prices, the stroller rental was reasonable, and we rented 2 strollers after lunch. It gave us more time at the park with our kids whose little legs had given out for the day. They wanted to do more rides, but they were done walking. We had probably walked 3-4 miles already that day. It is amazing how much walking you do at Disney, so be prepared for the walking. Good shoes for everyone are a must! A stroller is also very helpful in keeping the kids going without having to be carried (which will really wear out parents in the heat).
  7. Buy some important things before you get to the park. Disney has a huge upcharge on their merchandise. Order things online from Amazon before your trip. What we ordered that saved us lots of money in the long run because we didn’t buy at the park included: Disney themed laynards to hold the tickets around each child’s neck (and our own). I also put a business card inside each in case any of the kids got separated from us. We also bought autograph pads (to have the characters sign) and the kids’ Disney apparel before our trip the Disneyland.
  8. Use the Fastpass system. You don’t have to pay extra to use the Fastpass system.  Get Fastpasses for the rides that have the most wait time, so you don’t have to stand in line. Get the pass and then head over to other rides with less wait time. Here is how the Fastpass works: You go to the ride where you want the Fastpass, scan you ticket at the Fastpass machine at that particular ride, and it will print out a Fastpass ticket for when you are to return to the ride. When you return to use your Fastpass, you enter into the Fastpass lane. They now scan your park pass for your Fastpass entrance. The printout that you received is merely a reminder of the time when you are supposed to return to enjoy the ride without major waiting. My personal suggestion is to get Fastpasses for rides that are over 30 minutes, nothing less than that, otherwise you are wasting your Fastpass option.
  9. Pack water. It gets hot at Disneyland. Justin brought in his large stainless steel water bottle in his backpack. I am so glad he did! We refilled from the drinking fountains several times that day. Be sure to also remember sunblock!
  10. Have a Tour Plan. I mentioned this in tip #1, but I can’t emphasize this enough. We had a plan that listed the order of each ride we wanted to ride and the exact order as well as location of each ride. Having a tour plan (whether its yours or from the book listed above or from another blogger’s website) will help you minimize line wait time, and enjoy the rides that are closest to one another. Otherwise you can become that family that wanders from Fantasyland for one ride, then all the way back to Frontierland for the next, and then all the way over to Tommorrland for the third ride. It wastes a huge amount of time to wander the park aimlessly without a tour plan. You can always deviate from the plan if you happen across a super short line, but its good to have a plan in place so when you get off one ride you know immediately where to walk to next.