Tuesday, February 18, 2014

20 Tips for a Better Disneyland Vacation

I'm going to stray from our theme of Apps this month and do a post on Disneyland Tips. I don't consider myself a Disneyland expert, but we just went and so I felt it might be helpful to share what I learned!! 
(My view point is from a visit in mid February and my kids are ages 6-11) 

1.  WATCH DISNEY MOVIES before you go!! There are so many rides that touch on all the old movies : Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, Pinnochio, etc and my kids hadn't seen half of them! (Or didn't remember seeing them)  There are too many new movies that are so much more fun to watch, that I feel like a lot of kids today haven't seen the old ones! But a lot of the rides are about these movies, so I made sure they watched them before we left and it made all the rides so much more meaningful for them!  Yes, the rides featuring some of these movies are only a couple minutes long, but if they hadn't seen the movie, they wouldn't have gotten as excited about it.

Highly Recommended Cartoons:
Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, Pinocchio, Alice in Wonderland, The Little Mermaid, Tarzan, Aladdin, Dumbo, Toy Story, Finding Nemo, Monsters Inc, The Incredibles, Cars,  & A Bug's Life.
Highly Recommended Non-Cartoons:
 (if you don't feel comfortable with your kids watching the whole thing, maybe youtube some parts of them to give the basic idea)
Star Wars, Indiana Jones Raiders of the Lost Ark, Pirates of the Caribbean, Haunted Mansion and Roger Rabbit.

(don't have a full ride based on them, but there will be shows and references here and there)
 The Lion King, Beauty & The Beast, Mulan, Cinderella, Bambi, Tinkerbell. 

2.  HOTEL - Just stay walking distance. We actually stayed at the Radisson in Buena Park 15 min away, and while it was nice and everything, we had to take a shuttle into Disneyland.  This would have been fine since it was free and we didn't have to hassle with a stroller or anything,  BUT it only dropped off and picked up at certain times, so we didn't like the lack of flexibility.  It would just be so much easier if you stay at one of the neighboring hotels.  That way you can go back and forth at your leisure.   If you are going primarily to do Disneyland, it's not going to matter how nice the hotel is...you are just basically sleeping there.  But I would say BOOK EARLY.  We procrastinated and booked a month before our trip and it was hard to get into a neighboring hotel.

3.  Good Walking SHOES!  This was our first time without a stroller.  While their shoes seem great for school and playing in, maybe they weren't the best for being at the park for 12 hours a day!  So it might be work it to invest in some good shoes....and that goes for yourself too.  We set a pedometer and found that on average, we walked about 8 miles a day!!  So make sure your shoes will be good for that!

4.  Understand the park SCHEDULE.  There is Disneyland, and then there is California Adventure.  They will sometimes have different hours on the same day.  If you have the bonus of a "Magic Morning" (where you can get into the park 1 hour earlier than the regular crowd) with your tickets...they are different for each park.  Disneyland is Tues, Thurs, Sat and CA is Mon, Wed, Fri, Sun.  So when you decide which days you will be there, make sure you know the schedule!  It sucks to get there early for one park, all prepared with a plan,  and find out that it was actually the OTHER one that opened at that time.

5.  MAGIC MORNINGS.  If you are able to do "Magic Morning" for one of your days, don't get too excited.  It really was NOT worth it for me.  We got there early and found out that they don't even open the whole park for that extra hour.  In Disneyland, only Fantasyland and Tomorrowland were open, so even though you get in an hour early, so do a lot of other people and without the whole park for them to spread out in, it was quite crowded.  I'm not sure if this changes at different times of year, so maybe call and double check which lands will be open before attempting your magic morning. 

TIP**Someone gave me this great idea: Instead of going to your magic morning....Get there when the park opens and go into the OPPOSITE park.  So if it's a Tuesday, which means Magic Morning at Disneyland, go to California Adventure instead! Most people try to take advantage of the Magic morning and so you might get less crowds at the opposite park.  If you really would like to give Magic Morning a try, I might suggest one person waiting in line at the gates of the other park, while the other person takes the kids and tries to hit a few rides in the other park. 

6.  GET THERE EARLY!  We accomplished the most in the mornings because the crowds were so much lower! We didn't even need fast passes in the morning.  We got onto so many rides so quickly! So do what you have to do to get up and over there right when the park opens.  Pack your bag the night before, lay out your clothes and set an alarm.  It's worth it!!

***BUT if you are going to go through the trouble of getting there early, head straight to the rides that will have the biggest lines later in the day!  Don't waste your time stopping to get pictures with characters or stopping in the shops.  You can do those things later!! Catch the short ride lines while you can!

7.  MAKE A PLAN BEFORE getting to the park.  This goes along with the last one, getting there early.  If you want to make the most of your time, don't spend the first 10 minutes looking at the map and deciding where to go first.  Get a hold of a map, whether printing one from online, or getting one mailed to you and decide where you want to head first.  That way, when you get there right on time, you can just head straight there!  And you don't have to have the whole day mapped out or anything...Just the first few things you want to do so you can head straight there.  You can look at the maps and make more plans while you are standing in ride lines.

8.  SOUVENIRS - I saw a blog tip to buy souvenirs at the end of the day so you're not carrying them around all day AND that most of the toys found around the park can be found in the main shopping stores at the entrances to the parks.  BUT THAT IS NOT TRUE!   If your kids find what they want at a store, JUST BUY IT THEN AND THERE.  Yes, you may carry it around for the day, but it sure beats walking all over the park to find it again and then being disappointed that it isn't there anymore!

9.  WHICH MONTHS ARE THE BEST?  February was wonderful!!!!!  Stay away from Presidents Day though.  We've also been in early October and that was fine as well.  Here is a blog that can give you more info on when to avoid the crowds: http://www.disneytouristblog.com/disneyland-busy-crowd-times/  The DOWNSIDE to visiting at these less crowded times is that they close some rides for routine maintenance.  So we missed out on Splash Mountain, It's a Small World, Big Thunder Mtn Railroad, etc    I'm sorry, but it was worth it for me to miss those and have less crowds AND not to mention lower temperatures.  We were in jeans and a tee shirt...could have pulled off wearing shorts and had a jacket on hand for early mornings and evenings and we were fine.  Never sweating! It was great.  If you have little ones especially, I would highly suggest going in these off months...even with rides closed, you will be thanking the heavens that the lines are shorter.

9.  WEEKDAYS are obviously going to be less crowded.  We did Mon-Thursday and it was wonderful.  BUT we missed out on Fantasmic and fireworks that are only Fri-Sun at the Disneyland Park.  But really, it STILL was worth lower crowds!

10.  TOONTOWN does NOT open when the park does!  There was one day where we planned to hit it first thing to avoid the crowds, but found out it opens an hour after the park opens. Dumb!!  But I would still try to get there when it opens or soon after.  The kids love the Go-Coaster...a really easy going roller coaster ride, but it's a SHORT ride and not worth staying in line 30 minutes for.  But if you get there early, you can ride it several times with just a 5-10 minute wait.

11.  WATCH THE SHOWS!  They have some great shows, and it's a great way to give your feet a break!!  I would suggest taking advantage of them in the afternoon, when the lines for rides will be the longest and the temperature at it's hottest. 

 Captain EO (Michael Jackson 3D from 1986...so funny!), Great Moments w/Mr. Lincoln, Disney Theater (shows short animated cartoons), and the Tiki Room in Adventure land! (you can get a Dole Whip and eat it while watching the show!)  But then there are so many random shows at each of the big theaters, but check the schedule for times.
The Jedi training can be fun and gives the grown ups a chance to sit.  It seems almost a guarantee that your kids will get to participate if you do the first show of the day.  We went to the 10:30 one day and all 3 of my kids got to go and do it!

California Adventure
Aladdin, 3D Muppets, Disney Jr Live, etc.  One of the best spots we took a break in was the building that holds the "Talking with Crush" & the Animation Academy.  It's a HUGE room with HUGE screens where they highlight almost every Disney film ever made and there are couches and plenty of floor space to just relax.  It was very impressive and almost no one was in there!  Do people know this exists? I thought it was awesome.  I would highly suggest trying everything in this building...there are 4 different rooms to go into and we enjoyed them all!

12. Ride the TRAIN.  When you know you need to get to the other side of the park and your kids are tired of walking...grab a snack or treat and hop on the train!  I would look at your map and circle the 4 train spots so you can find them faster. 

13.  FASTPASS : Take advantage of these!! There are only select rides that have them.  When you get to the park, get fastpasses to a ride and head to the rides that DON'T have fastpasses and hit them while the lines are shorter.  Then you get to GO BACK to your fastpass ride and stand in a shorter line for that one also! We got so much done this way!!  Fastpasses are wonderful! It was helpful to know that if your ticket says come back between 11:00-12:00, you can get another fastpass at 11:01.

TAKE NOTE** that the Radiator Springs Racers is by far the most popular ride.  Therefore the fastpasses run out pretty quick.  I would suggest one person going to get in line for the fastpass for this right when the park opens, while the other person takes the kids to the back of the park to do Toy Story Mania because you will get in pretty quick and can probably do it a couple times before the line gets 45 minutes long.  As you walk into California Adventure and get to the circle with the fountain, look for signs or a long line of people for where the line to get the fastpasses start.  It may look huge, but it goes pretty quick. I think I was only in line for about 15 min. 

14.  SINGLE RIDER lines!  Your kids need to be at least 7 to do this, but some rides have a SINGLE RIDER LINE.  This means that they take one of you at a time to fill in a seat on a ride that might be empty.  Since most families want to ride together, there will not always be an exact number to fill the ride.  These Single Rider lines go SUPER fast.  We rode the ride once as a family, but then when we wanted to ride a ride multiple times, we did the single rider line...especially for RADIATOR SPRINGS RACERS in CarsLand.  This worked great!  My two older kids and I rode it probably 4 times within 30 minutes.  I just made sure to have a plan in case we got separated...showed them where to wait for me, etc.  But we never got too far apart...usually got in the cars right next to each other.  This picture is when we went as a family, but since there are 5 of us, they grabbed someone from the single rider line to join us...that's him on the top left. haha
15.  Use the MOUSEWAIT APP  I talked about that in my last blog post here: http://organizeitchallenge.blogspot.com/2014/02/disneyland-app-very-helpful-at.html

16.  Don't HOP parks every day.  If you have a 3 day Park Hopper, I would suggest going to one park for one day, the other for your 2nd day and use the 3rd day to hit anything in both parks that you missed or want to do again.  It can be a waste of your time to walk back and forth, not to mention TIRING!...so use your map and work your way around one park at a time the best that you can.

17. Pack a BACKPACK with snacks/drinks/food.  If the kids need a snack, don't stop and sit at a table! You  might as well get in line and snack while you are waiting!!  This will also save you $$ on buying snacks!

18.  Bring frozen WATER bottles!!  There is nothing better than cold water on hand when you are walking an average of 8 miles a day!!  Get a hotel that has a fridge/freezer so that you can freeze water in your water bottles over night and then you can pop them in your backpack to refill from drinking fountains around the park.  You can even buy those drink packets that you can add to a water bottle for a flavored drink.  I don't think we bought one drink while we were there.

19.  Get your PARADE spot early!   And just so you don't waste time sitting there for an hour, it can be a great place to picnic and eat lunch or dinner while you wait for the parade to start!  For the Pixar Parade in California Adventure we decided that one of the best spots is near the Pier with your back to the water.  There are benches on the other side, but there's a bend in the road, so it's hard to see the floats coming, especially as all the kids step out to peek around.  From our view we sat there comfortable and could see everything coming from WAY down.
20.  Try to RELAX & HAVE FUN!  I know I've talked about a lot of planning and things to watch for, but don't let yourself get stressed out over it all.  You will find that things don't always go as planned anyway, so you have to learn to let it go and move on!  You came to have fun with your family, so make sure that happens!

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Thanks for sharing!! I really appreciate it!

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