Disneyland is the ultimate theme park. But the learning curve for first time visitors is steep. If you’re planning your first trip to Disneyland , read the following Disneyland tips for First time visitors planning your Disneyland vacation. Then memorize them, to make your trip the best it can be!
We recently visited Disneyland in Anaheim, CA for the very first time. I’m telling you, the learning curve was astronomical! I went solo, no husband or older kids to keep an eye on my six young kids, and I did zero research. I am not a planner, but thought, “Hey, I’ve been to Walt Disney World in Florida, so I got this.”
Luckily, my cousin and her husband knew what they were doing and I simply followed them around ALL day. And I learned a ton.
If you are planning a first visit to Disneyland or plan to visit downtown Disney for the very first time, read on for my tips for first time visitors to Disneyland.
Buy Park Tickets Online
This Disneyland tip for First Timers will save you at least one precious hour. Buying tickets in advance online enables you to go straight to the entrance without spending a whopping hour standing in long lines at the ticket booth! Be aware, too, that recent events have increased security everywhere and Disneyland is no different. This will add even more time to your wait before even getting into the park.
Also, keep in mind that Disneyland offers discounted tickets for military members and their families. This is a great way to save money at Disneyland. My husband is a Marine and yet I had no clue about this money-saving policy!
Purchase a Park Hopper Pass
This is a Disneyland tip that is usually reserved for multi-day trips. However, I’m here to tell you we managed to visit both California Adventure and Disneyland in one day with 15 people in tow, 4 adults and a whopping 11 kids ranging in age from 3 to 14.
It was imperative we all have Park Hopper passes because of the wide age range of kids and a few thrill-loving adults. We split the day in two, spending the morning at California Adventure and venturing onto Disneyland in the early afternoon. Incidentally, California Adventure closes earlier.
Stay on Property
As the day came to a close, we were herded like cattle down Main Street to the buses that led us to our car. I thought of the hotels we had seen on property and how lovely it would be to stay at a Disneyland resort. There are three if you are so inclined: Disneyland Grand Californian Hotel and Spa, Disneyland Hotel and Disney’s Paradise Pier.
This is a BIG Disneyland tip For First Time visitors. In addition to beating the crowds at the end of the day, staying on property also gives you an Extra Magic Hour in the park, which means your odds for meeting Mickey and other cast members increase!
Rent a Stroller
My youngest is 5 and he’s a pretty avid hiker and adventurer, but Disneyland Park can be overwhelming in all its excitement. Walt Disney was a visionary, for sure. One of the top Disneyland tips I can think of when visiting with preschool age kids is to rent a stroller. At the very least, it gives you a place to throw all your extra clothing, bags, souvenirs and everything in between. Plus, it is surprisingly dark in the park at night, so the stroller became indispensable in helping keep my young buck close.
Make Use of the FastPass System
A huge Disneyland tip for first time visitors is to make use of the Fastpass. Incredibly simple, even I was able to figure out the Fastpass. It is one of the best ways to maximize your time at Disneyland and I think one of the most overlooked Disneyland tips!
All you need do is choose one of the select FastPass attractions in either Disneyland and California Adventure. Then, insert your park ticket at the FastPass kiosk and you will get a return time to the attraction you chose.
When you return to that attraction at the specified time, you literally bypass the long lines. The trick is that you may only use the FastPass during the specified time and you can only hold one FastPass at a time.
Download the Disney Mobile App
This is a Disneyland tip for first time visitors that I never thought of. I live in the app world, but I never knew there was a Disney App. But, in all honesty, the Disneyland App became indispensable to me as the day wore on and the crowds increased. It was simple to pull up the app and check wait times for the different attractions we were considering. And for first-timers visitors, there is a map, which I found more helpful than anything.
You can also use the app to decide which attractions to choose a Fast Pass for. It’s advisable to only use FastPasses for rides with a 30-minute wait or more!
Have a Plan and Prioritize Attractions
I admit this is not my forte. However, my cousin is Type A and she had a perfectly executed plan. We chose one park at a time and the popular rides with the longest waits and no access to FastPass early in the morning and late in the evening.
There are a few rides and attractions that should be at the top of any first-timers list. The Pirates of the Caribbean is a staple Disney attraction, as are the many Fantasyland rides based on the classic Disney movies. Our kids loved the night show, World of Color. Blue Bayou is awesome. I hear Indiana Jones is amazing, but it was was closed down for repairs when we got there. And of course Splash Mountain, Matterhorn Bobsleds, Cars Land and Big Thunder Mountain are all epic. It’s a Small World and Toy Story were my nephew’s favorite, my little girls loved Frozen and for old timers, like me … Peter Pan and TomorrowLand.
Matching Shirts for Larger Groups
My brilliant cousin’s idea was for all of us to tie dye T-Shirts. This Disneyland tip is two-fold. One, everyone seen in matching shirts are obviously in a group and therefore are appropriately seated together. (Here are our favorite Disney shirts for families.)
Second, we were easily visible to each other throughout the day…priceless in a park as crowded as Disneyland .
Save Shopping for After the Attractions Close
One huge Disneyland tip for first time visitors that, again, I knew nothing about was not to shop until after the park closes! It makes sense because the shops are all open a full hour after the park actually closes. So to maximize your time in the park, ride all the rides, see all the shows, and play on all the attractions first. Then save shopping for after the park closes.
Find Your Favorite Characters
I knew none of this. And my cousin, my guide, my Disneyland lifeline, did not have princesses on her must-do list as her daughter is 10 and is not into princesses. My 6 and 8 year old daughters, on the other hand, were desperate to see some Jasmine and Tianna and Snow White. Major mom fail because I did not read this TravelingMom post or any of the hundreds of thousands of Disneyland character meet and greet blogs before going. As a big Disneyland tip for first time visitors, I’d say, read all the blogs!
Talk to Your Kids About Safety
This is one Disneyland tip that isn’t strictly for Disneyland. Prior to entering the park, I had the discussion about what to do if we got separated. I told my kids no way in the world would I let this happen, but if hell froze over and they got separated from me, they would have a plan in place. Make sure you have one too!
Plan Bathroom Stops
Everywhere we go! You see, one of my littles has to use the restroom constantly because she’s literally the best hydrated person I know. She drinks more water than I do, and that’s quite a feat. The upside in the real world is she’s healthy as an ox. The downside at Disneyland is that bathrooms seem to be few and far between. So, being proactive and making sure everyone gets the opportunity to go each ends up saving some precious time in the long run.
Pack Your Own Snacks and Water
As established above, I’m a huge fan of water, but not water fountains so much. It is a top money saving Disneyland tip to bring in your own water and healthy snacks. We brought our GeigerRigs into the park and packed them with water and sweatshirts and then stuffed them all into the rented strollers!
Plus, by bringing in your own food, you can eat on the move and save valuable Disneyland time! Veggies, fruits, sandwiches, wraps … all easily eaten on the move! And healthy to boot!
This is a tip I had never heard of before or read about since. If you find a broken balloon on the ground before the fastidious cast members clean it up, you can take it into any gift shop and they will give you a new one.