Disneyland is celebrating its 50th Anniversary this year! The Diamond Celebration begins May 22, 2015, and there will never be a more exciting time to plan a Disneyland trip. We asked our subscribers to share their best Disney tips with us, and now we’re sharing their tips with you, plus a few of our own.
1. Always check for specials, even after you have booked your vacation. We saved 25% by calling Disney Travel months after we initially booked. They were more than willing to accommodate our request to save money. (Megan R, Nebraska)
2. Visit during the off season! We used www.touringplans.com to help us assess the crowds, and we picked the last week of January because the crowds were light. We were able to take part in no less than 18 attractions each day. I recently read that most Disney guests take part in 9 attractions during the busy season, so we were able to do more, and we got a 25% discount on our Disneyland hotel by visiting during the off season! (Megan R, Nebraska)
3. My son has ADHD so standing in line soon becomes climbing, swinging, pushing etc. His doctor told us to have him earn Disney Dollars for good behavior. On Day 1, he didn’t earn any money, and the whole family was frustrated by the end of the day. We tweaked for Days 2-5 and it worked even better than we hoped.Each day I gave him $20 in ” Disney Dollars.” If I had to remind him more than once to behave appropriately he lost $1. Based on how day 1 went, I thought he would maybe have $0-3 by the end of the day. Nope!!! He had $19 at the end of the next day.
This was more expensive than I thought, because by the end of the trip he had $75 to spend on toys and souvenirs. As an added bonus, he knew exactly how much money he could spend. I did not have any begging for one more toy at all. It was hands down the most enjoyable Disney vacation our family had. I’m not sure if this would work for all families, but it worked for us. (Shellie T, Utah)
4. Before you go, use RideMax planning software ($15) – http://www.ridemax.com/order
5. Lots of kids enjoy dressing in costume at the Disney parks. You can purchase cute, comfortable and machine washable princess, fairy, pirate and Jedi costumes for a good price at Little Dress Up Shop. Read my full review of Little Dress Up Shop here. (Allison, Tips for Family Trips)
6. If your hotel doesn’t offer a Disneyland shuttle, save on parking and rental cars (and all of that extra walking through gigantic parking lots) by using Anaheim Resort Transit. Pay by the ride, or purchase multi-day passes. Kids under 3 ride free. ART will take you to other popular destinations in Anaheim too! (Allison, Tips for Family Trips)
7. Pack matching clothes for kids. I don’t mean the everyone in the family wears the exact same cheesy t-shirt. Go with something simple like all kids wear red shirts, or yellow shirts etc. This makes it easy to remember what your child is wearing if they get misplaced, and your family will look “put together” in photos. (Shellie T, Utah)
8. Ziploc bags have so many benefits. Sandwich bag size can hold snacks, wet wipes, more snacks. Band aids, Chapstick, Advil, etc. Gallon size keeps a change of clothes and place to put dirty or wet clothes, or keep lanyards and pins safe and separated. They can be a place to keep certificates, drawings from animation studio, and photos from rides protected. (Shellie T, Utah)
9. Ziploc bags will also keep your phone and wallet dry on water rides. (Allison, Tips for Family Trips)
10. Pack large trash bags in your day pack if you don’t want to get wet on the water rides. We pulled them out right before the ride, tore neck and arm holes, and then looked rather “trashy” as we rode, but on a breezy January day when we didn’t want to get wet, we had several families come and beg to know where we got the bags so they could get some too. (Katie, Tips for Family Trips)
11. At the Disneyland Resort, try to stay onsite at one of the Disney hotels. While they cost a bit more, the extra hour you get in the parks is valuable, especially at California Adventure, which is open early ONLY to Disney guests (no Magic Morning here). We met Elsa & Anna and Olaf, walked on to Radiator Springs Racers, rode Mater’s Junkyard Jamboree and Luigi’s Tires all in the first hour before anyone else showed up. That gave us time to get to Paradise Pier before regular opening, and we had that entire area to ourselves for nearly an hour. You can get discounts for Disney hotels during the off season. (Megan R, Nebraska)
12. If you have lots of Starwood points you can use them at the Swan or Dolphin Hotels within the Walt Disney World property and stay free! You get the extra magic hour access. And you can walk to Epcot easily, even with strollers or take a boat. You can also easily walk to,the boardwalk hotel for dinner and fun evening activities (street performers,etc). And you can walk to a character breakfast at the Yacht club. Perfect location. Great hotel. (Elisa M, California)
Rides and activities
13. Bring big bold signs on heavy paper that say anything about what a great Jedi your child is. This is a great way to be noticed at Jedi training at Disneyland. (Shellie T, Utah)
14. Have you heard about Star Wars Weekends in May and June at Walt Disney World? If your family loves Star Wars and Disney, put this annual event on your bucket list. It’s fun for casual fans too! Read my full post about Star Wars Weekend for families here. (Allison, Tips for Family Trips)
15. If you get a FastPASS to Radiator Springs in California Adventure (Disneyland), it does NOT lock you out of another FastPASS all day. You can get this FastPASS and another one at the same time. (Marilyn G, Utah)
16. Get to the gates early. We arrived by 7:40 am in the morning and were able to see characters and go on many rides before others arrived at the park. (Polly F, Utah)
17. Go early into the park. Download the app “Disneyland Wait Times Free” on your smartphone and go get a fast pass to the ride you want to ride the most with the longest wait time. Then get some breakfast and relax a bit. (Marilyn G, Utah)
18. If it is warm enough to ride water rides, do it early enough that your clothes have time to dry before late afternoon. There is nothing worse than walking around in wet clothes after it gets dark and cold. Avoid denim if possible. It takes the longest to dry (Marilyn G, Utah)
19. If you don’t care about seeing the parades or BIG shows, this is a great time to do the more popular rides, as all the crowds will be waiting for a performance and the lines will be a bit shorter. (Marilyn G, Utah)
20. After you enter the park, elect 1 person to hold all of the tickets. This person can be the “runner” for getting FastPASSes as others slowly make their way to the next ride with a bathroom or snack break. Get as many FastPasses as you have tickets. We had 8 people. Even though the girls and some parents did not always want to ride the rollercoasters, the boys in our party could use the other FastPasses and ride twice. Also, always get the next FastPASS whenever the next time is available (helpful when you have 1 runner). (Polly F, California)
21. For older kids, try Agent P’s World Showcase Adventure in Epcot (Walt Disney World). The kids will love becoming secret undercover agents and having a mission to accomplish as they explore the World Showcase.
22. Order groceries to be delivered to your room to save on food. Pack your own snacks so you save money there and can then choose great meals or even “special” snacks rather than spending $10 on a box of candy. We flew to LA, so I packed Lara Bars and granola bars and then ordered fruit to be delivered to our hotel. This saved us a lot of money and time. Disney was more than fine with me bringing this into the parks. (Megan R, Nebraska) Check out our Disney Dining on a Budget post for more cost-saving tips.
23. Disneyland does not allow a big cooler of food to be taken into the park BUT they will allow snacks in a backpack or oversized purse. Put grapes, cookies, crackers, carrots, celery, etc, in sandwich zip lock bags and take in to have a quick tide over munchie until the bigger meals. Also we took bagel thin peanut butter and jelly sandwiches in last time and they were very filling for a quick snack. The cost of food inside the parks is very high. Take a small water bottle in with you and then refill it as needed. (Marilyn G, Utah)
24. Dinner at Morocco in Epcot (Walt Disney World) – Surprisingly good food, easy for little ones (think hummus and things to dip in it, couscous with apricots, etc). And belly dancing! And the kids get a chance to come up and dance too…keeps them super entertained during the meal. (Elisa M, California)
25. Eat at the Africa buffet inside the Animal Kingdom Lodge (Walt Disney World). Before or after you can walk around the property and see all the live African animals that live in the savannah around the property (usually only allowed for hotel guests). And the buffet was amazing. Our kids didn’t even realize there was a “kids” buffet with standard American food. (Elisa M, California)
26. If you are scheduling a character breakfast, eat a quick morning snack and schedule your breakfast for 11:00. Breakfast will be winding down and you will get more time and attention from the characters because less people will be there. You can also hit the first hour of the park when the lines are the shortest and then enjoy a brunch that will keep you full until dinner. (Katie, Tips for Family Trips)
27. BRING A STROLLER FOR YOUNG CHILDREN. Our 4 year old got tired and took a nap one day while we took our other child around the parks. Because you walk so much, a stroller can really help keep kids energized, and you get around quicker, too. Even our 6-year-old wanted to ride in the stroller by the end of the day. I almost wish we had brought two of them. (Megan R, Nebraska)
28. Tie a bright or unique scarf to your stroller handle. This helps with quick identification if/when stroller gets moved. (Shellie T, Utah)
29. Bring your own stroller instead of renting one at the park, if possible. The rental strollers are made of hard plastic and have little storage space. (Allison, Tips for Family Trips)
Planning a Disney trip?
Need a place to stay? We have recently stayed on-property at the Grand Californian and off-property at the Anaheim Hilton Garden Inn, which is just down the street from Disneyland. Both are good options! Click the links to read my reviews.
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Do you have tips for visiting the Disney parks?
Please share them in the comments!