Disneyland Tips and Tricks

Tips for a Headache-Free Visit to Disneyland

it's a small world ride at Disneyland
••• it's a small world ride at Disneyland. Photo © 2015 Kayte Deioma, licensed to About.com

Maximize Your Time at Disneyland

Tickets. There are several different kinds of tickets you can buy for Disneyland and Disney California Adventure. There are not a lot of ways to get discounts on tickets, but see my Disneyland Tickets page to figure out the best deal for you.

Buy your tickets in advance to save time waiting in the ticket line. Pay attention to whether your tickets (such as annual passes) have to be picked up or validated at Guest Relations.

Guest Relations does not open until the park opens. Will Call tickets can be picked up before the park opens.

Get to the park early. The ticket booths open about half hour before the gates open. Be in line with your tickets already in hand when the gates open to ride some of the non-FASTPASS rides like Dumbo the Flying Elephant or the Matterhorn Bobsleds before the lines get long.

Use FASTPASS when possible to make an appointment to get in the short line.

Use RideMax to minimize time waiting in lines and walking between rides at Disneyland and Disney's California Adventure.

Ride during parades. If you've already seen the parade or you don't mind missing it, this is a good time to get on rides since so many people stop riding to watch the parade.

Afternoon Break. If you have a hotel in the area, plan to go to the park early, take a break at your hotel in the afternoon and come back to spend the evening at the parks.

Since most families with small children leave early, the lines for popular kiddie rides like Dumbo and Peter Pan are shorter at night. This mostly applies during the summer when the park is open from 8 am until 11 pm or midnight.

Fireworks from Fantasyland. The best view of the fireworks is from Main Street in front of Sleeping Beauty's Castle.

Most of the Fantasyland rides close down during fireworks and reopen afterward. If you watch the fireworks from Fantasyland near Dumbo the Flying Elephant and the Carrousel, the fireworks will appear both in front of you and behind you, so you have to watch in two directions, but you'll be first in line when the Fantasyland rides re-open. The Fantasyland rides outside the roped off area re-open first, so you can ride Dumbo and then be ready when they take down the ropes to the rest of Fantasyland. Otherwise, there's usually a 40 minute or longer wait for these rides.

Early Entry. Some Disneyland Resort packages include early entry into Disneyland. This allows you to enter the park one hour before the gates open and ride some of the more popular rides before the lines get long. This can mean 7 am in the summer. Usually, this offer only applies to guests of the three Disney Resort hotels, but occasionally the promotion will include guests at "Good Neighbor" hotels as well.

Stay at a Disney area hotel. Even if you live in Southern California, you can save time and money by staying at a hotel close to the Disney Resort. Stay at a hotel with free parking and breakfast and it can equal what you would have paid for parking, gas and breakfast at Disneyland if you drive in for the day.

If you're checking in the same day, most hotels will let you park at the hotel in the morning, take the shuttle to Disneyland, come back at check in time to have a rest, then shuttle back to the park. The shuttle will bring you back to the hotel up to half an hour after the park closes, so you don't have to drive home when you're wiped out after a long day in the sun. If you time it right, you might be able to have breakfast when you drop off your car.

1. Maximizing Your Time at Disneyland
2. Tips for Eating at Disneyland
3. What to Wear and Take to Disneyland
4. Visiting Disneyland with Babies and Young Children
5. Disneyland Conveniences and Accessibility
6. Disneyland Tips for Smokers

Tips for Eating at Disneyland

You can get burgers, hot dogs, pizza and fries all over Disneyland. Fast food meals average about $10-$13 for a sandwich, fries or chips, and a drink. For something a little more interesting for not much more money, try the Bengal Barbecue in Adventureland, Rancho del Zocalo in Frontierland or any of the Cajun/Creole establishments in New Orleans Square. The Blue Bayou in New Orleans Square is the only “fine dining” restaurant on the Disneyland side.

Healthier Options - Disneyland has gradually been adding  a few more healthful options, and most, but not all, restaurants now have at least one healthier item on the menu. Here are some examples. All items below subject to change.

  • Galactic Grill in Tomorrowland has a basic veggie wrap and a chopped salad with chicken for adults and a couple of nutritious options among the kids' meals.
  • Harbour Galley in Critter Country has a couple decent salads and a Kids' Mickey Check Meal - Kids' Power Pack with veggies, fruit and crackers that meets Disney Nutrition Guidelines​.
  • Hungry Bear, also in Critter Country offers a "picnic salad of seasoned turkey breast, strawberries, Feta cheese, cranberries, roasted almonds, jicama and mixed greens with strawberry vinaigrette", and the Kids' Mickey Check Meal - Kids' Power Pack.
  • If you're going low carb, Edelweiss Snacks in Fantasyland has a pricey turkey leg and corn on the cob on the menu.
  • Bengal Barbecue in Adventureland has chicken or beef skewers, fruit and yogurt, and asparagus (in bacon).  
  • Tropical Imports snack stand in Adventureland has fresh whole and cut fruit, veggie snacks and trail mix.
  • Clarabelle's in Toontown is mostly frozen sweets, but surprisingly also offers a roasted turkey sandwich, a chef's salad or a fruit salad, and a Kids' Mickey Check Meal with a Dannon smoothie.
  • Market House on Main Street, USA is basically a Starbucks, so they have a couple healthy fruit and veggie snacks and an egg-white breakfast wrap, but you'll have to look past the brownies and other goodies to get to them.

*In case you wondered, a Dole Whip maybe vegan, fat-free and gluten-free, but it's made from a powdered mix and has 20 grams of sugar per 4 ounces and a small is 8 ounces. You can decide if that makes your healthy list.  

Eat early or late to avoid crowds. Consult the Disneyland Dining Guide for restaurants that take priority seating reservations for dinner.

Pack a lunch. You can bring a limited amount of food into the park. There are lockers (see Conveniences) on Main Street where you can stash a small soft-sided cooler with in-and-out privileges all day. There are tables and chairs conveniently located near the lockers. If you are visiting both parks in one day, you can also use the lockers located between the two parks or at California Adventure, but there are no tables near them.  

Bring water. Bottled water and soft drinks are expensive in the park, so if money is an issue, bring your own refillable bottles of water or a few small disposable bottles per person.  

Let kids carry their own snacks in a fanny pack.

What to Wear and Take on a Disneyland Trip

Tips on what to wear and take with you to Disneyland

Wear sunscreen, even if it’s cloudy. Many mornings start out cloudy, but the clouds usually burn off by noon. If it’s summer, there is very little chance that clouds will turn to rain.

Wear a hat or sun visor and sunglasses, especially in the summer. If it’s not a hat with a string, remember to stash it with your sunglasses in the pocket provided on rollercoasters so it doesn’t fly off.

On a rainy winter day, a raincoat or poncho is helpful. An umbrella to get you from ride to ride is good too. A collapsible one is most practical for tucking into the pocket provided for accessories on wilder rides. Some outdoor rides will close, but the indoor coasters and other rides will stay open.

Wear comfortable walking shoes. This should be obvious, but some people insist on putting fashion first and they regret it after a few hours of walking around on hard pavement and standing in line.

Carry as little as possible with you. Leave as much as you can at home and leave jackets, sunscreen and water refills in a locker. A fanny pack that will hold a small bottle of water, snack bar, lip balm and any absolute necessities is a good solution since you won’t have to take it off on rides.

Bring a sweater. If you are staying in the park after dark, be sure to bring a sweater or jacket, even in summer.

You can leave them in a locker if you don’t want to carry them around all day.

Bring extra socks. On Splash Mountain at Disneyland and Grizzly River Run at CA Adventure, you will get wet. The sun will dry the rest of you, but not your socks. To avoid blisters and kids with pickled feet the rest of the day, bring extra dry socks or throw the ones you have on in a plastic bag before getting on the ride.

Change of clothes. If the weather is cool, you might want to have a change of clothes in a locker so you don’t have to walk around wet after water rides.

Staying dry on water rides. On a hot day, getting a nice drenching from Splash Mountain is refreshing, but if it’s cool, or if you’re carrying a camera or video camera, you might want to take precautions to keep your equipment or yourself dry. You’ll get less wet in the very back of Splash Mountain seats or in the middle of Grizzly River Run rafts away from the openings. But you’ll still get wet.

To keep a small camera or cell phone dry, a Zip Lock bag will do the trick. For larger gear, a trash bag wrapped around a backpack strapped to your front does a pretty good job. I keep a disposable plastic rain poncho in my backpack that works to keep me and my camera gear dry, but acts like a sauna suit if it’s hot. They have these for sale next to Grizzly River Run or you can get them for $1-3 anyplace that sells camping supplies or at most 99 Cent or Dollar stores.

Motion Sickness. Bring whatever works for you. I suffer from motion sickness, but that doesn’t stop me from enjoying a good roller coaster. For smaller coasters like Thunder Mountain Railroad, I find pressure point wrist bands effective.

For big coasters like California Screamin’ I resort to the less-drowsy version of Dramamine or Bonine. Even with the Dramamine, the virtual motion of Star Tours makes me sick. Riding on an empty stomach is generally worse for motion sickness

Tips for Visiting Disneyland with Young Children

Tips and Resources for Visiting Disneyland  Resorts with Babies and Toddlers

Free under Three Children under 3 get into Disneyland parks free.

Strollers. Take your own stroller or rent one at the park. Strollers can be rented for $15 for one or $25 for two strollers just outside the Disneyland Park Main Entrance next to the Kennel. Don't leave valuables in your stroller, but people park just about everything else.

Make sure the one you grab after the ride is actually yours, whether it's a rental or your own. Others may have the same model you do.

Changing tables are available in both women's and men's restrooms.

There are First Aid Stations at Disneyland, Disney’s California Adventure and Downtown Disney.

Baby Centers/Lost Children. Both Disneyland and Disney's California Adventure have Baby Centers/Lost Children Centers with extra diapers, formula and other baby supplies. They also have accommodations for nursing mothers. In Disneyland, the Baby Center is next to the First Aid Station at the end of Main Street across from the Central Plaza. At California Adventure, the Baby Center is next to the Ghirardelli Soda Fountain and Chocolate Shop and across from the Boudin Bakery Tour in the Pacific Wharf. There is no Baby Center at Downtown Disney.

Height Restrictions. Many of the rides have height restrictions, so measure your kids before you go and prepare them for the limitations.

The height restrictions are there for your child's safety. Sometimes there is no staff at the beginning of the line. That doesn't mean you can sneak kids onto a ride they are not big enough for. You'll just wait in line to have a staff person stop you when it's your turn to ride and turn away the child who is not tall enough.

Check the Disneyland Directory for which rides have height restrictions.

Tag Team. If you have two adults who want to ride and an infant who can't, you don't have to wait through the long line twice. Wait together in the line and then when you get to the front, tell the staff you want to trade off. One adult will go through first, while the second adult waits with the child. When the first adult gets back, you can hand off the child and the second adult can ride.

Have a plan. Pin your name and cell phone number on toddlers and make sure young children have it with them in a pocket in case you get separated in the park. Make sure your kids know to stay where they are (so you can retrace your steps and find them) and look for a park staff person with a badge if they lose sight of you. Park staff will take "found" children to the Baby Center/Lost Children Center. With older kids and teens, establish a meeting point in case you lose each other.

Nap before parades. To get a good spot for parades, people grab a place on the curb over an hour beforehand. For parades that happen multiple times during the day, plan your pre-parade wait time to coincide with nap time so your child doesn't get bored waiting at a time when they are awake enough to be enjoying the park.

You can always catch up on your Facebook posts while they nap, right? 

Disneyland Conveniences

Tips for Finding Resources at the Disneyland Resort

Parking. The Disney Resort has several parking lots and the Mickey and Friends parking structure. The lots may seem closer, but you have to walk farther. If you park in the Mickey and Friends structure, there's a tram that takes you right to the park entrance. You pay for parking when you enter. All the parking lots are vast.

Write down where you parked or take a picture of the sign with your phone.

Cash and currency exchange: There are multiple ATMs in both parks and Downtown Disney. There is also currency exchange available at Thomas Cook in Downtown Disney. However, most restaurants and shops at the Disney Resort take credit cards and the exchange rates are usually better on credit card transactions. Some credit cards charge a fee for transactions in a different currency, so check your cards before you travel. All Disney venues also take travelers checks.

Guest Relations. The main Guest Relations window is located to the left of the entrance to California Adventure near the lockers and restrooms. There is an Information Center located in City Hall in Disneyland. At both of these locations, you can purchase Tours, make dinner reservations, pick up foreign language maps and brochures, get other park information and file complaints.

There are additional information kiosks outside the gates near the tram stops.

The Disney PhotoPass is a flat rate card that includes all the photo opportunities at both Disneyland Resort parks. 

Lockers are located in both parks and in between the two. In Disneyland, lockers are located halfway down Main Street past the Cinema on the right.

In California Adventure the lockers are just inside the gate on the right. Lockers are automated and can be paid for with a credit card or cash. You will be given a locker code that you can use to access your locker all day. Inside the park there are two locker sizes, one that is $7 and a larger one for $10. The $10 locker is about 12 x 24 x 24 inches. A small soft-sided cooler and jackets for 5 people fit in one locker. Outside the park, there are lockers available for $7, $10, $11, $12 and $15 per day. Once you have paid, you have unlimited access all day. 

Lost and Found is located near Guest Relations outside California Adventure. This is where all the glasses, hats and keys end up that fall off on rides or are turned in to staff around the park.

Kennels. If you are traveling with a pet, an indoor kennel is to the right of the Disneyland main entrance. Check the Disneyland website for restrictions.

Accessibility

The accessibility of specific rides is marked on the park maps.  

Wheelchairs and electric convenience vehicles (ECVs) are available for rent to the right of the Disneyland entrance turnstiles next to the kennels. Manual wheelchairs are $12, ECVs $50 +tax, both require a $20 deposit.

(price subject to change)

Closed Captioning Activators are available for some rides and can be picked up at the Guest Relations window left of the California Adventure entrance.

Assistive Listening Receivers can also be picked up at the Guest Relations window.

Smoking at Disneyland

Smoking is prohibited at Disneyland except in designated smoking areas. Refer to my Disneyland Tips for Smokers for the specific areas where smoking is permitted at Disneyland and Disney California Adventure.