There’s an almost endless supply of articles full of advice for planning different aspects of your Disneyland Trip. I had a hard time finding a good starting point, so I created my own. Here’s my Disneyland planning guide, expertly testing during our own family trip!

What to Buy before you go

This was where I started when planning our trip to Disney. We live in a small’ish town so a lot of the items needed to be purchased online. I didn’t want to order something for the trip and have it not show up on time. As soon as we booked our trip I started researching and purchasing.

  1. Disney LanyardIMG_1901
  2. Disney Trading Magnets
  3. Light-up Spinning Toys
  4. Glow sticks (lots!!)
  5. Princess Dresses (Pirate/Buzz Light Year/Star Wars Costumes for boys)
  6. Ponchos
  7. Snacks
  8. Your TICKETS!!!
Disney Planning Guide

Meeting Belle was even more special dressed up as Belle!

Here’s is another great list of things to purchase before you go…One thing I didn’t buy or bring was a soft-sided cooler. I can bring myself to carry snacks around the park, I can NOT bring myself to carry a whole meal. You can check out this completely Disneyland Checklist of things to pack, and make sure you include the following as well!

Things to Pack that you wouldn’t expect

  1. Collapsible Water Bottles – water is expensive to buy and there are water fountains all over the park. Alternatively you can purchase your first water bottle and then refill as the day goes on.
  2. Stroller – bring a small umbrella stroller, or rent one in the park.
  3. Sunscreen – spending many hours outside, even on a cloudy day, can lead to a sunburn. Slather up!!
  4. Comfy shoes – crocs for the kids and sketchers for Mom & Dad. Both dry quickly after a trip on Splash Mountain!
  5. Small activities for waiting in line
  6. Quarters and shiny pennies for the penny-press machines.
  7. The scavenger hunt printable from this Disney guide, to take your Disneyland experience to the next level. It’s made for adults and kids alike…but there is ONE task that’s adults only!

We haven’t used our stroller in ages, but I was incredibly thankful for it. We wouldn’t have made it half as long everyday without it. I’d likely bring a small umbrella stroller until the kids were at least 6 years old.

Tips for visiting Disneyland

  1. Be there when the park opens. The lines are shorter and it’s cooler first thing in the morning. This’ll give you the chance to take a break for a couple hours in the afternoon when it’s hot and crowded.
  2. Download the Disneyland App and use it! At any given time this will tell you the wait lines for the rides, showtimes and where the characters are. It was invaluable in helping us plan our next move, and I can’t imagine visiting without it. There are a number of different apps out there, but the official Disneyland app is the best. You can find it here.
  3. If you have a Magic Morning as part of your ticket, use it!! The characters will all be out on main street and there’s minimal line-ups.
  4. If you’re planning on doing the Princess Castle, be there as soon as the park opens. This line gets long as the day goes on and it’s an uneventful wait.
  5. Don’t jump all over the park. Start in one place and do everything you want to do in that area before moving on. This will minimize the amount of walking and therefore minimizing the complaining from the kiddos!
  6. Check out this incredible photography guide. Some of the pics won’t be easy with kids, but it’ll give you magical memories to look back on!
  7. Make sure your stroller will stand out amongst the masses. It’ll be easier to find!Disney Planning-9
  8. Use the Fast Pass System. For many of the popular rides you’re able to get a fast pass. This allows you to bypass a majority of the line. The catch: you can only hold one fast pass at a time. To maximize your fast pass use, ensure you get your next fast pass before using the first one. For example: You have a fast pass for Splash Mountain to use between 9:30 and 10:30. You want to ride Big Thunder Mountain next. at 9:30, get your Big Thunder Mountain fast pass and then make your way back to Splash Mountain to ride. If you’re in a big group, you can give one person all the tickets to collect the next fast passes and minimize the amount everyone else needs to walk around the park.
    • You can apparently get a fast pass for Fantasmic seating. This won’t affect your ability to get other fast passes throughout the day. If you know you want to go to the show, get your Fantasmic fast pass early. (this wasn’t on while we were there, but I though I should share the tip!)
  9. Use the Rider Swap Passes if you have a little that’s too short for some rides. Ensure you know how tall each of your kids are before you go so they aren’t disappointed when they can’t ride something.
  10. Download the Disneyland App to see showtimes, where the characters are, and wait-times for rides. We used this all day long, it was indispensable!
  11. Write your cell phone number on your child’s arm and then cover it with Liquid Bandaid. This way it won’t wash off.
  12. Ask the PhotoPass photographer to take a picture with your camera (or cell phone). Or just have them snap away and purchase all of the PhotoPass tickets at the end for $39/day. Compared to what you spend on everything else, this is really a steal for all those memories! This is a great site if you’re looking for more info on PhotoPasses.
  13. Give your kids their own spending money. They’ll know how much they have to spend and won’t be asking every 5 minutes if they can buy something. However…make sure you keep the receipts for their purchases. If they get buyer’s remorse later and want something different from their original purchase, Disney will exchange the merchandise provided you still have the original receipt.
    • If you’re staying at one of the Disney hotels you can have your purchase sent to your hotel room so you won’t have to carry it around the park all day.
  14. The best place to watch the fireworks is right in front of the Castle. Show up early, it gets busy even during the slow months.
  15. Bring a blanket to claim your seat for watching fireworks and shows. This will allow one person to save the spot, and stop others from encroaching on your space.
  16. Check out these great places to eat in Disney before you go too!

Some great posts full of great Disney Tips:

  1. Salt and Pepper Moms
  2. My Natural Family
  3. Make It Do
  4. How Does She – This one’s great with lots of tips I didn’t see anywhere else
  5. And it if you’re looking for a bit background on Walt Disney, check it out here!

Dining in Disney

If you’re not staying on a Disney property it can be hard to find the opportunity to have a meal with one of the characters. The Character breakfast at the Plaza Inn is the easiest way to dine with them. At times there’s so many characters around you’ll wonder why you paid to eat! Honestly, the food wasn’t fantastic. The food isn’t why you go though! You get to see a lot of characters at once, many of which you’ll have a hard time finding anywhere else in the park.

Disney Planning-6

There are so many places in Disney to eat it would be impossible to try them all in one trip!! We usually just stop to eat when it’s time and suffer with whatever happens to be close by. There’s always something to eat, and the food seems to be on-par everywhere you go. But then, I don’t have high expectations for food at a massive amusement park. If you’re looking for an all-encompassing Disney Eating Guide, look no further than The Disney Food Blog!


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