R & R Workshop: 14 Favorite Disneyland Tips, Tricks and Hacks!

14 Favorite Disneyland Tips, Tricks and Hacks!

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Tips, Tricks and Hacks at Disneyland Resort and California Adventure

Our family went to Disneyland in September last year and it was magical. I've been many times growing up with my family but this was my first time with my husband and kids. My husband's 2nd time, my kids first time. My parents took us and it was a vacation to remember! 

I have friends and family ask me all the time about things we love at Disneyland!  I know there are many, many Disneyland tip posts out there but I wanted to share my very favorite. Things you may not have thought of or tricks to get the most out of your vacation! Whether it's your first time or your 100th- you may find something you didn't know before!

1. Take Pictures on the left side of the Castle
Everyone will be wanting pictures smack dab in the middle of the castle. You may be waiting in line for awhile to get a picture. Not to mention tons of random people in your pictures. Go to the LEFT side of the castle (when looking at the front). There is a quiet little spot where you can get the whole castle in the background!

We were able to take multiple pictures(like this silly picture of these cuties) and not feel rushed since no one was waiting at this spot to take photos! 

2. Check out these Disneyland Ride Apps for your iPhone or Andriod phones
These apps will help save you time while at the park.

Update: The official Disneyland Resort is here! Find out all about here. Get the app here.
  • Mousetime for Disneyland Line Times- Free App- This is such a great app to use at the park! And even before you go. It is a great way to see how crowded the park is. App is available on iPhone and android phones.
  • Disneyland Wait Time App- FreeDownload the app for iPhone HERE
3. Take your own water bottles or fold-up cooler bag.
This will save you lots of Money$$! If you are taking a stroller, take advantage of the space under the seat by getting a fold-up cooler bag (love this one here). We bought water bottles and pop outside of the park (we went to Super Target nearby) and keep them in your fridge or freezer at your hotel and each morning fill up the cooler. Water bottles and drinks at Disneyland are atleast $5! No matter what time of year you go, you will want to have water to drink. We had 100+ degree weather everyday in September and this saved us! If you aren't taking a stroller or want to bring your own water bottles,  you can fill up for free at any restaurant or water fountain. 

4. Souvenirs
  • One of my favorite souvenirs was silhouettes of my kids from the Silhouette Studio. I've heard of this for years, but growing up we never went to this shop. For $10 a person, you get TWO silhouettes. That was a pleasant surprise! The women who cuts the silhouettes has been doing it for over 30 years! She had them cut out in just a few minutes. It was amazing to watch even if you don't end up purchasing one for yourself. 
  • Grab a free souvenir map at the Jungle Cruise! 
  • We bought Disney balloons for our kids and they loved strolling the park with them. On the last day of our trip.. we let them go up into the sky! I wish we could have taken them on the plane with us home. (If your balloon breaks while at the park, you can get a replacement one for FREE.)
  • Free buttons for any occasion are at the post office near the entrance of the park. Our kids loved their 1st visit button! :) 

  • Buy souvenirs at Downtown Disney and after the park closes. That way you don't have to carry them around all day. My parents gave each of my kids a Disney gift card they bought at the Disney store before we left and this was such a fun surprise! They had a certain amount and once it was gone, it was gone. -This tip also comes in handy when I talk about parking at Downtown Disney in the next tip ;)
5. Park at Downtown Disney 
When we first arrived Disney Resort, parking was being redirected into a different parking lot (on the opposite side of the park). Something they do when the parking garage gets too full.  We decided to park at Downtown Disney and were able to ride the monorail to the park. This was the best idea!

We were able to by pass the line to get into the park in the morning and get right off in Tomorrowland with no crowds at all. It does cost to park at Downtown Disney, but if you know you are going to eat there or shop at the Disney Store, you can get your parking validated. We thought we would only do this one day but we ended up parking here other days as well! You do have to walk back to your car instead of riding the tram, but it wasn't that far and totally worth it in our book.
UPDATE: As of November, the price to park at Downtown Disney have gone up. If you don't plan on eating anywhere or shopping, you can get your parking validated at the movie theater. 

6. Buy Princess Dresses, T- shirts and Glow Sticks before go
  • You WILL spend lots of money if you wait until you're at the park. It was too hot when we went so my daughter didn't get to wear her minnie dress. :( But luckily we bought plenty of Disney shirts for both kids to wear. They wore Toy Story shirts one day (my daughter wore a hand me down from her brother) and I loved that they were coordinating!
  • Don't wait until your at the park to buy your shirts. Check out amazon for great prices and a more unique selection. I love these Mickey Mouse sunglasses for boys and girls!
  • We bought a huge pack of glow sticks ahead of time so we wouldn't have to spend a small fortune to purchase them inside the park!
7. Make your own Autograph books!
Before our trip, I made my kids their own autograph books! It was super easy and so fun to personalize them. Each page has a different quote from their favorite Disney movies and Walt Disney himself. I waited until we were at our hotel to give them to them and they were so excited! 

8. Ride Swap 
If you are going with young kids, take advantage of the swap. This will save you time on popular rides so you won't have to wait in long lines. The cars ride is especially long and if you have a child who can't ride.. you can swap. Also,  getting in the single rider line will help you get on the ride quicker as well!

9. Go to the shows and parades
So it has been a long day and maybe you need some time to just sit and relax for a bit. When you walk into California Adventure or Disneyland- your map will come with parade and show times. BUT if you aren't into the shows- it's the best time to ride the rides!!

  • Fantasmic! This is hands down our families favorite show. I've seen it multiple times growing up and it never gets old. Depending on the time of year you go, there are TWO different show times. I suggest the earlier one if you have younger kids. The later show starts at 9:30 or 10 and I know my kids would not have lasted that long for a show. 
  • Parades- So many fun parades throughout the day. Claim a spot early and eat your meal or have a treat!
California Adventure:
  • Aladdin: Such a great show for the whole family. It was so nice to sit in the air conditioned theater and let younger ones rest.  The show was well worth the time. I can't express enough how well the actors did and the amazing sets and costume! Also the fact that you get to see this show for free is awesome!! Well worth your time! 
  • Disney Junior Live!: This is a great show for younger ages. My kids loved dancing and singing along to their favorite Disney Channel characters. If you get there early, there are benches along the walls for adults to sit. This was a great time for grandpa and daddy to take a nap haha! 
  • World of Color: My dad raved about this show so when we went, this was top on our list! I loved it all! As a Fantasmic Fan- this show surpassed my expectations. We didn't get passes to sit up front but we found a good spot to watch. If this is really something you want to do, grab a fast past early to reserve a spot. You are not allowed to stand in the walkways and watch so you really need to grab a pass. The music, colors and everything was amazing.  Here's a little sneak peak of the show if you want to watch: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KhUPzPcAO1w (My daughter and I watch this more times then I want to admit!!)  I'm hoping Disney comes out with a cd soon with the songs from this show. I would buy it in a heartbeat!
10. Ride in the front of the Monorail and a special car on the train

Do you know you can ride in the front of the monorail? I heard this little tip somewhere and in all our my times going to Disneyland, this was one of them that we never did. If you ask, you and 3 other people (4 total) can ride in the very front. My dad- a die hard Disney fan, was beaming from ear to ear. It was fun to do something that he had never done before! The views from the monorail were great and my kids had fun waving to the people below.  It is also air conditioned, so that is a plus in the summer months :) We were able to see some different views of the park and we loved the whole experience.

  • Ride the Lilly Belle Car on the train.  This is a special car that Walt named after his wife. There are stain glass windows and antiques in the car.  If you ask at the train station first thing in the morning, you may get a special ticket to ride in it! It is confirmed that you can do this, but you need to ask at the train station if it is running that day.
11. Deciding to take your camera or not... Just do it!
My husband surprised me with a new camera for Mother's Day.  We were going to Disneyland in September and I debated for months if I should take it or not. It came down to the fact that I would rather have with me, then not have it and regret it. Boy, am I glad I brought it! It was either around our necks or in our back pack. The days I took it to the park we made sure to be careful. My parents and hubby even took the camera some days and I love that we got pictures from different points of view.  If you don't feel safe to leave your camera in your hotel room when you aren't going to use it, check with your hotel-there may be a safe you can keep it in. Some rooms have safes as well so just depends on your hotel.

Another tip.. always have it ready. I keep my camera on continuous shooting mode so when we see characters, I can get candid pictures like this:

I love, love, love these photos! You can just see the excitement of our daughter meeting Winnie the Pooh for the first time. I'm so glad I was able to capture this moment and many other special moments. 

12. Take a backstage tour of Disneyland
Tour the back lots of Disneyland and even go above the fire station to see where Walt Disney himself would stay when he would visit the park.  **Get a peak inside Club 33 (Which is worth it to take the tour for this part alone!). If you are a die hard Disney fan- this would be a fun tour to do! The tour is 3 hours long and a light lunch is included in the price of your ticket as well. You also get a souvenir pin at the end. To read more about it, go here.

13. Meet the characters at the entrance of Disneyland Park
We met most of the characters minutes after just walking into the park. The first day we met Ariel and my daughter was in heaven!

On the other days we were at the park, sure enough..there were other characters there as well! We never saw those characters again so I am glad we took advantage of the very short line. They were next to the trees right as you walk in the entrance into Disneyland. We even saw some as we were leaving the park in the middle of the day..so you never know when they will be there! Also check out next to the post office- we saw multiple characters their as well. 

14. Best time of year to travel to Disneyland- 
If you are a first timer to Disneyland, something you need to know is that if you don't go during the summer, the park closes early. So going over a weekend is beneficial, but also busy. The Park opens earlier and stays open later on the weekends. Some shows wont be shown during the week either so if you want to see fireworks, Fantamsic or World of Color, be sure to find out when those are showing.  June-August the park is open later but it's always busier in the summer and hotter! 

Our Favorite Rides:
  • Peter Pan's Flight- No fast-pass so do this ride FIRST! You'll thank me later :) 
  • Thunder Mountain Railroad- Even more fun at night to see it all lit up (and the best time to ride  while everyone is watching shows!)
  • Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters (Tomorrowland)
  • Indiana Jones
  • Haunted Mansion
  • Dumbo the Flying Elephant
  • It's Small World
California Adventure:
  • Soarin' Over California
  • Radiator Springs Racers
  • Ariel's Under Sea Adventure
  • Toy Story Mania
  • Grizzly River Run
Honorable Mentions:
  • To get a Dole Whip, wait in the line on the inside of the Tiki Room waiting area. Its always a shorter line! (PS..if you live in Utah..do you know you can get a Dole Whip at Zipz in Bear Lake?! They are amazing!)
  • Snow White's Scary Adventure- Look in the window above the entrance of the ride. You will see the Evil Queen appear!
  • If you are really into planning, get the Free Planning DVD! My kids loved it and it was so fun for them to get a little glimpse into what Disneyland and the other parks are like (don't worry..it doesn't give away all the magic.) My kids actually still watch it because they miss Disneyland!
  • Listen to the music of Disneyland before you go with this fun playlist of song from your favorite rides, shows and more! Or purchase the Disneyland Resort Official Album!

I hope some of these tips will help you on your next trip to The Disneyland Resort! Do you have any favorite tips? I would love to hear them! 

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Erica Sooter said...

Aw, these are such great tips! So many awesome Disney memories - can't wait to take kids of my own there someday! :)

Pam Lauren said...

Wow! Great tips! We have been to Disney many times and are going again in about a month. My kids are grown, but still excited! We were looking for some new and different things to do. I had heard about the Lilly Belle car, but not sitting in the front of the Monorail. I'm also going to check out parking at Downtown Disney and the backstage tour. Thanks!

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