The goal? To experience as many rides at Disneyland as you can…in just one day.
If you’re planning a trip to “The Happiest Place on Earth” and want to know how to get the most bang for your buck, we have some great tips for you! Even though Disneyland makes standing in line the best experience of any amusement park I’ve visited, it’s still more fun to spend less time waiting and more time doing.
Using the following tips, our family of five can consistently see and experience 18+ attractions in an 11-12 hour day at Disneyland…that includes parades, light shows, and two meals in the park. We’ve even gone in a group of 12 and maintained that same average.
Here are the secrets to making the most of your time at Disneyland!
Visit at the Right Time of the Year
There’s never really a bad time to go to Disneyland if you don’t mind crowds. We prefer to steer away from crowds, so we shoot to visit when they’re at their lowest.
Visiting when school is in session and in the middle of the week is typically your best bet to avoid crowds.
However, as crowd levels increase, Disneyland is great about adjusting attractions to fit the crowd size. They will bring out additional trains on Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, run additional rafts to Tom Sawyer Island, or put more cars into the track at Autotopia.
Don’t Park Hop
Park hoping may be great for teens who want to hit all the most thrilling rides, but for most families, a park per day is more than adequate. Although the parks are close together (especially when you compare them to Walt Disney World), you can still chew up a lot of time walking back and forth between parks.
Save money, and time, by purchasing a single park per day ticket.
Waiting to board Star Tours
Install the Disneyland App
Before you leave on your trip, you’ll want to download and install the Disneyland app on your phone. The app is incredibly helpful and is an amazing resource for your trip.
You can purchase tickets through the app, use it to check wait times for attractions, view show and parade times, find characters, locate restrooms, and even order food.
Familiarize yourself with the app ahead of time to save you even more time.
Order Tickets Ahead of Time
There is no benefit to buying your park ticket at the park ticketing window when you arrive. Purchasing your tickets through the app is faster and easier.
Link Tickets for Everyone in Your Party
Using the Disneyland app you can link everyone’s tickets, making it easier to plan your meals and to schedule FastPasses for the next attraction.
FastPass is the best thing about Disneyland, and it will save you more time than any other tip.
What is FastPass?
Many of the more popular rides and attractions at Disneyland have a feature called FastPass. This allows you to receive a one-hour window return time for a ride, allowing you to enter through a special “fast” line, drastically reducing your wait time. FastPass lines typically average a 5-10 minute wait time, while standby lines can be anywhere from 5-90+ minutes.
Where Do You Get a FastPass?
FastPasses can be obtained for FREE from FastPass kiosks located near attractions that have FastPass lines. You can find these kiosks using the map in the Disneyland app.
Save Even More Time with the MaxPass
If you’re willing to spend $15 more per ticket per day, get the MaxPass. The MaxPass allows you to schedule FastPasses right from your phone…more frequently and more quickly.
If your tickets are linked for everyone in your party, one person can schedule a FastPass for everyone, saving more time.
Also, with MaxPass, you’ll receive PhotoPass. This service allows you to get digital copies of all photos taken on rides (like Splash and Space Mountain) and any photos taken by Disney’s PhotoPass photographers located throughout the park.
I’m a budget-conscious person, but I think MaxPass is a worthwhile add-on.
Some Disney magic courtesy of the PhotoPass photographers
Get to the Park Early
Without a doubt, you’ll be able to ride the most rides in the first two hours of park opening. Apparently, people like to sleep in when they’re on vacation.
Ideally, you’ll want to arrive at the park one and a half hours before their posted opening time (check the app for hours on the day you’re visiting).
It can take a little while to get through the security check line. Once you’re through the security check line you’ll get into the ticket check line at the park entrance. Often, Disneyland will start letting people through the ticket check line 30+ minutes before the actual park opening.
This allows you time to take iconic family photos at the park entrance and on Main Street. You’ll then proceed towards the land you want to visit first. The land will be roped off until the park officially opens.
By arriving at the park prior to opening, you’ll be able to experience more rides at Disneyland.
Know the Rules
You’ll save time going through the security line in you know the rules about what you can and can’t bring into the park (snacks are ok, but no glass bottles or containers). Check Disneyland’s website for the most recent security requirements.
We find it’s easiest, and we can see more, if we’re flexible with our plans. For example, we don’t ever do everything in one land then move onto the next land. Often, we’ll jump on one or two rides in a land, then hop over to a neighboring land to visit an attraction that has a low wait time (or a FastPass available).
While walking back and forth across the park for each attraction isn’t a very efficient use of your time, SOMETIMES it makes sense.
Know Your Food Options
Before we go, I typically pick out a handful of restaurants (maybe one in each land) that I think we would like to visit. We don’t have to visit all of them, but at least we know where we want to eat no matter what land we find ourselves in when we’re ready to grab lunch or dinner.
A lot of time can be wasted discussing where you want to eat and trying to figure out what’s on the menu.
We usually opt for quick service restaurants (faster and cheaper) while at Disneyland.
Order Food From the App
Ordering food from the app is one of my favorite things about the Disneyland app. Maybe it’s an introvert thing.
Everyone can look at the food options and decide what they want while you’re waiting in line for another attraction.
The Disneyland app also allows you to connect a credit/debit card, making placing orders a breeze.
Skip the overpriced snacks, and pack some fruit and granola bars in your backpack. Disneyland is very lenient when it comes to allowing food in their parks, which is amazing. Snack while you’re in line outside, and save more time for more rides at Disneyland!
Hit the Busiest Rides First
Try to fit as many rides as you can into the first couple of hours. At Disneyland Park, you’ll want to ride the rides that DON’T have FastPass and are more congested in the afternoon. We often find ourselves starting in Fantasyland, then grabbing FastPasses for some of our favorites if the wait is longer than 15 minutes.
Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride in Fantasyland
Hop on the Dark/People-Eater Rides in the Afternoon
Some rides last a long time and have large ride vehicles that seem to “swallow” people. Most are indoor attractions, making them “dark” rides. The ride wait time for these attractions doesn’t change that much throughout the day.
Saving rides like, It’s a Small World, Haunted Mansion, and Pirates of the Caribbean for the afternoon is a great idea. It’s also the time of day when energy is the lowest, so it allows you to sit back, kick up your feet, and relax for 10-15 minutes.
Single Rider Lines (For Ages 8 and Older)
Some attractions have a single rider line. Cast members pull guests from this line to fill up the ride vehicles. For example, if there is an empty seat on The Matterhorn, single riders can climb in and ride separate from their party.
Single riders get placed rather quickly and close together, so it’s a great alternative if you don’t have a FastPass or if the standby line wait time is long.
Our kids were a little nervous about using the single rider line for the first time, but ended up doing great!
Matterhorn bobsleds are a great choice for first-time single riders–they don’t have to sit next to anyone.
Create a “Must-Do” List
Knowing ahead of time what attractions you absolutely must experience will save time while in the park and ensure that everyone has a fun time! For our family, we have everyone choose three rides at Disneyland that are important to them and make it a priority to visit those attractions.
Coordinate Bathroom Breaks
If you have small children or are traveling with a larger group, you can spend an inordinate amount of stopping for bathroom breaks. If at all possible (and it’s not always possible), try to have a rule that when someone goes to the bathroom, everyone goes to the bathroom. And if you’re like our family, there will be someone who doesn’t think they need to go. Try anyway.
TIP: One of our favorite restrooms at Disneyland Park is the King & Queen Restrooms. These memorable Wonderland-themed restrooms make for a fun pit-stop! You can find them on the right side of the castle, closest to The Matterhorn.
Skip the Lockers
It’s a given that you’ll need somewhere to store your snacks, sweatshirts, and maybe rain ponchos. We opt to squish everything into backpacks rather than rent lockers to save time. The lockers are located at the front of the park, so if you opt to use them, someone will have to walk to the front of the park to retrieve items you may need.
Backpacks may not be fashionable, be they’re certainly convenient and can be taken on almost every ride.
If you have stroller-aged children, loading the storage basket with your items is another great use of space that will save you time allowing you to experience more rides at Disneyland!
SAVING YOU TIME SO YOU CAN ENJOY MORE
Using these tips on your next Disneyland adventure will save you time, so you can spend more time doing what you want to do!
If you want to learn about saving money at Disneyland, check out our post titled 11 Hacks to Help You Save Money on Food at Disney.