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Disneyland Hacks for A Great Vacation
The happiest place on Earth becomes one of the unhappiest when you’ve paid $100 for lunch, you’ve been in the Radiator Springs Racers line for 50 minutes, and your child is crying. I feel you.
After repeatedly visiting Disneyland/Cali Adventure throughout my childhood (and being utterly exhausted each time), my mom and I decided to research the hell out the park in preparation for our trip in May. We put in the work, and boy did it pay off. Not only did we ride everything we wanted to (hello, Indiana Jones a whooping 6 TIMES! (look out for that rock, Indy)) and saved a ton of money, we did both parks in 2 days. After going back this Christmas for a second time in 2016 (and I don’t even live in California yasssss), here are my 10 tips for doing Disneyland smarter, not harder.
1. Get a game plan together
A week or so before you leave, print out maps of both parks. Decide which rides interest you, and which ones you want to skip. Figure out which ones have single rider lines and FastPasses available. And always check ride closures on Disneyland’s website — your favorite ride could be closed for refurbishment when you plan to visit.
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2. Pack food and water
You’d be shocked at how many people think Disneyland won’t let you do this. Last time I went, I filled our backpack with 2 refillable water bottles, granola bars, fruit, and enough PB&J sandwiches to feed an army. You’ll save a ton of money on water and snacks, and won’t annoy your family with your hanger. Looking for a sweet treat? Try my fave— Doughp (edible cooke dough) and use code TORI for $10 off!
3. The French Market is the place to be
Speaking of food…the French Market in Disneyland is the best value in the park, and therefore my favorite place to eat. With covered outdoor seating and a view of the New Orleans district and the lake, the food is fantastic and portions are large for the price. Try the red beans and rice, or the jambalaya. And if you didn’t bring a water bottle (tisk tisk), don’t buy a plastic bottle! Instead, ask for a glass of ice water and refill it at water fountains throughout the park.
4. Save the Tiki Room for mid-afternoon
We all know the feeling: the post-lunch slump hits, you’re a hot, sweaty mess, and you’re this close to retreating back to your hotel. Never fear, the Tiki Room is here! Complete with heavenly Dole Whips, air conditioning, and padded seats, it’s the perfect 15 minute break to recharge and see one of Disney’s most classic attractions. Oh, and don’t wait in that big long line the wraps around the corner for a Whip— there’s another line outside the Tiki Room in the waiting area.
5. Single ride EVERYTHING
This is an obvious no-no if you’re with small children, but if you don’t care about sitting next to your party, it’s time to single ride. Not every ride has a single line, but take advantage of the ones that do, like Indiana Jones, Radiator Springs Racers, California Screamin’, and others. Your line will be substantially shorter (usually 10-20 minutes, but often less!)
6. No need to stay at a Disneyland Hotel
It’s more expensive, and getting an extra hour in the park is just not worth it, especially since it’s 7-8:00 a.m. *hits snooze button AGAIN* Instead, I stay at Staybridge Suites (not sponsored, I just like them a lot!) with a full kitchen; free breakfast, happy hour, and wifi; and $5 round-trip shuttle rides to Disneyland. This last time I went, we managed to get a queen suite for $99 with our AAA discount! Another budget-friendly option could be searching for a nearby Airbnb listing.
7. Download the Disneyland app
If you haven’t thought to do this already, make sure you download the park app before you go. With up-to-the-minute wait times, character locations, park schedules, and more, it’s a must-have for a stress-free day.
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8. Befriend the FastPass
Please do not underestimate these. The first thing you want to do in the morning is grab FastPasses (my recommendation is for Radiator Springs, because these go quickly.) And check the fine print: if the FastPass return time is later in the day, you’re usually allowed to snag another pass! Reminder that you can have one pass per park (so one for Disneyland, one for California Adventure,) and that show FastPasses like World of Color don’t count toward your total.
9. Bring plastic bags (or a change of socks)
You’re confused. I understand. But when you’ve got soaking wet shoes after you’ve rode Splash Mountain or Grizzly River Run (I was wringing out my socks,) you’d wish you’d have brought them. Just pack some plastic grocery bags, stuff them in your bag, and tie them around your shoes when you’re boarding the ride (the rest of your clothes will dry soon, don’t worry!) Another helpful tip: instead of keeping your shoes in optimal-soaking-territory (the floor of your tube), Grizzly River Run has a lovely pedestal to anchor your heels under your seat, away from the splash zone.
10. Ride during parades
If you’re not interested in seeing a parade (yes, they’re cool, but you’re going to wait an hour+ if you want a good view,) get on the rides while everyone else isn’t! And please, avoid Main Street like the plague.
Any questions about Disneyland or these tips? Join the conversation on social.
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