Hey Everyone, it’s Kimberly with Packed with Fun, the official blog for Get Away Today. The words summer vacation and Disneyland go together like peanut butter and jelly. With all of the fun going on, it’s easy to see why Disneyland is easily one of the most popular summer vacation destinations for families. If you’ve been thinking about going to Disneyland, but have been scared about booking because of rumored crowds, don’t worry. There are so many ways to skip the lines, beat the crowds, and still have a fantastic vacation that everyone in the family will love. I recently returned from one of many Disneyland trips, and even though we tried to time it to be during a slower travel time, it was packed. To help you out, I’ve put together a list of tips and tricks on what to do at Disneyland when it’s packed so you can still have a magical vacation at the Happiest Place on Earth, even when it may feel like the busiest place on Earth!
First, know that Disneyland expands their hours during their busiest times of the year, and that includes summer. You’ll always experience the fewest crowds early in the morning closest to park opening, or later at night, closest to park closing. Depending on your family’s personalities and ages, try to keep that in mind.
Second, take advantage of the early mornings. All 3-day and longer tickets come with a Magic Morning early entry into Disneyland, so even if you’re not a morning person, you’ll want to use it. Along this note, even without early entry, both Disneyland and Disney California Adventure Park let you into certain areas of the park (Main Street, U.S.A. and Buena Vista Street) half an hour before the park opens. If you can be in those areas before the parks open, you’re much more likely to get a great jump start on your day. Remember, that during busy travel times the parks may open at 8am, which means that the extra hour will begin at 7am. If you can get there right at 7am, or even a little bit before, you’ll have a HUGE advantage. When we stayed at Disney’s Paradise Pier, we got into California Adventure early (only available to Disney hotel guests) and were able to do everything in Cars Land before the park even opened with a 7am start time!
Use the FASTPASS System and use it wisely. You can normally have one FASTPASS out at a time, but during busier times, your return time for an attraction could be hours later, or even for that night! You don’t have to waist your whole day waiting for the next FASTPASS, you can get the next one two hours after the current ticket is issued. So, let’s say you run to Radiator Springs Racers and get your FASTPASS at 10am, but your return time isn’t until late afternoon, your next FASTPASS will be available at noon, two hours after you collected the ticket, regardless of return time. The hottest FASTPASS tickets for the summer are Radiator Springs Racers and Soarin’ Around the World (opening June 17) at Disney California Adventure, and Hyperspace Mountain (part of the limited time Star Wars Season of the Force), Indiana Jones, and Splash Mountain at Disneyland. You’ll want to get those first thing, because they do run out!
Use Rider Swap and/or Single Rider Lines if applicable. All attractions with a height requirement have an option where your group can wait for the attraction while someone stays behind with any smaller kids who aren’t able to ride. Once the first group has ridden, whoever stayed behind can go to the front of the line with up to two other riders. That way, no one has to wait twice for one attraction. You can combine this with the FASTPASS to really maximize your time. This was a lifesaver on our last trip. If you have older kids or adults traveling, you can try out the single rider. You won’t be sitting right next to your party, but a lot of times, you’ll end up on the same car, like on Radiator Springs Racers or California Screamin’. In fact, some attractions like Monsters Inc. Mike & Sulley to the Rescue will even have what they call a “buddy pass” during peak travel times. The buddy pass is like a single rider, but applies to attractions where your party will only take up one row instead of one seat, and you can go through a much shorter line. Considering you can fit up to four riders with one lap child on Monsters Inc., this is a great way to go for us. We waited for about two minutes instead of half an hour by splitting up our group of seven into a group of three and a group of four. We weren’t in the same car, but got off immediately after. It was awesome!
Watch the shows. Shows are great because, well, they’re Disney. But, they fit a lot of people, there are normally not lines, and you’ll almost never get turned away. Some great shows to catch are Mickey and the Magical Map, Turtle Talk with Crush, Frozen Live at the Hyperion (opening May 27), Disney Playhouse Live, Path of the Jedi (part of the Star Wars Season of the Force), and Jedi Training Academy: Trials of the Temple. You can also watch an extended movie preview at the “it’s tough to be a bug” theater. This month the featured film is Tim Burton’s “Through the Looking Glass.”
Ride attractions that have quick moving lines and are longer attractions. Pirates of the Caribbean is a great example. Sure, there may be a line, but it moves quickly because those boats can hold almost 20 people at a time! Plus, once you get on the ride, you’re on it for almost 15 minutes, which makes it a good investment of precious vacation time. The Little Mermaid Ariel’s Undersea Adventure and “it’s a small world” are other good examples of fast loading attractions.
Stay at one of the Disneyland Hotels, or as close as possible. This way you’ll maximize your time by not waiting for shuttles or parking. It’s also nice to be close by if you want to take a little nap or swim break during the heat of the day. Plus, if you stay at one of the Disney properties, you’ll get early morning entry into Disneyland or California Adventure each day of your stay. It’s always valuable, but especially valuable during busier travel times.
The star of the Diamond Celebration at the Disneyland Resort is without a doubt the Paint the Night Parade. When it’s packed, people start staking out their spots on Main Street U.S.A. hours before the parade begins. When we were there people were starting to fill the curbs 3-4 hours before parade time! You can avoid that by purchasing a Paint the Night Dining Package with reserved viewing included. For premium viewing, you can make a reservation for the Blue Bayou which includes a three course prix fixe meal for $62/adult and $25/child ages 3-9. Or, on-the-go dining options are available for $23/adult and $14/child are available from Aladdin’s Oasis and include reserved viewing near “it’s a small world.” This way you can arrive around 30 minutes prior to show time and know you’ll have a spot. Another option is to watch the second showing which only happens during peak travel times. Most of the crowds will watch the first parade and leave after the fireworks.
Hang out in Mickey’s Toontown in Disneyland and/or the Redwood Creek Challenge in Disney California Adventure Park. If you have kids who are a little restless from waiting in lines or being pushed in strollers, these areas are a great way to let your kids get out their wiggles. There are contained play areas where kids can explore, run and just be kids. Plus, there are plenty of benches where moms and dads can take a breather.
Make a reservation for Character Dining. Waiting in line to meet characters when it’s busy can be brutal. If you do a Character breakfast, lunch or dinner, you don’t waste any time. The characters all come to you while you eat and interact with everyone at your table. Our character breakfast was the highlight of our trip for my almost three-year-old. We got to meet Mickey, Minnie, Daisy, Stitch and Pluto, and some of the characters even came by twice. Reservations can be made up to 60 days in advance, so if you’re going during a busy time, you’ll want to make your reservations ASAP.
Bring snacks and try to time your meals during “off” dining times. Consider eating a late or early lunch or dinner to avoid crowds.When you’re hungry the last thing you want to do is stand in line to get food. I recommend always having something to eat nearby to tide you over during the lunch and dinner rushes. Keeping snacks handy can also keep kids content while in line. I was super grateful for Froot Loops while we were waiting for Peter Pan’s Flight.
And finally, ENJOY! You’re in the Happiest Place on Earth!
If you’d like more tips and tricks to get the most out of your Disneyland vacation, check out our blog, Packed with Fun. And if you’re thinking of booking a Disneyland vacation, I hope you’ll give our agents a call at 855-GET-AWAY or check out our discount Disneyland vacation packages at getawaytoday.com. With over 26 years of experience, we save you the most on your vacation and make sure that you have a magical time! Plus, use promo code: CraftingChicks to save an extra $10 on your 2-night or longer package. Thanks so much for reading!