Is it your first time planning a trip to Disneyland? Looking for some tips for your first time to Disneyland? You've come to the right place! We literally have hundreds of Disneyland tips here! Between me and the other writers here, we have been to Disneyland over 200 times!
Disneyland Tips For Your First Time To Disneyland
Go in the Off-Season if you can. When planning our first time to Disneyland, we were hoping to go to the park when it wasn’t insanely busy. We chose to go the first week in November. It was right between the Halloween and Christmas seasons. Because those seasons are big events that everyone tries to get to, going between the two seasons kept the crowds way down. January through middle of February are also good times, as well as Mid-April through the first part of May. If you are looking at Fall time, The September through the beginning of October are also good.
Book your tickets and hotel through Get Away Today once you have selecting your dates, We got a great deal and an even better deal on the hotel (and an extra free night!) because booked it 6 months in advance. We saved almost $30 a night planning ahead. They have the best deals, hands down. We've now used them 5 years in a row now.
At home with the kids? Instantly access any of these printable activity bundles to keep them learning!
Get a hotel that is close to the park. After a long day you do not want to drive for 20 minutes to your hotel, especially if this is your first time to Disneyland. We stayed at Residence Inn Marriott hotel for our first time to Disneyland and it was really nice. The staff was great and the rooms were clean and comfortable. The Hot breakfast buffet in the mornings was awesome! A huge variety of foods for any taste buds. Complimentary breakfast is definitely something to look for in a hotel. You will need some good energy for all the walking you will be doing. This is another reason why Get Away Today is so great. They personally makes trips out every year to try all of the hotels out and make sure they are up to date on which ones provide the best quality, so they can answer any questions you have on getting the very best one for either proximity, value or all of the above. See our Disneyland hotels guide, or our post on most magical, kid-friendly Disneyland hotels.
Go to the parks for more than one day. If this is your first time to Disneyland as a family, you will have a much better time if you go to the parks for more than one day. It gives you more time to enjoy the moments and not treat it as much like a checklist. It takes all the stress out of trying to speed through the park in one day! The price of your Disney ticket gets cheaper exponentially as you add-on more days.
The Hopper pass to California Adventure is worth the extra money. Both parks are fantastic! They have great rides for kids of all ages. And Cars Land is incredible adorable and California Screamin' was one of our favorite rides.
Don’t rush! The first day of our 3 day passes I felt like we needed to rush and make sure we say everything and did everything. But about half way through the first day I saw all the smiles on my kids faces. They didn’t care what we did. They were just enjoying the fun environment. 3 days was a perfect amount of time for our family. Even your first time to Disneyland doesn't mean you need to stress toa see it all. Make sure you aren't rushing too much.
Take a backpack with everything you need. My husband and I both carried one. He had the food and I had all the other essentials. It worked out perfect. We never had a problem just putting the bag in front or between our legs on the rides. It was perfect to have everything we needed on hand. Go here to see what I packed.
Use the Disneyland App. It was an awesome resource and is available in the Google Play Store. I looked at it all day! It shows where the characters are and what the wait times are on every ride in the park.
Take advantage of the time waiting in lines. We used that time to see what over wait times were around the area we were in. It is also a great time to break out the snacks and drinks.
Snack healthy! We packed snacks that would give us lasting energy. We ate raisins, almonds, trail mix, fruit leather, beef jerky, fresh fruit, and crackers.
Use the restroom every time you pass one. Disney is genius when it comes to placing restrooms all over. But taking advantage of the restrooms as we passed them saved us from needed to go while waiting in a line or when trying to make it to a show.
Take lunch and Buy dinner. The trip was already pricey so we didn’t want to spend too much in the park. Lunch Menu: Day 1- Uncrustables, juice box, cutie oranges, string cheese. Day 2- turkey/cheese sandwich, juice box, carrot and celery sticks, almonds. Day 3- Uncrustables, juice box, applesauce, crackers. The lunches turned out perfect and we were able to fit drinks and lunches and snacks in one backpack. Then for dinner we found a restaurant near where we happened to be at dinner time. I have pretty good eaters so we just ate wherever was most convenient. See our post on Best Foods at Disneyland and Tips for Eating at Disneyland.
Buy souvenirs before you leave on your trip. This was another big money savers. We actually didn’t even use any of our precious time walking around gift shops. I guess my kids were so happy going on rides and watching shows that they didn’t think they were missing out by skipping over the shops, which is exactly what you want for your first time to Disneyland! Use your time wisely! I bought lots of little Disney toys and things at the dollars store for passing out to the kids to add a little more fun. Usually when waiting in a line or while we waited for some of us to finish eating a meal to keep them patient or glow sticks at night to brighten their smiles while waiting for a light show to start. We bought these plush toys for $5-$10 at different stores around our home town. They were their big keepsake from the trip. I saw each of them at the gift shops for at double or triple the amount I paid for them. I also found Disney Character tote bags at the dollar store. They used them to hold any souvenirs they got at the park and added to it each day. It contained maps, the little dollar store toys, glow sticks, free Disney buttons, and to hold the autographs they collected. See our post on Things to Buy Before Your Trip to Disneyland for lots more good info.
Wear a lanyard to hold your tickets. This was really handy for going back and forth to the different parks and for getting fast passes. You scan each ticket to get the fast passes and then you receive reminder slips with your ride time frame. Anytime I wasn’t using the tickets I slipped the lanyards in my shirt to keep it from catching on anything.
Take a picture of each kids before entering the park. This is not only a fun memory to capture the cute outfits they wore each day but you have a picture to show to the Disney staff if ever your child wandered off. We luckily didn’t lose anyone but I felt better knowing that I had an up to date picture of them.
Wear good shoes and stretch your legs. We walked over 11 miles each day. It didn’t really feel like it most of the time because your mind isn’t focused on the walking but just getting to the entertainment. But by the end of the day we were tired a achy. We stretched before we left the hotel the second day and it helped a lot. Stretching a bit while waiting in lines is not a bad idea either.
Take time to rest and reflect. This was a really fun time. My kids would tell me all of their favorite things that they did that day. It was fun to listen to them. We also loved resting while watching the parades and musical entertainment.
Meet the Characters. We got really lucky and seemed to walk by when characters were first coming out so we didn’t wait in lines that were too long most of the time. But even the long lines were worth the wait. Especially with the princesses and other “talking” characters. I was so impressed. Aurora talked to my girls about their favorite dresses and if they twirled well. She spoke to them about being brave and confident. She told my boys that to win a girl's heart they need to always be gentlemen and to be kind. I was dying! It was the cutest thing.
Autographs are the best souvenir! I love the personality that shows in all the different signatures. My kids were in heaven getting the John Hancock of their favorite characters. See our post on what ended up being the Best DIY Disneyland Autograph Books.
Tackle Long Lines with Boredom Busters. Along with the planning and snacking that can be done during those long lines, print these Disneyland Activity Printables for the kids to do while they wait in lines. These were awesome and were the best distraction from the long line ahead. They were also a really fun family activity as my oldest daughter helped my 4-year-old son draw pictures and do the word search. They were great!
The firework shows are worth the late night (ESPECIALLY if this is your first time to Disneyland). We were exhausted, especially that first night. But we showed up in time to use our firework and World of Color fast passes. We got seats and sat on the ground to relax. We broke out our glow sticks and had a party of our own. After walking all day we didn’t care where we sat. The shows were amazing and we actually were close enough to the water that everyone around us was sitting to and we were able to enjoy the show while resting. It was perfect!
Park at the Toy Story Parking Lot. We parked there for a $20 fee. It was so worth it. Immediately after you exit the park the Toy story shuttles waiting for you. The other huge crowds walked so much further to the Disneyland park lot to their cars and those shuttles dropped us off right by our car. It was just what the foot doctor ordered.
Phones! Bring a phone battery bank and/or use airplane mode on your phone as much as possible. Other than using the Disneyland App on occasion with kept our phones on Airplane mode. Airplane mode still allows you to take photos but conserves your battery. It is so convenient to pull out your phone and take pictures instead of a big bulky camera but save the social media posting for once you are back at the hotel. Enjoy the moment…and keep watch of your kids. Plus you will use up less data and battery if you use it only for pictures.
Enjoy it and be happy! You are in the happiest place on earth, for goodness sake! No matter how much your feet hurt or how tired you are, Keep that smile on your face! You will notice that your kids will keep their faces beaming if you do.