So since this guest spot is no longer out on the Web, I figured I'd post it here. After all, I wrote this up and wouldn't want it to go to waste.
What's the post on?
Yes indeed, Disneyland.
I. Heart. Disneyland.
We got season passes as a gift in late 2007 and we've been hooked since. We've since renewed our passes and hope to continue having season passes for a while.
I think I've gone to Disneyland some 50 times since then, give or take. My last trip was in late February, when Kennedy (my four-year-old) and I went while Yvie (my six-year-old) was at school. Yvie confessed she was a bit sad when I picked her up from school, but I reminded her that she gets to do a lot of things that Kennedy can't (such as soccer, school, etc.).
There are several things that make Disneyland an enjoyable experience whenever you go. Last time out was a lightly-attended day (by Disneyland standards) but the last time we went before that (on President's Day) was a bit more crowded. Either way, it can be enjoyable if you take time to remember a few important things.
I wanted to bring you some of the tips I've picked up on since I've been going there and share them right here.
My intentions with this is for you to enjoy Disneyland whether you live nearby or not, whether you are planning on going to go or not. So if you live in some landlocked state where the sun shines only a few months of the year
Onto the tips.
GET THERE EARLY. This is the number one most important thing I can stress to anyone who is planning on going. If you are going to Disneyland, get there early. If the park opens at 8 a.m., don't stroll in after 10 a.m. Get there early.
And early doesn't mean 8 a.m. It means before 8 a.m. Disneyland will let you in onto Main Street USA about 15 minutes before the park opens. So if the park opens at 8 a.m., plan on getting to Disneyland at about 7:30. That will give you enough time to park, take the tram to the main entrance and get to the front. If you are going to buy tickets there, then I'd suggest giving yourself a little more time than that.
Why early? No matter what day I've gone, even when the park has been super-busy, like a Where-the-heck-did-all-these-people-come-from? day, you will not encounter many crowds in the first hour. If you get to Disneyland two or three hours after it opens, you risk the possibility of dealing with the masses. Now, you might still have to deal with the masses, but if you get there early, you can knock out a bunch of rides in a short amount of time, without too much hassle.
PLAN AHEAD. Don't just show up and think "Okay, what do I want to do now?" Go to the Web site, check out the map and figure out what attractions might look like fun. If you have been there before and know what rides you want to do, plan on doing them first. If you heed the first tip and get there early, then you are almost guaranteed of not having to wait too long to get on them.
Splash Mountain gets crowded during the days whenever it's warm (like most days from March through October), but if you go there in the first hour or two, your chances of a line are slim. The down side to that is it might not be quite hot enough to get wet, but you'd be surprised how warm it can get out there.
One time, I went with the girls to Disneyland and was standing on Main Street USA when the park opened. We knocked out Fantasyland in one hour, doing the five rides we wanted to do (Alice In Wonderland, Tea Cups, Dumbo, Casey Jr. Circus Train and Mr. Toad's Wild Ride) and then moving on to Adventureland.
Also, rides are periodically shut down for maintanence. For instance, the Haunted Mansion is usually closed for a big chunk of January so the holiday stuff can be taken down; same with It's a Small World. So check to see if one of your favorite rides is down so you won't be shocked if it is.
THERE WILL BE LINES. Even if you get to the park before it opens and head to your desired destination, you might have to deal with lines. These rides typically have long lines, no matter what time of day, no matter what time of year: Finding Nemo, Peter Pan, Indiana Jones. I went to Disneyland one time intending on getting to Nemo first since I hadn't been on there at the time, and I walked over there with the girls. By the time I got there (they are slow walkers) the line was gigantic, and we went and did something else instead.
Now, had we waited, our wait time wouldn't have been as bad as it would have been later in the day but I didn't have the patience to wait since I was upset that the line was large, at about 8:04 a.m.
THERE WILL BE LINES, PART II: These attractions usually have lines but they move quickly: Pirates Of The Caribbean, Haunted Mansion, It's A Small World. Don't be afraid, child.
THERE WILL BE LINES, PART III: These attractions have lines and are usually not worth the wait: Storybook Canals, Princess Fantasy Faire, Autopia. Maybe this is just a matter of taste, but the first and third rides are not worth the wait. You can see Storybook Land from Casey Junior's Circus Train. You won't get the commentary from the boats but you will see enough, and you can figure out what is what if you are at all familiar with Disney movies. Autopia is a slow-moving line for a lot of slow-moving cars.
The Princess Fantasy Faire has princesses there waiting to take their picture with you. The line does not look long but don't be deceived. I waited in line for an hour the one and only time I waited in line there. Kennedy (2 at the time) fell asleep in my arms and Yvie (4) was crying because she wanted to sleep as well. If you are with your spouse or significant other, or friend even, and your children or the children with you want to take their pictures with the princesses, then someone will have to take one for the team. Don't, for God's sake, make your little girl stand in line with you for an hour. By the time they see the princesses, your little one will be grumpy and will look that way in the pictures.
Pixie Hollow (which has Tinkerbell and all her friends) is similar to the Princess Fantasy Faire, with a long line to have pictures taken with the princesses. It's a newer attraction. I'm not sure if the lines move any quicker there, so you can apply the same rules to this one.
USE THE FAST PASS. The fast pass system is awesome. How it works is simple: certain attractions have a regular line and a fast pass line. The fast pass line requires tickets, which you get at machines near the attraction. If you swipe your ticket in the machine, you get a fast pass ticket for the attraction you are at. You can then return at a designated time later in the day. If you go early, like say at 9 a.m., you might get an early return time, like maybe 11 a.m. to noon, or something. You get an hour window to return. If you go later on a busy day, you might not get to come back for another four hours or so. When you get back in line, you go through the fast-pass line and you are very close to the front of the line by doing this. So if Splash Mountain is 40-50 minutes, the fast-pass line might only be 5-10.
One thing I like to do is this: I'll go to a ride that may or may not have a line when I go there, like say Thunder Mountain. Then, I will go do some other rides, such as Haunted Mansion or Pirates, or perhaps I'll go to Fantasyland. Then, I'll head back to Thunder Mountain later, when the lines have filled up, and I won't have to wait very long at all.
Now, you can only hold one fast pass at a time. You can't go to Space Mountain and get a fast pass, then go to Buzz Lightyear and get another one. So use your fastpass wisely.
GO WHEN YOU CAN. Too many times I've heard my girls tell me something awful while in line for a ride. This is typically what they say: "Dad, I have to go to the bathroom." I'm not sure about your children but mine will give me about a two-minute warning before their bladder erupts. So, long ago I stopped relying on them to tell me when they have to use the bathroom. If it's been more than 90 minutes between bathroom visits, I seek out the nearest bathroom and make the girls go. Most of the time they protest and most of the time they end up going.
Trust me, you do not want to be in the middle of a 40-minute wait in line when your child starts doing the potty dance.
EAT, DRINK AND BE MERRY. Disneyland allows you to take food and water in, so don't be rude and leave that stuff at home. Take plenty of water and snacks into the park so you don't have to buy them. I'm not sure what the prices for bottled water are but I believe I paid around four bucks once for a bottled water because I ran out and it was blistering hot. One piece of fruit costs 1.75 at most places there. Meals can get costly - unless you are going to share, you can't feed a family of four there for less than 25 dollars, and it's probably actually closer to 30 or 35 that you'll shell out for a meal.
So don't run up your tab by buying snacks. Of course, you want to enjoy some popcorn (3.75) or churros (3 bucks) so indulge, but don't let yourself get so hungry that you have to buy things out of necessity.
LOCKERS. If you are going to spend a lot of time at Disneyland and don't want to buy a meal there, you can rent a locker. Lockers cost seven dollars and you can store plenty of food and drinks there. So you can take things that will transport well and keep them in the locker. You can freeze a bottle water or two, for instance, and use that to keep sandwiches cool, keep them in the locker and then go get them when it's time to eat. Seven dollars is better than 27.
ENJOY YOURSELF. Disneyland is the Happiest Place on Earth. Maybe you go as often as I do, maybe you go even more, or maybe you make a family trip to Anaheim and enjoy Disneyland once a year or once, period. When you are there, enjoy yourself. It's easy to get frustrated and irate at the crowds and the high prices, but just know that some things are out of your control, so don't let them bother you. Have fun and take loads of pictures!