Travel Tips for Beginners

The Disneyland Gazette’s Travel Tips for Beginners

Compiled by Kim Schroeder, last updated May 13th, 2015

First of all, the Disneyland Resort is located in Anaheim, California and consists of two theme parks (Disneyland Park and Disney California Adventure Park), the Downtown Disney entertainment district, and three resort hotels (Grand Californian Hotel and Spa, Disneyland Hotel, and Paradise Pier Hotel).

Disneyland is divided into eight themed sections of the park, called “lands” in Disney lingo: Main Street USA, Adventureland, Frontierland, New Orleans Square, Critter Country, Fantasyland, Mickey’s Toontown, and Tomorrowland.

Disney California Adventure is divided into seven lands: Buena Vista Street, Hollywood Land, A Bug’s Land, Grizzly Peak, Pacific Wharf, Paradise Pier, and Cars Land.

A quick vocabulary lesson before we begin:

-Cast members: These are Disneyland employees.

-Dark rides: Rides that take place entirely indoors that are always family-friendly.

 

BEFORE YOU GO

Pre-Trip Preparation

Familiarize yourself with the general layout of the parks. You’ll save yourself a lot of time if you at least know what rides and attractions are in each of the lands, as well as the location of those lands.

Some good sites to visit to prepare for you vacation:

Disneyland.com: This is the official Disneyland Resort website. Here you can find descriptions of all of the attractions, as well as maps, park hours, and entertainment schedules. Keep in mind that the information is subject to change.

DisneylandGazette.com: The site you are currently visiting is full of useful photo reports to see what’s happening around the Disneyland Resort.

AllEars.net: There are many informational articles on this website, but it’s a particularly handy place to check out full restaurant menus with prices. This will give you a general idea of what’s available to eat and from there, you can decide whether you need to book reservations or perhaps even leave the park for your meals.

TouringPlans.com: Check out the awesome crowd calendars to help you figure out when to visit the Disneyland Resort.

If you’re looking for more detailed information, check out the Birnbaum Guide to Disneyland or the Unofficial Guide to the Disneyland Resort.


When To Go

There is no one good answer to this question.

The coolest time of year is January, while the quietest time of the year runs from January through mid-April. You may have to deal with rain or major ride closures during the winter months.

If you have to visit during the hot, crowded summer months, try to visit on weekdays. Avoid major holidays, like Memorial Day, Independence Day, or Labor Day. Due to the Southern California Annual Passport block-out dates, July is probably your best bet for (relatively) smaller summer crowds, but June is the cooler month.

If you want to visit during a holiday season, Halloween time (mid-September through October) is a little bit quieter than Christmas (mid-November through first week of January). Both seasons can get as crowded as the summer months and the parks have actually reached capacity during Christmas weekend.

The Birnbaum Guide and TouringPlans.com offer more detailed descriptions of your options.


How Long to Stay

If Disneyland is the main focus of your California vacation, you should definitely stay for at least three days. Anything less than that and you simply aren’t getting your money’s worth.

It is entirely possible to see everything the Disneyland Resort has to offer in five days, even during the most crowded times of the year.

The perfect vacation length is one week. This gives you time to see everything once, revisit your favorites, and yet tour at a more relaxed pace. Anything more than seven days in the park is unnecessary- though certainly fun!


Essential Items to Pack

-T-shirts, shorts, etc. during most of the year- basically whatever you feel most comfortable wearing when it’s hot outside.

-Comfortable walking shoes. You will be doing an enormous amount of walking, so be sure to wear shoes that support your soles, won’t give you blisters, and that you don’t have to chase around the whole day. Specifically, flip flops are not recommended, nor is it a good idea to break-in brand new shoes.

-A hat! Save yourself from an uncomfortable sunburn.

-Sunglasses

-Jacket of some sort for the cooler evenings. If you don’t want to carry it around all day, there are lockers available to rent on Main Street and Buena Vista Street.

-Rain gear in the winter months. If you don’t want to pack a rain coat, ponchos are available for purchase in the park.

-A camera! Take lots of photos of yourself and your family having fun.


Park Tickets

There are three basic ticket options:

-One park per day, up to six days

-Park Hopper, up to six days

-Annual Passport- Deluxe (315 days of access) or Premium (365 days of access)

Each ticket has its advantages:

-If you aren’t planning on visiting both theme parks on the same day, purchase the one park per day option.

-If you do not plan on visiting the theme parks more than six full days, purchase the Park Hopper.

-Obviously, for more than six days your only option is to purchase an annual pass.

Despite the high price tag, there are some things to consider before completely ruling out an annual pass:

-By purchasing an annual pass, you can take advantage of extra time on travel days. A seven-night vacation suddenly turns into nine park days!

-Only one member of your party needs to have an Annual Pass in order to take advantage of the discounts.

-The Premium Annual Passport will give you 20% merchandise discounts at most stores, 15% food discounts at most restaurants, and a seasonal discount at Disneyland Resort Hotels. Draw up a budget and see if purchasing an annual pass would save you more money than it costs.


Where To Stay

There are many advantages to staying at one of the three on-property Disneyland Resort Hotels:

-You will be completely immersed in the Disneyland experience. There is something truly magical about that moment in your trip when you realize you haven’t thought of life back home for a few hours.

-Early Admission: Guests staying at a Disneyland Resort hotel can enter both parks one hour earlier than regular guests. Disneyland offers early admission to Fantasyland and Tomorrowland on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday. DCA offers early admission to Cars Land on Sunday, Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. This is an excellent way to ride some of the busiest rides without much of a wait- it is entirely possible to get eight to ten rides done within that hour.

-Talk to your local travel agent about package deals that are available. Sometimes you can book your airplane tickets, park tickets, and a room at a Disneyland Resort Hotel for significantly cheaper than if you had booked them all separately.

Staying on property is very fun and it is certainly recommended if you can afford it. But if you can’t, don’t fret! There are many wonderful hotels located off-property too.

Some tips for selecting an off-property hotel:

-Check out the Good Neighbor Hotels first. These are the hotels that Disney has put their stamp of approval on, indicating that they are at least safe and clean.

-Another option to at least ensure quality is to pick a hotel chain that you recognize. Many of the independent hotels in the area are fine, but be sure to read online reviews before you select one.

-Be sure to look at the exact location of the hotel on a map. Most of the hotels advertise that they are “just two blocks away” from Disneyland, but they fail to mention that two blocks could easily mean two miles.

-Try to stay as close to the park as possible. Walking is more convenient than using the complimentary shuttle services. Some travel websites label these hotels as “Disneyland South.”


Airport Options

Although there are other airports in the area, there are only two worth mentioning- LAX and John Wayne (aka Santa Ana or Orange County).

The Gazette team recommends flying into John Wayne, if at all possible, for a variety of reasons:

-It is much smaller than LAX. There are only two terminals and twelve gates. It is nearly impossible to get lost and there is a better chance that they won’t lose your luggage.

-The TSA workers are friendlier here. Obviously, they have to do their jobs and keep everyone safe, but they are less rude even if there is an issue.

-It is a 20 minute drive to Disneyland. It is closer to Disneyland than LAX, plus you don’t have to deal with Los Angeles traffic.

The only real disadvantage is that there are only a handful of locations that offer direct flights to John Wayne and only twelve airlines that fly there at all.


Transportation from the Airport

-Rental cars: This is only a good option if you are planning on leaving the Disneyland Resort during your stay. You will have to pay a daily parking fee, even if you are staying on property. There is an Alamo car rental place in Downtown Disney, so it might be a better option to rent a car for just a day or at the end of the Disneyland portion of your trip.

-Disneyland Resort Express: $12.50 per adult or $9 per child for a one-way trip from John Wayne (prices are a bit higher from LAX). It will stop at the Disneyland Resort Hotels first, but it will take you to any Anaheim hotel.

-Shuttle Vans: $11 per person for a one-way trip from John Wayne ($16 for LAX). Unless you have a large family or rented a private van, the drivers will generally wait until the van is full before leaving.

-Taxi cabs: $40 total from John Wayne (including a generous tip). For a family of three, you can get to Disneyland faster for just $7 more than waiting around for a SuperShuttle.

-Limousines/Town cars: They typically charge a similar price to the taxicab flat rate.


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