Planning a Disney vacation soon? Here’s a list of 27 Disneyland tips to make sure your trip goes smoothly—including brand new advice for 2020!

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I recently traveled to Disneyland this past President’s Day weekend.

I took this trip with my partner, Joel, as a Valentine’s-Day-meets-early-anniversary-meets-three-day-weekend-meets-let’s-take-a-long-overdue-trip-somewhere (we had a lot to celebrate, okay).

Cocktail at Lamplight Lounge in California Adventure
It’s 5 o’clock somewhere (that somewhere being Lamplight Lounge)

A lot of “travelers” snub the idea of theme parks, particularly because they lack any significant cultural experiences for such a high price tag. Sure, we could’ve spent our hard-earned money on a trip to South Africa or Australia instead (both of which have incredible deals for the month of March, btw), but we were looking for something quick-and-dirty to fill the three day weekend without the need for a 20-hour international flight.

So Disneyland it was. We purchased a three-day pass at a discount (low season perks), rented a nice Airbnb, and let ourselves get swept away by corny songs and overpriced churros all weekend. And I loved every minute of it.

Planning a trip to Disneyland in 2020? Even though this was my fourth visit to the park, a lot has changed in the last few years. New rides, new foods, and of course, new hacks. If you’ve been away for a while, or if it’s your first time visiting, you’ll want to use the following Disneyland tips to maximize (AKA, wait less and spend less during) your Disney vacation.

Band members at the Disneyland Parade
Mickey-themed cupcakes from Candy Palace
Mickey-themed cupcakes from Candy Palace
Tea cups ride in Fantasyland

Timing & Planning Your Disneyland Trip

1. Official Disneyland hotels are overpriced for the value they provide. Unless you’re only staying a day or two and really need that extra hour in the morning, I highly suggest Airbnb. We stayed in a beautiful apartment in Garden Grove for just $85 a night, three miles down the road from Disneyland. Never tried Airbnb? Get up to $55 off your first trip.

2. Plan your visit around the grand opening of Galaxy’s Edge. While an official grand opening date has yet to be announced (SoCal is sure to lose its marbles once that happens), rumors are suggesting early summer. This is one of (if not THE) most significant events in Disney history, and will be treated as such by park-goers.

In other words, you can expect unbearable crowds (yes, more so than usual) and two hour waits just to enter this section of the park. In fact, it’s very likely that the park will hit capacity on most days. Are you enough of a Disney and/or Star Wars fan to brave the chaos? Or will you be like me, and avoid all things Disney until 2021? Your call.

(Some lucky bastard at Gizmodo already got a sneak peak, which you can read more about here.

Newsies show parade at California Adventure
One of the best parts of Disney: spontaneous daytime shows
Disneyland Sleeping Beauty Castle renovation

3. Post-holidays and pre-spring-break (so, January through March) is low season, although I use that term loosely since “low” still means 2.5 hour waits at Radiator Springs. That being said, keep in mind that low season for you also means low season for the park maintenance staff: expect a few major rides and shows to be closed. This past trip, the castle itself was closed to the public (and completely covered in scaffolding, see above), along with Fantasmic, World of Color, and Grizzly River Run.

4. If you didn’t know about the crowd calendar, now you do.

5. They no longer give out free Disneyland planning DVDs upon request. It’s 2020, nobody has a DVD player anymore, and all content has been moved online.

Pixar Pier at California Adventure
The monorail connects Disneyland to Downtown Disney
A peek inside Disneyland’s Monorail attraction

Time Management: FastPass & Magic Morning

6. Magic Morning doesn’t access all parts of the park. Make sure you’re planning that hour around rides that are actually available: Star Wars Tours and Space Mountain, to name a few. The Disneyland app can help with this.

7. Another Magic Morning tip: Most people assume that this is only available to Disney hotel guests, but multi-day (3+) pass holders have access as well.

8. Don’t spend your day in line! Plan your day around FastPass. And don’t just pick any big ride at random, take a look at the return times first (easier done with the mobile app). Since you can only have one FastPass at a time OR two hours after receiving one (whichever is soonest), it’s best to pick the rides with the soonest return window so that you can get your next one ASAP; however, the passes do run out, so if you’re hell-bent on riding Radiator Springs without a 3-hour wait (AKA all of us), then run (speed walk) there first thing in the morning.

Churros at Disneyland
Quartet Singers on Main Street, Disneyland

9. Your FastPass ticket is a formality. Your spot is actually saved to your park ticket, which is what you scan when you return during your window.

10. Speaking of formalities—your paper ticket, on the other hand, is not one. While you can enter and exit the park each day with your e-ticket on your phone, you will need a paper ticket to get FastPasses.

And more importantly, if you’re visiting across multiple days, this ticket is NOT re-printed at the gate everyday (if you forget it at home, however, you can go to will call and have them print you another one—you’ll need your ID for this). Not that I know from experience or anything. 😬

11. Designate a FastPass runner. You only need your paper ticket to get a FastPass, so one person (thanks Joel!) can go and get passes for everyone while the rest of the group waits in line.

12. All Disneyland tickets have re-entry privileges. If and when the clock strikes 5 pm and the crowds become unbearable, hop on the Monorail and head to Downtown Disney for a drink. Grab an Italian at Earl of Sandwich, then make your way back to the park once you’re ready to brave the Disney chaos magic once more (This is one of my favorite Disneyland tips, as not everyone knows you can exit the park!).

Or, if you’re at California Adventure, just head straight to one of their many on-sight bars (hint: Lamplight Lounge for lobster nachos).

13. Do all your shopping after-hours: Main Street stays open an hour after the park officially closes.

Toy Story themed macarons at Disneyland
Lobster Nachos at Lamplight Lounge in California Adventure
Lobster nachos
Guardians of the Galaxy: Mission Breakout ride at California Adventure
I actually went on this thing
Monsters Inc Ride at California Adventure
If you’re tired of lines, head to Monsters Inc.

Disneyland Tips for Rides

14. Use the mobile app and get good at game theory, AKA always be thinking one step ahead of the crowds. We planned almost all of our rides based off of wait times via the app—if something was close by and had a low wait time, we ran (ahem, sped-walk) over.

HOWEVER. Remember, nearly everyone else has access to the same information that you do, and if Space Mountain has a 10 minute wait and you’re over in Toon Town, you can expect the wait time to increase to an hour by the time you get there (or worse, when you’re already in line).

15. In most cases where the line splits for a ride, the right side is faster.

16. If you care about Peter Pan’s Flight at all (I mean, who doesn’t), get there first thing when the park opens. None of Fantasyland has FastPass and this ride is always (always) at least a 45-60 min queue (and that’s on a good day, during low season, when it’s flooding and/or the park is on fire).

17. There’s less of a wait for Splash Mountain in the morning, since no one really wants to get soaked before breakfast.

18. If you’re in line after the rides close, you still get to ride.

The best corn dog at Disneyland
I would give my left kidney for one of these right now
An inside look at the Space Mountain ride
Carnation Cafe on Mainstreet, Disneyland
Perfect spot for brunch before a long day of dodging strollers

Disneyland Tips for Food

19. In the past, a classic tip to shorten your Dole Whip wait was to order from the Tiki Room waiting area side. Nowadays, the turnstile is gone, and the staff members no long prioritize serving you before the show starts. The real move in 2020 is to mobile order your dessert from the Disney app.

20. Plan meals ahead of time (like, really far ahead of time) if you care about dining at the on-site restaurants. You can book reservations online up to 60 days in advance—and during busy season, you should do exactly that. Some places also accept walk-ins, so if you couldn’t get the spot you wanted, check-in in the morning and ask if there were any cancellations for later in the day.

21. If you didn’t think far enough ahead to snag reservations at the Blue Bayou, you can get their famous Monte Cristo sandwich at Café Orleans instead. It’s cheaper, too.

22. If you plan on eating outside of the park, avoid Captain Kidd’s—it’s the lowest rated restaurant in Anaheim and known for food poisoning (and just terrible, overpriced meals in general).

Dole Whip at Disneyland
Disneyland's famous fried chicken from Plaza Inn
This chicken is worth the hype my friends
Jack-Jack Cookie Num Nums giant chocolate chip cookie
My favorite treat of the weekend (obviously)
Mickey-shaped waffles in Disneyland
Brunch > rides

More Disneyland Tips

23. Ever wonder why you’ve never seen a selfie-stick? They’re banned from the park (along with cremated remains, it appears).

24. Splash Mountain and Grizzly River Run give out free ziplock bags to keep your valuables in. There are also free lockers available.

25. Uber is an easy and cheap way to get around Anaheim. Yes, even to Disneyland. We stayed three miles away from the park and an Uber usually cost around $10-15 to get dropped off right at the gate. Never used Uber before? You can use the code P9292 to get $5 off your first ride!

The Incredicoaster at Disney's California Adventure

26. Main Street Cinema is a great place for a midday power-nap (speaking from experience). It’s dark inside and mostly empty, and there are a handful of benches to rest on.

27. Power move: If you want to end your Disneyland vacation on a high note, brave the wait times at Mr. BBQ over in Fullerton. Make sure to order plenty of beef belly and to tell them it’s your birthday. You won’t be disappointed, promise.

Inside Carthay Circle at California Adventure
Inside Carthay Circle at California Adventure
He cute, huh 😉
Matterhorn Bobsleds Attraction
First time on Matterhorn!
Spot Joel
The perfect way to end a Disney weekend: AYCE KBBQ.

Disneyland is hot, crowded, and at times, overwhelming—but done right, it can be a lot of fun. What are you favorite Disneyland tips for 2020? Comment below!

Looking for more theme park inspiration? Check out my post on Lotte World in South Korea!

Later, Disney ✌️

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