I’ve learned a hard reality over the past few years as I’ve become a more frequent Disneyland visitor: it’s tiring.
I will absolutely endure the exhaustion to experience one of my favorite vacation destinations.
It’s taught me, though, that I prefer to have an extra vacation day or two after a Disneyland trip just to recover before getting back into the daily grind of life.
Here’s five things I’ve learned about Disneyland vacations that aren’t so magical, and how to plan for the inevitable anxious and tiring moments that will occur.
You’re going to be sore — a lot
Those TikTok videos that joke about training for a Disneyland trip are not wrong: this isn’t your typical “relaxing” vacation.
There’s a lot of walking that goes into it — and a lot of waiting in lines, from security to rides — and you are going to be sore after pushing your body each day.
That makes it especially important to bring multiple pairs of shoes, and not just flip flops.
It’s also good to bring whatever pain medication you’ll need to push through that soreness, whether it’s Tylenol or ibuprofen, or even the Bengay.
Get up early and stay late if you want to get your money’s worth
When you think “vacation,” you probably imagine a lot of sleeping in and relaxing.
At Disneyland, though, you’ve got to fight that temptation to hit the snooze button.
The wait times for popular attractions typically are shorter in the mornings during the first hour to two hours after opening, which makes it critical to get to the park even before opening and be lined up ready to go.
Yes, that sounds about as fun as it really is — you’re waking at, say, 6 a.m., just to go stand in line — but it pays off.
Staying late at the park is a must, too, if you are trying to get on as many rides as possible or wanting to see nighttime shows like World of Color and the fireworks show near Sleeping Beauty Castle.
Once those nighttime shows are over, the heavier crowds from the day start to thin out, and ride times get shorter as you get closer to closing time.
Getting there early and staying late means a lot of time in the park, with the tradeoff being there’s minimal sleep time in between days if you’re there for multiple days, but it’s worth it to maximize the experience for those who love the rides and attractions.
Doing everything in one day is not achievable
Yes, Disneyland is smaller than Disney World — there’s two parks vs. four, respectively — and there’s a short walk to get between Disneyland and Disney California Adventure.
And yes, you can purchase a park hopper ticket to jump between those two parks after 1 p.m.
That doesn’t mean it’s likely you are going to be able to do everything you want to in one day, especially if you’re not a frequent visitor to the parks and your to-do list is long.
With long lines and often sweltering heat that can slow you down, it can take two to three days to experience everything you want at the parks.
That’s why a multiple-day trip is the best.
You’ve been warned: it’s expensive. That’s no joke.
Hidden fees aren’t just for banks.
OK, I kid, but the reality is that the cost of a Disneyland trip can add up fast.
It may be easier to see that before you get there, as you book flights and hotels, purchase park tickets and make park reservations.
When you’re in the parks, though, that cost isn’t always easy to keep track of — whether it’s buying snacks or shopping for the latest Disney memorabilia.
Some of the best experiences take a good chunk of money, too, from dining reservations to using the Genie+ service and the Lightning Lane system.
Parking can be a big time drain
If you stay at a hotel far enough away from Disneyland that you have to park in one of the Disneyland parking structures, be warned: it can take some time to get over to the park.
Disney does a good job keeping the lines moving, but there will be lines: one when you arrive at the parking structure and wait in your vehicle to pay, one when you get parked and have to go through security, and another when you have to wait for the tram to take you over to the park.
When you get to the park, you could be waiting in line at the entrance gate as well.
Then, you have to wait in line for the tram at the end of the night to get back to the parking structure, when your feet are sore and your body is tired.
Yes, there’s the option to walk from the parking structure to the park, or vice versa, to avoid the tram.
No matter what, though, it’s exhausting.