A lot goes into planning a trip to Disneyland.
There’s buying park tickets, making sure you secure park reservations for every day of the visit, finding a hotel that’s both affordable and within close proximity to the park, and securing travel that won’t break the bank before you get there.
It doesn’t stop there, though.
Disneyland can be intimidating for the novice parkgoer.
How can I get the most out of a Disneyland vacation?
There’s nuance to getting the best bang for your buck — from riding all the big rides, to seeing the most desired parades and performances to staying nourished and hydrated in a seemingly endless supply of food options.
Here are five hacks to help those who find themselves overwhelmed by the whole process.
Get there early, stay late — and rest midday if needed
Disneyland and its adjoining park, Disney California Adventure, have some of their shortest lines of the day early in the morning and late at night.
That makes it imperative to rise early and get into the parks, as well as stay after the nighttime spectaculars — those are the prime times to be able to race from one ride or experience to another with relatively shorter wait times in line.
The parks often are busy and crowded during midday, right as the sun really starts to heat up those early afternoon hours, and can make one’s patience wear thin.
If you need a break in order to do more in the morning and at night, taking a break midday — whether it’s returning to your hotel room or strolling through Downtown Disney — can reinvigorate you for the rest of the day.
Become good friends with mobile food and beverage ordering
Yes, there are a lot of food options throughout both parks, and sometimes it can be easy to find a restaurant (ones that don’t require reservations) or a food cart nearby to grab something to eat.
Disneyland’s mobile food ordering service on the park’s app is a powerful tool, though.
Not only does it provide details on what food options there are close by in different parts of the park, it also gives park goers the chance to line up their next meal or snack while standing in line.
Plus, by ordering food by using the mobile order option, there’s no standing in line for food … after you’ve already stood in line waiting for an attraction.
That makes it a time (and patience) saver, both of which can get in short supply.
Stack your Lightning Lane passes late in the day
The new Lightning Lane system (it comes with Genie+, which costs $20 per day per guest) allows park goers to book just one Lightning Lane pass for a given attraction each day.
After that, you’ve got to stand in the standby line if you want to ride something for a second time that day.
There are also the handful of attractions — like Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance in Disneyland and Radiator Springs Racers in Disney California Adventure — you have to buy a separate Lightning Lane pass for, in addition to the cost of Genie+.
While that is restrictive, it does open the opportunity to ensure you get on each of the major attractions at a park in a given day if you manage it wisely.
I’ve learned that by spacing out my Lightning Lane passes for attractions with traditionally longer wait times — like Space Mountain or Indiana Jones Adventure, for example — and being willing to wait in shorter standby lines or fill in Lightning Lane passes to attractions with shorter wait times during the day, I can often start to line up Lightning Lane passes for those big-ticket rides later in the evening, usually after supper time.
The key is to be checking on the return times of Lightning Lane access for certain attractions as you go throughout the day, so you ensure you can get on before they expire for the day.
Save your shopping for one specific time — and get a locker
It’s tempting to buy something right when you see it at one of the countless shops in the parks.
Many times, though, that means you’ll have to carry it around with you for the rest of the day.
There are lockers located in both Disneyland and Disney California Adventure where you can store purchased items, or even larger bags, which is useful in preventing you from having to carry things around all day.
I’ve learned, too, to try and save the majority of my purchases for the end of the trip. I try to set reminders for what I want to purchase, then wait until the final day to make all those purchases at once.
That helps control a bit of impulse buying as well.
Skip the fireworks and hit up your favorite ride(s)
If you’ll be at the parks for multiple days — ideally three to four — decide what nights you want to watch the fireworks or nighttime celebrations and what nights would be more open for riding rides.
On the nights where you decide to try and get on as many attractions as possible, pay attention to what time the fireworks show or nighttime spectaculars, like Fantasmic or World of Color, are taking place.
Those are prime times to push it and try to ride on as many attractions as possible, with the crowds packed heavily in other parts of the park as they watch the shows.
You’ll also want to avoid those high-traffic areas where the shows are taking place as you try to get from one attraction to the next.
For example, if you’re trying to get from say, Indiana Jones Adventure to Space Mountain in the middle of a fireworks show and head toward Main Street, U.S.A. toward the big roundabout, cast members will guide you around the crowd, which eats up precious time trying to get from one side of the park to the other.
If you can avoid those high-traffic areas, though, it’s a prime opportunity to ride multiple attractions in a short amount of time.