Are you planning a trip to Disneyland, but you’ve never been there before? My family and I live in Arizona and Disneyland is one of our favorite vacation destinations. When people find out we are going to Disneyland, they usually ask “Disneyland, again?” Yes. Disneyland. Again. We’ve been there so many times that I decided to write down Disneyland tips for first time visitors!
Disneyland is not only enjoyable for us as a family, but it’s also convenient. Because we live in Arizona, we’re able to drive to California in one day, and we like that we can take what we want, and travel at our own pace. Not only are we able to save on airfare, but we are also able to save on food since we are able to bring food with us.
Even though we visit Disneyland at least once a year, we still experience something different every time we go. We usually buy three day park hoppers, and even then, we still aren’t able to see everything. So here it goes. Here are my Disneyland tips for First Time Visitors!
Disneyland Tips for First Time Visitors
- Download the Official Disneyland App
- FASTPass vs. MaxPass
- Extra Magic Hour vs. Magic Morning
- Line Up Early for Character Meet ‘n’ Greets
- Divide and Conquer
- Experience Newer Attractions Earlier in the Day
- Enjoy Performances and Parades
- Book Dining As Soon As Possible
- Preorder the Disney PhotoPass (if it’s not included with the MaxPass)
- Bring Food and Water to Save Money
- Bring a Portable Charging Device for Cell Phone
- Additional Disneyland Tips for First Time Visitors
1. Download the Official Disneyland App
One of the essential Disneyland tips for first time visitors? Download the Official Disneyland App. It’s a lifesaver. It not only tells you the wait times for the rides, but it will also say when and where certain characters will be. It will also list places to eat, and locations of restrooms. You can also view the photos taken by the Disneyland photographers via the Official Disneyland App.
2. FASTPASS vs. MaxPass
Unlike Disney World, guests at Disneyland Resort can’t reserve rides days or months in advance. Essentially, guests have to wait until they enter the park for the day. You can either get a FASTPASS, or you can purchase a MaxPass via the Official Disneyland App. While the MaxPass costs extra per person, it is optional. FASTPASSes (included in the cost of general admission) are still available for guests who do not want to purchase a MaxPass.
We purchased the MaxPass during our last visit and it is well worth it. Not only is it extremely convenient, but the purchase of the MaxPass includes pictures taken by Disney photographers (PhotoPass). With the MaxPass, I was easily able to reserve rides via the Official Disneyland app. We were also able to reserve more rides by using the MaxPass than if we had obtained FASTPASSes. Essentially, I highly recommend the MaxPass, especially if you are traveling with younger children.
3. Extra Magic Hour vs. Magic Morning
I wish Extra Magic Hour and Magic Morning didn’t sound so similar. Especially because they are two completely different things. The key difference between Extra Magic Hour and Magic Morning? Extra Magic Hour is only available to guests staying at Disney-owned hotels, like the Grand Californian, Disneyland Hotel and Paradise Pier. Basically, guests of those hotels are able to enter Disney’s California Adventure and Disneyland Park an hour early on select days. However, Magic Morning Early Admission is available for guests who are not staying at a Disney-owned hotel and who purchase 3 day park hopper tickets. Magic Morning Early Admission can only be used at Disneyland Park, and cannot be used at Disney’s California Adventure. Also, guests can only use Magic Morning Early Admission for one of the mornings, as opposed to all three mornings.
Whenever we have Magic Morning Early Admission, we usually head directly to the Peter Pan ride. For some reason, that particular ride always has a long wait! If you do decide to ride Peter Pan first thing in the morning, know that the line forms through Sleeping Beauty’s Castle. In any case, we are able to accomplish a lot in the first couple of hours regardless of whether it’s Extra Magic Hour or Magic Morning.
4. Line Up Early for Character Meet ‘n’ Greets
Even though the Disneyland app lists the times of character appearances, don’t take it for granted that if you arrive during that timeframe, you’ll still be able to have a picture taken with some of the characters. For example, Nick Wilde and Judy Hopps are some of the newer characters at California Adventure, and the line can be long to have a picture taken with them (FYI, they currently do not sign autographs). My husband was told by a cast member to start getting in line 15 mins before the listed time. I ended up standing in line 30 mins before the listed time, and there were already people in front of me! Once Nick and Judy arrived, people who arrived at the beginning of the listed time were turned away, and told that the line was already closed!
5. Divide and Conquer
Divide and conquer with your family members can also help move things along. Captain America and Spiderman are also some of the newer character meet ‘n’ greets at California Adventure, so while I hold our place in line, my husband takes our son on the Monsters, Inc ride since it is located nearby.
And at one point during a recent trip to Disneyland, I waited in line with my son for Minnie Mouse, my husband waited in line for Pluto, and my mom (who joined us on the trip) waited in line for Mickey Mouse. Our timing worked out really well. After my son had his picture taken with one character, we met my husband and then my mom for the other character pictures. Our son is at an age now where he loves having his picture taken with the characters and getting their autographs.
6. Try to Experience the Newer Attractions Early in the Day to Avoid Long Waits
Besides meeting the new characters during our more recent visits, we were able to experience the newer attractions like Luigi’s Rollickin’ Roadsters in California Adventure. The line for Luigi’s Rollickin’ Roadsters gets long so try to get in line as early as possible, especially since you can’t use a FASTPASS or MaxPass for it.
7. Enjoy the Performances and Parades
Disneyland is more than the rides. During one of our last visits to Disneyland, we decided to see Mickey and the Magical Map at Disneyland, and we weren’t disappointed! It’s definitely worth it to see the performances offered throughout the day, especially if you have younger children.
Also, first time visitors to Disneyland shouldn’t miss Frozen – Live at the Hyperion in Disney’s California Adventure Park. Initially, I had my reservations when I found out it would be replacing Aladdin. However, it’s really fantastic to see in person, with the singing and special effects.
8. Book Dining Reservations, Including Character Breakfasts, as Soon as Possible
Dining reservations can be booked 60 days in advance, so you’ll want to make sure you book dining reservations as soon as possible. We try to book at least one character breakfast for each trip to Disneyland. For example, we’ve tried the character breakfast at Paradise Pier Hotel called Surf’s Up with Mickey and Friends. The food is delicious, and many of the main characters are present, like Mickey, Minnie, Daisy, Pluto and Stitch. We chose Surf’s Up for a number of reasons, the main reason being that my son really wanted to go to a character breakfast with Mickey and Surf’s Up is the only character breakfast with Mickey. It also didn’t interfere with our time in the park since it’s at a hotel and doesn’t require park admission. We were able to make reservations for the morning we were scheduled to drive back home.
During our last trip to Disneyland, we chose Minnie & Friends – Breakfast in the Park. Like Surf’s Up, the food is very good. My son also enjoyed seeing several characters, like Eeyore, Pooh, Tigger, Captain Hook, and Rafiki.
9. Order the Disney PhotoPass (if it’s not included with the MaxPass)
Right now, the cost of the MaxPass includes pictures taken by Disney photographers. This makes the purchase of the MaxPass well worth it. But even if the MaxPass didn’t include the photos, the PhotoPass is worth it. I’m usually the person taking the photographs. But, thanks to the Disney photographers, I can actually be in the photos with my family! If for some reason, the PhotoPass is no longer included in the purchase of the MaxPass, check to see if there is a discount available if you preorder the PhotoPass.
10. Bring Food and Plenty of Water to Save Money
One of my other Disneyland tips for first time visitors? Bring your own food and water to save money. Disneyland allows guests to bring certain food and snacks in the park as well as bottled water. But, be sure to check the guidelines beforehand, to make sure you aren’t bringing in something that’s not allowed. We usually pack snacks and bottled water in my husband’s backpack.
11. Bring a Portable Charging Device for Cell Phone
This is especially important if you purchase the MaxPass. The battery to my cell phone drains fairly quickly, so I make sure to bring a portable device to charge my cell phone. Just make sure that your portable device is charged as well! I made the mistake of not charging my portable device one day, and it was difficult to look things up once my cell phone’s battery was completely drained.
12. Additional Disneyland Tips for First Time Visitors
Other Disneyland tips for first time visitors? Bring lanyards for your park tickets. Also, measure your child’s height before your visit. That way, you can avoid disappointment if your child isn’t tall enough for a particular ride. Along those lines, use the rider switch pass if your child isn’t tall enough to go on a particular ride. Also, wear comfortable walking shoes. And keep in mind that both parks have First Aid stations in case you or a family member needs an item like a bandaid. Additionally, don’t forget an autograph book for character signings! And last but not least, it’s not essential to stay at a Disney-owned hotel in order to experience everything. There are several Disneyland Good Neighbor Hotels nearby, including the Courtyard Anaheim Theme Park Entrance.
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In the meantime, here are some of my favorite pictures of our trips to Disneyland!
Getting ready to enter the park…
Three generations on Dumbo!
My mom on Radiator Springs Racer 🙂
One of our favorite rides – Toy Story Midway Mania.