Hello from Santa Clarita CA, where I am sitting in my socks on my aunt’s couch! Matthew and I decided to escape Sunny Sonoma County for a rainy Los Angeles County. We’ve spent our time visiting with family and seeing some of So-Cal’s favorite spots, amongst which was the Magic Kingdom!
We totally scored and got FREE Disney Tickets which is basically unheard of. I’ll get to that later. So I decided to write a post alllllll about my top Disney Tips!
This was the first time I have been to Disneyland as an adult. My family went basically yearly when I was growing up. My father had clients in southern California and so when he’d come down for meetings my sisters, mom and I would park hop. BUT it had been nearly 10 years since I had been in the park and a lot has changed. The fast pass system is different, several rides have been updated or totally renovated and as many of you know the ticket prices are FAR different than what they were a decade, or even a few years ago. Which leads to my first tip for Disney…
TIP 1: Pack food and bring it into the park!
Matthew and I are not working at the moment other than his schooling and me trying to build this blog. SOOOO we don’t have a whole lot of extra cash to spend. You are allowed to bring food into the park, and at an average cost of $15 for a burger (no fries y’all, that’s a la carte) I highly recommend you do! We packed gluten-free sandwiches, chips, jerky, and fruit. Nothing major but it was enough to get us through the day and we were able to splurge on treat’s like Dole Whip (pic below of me eating my FIRST EVER Dole Whip!, yes I have been living under a rock, I don’t know where this has been all my life!?)
TIP 2: Arrive FIRST THING IN THE MORNING and park in the Mickey and Friends Garage!
Disney opens at 9 AM and is open until 8 PM this time of year. If you stay in one of the resorts you can get in an hour early and stay an hour later but that comes at a premium. By arriving early you get first shot at the rides, and the lines are shorter. So we were able to ride Star Tours, Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters, and Mr. Toad’s Wild ride in the first hour we were there!
I recommend parking in the Mickey and Friends Garage. While it is a little more money than the large rear parking lot it’s much closer to the park than the other parking areas. It’s a flat rate of $25 for the whole day and since we got there right at 9 AM and stayed until 7:30 PM we didn’t mind paying that price. Heck, there are few places in San Francisco where parking doesn’t cost that much for the day.
Additionally make sure you take a photo of what section your car is in. I felt real bad for the families I saw wandering around the parking lot trying to remember where their car was with screaming kids in tow.
TIP 3: Download the Disney App and use MAX PASS!!
We were researching the park the night before because it had been a long time since either of us had been. Last time I went to Disneyland we didn’t even have Smart Phones… yah it was awhile ago. We learned that Disney has an official App and it is totally worth getting. It is free to download not only can you purchase tickets through the app but if you have a physical Ticket you can register it on the app. This way if you GOD FORBID lose your ticket, or perhaps you have a child who does, you’ve got them electronically stored.
But more than anything else we found the app was best for its Max Pass feature.
Pause: For those of you who are unaware Fast Passes are now free… Yes, FREE. So don’t be silly and think they cost extra as we did initially. They do not. The way Fast Passes work now is there are kiosk’s throughout the park for popular rides. You register your ticket at the kiosk and you can schedule an hour block of time that you return to your favorite rides and get in the shorter line. This means instead of waiting 135 minutes for Astro Blaster’s you can wait like 10. AMAZING.
(Me being a goof and pretending to eat the apple outside of Snow White’s Scary Adventure)
BUT EVEN MORE AMAZING is the MAX PASS! It costs $15/ ticket per person for the day. Which if you’re smart and bring in your lunch like we did is right around the cost of a burger in the park. The Max Pass allows you to register your fast passes on the Disney Mobile App. So instead of having to get to a physical Kiosk to register your fast pass you can do it right on your phone! What is the advantage of this you say? Why would I pay $15 for a Max Pass when I can get a fast pass for free? Well, if you’re like us and you’re only in the park for a day, or even two days, even if you use the Free Fast Pass system you can only get to lets say, 6-7 rides in the day.
For example If you’re in Critter Country standing in line for Splash Mountain, and you want to ride The Incredicoaster on fast pass later in the day and you have NOT purchased a Max Pass someone from your party has to take all your tickets, across the park, to California Adventure, go allllll the way across California Adventure to Pixar Pier, where the Incredicoaster is, register your tickets then walk ALLLLLLL the way back over to meet your group at the entrance of California Adventure. Which is not necessarily a bad thing but A: That’s a whole lotta walking, and B: that’s a whole lotta time. That whole process could take about an hour to do and whoever gets the Fast Passes really misses out on the fun. BUT if you have the Max Pass and you’re in line for Splash Mountain at 12 pm you can literally go online and register to ride Incredicoaster between 2-3 PM and your whole group can fit in Alice in Wonderland and Dole whip and possibly even Snow White’s Scary Adventure in between when you need to arrive for your Incredicoaster fast pass slot!
(Below, best picture of me from the whole trip. Splash Mountain)
Remember the average cost of a Day Park Hopper pass is $130/ person. If you loose 1 hour per person of non ride/ activity time that’s an average loss of $12 per hour per person. Lets say you loose 3- 4 hours in a day per person by not using the Max Pass, well, you’ve just lost almost $40 in time. The Max Pass pays for it’s self folks.
TIP 4: If you have a Park Hopper Pass go to California Adventure first.
This is one thing Matthew and I regretted about our day. We left California Adventure for the last 3-4 hours of the day. Our reasoning was that California Adventure has less stuff and is a “Smaller” park with fewer “big kid” rides than Disneyland. These are all true facts but what we didn’t account for was the fact that California Adventure is no less popular than Disneyland. So there were just as many people in that park looking to get on fewer rides. Additionally Fast Passes “sell out” in that there are only so many slots per hour per ride. You can only use a fast pass every two hours. As you get to the end of the day when there are more people in the park those fast pass slots fill up. So we ended up standing in line for a LOOONNNGGGG time for “Soarin over the World”, and the “Incredicoaster” because we didn’t plan in advance. And we didn’t even have time to do Radiator Springs because the wait was OVER 2 hours and we didn’t want to lose that much time. If we had hit California Adventure first thing in the morning we likely would have gotten to ride everything we wanted to ride within the first 2-3 hours of the day and could have enjoyed Disneyland and hit all the same rides in the afternoon that we did in the morning.
TIP 5: Wear Comfortable shoes.
I get it, lots of people love to wear flip flops in the park, they’re waterproof, they’re easy, it’s hot, but you’re going to be walking all day. I wore my Dansko Professional Clogs. Matthew wore his trendy sneakers- he was sore the next day, I was not.
(Standing on Aladdin’s Magic Carpet!)
TIP 6: Plan your favorite rides beforehand.
Because it had been so long since either of us had been to the parks we forgot what exactly what was there. We were a little all over the place at first and had a hard time deciding which rides we wanted to go on. This resulted in a slightly scattered approach to park exploration. If I could go back for another day I would front-load all the major rides at the beginning of the day and schedule them all on Max Pass.
TIP 7: How to score free and discounted tickets to Disneyland.
Honestly, and I am sorry guys, this was a bit of a click-bait title. It’s very very hard to score free tickets to Disneyland. You basically have to know someone who works for the park. We were fortunate that my aunt’s friend works for Disney and gifted her two complimentary tickets that she then gifted to us!
BUT to score cheaper tickets the best way to go is to buy them out of peak season. For example this week Feb 1-4 Tickets are only $104/ person. Whereas President’s day weekend and the week following are peak pricing at $129-$150 per ticket. I am told that the last week in January and the first weeks in February are the best times. However, there are some drawbacks in that they are converting the park from Christmas season to Valentines Day. So, for example, the entire Princess Castle was under renovation. Additionally, many rides are closed for servicing and redecoration. So we couldn’t ride Small World. (Which Matthew was happy about and I was sad).
But no matter what time you go to the Magic Kingdom I would recommend that you get lots of sleep the night before. Take rest breaks as needed and remember it’s supposed to be fun.
What are your top Disney Tips?! Drop a comment below!