I have a confession to make.
I’ve never been to Disneyland.
Anyone who knows me is shocked by this.
Also by the fact that my father has been twice. But I have never been.
Seriously. He’s been twice.
My spouse hasn’t been to Disney either.
Or my kid.
So when our kiddo turned the age we considered ‘Disney-ready’ (tall enough to go on most of the rides, patient with lines, and able to survive on snacks and joy), we decided it was time to head to the magic kingdom.
Also because I just couldn’t take it anymore. I needed my Mickey fix.
And it had to be perfect.
No pressure, right?
There are a variety of ‘experts’ out there on how to Disneyland. We checked some of them out, asked friends, and in the end, just went for what would spark the most joy in all of us as we experienced Disneyland for the first time.
The first thing we did was figure out when we were going to go. It’s hard to say what ‘the right time’ to go to Disneyland is. We chose to go just before Remembrance Day. It meant we got a bit of the Halloween decorations and caught the very beginning of holiday. And it didn’t hit any major school closure times which means extra crowds.
And this is where we come to our first tip.
Look for deals
They are out there. We were lucky enough to be able to take advantage of the Canadian Resident deal for our park passes, which meant we got 25% off, and then we got a deal on our room as we booked 3 nights. We booked our hotels and passes through Disneyland.com [https://disneyland.disney.go.com/]. The website is incredibly easy to navigate and the helpdesk was fantastically helpful for our Disney newbie requests.
Upon recommendations of friends, the helpful staff at Disneyland.com and looking online, we decided to stay at a Disneyland hotel. While the hotels were a bit more than the neighbour hotels, we weighed the options and decided that the benefits of staying onsite outweighed the cost difference…and just meant we would spend less on the souvenirs we really didn’t need anyhow.
Tip number two: Join the Club
We stayed at the Disneyland Resort Hotel because as first time guests, we really wanted to go ‘Full Mickey’, and the Disneyland Resort Hotel is that and then some. When we got to our hotel and opened up the window, I immediately burst into tears of joy as I looked at the pool, the park and the joy everywhere. It was truly magical.
We opted to purchase the E-Ticket club service upgrade [https://disneyland.disney.go.com/ca/disneyland-hotel/room-types/]. This meant that we got access to ‘the club’ that served incredible breakfast, afternoon snacks, dinner appetizers and dessert all day. It also had complimentary beer and wine service that we could take back to our rooms.
That’s right. Complimentary wine.
We used the club to its fullest. We would get up early every morning, grab a delicious breakfast of lox and bagels, oatmeal, Mickey Mouse waffles, fruit and cheese and then fill up our day packs with granola bars, fruit, trail mix so we could snack on the road. In the afternoons, we took a break from the park for a quick swim downstairs, then headed back up for a snack break. Our evenings finished off with an array of delicious appetizers and a glass of wine while looking at the park at night. And on fireworks evenings, you’d be hard pressed to find a better view.
And snacks. We always had snacks.
Snacks are life saving when faced with a throng of people all wanting to get on Big Thunder Mountain at the exact same time. A well place granola bar will do wonders to keep a smile on the face of an eager nine year old.
We bought one meal a day at most…and park churros…and the rest of the time we were at the E-Ticket club.
Churros were essential. It’s really not possible to survive without Disneyland churros.
Staying at Disneyland property also meant we got Magic Hour (park entry one hour before park opening) at one of the parks every day. And when that Magic Hour was at Disneyland Park, we could use the Monorail to get on site. Worth getting up for.
We also were able to make the decisions to go to the parades at night because we were so close to our hotel. We could take breaks, bounce back and forth and make sure we were all as happy as we could be the whole trip.
Tip number three: Add on if you can!
When we purchased our passes, we opted to add on Park Hopper and MaxPass [https://disneyland.disney.go.com/tickets/ ]to our tickets.
Park Hopper meant we could go between Disneyland and California Adventure as we saw fit. With four days of adventuring planned, we felt the freedom of hopping back and forth between parks was a good idea. And it was. Especially when combined with the MaxPass.
The MaxPass allowed us to make Disney FASTPASS selections on our mobile devices using the Disneyland app while we were in the parks. We could even can even make selections for attractions in the other theme park. MaxPass also includes unlimited Disney PhotoPass photo downloads for a day. We downloaded and shared photos from select dining locations, attractions, Character Greetings, Disney PhotoPass Photographers and Magic Shots.
This was fantastic and worth every penny.
On the third and fourth days of our visits, we hopped back and forth between the two parks, booking FASTPASS selections of our favourite rides (10 times on the Incredicoaster [https://disneyland.disney.go.com/attractions/disney-california-adventure/incredicoaster ]for this mama and her son).
We logged in 30,000 steps on those days. Helped with all the churro consumption.
Using our PhotoPass, we entered photo codes from certain rides into the app and the photos were downloaded for us to use at a later date. And, when we spotted a PhotoPass photographer, they scanned the code on our phone and the photos were uploaded right away. No need for us to go to a different site or pay extra for anything.
The term ‘making memories to last a lifetime’ is used a lot. Seems trite. But for this trip, we did. We entered a Magic Kingdom and can’t wait to return.