31+ insider tips for your first visit to Disneyland

Ready for some insider Disneyland Tips? As a complete and utter Disney fanatic (I love the magic, always have, always will ✨) I think there’s no happier place than Disneyland. It only takes a stroll down Main Street towards the castle to get me teary and fill my happiness tank.

So to think that you might be planning or even considering a trip to Disneyland (or maybe you’re just here to read the Disneyland tips for fun!) makes me a little giddy and excited for you.

I’ve been lucky enough to visit Disneyland (Anaheim) three times now, Disneyland Tokyo once, and Disneyworld once as well. I’ve definitely gathered some tips and insider information from experience, fellow travellers and from Disney Cast Members, and now I’m handing them over to you, for you to make your next Disneyland trip the best possible experience, ever.

The best Disneyland Tips for First Timers

Before you go, download the Disneyland App

When I tell you that the Disneyland App is going to be your best friend during your visit, I truly mean it (and let me tell you, this is one of the BEST Disneyland Tips you’ll get!). You’ll be able o plan, use the maps, see ride wait times, see show times, and even access the in-app chat with a cast member feature. You won’t want to visit without it. Plus, it’s free.

Grab your tickets online

Once you get to the park, you’ll be itching to get in and start having fun, and you won’t want to be hanging around outside organsing tickets. Buy your tickets online before you go. We always opt for the Park Hopper ticket so we can move between parks and enjoy the best of both worlds.

Buy Disney clothing before you go

If you’ve never been to any Disneyland before, you’ll probably be surprised at the amount of effort that guests go to in regards to their clothing and Disney-theming. It’s delightful, and definitely caught me off-guard on my first visit. Families or groups traveling together will often wear themed clothing, or matching shirts. The majority of guests will be wearing something Disney, especially ‘Ears’. From Australia you can buy Disney at a range of shops, I grabbed pieces from Target, Big W and Cotton On. You can also order custom tees from Etsy. Ears are best purchased at the parks or Downtown Disney.

If possible, stay at a Disneyland Resort

If I could I would always stay at a Disney resort or hotel, and there’s a good reason why. It simply amplifies the Disney experience, and makes it all a little more magical. Best of all, it also gives you access to Magic Mornings where you get to access the park an hour earlier than other visitors, and sneaky resort guest only access to park entries, meaning you avoid the lines and get in quicker than ever.

Or stay in a Disney ‘Good Neighbour’ resort

On our most recent visit we stayed at the Hyatt Regency Orange County, which was around 2km from Disneyland. It had a bus (for a small fee) that drove to the park every 30 minutes, making it really easy to get to the park, and then back again whenever you’re ready. The bus plays Disney music, and the drivers are fun, making for a entertaining trip to the parks. There are loads of hotels just outside the park, which Disneyland recommends visitors to stay at.

Be prepared for security screening

Before entering the park, you’ll have to go through security screening (which I think adds to the magic, because I know everyone has been through the screening process and it’s safe). We condense everything into one backpack, but you’ll need to empty your pockets and have everything checked. The more bags, pockets and belongings you have, the longer it will take. Get ready so that you can make it as quick as possible.

Get to the parks early

I’m a morning person, so this totally works for me; Get to the park before it opens. You’ll be allowed into the park 30 minutes before it opens (meaning you’ll also have cleared security, and scanned your tickets for entry, maximising your time), but you’ll be stopped from going any further once inside by a rope. Once it hits opening time the rope drops, and you can run (yep, people run, or briskly walk) to your favourite ride. We generally pick our favourite ride at rope drop so we can get on there quick!

Wear good walking shoes

I have seen people wearing high heels, and I do not know how they do it all day (or even if they do it all day!), but I can not stress how important it is to wear comfortable walking shoes. On our most recent visit we had one day where did 30,000 steps/21km of walking in one day. The other days were around 26,000 steps. It’s a workout! I wear sneakers or Twoobs sandals, and both served me well.

Bring a backpack

A small backpack is ideal for getting around the park with. Disneyland sells the cutest Disney backpacks and brings out new designs often, they’re a great size for carrying essentials around the park.

Hire a locker

On our last trip we hired a locker each day, and it’s the first time we’ve done it, and we’ll always do this moving forward. It was affordable, and meant we could leave our jumpers and jackets (because we would stay from early morning, until night and we visited during an unseasonably cold time) in the locker and grab them once the sun went down. They have different size lockers, ranging from $7 to $10.

Bring a portable phone charger (or buy one on site)

You’ll no doubt be using your phone to capture lots of memories, but also to use the Disneyland App as you play at the park, so you’ll want to make sure your phone is adequately charged. We opted for the Fuel Rod Chargers which are available at the parks, once you purchase a Fuel Rod Portable Charger you can change over the battery at no cost numerous times a day. We loved this!

Celebrate you, and get a pin

Whether it’s your birthday, anniversary, graduation, honeymoon, or even your first visit, you should definitely let the world (Disney cast members) know and they’ll give you a badge/pin to wear. You’ll notice people making a fuss about you if you’re wearing a pin, and it makes for a even more magical experience. You can grab a pin from City Hall at Disneyland, or even mention it to any outlets in the parks (not all will have pins, so City Hall is your best bet), otherwise if you’re staying at one of the Disney Resorts, you can ask at the front desk.

Visit at the ideal time of the year

A little research goes a long way to finding the ideal time to visit the parks. Before I get into that though, I will say that I have visited Disneyland when it was at complete capacity and couldn’t take anymore guests, and even then I didn’t feel too overwhelmed or crowded – so don’t stress too much! Ideal times are outside of school break periods, and major holidays. Monday to Thursdays are the best days to visit, and the best months are August, and the first half of June. Check out this crowd calendar for more advice.

Use mobile order for food and snacks

We loved this feature last trip. We could be waiting in a line and ordering lunch to grab after the ride. Use the Disneyland App to order food ahead, and even set the time you want to grab it, and save time at the parks.

Wear a MagicBand+

New to us on our most recent visit were MagicBand+. Not only will this save you loads of time in the parks, it will also maximise the experience too. MagicBand+ are a wrist band that you can wear to enter the park hands-free (and don’t have to worry about losing your ticket), as well as entering Lightning Lane. It also enhances your park experience, you’ll notice during shows on some rides (like Spiderman) it will light-up and vibrate. It also has some interactive experiences in the Avenger Campus that you’ll really get into.

Purchase the Disney Genie+ for a more fun-filled day

Genie+ is an upgrade to your park ticket, giving you access to park features. I highly recommend it, even just for some days of your visit. It gives you access to Lightning Lane to more rides during your day (one time for each ride, per day) meaning that you can nab a Lightning Lane for rides and skip the wait times. We love to jam-pack our days at the park, and have Genie+ meant that we could ride as many rides as humanly possible. Genie+ starts at USD$25 per person, per day.

Stalk the App for quiet rides

On the Disneyland App you’ll be able to see wait times for each ride. It’s a great idea to check for rides with short wait times, and then hot foot it over to those rides and get on quickly. During our most recent visit, we never waited more than 25 minutes for any ride, whether it was using Genie+, stalking the app for short wait times, or even just waiting for a ride organically.

Jump (hop) between parks

At Disneyland Anaheim, there are actually two parks; Disneyland and California Adventure. When purchasing your park tickets, you can decide whether to just visit one park per day, or purchase a Park Hopper ticket so you can jump between both parks. You’ll have to nominate a park to start in, and then after 11am to can jump between either park as you please. They’re right near each other, so it’s a great way to maximise your visit.

Meet your favourite characters at breakfast

As you make your way around the park, you’ll have opportunities to meet Disney Characters and have a photo with them. For a more intimate experience, you can’t go past a Character Breakfast. This is where you’ll sit down to a delicious breakfast and the characters will come by your table and say hello. You can do this at the Plaza Inn at Disneyland, or outside the park at the Storytellers Cafe at Grand Californian, the Napa Rose or at Goofy’s Kitchen at the Disneyland Hotel. You’ll want to book ahead of your trip to make sure you don’t miss out on this!

Bring treats for characters

We like to bring a little something from home for the Disney characters when you meet them. We take little koalas or kangaroos, and they have such a cool reaction when you offer it to them. You can also bring little gifts to cast member too. They love the interactions.

Wear sunscreen

Disneyland days are long and fun, so slap on some SPF to be sun safe while you play.

Jump on as a single rider

No doubt there will be some people in your group that like some rides, while others are a little less adventurous. Take advantage of the Single Rider lanes, which have short wait times. Single rider lanes are for people who are riding alone, and happy to fill seats. We’ve met some great people who have joined us as single riders. We compared timings with one friendly single rider, and worked out it’s generally faster than Lightning Lane, so a great way to ride and save time!

Budget for Individual Lightning Lane

While Genie+ gets you Lightning Lane for most rides, a few of the most popular rides aren’t available due to their popularity, but you can purchase Individual Lightning Lane for those rides. The most popular ride of both parks is Radiator Springs, which also happens to be our family’s favourite ride. It’s just the best experience. We set budget aside to purchase an Individual Lightning Lane for this ride, and it’s SO worth it (15 minute wait time, versus 1.5 hour wait time).

Jump on rides during the parades

You don’t want to miss seeing the parade, but once you’ve seen it, skip it on other days and jump on popular rides while everyone is watching the parades. The lines will be shorter and it will mean less wait times!

Buy an autograph book and meet your favourite characters

You can grab an autograph book at either of the parks, or Downtown Disney, (make sure you grab a pen too) which is ideal for when you meet characters in the parks, as they’ll each sign your book. It’s so fun to do, and is especially great with younger kids. It’s a great keepsake! Some even have spots for autographs, and then photos so you can place them side by side.

Bring your appetite

With all the walking you’ll be doing, you’ll definitely want to refuel on snacks at the parks. There are so many delicious treats, but I can’t go past the popcorn (available at numerous places), the Matterhorn Macaroon, or the gyoza at the Lucky Fortune Cookery.

Book Blue Bayou early

This is one tip that I need to follow myself, because I always forget. If there’s one thing my lovely readers recommend most often, it’s to eat at the Blue Bayou. It’s SUPER popular and definitely needs to be booked ahead of time. I can’t wait to tick this off my list. Book early to avoid missing out!

Pack a poncho

We haven’t had a super rainy day in the times we’ve visited (four times so far) but we’ve had a few drizzly moments that have called for a poncho. We have ponchos that fold up into a tiny little container, which are ideal for throwing in our backpacks in case of rain.

Look for hidden Mickeys

As you wait in line, or stroll through the parks, you’ll see loads of Hidden Mickeys. Some can be really obvious Mickey shapes and some more subtle, and harder to spot. Have fun looking, and don’t forget to look up!

Have a look at Downtown Disney

Outside of the parks is an area called Downtown Disney, a shopping precinct with stores like Sephora, a HUGE Disney store with the best range of ears and backpacks, and loads of delicious restaurants. It’s a great spot to go and eat, and explore when you need a break from rides.

We traveled and played as guests of Disneyland, to celebrate Disneyland’s 100th birthday. All words and opinions are my own.

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