What to do {and not do} when visiting Disney



As I’m spending next week exploring more Disney goodness {I’m heading over to the USA to check out Pixar Studios}, I thought I’d share my tips for Disneyland and California Adventure. Here’s what to do, and not do…

DO get yourself a pair of mouse ears to wear during your time at the parks. It makes for great photos, and it’s just the thing to do.

DON’T be camera shy. The parks are where some of our best memories are made. GET IN THE PHOTO. {I had to force myself to do this, and I’m glad}.

DO line up for the Cars ride. We lined up for over an hour, but it was awesome. Really worth it.

DO take advantage of the parents pass {Rider Swap}. Lacey and I went on the Cars ride, and on the way in we asked for a parents pass {Hubby waited outside with Lulu}. Once we’d finished we handed the pass to Hubby who could take Lacey back on without lining up for that hour. Pretty cool.

DO grab the maps before going into the parks. I lived for these. It means you can plan your food stops, toilet breaks and what rides you want to go on. You can also see where the character spots are {the spots where you get your photo taken with a Disney character}.

DON’T miss out on the Paint The Night Parade at Disneyland. Check your guides or online for the nights that it’s happening. It’s one of the most spectacular things I’ve experienced in my whole life. Think flying Tinkerbell, snow and more awesome surprises.

DO get in early to get a good spot for the parades, especially if you want the kids to be able to see it. It will most likely mean getting in an hour early and staying put.

DON’T miss out on the World of Color show at California Adventure either. It’s pretty amazing. If you’re staying at the Grand Californian Hotel, ask the staff about the secret viewing deck that you can see from your hotel.

DO bring souvenirs from home to gift to the Disney characters. If there’s only one bit of advice you listen to from this post, make it this one. We picked up a whole bunch of koalas {I wish we’d bought more} for about $6, and packed them in our luggage. Each time we lined up to meet a character, Lacey would gift them one, and it was awesome. They loved it and made such a fuss. Please do it!

DO buy an autograph book too. I didn’t see them as much as I did at Disney World, but you can grab them and a pen on the way into Disneyland. You get the characters to sign their name, and then you put the photo beside it {once you’ve printed it}. We didn’t know about this when we visited Disney World, so I’d recommend doing this first thing when you arrive.

DON’T scrimp and only visit one park. People always ask me if you can get away with visiting just one park {either Disneyland or California Adventure} and I have to say that if you’re doing your dream trip, just pay the AU$50-odd to get the park hopper ticket, and visit both. They’re both so different, yet both equally amazing. I loved both and refuse to pick a favourite.

DO go in with a plan of attack. Some people go for the rides, some go to meet the characters and some to see the shows. Plan out your day. Get the Fast Passes {tickets to skip the lines} for the rides you want to get on. If you want to see Anna and Elsa, get there early to get a Fast Pass and meet them. They’re hard to catch.

DO eat all the food. I’m a dietitian’s worst nightmare by giving you permission to eat what you please, but you do only live once AND you’ll probably walk it all off during your stay.

DON’T miss out on the character breakfasts and lunches. You can have breakfast with Pluto at the Disney Hotel, or lunch with the princesses at Ariel’s Grotto at California Adventure. There are a few dotted around the parks, and hotels, so decide what you want to do, who you want to see, and book it. I loved Ariel’s Grotto best.

DO look for hidden Mickeys around the park. It’s a good thing to do while waiting around, eating lunch, or walking to and from attractions.

DO get the cheesy photo in front of the castle. It’s busy, but it needs to happen!

DO visit the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique. If you have a little prince or princess, then can get a sweet makeover and be turned into the character of their dreams. If you want a cheaper option, you can a Frozen makeover at Downtown Disney.

DON’T be shy. Let the people at Disney know when it’s your birthday. Visit City Hall when entering Disneyland and let them know you’re celebrating {any celebration actually – anniversary, honeymoon, first visit!} and they’ll give you a badge. You’ll notice the Cast Members {staff} make a fuss over you, that’s pretty cool!

DO stay at the Disney hotels if you can, especially if you have kids that get tired quickly. I know it adds more to your holiday budget, but I loved being able to go back to our room and give the kids, and myself, a rest before attacking the park again. You also get early access to the park {an hour!}, and they have little sneaky entrances too, so you can avoid the lines at the front entrance of the parks. I loved that.

DON’T be scared of the more intimidating characters. This guy scared all of us, except Hubby.

DO read up on the rides, or just take the chance! I feel like Pirates of the Caribbean was a bit of a waste of time, because I hadn’t seen then movies, maybe? I kept waiting for things to happen… but they never did!

DO visit during the Diamond Celebration. We visited right as the celebrations began, so it was cool to see the celebrations begin. New foods started appearing, signs, parties, and shows too. It’s a fun time to visit, because… you know… 60 is kinda a big deal.

DO check out the 4D Bugs Life show. Yes, 4D. I didn’t really think about what that meant, but it was a pretty epic experience. You might get wet. Or feel like bugs are crawling over you… because 4D!

DO take a photo from the top of Mickey’s Fun Wheel. You can choose either a carriage that moves {scary!} or one that is fixed. Whichever you pick, be sure to take a photo from the top.

DO read this post on all the secret things you need to know. That’s what I love about Disneyland, you’ll always find something different and new to explore.

DO start collecting pins. I was a bit blown away by how this works. Pin collectors can just approach any cast member and swap pins with them {they’re actually obliged to swap!}. Next time I’m going to learn more about this, but it’s definitely a thing!

DO talk to the cast members, or everyone really. Cast members are SO friendly, and willing to help. Ask them for tips and advice, they’re more than happy to share.

Lastly, I just want to say… just GO. I’m saving up to take my kids to Disney World again, once Lulu is a little older… because life is better with Disney. I’m addicted/converted and so is the rest of my family, because it’s just awesome and definitely the happiest place on Earth.

Have you ever visited? Have you got something to add?

I traveled as a guest of Disney. All thoughts are my own.

13 thoughts on “What to do {and not do} when visiting Disney”

  1. Great Do’s and Don’ts. I didn’t realize how involved going to Disneyland had become. It’s been years since I have been.

    As for Pirates of the Caribbean, the ride has absolutely nothing to do with the movie. I think it was always so popular because it was the only ride at the time that had water.

  2. Good list! We took our daughter last year for the first time. I strategically planned it so that she was almost 3 years old. Old enough to know all the characters, be excited to see them, and have fun but be under 3 so she was FREE!!!! For everything! It was amazing. Also, for your next trip I highly suggest finding out which park opens earlier that day and hitting the opposite park. Everyone tends to go to the park that opens early so its busier. 🙂

  3. Great tips! If you’re staying in a Disney hotel, or a Neighbour hotel definitely take advantage of the Extra Magic Hour. Do take advantage of fast passes, if you want to try out those popular rides, it will save you heaps of time. If you want to eat at the restaurant of choice, bookings are essential. Do book online for restuaurants you really want to go to, you can do so up to 60 days in advance and they can be cancelled if you change your mind. And just as an aside, when you are over the food at Disneyland pop on over to the Cheesecake Factory a short walk away. The food is yum and don’t get me started on the cheesecakes! Oh, one last thing do visit the Pooh Corner, it has the yummiest treats, a myriad of souvenirs and the cutest Disney kitchen accessories you ever did see.

  4. Thank you for the idea about taking little gifts for the characters! I love that and will definitely get some for our trip to Disney World next month.

    PhotoPass+ is totally worth buying up front. The Disney photographers throughout the park will take your photos so everyone can be in them, then they’re all available online for you to download after your trip. And ask a photographer to do a Magic Shot – where they pose you in such a way and then digitally alter the photo later to make it look like you’re holding Tinkerbell in your hand. So cute!

  5. Yes I love all the Disneylands/world and have Ben to nearly all of them around the world. I can’t wait to take our girls there one day. I hope you enjoy your trip next week. Sounds like fun if Disney is involved! X

  6. We’ve just come back from our 4th visit to Disney World, Florida. I love it there, and agree totally with your things to do or don’t do! I made myself be in the pictures this time round, eventhough I much rather hide behind the camera, but as it was probably the last family holiday I will get with my two boys over there, I wanted to have the photos of their mum being in front of the camera for once – so many photos over the years without me in them! We are now saving to go with friends in 2017, can’t wait! It is a magical place!

  7. Disney has only just begun to enter my mind as Boy is now 4 and Baby is 18months…this post makes me want to go soooo bad. Husband and I went when we were first dating (don’t ask?!) and it was awesome. I think it would be mega cool now we have a legitimate reason to be there 😉

  8. Oh wow – these are such awesome memories that you’re children will be able to look back on {and you’ve taken so many amazing photos}. I can’t wait until the boys are a little older and we can do these sort of trips with them. I love giving {and receiving} travel opportunities as gifts. My parent’s bought me a ticket to Paris for my 21st birthday – mind blowing!

  9. We are going next May and omg it is overwhelming trying to plan. Even harder is the inner battle between “trip of a lifetime just go all out” and “hey you still have to be a little bit financially responsible”. Have done lots of research still nothing booked, and watching the aussie $ daily

  10. We LOVE WDW! We TRY to go annually, but at least every other year! A few DOs I’d add: DO utilize the PhotoPass Photographers! If you forego purchasing any of their photos or photo packages, these skilled photographers will always be glad to use your camera/phone to take a picture! DO: Use the FREE Disney transportation! Often the Parks get full, or even for sentimental,reasons, it’s GREAT nostalgia to hop the Monorail or the Paddleboat from Transportation Central to the Magic Kingdom!! DON’T: Feel guilty about going back to the room to nap/rest! At WDW, most parks have Magic Hrs, so rest & go back later and enjoy a LONG night or hit Boardwalk or Downtown Disney! (The kiddos will LOVE the Lego Store!)
    I could list oodles more, but the BIGGEST one – DON’T over plan when traveling w wee-ones! Disney is a MAGICAL place!! With the new Magic Bands & ability to make ADR & FastPass Reservations months in advance, folks “overplay” taking the magic out of their trip and TIRING out wee-ones! Have a magical journey!

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