more about vacationing at Disneyland than LocalGetaways’ Disneyland Guru Pam Wycliffe. She helped run one of the biggest Disney Fan websites on the planet, is a volunteer at the Walt Disney Family Museum, is an official LocalGetaways Travel Agent, and is the most gonzo Disneyland fan on the planet.
But her biggest passion is helping people plan their vacation to The Happiest Place On Earth. Below are all her tips and tricks to having the best possible time at Disneyland, from packing your suitcase with the right stuff to saving hours of standing line by using Pam’s special FASTPASS system.
BUT PAM KNOWS…
- All the secret tricks to getting around the Park
- Working the FastPass system to your advantage
- The best place to watch a show and fireworks
- How to save money on food, souvenirs, and more
- Things you MUST do and food you HAVE to eat
- The best hotels to stay at while visiting Disneyland
- Why you need to download the Disneyland App
- AND SO MANY MORE things you need to know before you go
Ready? Okay. Let’s get started…
So now that you’ve taken care of those five important must-dos, check out the important tips below to make sure your Disneyland vacation is the best ever.
DOWNLOAD THE free DISNEYLAND PHONE APP (iPhone & Android) You can use this app to purchase tickets and skip the ticket booths. If you’re a Disneyland Annual Passholder, you can even link your passes directly to the app for entry scanning. This app will also give you pretty accurate attraction wait times (It’s the only system to directly link with Disneyland’s official wait times), Disney character locations and meet times, dining locations in the park or Downtown Disney, bathroom locations, entertainment schedules, tour times, guest services, retail shops, and more.
SECURITY CHECKPOINT NO-NOS Before you enter the park, you’ll have to go through the security checkpoint (bag check). They will go through every bag you have (make sure to have them open and ready before you reach the front of this line), and randomly check people with a metal detector. DO NOT bring alcohol, weapons of any sort, or selfie sticks. (Yes, selfie sticks; people were wreaking havoc on attractions with them.)
BUYING SOUVENIRS I don’t know about you, but I loathe walking around the park all day carrying extra stuff. I suggest you take your time and look at everything before committing to that sweatshirt when you ended up wanting that Goofy hat instead. I spend thelast hour of my trip buying all of my goodies at that time. The stores on Main Street, USA usually stay open an hour after the rides shutdown. If you are staying at one of Disneyland’s on-property hotels such as the Grand Californian, you can ask the cashier to send your purchases directly to your hotel concierge. You can then pick them up at your leisure when you return to your hotel.
THE BEST DISNEYLAND SNACKS A Disneyland Churro, available at multiple food carts throughout the park (trust me, you’ll thank me later). Dole Whip or a Dole Whip Float at Walt Disney’s Enchanted Tiki Room (this line can be long but it is worth it). Mint Juleps, located in a little window next to French Market (booze not included). Corn Dogs at the Little Red Wagon on Main Street. Raspberry Coke at Coke Corner on Main Street. Fresh Toffee Candy at the Candy Palace and Candy Kitchen on Main Street.
EATING IN THE PARK I know, the sugary snacks are hard to say no to, especially when you’re on vacation. However, healthy snacks are available in lots of places throughout the park. Most noticeably, you will find them in the various carts. These carts have pineapple spears, watermelon, apples, pickles, pretzels & hummus, dried fruits, baked chips, juice, milk, etc. Don’t stop with the carts; you can always substitute your fries for apple slices at any restaurant. Or get the kids meal—its less food and a healthier selection most times.
FOOD ALLERGIES Food allergies? No problem. Disney does a really good job accommodating eating restrictions—check out all of the Special Dietary Requests they offer within the park. Let the cashier know if you have a gluten or nut allergy when ordering. Another benefit: They only have one size of gluten-free buns regardless of ordering an adult or kid’s meal. Therefore, if you want a gluten free sandwich, order a kid’s meal—you’ll get the same amount of food as an adult but only pay half the price.
SNACKS You’re going to want to bring your own snacks, especially if you’re in the park for multiple days. Eating in the parks can be expensive, and more so if you have a big family. There’s no set limit on how much of your own food you can bring into the park as long as it’s not in cooler (hard or soft). While waiting in line or while you’re walking en route to an attraction, having a snack will keep you energized between regular meals. I always pack a small bag filled with granola bars, fruit, energy bars, and fruit snacks. You’ll be glad you did.
BLANKET/SHEET If you’re like most of the visitors to the park, you’ll want to see a show, parade, or fireworks. Bring a sheet or a blanket to mark your seating area. A sheet is less comfortable, but takes up a lot less room in your backpack or locker. Without marking a spot, people WILL sit on top of you if you don’t. People often lose their manners during these events, so remember to keep yours.
SUNSCREEN, SANITIZER, AND WIPES This goes without saying for summer and spring time, but fall and winter visits will need the protection, too. Southern California is known for sunny skies year round.
PHONE BATTERY & CAMERA BATTERY Bring a portable charger for your cell phone and an extra battery for your camera. The parks are a literal battery drain, so be sure to turn off WiFi (there is no WiFi available in theparks) or place your phone on airplane mode. For sake of enjoyment, you’re better off turning it off and putting it away, but most of us use our phones as our cameras, so it’s REALLY important to bring back-up juice—you could regret it if you don’t. If you forgot a charger or spare battery, you can rent a Charging Locker on Main Street, which has an assortment of charging jacks inside.
WHAT YOU CAN’T BRING WITH YOU INTO THE PARK
- COOLERS (hard or soft)
- PETS (except service dogs)
- STROLLERS LARGER than 36″ x52″
- SELFIE STICKS
- SCOOTERS OR
- SELF-DEFENSE EQUIPMENT
- ILLEGAL SUBSTANCES
- GLASS CONTAINERS (Baby food jars excluded)
- CREMATED REMAINS
- REMOTE CONTROL TOYS
- SHOES with built-in wheels
- POGO STICKS
- SUITCASES, backpacks or similar bags larger than 18″ wide x 25″ high x 37″ deep (the size of the large rent able lockers)
For a complete—and quite long—list of what’s verboten at Disneyland, click here.
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Avoid waiting up to 40 minutes for a table – or not getting seated at all – at your preferred Disney restaurant. Call Disney Dining at (714) 781-3463 up to two months in advance (or as soon as you can), and make a reservation. Once you confirm with a credit card, they’ll send you an email with your reservation information (save that email). Note: If you don’t show up for your reserved table, they’ll charge your card $10.
SERVICE DOGS Only service dogs and Pluto are allowed in the park (you’ll need paperwork to prove it’s a service dog and get a special pass for the pooch at City Hall on Main St). However, there is a daytime kennel to the right of the main gate for pets needing a place to stay while you enjoy the resort.
MAGIC MORNING/EXTRA MAGIC HOUR One of the surest ways to avoid long lines is the Magic Morning, when Disneyland Park opens an hour early for 3-Day or longer park ticket holders and hotel guests. Also available is the Extra Magic Hour at Disney California Adventure, exclusive to Disneyland Resort Hotel guests. It’s one of the perks of staying at one of the three Disney-owned hotels. Make sure to check the Disneyland Resort Calendar for the current day’s offering.
I NEED A DRINK! If you’re in need of alcohol, here are the best places to get a drink: Carthay Circle Lounge and Mendocino Terrace at Disney California Adventure; Uva Bar and ESPN Zone Sports Bar in Downtown Disney; Trader Sam’s Enchanted Tiki Bar at the Disneyland Hotel; Hearthstone Lounge at Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel. Tip: Take the Monorail from the park to Downtown Disney and get there faster.
WATER BOTTLE Disneyland offers free iced water at restaurants. They’re surprisingly kind about the request, but you really don’t want to rely on standing in line for rehydration. Do not buy bottled water in the park, as it’s horribly overpriced. I recommend everyone bring their own bottle and refill it at the numerous water fountains throughout the park.