13 Disneyland Tips – For Your First or Thirteenth Trip!

Are you heading to Disneyland or Disney California Adventure? 

If so, read through our list of 13 tips for your trip to Disneyland.  After countless trips (beginning as a child in the 1980s up to now, as a mom with three young children), these are some of my top tips. 

I have this list on my phone and I peek at it before each trip to the Disneyland – they’re great reminders for before and during your visit – and they’ll help make your day(s) more smooth, fun, and memorable!

Alrighty – let’s go! (said in Mickey’s voice)

Buy Basic Disney Clothing Before the Trip

Three boys hold hands on Main Street at Disneyland.

Can still buy special items there, but nice to have basic tees for each day of the trip.  We don’t do laundry, so I make sure I have one per day, plus my boys like to wear something Disney on the travel day down and back. 

Before you go out and buy a bunch of clothing, rummage through your closets and remember that Disney is more than Mickey Mouse and crew – look for clothing with Star Wars, Marvel (Spiderman, Black Panther, Hulk, Thor, Iron Man, etc), Elsa and Anna from Frozen, the Little Mermaid, Toy Story (Woody, Buzz Lightyear, Jessie, etc), Winnie the Pooh and friends, Jack Sparrow, Aladdin, and more.

Know Your Childrens’ Heights Before Arriving

People ride the colorful teacups ride at Disneyland. Colorful lanterns hang from trees.

Is there anything more heartbreaking at Disneyland than seeing your kid walk away from a ride line because they’re not tall enough?  Don’t let it happen to you! 

Measure your kids before you get to the park.  That way, you can plan ahead and know which rides each of your kids can go on, if your group needs to split up, etc.  And you’re not setting your kids up for disappointment.

Fly into John Wayne Airport

If you’re flying to the area, it’s easy to look at the enormous Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) and its numerous flights.  However, it’s about 35 miles from Disneyland, and Los Angeles traffic can be horrendous. 

John Wayne Airport (SNA) is a great alternative.  When we fly to Disneyland, we always fly into John Wayne and hire a driver (with car seats) to take us to our hotel.

Bring Healthy Snacks & Splurge on Treats

Hand holds up frozen lemonade at Disney California Adventure.

This is key for our family.  We try to pack healthy snacks like cut fruit in baggies, trail mix, and beef jerky (and sometimes sandwiches). 

Then, we let the boys purchase treats at the park – often ice cream or popcorn. 

Bringing snacks helps me ensure my boys are getting something nutritious for the day.  And, it saves some money!

The cool treat that’s always a hit in our family – the Minute Maid frozen strawberry lemonade!

If you want to eat at restaurants in the parks – do your research before you arrive (see what’s on the menu, check prices, find options near an area you’ll be in). 

Pack Hats for Your Family

There is some shade at Disneyland and California Adventure, but you’ll be spending most of your time exposed to California’s sun. 

Protect your skin and stay cool by wearing hats. 
Bonus if you’ve got Disney-themed hats!

You can also purchase Mickey ears at the park. 

Bring a Clip-On Fan

I used to giggle at my dad’s clip-on fan – until I tried it.  These small fans are perfect for clipping onto strollers to keep little kids cool.

Bring an External Charger for Your Phone

An external charger is a must for Disneyland!  Bring one per family member (adults).  You’ll be using your phone all day – for photos, communication, reserving food, Genie Plus, checking ride times, and more. 

Tips:  Make sure your cord is long enough that you can keep the external charger in your bag or backpack and still use it.  Try it out before you head to the park.  I’ve accidentally brought the wrong cord before and had to deal with a dead phone battery.

Take Your Family Photos Early in the Day

I need to take my own advice because we never seem to do this and I always regret it!

In the excitement of entering the park, no one really wants to stop and take photos.

But, if you can, take a moment and snap a few pics before your kids spill on their clothes or their exhausted and cranky.

Discuss What to Do if Someone Gets Lost

Disneyland and Disney California Adventure are crowded, even during quieter periods of the year.  Talk to your kids about what your family’s plan is if someone gets separated from the group. 

We, unfortunately had this happen a few years ago when we exited the Tiki Room at Disneyland.  We were heading back to the stroller and lost one of my boys in the exiting crowd.  We had discussed finding a Disneyland employee as close as possible to where we got separated.  We found him in less than a minute, standing with a Disney employee and looking for us.  Scary, nonetheless.

You can plan ahead and give each of your kids a bracelet with your contact info.  Or, have older kids memorize your phone number. 

Take Advantage of Rider Switch

Entrance to Radiator Springs Racers at Disneyland California Adventure.

As a mom of three kids, I’ve used Rider Switch many times.  If you’re not familiar with it, Rider Switch allows all members of your groups to enjoy a ride even if you have a small child that can’t ride. 

One adult stays back with the small child(ren) while the others ride.  Before riding, scan the tickets of the adult staying back and up to two other riders.  When they’re done riding, the adult that stayed back gets to go on the ride with the other two (repeat) riders – using the fast lane.  And the adult who already went on the ride stays back with the small child.

This is an excellent system and my older boys love that they get to skip the long line the second time around! 

Look for Hidden Mickeys Around the Park

Keep little (and big) kids entertained – especially in lines or while you’re walking to a ride – by looking for hidden Mickeys.  They can be made up of anything, including plants, building elements, lights, ropes, and graphics on rides (like the fireworks on Soarin’). 

Use the Disneyland App

I know – who needs another app on their phone?  But, the Disneyland App is really helpful, and you can always delete it after your trip.  
We use the Disneyland app to:

  • plan out our day
  • reserve restaurants or order food
  • see times for shows and parades
  • look at the park map
  • find bathrooms (so helpful!) 
  • reserve your Genie+ and Lightning Lane rides

Track the Adults in Your Group

Boy runs down street at Disney's California Adventure.

If you think you’ll be splitting up at some point (we sometimes have someone go with my youngest child while the others go on a ‘big kid’ ride), have the adults in your group track each other on their phones. 

It’s helpful to see where the others are, and I often end up tracking my dad down using Whatsapp’s ‘see my live location’ feature.

Take a Break

Go back to room if nearby.  We did this for the first time last year, and it was a game-changer!  I had always resisted because I didn’t want to lose a minute of memories at the park.  No, we arrive at the park (Disneyland or Disney California Adventure) early and take a break in the afternoon (the hottest part of the day) and head back to the hotel for naps or quiet time in the cool hotel room.  After a couple hour refresh, we head back to the park and stay into the evening – with much more energy!  This has also helped prevent evening meltdowns.

If you don’t want to leave (or you aren’t staying nearby), at least take a breather somewhere in the park.  In Disneyland, we really like the shaded area in Toon Town (on the right, just after you enter, by Roger Rabbit’s Car Toon Spin).  There are benches and there’s often staff there with games for kids who really don’t want to sit still!

I hope one or all of these Disneyland tips help you on your visit to Disneyland and/or Disney California adventure!

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