Time is Money: Maximize Time at Disneyland!
We all know that a trip to Disneyland can be expensive, so maximizing your enjoyment of your vacation time is the smart thing to do! Who wants to spend the whole time standing in line or staking out a spot to watch a show? Here is a compilation of tips and tricks for you to maximize time at Disneyland!
In our many visits to Disneyland, we’ve learned that some pre-planning (and a few judicious purchases before you leave) can save you both time and money. On this page we’ve gathered some important “survival” hints that everyone should know before departure.
The Disney fans who visit MouseSavers.com have lots of great information to share. This “Time is Money” page includes many reader contributions. Thank you to all who have shared their hints, tips and tricks to help you maximize time at Disneyland!
- How to Take MouseSavers.com Along on Your Vacation
- Essential Equipment
- Ultimate Packing List & Tips for Packing Better
- Avoid the Crowds
- Shorter Waits in Ride Lines
- See Mickey (and Other Characters) Faster
- Best Places to Watch Shows
- Treating Cast Members Right
- Lost Kids
Would you like to have this site at your fingertips while you’re at Disneyland? Accessing MouseSavers.com on a smartphone (iPhone, Android, Windows Phone, Blackberry, etc.) makes it convenient to look up tips and tricks, check on dining discounts, see what events are happening during your stay, and lots more.
This site works perfectly on any phone that allows you to access the Internet. Just fire up your phone’s Web browser and navigate to MouseSavers.com!
You can also add a MouseSavers icon on your smartphone that will take you directly to the site.
Here are several items you can bring that will help to make your Disneyland trip much more comfortable, particularly if you will be visiting in the summer:
You might be surprised to learn that cotton socks are NOT the best for walking in the heat. They quickly become saturated with moisture, which makes them get sticky and rub and chafe — voila, nasty blisters. A much better choice are high-tech socks that wick moisture away from your skin and still feel dry even in humid weather. Yes, they’re usually made of artificial fibers but in this case it’s a good thing. Look for “performance” socks designed for runners or hikers. Some brands are super expensive, but there are some good deals out there. You want socks made with some combination of CoolMax, polyester, olefin, spandex, tencel, wool and/or lycra. Avoid any sock with more than a tiny percentage of cotton. Even if the socks are labeled “performance” or “moisture-wicking,” if they’re mostly cotton they are just not going to work well.
When we first looked into buying these we thought it was crazy to pay $10 or more for a pair of socks (they’ve come down in price considerably since then). But one of us (Don) routinely gets horrible blisters walking around the parks, so we bought a few pairs of different brands to try them out. Don tried Under Armour Resistor, Wigwam Cool-Lite, Swiftwick Aspire, and Fox River Wick Dry, all of which are fine; buy whatever is on sale. You can also find these socks at Target, Walmart, and so forth, but read the package carefully. Champion, for example, makes some nice polyester and lycra “Double Dry” socks, but also sells a cheaper sock also labeled Double Dry that is mostly cotton.
Comfortable Shoes or Sandals
Be sure to buy these well before the trip and wear them on some walks around the neighborhood, to make sure they don’t “rub you the wrong way.” Different people swear by different shoes, but the critical components most people need are arch support and thick soles. Thin-soled shoes of any kind are a recipe for disaster — the hot pavement radiates up through them and they don’t cushion your foot against the cement walkways. Some people love Teva brand athletic sandals. Personally we prefer a good quality pair of athletic (walking) shoes. Zappos is one of our favorite places to buy shoes. It offers FREE shipping and FREE returns (so if the shoes don’t fit or you hate ’em, you aren’t out anything). Zappos has an amazing variety of shoes, so if you have a hard time finding your size, width or exactly the right shoes, we highly recommend checking it out.
Another good place for walking shoes is Amazon.com. Even though Zappos is owned by Amazon.com, the selection is slightly different between the two sites, so they’re both worth checking out.
Moleskin (foot padding)
Don’t worry, moleskin is just thick flannel; no actual moles are harmed to make it! This product is much better than regular sticky bandages for preventing blisters. If you know your shoe is rubbing at a certain point, or you start to feel a “hot spot” on your foot, just cut a piece of moleskin to size and cover that area of skin to prevent it from rubbing on your sock/shoe. It works really well. Available in most American pharmacies under the Dr. Scholl’s brand. Buy it in advance so you can pre-cut some to various sizes. Moleskin is sold in many Disneyland shops (usually it’s behind the counter and you must ask for it), but at inflated prices.
A light-colored ball cap or other hat with a brim is a great thing to have at Disneyland. It gives your face a little shade, which both keeps you cooler and helps prevent sunburn. (It also helps to prevent sunburn on the top of your head — obviously this is a worry if you’re a little light in the hair department, but you can even get burned along the part in your hair!) Hats are sold everywhere in the theme parks, but $19-$20 for a ball cap is the norm. It’s much cheaper to bring one along from home: you can get Disney-themed hats many places for much less.
We’re big fans of the wide-brimmed “sun hat” or “boonie” style. The one Don wears most often makes him look like a river guide, but it’s light, breathable, packs easily, and it really keeps the sun off. There are more fashionable hats available that also have a nice wide brim. But any hat with any brim is better than no hat. The sun in California can be brutal.
You’ll need lots of this, and get at least SPF 20. Don’t say “oh, I never burn.” You WILL burn at Disneyland. There is a lot of water and a lot of light-colored concrete everywhere, all radiating the sun’s rays at you from every angle. This can cause burns in the most unlikely places, like the backs of your knees and under your chin! Every time we go to Disneyland we see a number of poor souls who look like cooked lobsters — don’t let this be you! Also keep in mind that if it’s generally sunny year-round in Anaheim. The average weather in Anaheim during the coldest part of winter is sunny and 71 F (22 C).
We personally like the spray-on sunscreen, because it just sprays on with no rubbing and feels nice and cool. We find it is very effective, waterproof, light and not sticky. For their faces, Sarah and the kids prefer the sunscreen sticks, but Don just sprays sunscreen into his hand and rubs it on his face. You can buy sunscreen throughout Disneyland, but the selection tends to be limited, and it’s a lot cheaper to buy it at home.
In recent years we’ve been really pleased with Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Sunscreen. We’ve tried the spray-on, the cream/liquid and the sticks. Compared to the ones we were using (mostly Coppertone and Banana Boat) it feels much less greasy. You don’t feel like you’ve been coated in plastic when it dries. It also smells nicer, which is a big plus for the kids. It’s definitely more expensive, but for us it’s worth it. We’ve also seen generic store-brand versions of the Ultra Sheer at Walgreens and CVS, and both of them work just as well.
Handy sunscreen tip: if you take our advice and bring a hat with a wide brim, you can skip putting sunscreen on your forehead. This solves the problem of sunscreen mixing with sweat and dripping down into your eyes. This doesn’t work as well with baseball-type caps; when the brim is only in the front, the sides of your forehead will still get plenty of sun as you move around and the sun hits from various angles.
Waist Pack or Backpack
A waist pack (aka fanny pack, or “bum bag” as our British, Aussie and Kiwi friends would say) makes it much easier to carry your stuff (ID, hotel key card, money, credit cards) around, is relatively secure against pickpockets if you wear the bag in front, and keeps your hands free. I know they look kind of silly, but so do Mickey Mouse ears! Don’t worry, you will see lots of people at Disneyland sporting both.
Alternatively, consider a small backpack/daypack. As long as it’s small and squishy enough, you can probably cram it in beside you on any rides that don’t provide storage space for personal items. A favorite of many Disney park fans is the Baggallini Messenger Bag, which is sort of a sling/backpack hybrid with lots and lots of pockets and compartments, including an outer mesh pocket that’s perfect for a water bottle.
Personal Handheld Fan with a Mister/Spray Bottle Attached
These fans are a low-tech personal “air conditioner” that can be surprisingly effective on a hot day. They usually come with a long strap so you can sling them over a shoulder. One brand name (widely sold in the theme parks for $17) is Squeeze Breeze by O2 Cool. It’s a good idea to buy these BEFORE you go, because the exact same item or even a fancier version can often be found for a lot less, either online or at a discount store like Target or Walmart! Thanks to Pam P for the info.
This is a high-tech towel that holds more water than a plain cotton or microfiber towel. Typically they are mostly made from PVA (polyvinyl alcohol, a type of water-absorbent plastic), and they are like a thin sponge with a stronger polyester backing to keep them from tearing or falling apart. To use one, you wet it and drape it over your shoulders, and as the water evaporates the surface cools, which draws heat from your body and also cools the air surrounding your head and chest. When they get dry enough to stop working well, you just re-wet them in the nearest bathroom sink or water fountain. These work best when the air is dry (thus increasing the evaporation and cooling), so they work really well in a very dry place like Arizona, and not well at all in a very humid place like New Orleans. Anaheim is somewhere in the middle and unless the humidity is unseasonably high you will generally find that wearing the towel keeps you cooler than not wearing it.
You can buy various name brands like Frogg Toggs or O2 Cool either online or at big chain stores like Target or Walmart, or just buy the cheapest PVA towel you can find. They’re often sold in the auto store or auto section of discount stores as car drying towels or “synthetic chamois.” You can cut them in half or even smaller if you find that wearing a whole one is overkill.
Rain isn’t super common in Southern California but it does happen, mostly in November-April. We find umbrellas a hassle to carry around. A rain poncho is much easier, because it squishes down to almost nothing and can be put away in a pocket, backpack or waist bag. A poncho comes in handy for wet rides like Grizzly River Run or Splash Mountain, too.
We were able to buy a large multi-pack of thin disposable ponchos for about $1 each online, and we just grab a handful before each trip. You can carry one easily in your pocket or pack. They aren’t super sturdy, but they work fine for keeping the rain off. When it stops raining, you can just toss it. MouseSavers.com reader Cheryl D has a good tip: “Walmart has 87 cent ’emergency ponchos’ in their camping supply department that are quite nice. They are transparent, hooded and roomy. We buy them by the dozen since ponchos never seem to fold up into those tiny little packages after used.” You can also often find semi-disposable ponchos at dollar stores.
If you don’t find a poncho that cheap, or don’t want to carry a poncho with you, don’t worry. Better-quality plastic ponchos are sold everywhere at Disneyland for about $9. A good thing to know is that if your Disneyland poncho rips during that trip, you can take it and your receipt to the nearest Disneyland shop that sells them and they will replace it.
If you’d like a lightweight windbreaker that will also keep the rain off, we bought a packable nylon jacket for Don, and it works well and packs into its own pouch (the pocket turns inside out and becomes a mesh bag). It’s also nice in the mornings on those days when it’s just a little nippy or windy, but is going to warm up later.
Water Bottle and Strap
You will need to drink a lot of water, especially in the summer heat. There are plenty of water fountains all over Disneyland and a fair number of water bottle filling stations, so bringing your own bottle is a great way to save. You can buy bottled water, but it’s very pricey. Any counter-service restaurant or stand that serves drinks in cups will give you a small cup of cold filtered water FREE at any time, but you may have to wait in line, and it’s no help if you’re halfway through the line for Big Thunder Mountain Railroad with a thirsty child. Regular plastic water bottles or metal water bottles work fine, but if you’re picky about taste, a filtering water bottle is a good way to go. We like the Brita personal filter bottle.
A strap or sling makes water bottles much easier to carry with you. You can easily buy one that will fit most disposable water bottles when you arrive, as they are available for about $4 in every park. If you want something a little more durable or you want to carry your own reusable water bottles, we use these ChicoBag Bottle Slings. They are super light and hold almost any personal water bottle, including the Brita filter bottles mentioned above. The strap works well for normal-to-tall adults, and can be adjusted for children by tying a knot in the strap.
OK, a pop-up hamper really doesn’t count as “essential” but it is handy for traveling. It has a sewn-in springy wire, so you just unfold it and it pops out into a small hamper. We like the rectangular kind with a circular opening on the top. We have one from DAZZ and one from StorageIdeas and like them both. They only weigh 8 ounces, fold down to a small circle, and fit nicely into hotel and stateroom closets. The instructions provided were cryptic, so pay attention when you unfold them. It’s easy to fold them down to a flat rectangle, but to then collapse that to a small circle is trickier. Hold the rectangle on opposite corners, then twist the two corners in opposite directions like you’re trying to make the springy outer wire into a figure 8. This will cause the whole wire to sort of collapse in on itself and make one circle with three stacked loops. Wrap the elastic band that came with it around it to keep it coiled up. Try it a few times when you unpack it to get the hang of it.
This one will definitely save you some time even before you head to Disneyland! We’ve updated and reorganized a great list originally compiled by Michelle E from Charlotte, NC. This packing list includes everything you would ever need, and a lot you don’t — it’s smart to pack as light as possible since surcharges are now in place at most airlines for checked bags!
It’s in Word format so that you can adapt it to your own needs — just delete any items that don’t apply to you. Also includes a checklist of things to do before you go, such as stopping the paper and the mail, etc.
- To download the list in Windows, right-click on the link and select “Save Link As.”
- To download the list on a Mac, hold down the Option key while selecting the link.
TSA Packing Hints
Be sure to check out the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) web page that discusses baggage limitations and tells you what NOT to pack in your checked luggage — some of the items may surprise you.
In addition, bear in mind that liquids and gels over 3.4 ounces are banned from CARRY-ON luggage, and 3.4 oz bottles or tubes must be carried through security in a single, clear, quart-sized zip-top bag. This includes items such as deodorant, suntan lotion, toothpaste, perfume, makeup, contact lens solution, bottled water, etc.
Please note: Due to COVID-19, TSA is allowing one liquid hand sanitizer container up to 12 ounces per passenger in carry-on bags until further notice. Please confirm this information before packing for your trip.
- Need small sizes of your favorite items to fit in a TSA-approved baggie? You can buy a TSA-approved bottle set and fill them with your favorite lotion, hand sanitizer, shampoo, etc.
NEVER pack valuables in checked luggage! Keep anything valuable (electronics, jewelry) or hard to replace (prescription medications, glasses/contacts, photos) with you, in your carry-on luggage. You should also keep all travel documents for the entire trip (flight/hotel/rental car confirmations, trip insurance documents, etc.) with you in your handbag or carry-on.
WHEN you choose to visit can make a substantial difference! Even if you are heavily constrained by school or work schedules, optimizing the exact dates can reduce the overall crowding you experience. Trust us, even 10% fewer people can make a massive difference in your overall enjoyment and how much you get to see. So, when are the busiest and least busy times at Disneyland? Be sure to see the answer in the Frequently Asked Questions section.
“The first suggestion should be branded on everyone’s forehead, ‘Go during value season.’ There is simply no comparison in the levels of attendance…. This is one’s first line of defense in the ‘Time is Money’ battle.” – Jeff D from Toms River, NJ
- Crowd Calendars showing you the expected crowd levels, best parks to visit and the parks to avoid, every day for the next 12 months.
- Touring Plans with step-by-step advice for visiting the best Disney attractions while saving you up to four hours in line per day.
- Lines, a mobile phone application showing current and future wait times and Fastpass times at every attraction (for iPhone, Android, BlackBerry, and more).
MouseSavers.com readers get an exclusive discount on subscriptions to TouringPlans.com!
If you are traveling with young children who will want to ride Dumbo and the other “little kid” attractions in Fantasyland, we strongly recommend that you arrive at park opening and make a beeline for that area. Dumbo, in particular, is a very slow-loading ride and once the park has been open for an hour or two, the lines are huge. Get that one out of the way first! Peter Pan is another ride to do as early as possible.
If Main Street, U.S.A. is mobbed with people waiting for the parade (or just plain crowded because it’s a busy day), avoid the long slog through the crowds by going straight up the stairs of the train station just inside the entrance. Ride the train one stop to New Orleans Square and get off if you want to ride Pirates of the Caribbean, Haunted Mansion, Indiana Jones, Jungle Cruise or Splash Mountain. If you want to ride the Fantasyland or Toontown rides, stay on the train until the second stop at Toontown.
- Extra Magic Hours – Early Entry for Resort Guests
- Magic Morning – Early Entry for Bonus Ticket Holders
- Child Swap (aka Baby Swap)
- Single Rider Line
- Special Needs
Here are a few things you should know about Fastpass, a system that can save you a lot of waiting in line:
- Fastpass is FREE to anyone who is visiting the Disney theme parks.
- Fastpass is available for the most popular rides and attractions.
- To get a Fastpass, you scan your park admission ticket at a Fastpass machine. You will get a Fastpass allowing you to return at a specific time (usually it assigns a one-hour period during which you can return) to bypass the regular “standby” line. When you return, you wait in the special, much shorter Fastpass line.
- If you’re using the Disneyland smartphone app and have your tickets linked, you can scan a code shown by the app, and it will assign you a digital Fastpass. When you return, you scan a code shown by the phone; otherwise it works just like a paper Fastpass.
- The current Fastpass return time is posted above the machines, so that you can decide whether that time will work for you before you get the Fastpass.
- Your Fastpass will have printed on it the next time you can get another Fastpass (or it will be shown in the smartphone app). Typically the next Fastpass can be obtained after the start time for your existing Fastpass, or 2 hours after you obtained the most recent Fastpass, whichever comes first. It’s possible to be holding more than one Fastpass at a time, if you get a new Fastpass before your previous one’s start time.
- You get a Fastpass for Big Thunder Mountain at 8:00 am with a return window of 9:00-10:00 am. You can get another Fastpass at 9:00 am, even if you haven’t ridden Big Thunder Mountain yet.
- You get a Fastpass for Splash Mountain at 11:00 am with a return window of 3:00-4:00 pm. You can get another Fastpass at 1:00 pm; your Splash Mountain Fastpass is still good and now you are holding two valid Fastpasses. Let’s say you get a Fastpass for Roger Rabbit’s Car Toon Spin with a 2:00-3:00 return time. At 2:00 you can get another Fastpass and now you have three valid Fastpasses. If the times line up right, you can conceivably ride them all in quick succession.
- Disneyland Resort also offers Disney MaxPass – a ticket add-on that allows you to get Fastpasses using the Disneyland app from anywhere in the park. Read more about MaxPass below.
- For now, the attractions in Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge are not using Fastpass. You can read more on our Visiting Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge page.
It used to be that Fastpasses were honored from the earliest time on the pass through the rest of the day, but the return times are now enforced. You may be allowed a 15-minute grace period, especially if you have a good reason, like having to cross a parade route or another ride breaking down. But you shouldn’t count on it; if the park is very busy they may be rigidly enforcing return times. If the ride is temporarily down when you arrive to use your Fastpass, generally they’ll tell you if the ride comes back up, you’ll be allowed to use your Fastpass any time that day. If no one says anything, just ask a Cast Member at the ride if you can come back later to use your Fastpass.
From time to time, certain rides will be disconnected from the rest of the Fastpass system. When this happens you can get a Fastpass for that ride any time, as long as there are any available and you aren’t already holding one for that ride, regardless of any other Fastpasses you may be holding for other rides. Commonly the end of day shows (World of Color and Fantasmic!) are disconnected, and there may be others; they seem to disconnect more during peak seasons, perhaps to relieve stress on the system.
The folks at TouringPlans.com have a good page about Fastpass at Disneyland, which includes a list of disconnected Fastpass machines at the bottom of the page. You do not need to have a subscription to TouringPlans.com to view the list, but TouringPlans.com offers lots of useful information for anyone planning a Disneyland vacation, and a subscription is worth every penny. They offer a significant discount to MouseSavers readers, so be sure to use our discount links if you choose to subscribe.
If you want to experience all the Fastpass rides in Disneyland in one day, here’s our recommended order to collect your Fastpasses (skip any that you don’t care to ride, of course):
- Star Tours
- Space Mountain
- Splash Mountain*
- Indiana Jones*
- Big Thunder Mountain Railroad
- Roger Rabbit’s Car Toon Spin
During Halloweentime, the best order is:
- Star Tours
- Space Mountain Ghost Galaxy*
- Haunted Mansion Holiday (may be a walk-on early in the day – if so, skip the Fastpass)
- Splash Mountain
- Indiana Jones*
- Big Thunder Mountain Railroad
- Roger Rabbit’s Car Toon Spin
If you want to experience all the Fastpass rides in Disney California Adventure in one day, it’s best to collect your Fastpasses in this order:
- Radiator Springs Racers* (Fastpass for this ride often runs out in the first hour after the park opens!)
- Guardians of the Galaxy – Mission: Breakout
- Toy Story Midway Mania
- Soarin’ Around The World*
- Goofy’s Sky School*
- California Screamin’*
- Grizzly River Run* (summer/hot days only – otherwise it will be a walk-on most days)
* These rides have a single-rider line. They use people from this line to fill in gaps in rows on the ride. As long as you’re willing to ride in different rows or possibly different cars, you can save a lot of time using the single-rider line. You’ll all ride at approximately the same time, but you won’t be seated together. If it’s not obvious where to go for single-rider, ask a Cast Member to direct you.
“…always take advantage of the Fastpass. On the most popular rides we get a Fastpass as soon as we enter the parks. Depending on the wait time you may only have to wait for less than 20 minutes [in the standby line] to ride, and then you can use your Fastpass to ride again.” – Toni K from Bel Air, MD
“Check the Fastpass times for Big Thunder Mountain Railway and Splash Mountain. If the wait time and Fastpass time are close together, get a Fastpass for one and wait in line for the other. When you get off the first ride (that you waited in line for) you can walk right on the next ride.” – Patrick S
“While we were in one line, my husband would [take everyone’s tickets and] run to the next Fastpass ride and get passes. While I waited in line for food, he was running to get the next Fastpass. While waiting for our time period on the passes, we would do other rides with short lines. If you plan your day around the passes and where you want to eat you can do the whole park in one day.” – Gerry P from Crescent Springs, KY
“If you are with people who don’t ride much (grandparents, wimps, etc.) have them go get a Fastpass for you with their admission ticket for another ride. This way you wait less time and they wait less time waiting for you!” – Kevin P from Bayport, NY
Disney MaxPass is a ticket add-on that lets you get Fastpasses using the Disneyland app from anywhere in the park. The rules are mostly the same as for the classic paper Fastpasses: you can’t book a Fastpass until you enter a park, you can only get one at a time and you must wait for a certain amount of time before you can get another. However, with regular Fastpass, the maximum wait time before you can get another Fastpass is 2 hours, but with MaxPass, it goes down to 1.5 hours, so you can potentially get more Fastpasses over the course of a day if you have MaxPass. Also, you don’t have to hike over to a ride’s Fastpass machines to obtain one, which saves time. In addition, MaxPass includes unlimited PhotoPass downloads for that day. Current pricing is $20 per person per day.
You can purchase MaxPass as an add-on in advance when you buy your park ticket directly from Disneyland, either online or at the gate. If you already have a ticket, from Disney or a third-party ticket vendor, or an Annual Passport, you can purchase MaxPass for the day once you are inside a park. Then, you link it to your ticket or Annual Passport through the Disneyland app. The MaxPass expires at the end of the day.
You can activate MaxPass privileges for all your traveling party members on the same phone (or on multiple people’s phones). So one person can book MaxPasses for everyone, or you can give multiple people the ability to make MaxPass reservations for everyone else, at which point it’s up to you to coordinate the reservations. You can’t get around the timing rules using multiple phones. For example, if Mary and Bob have MaxPass, and Mary books a Fastpass for Bob using her phone, Bob can’t get another Fastpass (using his phone, Mary’s phone or a kiosk) until the 90 minutes is up, or the start time comes up for that Fastpass, whichever comes first.
For now, the attractions in Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge are not using MaxPass. You can read more on our Visiting Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge page.
Disneyland Annual Passport holders can purchase MaxPass as a daily add-on for $20 per day or as an annual add-on for $125 per pass at a ticket booth. The cost of the annual MaxPass feature will not be pro-rated for passes expiring in less than a year. The MaxPass feature expires when the Annual Passport expires.
Disney Signature Plus Passport and Disney Premier Passport holders get the MaxPass feature at no additional charge.
MaxPass Tips & Tricks
Just about all of our Fastpass tips and tricks above also apply to Fastpasses booked with MaxPass.
If you enter a park later in the day, check what Fastpasses are available BEFORE purchasing MaxPass. If all the Fastpasses for an attraction are already gone, they are gone. You won’t be able to get a Fastpass using MaxPass. The MaxPass feature is nonrefundable and nontransferable. Once you enter a park, you cannot use the cost of MaxPass as a credit towards any ticket upgrade.
You can cancel or change your FastPasses using Maxpass, but keep in mind that there is no guarantee that another Fastpass will be available.
You can only book a Fastpass via the app for a ticket that has the MaxPass add-on. So, if you are traveling with a group and only want to book Fastpasses via the app, each person in your group will need to have the MaxPass add-on.
If you upgrade a ticket with MaxPass to a ticket without MaxPass, you will no longer be able to make Fastpass selections using the app.
Disneyland Resort hotel guests receive length-of-stay access to Extra Magic Hours at Disneyland one hour before the park opens to the public on Sunday, Tuesday, Thursday, or Saturday. Extra Magic Hours guests usually get access to most Fantasyland attractions, the Matterhorn and Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage, Star Tours, Space Mountain and Buzz Lightyear. Disney’s hotel guests can take advantage of Extra Magic Hours throughout their stay. Extra Magic Hours are particularly valuable if you have little children who will want to ride Dumbo, the Tea Cups, etc., because those are slow-loading rides and the lines get huge later in the day. This is also a great time to ride the very popular, updated Star Tours.
Disneyland Resort hotel guests also have length-of-stay access to Extra Magic Hours at Disney California Adventure one hour before the park opens to the public on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Extra Magic Hours guests get access to select attractions in Cars Land, Golden State, Hollywood Land and Paradise Pier. Disney’s hotel guests can take advantage of Extra Magic Hours throughout their stay. Extra Magic Hours are a perfect time to ride Toy Story Mania!, which is very popular and has no Fastpass or single rider line.
For now, Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge is NOT included in Extra Magic Hours at Disneyland. You can read more on our Visiting Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge page.
Disney offers a special feature called Magic Morning for those who have 3-day or longer Bonus Tickets (one Magic Morning per ticket). The Magic Morning program allows you to enter Disneyland one hour before official opening on certain days of the week (Tuesday, Thursday or Saturday) and ride some of the attractions.
Magic Morning guests generally get access to most Fantasyland attractions, the Matterhorn and Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage, Star Tours, Space Mountain and Buzz Lightyear. Magic Morning is particularly valuable if you have little children who will want to ride Dumbo, the Tea Cups, etc., because those are slow-loading rides and the lines get huge later in the day. This is also a great time to ride the very popular, updated Star Tours.
For now, Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge is NOT included in Magic Morning at Disneyland. You can read more on our Visiting Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge page.
Magic Morning is not available at Disney California Adventure.
Will you be visiting Disneyland with a child who is too short to ride some of the attractions you’d like to experience? You can still ride as long as you have two adults present, by taking advantage of the Child Swap, which is available on most height-restricted rides. When you enter the queue area, tell the Cast Member you’d like to do Child Swap. This allows the first adult to ride while the second adult stays with the child. Then the second adult can ride — without waiting in line again — while the first adult stays with the child.
If you don’t mind possibly sitting separate from the rest of your party, use the Single Rider line, which is available at Indiana Jones Adventure, Matterhorn Bobsleds, Splash Mountain, Radiator Springs Racers, Soarin’ Over California, Grizzly River Run, California Screamin’ and Goofy’s Sky School. The Cast Members loading ride vehicles draw from the Single Rider line to fill in empty seats, so this line often moves much faster than the regular line.
Those with special needs (mobility, visual, hearing or cognitive disabilities) can get a special pass, which is called a Disability Access Service (DAS) card, from Guest Services when you arrive. Different passes are offered to people with different needs, and depending on the type of pass, may allow you easier access to the various attractions. For more great info for those with disabilities who are planning a trip to Disneyland, we list several resources in our Disneyland FAQ.
Some tips from a Character Attendant who escorts the characters:
- Believe it or not, everyone will get through the character lines more quickly when families get in one line together. Holding places in line and then having to round up family members, or having the family photographer off on the side and then trying to jump in to take pictures adds to the confusion and slows the line.
- Have everything ready to go before you get to the front of the line. Have cameras out of camera bags, turned on and lens caps off. Have autograph books out and pens ready with the caps off. Have your children out of the stroller before it’s time for them to go up and visit the characters.
- If you have a large group, have a plan. Decide in what order you are going to go up for your photos before you get in the line. For instance, you might decide little Bobby and Sally will take a photo with the character first, then Aunt Judy and Uncle Jim, then Grandma and Grandpa.
Thanks to Jim R for the info!
Disney Visa cardholders get access to two character meet and greets, which include complimentary downloads of your Disney PhotoPass photos. The Disney Character Experience is available daily from 10:30 am – 1:30 pm in Disney California Adventure in Hollywood Land, next to Monsters, Inc. Mike & Sulley to the Rescue. The Star Wars Character Experience is available daily from 2:00 pm – 6:00 pm in Disneyland Park at the Star Wars Launch Bay in Tomorrowland. You will need to show your Disney Visa card to enter these meet and greets; offer valid for up to 6 people per cardmember account (each cardmember account may be used for entry only one time per day). Some things to keep in mind:
- The Disney Visa character meet and greets are first-come, first-served. No Fastpasses are available.
- The Disney Visa character meet and greets will usually have shorter lines than public meet and greets for the same characters, but there will still be some wait.
- The Disney Visa character meet and greets typically have one or two characters available at any one time and they will rotate in and out, so you can’t be sure exactly which one you are going to meet. You can ask a Cast Member at the entrance if/when the character you want to meet will return, and they may be able to give you a time frame. However, there are a limited number of character who appear at these meet and greets.
There are two evening shows at Disneyland Resort parks – Fantasmic! and World of Color; they can include fireworks, projections, music and other special effects and usually last about 30 minutes. There is no separate charge to watch either, but they do require getting a FREE Fastpass or buying a special meal+show package. Guests are not allowed to simply stake out a spot and wait for the show to begin. The Fastpass machines for both Fantasmic! and World of Color are disconnected from the rest of the system, so getting one does not keep you from getting a Fastpass for another attraction around the same time.
Frozen – Live at the Hyperion is a 1-hour stage show that takes place inside the Hyperion theater; there is no Fastpass option.
For all of these shows, you can purchase a dining package or dessert party that includes access to a reserved viewing area. You don’t get a specific reserved seat or spot, but the area reserved for folks with dining packages is centrally located and has a good view. Or, you can book a VIP tour – typically they won’t guarantee they can get you reserved seating or viewing for a particular show, but in our experience the VIP tour guides have a lot of resources at their disposal and can almost always get their guests a good spot to view shows. The VIP tour option is realistically outside the price range for most groups, but you can read more about it on our Special Events, Activities & Tours page.
Below we cover FastPass, the dining packages and give our recommendations for the best value.
- Fantasmic! at Disneyland Park
- Frozen – Live at the Hyperion at Disney California Adventure
- World of Color at Disney California Adventure
Because the primary Fantasmic! viewing areas are part of the walkways near New Orleans Square and Frontierland, you must have a Fastpass or admission to a reserved viewing area. You cannot stake out a viewing spot just by showing up early.
Fantasmic! Reserved Viewing Options
Access to a reserved seating area for Fantasmic! can be booked for FREE via Fastpass. The FREE Fastpass for Fantasmic! is available each morning at the Fastpass terminals along the Rivers of America near Frontier Landing. You will be assigned a specific show time and viewing section, so get Fastpasses for your entire group at the same time, or you can end up in different sections. (The Fantasmic! Fastpass machines are disconnected from the rest of the system, so getting one does not keep you from getting a Fastpass for another attraction around the same time.)
If you have purchased MaxPass, you can get a Fantasmic! Fastpass through the app.
The Blue Bayou Restaurant Dining Package includes lunch or dinner at the Blue Bayou Restaurant and admission to a reserved viewing area for Fantasmic!. The cost for lunch is $66.81 per adult (age 10 and up) and $31.25 per child (age 3-9), tax included. The cost for dinner is $80.81 per adult (age 10 and up) and $32.33 per child (age 3-9), tax included.
The River Belle Terrace Dining Package includes lunch or dinner at River Belle Terrace and admission to a reserved viewing area for Fantasmic!. The cost for lunch or dinner is $48.49 per adult (age 10 and up) and $26.94 per child (age 3-9), tax included. For an extra $25 per adult and $15 per child, you can upgrade to the premium 8:00 pm seating and stay at your seat after dinner to watch the first performance of Fantasmic! (seating is on the outside patio). Reservations for the River Belle Terrace premium 8:00 pm seating must be made at River Belle Terrace or by calling (714) 781- DINE (3463) between 7:00 am and 7:00 pm Pacific Time.
The Fantasmic! On-The-Go Package includes a box meal and admission to a reserved viewing area for Fantasmic!. You can eat at one of the tables at Hungry Bear Restaurant or take your meal elsewhere in the park. The cost is $32.33 per adult (age 10 and up) and $21.55 per child (age 3-9), tax included.
- To make a dining package reservation, use the links above or call (714) 781- DINE (3463). Advance reservations are highly recommended. Park admission is not included.
Our Viewing Recommendations for Fantasmic!
The cheapest reserved option is to book a FREE Fastpass for Fantasmic!. Admission to the Fastpass reserved viewing areas begins 1 hour before showtime, so you’ll want to show up at least 20-30 minutes before the show starts. Come even earlier if you want to stand right at the railing. And, of course, if you have already purchased MaxPass for the day, it doesn’t cost you anything extra to get a Fastpass to Fantasmic! using the app.
Of the dining package options, the Fantasmic! On-The-Go Package is the least expensive option. The Blue Bayou package gives you a slightly more central reserved spot, but all of the dining package viewing locations are very good. The box meal isn’t anything to write home about, and we estimate an adult meal as worth about $17 (allowing for Disneyland food prices), so you’re paying about $15 for the reserved spot. We also recommend finding a table and eating your box meal before you go to your viewing area. That way you don’t have to stand (or sit on the ground) while you are eating.
This is no Fastpass for Frozen – Live at Hyperion. As you might imagine, it’s a popular show, but it’s usually a shorter wait in line for the first and last performances of the day. The show takes place inside the Hyperion theater.
Frozen – Live at the Hyperion Reserved Viewing Options
The Frozen Dining Package includes lunch at Carthay Circle Restaurant and admission to reserved seating for Frozen – Live at the Hyperion. The cost is $95.90 per adult (age 10 and up) and $48.49 per child (age 3-9), tax included.
- To make a reservation, go to the Frozen Dining Package page or call (714) 781- DINE (3463). Advance reservations are highly recommended. Park admission is not included.
Our Viewing Recommendations for Frozen – Live at the Hyperion
Since there is only one reserved viewing option for Frozen – Live at the Hyperion, your choices are either wait in line or pay for the dining package. The dining package is definitely on the expensive side, even for Carthay Circle. It does include a special kids menu and Frozen-themed desserts that are not usually available, so it’s a unique experience, but definitely a splurge.
Because the primary World of Color viewing areas are part of Paradise Gardens and have limited capacity, you must have a Fastpass or admission to a reserved viewing area. You cannot stake out a viewing spot just by showing up early. If you do not obtain a Fastpass for World of Color, you can still watch the show from the boardwalk side of Paradise Bay, but the view is very limited. We don’t recommend this.
Generally the best viewing is from the front row of any section (be aware that you make get wet if you are in the very front row). You also want to stand as close to center of a section as possible, for the best effects.
Tip: if there are two or more showings of World of Color on the night you’re attending, be aware that since a lot of people want to get their kids to bed early, the first showing is by far the most popular. If you don’t mind staying up later, the second show will have sparser crowds and it will be easier to see. If there’s a third show, the viewing is even easier.
Please note: during the holiday season (early November through early January), World of Color – Season of Light will be shown instead.
World of Color Reserved Viewing Options
Access to a reserved viewing area for World of Color can be booked for FREE via Fastpass. It is available each morning at the Fastpass terminals near the entrance to The Little Mermaid – Ariel’s Undersea Adventure. You will be assigned a specific show time and viewing section, so get Fastpasses for your entire group at the same time, or you can end up in different sections. (The World of Color Fastpass machines are disconnected from the rest of the system, so getting one does not keep you from getting a Fastpass for another attraction around the same time.)
If you have purchased MaxPass, you can get a World of Color Fastpass through the app.
The Wine Country Trattoria Dining Package includes lunch or dinner at Wine Country Trattoria and admission to a preferred viewing area for World of Color. The cost starts at $53.88 per adults (age 10 and up) and $26.94 per child (age 3-9), tax included.
The Carthay Circle Dining Package includes lunch or dinner and admission to a preferred viewing area for World of Color. The cost for lunch starts at $60.34 per adult (age 10 and up) and $26.94 per child (age 3-9), tax included. The cost of dinner starts at $79.74 per adult (age 10 and up) and $26.94 per child (age 3-9), tax included.
The World of Color Dessert Party includes a dessert buffet and admission to a reserved seating area for World of Color. The cost is $84 per person, tax and gratuity included. Children who are 2 years old or younger may attend for FREE provided they sit on the lap of an adult.
- To make a dining package reservation, use the links above or call (714) 781- DINE (3463). Advance reservations are highly recommended. Park admission is not included.
Our Viewing Recommendations for World of Color
The cheapest reserved option is to book a FREE Fastpass for World of Color. And, of course, if you have already purchased MaxPass for the day, it doesn’t cost you anything extra to get a Fastpass to World of Color using the app. Admission to the Fastpass reserved viewing areas begins 1 hour before showtime, but people still line up in advance.
That said, good viewing spots are a bit tough to get for World of Color, even with everyone required to have a Fastpass. Within each viewing section, the best views are usually at the front of an elevated tier. Kids and shorter adults can find their view obscured as their section fills up. Those who purchase a dining package get a central viewing spot with less crowding, so it may be worth the extra cost. If we had to choose between the Dining Packages and the Dessert Party, we would pick one of the Dining Packages. For less money you get a full meal, not just dessert. Of the dining package options, the Wine Country Trattoria Dining Package is slightly less expensive. With the Dessert Party, the value of the food is not as high, so mostly you’re paying for the seated viewing spot.
“Cast Member” (CM) is a Disney term for employee. The reason for this terminology is that Disney expects its workers to act as if they are “onstage” whenever they are working with the public.
The vast majority of Cast Members are exceptionally friendly, kind and helpful. However, they take a lot of abuse from guests who don’t realize what a tough job it can be to deal with large crowds of demanding people all day. As a guest, it’s easy to go into “vacation mode” and start thinking of CMs as if they are Audio-Animatronic or “just part of the Disney experience.”
In reality, of course, they are only human. Being polite to you and assisting you is a Cast Member’s job — but as with any employee anywhere, they can choose to do the bare minimum. That’s why having the right attitude can change your whole experience at Disneyland. So few guests really go out of their way to be friendly, kind and patient toward CMs that when you make that extra effort, it is often returned tenfold!
Joe M from Columbus, GA offers these words of wisdom about Cast Members, which we couldn’t agree with more!
“Be friendly to all Cast Members. They are not responsible for the heat, crowds, obnoxious guests, or prices. They do, however, control most of your park experience.
We have been offered priority seats (when available) just because we were having a friendly conversation with the attending Cast Member. On our last trip we were given 3 free drinks for our children because we have befriended some Cast Members and we ALWAYS stop by their location to say hello. Our sons were given a special Fastpass because they were polite to a Cast Member. I had a special dish made for me at a restaurant because I mentioned how much I enjoyed and missed it. (The entree had been discontinued). We have been given special seating for fireworks and parades simply because we were nice to the Cast Members working that event.
We never ask for anything, we just recognize that these people are working very hard to be sure OUR vacation is the best.”
In short, when it comes to dealing with Cast Members, the Golden Rule definitely applies: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you!” Treat a Cast Member with a little extra kindness and friendliness, and that CM is much more likely to “go the extra mile” for you.
A parent’s worst nightmare is losing track of small children in a crowded theme park. It happens surprisingly often, because everyone (kids and adults) can get distracted by all the fun things going on around them. Going on a hunt for a lost child can really put a damper on your day.
For that reason, be sure your kids know what a Cast Member badge looks like (white, oval). If they become separated from you, tell them to find the nearest Cast Member, who will help them find you.
If you can’t find your child, don’t panic. Locate the nearest Cast Member, who will direct you on what to do next. There is a centralized “Lost Parents” system and usually they’ll have you all reunited in minutes. Good to know: no child has ever been kidnapped from a Disney theme park (perhaps because there are hidden cameras everywhere).
To make it easier for a CM to reunite you with your child in case you are separated, it’s a good idea to make sure each child has your cell phone number and/or other contact info physically on him somewhere. There are many commercially-produced ID products for kids, ranging from rubber bracelets to temporary tattoos to dog tags to shoelaces printed with your contact info. However, there’s no need to spend money on any of those. You can write the information in permanent marker on a piece of white fabric and safety-pin it into the back of the child’s shirt collar, or put it on a slip of paper that is slipped into a shoe or pocket. If your kids are wearing lanyards (for pin collecting or just to hold their room key, tickets and Fastpasses), the attached plastic sleeve is a good place to stow a business card with your contact info, or at least a piece of paper with your cell number. Don’t put your child’s first name or nickname anywhere that is visible to a casual observer.
MouseSavers.com reader Francis T has this additional suggestion: “Use a digital camera to take a photo of your kids BEFORE you head out to the park. Take a close up head shot and a full body shot. In the unlikely event that you and your children become separated, you have digital photos to show cast members, security guard or local police. Descriptions are great, but a picture is worth a thousand words. And don’t forget to retake the photos when you buy and wear that new Disney sweatshirt, tee shirt or hat!”
MouseSavers.com reader Cristina C from Mexico has this suggestion for those whose kids don’t speak English: “My kids speak only Spanish so I write with permanent ink on a piece of white fabric and attach it in the back of their shirts on the inside. As soon as we get somewhere I teach them who can help them in case they get lost and tell them to show that person where they have the information tag with the info in English: ‘I only speak Spanish.’ ‘My name is…and nick name is…’ along with both mom’s and dad’s names and cellphone numbers.” Don’t put your child’s first name or nickname anywhere that is visible to a casual observer.