Thousands of families flock to Disneyland every year for a few days of magic and thrills. But without the proper planning, your relaxing getaway can be a stressful encounter.
That’s why we’ve done all the hard work about Disney vacation planning for you and laid out the steps to achieve your perfect Disneyland vacation right in this post!
1. Download the My Disney Experience App
The first step to your perfect vacation is downloading the My Disney Experience app. This is an epic multi-tasking tool, which allows you to do everything from purchasing tickets to ordering food and even checking into your Disney Resort hotel!
And while you're at it: Get the kids and the whole family excited by starting the timer with Vacation Countdown App. Download the Vacation Countdown App today! Available at the App Store or Google Play Store.
2. Buy your Disneyland tickets and make reservations.
Due to COVID-19, Disneyland and California Adventure still have advanced booking procedures and limited capacity, which may make it difficult to plan your vacation at the last minute. To make sure that you can actually visit the parks on the days you want, you will need both a park ticket and a reservation for the same day.
Before you do anything else, purchase your Disneyland tickets and book your reservations ASAP to secure your park access.
3. Figure out where you’re going to stay.
Unlike Disney World, your on-site hotel options are somewhat limited at Disneyland, and all three resorts are rather pricey. However, if your kids want the extra “magic” of Disney-themed décor and characters at mealtimes, the resorts are worth every penny.
But don’t worry: for budget-minded travelers, there are plenty of off-site options within walking distance of the parks, particularly along Harbor Boulevard.
4. Know how to maximize your time.
While it can be tempting just to dash into the park and go with the flow, your whole family will enjoy themselves better if you understand how to “cheat” the crowds.
Arrive one hour before park opening for shorter entrance lines and the potential to enter 30 minutes early.
Use FASTPASSes regularly to skip boring waits and hit more rides.
Order meals ahead of time on the app
Leave in the afternoon to rest, skip the heat, and avoid the long lines.
Take advantage of the late hours (10 pm to 12 am depending on the park) and enjoy the cool, less-crowded evenings.
5. Make a plan for each day.
Whether you bought Park Hopper passes or single park tickets, it’s wise to make a plan before you ever enter the parks. If you know precisely what rides you want to visit and which ones don’t interest you, you’ll save a lot of time figuring out where to go.
Here’s our recommended itinerary for a 5-day visit to Disneyland and California Adventure in 2021:
Day 1: Arrive at your hotel and get settled in. Then, head to Downtown Disney for some shopping, dining, and entertainment in this free-to-enter district!
Be sure to take a whirl on the Star Wars: Secrets of the Empire virtual reality experience and find a souvenir or two. And for fans of the new Jungle Cruise movie that just came out, you’ll want to have a meal at Trader Sam’s Enchanted Tiki Bar!
Downtown Disney is open until 12 am, but we recommend heading back to your hotel at a reasonable hour to rest up for your first day at the park.
Day 2: Wake up early and grab breakfast at your hotel or in Downtown Disney. Then, head straight to the park gates and do your best to arrive between 7 and 7:30 am.
For the first day, we recommend focusing on Fantasyland, Toontown, and Tomorrowland. If your kids are too old for Toontown, work ahead on your must-dos for Frontierland. Don’t forget to take advantage of your FASTPASSes to cut down on wait times for the most popular rides.
Around lunchtime, wrap things up and find some food. Order ahead via the app while you’re in your last line, or leave the park and grab a bite somewhere else. Then, spend a few hours resting in your room or pool before heading back to the park around 4:30 pm. Finish up your list of must-dos, do some shopping on Main Street USA, and enjoy the fireworks!
Day 3: Like yesterday, wake up early and grab breakfast outside the park before arriving by 7:30. Today, focus on the remaining zones in Disneyland, including Frontierland, New Orleans Square, Critter Country, Star War’s Galaxy, and Adventureland. Be sure to use FASTPASSES whenever possible to avoid the long lines!
Again, you’ll want to leave around lunchtime and return to your hotel to chill out until the evening. You and your kids will appreciate the break today! Return in the late afternoon and plan to stay until the park closes at 11 pm to pack in all your favorite rides!
Day 4: Get up with the sun one last time for your day at California Adventure. Grab breakfast to go and eat it outside the gates while you wait for the park to open.
Head straight to Cars Land and prioritize rides like the Rope Drop Racers and Luigi’s Rollicking’ Roadsters. Then, book it over to Pacific Wharf, Pixar Pier, and Paradise Gardens Park to finish out your morning. As always, be sure to take advantage of those FASTPASSes at every opportunity.
After your afternoon break, come back a little earlier than usual to finish out the park zones. We recommend working your way clockwise through Grizzly Peak, Hollywood Land, and Avengers Campus. Finish your night with repeating your favorite rides and a stroll down Buena Vista Street!
Day 5: Today is the day to sleep in and be lazy! After you pack up, grab some brunch in Downtown Disney and enjoy your remaining time with some more shopping and entertainment in this fun district before you head home!
What is JUST as exciting as going on that incredible family vacation you've had planned for? The days leading up to it! Get the kids excited by starting the countdown clock with Vacation Countdown App!
Download the Vacation Countdown App today!