Helping Family and Friends Plan a Trip to the Disneyland Resort

by Lisa Maulhardt, contributing writer

With the holidays upon us, lots of friends and families will be flocking to the Disneyland Resort for vacations while their kids are out of school. As an annual passholder, I often get asked for tips or even to help plan days for people who either have never been or don’t get to go often. Here are a few tips to help friends and family with little kids to make the most of their days at Disneyland.

After finding out how many days they are planning to spend at the parks, the first thing I usually ask about are the kids’ ages and abilities. Planning a day for a family with two kids younger than 4 is very different than for one with a kid who is 9. With younger children, things like strollers, naptimes, and bedtimes come into play. Also, height requirements become a factor, so reminding people about the Rider Switch option for some of the faster rides is important.

For families with young children, naps become a factor in planning a day at the parks. Photo by Lisa Maulhardt.

The next thing I ask about is expectations. What are the kids looking forward to the most? Is meeting characters a priority? What do the parents not want to miss? As a passholder of 15 years, I have found my expectations to be pretty low for each trip. Whatever we don’t do this time, we can do next time. But for people coming in from out of town, this is obviously not the case. Knowing what the family’s priorities are will help them plan out their day.

Meeting characters is often a priority for families with young children. Photo by Lisa Maulhardt, courtesy of Disney PhotoPass.

Another thing to consider is what kind of tickets they have. Are they only spending one day? Suggesting a Park Hopper ticket so they can experience both parks might be the way to go. If they are staying multiple days, leave some free time to go back and do or see something they missed or want to do again.

Next thing I ask about is reservations. If this Disney trip is something really special, maybe a breakfast at Goofy's Kitchen at the Disneyland Hotel or a dinner at Blue Bayou in New Orleans Square is worth doing while they are there. Since there are only a handful of experiences like these, reservations are best made as soon as possible. But keep in mind that they will also take up a good chunk of time, especially the character meals.

The last thing to consider, especially this time of year, is the special stuff going on. Parade and fireworks schedule, holiday-themed rides, and even the Festival of Holidays offerings are all things to consider in helping others plan a trip.

Special events, like Festival of Holidays, are good to mention to people planning a trip to the parks. Photo by Lisa Maulhardt.

Once you have an idea of what they want to do, you can give them a bit of an itinerary. Try to keep it as flexible as possible so they aren’t stressed out about trying to stay on schedule. I usually try to list a few things to get started on, and then list a few things to do when the parks start to get crowded or the kids need a break from standing in line.

I have found that explaining the Rider Switch and Fastpass systems in advance helps. As passholders, we don’t think twice about getting Fastpasses for rides, but it can be confusing to newbies who don’t understand why you can have one for World of Color and another one for Radiator Springs Racers at the same time, but not one for California Screamin’ and Soarin’ Around the World. To make understanding them easier, Disney prints what time you are able to get another Fastpass on your ticket.

FastPasses are available at many attractions and give you a return time, as well as a time when your next FastPass ticket will be available. Photo by Lisa Maulhardt.

I also highly recommend that people planning a trip to the Disneyland Resort download the Disneyland app. With the app, you can check wait times, find places to eat and look at the menus, check show times, and see when and where characters will be. It is definitely worth having with you and works even better if you get used to using it before your trip.

The Disneyland app is great for looking up wait times, character locations, dining information and show times. Photo by Lisa Maulhardt.

I hate to see people planning trips get so stressed out and overwhelmed trying to plan the perfect day at the parks. I love to help family and friends sort through their priorities, help get them a plan, and point them in the right direction. And, hey, I don’t mind tagging along to make their day as happy as possible.