Disneyland Resort Best Guest Hacksby Lisa Stiglic, contributing writer
A few months ago, I wrote "Disneyland Resort Guest Services-More Than Free Buttons and Parade Times." Guest services is available to ensure you have the maximum magical experience at a Disney theme park. But buttons aside, now it's time to ask the experts—Disneyland Resort guests (or "unofficial residents")—for their best hacks to creating pixie dust for your visit (or two or 100 as the case may be. Hey, I'm more than 500 easily). Here are some of the most common hacks guests have suggested for vacationing or just dropping in for a few hours at the Disneyland Resort.
Planning is the key to ensure a successful visit to Disneyland Resort, no matter how long your stay. If you're speculating on staying at a Disneyland Resort hotel, this saves time as you're within walking distance to both theme parks. If the steep price of staying on property (let's be real, it's Disney and it's going to cost), there are plenty of other options all around the park perimeter. Most of the nearby hotels/motels offer shuttle services (or have the ART Shuttle as an option) to and from the park, so plan accordingly to maximize your time in the parks. In other words: Get there early!
Disneyland Resort theme park tickets prices continue to increase and, with next year's opening of Galaxy's Edge in Disneyland, speculation is that ticket prices will go up even higher. So, if you're hoping to vacation within the next year, the sooner the better as both prices and crowds will be at maximum by next summer—the rumored opening date of the Star Wars themed land. Discounted park tickets are such a thing but scarce to locate. If you're in and around Southern California, local grocery stores occasionally have specially priced, multi-day passes, and Costco has great package deals to the park, as well.
Once you've secured your calendar dates for a visit, get on the phone and call Disney Dining (714-781-DINE) or go online to the Disneyland website and reserve your dining selections for sit-down locations including character dining. Guests can take advantage of this option up to 60 days in advance.
Speaking of food, another great hack from almost every Disney-goer is to stock up on snacks and water before entering the parks. Disneyland Resort rules indicate food and drink ARE allowed into the parks, with limitations, including no glass bottles (except baby food jars), no alcohol, and keeping your backpacks/coolers to a minimum size. The Resort also reserves the right not to allow any item into the park. With that being said, most visitors do bring in water bottles and snacks to keep the party going throughout the day. There are water bottle filling stations in Disneyland for your convenience at Tomorrowland Terrace, Rancho Del Zocalo Restaurante, French Market Restaurant, and Plaza Inn. If you forget to hydrate, just stop in at any fast-service restaurant and ask for a cup of ice water.
We all reminisce for the days when a $10 bill could buy us a sporting pair of Mickey Mouse ears — usually black with the archaic, cursive, yellow-threaded insignia of our first name only. Disney theme parks now offer mouse ears of the princess, villain, Pixar, and attraction-themed varieties, to name a few. There's even a changeable bow option if you can't decide. Mouse ears prices have easily tripled that original 10 bucks now, so many visitors look to the internet to find a cheaper version of the famous ears. Etsy and eBay are just two of several websites where you can purchase inexpensive mouse ears that will still represent your favorite characters. Or, stop in at your local craft store and create your own.
IN THE PARKS
Again, planning is key in creating a successful day at a Disney theme park. The first rule of thumb is to get to the park of choice early. If you're staying on property or have purchased multi-day passes through the Disney website or a travel agency, chances are you have the Magic Morning option in which you can enter either park one hour earlier than scheduled opening time. Each park alternates days for early entry so Disneyland Park one day and Disney California Adventure Park the next.
If you have an itinerary, even better. As soon as the rope drops, hurry to any non-Fastpass (or MaxPass) attraction before the queue fills (Peter Pan's Flight is a must). Most of the popular/E-ticket attractions have the Fastpass/MaxPass option so take advantage of those selections to plan your day. If you're with a smaller group or going solo, remember that several attractions offer single-rider lines. In Disneyland Park, single rider lines are available at Splash Mountain, Matterhorn Bobsleds, Indiana Jones Adventure, and Space Mountain. Across the esplanade in Disney California Adventure Park, single riders can take advantage of the quick queues at Goofy's Sky School, Incredicoaster, Grizzly River Run, and Radiator Springs Racers. Getting a MaxPass if you have a park-hopper ticket means you can get FastPasses for one park when standing in the other.
There are also a few shortcuts to mastering lines and crowds in general. A great rule of thumb many hackers have offered is to go left when a line splits, as humans tend to automatically go right. Or, find the hidden line—this is my personal hack. There is a hidden line at the entrance into Disneyland. It's behind one of the trees so it looks as if there is just one line, but eagle-eye guests can spot the short queue right away. Also, a quick tip for Dole Whippers is there are actually two lines. The second line is inside the waiting area of the Enchanted Tiki Room. This isn't much of a hidden line anymore, but the queue is still about half as short as the line you usually see trailing into Adventureland. If the crowds get to you, then take advantage of the parade or shows. While guests throng to the parades, fireworks, World of Color, and Fantasmic!, use the downtime in the rest of the parks to enjoy attractions without the mobs.
If you find yourself short on cash, but don't want to accumulate ATM fees, a terrific suggestion is to purchase Disney gift cards, which are available at almost all retail shops within the Resort.
FOODIES AND SOUVIES
I'll keep this section quick and to-the-point because there are too many to list. But, if you're a first-timer to Disneyland Resort, stop in at Disney California Adventure's Pacific Wharf for a few food freebies. Enter Boudin Bakery's "The Bakery Tour"—a virtual storytelling attraction about the San Francisco company's rise to fame —and you'll receive a complimentary taste of the iconic sourdough bread. Across the boardwalk at Ghirardelli Soda Fountain and Chocolate Shop, guests can savor a sweet sample of Ghirardelli's famous candy upon entering the venue but, chances are, you'll want more.
Finally, we come full circle to the Disneyland Resort's most sought-after hack — the celebratory buttons. Yes, it is provided by Disney guest services but come on, everyone wants the buttons. Guests can ask at guest service locations and retail locations to receive birthday, anniversary, and wedding buttons, or just a celebration day button.
There are also a few locations that hand out stickers to guests, especially smaller visitors. Check with any Disney Vacation Club venue or janitorial cast members for some magical stickers of favorite characters.
I could go on with hacks, but I have a maximum word count per article so I must conclude. There are many hack lists online from other blogs, visitors, and even former cast members that can help with your visit to your favorite Disney theme park. Enjoy your time and maybe add a few hacks to your own list.