So you’re planning your summer Disneyland vacation! You’ve booked the hotel, you packed your spray bottle/fan contraptions, and maybe you even gotten those matching t-shirts. But the crowds and heat waves can be intimidating, even for a returning visitor. But fear not! As a literal life-long Disney visitor (my first ride was the Jungle Cruise at two weeks old, don’t ask me what my parents were thinking) I have compiled my top tips for making the most out of the busiest time of year for theme parks.
Any summer trip can be intimidating, but with these tips it will be smooth sailing. © Disneyland Resort
Plan, Plan, Plan
Despite my wealth of knowledge, I’m not a sorcerer. I can’t read your mind and know exactly what you want to do. Maybe you’re a thrill seeker who wants to hit all of the roller coasters. Maybe you like live entertainment, or you have to fill up your autograph book. Whatever kind of Disney-goer you are, my most important piece of advice for you is to plan. Plan a lot, and plan early.
If your goal is to hit all of the big ticket attractions, which one is your top priority? Which one can you afford to miss? What’s the most efficient way to move through the park? This is especially important if your dealing with anything entertainment related, as those often run on a tight schedule. Do your research, and you’ll minimize the in-park stress. My biggest advice for planning would be to start with your top five “Must Do’s,” and work from there.
When planning your day, start with the busiest attraction, and the ones you want to do the most. © Disneyland Resort
Cool Down Zones
My rule of thumb when checking the weather for the parks is that it is always about 5 degrees warmer inside the park than what your weather app tells you. And if you’re planning a summer trip, the crowds can exacerbate this phenomena. It’s easy to feel like you should just push through the heat to get where you’re going, but that is not a great strategy. At best you will be sweaty and miserable, and at worst you can make yourself sick.
There are several spots in the park that can offer both brief and long-term relief from the heat. Some of the ‘cool down’ rides include The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh (Critter Country), The Little Mermaid: Ariel's Undersea Adventure (California Adventure), and Pirates of the Caribbean (New Orleans Square).
If you don’t want to wait in line for a cool ride, there are other great spots you can just walk in and enjoy. Star Wars Launch Bay in Tomorrowland has lots of areas to sit and relax, with fun Star Wars costume pieces and exhibits to look at. You can even meet Chewbacca and Darth Vader, often with a short line!
My top cool down spot, however, is the Animation Building in California Adventure. The lobby is a low-light, bench-packed, air conditioned room that plays Disney songs, and has scenes from Disney movies projected on the walls. In adjacent rooms, they have areas where you can draw your own moving cartoons, visit the Belle’s library, take classes from real Disney animators, and have a meet and greet with Anna and Elsa.
Can’t get a reservation for Star Wars Land? Take a load off and cool down in Star Wars Launch Bay, next door to Space Mountain. © Disneyland Resort
Every night at Disneyland, weather permitting, fireworks light up Sleeping Beauty's Castle in a dazzling display – a display you can see while you are crammed shoulder-to-shoulder in the middle of Main Street, being yelled at by Cast Members who are working their tails off to keep traffic moving, and while standing behind a dad with a child on his shoulders. Unless you’re a die-hard fireworks fan, this is prime time for riding more popular rides. With more than half the parks guests contained near the entrance, many queues are practically empty. While some areas of the park can be more difficult to navigate due to the high amount of traffic, if you stick to one or two areas, you can get a lot done while the rest of the park is staring at the sky. Still want to catch a glimpse of the fireworks? If you time it right, you can watch them while riding an outdoor attraction, such as Big Thunder Mountain or Alice in Wonderland.
Fireworks are fun, but you know what’s more fun? Walking onto Space Mountain. © Disneyland Resort
Dining Packages? Yes.
Though I sound jaded, there is one nighttime spectacular I will always recommend. Fantasmic! Is in full swing this summer. The show combines water effects, projections, live performers, and yes, even fireworks, into a perfectly crafted technological display. But getting a seat can be a daunting task. For most of my life, you brought a blanket, and parked yourself in front of Rivers of America all day until the show started. Now there are so many different lines, viewing sections, FASTPASS options, cast members trying to rangle you around, it can feel very off-putting.
If you want to see the show, and care about getting a good seat, I would recommend investing in a dining package. My personal favorite (and the most affordable) is the Hungry Bear Fantasmic! On the Go Package. Guests choose either salmon, barbecue chicken, barbecue pork riblets or a mushroom and leek frittata, all served with wild rice and garbanzo bean salad, and can pick up their meal at their leisure. Once their meal is picked up, guests are issued a voucher to return to a special Fantasmic! viewing area. You can look here for more information on pricing, but if you are invested in a great nighttime experience, this one gives you the least amount of stress for the lowest price.
Fantasmic is the perfect way to top off your perfect trip! © Disneyland Resort
Single Rider Power
Let’s face it, are you holding a conversation with friends and family while you’re whipping around the Matterhorn? And are you REALLY going to buy that Radiator Springs Racer ride photo? Single Rider lines are a great way to maximize ride time, and cut down on line time. Single rider lines are currently featured with mega attractions such as Splash Mountain, Incredicoaster, Matterhorn, Radiator Springs Racer, Space Mountain, and Indiana Jones -- basically all the attractions that can have wait times well over an hour at any given time.
Don’t know what Single Rider is? The gist of it is, you and your get into a separate line, typically much shorter than the Stand By line. Once you get close to the front, you and your party are typically split up, and you are placed in cars with another party, typically a group of three that needs a fourth to fill the ride vehicle. I use Single Rider every time I visit the parks, and I have consistently traded 1-2 hour lines for a 5-15 minutes waits.
Want to basically walk onto the most popular rides in the resort? Single Rider Lines. © Disneyland Resort
We hope these tips help you out on your next Disney excursion as they’ve helped me in all of mine! What’s your best piece of Disney vacation advice? Let us know! in the comments below!