Lover of Disney over here! I have been to Disneyland 3 times, 2004, 2013 and 2015. I have picked up a few tips and tricks each time I have been there to help me to help you get the best Disney experience you can get, especially if you are an overseas traveller.
Now accommodation is expensive, trust me, I have stayed at the Disney Paradise Pier, which is their cheapest Disney resort hotel and I have stayed at the Disneyland Resort Hotel which is their second cheapest, but they are both still expensive.
If it’s still expensive then why do I stay there? Is it worth it? Well to me, yes I believe it’s worth it; it’s worth the hard work of saving, because when you wake up and look around the room, you have Disney magic everywhere, amazing staff, and comfortable rooms.
I have only every had one complaint in a Disney hotel and that was in the Paradise Pier hotel, the bath was clogged and full of water, but the staff got on it right away when we called. The magic that you get is the extra magic morning, this is when select parts of the park are open you can get on a ride before the park is open to the general public, it’s great, they have it for both Disneyland and California Adventure park (the sister park of Disneyland that have a bit more thrill rides).
The convenience is also great, very easy to get to Downtown Disney (shopping, dining and entertainment district with huge Disney store if you forget to grab something from the park, or you just want more stuff after you just visited the park). There are close by entries to the hotels that only guest of the hotels can go through, the convenience of letting you leave, go have a nap and then letting you back in.
But if you still don’t think you can afford it, but you want that extra magic morning, they have Good Neighbour hotels, these are hotels right outside the Disneyland Park perimeter, they are not too far away, they are just outside and they range from cheap to expensive.
Food is a big topic with Disney park goers; yes you can bring your own food into the park. You are not forced to buy food within the park; you just can’t bring in alcohol and illegal drugs. But if you do decide to save up some money to splurge on food, then here is the list of top sit down restaurants and character dining I have been to (in no particular order of favourite, plus there are so many other good ones, these are just ones that I have said “YES, WE MUST GO AGAIN!”:
Don’t forget to have a dole whip; a Mickey shaped beignets, Mickey ice cream sandwich
and the famous turkey legs!
- River Belle Terrace: We actually did a Fantasmic! Dining package which means you get a fast pass to Fantasmic! (A show using, music, lights and water with also some of your favourite characters, such a beautiful show and must see).
We had a 3 course meal which was amazing and the waiter was so nice, he even asked my friend and I questions about Australia and just actually wanted to get to know us.The entrance to this restaurant was awkward to find, but we found it! It’s right near the Jungle River Cruise in Frontier Land.
My friend and I ordered exactly the same, for our starter we had the Creamy Corn Chowder, main meal was the Slow-roasted New York Strip and a Cajun Shrimp Skewer, then for dessert we had the River Belle’s Chocolate Mousse Cake with Raspberry Sauce. So good.
- Blue Bayou: Beautiful setting and beautiful food, I have dined here twice, once in 2013 and once in 2015 and both times were amazing. I love how they set up the restaurant, outdoors with trees, lanterns, a New Orleans Bayou feel, accompanied with the Pirates of the Caribbean boats going by. The Gumbo is so yummy and the Jambalaya is spicy and too good to not eat it all up! This restaurant can be found in the New Orleans square, the entrance is down the small New Orleans streets.
- Goofy’s Kitchen and The Plaza Inn Character dining’s: Any of the Character dining is great, I have been to all of them in Disneyland and the Disney resorts at Disneyland. But my favourites are Goofy’s Kitchen because of the fun buffet and the cooking theme for some of the character’s are adorable! I love the Plaza Inn because it’s a bit classier for the Disney Character dining and you have a great view of Sleeping Beauties Castle, plus I got to meet Peter Pan so I was super excited! But Captain Hook tried to steal my phone hahaha.
- Earl of Sandwich: I added this place because it was cheap and a really good meal. When I stayed at the Disney Hotel in 2013 with my mum, majority of the breakfast’s, if we didn’t go to a character dining breakfast, we would go to the Earl of Sandwich, we actually also went one night for dinner. I really recommend this place if you want to buy cheaply. This store can be found in Downtown Disney right next to the Disney Hotel.
- The Main Street Confectionery: All I can say is, the Mickey Mouse shaped Rice Crispy treat on a stick with M&M and chocolate is darn amazing, I had one every day! Hahaha. I had been pretty good until I went to Disneyland! I have no regrets!
Check out the Disney Dining Page to have a look at what other great restaurant’s and quick service restaurants, but keep in mind, the sit in restaurant’s can get full very quickly, it is advised to book a head to make sure you get the time you want on the day and restaurant you desire. There is no need to make a booking for the quick service places.
With Fast Passes, it’s best to know exactly which ride you really want to ride first. Whether is it Radiator Springs racer in California Adventure Park or Space Mountain in Disneyland, if you do want to ride it, but don’t want to wait an hour, I recommend, EVERYONE recommends the fast passes.
So what does a fast pass do exactly? Well you go up to the Fast Pass ticket booth, some are located next to the ride, some are a bit further away, you will be able to find them on the park map or even ask a cast member for the location. You place your park ticket or your hotel card into the machine and it will shoot out a fast pass, this fast pass will be your ticket to almost front of the line, you will be chosen priority over the regular line. But the catch is with this fast pass, you need to return to the ride that the ticket says. It may say you need to be back from, for example; 1-1:30pm, this is the time you NEED to be back at. Some cast members may let it slide if you are late, but don’t risk it. Just go at the time it says so you don’t lose your chance.
How much are the Fast Passes? FREE! Yay!
How many can you hold? You can hold a maximum of 2, but they need to be at different times, they cannot be the same time. My friend and I tried, only because we got confused of what it meant to have 2.
This is a perfect example, these images were found on Google, and here are the links for the images that were used for the Fast Pass examples: http://dlrprepschool.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/03/Standby-Fastpass.png and http://dlrprepschool.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/03/FASTPASSextra.png
Where to start and where to finish, what time to go and what time to leave?
For me, I love to get there early, if you are staying at the resort hotels, look at the program that the front desk cast members at the hotel you are staying, give you. It will have the days and times of which park; either Disneyland or California Adventure Park has the extra magic hour. I abused the magic hour, especially at CA Park because Tower of Terror is my favourite ride, I went on it 5 times in a row! My friend wouldn’t go on it with me because she has back pain and was afraid! But my parents and brother would go on it multiple times when I was with them.
If you are planning to only go during the day time, then yes get there early, either on the dot or before the park opens, it’s like a race to the rides! Particularly the really popular rides like Radiator Springs Racers and Space Mountain. If you prefer staying at night but don’t want to be there all day, you can come around lunch time, while everyone is eating, get in and start going on the rides. But if you are like me, you will be there as soon as it opens, or earlier and you will be there until close.
Take as many magical memories as you can! I love getting the photo package that they offer where they scan on the little card and you get a DVD with it (still don’t really know what the DVD is for except the random professional photos they pre take), you go onto the website when you get back from your holiday and you can download the photos to your computer (but READ the instructions, I have done it twice and I still get confused on how to do it, I still love it, but to me, it is tricky). You don’t have to go for the professional package; you can use your own family camera.
For your bookings and information head to https://disneyland.disney.go.com/ which is the main Disneyland site.
If there is anything else that you want to know about California Disneyland and California Adventure Park, please feel free to comment below and I will get back to you!
All photos EXCEPT Fast Pass images were all taken by me and a Disney Photographer (the Pluto and me picture)