Everyone really enjoyed my Disney World planning blog post, so I wanted to give you all the tips and tricks for Disneyland too! As I mentioned in the last post, we’ve honeymooned in Disney, gone to Walt Disney World three times and gone to Disneyland three times in the last three years, so I have become a Disney vacation planning pro! And I’m ready to share a lot of tips, tricks, what I’ve learned, my favorite things, stuff I would not do, and drop some serious Disney Vacation planning knowledge on you. So if you’re trying to figure out how to plan a Disney family vacation, keep reading!
When it comes to planning your Disney vacation, figure out the time of year, length of your stay, and your ideal budget. Plan your vacation at least 6 months if not one year ahead of time. There are some amazing Disney websites with crowd calendars that can show you the ideal days to go to the parks, usually January and February have low attendance, as does September. But you might miss out on the Christmas or Halloween holiday decor. With older kids, you might have to plan around a school calendar. Every time of year has positives, but I personally like to go when there are less crowds and shorter lines!
If you stay on Disney property, there are always special offers to get discounts.
Once you know the dates you’d like to go to Disney, you can check out availability and the hotel price range that fits your budget. Then, you can either use the website or call to complete your reservation. I have always booked Disney vacations myself using the Disney website, and calling the reservation help line for any dining reservations I needed extra assistance with.
Truly, this is up to you and what you’re interested in doing.
For Disneyland, we’ve always gone for a long weekend. Three days is perfect for us, because Disneyland only has two theme parks- Magic Kingdom and California Adventure. They are walking distance across from each other, so it’s easy to park hop and ride all the rides in three days.
If you only want to do the traditional castle Disneyland Park, you can definitely make a day trip or two-day trip and get to every ride you’re interested in if you’re there from rope drop until the park closes.
At Disneyland, there are three Disney hotels on property. The Grand Californian ($485+/night), the Disneyland Resort Hotel ($393+/night), and Paradise Pier. We have stayed at the Grand and at Paradise Pier, and enjoyed each visit. Paradise Pier is a farther walk from the parks, but takes about 10 minutes to get there through Downtown Disney. The hotel has a California beach theme, and it’s clean and simple. The Grand Californian was definitely a more lavish hotel from the beautiful pool area, ornamental lobby, and more decorated guest rooms and amenities. And one perk, only guests staying at the Grand get to use a back entry to the California Adventure Park, so it makes it very convenient to get into the park each morning and to go back for naps in the middle of the day. We haven’t stayed at Disneyland Resort yet, but we hope to on our next visit. It is located right at the end of Downtown Disney, so a quick walk to the parks.
We usually pack breakfast foods and snacks, or this last trip, we ordered breakfast foods and snacks on Amazon prime and Instacart, and they were waiting for us at our hotel. That saves a lot of money on food. We usually make a reservation for dinner each day because it’s nice to sit down and eat after a long day in the parks, and usually there is a character breakfast we want to take the kids to one morning. Then we’ll usually pack snacks and Disney has some amazing ones in the parks, that will keep us going until dinner time. I’ll share my favorite restaurants in each park and my favorite places not in the parks.
BREAKFASTS: We love the PCH Grill in the Paradise Pier Hotel at Disneyland. It has all the Mickey Mouse Clubhouse characters, who have always been Landon and Presley’s favorites. It is a breakfast buffet, and the characters come around to you at your table, which makes it so easy to meet and greet them! And you can’t go wrong with Mickey waffles in the morning.
In Disneyland, we always eat the Carnation Cafe. It’s just become a family tradition to do dinner there, and they have the best patty melt ever!
At California Adventure, I love the Wine Country Trattoria restaurant. We’ve always gone for dinner, and they have my favorite champagne, the Rosa Regale. It feels like you’re outside at a Tuscan winery, and I just love everything about it!
We had really good Mexican food and margaritas at Tortilla Jo’s in Downtown Disneyland. We loved sitting on the heated patio too. They also had a balloon artist who made balloon Minnie and Mickey’s for all of the kids. Can’t beat table side entertainment to keep the kids occupied!
We’ve taken our babies as young as 6 months, and we’ve never had a bad time. As long as you have a stroller and a baby carrier, there are a ton of rides little ones can go on, and Adam and I always agreed that the kids development went into hyperdrive when we got home after all the educational stimuli at Disney. It truly is magical no matter what age. One piece of advice if you do want to wait until your kids are toddlers- you pay for tickets once your child is three years old. We took Landon the week before his third birthday, and that was a great way to save some money. We even celebrated his birthday in the park on our last day, and he really enjoyed the trip and still talks about it!
I’ll break down my absolute favorites by park below, even though this is hard, but if you only had one day, these are the must- do rides and attractions. I’m also breaking this down by big kids and little kids. You definitely have to be strategic on getting your FastPasses for these rides, and then heading to the other rides first thing after rope drop so that you can make it to all the rides and more. Our last trip was the first time our three year old was tall enough to go on almost every single ride. But that’s what is awesome about Disney is that there is truly something for everyone, no matter how big or how small. 🙂
For the big kids:
For the little kids (no height requirement)
For the big kids:
For the little kids (no height requirement)
I hope this blog post helps as you plan a trip to Disneyland! Please let me know in the comments if there are any other Disney related topics you’d like me to post about.
Thanks so much for reading, and I hope you sign up for my weekly newsletter on the sidebar so we can stay in touch!
P.S. Enjoy some more of my favorite old photos from our Disneyland vacations!
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Gearing up for our first trip in a week and I’m so overwhelmed! Never been to land but have a 4 and 1.5 yo and I’m straight up terrified with lack of sleep/sleeping in the same room/missed naps. How do you keep cost reasonable staying on site? And how do you entertain toddlers while standing in line?! Your must be angels! Thanks for the advice on rides and places to eat!