So You Wanna Do Disney?

This is the first post in a series on Disneyland and Disney California Adventure (herein referred to as “DCA”).  Before we actually go into the parks, though, let’s get prepared to go, shall we?  Here are some tips if you want to do Disney – and do it right!

If you were to go to Disney with me, there is only one way to do it – park open to park close (well, park open until the end of the parade).  If I’m going to fork out $120-$150 for a ticket, I’m going to get my money’s worth.  Spending 14 hours in the parks equates to a little more than $10 an hour at Disneyland.  If you spend most of those hours in line (which, if you were with me, you won’t!), then maybe you won’t think it worth it.  But there is so much more to Disney than standing in line!  (More on that in a later post.)

First, we need to prepare.  If you’re going to spend 12+ hours in the park, rub vaseline all over your feet before you put your shoes on in the morning.  This will help with blistering – you will be on your feet A LOT.  When I do Disney, I average about 30k steps a day.  I got this tip from a runner, and I have always been so thankful for that.

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Second, buy yourself a portable charger for your phone.  You’re gonna be taking a LOT of pictures and checking the Disneyland Wait Time App, and you don’t want to run out of juice in the middle of the day.  Also bring a plastic bag for your charger and phone, just in case you want to go to Splash Mountain or Grizzly River Rapids (I’m paranoid about getting my phone wet, even though I have an OtterBox case).

Third, get yourself good and naked and lather sunscreen all over that beautiful body of yours.  When you’re at Disney, you’ll be in the sun, in the shade, in the half sun, and that’s not even including all the gnarly tan lines you might get from your backpack and trading pin lanyard (if you do that sort of thing – which I totally am).  You’re gonna sweat all that sunscreen off, so make sure you bring a hat.

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Lastly, but most importantly, unlike other theme parks, Disneyland lets you bring in your own food and water. Personally, I never do Disney without a Camelbak.  Mine has a 70oz bladder, and it’s perfect to keep a small jacket in, a few snacks, and my wallet.  I’m so much more likely to stay hydrated if I have that glorious straw right next to my face than if I have to dig into my bag for a water bottle.  Again – for the love of Mickey BRING YOUR OWN WATER.  Water bottles in Disneyland run $3-$4. It’s a tax on the ill-prepared.  Disney has water fountains all over the place for refilling your Nalgene or Camelbak.  ProTip: if you go to any of the restaurants and just ask for a large water, they’ll fill up a fountain drink cup full of delicious ice water free of charge.  I turn around and dump that in my Camelbak.

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Now that you’re physically prepared for the parks, let’s get mentally prepared.  Rule #1: Attitude is everything.  Yes, it will be crowded.  Yes, you will wait in long lines.  Yes, you will be walking a lot.  But if you go in expecting and accepting that, you will have a great day!

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To make your ride experiences a little better, here are some suggestions:

  • Hit the popular rides early.  Hyperspace Mountain (formerly Space Mountain), Indiana Jones, Matterhorn, Radiator Springs Racers, Soarin’, – get those early when the lines are low.  The last time I was there, I hit Soarin’ and Radiator Springs Racers within one hour without a FastPass – if you’ve ever been to DCA, you’ll know that’s a miracle.
  • When you enter the park, establish your “wait time ceiling.”  How long are you willing to wait for a ride?  This ceiling may change depending on the ride.  Typically, my ceiling is 35-40 minutes.  Again, it depends on the ride.  For something like Pirates of the Caribbean, I’d be willing to wait 40, but something like It’s a Small World, my ceiling is more like 20 minutes (if we have nothing else we want to do).  This will help you make quick decisions and keep an eye on the Wait Time App.
  • FastPasses.  Many people, somehow, don’t know about FastPasses.  They’re free and they help you get onto the more popular rides quicker if you’re willing to wait in the meantime.  Here is how they work: find the FastPass distribution place (usually near the exit of the ride you want to go on) and you stick your Disneyland ticket into the machine and pull it out.  It spits out a FastPass for you.  It will give you a time to come back later (e.g. 4:30pm-5:30pm) when you can come back to the ride.  While you’re waiting, depending on how long you have until your FastPass is active, you can hit up another ride.  Once you get into the FastPass line you’ll only end up waiting 10-15 minutes for that ride.  Not every ride has FastPasses, though, so you need to be strategic.  Depending on the popularity of the ride and when you get your FastPass, your FastPass return time will differ based on how many people have gotten FastPasses before you.

It takes a few visits to Disneyland to get the hang of how to plan your rides and how to plan your day.

One last thing to do before you enter the parks is familiarize yourself with the layout.  The Disneyland Wait Time App is GREAT – it has a map of the park and it tell you wait times for all the rides.  You can also find a map anywhere online.

Now that we’re all prepared to go into the parks, during my new post, we’ll head on in!

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