Top 13 Tips and Tricks that helped me have the best time at Disneyland this Halloween
My spouse and I headed down to Disneyland earlier this month and had an amazing time! We spent 4 days in the parks, walked over 104,000 steps each (which equated to just under 50 miles), and rode 23 different rides (a few more than once). Between the 2 of us we ate 7 ice creams, 6 hot dogs, 4 churros, 2 buckets of popcorn, and had as many light up drinks as we could find (Be sure to try the Moody Brew in Tomorrowland!) We were there for Halloween Time and even went to Mickey’s Halloween Party which was amazeballs and I would highly recommend it. I felt it was way worth the price of admission and it was such an amazing experience! In order to help people have just as awesome an experience as we had I’ve put together my top 13 tips for you all! Some of these I had learned or discovered in advance and some I learned along the way.
I should say the number 0 on this list is to download the Disneyland App for your phone. It’s super handy and will be needed for quite a few of the tips below. In addition, it will show you the wait times for all the rides in the park and you can use it to find bathrooms, restaurants, and characters who may be out nearby.
1. Go with the Park Hopper option
When you purchase tickets for the park, I would highly recommend paying extra for the Park Hopper option on your tickets. We didn’t do this when we purchased the tickets because we thought we’d just do full days in each park. By day 2 we realized that Park Hopper is the way to go.
There are a few reasons that this is worth the money. The first is that the Magic Morning (which we’ll talk about later) alternates parks every day so you may want to start the morning in one park and then head to the other later on. Another reason is because California Adventure typically closes earlier than Disneyland does. This means that if California Adventure is closing down and you’re not ready to call it a night, you can head on over to Disneyland until they close. This also offers the ability to take the monorail back to the other end of Downtown Disney from Disneyland if you’re staying towards that end of the resort. Also, you can enter each park more than once in a day which makes it easier to plan and choose fast passes throughout the day which leads me to #2 on my list.
2. Buy the Max Pass
The Disney Max Pass can be purchased through the Disneyland App and is $10 per ticket per day. This seems like it may not be worth it, right? Wrong! It was so worth it! By purchasing the Max Pass you’re able to secure Fast Pass selections from your phone while waiting in line for other rides! Or first thing in the morning while getting your coffee. The only condition is you have to have entered the park already and had your ticket scanned. That being said, if you have a Park Hopper pass, you can reserve Fast Passes for rides in California Adventure when you’re in Disneyland and vice versa.
In addition to the Fast Pass feature, Max Pass allows you to download and save any pictures you have taken by cast members in the park right to your phone. This includes photos from character breakfasts, photo ops, and rides. Having pictures taken by a cast member is free and it’s super worth it! And if you’re already purchasing Max Pass for the Fast Pass option, you might as well take full advantage!
3. Make a plan
We found that heading into the park with a basic plan for the day was super helpful! Before too much time got away from us we decided what our must rides were and what would could take or leave. We took a look at the map the night before (or at breakfast) and decided where in the park we wanted to spend parts of the day and also planned on what park to start in and where we wanted to end up. This kept us from walking in each morning, shrugging our shoulders, and going “now what?”
Another thing to keep in mind when making your plan is to decide which lines you’re going to stand in and when. What I mean by that is, if there is a ride you really want to ride but always has a long line you’re just going to have to suck it up and stand in line for it so you may want to plan when in your day you want to do that. For example, we really wanted to ride Peter Pan- it was on my “must” list and everyone raves about it. This ride doesn’t have a fast pass option and the line is almost always really long. I’d tried a couple hacks that I’d read about how to beat the lines and none of them really worked out so we decided to just deal with it. We stood in line for 40 minutes (this was the longest line we waited in) and it was one of the last rides we rode after being in the parks all day. Looking back, I wished we’d just done this ride first thing in the morning one day when our feet weren’t as tired. It would have made the wait less agonizing.
Also, if you want to watch any of the fireworks, make sure to plan to be in the right place! The first night we got caught watching them from behind the castle which was a pretty lame experience. We missed out on the music and all the fun. Make sure you’re near Main Street when the fun begins.
4. Be willing to change your plans
Not to contradict number 3 on my list but flexibility is also super important! Rides breakdown, wait times change, and characters show up! Be ready to take your day in a different direction if needed. The great thing about making fast pass selections on your phone is you can cancel them, if needed, and get different ones if you decide to change plans.
5. Make dining reservations in advance
There are a few restaurants that I would highly recommend making reservations for in advance. The first is the Blue Bayou. This place fills up super fast so make reservations well in advance. Although this place is pricey it is a super cool experience. It’s inside the Pirates of the Caribbean ride and you get to watch people ride by in their boats. It’s dark inside and is lit with fun lanterns and they also offer some delicious mocktails with light up ice cubes.
I would also recommend making reservations at the Lamplight Lounge over in California Adventure. Fortunately we were lucky enough to be able to walk up and get a table within a few minutes but when we tried to go back again, the wait was really long. The food here was really good and the atmosphere is great. The art on the walls features all the different Pixar movies and the deck looks out over the water in front of the ferris wheel. You can see all of Pixar Pier and the Incredicoaster. I’d recommend trying the potato skins! Soooo delicious!
There were a few other restaurants we wanted to eat at that we weren’t able to get into. We did have good luck walking up to a few places and were able to be squeezed in but I would really recommend making reservations in advance if there are specific places you know you want to eat. You can make reservations online, via phone, or through the Disneyland App.
Lastly, make sure to book reservations for at least one character dining experience! We did two breakfasts- one that we made reservations for and one we managed to get into by luck. These are super fun and worth the time and money. The food is decent and you get to meet all different characters. The Minnie Mouse breakfast at the Plaza Inn was my favorite and had the most characters. Within the park, the lines to meet the characters are often really long and if you’re wanting to maximize your ride time, you may not be up for standing in those lines. Character dining experiences offer a chance to skip the lines and still get your photos.
6. Use mobile ordering
With the Disneyland App you can order food from a ton of the quick service restaurants in advance. I would highly recommend using this feature! You choose a time frame to pick up your food (much like a Fast Pass window) and then you order your food and pay for it. When you arrive at the restaurant you can use the app to let them know so they start preparing your food and then it will notify you when it’s ready for pickup. This allows you to skip the huge lines and you can sit down and relax while your food is being prepared. Keep in mind though, not all menu items are available via mobile ordering so if there is something you really want you may still have to wait in line.
Also- you can mobile order the famed Dole Whip for pickup! The pickup location is on the other side, inside the tiki garden and will majorly cut down on your time waiting for this delicious treat.
7. Ride the Disneyland Railroad
I wouldn’t really consider the Disneyland Railroad a ride but it’s definitely worth riding around the park! There are some super cool surprises along the way and it also stops all around the park. It offers a great way to get around the park while saving your feet and giving you a nice rest.
8. Take advantage of purchase will call
If you’re anything like me then you love to shop for souvenirs (or souvies as I like to call them). It can be burdensome to carry all your newly purchased treasures all over the park with you and onto the rides so something to keep in mind is that if you ask during checkout at any shop, they can hold your purchases for you and send them all to one pickup location for you to grab at the end of the night. Make sure to tell them before they are finished ringing you up that you’re looking for this service as it requires some extra steps.
9. Take breaks
I think this is one of the most important tips! It seems obvious but it’s so easy to let time get away from you when you’re in the park. We had a great routine that worked really well for us. We would head back to our hotel in the early afternoon for a few hours and go back to the park for the evening until it closed. This allowed us to rest our feet, get hydrated, cool off, and change clothes when needed. If you don’t want to head back to your hotel, make sure to plan for breaks during the day to sit for a bit and drink some water. It’s easy to forget self-care like this when you’re having fun and time is moving at vacation speed. A few great places to take breaks in the parks are the Disneyland Railroad and Animation Academy in California Adventure.
10. Stay on site
If you can, I would recommend staying in one of the hotels on site at the resort. There are quite a few perks that come with staying in one of these hotels. Not only are they Disney themed (which is a lot of fun) they also have some other great features. For example, in tip #8 I mentioned that there is an option for package will call but when you stay in a hotel on site, you can have your purchases sent directly to your hotel which is awesome. Keep in mind, though, that you won’t be able to pick them up until the following morning after 7am.
In tip #9 I mentioned taking breaks- staying on site or closer to the park allows you to take that break at the hotel in the afternoon if you need to. One thing I want to mention though is that we stayed in the Paradise Pier hotel which is advertised as being on site but it’s actually a lot farther than it seems. It is about half a mile from the hotel to the entrance to Downtown Disney, and about another mile to the main entrance to the parks. So on days we didn’t (or couldn’t, rather) take the monorail into Tomorrowland, we walked about 7.5 miles just going back and forth from the hotel (this includes to and from with afternoon breaks). That 1.5 miles to the main entrance doesn’t seem like much at first but at the end of the night when you’re tired it seems like 10.5 miles. The Disneyland Hotel is about a half mile closer. Now, you can take the monorail into Disneyland if you want but there isn’t a faster way to get into California Adventure and some events (like Mickey’s Halloween Party) require that you enter at the main gate.
Another great thing about staying at these hotels is that it gets you access to Magic Morning for every day that you’re staying at the hotel and have a valid ticket to the park. This is great because it allows you to have an extra hour at one of the parks where select rides and sections of the park are open. You just have to show your key upon entry.
Lastly, these hotels have restaurants, gift shops, and offer character dining experiences which makes it easy if you’re not an early riser but still want to catch breakfast with Donald and Daisy.
11. Do Magic Mornings
If you have the opportunity, take advantage of the Magic Mornings. We only did this one day and we wished we’d done it for all the days we were in the park. It allows you to start the day early so you can get more in at the beginning of the day and head back to the hotel for rest earlier. Plus, you can get onto rides with shorter lines than you might be able to when the park is fully open.
12. Get shoes a month before you go
This may seem like a weird one but bear with me. You’re going to be doing a ton of walking so you don’t want to wear shoes that are too worn out but you also don’t want shoes that are brand new and not broken in. You’ll want to make sure you get some comfy shoes that are just right for the trip and also bring more than one pair. I found that changing my shoes halfway through the day really helped my feet.
13. Carry a small bag
A lot of bloggers will say to carry a small backpack but I wouldn’t recommend it. I wore a backpack the first half of my first day and man was it a pain in the butt. Not only did I have to take it off every time I needed something but I felt it got in the way and was hard to keep track of since it was, you know, on my back. In addition, since I’m fat it made standing in lines even more awkward because it took up more space and I didn’t have a way to move it to different parts of my body like I can with a purse (i.e. swinging it to the front). Lastly, a small purse type bag is easier to fit on the rides as you can stuff it down between your legs or feet without it taking up too much real estate. My favorite purse to take with me is my Guardians of the Galaxy purse from Loungefly (similar to this one but with a different print). It’s just big enough to fit everything I need without being a burden and the cross body strap is long enough to fit around me comfortably as a fat person- I don’t feel like it’s hanging around my neck like a barrel on one of those snow rescue dogs.
Now as a bonus to my list of tips and tricks, I’d like to share with you a few of the things I carried with me that were VERY useful (outside the standard wallet, phone, etc).
Socks– This one may seem like a waste of space but if you’re planning to ride the water rides you’re going to want another pair of socks. Or, if you’re like me, and your underwire breaks first thing in the morning that extra sock is going to be a godsend when you need to wrap something around it to keep it from poking you into insanity.
Sunblock- Carry this with you!!! You’re going to want to reapply a few times throughout the day and although they sell it in the park for a premium, it’s better to just throw it in your purse.
Hand sanitizer– You’re going to be running around a park where there are people all over who are touching things and then touching other things and just spreading germs. Hand sanitizer is a must.
Wet wipes– These are obviously good for you bum but they are also good to have on hand in case you need to wipe your hands or clean something off really quickly.
Tylenol-Your feet are going to hurt and you may get a headache- I never leave home without Tylenol or Excedrin in my purse.
Water– You can take water into the parks from outside so start the day off right and throw one in your purse!
Chafe stick & deodorant– You’re going to be walking… a lot… and sweating… and chaffing. Need I say more? My go-to chafe stick is Thigh Rescue by Mega Babe! It’s amazing. Buy it.
Sunglasses- Gotta protect them peepers.
So now that you’ve got all the deets to make your trip a success, get out there and have fun! If you’re looking for a guide about the rides and how accessible they are for fat people like me, check out my previous post. And if there is anything I forgot or you think people should now, add it in the comments of this post!