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Are you ready for the ultimate Disneyland tips and secrets? Let’s talk about the happiest place on Earth and Disneyland tips and tricks to hack your way to the best Disneyland vacation possible! These tips cover everything from money-saving Disney hacks to making the most of your time and budget.
The Best Disneyland Tips & Secrets To Make Your Visit Magical
Disneyland is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world and for good reason! But it can be difficult for a first-time visitor to navigate Disneyland.
The secret Disneyland tips & hacks in this post will help you make the most out of your trip to Disneyland whether you’re a first-time visitor or Disney expert!
There is nothing worse than not being prepared for a Disneyland vacation, so this post will ensure you’re a Disneyland expert before you even enter the parks!
Is Disneyland on your Southern California bucket list?
1. Seriously Consider Genie+ (Previously Maxpass)
In 2021, Disney Parks retired their MaxPass and FastPass and introduced Genie+. This is one of the best add-ons you can purchase at Disneyland! It is an incredible time-saver well worth the extra spend!
Disney Genie is an app that will personalise their Disney day, allowing guests to spend less time planning and waiting and more time doing the things they want. This alone does not grant extra benefits but Disney Genie+ does.
You can purchase the Genie+ add-on when you’re purchasing your Disneyland tickets or when you’re already in the parks.
It is a day-by-day ticket add-on that allows you to make Genie reservations on your phone without having to walk to each individual attraction to get a paper Fastpass.
You can even get a Genie+ Lightning Lane pass for a ride in Disney California Adventure when you’re in Disneyland and vice versa if you have a Park Hopper Ticket.
It is an amazing service and well worth the additional expense in my opinion.
The only downside to Genie+ is that you have to pay for it per person per day.
Hopefully, Disney doesn’t keep increasing the price because it is getting a bit expensive at $20 a day!
Lightning Lane Attractions At Disneyland
- Big Thunder Mountain Railroad
- Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters
- Haunted Mansion
- Indiana Jones
- it’s a small world
- Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run
- Roger Rabbit’s Car Toon Spin
- Space Mountain
- Splash Mountain
- Star Tours
Lightning Lane Attractions At California Adventure Park
- Goofy’s Sky School
- Grizzly River Run
- Guardians of the Galaxy
- Monsters Inc.
- Toy Story Midway Mania
Disney Genie+ Service
Want to streamline your visit even more? By purchasing a Disney Genie+ service, you can select Disney Genie+ Lightning Lane entrances at select attractions.
You are limited to 2 Lightning Lane selections per attraction per day with a standard ticket, with the service working across a variety of rides at both Disneyland Park And Disney California Adventure Park.
If you have a Genie+ Pass, you can have one Disney Genie+ Lightning Lane Entrance at a time all throughout the day, so you can continue booking passes as soon as your earlier one has been completed.
Secret Genie+ Tip!
You don’t need to purchase Genie+ for everybody in your group!
This is one of my favourite Disneyland tips!
MaxPass is not cheap, and a family of four can spend $80 per day on MaxPass if everybody in the family gets it. That’s an extra $240 for just three days of Disney magic.
If the Photopass option is the most appealing aspect of MaxPass (Genie+), then only purchase the MaxPass add-on for one person in your group instead of everybody.
You can link all your Photopass pictures onto the ticket that has MaxPass!
The downside to this Disneyland hack is that only the person with MaxPass on their ticket will be able to make Fastpass reservations online.
I suggest adding MaxPass to the ticket of one of the adults in your party that enjoys thrill rides more than the others. This way that person can make Fastpass reservations for the less child-friendly attractions while the rest of the party gets paper Fastpasses for the non-thrill rides.
It isn’t the perfect Disneyland hack, but it is a great way to save some money while reaping the benefits of MaxPass.
2. Know Where to Meet Your Favourite Characters
Meeting characters is one of the most popular things to do at Disneyland, but people don’t know the best places to meet their favourite characters.
They go to the most well-known and popular places to meet Disneyland characters, stand in line for an hour, get a picture taken, and then leave.
That’s not exactly the best use of your time!
You’ll be amazed at how much time you save if you know the less obvious places to meet your favourite Disney characters.
For example, everybody thinks Mickey’s house is the only place you can meet Mickey in Disneyland. You’re lucky if you only have to wait in line for 45 minutes to meet Mickey at his house.
Instead, you should meet Mickey on the left-hand side of Main Street USA in the middle of the afternoon when the park is at its busiest.
Mickey is out meeting guests on Main Street USA almost every afternoon, and the wait to meet him there is much shorter than at his house.
There are plenty of other hidden places to meet Disneyland characters. You just need to do your research and find them!
3. Don’t Stay on Property
This is one of the most controversial Disneyland tips on the list!
A lot of people tell you to stay at a Disneyland hotel, but you shouldn’t. They aren’t worth the money.
There are dozens of hotels that are walking distance from Disneyland. They’re all much less expensive than a Disney-owned hotel, and you’ll save hundreds of dollars on your Disney vacation by staying in one of them.
You could spend the money you save by staying off-property and use it to buy MaxPass for your entire family!
My favourite non-Disney hotel to stay at is the Hilton Anaheim. It is a few blocks from Disneyland, and you can easily walk to the parks in less than 15 minutes.
The Hilton Anaheim has an upscale and luxury feel but doesn’t break the bank. It is a lot less expensive than the Best Western that is right across the street from the Disneyland entrance.
Plus this means you will see more of beautiful Anaheim during your stay.
Find more accommodation near Disneyland.
4. Splurge on a Fantasmic Dining Package
Disneyland’s Fantasmic is the best night Disney night show ever!
It is absolutely incredible and should be on your must-do list when visiting Disneyland.
The downside to Fantasmic is that the Fastpass and general viewing areas don’t give you a great view. And if you want to watch the show without a Fastpass, then you have to get there really early if you want to be able to see anything.
That’s where the Fantasmic dining package comes in.
This package allows you to have a three-course lunch or dinner at either Blue Bayou or River Belle Terrace or get a bagged meal from Hungry Bear Restaurant.
You get priority seating for Fantasmic if you purchase one of these dining packages.
The price for lunch is:
- Blue Bayou: $62 per adult and $29 per child
- River Belle Terrace: $45 per adult and $25 per child
The price for dinner is:
- Blue Bayou: $75 per adult and $30 per child
- River Belle Terrace: $45 per adult and $25 per child
The pre-packaged meal from Hungry Bear Restaurant costs $30 per adult and $20 per child.
Your dining reservations and meal include a voucher for either the early or late Fantasmic performance. You simply show up to the meeting space before the performance and get shown to your dedicated seating area right up close to the action!
Why Recommend Something so Expensive?!
You might be wondering why such an expensive add-on made it onto a list of the top Disneyland tips. It can seem a little out of place on this list, but it isn’t.
Disneyland is all about making memories with your loved ones, and sometimes the best memories cost a little bit extra but are worth it!
And when you think about it, it isn’t really that expensive.
You can expect the average appetizer at a table service restaurant to cost about $6 at Disneyland. An entree to be about $20 and dessert $8. That’s $34 dollars on average for a table service dinner at Disneyland.
You’re essentially paying an additional $10 to get amazing seats to Fantasmic. Assuming you’re eating at River Belle Terrace, which is my favourite!
I don’t know anywhere else where you only have to pay $10 for VIP access and seating to a show.
5. Be Prepared for Security
Getting through security at Disneyland can be a long process, but there are ways you can lessen your time standing in a security line.
Plus who doesn’t love some practical Disneyland tips?!
You have to go through security before you enter Disneyland property. This includes if you’re just visiting Downtown Disney and not going to the parks.
Security lineups are the longest in the morning just before and just after the parks open and in the middle of the day.
Sometimes each security line can be more than 30 people long!
Here are some tips to help you lessen your wait times in security lines (because that’s really not fun!):
- Have all your bags open and ready for inspection. This includes purses and baby bags!
- Avoid lines with a lot of strollers. Security cast members go through every pocket in strollers, and it can really slow the line down.
- Go to security lines on the outside edges. Most people head for the security lines right in the middle in their line of sight, so the outsides lines are normally much shorter.
- Listen to Cast Members. During busy times, there is a cast member directing people where to go. They’ll direct you to the shortest lines so follow their advice!
Security is a necessary part of going to Disneyland. It can be a bit annoying when all you want to do is get into Disneyland and ride your favourite ride, but it is there to keep everybody safe.
Some of the items on the list may surprise you – we got caught out with a selfie-stick in our camera bag that we forgot about. Simon had to drop it back at the hotel. You can find the list of prohibited items for Disney parks.
Add an extra 15 minutes to your morning to allow time to get through security.
It probably won’t take that long, but it is better to have a few extra minutes to spare rather than be running late because you didn’t budget enough time to get through security.
Check out our Disneyland packing list for all the essentials you don’t want to forget!
6. Research Food Ahead of Time
There is no shortage of mouthwatering food at Disneyland, and if you’re anything like me, you’ll want to try it all.
But you can’t. There are way too many food choices at Disneyland for you to try them all out in one trip.
Believe me. I tried. I made myself sick the first time I went to Disneyland because I tried to eat too much food one day.
This is one of the most important Disneyland tips on this list because it is so easy to go overboard, eat too much, and not enjoy your Disney vacation because you have a stomach ache.
So learn from my mistakes and figure out what food you need to try at Disneyland before you go.
Figure out what table service restaurants you want to eat at (and make reservations in advance), what snacks you need to try, and what quick-service restaurants you want to stop in at.
If you love ice cream, research the best Disneyland ice cream and decide what you want to try and what you can miss out on.
Go through all the menus on the Disneyland website and make a dinner reservation at the restaurant that makes your mouth water the most.
Your Disneyland vacation will be so much more enjoyable if you know where you want to eat in advance. This includes where you might want to dine outside of Disneyland too.
You’ll be guaranteed to have a delicious meal you love and avoid anywhere that doesn’t suit your palate.
If you are wanting to save money by bringing your own food, it helps to know what food you can bring to Disneyland before you arrive.
Want to make your favourite Disney recipes at home? Check out these yummy Disney copycat recipes!
7. Take Advantage of Mobile Order
Mobile order is a new(ish) addition to Disneyland, but it is a game changer!
Mobile order allows you to order your meal on your phone and pick up your food at a dedicated window.
It is only available at certain quick service restaurants in Disneyland and Disney California Adventure, but more and more restaurants are being added on a regular basis.
Mobile order makes grabbing a quick lunch or snack so much easier!
You can save a lot of time by not standing in line for food. Especially during the busy lunch rush! Those lines can get ridiculously long, and you’re wasting valuable time by standing in them!
The mobile order system has all the food on the regular menu, and there are sometimes secret menu items that you can only get by using mobile order! You can even make modifications to your meal through mobile order.
Not a lot of people are using mobile order yet, and it is one of the best time-saving Disneyland tips out there!
It feels so amazing to walk past a super long line up to the mobile order pick-up window and grab your food.
You do need to show the cast member giving you your food your mobile order on your phone so be sure to have your phone on you!
8. Have a Plan (But Be Flexible)
Disneyland is always an exhausting vacation, and it is easy to get overwhelmed by everything there is to do.
One of the best Disneyland tips I can give you is to have a plan of what you want to see and do each day you’re at Disneyland. Especially if you are visiting Disneyland with toddlers or young children.
This will help you plan your time in Disneyland and not miss anything on your must-do list.
You will deviate from your plan, and that is okay! Be sure to build in a little flexibility in your plan.
Factor in meeting the character you see roaming around Fantasyland, snagging a Fastpass for your favourite ride at the last minute, and wanting to watch the parade for a second time because you loved it so much.
You need a plan, but you also need to go in with the mindset that your plan is going to change and be able to roll with the punches.
Nobody likes the person who is timing everything to the minute and is so structured that they won’t do anything that isn’t written on the schedule.
Plus if you are visiting a theme park with kids, flexibility is essential!
9. Set a Souvenir Budget
This is one of those Disneyland tips I wish I knew years ago when I visited Disneyland for the first time! It would have saved me a lot of money!
It is no secret that Disneyland merchandise is expensive (some would say overpriced) and that they make the cutest souvenirs that are impossible to say no to!
So it is no surprise that most people end up spending a lot more money than they intended to on souvenirs and have to figure out how to pay for it when they get home from their vacation.
You don’t want to be fall into that Disney tourist trap situation!
Before you walk into a Disneyland Park, you should have a souvenir budget that you’re determined to stick to. Know your limit and don’t spend more than that.
That is often easier said than done though!
Here are some tips to help you stick to your Disneyland souvenir budget:
- Buy a Disney gift card. Once you spend the entire gift card, you’ve used up your entire souvenir budget.
- Shop around before you buy. Don’t buy the first cute thing you see in the first store you go into. You may regret it later.
- Browse shopDisney. Sometimes Disney has merchandise items on sale online that isn’t on sale in the parks. Be sure to check the Disney website before you make your purchase to ensure you’re getting the best price. But beware: Disney charges a ridiculous amount for international shipping!
10. Don’t Forget About Downtown Disney
Downtown Disney is often overlooked because people are too busy trying to see and do everything in the parks. But that is a mistake!
Downtown Disney has so much to offer, and you should plan to spend at least an hour (and hopefully longer) exploring the area.
The area has really cool shops, great restaurants, and often has live entertainment in the evenings and on weekends. There is even a bowling alley!
It is the perfect place to get away from the crowded parks and breathe a little bit.
I highly recommend you visit Wonderground Gallery for some adorable artwork, Salt & Straw for some delicious ice cream, and Earl of Sandwich for a quick, inexpensive meal.
No matter what your interests are, you’ll be sure to find a store, restaurant, or kiosk that suits your interests.
Downtown Disney is one of the most relaxing and fun places on Disney property, and you need to add it to your Disneyland itinerary!
Disneyland is one of the best vacations you can take, and you’ll be able to make the most out of your visit by following the Disneyland tips in this post!
You now know all the insider tips and tricks to plan and execute the best Disneyland vacation possible! You’re officially a Disney pro now.
So plan your next Disneyland vacation and have the most magical trip! Save time by using mobile order, have a flexible plan, use Genie+ to save time and all your Photopass pictures, and meet your favourite Disneyland characters in their secret locations.
But most importantly, have fun and say hi to Mickey for me!
If you are planning a Disney trip reveal surprise, check out these fun ways to share the news with your kids or family.
Check out our first visit guide for more first time Disneyland planning.
Author bio – Erica is an avid solo traveller who has been to over 40 countries. She loves spending long periods of time in each country to get a sense of the country and culture. Erica’s favourite travel activities include attending local theatre and dance performances, wandering through museums, eating way too much food, and riding every rollercoaster she comes across.