I have been to Disneyland many times as an adult since 2010 and wanted to write this first post with some tips and tricks that I have picked up over the years. While some of these apply to those travelling with children, the majority are for adults visiting the parks.
I cannot stress more highly that if you’re able to, avoid flying into LAX (Los Angelas International Airport). Fly into SNA (John Wayne Airport in Santa Ana). It is much smaller, calmer and closer to Disneyland.
However, due to the size of the airport and when you want to arrive/depart you might have to land in LAX. I recommend, given that they are under major construction, to give yourself some extra time to get around.
I have almost exclusively used Super Shuttle when traveling to Disneyland from either LAX or SNA. From LAX the ride is $17 and from SNA the ridie is $14. In all of my trips I’ve never waited more than 10-15 minutes for a van to arrive. My rides back to the airport are also with Supershuttle, which sends you a convient text with their estimated arrival time.
There are other options like the ride sharing services (Uber, Lyft, etc), taxies and such, but, the cost and convenience of just using the Super Shuttle van option trumps them all for me. You can either book your Shuttle pass ahead of time or pay the drive upon drop off.
If you are staying at a Disney hotel you can arrange for a shuttle ride from the airport. This, I believe, costs $25 for the one way trip. I have found, however, you can sometimes wait longer, it costs more. Even at Disney hotels I have opted for Super Shuttle instead.
If you are not staying at one of the Disneyland hotels then I recommend staying as close to the main entrance as possible. If you are looking to be more budget concious than the three Disney hotels, I recommend choosing one in this particular area:
Here you will minimize your walking to and from the park. One of the best things that I started doing in my trips is not spending ALL day at the park and taking some time to relax in the afternoon. The closer your hotel is the better for that.
The Grand Californian
This was the first Disney hotel that I stayed at and I admit it has really spoiled me for the rest. While it is the most expensive of the three it has some significant advantages as well. The first is the proximity to California Adventure which it shares a private entrance that guests of the hotel can use for magic mornings and on other days an early thirty minute entrance to California Adventure.
Cost per night for a basic room (changes seasonally): $379
Expensive, but worth every single penny. It has the most “all encompassing” feel to it that you get in the reports at Disneyworld in Orlando. One of my favourite things about Disneyworld is that you’re completely wrapped in Disney the entire trip. This is difficult to do at Disneyland due to the nature of the hotels or staying off property. With the Disneyland hotel, it has a very Disney feel to it and you walk directly out of the hotel and into Downtown Disney.
Cost per night for a basic room (changes seasonally): $329
While some people might consider this to be the “budget” Disney hotel, it cannot be considered as such. You are still looking, depending upon the time of year, a minimum cost of $259 a night for the most basic room. Given the cost I would recommend jumping up to the Disneyland hotel.
The Good Neighbour Hotel Option
The real budget consideration when booking a hotel is to go the Good Neighbour option. These are number of third party hotels which you can book through Disney Travel that have of the perks you will find at the primary Disney hotels. These include a magic morning, free lanyard and pin along with a book of coupons.
One of the great things about to food at Disneyland is that you can eat as well, or as horribly as you choose to. I choose to indulge while on vacation so the healthy options will not be discussed here.
A tradition of mine was to have a bacon and egg croissant at the Pacific Wharf Cafe near Paradise Pier in California Adventure. However, when I visited last year in October I found they were no longer offering breakfast. So, if you are looking for breakfast within California Adventure my new favourites are at Flo’s V8 Cafe in Cars Land.
As for Disneyland I recommend taking a wander over to the Tommorowland Terrace which is currently the Season of the Force mode. As a result they offer Star Wars themed breakfasts like the one below, Bantha Blue French Toast.
As for dinner I recommend at California Adventure to visit the Cocina Cucamonga Mexican Grill, located near Paradise Pier. Simple, consistent and always enjoyable food.
If you are looking for alcohol, you will only find it (unless your lucky enough to get into Club 33) in California Adventure.
My final dining recommendation is actually outside and not Disney related. I discovered it on my first trip in 2010 and it is Bubba Gump. You’ll find it in the Anaheim Garden Walk, a short distance from the main gate of Disneyland. There has not been a single trip that I’ve missed a visit.
When it comes to getting a park hopper pass (which allows you visit both parks) it has never been an choice for me. I do not consider California Adventure “another park”, it has always been “more Disneyland”.
Getting to the park early has many benefits with Disneyland. It tends not to get really busy until around 10:30-12. This is the time which I call the “rush” where the lines outside the gates will seem ridiculously long. My assumption around this time most families have woken up, eaten breakfast and gotten ready.
One of my primary loves is taking photographs at Disneyland and getting there during Magic Morning will provide opportunities you just wont get once the park officially opens.
If you have it, be sure to make full use of a Magic Morning (this allows you into the park 1 hour prior to opening) which grants access to Fantasyland and Tommorowland. Frontier land and Adventureland do not open during magic morning.
One of the major highlights of California Adventure is Cars Land and especially the Racers ride. It can be extremely busy with very, very long lines but there are a few tricks. The first is to make use of the single rider line. Unless you are specifically looking to get a group photo this should always be your ride option. So, grab a fast pass for the group photo and take a spin through the single rider line and save time.
Disneyland is what you make of it. Is it a place to find some amazing thrill rides? Is it a place to find some great shows, fireworks and parades? Do you like to visit the characters, or browse the merchandise? It can really be anything you want it to be.
My biggest piece of advice is to not rush. See what you can in your visit but do not try to see it all in a single visit. I know that I’ll be back so what I don’t see one time I’ll see during another.