Disneyland California – Top Tips and What’s Worth Skipping

In May we visited Disneyland, California and had a magical time. It was the first time for my daughter and me, and it had been about 30 years since my wife last went, so we didn’t really know what to expect. To skip the usual preamble, here are our Disneyland Tips:

  1. Get the Genie Plus app. It’s about $20 per day extra for your park tickets but gives you the ability to skip the long queues by scheduling your rides. It also gives you free photos from the official Disneyland photographers. (app download page)
  2. Reserve the Princess Breakfast – tickets go fast so plan ahead. This 3-course meal gives you and your kids the opportunity to have a one-on-one experience with most of the Disney Princesses. The photo-ops rotate throughout the meal so you can come back to the table for more treats and then have a chat with someone new. It’s held in the dining room at the Grand Californian Hotel & Spa and we met Tiana, Mulan, Belle, Ariel, and Cinderella. (book your experience)
  3. Prepare for endless sun! We experienced 33.c (91.f) heat and blue skies. While that sounds lovely, when you’re walking around all day it can feel a little much. There aren’t too many shady spots and some of the line-ups are in direct sunlight so bring a big hat, plenty of water (or a reusable water bottle for the FREE fill-up stations) and some handheld fans.
  4. Bring a stroller. – My daughter is 6 so traditionally a little old for being pushed around in a stroller. However, I knew there was no way she’d go more than 10 minutes before asking to ride on my shoulders. So we got a $50 stroller from Walmart and used it the entire time. She even napped in it! Grab one with a sunshade if possible. It’ll help keep the sun off.
  5. Pack bandaids – shoes can start to rub and nobody wants to limp around Disneyland.
  6. PRO TIP – If your thighs tend to rub together in the heat, apply some BodyGlide or similar anti-chafing stick before you start your day.
  7. Bring a backpack or ‘fanny pack’/bum bag – It’s best to have everything in one place and the fewer things you bring, the better! Having a small bag around your waist will make getting on and off the rides easier.
  8. Order your food ahead of time – through the Genie+ app you can find a restaurant or snack stop and book the food for pickup. The line for the Tiki Bar which sells the delicious Dole Whip (pineapple sorbet/soft serve) had an hour queue, but we booked it, walked up, and left with ours without hanging around.

What’s Worth Skipping at Disneyland

  1. The food – most of the food is pretty ‘meh’. It’s fast, it’s food. That’s it. There are a couple of highlights like the Dole Whip and the Lemon soft serve at the Abominable Snowman on the Pixar Pier, but the rest is convenience over quality. You’re allowed to bring your own snacks into the park, so pack something tasty and save your money for a souvenir.
  2. Some of the rides – lining for some things is worth it, but it seems like the rides based on slightly less popular movies are a bit less thrilling and have just been re-designed with new characters on them. The Inside Out ride (you get in, go around in a circle a couple of times and get off – maybe 60 seconds long) wasn’t worth the hour wait. Give it a miss.
  3. The fairground games, which are near the giant Ferris wheel. They’re $5 per turn and if you win, the prizes are worth about $1, if that. They look kinda fun but are a quick way to lose some spending money.
  4. The Dessert Party at the Water show. The show itself is great but the plate of cheese, packaged soup crackers, and cookies aren’t worth it. It’s nice to be able to sit down to watch the show but if there are two water displays in the evening, go to the second one for a better view. 90% of people seem to go to the first one and then head out of the park. If you can stay for the later one, there is plenty of room along the water’s edge so you’ll see everything without getting stuck in a crowd.
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