How to Plan a Magical Day at “The Happiest Place on Earth!”

Your guide to planning a magical itinerary for your Disneyland vacation.

Designed by JW

Know Before You Go!

Before you schedule flights and hotels, you will want to check to make sure those dates are available for reservation. Yes, you need to make a reservation to enter the park since reopening after the covid shutdown. You will be prompted to make your reservation when you purchase your tickets if you do so through their website. If you purchased your tickets elsewhere, you will still need to go to their website to make your park reservation. You will be able to add Genie+ and photo pass options to your tickets through their website as well.

Now that your tickets are purchased and your park reservations scheduled, you’ll want to check out the Disneyland app! It will provide a lot of useful resources, especially if you decide to upgrade your tickets to include Genie+ or Photo Pass. One aspect of the app that I found very useful, and took full advantage of, was the ability to make reservations at restaurants inside the parks. As you get closer to your trip you will be able to prebook some things, like reservations at a few of the more popular full-service restaurants.

Once you are in the park, you will have access to park maps, ride photos, photo pass photos, all restaurants, eateries, and lighting lane selections (photo pass and Genie+ are features you will have to pay for ahead of time, other purchases can be made inside the app). I highly suggest you explore the app ahead of time and all it has to offer.

Once Upon Arrival

Do yourself a favor and get to the park about 30-45 minutes before the rope drops and the gates open. They begin letting people on to Mainstreet earlier than “the rope drops” for the rest of the park. A good thing to note is that not all the rides open when the park opens. You will be able to figure out what time each ride opens in the Disneyland app. Make note of the rides you won’t want to miss so you’ll always have an idea of what to do next. Some of my favorites include Space Mountain, The Matterhorn, Indiana Jones, The Runaway Railroad, Splash Mountain, Pirates of the Caribbean, and The Haunted Mansion.

If rides are your priority and enjoy rollercoasters, as soon as the gates open I suggest heading straight to Space Mountain in Tomorrowland! Space Mountain is one of the fastest rollercoasters at Disneyland and ALWAYS has a line wait of an hour or more, it will reach a 45-minute wait before 10 AM. If you did what I suggested and arrive at the park before the rope drops and the gates open you might even have time to ride it twice before you retire it for the day.

If you are with the kiddos, you may want to start in Fantasyland. There are a lot of short rides in close proximity to each other which will give you a chance to check a few, or more, off your list early. Fantasyland gets busy later in the day, so getting this part done early is highly suggested either way.

Character Meet & Greets, Yes or No? 

If you are going with children, I would strongly suggest as many Character Meet & Greets as possible. When you enter the park, be sure and pick up an autograph book at one of the gift stores, they are even sold at most of the souvenir kiosks around the park, so the little ones can collect signatures! As an adult, it is still fun to meet characters, but if the lines are long, skip it unless they are your favorite!

I enjoyed meeting Merda from Brave and Ariel from The Little Mermaid during my last trip! Not to mention characters make for fun photos, and if you have the photo pass someone will be there to take those for you, and they’ll be delivered right to the app ready for you to download.

Special Attractions, Shows & Fireworks

A few other things you will want to take note of are attractions and showtimes you might want to check out. You’ll want to add these to your itinerary if that’s your thing. At the bottom of this post is a sample itinerary you can edit to fit your preferences.

Throughout the day, keep an eye out for where you might want to post up and watch the fireworks! Some views are better than others. One great option is to make a reservation at one of the restaurants with a view of the castle from their windows or patio. Just remember space in front of the castle fills up quickly, so get there early or make your dinner reservation in advance, if you want a good spot to watch!

Happily Ever After

Before leaving the park, or sometime during your day, be sure to pick up a little something from the souvenir shop. I know what you are going to say, “isn’t that crap overpriced?” Well, in my opinion, things are always a little pricy when you are buying the “real thing.” Even if it’s simply a magnet that will go on your fridge, it will bring you happy memories when you see it, so as Donna Meagle would say, “treat yo’ self!”

A good thing to note is that the restaurants stay open even while the park is “closing.” So, if you want to grab a bite to eat on the way out to avoid some of the foot traffic it wouldn’t be a bad idea.

Now that you have a good idea of how to plan your trip efficiently, get to planning. Don’t sweat the small stuff and remember, you are on VACATION so make the most of it. Most importantly, have fun!

Schedule your Disney trip today!

Don’t Know What to Bring to the Park?

Check out “The Ultimate Packing List for a Magical Day at Disneyland,” equipt with a list of items you’ll want to bring to the park.

This post includes affiliate links, and as an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases at no cost to you. I always do my best to include only quality items that I, myself, have or would invest in. Each Item I have chosen has at least 4 stars and quality reviews.

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