The Parks

8 Tips for Planning a Trip to the Disneyland Resort in California

There’s no place like it on earth. There are numerous Disney properties that have been erected since its opening, but there is only one place where Walt himself actually visited. While it sister properties offer nothing less than expected for guest of their resorts, they are not where it all started. In the beginning there was only one — a single “Happiest Place On Earth”. She may have to share that distinction today but until the end of time this fact will hold true; there is only one original. Duplicated but never replaced is the one park where all of our fantasies began. Welcome to the Disneyland Resort!

In the world of American Disnerds (that’s short for Disney nerds) you have three types of people; those who are loyal to Walt Disney World Resort in Florida, the ones who are fanatic over Disneyland Resort and the rest of us — who love them both (and every other Disney park) equally. Personally speaking, I find it hard to believe anyone who can pick one park over another to be a true Disney lover. If you haven’t yet been able to make the trip to Disneyland, well here a few tricks to keep in mind when you decide to go.

8. Fly Into John Wayne Airport Code SNA

Visitors to Southern California often make the mistake of thinking they have to fly into Los Angeles International Airport (LAX). Disneyland is located in the city of Anaheim, not Los Angeles although it is considered part of the greater Los Angeles metropolis. LAX is a 40 minute drive from Anaheim without traffic. Here’s a fun fact: there is no such thing as without traffic in L.A. In fact, LA traffic is notorious. So that 40 minute drive can turn your vacation into a stressful start with an hour and half to sometimes 2 hour commute. Depending on your departure point, you may have a much better option. John Wayne Airport located in Santa Ana is a short 15 minute drive from the Disneyland resort. The airport itself is much smaller and thus has a lot less traffic in the surrounding area making arrival and departure a breeze. It offers the same services as any other airport, but with less hassle and wait times for baggage and car rentals. Several major airlines fly into John Wayne, so its definitely worth researching. Trust me, you’ll be glad you did.

7. Use ART

Anaheim Resort Transit or ART offers transportation around the area and to the Disneyland Resort. All Lines start and end at The Happiest Place on Earth. ART isn’t owned or operated by Disney, but it’s the hands down best way to get around town and to and from the parks. If you book a vacation package with Disney, I highly recommend you include ART passes with your purchase. The current price point is $30 per pass, but that covers unlimited transportation for your entire stay. If you prefer, you can purchase the tickets daily or for a group of days from an ART kiosk, The Anaheim Convention Center or by downloading the app. ART does not accept cash on boarding; the only way to ride is by purchasing a transit pass in advance.

6. Skip The Rental

This bit of advice is on the assumption you are not doing other stuff outside of your Disneyland vacation and that your vacation consist of Disneyland and nothing else; which is totally doable and realistic. It’s also only geared towards those that use the tip given in #8. From John Wayne Airport, there really is no need to rent a car only to have it parked for a week while you use ART or walk to and from the parks. A much better and frugal option is to utilize one of the shuttle services to transport you to your hotel. Privately owned shuttle vans and buses are a very popular and quiet convenient mode of transportation. The best part is that most (if not all) are 24/7 on-call and offer door to door service. At John Wayne, the Ground Transportation Center is on the Arrival level; look for shuttle transportation coordinators who can assist you with your transfers.

5. Minus Character Dining Option

Let’s be honest: a trip to Disneyland isn’t exactly what you’d call an inexpensive vacation. Chances are you’ve already spent a few thousand between the resort, tickets and hotel. The kids will want souvenirs, mom and dad will want at least one bit of memorabilia.. there’s a lot of money being spent — and we haven’t eaten a thing! There isn’t much that can dumb down the magic of Disney, but a hungry tummy will have you grumpier than an unhappy dwarf. Sure enough there are plenty of options for dining and Disneyland has options for Character dining interactions too. However, it comes at a premium and the interaction isn’t much more than you would get if you stood in line to meet the characters in the park. Your vacation package allows you to add on Character dining that would give each member of your party a single voucher for a single meal at one of the Character restaurants — keep those dollars in your pocket and skip over the Character dining. Take your little ones to meet their beloved favorites while inside the park and find a meal at a more feasible and possibly less congested venue.

4. Stay in The Disneyland Hotel

Nothing says “Stay In the Middle of the Magic” like a reservation at the very first Disney owned and operated resort. Just steps away from the Downtown Disney District, Disneyland Hotel evokes the spirit and wonder of past and present. Made up of three towers appropriately named Frontier, Adventure and Fantasy which each pay homage to the parks opening days. Disneyland Hotel has seen its turn of decades but is far from outdated. Whimsical yet sophisticated rooms blend with upscale amenities and clever designs giving the resort a sleek and ultra-modern feel. There are several wet options too! Two pools, a set of monorail waterslides and pair of Mickey and Minnie whirlpools offer a great way to cool off and relax in the California sun. If you prefer to lay out and work on that tan, relax and dream the day away in a plush chaise lounge. You can even reserve a private poolside cabana for an extra fee.

3. Stay in a Good Neighbor Hotel

The Disneyland Resort offers two other Disney owned and operated properties in addition to Disneyland Hotel. Disney’s Paradise Pier and Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa both are wonderful options for staying within walking distance of the parks. Of course, given that there are only three Disney resorts, there’s always a chance your preferred selection is booked up when you want to visit — or you’d like a less expensive option for accommodations. Disney has partnered with locally owned and operated resorts called “Good Neighbor Hotels” that meet the standard and are “Disney approved quality hotels” close to the resort. These hotels are categorized as Economy, Moderate, Suites or Superior and offer guest the ability to book and reserve rooms online or with the Walt Disney Travel Company to create a vacation package. This is a unique feature that Walt Disney World does not offer. Although WDW does have “official Walt Disney World” hotels; those properties not owned and operated by Disney are not eligible for vacation packages. Offering guest of Disneyland Resort discounted rates, Good Neighbor Hotels are a fantastic way to still enjoy a Disneyland Resort vacation package with the option of not having to pay top tier Disneyland resort prices.

2. Don’t Park Hop

I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again: Don’t Park Hop. Disneyland Park and California Adventure are not “half-day” parks. To the contrary they each have more than enough magic worth spending an entire day, especially if you are traveling with smaller children. I get the allure and temptation of park hopping — and I can admit that for a small demographic it may even be thrilling, but it requires you to move at a much faster pace to take advantage of its perks. Rather than rush your day from one park to the next, I recommend you purchase a base ticket that will allow you access to a single park each day. Take your time and enjoy all that park has to offer. There is so much, you may not even get through it all in a single day. In this case, just add an extra day or two that will allow you to return and pick up from where you left off. Park hopping is fine if you don’t mind moving at the speed of the White Rabbit, but if your feeling more like Crush and prefer to just go with the flow, then focus dude.. one park a day.

1. Purchase Tickets In Advance

This is another tip worth repeating. If you book a vacation package, then you’ve already got yourself at minimal a single day ticket. Still there will be those that opt to use timeshare or stay with family and friends — and there will be those that stay with hotels not affiliated with Disney in any way. To those that fall within one of these categories I implore you to purchase your tickets in advance. There are so many options to get Disneyland tickets at a discounted rate from the gate price its close to unimaginable why anyone would pay full fare. Buy them online direct from Disney, your travel agent or any authorized Disney travel resource. Save time during your vacation and get right to the fun when you arrive.

And in case you were wondering why I offered all of this wonderful advice, well, here’s why: Because I like you. See Ya Real Soon!

BONUS TIP: Consider planning and booking your next Disney trip with an Authorized Disney Vacation Planner you can trust like MickeyTravels. They’ll help you get the best Walt Disney World deal, share expert advice and their services are totally FREE! It’s genius!

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