Disneyland Vacation Planning

What’s Your Primary Vacation Objective?

As you begin your Disney vacation planning, think about your primary goals. If your main vacation objective is to fully experience the Disney Resort, with less interest in the rest of Southern California, that simplifies things. You can choose not to rent a car if you’re flying in (or taking AMTRAK) and don’t need to move around O.C., L.A or San Diego too much. (You could still use public transportation or cab to get down to the beach or over to Knott’s Berry Farm to break things up.)

New Orleans Alley, Disneyland

By the way, a recent poll reported by TripAdvisor.com indicated that 70% of vacationers stayed at the Disneyland Resort vacation 1, 2 or 3 days; with the balance staying 4 days or longer. Keep that in mind as you continue your Disneyland vacation planning.

Unless you’re a real devotee (like really crazy about the place), you’ll want to program in other SoCal destinations if you’re staying more than 3-4 days. I’d say anything over 2 days and it’s worth taking at least a short break, even if it’s a few hours shopping or laying out by the pool.

If the trip is a long weekend and you or your family has not spent much time here in the last several years, then plan on spending most of it at the Resort; you’ll be frustrated trying to fit too much else into a 3-day trip. If you’ve been here lately and feel that a day or two is plenty to “catch up” then decide where else you’d like to spend some time — Knott’s, beaches, Hollywood/Universal Studios or a day trip south to San Diego.

A 2- or 3-day Disney oriented trip would be spent between the Magic Kingdom and California Adventure, probably 65/35 as a split of your time. Get a multi-day Park Hopper pass to allow you to go between parks (Disneyland in the morning first thing {the earlier the better as we discuss elsewhere} when the lines should be shorter, then over to Disney’s California Adventure in the afternoon where the crowds tend to be lighter).

And of course you’ll want to be ready to utilize the great FASTPASS system to its fullest (check here to get smart on FASTPASS). Make sure you’re in Disneyland at night to catch the killer fireworks show at around 9:25 pm, as well as the parades and the high-tech Fantasmic multimedia and multi-Disney-bad-guy show (Mickey vanquishing dragons, etc).

A 3-4 day trip could include most of the first two days between the parks. If you’ve been to the parks before fairly recently, then you could see them both over a 1-2 day period, with time in Downtown Disney as well. In that case, you’d be able to program a day or two into your Disney vacation planning for other destinations in that relatively short time period.

However, if you are a true fan, and want to savor each and every attraction, ride and show, you could shoot every bit of 3 days.

But if this is a major family trip to the Mouse House, you don’t want to cut it too short. You could spend the first couple of days in the Resort, and then add half-day or full-day visits elsewhere. Drive time up to destinations in L.A. or San Diego should be factored into your thinking if you have a limited window in your Disney schedule.

If you’re here for a week, you’ve got some real opportunities to get around. First, you probably want to consider a 3-day Park Hopper pass. With so much to do around here, an allowance of 2 days in Disneyland and a day in Disney’s California Adventure, mixed up by hopping back and forth as you desire, is a pretty good dose of the mouse. Some will enjoy a 4th day.

Actually, Disney’s California Adventure has a much lower mouse-influence and is actually skewing towards the Pixar characters (like Toy Story Midway Mania and the future town built after the desert community in the movie Cars). The Disney hotels and some of the non-Disney hotels are destination resorts in their own right and can break up a day in the parks, as can nearby shopping.

Right now you may be undecided about just how much time you need in the Resort. Check out the recommended web sites, as they provide an incredible amount of detail, including photos, videos, maps, summaries and guest reviews (always beware of guest reviews as they can be exaggerated good or bad, for a variety of reasons). Those features will be very helpful in your Disneyland Resort vacation planning.

Again, for first-timers, figure 2-3 days (net of side trips) in the parks and Downtown Disney, with a possible 4th day for real fans or folks who need to move more slowly—but if they need to move more slowly they aren’t likely to have the stamina for more than a couple of long days.

If you’ve been here recently then 2 days should be plenty; one day is pretty short to hit both parks. Locals do that all the time but we can live with bypassing certain rides or parades if they don’t fit into the one-day rush.