From the title of this blog post, you must be thinking ‘how hard can it be to survive Disneyland? It’s supposed to be the happiest place on Earth’. And you’re right, it is the happiest place on Earth.. but it can also be the most stressful place if you’re an amateur.
I’ve been fortunate enough to go to Disney regularly since I was four years old, so I consider myself to be quite an expert in this area and I thought I’d share the tips I swear by for making the most out of my holidays to Disneyland and Disneyworld.
1. Plan your strategy for tackling all the parks:
This is pretty easy if you’re at Disneyworld in Florida as, if you’re like me, you go for two weeks so you have plenty of time to spend in each park. But if you go to Disneyland – Paris or Anaheim, there’s two parks and the average stay is normally one or two days so that’s a lot of rides to get through in such little time. If you’ve never been before, do your research on what rides you want to go on via the Disney websites and allocate your time accordingly. If I spend two days in Disneyland, I use the first day in Disneyland and maybe just go on a few rides in the Studios before closing and then spend the second day’s morning in the Studios and then the rest of the second day in Disneyland.
2. Plan what your priorities are:
Depending on how long you have at the parks, you might not be able to go on every ride, meet every character, dine at every restaurant, see every show and shop in every store. You need to work out a list of what you want to do in what order they are important to you. Personally, my priority are the rides. I usually spend the day of arrival at Disneyland Paris in the stores at the Disney Village as you don’t need a ticket to get into them and it’s a great excuse to spend some cash, getting even more excited with the Disney magic. That way I don’t have to waste time in the parks going to every single shop. Disneyland Paris doesn’t really have too many shows (thankfully) so I don’t stress about not seeing the shows, but Walt Disney World, on the other hand, has billions so it’s always good to see what’s on, when it’s on and where it’s on and plan accordingly. I find that the shows at Disneyworld are great to have in between rides to give your legs a rest from the queues and give your skin a rest from the sun. It just gives you a chance to recharge your batteries with some good quality Disney entertainment. If you want to dine at any of Disney’s restaurants too, it’s best to book well in advance as I know the best restaurants get booked up so quickly and there’s nothing worse than turning up on the day to find out there’s no space.
3. Plan your rides:
I’ve been going to Disney with my family for seventeen years now so we’ve developed our own little traditions when in the parks. Every visit we start our first day with ‘It’s A Small World’ and every visit we end our final day with ‘It’s A Small World’. Then in between, we plan what rides we want to go on. Disneyland Anaheim has 83 attractions, Disneyland Resort Paris has 53 attractions and Walt Disney World Florida has a whopping 144 attraction, so you can see that planning what rides you wanna do is essential.
There’s those rides you dream about going on from your last visit until you’re back there again. Rock n Rollercoaster. Tower of Terror. Space Mountain. Splash Mountain. Thunder Mountain. There’s those rides you have to go on because it’s Disney. Snow White. Peter Pan. Winnie the Pooh. Pirates of the Caribbean. Then there’s those annoying rides that you have to go on because.. well.. again, it’s Disney. Carousel of Progress, I’m looking right at you. It’s a great big beautiful tomorrow. (If you haven’t had the pleasure of this ride, watch it on YouTube because your life will never be the same!)
Disney inevitably has to close some rides for refurbishment and improvements all year round so it’s also worth checking the parks’ websites to check what rides are closed and when so you don’t get disappointed when you get there.
4. Get your FastTrack Passes:
It’s a given: the FastTrack passes for the more popular rides ‘sell’ out first. I know I’ve gone to get FastTrack passes for ‘Tower of Terror’ at 11am before and they’ve only had passes available for 7pm that night. So get your FastTrack passes for the popular rides as early as possible. The only downside to the passes are that you can only get one pass per ticket and are limited to how many rides you can get passes for – one pass every two hours if I remember rightly.
5. Do the parks back to front:
As soon as the gates open, everyone seems to run to the rides at the front of the park. This is where I decide to rebel and head to the back of the park. Once you leave the crowds near Main Street USA, you’ll realise that the queues for the rides right at the back of the park are next to nothing. I’ve managed to go on all the rides in Fantasyland within an hour before using this tip. And it means that by the time you’re ready to do the front of the parks’ rides, the back of the park will generally be the busiest. Plus, you don’t have that dreaded long walk back to the exit at the end of the day, battling with the crowds. It’s a win-win situation.
6. Pack your bag with lots of preparation:
Packing the essentials will save you so much time and money in the parks. Disney can be so unpredictable. You might have the comfiest shoes going yet still end up with a blister. You might be soaking up the sunshine with your SPF 50 in Florida and then the heavens open. You might be drinking all the fluids in the world yet still end up with a banging headache. Preparing your bag is a must. Follow my last blog post ‘What’s In My Bag (Disney Edition)’ for tips on what to take with you to the parks!
7. Don’t follow the crowd:
This is pretty much similar to tip number five but don’t follow the crowd, unless it’s in the case of an emergency (obviously). I guess it’s just using common sense. Crowds = lots of people = long queues. If everyone seems to be heading into Frontierland, head into Adventureland. If there’s a huge following going towards Space Mountain, go onto Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin.
8. Don’t over do it:
It’s hard when you’re at Disney to lose track of time. But it’s important not to do too much as nothing ruins the Disney magic but hurting legs and tiredness can certainly put a dampener on your day. Obviously if you’re only at Disney for one day, you have no option but doing it all in one day but if you’re lucky to have a few days there, spread it out and make sure you have time for a midday retreat to the hotel.
I first went to Disneyworld aged five and my brothers had only just turned four so we were still at that age where midday naps were a critical part of our daily routine to keep our parents sanity (or what was left of it) intact. And being at Disney didn’t change this. We’d go to the parks every morning after breakfast, arriving around 9am, do a few rides and grab a bit of lunch and then we’d head back to the hotel. Naps were pretty much impossible when we were there with 15 other cousins – all around our age or a little bit older – so our naps were replaced with diving into the swimming pool or running about the hotel complex, getting buckets of ice from the complimentary ice machine and chucking them at our sunbathing parents, uncles and auntys from the balcony. But having a break from the madness of the parks did us a world of good. We’d then head back to the parks after a little snooze and some dinner for the nighttime fireworks.
Even now, aged twenty one, I get to the parks for about 10am (I use that extra hour getting ready as five year old me didn’t need make up) and spend a few hours going on all the rides. Then I’ll head back to the hotel for a nap, swim and a shower at about 3ish. Once ready, I’ll head back to the park for 5pm and stay at the park until closing. Even if I’ve had a nap, I still leave the park absolutely shattered. It’s only until you’ve been an adult at Disney do you see the need for adult strollers.
9. Use the single rider lane:
The single rider lane is the best way to get on the best attractions without waiting forever and without battling in FastTrack hunger games. Although it means you don’t necessarily end up sitting with members of your party or have to sacrifice being sat on the front carriage of the rollercoaster, it does mean that what could be an hour plus wait for Expedition Everest turns into a queue just over ten minutes. Let’s face it, it’s such a small price to pay at the end of the day..
10. Avoid parades:
Disney parades are amazing but, unless you’re only there for the parades, once is enough. Screaming kids. Agitated parents. Stressed marshals. Path closures. Close proximity to sweaty people. It’s enough to turn anyone’s stomach. Every Disney fanatic knows that parade time actually means ‘how many times can you go on Space Mountain in a row without throwing up?’.
So these are my top ten tips for surviving Disney. What are your top tips for surviving the Disney parks, or any theme park for that matter?