20 Disneyland Tips and Tricks You Need to Know

If you LOVE Disneyland, then you've come to the right place. I'm very fortunate to live in San Diego, just under two hours from Disneyland Resort (DR) and Disneyland California Adventures (DCA). I feel like not a lot of people realize it but there's two separate parks - each requiring their own park ticket (or a park hopper to hop between both parks in one day). I personally prefer DR as it's way bigger, more rides, and constantly changing more often than DCA. As an annual passholder for several years now, I've picked up on subtle tips and tricks and thought I'd share with you to make the most of Disneyland.

*DISCLAIMER: This post is not sponsored or endorsed by Disneyland Parks and the following tips and tricks are from my own personal experiences.

(1) PARK at the Toy Story Lot - If you're driving to the parks, park at the Toy Story parking lot and AVOID the Disney and Friends parking structure if you can. The Toy Story lot is much smaller but that also means less people will be going there so it'll take you way less time from the moment you park your car to get to the park entrance. The wait to even get to the booth to pay for parking at the Disney and Friends structure alone already takes an average of 30 minutes. Less time dealing with parking means more time to spend in the parks. (Address: 300 W Katella Ave, Anaheim, CA 92802)

(2) Download the Disneyland App - It has everything you need to know from park map, ride times, restaurants, show time, much more! I mostly use it to figure out ride times to minimize wait time in lines.
       - IOS:

(3) Utilize the FASTPASS - Don't confuse FASTPASS with MaxPass. MaxPass is where you pay an additional $15/per day per ticket to get FASTPASS tickets on the mobile app instead of going to the rides' FASTPASS distribution booths. FASTPASSES are absolutely free and every ticket holder can use the FASTPASSES. Based on my own personal experience and numerous trips to Disneyland, I've figured out a strategy to effectively utilize the FASTPASSES so that you are able to ride all of the bigger attractions in one day at least once with the least amount of wait time. Most people would just fast pass rides randomly and later realize that the ride time is too late or the FASTPASS machines are closed.
       - Fantasmic! Fireworks Show (DR) / World of Color (DCA)
       - Space Mountain (DR) / Radiator Springs (DCA)
       - Indiana Jones (DR) / Guardians of the Galaxy (DCA)
       - Star Tours (DR) / Incredi-Coaster (DCA)
       - Splash Mountain (DR) / Toy Story Mania (DCA)
       - Matterhorn Bobsleds (DR) / Soarin' (DCA)
       - Haunted Mansion (DR) / Grizzly River Run (DCA)
       - Big Thunder Mountain Railroad (DR) / Goofy's Sky School (DCA)
       - Buzz Lightyear (DR)
               *Please note: FASTPASSES are connected between both parks, so if you have a 
                 FASTPASS from one park, the time that displays when the next FASTPASS will be 
                 available applies to both parks EXCEPT for Fantasmic! and World of Color. You can                           FASTPASS one immediately right after the other.

(4) Prices Vary Throughout the Parks - I've noticed that there are different prices for the same thing at various locations throughout the parks. It comes in handy to know where you can purchase something for less and save a few extra dollars (since Disneyland is already expensive in the first place). The people behind Disneyland knows all the marketing strategies so they will tend to put the food carts with the higher prices in more populated areas and near popular attractions. So if you scout out for the less visible and sort of hidden food carts, you're more likely be paying less for the same item elsewhere. As you can see below, they priced the same Dasani water for $4.25 at one location and $3.99 at another. So if you care about the few extra dollars, make sure to pay attention to the prices. 

(5) Closing Time in Not a Hard Deadline - The parks' stated time of closing is not hard set. If            you're still in line for any of the rides when it's time for the parks to close, they will usually hand the  last person in line a marker to let others know that no one after that person will be admitted and that they are the last person in the line for that ride. In addition, many of the stores in the parks will also still be open slightly after closing to allow guests to make last minute purchases and Downtown Disney also closes well after the parks are closed so you can hang out there for a bit if you're not ready to go to sleep quite yet. 

(6) Always Check Childrens' Sizes - Children's sizes are generally a little cheaper than adult 
sizes. Disney typically tries to have a children's version of most adult shirts so try looking at 
the children's section for your shirt and try on the largest size. I'm usually an extra small or 
small in women's Disney clothing but can also fit in Youth XXL or girls sizes 14-16. 

(7) You Can Pack and Bring Food - Disneyland is very expensive and the costs add up with          parking, food, park tickets, and souvenirs. You can save some money by bringing in your own            food. Disneyland allows you to bring in all sorts of food so if you don't mind carrying it      
around (or paying for a locker rental), pack your own lunch and dinner when you go.

(8) Embroidery - You can pretty much embroider most hats that you purchase at Disneyland. Just       ask before you buy if the hat you want can be embroidered. 

(9) Parades and Shows - If you are interested in watching the parades and/or shows, I            
recommend getting there about an hour early to get the best viewing spot. ALSO these are the            best times to ride the rides as most families with younger children will be lining up to watch,              which leaves means less people will be waiting in line for the rides.

(10) Skip the Dole Whip line - If you see a really long line for the Dole Whip, keep walking towards the front and go through the entrance towards the Tiki Enchanted Room as there's a back side that usually has a very short line (or even no line at all). 

(11) Mobile Ordering - A lot of the food options throughout the parks have mobile ordering so          you can order your food on the app as you're getting off a ride and once you get there, your  food will be ready :) Here's a list of all participating locations:

(12) Heads Up Game - You can download the Heads Up Game for free when you're in a   
Disneyland park with your GPS location on. If you're with a group of people waiting in line 
for rides, it's a great way to pass the time. It's originally .99 cents on the app store. 

(13) Annual Passes - If you want to purchase an annual pass, I definitely recommend buying a multi-day park ticket as you can you that ticket to upgrade to an annual pass and pay the difference. When you calculate the costs, multi-day park tickets ends up costing much less per day compared to if you were to buy just a one day park ticket. If you're a resident of Southern California, buy the So-Cal resident 3-day park hopper tickets and use those to upgrade to an  annual pass. I do this all the time and literally save more than $100 each time instead of just buying an annual pass on its own for the full price.

(14) Wait Out Broken Down Rides - I actually get really excited when I find out that a ride is 
temporarily closed as they will tell you that they don't know how long it'll take to get the ride up and
running but that's usually a lie. It usually takes them an average of 30 minutes to fix a ride so I definitely recommend to wait it out. They might tell you it's closed down indefinitely or to check out other attractions but trust me, wait it out and you'll be the first ones on the ride when they get it fixed. I have never waited more than 30 minutes from the moment a ride breaks down to when they get it fixed. Rides break down at Disneyland all the time and they already know the common reasons why they broke down in the first place so it  doesn't take them long to figure out which reason. 

(15) Don't Pay for Water - I think it's ridiculous to pay $4+ on a water bottle. They will always   
give you free cups of water if you ask nicely. Some places will have designated water cups and others will just fill up the cups that they usually use for soda with water for you so ask around different places to figure out where you can get the larger water cups. I also usually bring in a hydroflask and ask for ice water. Then I just pour the water in my hydroflask and it stays cold all day. 

(16) Balloons - If you have young children and buy them a Mickey Mouse balloon, did you know that if it deflates or pops during the same day you purchased the balloon that they will replace it for free? This definitely comes in handy if you have a young child that is crying if their balloon deflated or popped. Just bring back the damaged balloon to the person you bought it from and they will replace it for you. 

(17) Free Drinks - There's two dining options where you don't have to pay for drinks when you purchase food: Plaza Inn at DR and Boardwalk Pizza & Pasta at DCA. For both, you can get a free drink when you purchase something there as they have a self-serve soda fountain and other drink options such as coffee, tea, lemonade, iced tea, etc. They have free refills too so drink up!

(18) Animation Academy - A really cool hidden gem inside DCA is the animation academy. Every half hour is the opportunity to learn how to sketch some of your favorite Disney characters. I usually attend at least one Animation Academy when I'm there. The Animation Academy is sort of hidden and tucked away inside the Disney Animation Building in the middle of Hollywood Land. It's the building on your right right before the Hyperion theater where Frozen is. They have a schedule posted inside so you can plan ahead to see which Disney character you want to draw. 

(19) Magic Morning Early Admission - If you have a 3+ day park ticket, you automatically get to choose which day to enter the park one hour early before it opens to the public to enjoy the park before it gets crowded. It's already included in your ticket so just pick a day and arrive at the park early to get in one hour before opening. 
(20) Town Hall - You can get free souvenir buttons at the Town Hall building. They have buttons for 1st Visit, Birthdays, Anniversaries, Graduation, and several others. Sometimes the person giving them out will say that they'll only give you one if you correctly answer a Disney related question but they'll still give you one even if you answer the question wrong. 

There's probably other tips and tricks out there that I'm missing so please leave your own tips and tricks in the comments below. And for those of you heading to Disneyland soon, I hope you have a fabulous time! 


  1. I wish I had read this before I went to Disneyland a month ago!! :D


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