50 Disneyland Tips to Save You Time, Money, and Stress
Whether you're a hardcore Disney fan or a first-time visitor, if you're headed to Disneyland, you're probably hoping to have a magical time. You can show up to a Disney park and just wing it, but there's so much to see and do that you're better off planning your trip by reading Disneyland guides and learning some tips for your visit. Disney is notorious for hiding surprises and Easter eggs around its parks — but it's also famous for its long lines and high prices. You'll probably have a wonderful time no matter what, but if you don't go in with a game plan, you could leave spending more money or time on unexpected things that you'd like. All that said, don't worry, because we're here to help.
If you're looking to step up your game for your next trip to the happiest place on Earth, there are tons of little-known Disneyland tricks for making the most of your time and money while in the park. While many of these tips also apply to other Disney parks, some are specific to the original Disneyland Resort. Read on for Disneyland tips and hacks that will save you money, time, and stress on your next vacation so you can have the most magical experience possible.
— Additional reporting by Allison Chan, Tara Block, and Megan duBois
Use the free Disneyland app to get around and view wait times.
Downloading the Disneyland app (available on iOS and Android) is the single best Disneyland tip you need to make the most of your time in the park. The app will help you predict (and avoid!) the lines at your favorite park attractions, join virtual queues for attractions, make dining reservations, and get around, thanks to the GPS-enabled map. Not to mention, you can buy and hold your ticket electronically directly in the app — no lines needed. In 2021, Disney's Genie+ replaced the FastPass system, and this new tool can help you plan your perfect visit right inside the app.
If you're visiting the park for a special occasion, ask for a pin.
Main Street City Hall is the place to visit for free special occasion pins! Whether it's your first time in the park, you're recently engaged, or somebody is celebrating a birthday, the friendly City Hall cast members will be happy to give you a celebratory button.
Use websites and apps to locate your favorite characters.
If you're on the hunt for a specific character during your day at the park, use sites like Finding Mickey or the Disneyland app to help determine their whereabouts.
You can bring food and drinks into the park.
This Disneyland tip will save you tons of money: Disneyland allows guests to bring in their own food. Instead of spending too much on lunch and drinks, BYO and set aside money for your "must have" meal or treat in the park, whether it's a churro or Dole Whip, then keep your stomach full with your own food for the rest of the visit.
Touch Snow White's apple for a spooky surprise.
Here's an unexpected Disneyland hack that'll keep you entertained while waiting in line: If you touch the apples in the queue for Snow White's Enchanted Wish (formerly Snow White's Scary Adventures), you'll be greeted with the witch's cackle.
Visit Walt's special bench for inspiration.
In the Main Street Opera House, you can sit on the Griffith Park bench where Walt Disney dreamt up Disneyland.
Save money by buying souvenirs ahead of time.
Disney plush toys, candy, and other brand souvenirs are extremely costly within the park. To avoid these high prices, buy your souvenirs ahead of time at the shopping mall, online, or at standalone Disney stores.
When it comes to price, all snacks are not equal.
While the best way to save money in the park is to bring your own food, Disneyland's delicious eats are all part of the experience. Plan ahead to figure out the best dining deals for your vacation, from under-$6 Dole Whip to character-dining experiences.
You can get free souvenirs simply by asking.
Any cast member at the Jungle Cruise will be happy to give you a free antique-style map if you ask nicely, and the captain on Mark Twain's Riverboat will award you with a special certificate if you request to steer the vessel.
Your Disneyland store purchases can be held at will call or sent to your room.
If you decide to shop during your time at the park, ask the store cast members about sending your purchases to will call. This way, you won't be stuck holding bags and boxes for the rest of your day at Disneyland! Disney hotel guests are also able to send store purchases directly to their rooms, so be sure not to waste energy carrying heavy souvenirs.
Pressed pennies make wonderful (and cheap!) souvenirs.
Disneyland's penny-press machines churn out the most affordable souvenirs in the entire park, with each trinket costing only $.51 to customize. If you're tight on funds but want a token from your travels, these Disney pennies are the perfect option!
Go to the busiest attractions immediately upon entering the park.
To skip the crowds, try visiting the most popular rides during your first hour at Disneyland. Some pros recommend getting to the park even before it opens so you can be ready — and first in line — when they admit guests.
Visiting on a rainy day means fewer lines.
If rain doesn't bother you, consider visiting Disneyland on a wet day. Many guests will skip the park or leave early in bad weather, which means more fun for you! Just don't forget a poncho or Minnie Mouse umbrella.
Asking nicely might land you a special seat on the Disneyland Railroad.
While it's not a guaranteed perk, asking nicely about the tender seat on the Disneyland Railroad locomotive might get you invited to ride up front with the conductor. While the tender seat is very small, the experience of riding in the tender is something most Disney visitors will never get to enjoy.
Disneyland has longer hours during summer, so it's a better deal!
During summer months, Disneyland generally stays open until midnight on weekdays and weekends, giving you extra time in the park — but likely more crowds. Other times of the year, these hours fluctuate (especially Mondays through Thursdays during the off season). The park occasionally stays open late for "after dark" events, especially around certain holidays, such as Valentine's Day. Keep all this in mind when you're deciding when to visit the park.
Breaking the rules in line for Indiana Jones results in a fun surprise.
Here's a little Disneyland hack to use while you wait in the perpetually long line for Indiana Jones: When you come across a rope descending from the ceiling, pull on it to trigger a "lost explorer" crying for help!
Look for special shout-outs on the Main Street USA windows.
The upper windows on Disneyland's Main Street USA buildings are emblazoned with the names of Walt Disney's biggest influences. From family members to business partners, these names serve as Walt Disney's subtle way of saying thanks.
The single-rider line is usually faster.
If your party doesn't mind riding the busy attractions separately, opting for the single-rider line will usually spare you from lengthy wait times.
Shuttle from your hotel to save $30 per day in parking costs.
Most area hotels offer a shuttle service for guests to get to and from the park, allowing you to skip the $30 Disneyland parking fee.
Visit during nonpeak months and days for shorter lines and fewer crowds.
If you plan your Disneyland trip during the least crowded months at the park, you'll usually be able to avoid gigantic lines. In general, weekdays are slower than weekends, and you can expect big crowds on school or national holidays. According to MagicGuides.com, the slowest times to go to Disneyland are early January through mid-March (excluding Presidents' Day weekend), the middle of April until Memorial Day Weekend (late May), after Labor Day through the beginning of October, and the second week of November.
Time your meals around parades for the best seats.
Because getting a view for the Disneyland parades can be tough, My Frugal Adventures suggests timing meals around the events. Sit down in a prime spot for the parade to enjoy your food, killing two birds with one stone!
Riding the train is the best way to rest your legs.
If you've got sore legs from a long day of walking through the park, take a rest on the Disneyland Railroad. The ride takes about 20 minutes, which is the perfect amount of time to get off your feet . . . and you won't have to stop enjoying the Disney amenities! The ride is extremely informative about the park's history.
Score Disneyland discounts in the fine print.
"One day at the park I broke down and hit the burger and fries place over by the Nemo subs. Printed in very small print at the bottom of the receipt was a coupon for 20% off my entire purchase made before 12:00PM, valid at all of the larger shops on the Disneyland property. On the morning we checked out of our condo, we headed to Downtown Disney and picked up all of our souvenirs at 20% off," states one commenter on My Frugal Adventures. While these types of discounts are not available at every eatery or store in Disneyland, make sure to double-check your receipts!
Disneyland hotels come at a high price tag, so weigh your options.
If you're looking to save money on your vacation, the resort hotels at Disneyland are probably not the way to go. While you do get perks such as extra morning hours at the park, there are many places to stay within walking distance of the park for a fraction of the cost!
Attend the flag retreat ceremony during the afternoon.
Every afternoon, there is a special ceremony at the Main Street flagpole that features a band, color guard, and an honor to veterans. As Walt Disney World Info says, though this is on the Disneyland itinerary sheet, it's not really touted. "This is a must-do at least once a trip, particularly if you have a member who's been a part of the armed services as they are honored there."
The later nighttime shows are usually emptier.
Certain Disney shows, such as Fantasmic
, offer two different performance times. If you're able to stay at the park late, attending the second showing is a great way to beat crowds! Take the time to enjoy short lines on popular rides during the initial showtime.
If you ask, PhotoPass photographers will snap a picture on your cell phone.
While the PhotoPass photographers are there to take professional photos for guests to purchase, they're happy to help with personal photography if you ask.
Disneyland stores are open for an hour past closing.
While Buzzfeed states that this is the busiest time to shop, it's also important to note that shopping past the park's closing time will not get in the way of your daytime Disneyland activities.
You can score VIP seating by eating in the park.
If you want to catch the renowned World of Color show at California Adventure, consider taking part in World of Color Dining. This program gives you reserved seats for the show in exchange for buying a meal at one of three restaurants in the park, so it's a great option for guests who didn't bring a meal from home.
Ask to ride in the Lilly Belle Car.
The Lilly Belle Car on the Disneyland Park train is a car Walt Disney dedicated to his wife. In the past, guests could reserve a seat on the Lilly Belle by booking the guided Grand Circle Tour, according to Plan Disney. However, as of August 2022, the tour was no longer available, with the potential to return soon. In the meantime, visitors on Disneyland Resort VIP Tours may request an opportunity to experience the Lilly Belle with their smaller groups.
Look out for celebrities.
Bored waiting in line? Try celebrity spotting! The best way to do this is to follow accounts or hashtags on Instagram and TikTok like @disneyland_celebs, #CelebritiesAtDisneyland, or #DisneylandCelebrities to see who's in the park that day. Be on the lookout for the Disney Escorts in plaid vests as you can see in this TikTok; a celebrity is usually trailing right behind them.
Watch the lighting of Sleeping Beauty Castle.
Each night in Disneyland Park, Sleeping Beauty Castle comes alive when the lights turn on. Find a great view for the exact moment — just ask a Cast Member or check the Disneyland app to find out what time.
Get a Disney Visa card.
If you're a Disney Visa card holder, be on the lookout for exclusive meet and greets around the parks. Present your card, and you'll be ushered into a room with a surprise Disney character! You can take as long as you want and as many pictures as you'd like, and you'll even get a free 5"x7" printout of a picture of your choosing. You also get discounts on certain merchandise, dining locations, and guided tours.
Sit at the front of the rides.
Want to sit in the front of a ride? All you have to do is ask! Cast members will kindly accommodate you if you don't mind waiting for a few more minutes.
Get free water from any quick-service food and beverage location.
If you're starting to get thirsty and need to rehydrate, grab a cup of cold ice water from any quick-service food and beverage location throughout the parks and resorts. It's free, and you can use it to refill water bottles with extra cold water.
Always ask about discounts.
Disney Vacation Club, annual pass holders, and Disney Visa cardholders all receive discounts on food and beverage, merchandise, tours, and ticketed events at different Disney locations. When you get ready to pay, ask if the location has any discounts available to save a little money.
Buy a FuelRod before heading to the parks.
Don't let a dead phone battery keep you from an epic Instagram snap! Disneyland uses FuelRod stations for guests to swap out portable chargers. You can buy a new FuelRod at the parks, or save about $5 by buying it before you leave for vacation.
Adults are allowed to order from the kids menu.
Kids' meals at Disneyland are large enough for adults, especially if you don't eat big meals in general — and most Disneyland restaurants are totally OK with an adult ordering off the kids' menu, according to Plan Disney. Typically, the meals come with a side of fruit and a small drink.
Trade pins with cast members.
One way to interact with cast members throughout Disneyland is by trading pins. The best way to do this is to buy a mystery pack of pins from the parks or resorts and trade those pins for even cooler ones from cast member lanyards. Guests can trade up to two pins per cast member. Typically, they have pins that are exclusive to them and from international Disney parks, along with a few usual ones.
Join a virtual queue whenever possible.
Using the Disneyland app, you can join virtual queues, when available, for certain attractions. This allows you to go about your day experiencing other parts of the park while you're virtually waiting in a super-long line for a popular ride or show.
Tour Walt Disney's private apartment above the Main Street USA fire station.
To be able to tour Walt Disney's in-park apartment, you're going to want to book Walt's Main Street Story Tour before heading to Disneyland. Guests can book the 90-minute tour up to 60 days in advance, and this is the best way to guarantee a spot. Read more about what the experience is like, according to someone who went.
Use an Apple Watch to speed up your PhotoPass process.
Thanks to Disney MagicMobile, you can speed up your PhotoPass process using your Apple Watch. Here's a step-by-step guide on how to use this cool Disneyland hack.
Bring a handheld fan.
One of the best things money can buy when it comes to theme parks is rechargeable handheld fans. Disney does sell these in the parks, but bringing your own saves a little money.
All Disney parks have a baby care center.
For parents who are looking for a quiet place to take their little one to rest, get out of the heat, or even feed in private, baby care centers are all complimentary and open during regular park hours. These spaces are fully staffed and welcome infants and toddlers.
All Disney parks have first-aid.
Each Disney park has a first-aid location. The nurses who work in this space are quick to administer bandages and Tylenol, and also let guests rest inside if needed due to overheating.
Take in the air conditioning when possible.
Southern California can get pretty hot most days, so taking advantage of the air conditioning whenever possible is key to being able to last multiple days at the parks. One of the best places to do this is inside the Star Wars Launch Bay at Disneyland. Inside, guests will find character meet and greets, a short film, and exhibits about Star Wars, making this the perfect spot to hang out for a while to cool off.
Bring your own glow sticks.
As night falls on the Disneyland parks, glow carts begin to light up with spinning toys, light-up ears, and all kinds of glowing objects. Save a little money by bringing your own glow sticks to wear while waiting for the nighttime fireworks display.
Remember your parking spot.
Walt Disney wanted his guests to forget the outside world while they were in his parks, and much of the time that means forgetting your parking lot section and row. An easy way to remember this is by texting it to yourself, taking a photo, or saving it in a note on your phone. Or, using a maps app, you can also drop a pin where you parked.
Disneyland Tips and Tricks