Welcome to my Disneyland Tips & Tricks blog post! I never thought I’d be a big Disney fan. Growing up in Southern California we went to Disneyland a couple times but we were not annual pass holders and I can really only think of a couple times I went before the age of 10 (when we moved to Northern California).
When I got engaged to my husband I found out that his mother was VERY into going to Disneyland. She had a special tradition to take the grandkids on an Oma and grandchild only trip to Disneyland when they turned 5. I love this idea; it is always awesome to get extra bonding time with a grandparent.
When I was planning to attend a conference in January 2017 my husband and I thought “why not turn it into a family trip and go to Disneyland a couple of days?” The boys were still in the free age so it would be the cheapest time to get them into the park.
We invited “Oma” (my husband’s mother) to join us because she had an annual pass and we went. I always thought there was NO POINT in taking young kids under 5 to the park, but BOY WAS I WRONG! First of all, there were SO MANY rides for them to enjoy (even being so small), they loved meeting most of the characters and after the
LET’S BE REAL ABOUT DISNEYLAND:
- Was it hard talking such young kids to the park? YES!
- Was it worth it? YES!
- Would you do it again? YES!
SAVE ON DISNEYLAND TICKETS IN 2019
This really depends on what you have access to. First I will tell you what I do, and then some other options if that doesn’t work for you.
My American Express Gold credit card gives me 3 points when I shop at grocery stores. So, I plan to purchase Disney Gift cards in the amount I will need for park tickets and a rough estimate for anything else we plan to spend in the park (ie food, souvenirs, etc). Then, I wait for the grocery store is offering extra perks for purchasing gift cards.
Kroger 4X Fuel Rewards Promotion:
Earn 4X Fuel Points On Any Gift Card
Typically my Smiths Grocery (a Kroger brand) offers a 4x deal on gift cards many times throughout the year. That means for every dollar I spend on a gift card I receive 4x the fuel points.
If you are spending A LOT of money on gift cards, you will want to split them across months. I buy $1000 in Disney gift cards that get you 4000 fuel points. That’s 4 times $1 off gallon fill-ups that expire in one month after earning them.
If you have a 17-gallon fuel tank that’s $17 – 4 times for a total savings of $68 (6.8%). If you have a bigger tank that’s EVEN MORE SAVINGS. If you have 2 cars you can actually time your fill-ups together and end up doubling your savings. Plus AMEX recognizes the purchase as groceries so instead of 1000 points you get 3000 points.
If you don’t have a Kroger brand grocery store that offers the same deals. You could also buy your Disney gift cards at Target if you have a Target Debit or Credit card and save 5%.
Costco is another good choice if you have a Costco Account were you earn cash back, you can buy the Disney gift cards there and I believe the savings end up being around 5% when you use the Costco discount and cash back.
WHERE TO STAY NEAR DISNEYLAND, CA
Our favorite hotel to stay at is the Staybridge Suites Anaheim-Resort Area. What I love about them is they have 1 & 2 bedroom suites. They come with a kitchen and living room (living room has a pull out sofa bed too! It was nice to have a place for the kids to sleep separate from mom and dad, plus a full fridge where we could keep snacks, beverages, and leftovers. A stove and microwave to cook items were great too!
They also provide an ok warm buffet breakfast each morning. Most people would probably really like it – but I am a food snob especially breakfast. They also did fun social hours 3 days a week too. Normally, they offer a nacho/ taco bar, spaghetti or burgers and hot dogs. If you happen to be around that time and aren’t a picky eater, those are nice too!
Staybridge has 2 hotels near Disneyland. Staybridge Suites Anaheim at the Park is near the entrance to Mickey’s Parking structure. The hotel charges for parking (like $20-15/ day), the rooms are smaller & more expensive. It could be considered walkable; however, if you have older people or young people without strollers it might be too much walking when you add in all the walking you do at the park.
You can purchase a city ART bus pass and there is a pick up close by, but it means you are at the mercy of their schedule and if kids are asleep in the stroller at the end of the day it is NOT FUN. They make you take them out of the stroller and collapse the stroller. It sucks to wake your sleeping child at the end of the day.
We prefer the Staybridge Suites Anaheim Resort
It’s a 3.3-mile drive to the Mickey and Friends Parking Structure but our annual passes including parking. They also offer a shuttle, but I’m sure it would come with the same stroller/sleeping-kiddos struggles. It is typically $60/ cheaper a night and the rooms are more spacious. The pool is better too!
Either way, I always use JIFU to book our hotel stays and save money on travel. Depending on the time of year I save 15-33% off my Disney stays (savings compared to other discount sites like Expedia, Priceline, Hotels.com, Agoda ETC).
ALL DISNEYLAND CHARACTER DINING OPTIONS
I am a foodie for sure, so I will tell you first and foremost that if you think you are going to enjoy some incredible meal during this experience, please change your expectations.
You are paying for the experience, not the food. We have always done breakfast because it is cheaper and we can do it earlier before the park opens and have it not use up our time in the park.
We have now tried all the dining with the character experiences that are outside of the park at the hotels in 2018-19. Here is a list of the ones we have attended and what we thought of them:
Goofy’s Kitchen (Disneyland Hotel) Characters: Goofy & friends
They were very organized with getting us in, taking pictures with Goofy and had plenty of characters. The buffet was decent and I felt we got to interact with a lot of characters.
Disney’s PCH Grill (Paradise Pier Hotel) Characters: Donald & Friends
This was the least crowded of all the Breakfasts we’ve attended! The kids got LOTS of time with each character and we never felt rushed when hanging out with them. The food was my least favorite out of the 3 locations we have tried.
Storytellers Café (Disney’s Grand Californian Resort) Characters: Donald & Friends
This one was the most disappointing character experience. They don’t have a set-up for you to come in and meet Mickey and take a photo with him. They were not good at getting Mickey around to meet everyone. A
It was a severe disappointment and a waste of time. The servers explained that it was new and they were “still figuring it out.” I’m sorry but character breakfasts are not a new thing. Even if Disneyland character dining is new to that particular restaurant, Disney is known for planning and logistics. I believe they really dropped the ball with the Storytellers Café. I hope it gets better in the future but I will not be back.
Disneyland Character Dining Tips and Things to Keep in Mind!
Make advance dining reservations online. Set your calendar reminder to 60-days before your experience. Add any allergies, dietary or nutrition issues when reserving, checking in. A chef will
One last tip on Character dining (or any buffet you go to), bring
DISNEY MAXPASS (WORTH IT 100X OVER)
Prices for the Disney MaxPass increased in 2019 ($15 per day, per ticket), but it is STILL WORTH IT! First of all, you get ALL the professional photos that are taken at the park for FREE. Ride photos, character photos, and Disney PhotoPass Photographers photos are included! The professional p
DISNEY PHOTOPASS QR CODE
I make photo opportunities quick and effortless by having my PhotoPass QR code as my cellphone lock screen. First, download the official Disneyland Resort App. Take a screenshot of the Disney PhotoPass QR code on your cellphone and then make the screenshot your lock screen. When you reach a photo op station you quickly hold out your phone for a quick scan!
Now, that is just a bonus because the REAL value is the Disneyland Resort FASTPASS. With paper tickets and FastPass, you run from one kiosk to another, scan your tickets and collect paper fast passes. With little kids, it’s hard to jump back-n-forth between rides and parks to collect the fast passes and waiting in long lines sucks!
GET A DISNEYLAND RESORT FASTPASS FIRST THING
The MOMENT you are scanned into the park, open the app and grab a FastPass for a newer ride, look at when you can grab your next one, and set an alarm on your phone. Get the app so you can collect fast passes on your phone from EITHER park and save your legs.
COMBINE THE STROLLER PASS AND FASTPASS
When you have a Disneyland FastPass you can also get someone a Stroller pass who has to wait with a child who can’t or won’t ride the ride (i.e. too small, too scared, sleeping, etc).
So, here is how to work the system to get everyone to ride at least 2+ times and not wait in long lines. You can have everyone grab a FastPass for that ride, then get your phone scanned when you have someone who has to stay with the baby or stroller. They will give you up to 3 stroller passes for 1 person because they don’t want to ride alone.
After your ride, you switch places and 3 people get to go. My 4-year-old loves it because he ends up getting to Ride Guardians of the Galaxy at least 3 times if we plan it correctly. Fist time, he, Oma & his dad go (all fast passes) Next time mom (fast pass) and he goes (on 1 stroller pass). Third and last time, he and one of the adults get to go (they both are on another stroller pass).
Sometimes the Disneyland cast members don’t even make us scan his FastPass. So, sometimes 2 adults can ride with him multiple times. This works great on so many rides. You can do a stroller pass for even rides that little ones can go on because sometimes babies are sleeping or don’t like certain rides.
We always end essentially doubling or tripling the fast passes we have. This way our kids can enjoy rides over and over and we aren’t spending a ton of time in lines and going from one ride to the next. We ride Guardians of the Galaxy so much that the ride attendants know my sons (4yrs) name!
Split your Disneyland FastPass group up
If you don’t want to do a ride multiple times, split your FastPass group up. When grabbing passes for example and there are 4 people in your group: grab 2 for Buzz Lightyear and 2 for Space Mountain.
When going through for Buzz, get 3 stroller passes, then when you come out the person waiting can on the ride with 2 others who already rode. Then run over to Space Mountain and do the same thing, but while that is happening you might be able to activate another FastPass… I hope this is making sense!
FAVORITE FOODIE SPOTS & TIPS AT DISNEYLAND RESORT
This is only an evaluation of places we have tried that I think are either worth it or are popular and NOT worth it
Carnation Café – Try the fried pickles. Or try my Copycat Disneyland Fried Pickles Recipe at home.
Dole Whip – Make sure to order your Dole Whip on the app, they no longer allow you to wait in line and order unless you go to the new Tropical Hideaway restaurant. In fact, you can order from a lot of restaurants via their app now! Cuts down on wait!
Corn Dogs – The red food truck at the end Main Street near the Plaza Inn. It’s best to go earlier, shorter wait and fresh corndogs (like go around 11/1130am).
Churros – The little carts are all over Disneyland. Try their special flavors too. We had their Valentine’s Day flavor that had a spicy chili pepper on it and a cream cheese dipping sauce; it was super yummy!
Blue Bayou – It has a great atmosphere but not worth the cost and hype IMO.
Bengal BBQ – Very yummy but the skewers are TINY for the price.
River Belle Terrace – We did the Fantasmic Show Menu which was a preset menu at an extra cost but it got us awesome seats for the show at night. If you are wanting to go to the Fantasmic Show, eat at the River Belle Terrace to secure awesome seats.
FAVORITE FOODIE SPOTS & TIPS AT CALIFORNIA ADVENTURE
Lamp Light Lounge – It’s Ok delicious food and if you are ok waiting a little longer, you can request the special sofa seats. We had a gorgeous view of the water with two couches, two armchairs and a coffee table. Adults could relax and kids could nap on the couch, play with toys, or draw. We had great views on the water and were not rushed AT ALL to enjoy our space and meal!
Wine Country Trattoria – when they bring back the World of Color Show and dining packages, go here for the special show menu and reserved seating, some of the BEST seats to enjoy my FAVORITE show.
Ghirardelli’s – It has yummy ice cream and treats. It also reminds me of visiting San Francisco, California.
SF Sourdough Bread Co – The clam chowder is not my favorite, but I love the bread.
FAVORITE FOODIE SPOTS & TIPS AT DOWNTOWN DISNEY
Earl of Sandwich – They have good breakfast sandwiches. Order inside, grab a few bottles of waters too, and head into the park!
Salt & Straw – The most delicious ice cream. Their unique flavor combos and dairy free and vegan options are incredible.
Naples Ristorante – The yummy calamari and huge portions are wonderful.
More to come!
I have many more Disneyland Tips & Tricks to share, but this post has gotten pretty long! I’ll post more tips as they come to me! For now, good luck! Don’t forget to enjoy the craziness and the journey! Comment below with your questions.