Thursday, May 26, 2016

Disneyland and California Adventure Tips

Today's post I am SO excited for because I'm gonna be giving you guys some insider knowledge of tips, tricks and hacks to navigating Disneyland and California Adventure if it's your first time! If you missed my huuuuuuge blog post on Tuesday recapping my Disney Adventure then click here to check it out!

Before our trip to the most magical place on Earth I did some research via Pinterest because where else am I going to go to research it. Haha! There were toooooons of posts with tips and tricks and to be honest it was a bit overwhelming. After reading about 10 and seeing many of the same I jotted them down in my phone to have for our big day. Some of these I found on Pinterest and some are just observations and things I learned with my time there. So without further adieu here's my Disneyland and California Adventure tips, tricks and hacks! 

We took the Amtrak from Oceanside all the way up to Anaheim for under $50 (roundtrip) and took the bus from the train/bus station to Disney for under $5 (roundtrip). We didn't have to wait in traffic, spend tons of gas money, have to worry about parking/finding a spot, paying for parking, getting out of the parking lot or driving back at night. We hopped on and hopped off and basically just had to sit back and relax. This is definitely the way to travel up and back to Disney. Plus there are quite a few stations along the SoCal coast so finding one isn't too hard. 

If it's within your budget get the park hopper ticket. California Adventure is really cool and definitely worth the extra money. I loooved Cars Land and Paradise Pier. It was so worth it. 

Depending on what time of year you go an extra layer might be necessary. We went in May and the weather was overcast during the morning but cleared up and sunny in the afternoon. We wore tank top and shorts for the afternoon but had on light layers in the morning that could easily be taken off and tied around our waists during the day but thrown back on once the sun went down. Check the weather before you go and dress appropriately! Oh and if you burn easily wear and reapply sunscreen throughout the day if you go during the hot summer months. We were out in the sun for just a few hours and I got a little toasted on my shoulders and nose so wear sunscreen! 

 This might be the most important tip I can give for anyone who's going to tackle Disney and California Adventure. WEAR COMFY SHOES. You and your feet will thank me later. It may not be the "Pinterest worthy or Instagram worthy" outfit or what the cool girls are wearing but seriously wear sneakers. I wore sandals and about halfway through my feet were aching. I have high arches and walking on such flat and hard surfaces for that long killed them. You are going to be doing a lot and I mean A LOT of walking so make sure you're ready for it. Wear sneakers, your comfiest pair that won't make your feet hurt, give you blisters, etc. Seriously you will thank me. 

If you only have 1 day at both parks (like we did) get there early like before they open early. There will be a line, inevitably long to get through security, so try to arrive at least 30 minutes prior to the park opening, if not 45- 1 hour to get a decent spot in line. If you're planning to stay until close and do both parks you're gonna want all the time you can get so get there early to take advantage of your ticket. 
Going hand in hand with tip #5 if you only have one day make a plan of what you wanna hit/see and be strategic with your time. Make a list of what rides are must do's and do those ones and if you have extra time you can do the others. 

We did both parks, saw every little area of them and did 12 rides total (10 in Disney and 2 in CaliAdven), 13 if you count the second time we rode Indiana Jones in 1 day, so it is possible you just have to be strategic with what rides you wanna do and what you can skip on. If we had more time we would have done more in CaliAdven but we just didn't. Gonna have to go back ;) 

The rides with the longest wait times (40 minutes+) are Indiana Jones Adventure, Splash Mountain , Alice in Wonderland, Matterhorn, Peter Pan Flight, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, Pirates of the Caribbean, Finding Nemo and Space Mountain in Disneyland and Radiator Springs Racers, Soarin Over California, Tower of Terror, California Screamin and Toy Story Mania in California Adventure. 

Wait times are also dependent on time of day too but typically they get shorter towards the evening. We did the Matterhorn which had a wait time during the day of up to 70 minutes to about 25-30 at around 7pm onward.  Also FastPasses are suuuuper handy which I will get into next.

FastPasses are your best friend forever and ever at Disney. If you've never been to Disney or are unfamiliar with them I am here to explain it! I didn't know what they were either until I researched so it's okay :) 

FastPasses are basically  "skip ahead to the front of the line" passes you can get for some of the rides and attractions. Who can get a FP? Anyone who has a ticket to Disney or California Adventure or both. However each rider/guest must swipe their ticket to get a FP, meaning you can't swipe yours twice to get 2 tickets. 

How it works is when you get your park ticket you look for the rides/attractions that are FP enabled, swipe your park ticket at the FP kiosk and it will kick out a little ticket with the time that you can return to ride the ride/attraction. Usually it's between an hour. 

Once you have your FP ticket you are free to go do whatever other rides you want until the time printed on your ticket. Once it is the time printed on your ticket you can go to the ride it's for, go to the FastPass line, show them your ticket and walk straight through, bypassing the huuuge lines and go straight to the front of it. It's soooo handy and kinda the best, especially for the rides that have 40+ wait times. 

Not all rides/attractions have them, that's the only downside but it is so nice for the ones that do because you get your FP, go do other things then can come back and do it without having to waste an hour standing in line. 
You can only have 1 FP per park (1 for Disney and 1 for CA simultaneously) and can only get another  whenever the time states you can get another one on your ticket, usually less than 2 hours.

Still confused? Here's an example: 
We knew Space Mountain was gonna have an insane line so we got FastPasses for it right when we got into the park. We got our FP at 10 am and the time printed on when we could return to ride was between 12:30pm-1:30pm, that meant we had 2.5 hours to do whatever we wanted until we could go ride Space Mountain. Once it was 12:30 we headed back to Space Mountain, got into the FP line and went straight to the front, skipping the huge line. You can ride the ride anytime between the times printed on the ticket. If it's after 1:30 you can't however. The next time we could get a FP was 11:45am if I remember correctly. 

Here are the rides that are FP enabled for Disney:
Indiana Jones Adventure, Haunted Mansion, Splash Mountain, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, Roger Rabbit's Car Toon Spin, Space Mountain, Star Tours and Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters. 

Rides that are FP enabled for California Adventure: 
Twilight Zone Tower of Terror, Radiator Springs Racers, California Screamin, Goofy's Sky School, World of Color (light show), Grizzly River Run and Soarin Over California. 

Definitely get FP for the rides that have super long wait times and if you time it right you can get multiple/stagger them out so you can ride all the rides you want without having to stand in the regular line. 

If I were doing it again I would get FastPasses for Space Mountain in Disney, ride Peter Pan since there's no FP for it and then go over to California Adventure and get a FP for the Radiator Springs Racers. Then stagger the rest of the rides that are FP enabled throughout the day. 

Disney allows you to bring snacks/water/a smaller cooler inside the park which is awesome, especially if you don't want to spend a lot of money on snacks inside the park/ want to splurge on a real meal.  Bring your own bottles of water and snacks like granola bars, trail mix, non-perishable fruit, fruit snacks, chips, celery and PB, etc. 

Another handy hack is that all the restaurants will give you a free cup of water if you ask for one when ordering your meal. This is nice if you ran out of water or if you didn't bring any. There are also water fountains located around the park too! 

Eat lunch at weird times to avoid the long lines at the restaurants/kiosks and to get to ride a ride with shorter lines since everyone will be getting lunch. We ate at around 2pm at Flo's V8 Cafe (super yummy btw) in Cars Land in California Adventire and it was the perfect time because there was no line and before we hit some rides that had shorter wait times due to the time being around 11-noon. 

Want a free souvenir? Stop by the little stand at City Hall in Main Street in Disney for your free button! You can get one for your 1st visit, birthday, anniversary, honeymoon, etc! It's a perfect little token to remember your trip by. 

There are also other freebies like getting a death certificate from Haunted Mansion and a free Jungle Cruise map which I think you have to get from either the rides themselves or at City Hall. I would ask a Disney Cast Member upon entering the park. 

Another saving grace to navigating Disney and California Adventure are the two apps we got to monitor wait times, find the best restaurants, find the bathrooms and where the characters were gonna be. Download the Magic Guide for Disneyland and Disneyland apps they will be your saving grace too!

Magic Guide tells the park hours, maps of the parks, dining options for both including menus, locations, prices, what type of restaurant they are and more, wait times for the rides/attractions and if you want you can unlock the bathroom finder and food finder but have to pay. Honestly I wouldn't because you can get the bathroom finder through the Disneyland app. It's free too and so handy because you can monitor the wait times for rides and go when it's the shortest plus look at the menu options/prices for all the restaurants. I'd highly, highly recommend this one! 

Also download the official Disneyland app to get the maps, restroom finder (SO HELPFUL) and find out where the characters are going to be and what times. It also has dining and other options but the interface isn't quite as easy to navigate than the Magic Guide, in my opinion. You can also link your Annual Pass and PhotoPass to the app too. 

This is the only souvenir that I bought while at Disneyland. I was not going to leave until I had one of these iconic balloons. I searched everywhere for these things and finally found one right before we were about to leave. I paid $9 for this thing which is probably the cheapest souvenir Disneyland sells. Haha! But if you buy yours during the day for #alloftheinstas and for some reason it goes pop, you can take the remnants of it to any Disney Cast Member and they will replace it for free! This is especially helpful if you have little kids or are prone to walking into sharp objects. So far it's been just over a week since I bought it and it's still going strong! 

There is nothing worse than going someplace only to have your phone die on you, especially if it's a giant theme park where you could potentially get separated from your group. Make sure to bring a phone charge or multiples if you plan on documenting your day with photos or checking the apps for wait times. I brought 2 and used up both for our entire day there. I believe there are charging stations at the park but I'm not sure where they are or if they charge. Plus you have to be stationery there whereas a portable charger let's you go anywhere. You can get them at Target or Walmart for under $10. 

As far as food/restaurants go our favorite were Flo's V8 Cafe in Cars Land in California Adventure and the Mint Julep Bar in New Orleans Square in Disneyland. We ate at Flo's for lunch around 2-3pm and had the roast beef and cheddar with mac and cheese and it was super yummy! It was a nice big portion and under $15 which isn't bad for lunch in general and at Disney. The atmosphere is basically the coolest because you're at Flo's and you feel like you're in Cars. We had a quick pit stop at the Mint Julep Bar for beignets and mint juleps and they were also pretty reasonable and hit the spot after a long day of walking in the sun. For an ice cream treat we had one of the Mickey Mouse shaped ice cream sandwhiches that we got at the little carts that are all around Disney/California Adventure. It was good, nothing too special but it tasty! For dinner we had Chinese food at the Lucky Fortune or whatever it was called in California Adventure and it was okay, also nothing special. I found it to be mediocre Chinese food that was overpriced for the portion you got. 

Other notable restaurants that we wanted to try but didn't were the Carnation Cafe on Main Street, Tiki Juice Bar in Adventureland (home of the famous Dole Whips), any of the restaurants in New Orleans Square (hello southern food!), Hungry Bear Restaurant in Critter Country. In California Adventure were Cocina Cucamonga Mexican Grill and Ghiradelli Soda Fountain and Chocolate Shop. All of these restaurants looked and smelled really good and were super affordable $15 an under for meals/food. 

Chances are if you're visiting Disney you're on vacation and are #treatingyoself. I totally indulged in all things Disney but set a budget of how much I wanted to spend. It's totally okay to splurge because I mean you are at Disney after all but if you want your bank account to not hate you have a number in mind of how much you want to spend and buy accordingly so you have money later to spend on the rest of your trip!

Well those are all my tips and tricks for navigating Disneyland and California Adventure! I'm sure there are more out on the Internet and Pinterest but these are the ones that I really thought were important and maybe helpful to you guys! 

Have you been to Disney before? What tips, tricks and hacks do you have? Share your insider knowledge below in the comments! :)

I hope you guys enjoyed my Disney posts! I'll be recapping the rest of the trip here in within the next couple of weeks so be looking for it! 

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