Updated April 23, 2019
The success of your morning can determine how your entire day goes at Disneyland. I have some tips for you on how to make the most of your time and how to get everyone started in the right direction.
The benefits of an early arrival are plentiful. Save your slumber for another vacation. There is work to be done at Disneyland!
In this article
- Before You Arrive
- When to Arrive
- The Basic Structure for Your Day
- Standby vs FASTPASS
- Do this First at Disneyland
- Do This First at California Adventure
- Big Kids or Little Kids Plans – How to Choose
- When To Visit Each Park
- How to Plan Your Days
- Follow This Plan for One Day at Both Parks
- Follow These Tips for a Late Arrival Day
- Magic Morning & Extra Magic Hour
Before You Arrive
Before you even arrive on site, I suggest you have the following done:
- Have tickets purchased. Buy online or purchase from your hotel. Lines at the ticket counters on site can be long.
- Eat breakfast. Wake early and enjoy breakfast in your hotel or find something on your way in. If you are wanting to dine with characters, reserve the latest time available. A 10:30am reservation is a good idea. That allows you to enjoy the earlier hours and then take a break when everyone else shows up.
- Apply sunscreen and make sure kids are prepared for their day.
- If you’re lining up outside prior to open, look for restrooms at each end of the waiting area between the parks. Have everyone use the restroom before entering.
When to Arrive
I repeat this time and time again because it’s actually that important.
To get the most out of your mornings, arrive an hour prior to official park opening. If you have Extra Magic Hour/Magic Morning privileges, arrive 30 minutes prior to EMH/MM opening time.
The Basic Structure for Your Day
Focus on accomplishing the following in order to see and do all you want to:
- Arrive early
- Focus on attractions for the first several hours (with a snack break at some point)
- Break for a late lunch and then nap/rest at your hotel
- Return to the parks for entertainment, character meets, princesses, etc
- Resume attractions
- Enjoy nighttime entertainment
- Attractions again!
Standby vs FASTPASS
Attractions have two lines available to guests.
Standby – the “regular line” that guests get in; does not require a FASTPASS
FASTPASS – the line that requires a FASTPASS
Do this First at Disneyland
This post shares several plans for how to start your day at Disneyland.
They work! Follow one of my plans and you’ll have the majority of the most iconic attractions completed in the park by lunch.
Do This First at California Adventure
This post shares several plans for how to start your day at California Adventure.
They work, too! DCA has fewer attractions, overall, and is easier to navigate if you know what you’re doing. It’s entirely possible to have every attraction complete by a late lunch.
Big Kids or Little Kids Plans – How to Choose
Big Kids plans include all attractions. They’re designed for guests who wish to conquer everything.
Little Kids plans are created without the bigger, “scarier” attractions little ones might not like.
Choose which works for your group based on interest.
This link share info on each attraction. Scroll through it to get an idea of what each attraction is like.
Have both big and little kids? I recommend using the Big Kids plan, as it includes all attractions. When you come across an attraction that little ones can’t ride, find a nearby alternative (cast members at the entrance to the big kid ride can advise) or have a quick snack/use the restroom. Because the big rides are scheduled for early in the day, those riding will be in and out quickly.
To learn about FASTPASSES, the difference between the two options available to you, when and how often you can obtain FASTPASSES and so much more, visit this post.
When To Visit Each Park
If you don’t have Extra Magic Hour (EMH) or Magic Morning (MM), it’s ideal to visit the park not hosting EMH or MM.
If you do have EMH or MM, don’t miss out on taking advantage of that early admission privilege.
This post shares all about EMH and MM, including which park hosts on each day. Definitely take a look at it when planning your days out.
How to Plan Your Days
Here’s how to structure your visit:
- If you have one day, use my strategy in this post, listed below. Start at California Adventure (DCA) and finish at Disneyland.
- If you have two days, spend one at Disneyland and one at DCA.
- If you have three days, spend two at Disneyland and one at DCA.
- If you have four days, spend two at each park.
- If you have five, spend three at Disneyland and two at DCA.
Definitely consider purchasing tickets now at a discount to avoid long lines at the ticket booths. I share all about my trusted source for tickets here.
Follow This Plan for One Day at Both Parks
If you only have one day at both parks, I have a plan for you. It is designed to cover all the iconic attractions in each park and is totally doable! I’ve done it. You can, too.
For this plan to work, it’s imperative you follow these instructions:
- Understand MaxPass and FASTPASSES, in general. This post has everything you need to know. Study it!
- Arrive an hour prior to official park opening to line up at DCA with breakfast in hand or already eaten.
- Have your one day park hopper ticket purchased prior to arrival, and be sure to include MaxPass in that purchase. Buy your park hopper on the Disneyland app. Go straight to the gates when you arrive – no need to stop at the ticket booths. Your app will suffice for confirmation of your ticket when you go through the turn stiles.
This plan is ideal on a day that California Adventure (DCA) is not hosting Extra Magic Hour. Typically, that includes Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday, but occasionally those change. Check with this post for what’s happening during your proposed timing.
Ok. Let’s do this!
- Line up outside DCA an hour prior to official park opening, as you’ll likely be let in 30 minutes prior to official park opening.
- Take a deep breath and follow the steps, below.
- Use MaxPass to select FASTPASS for Radiator Springs Racers
- Use MaxPass to select FASTPASS for World of Color
- Get in line for Soarin’ Around the World
- Ride Soarin’ standby
- Ride Guardians of the Galaxy standby
- Ride Toy Story Midway Mania standby (skip if the line is long and you’ve done it at WDW – they’re very similar)
- Ride Incredicoaster standby
- Use MaxPass to select FASTPASS for Space Mountain
- Ride Radiator Springs Racers with FASTPASS
Hop to Disneyland
- Ride Pirates of the Caribbean standby
- Ride Jungle Cruise standby
- Snack break at Tropical Hideaway in Adventureland
- Use MaxPass to select FASTPASS for Star Tours
- Ride Space Mountain with FASTPASS
- Ride Splash Mountain standby
- Ride Haunted Mansion standby
- Lunch break at French Market in New Orleans Square
- Use MaxPass to select FASTPASS for Indiana Jones
- Board the Disneyland Railroad in New Orleans Square; get off at Toontown
- Ride “it’s a small world” standby
- Ride Star Tours with FASTPASS
- Ride Big Thunder Mountain Railroad standby
- Use MaxPass to select FASTPASS for Matterhorn
- Ride Fantasyland dark rides (Mr. Toad, Snow White, Pinocchio)
- Ride Indy with FASTPASS
At this point, you’ve covered most of Disneyland. You’ll ride Matterhorn at night, as that return window should be late.
When you started your day, you pulled a FASTPASS for World of Color. Hop back to DCA if you want to see this show. WDW peeps – this is ideal for you guys since WDW doesn’t have this show. If you wish to finish your day at Disneyland, consider a parade, fireworks or Fantasmic! for nighttime entertainment. This post links up to information on all of these options.
The above line up shares what your day could look like. No two days in the parks are the same. You’ll need to react here and there to avoid an unexpected long standby line, an attraction being temporarily closed down, etc. If you don’t want to follow the exact order I recommend, that’s totally fine. Get everything done at DCA first and then use MaxPass to its full advantage to conquer Disneyland. Absolutely know when you can select subsequent FASTPASSES via MaxPass to utilize the system to its full potential. I share how to know when you can select your next FASTPASS here.
None of my strategies include Single Rider lines, as they don’t work for all families. If everyone in your party is old enough (at least 7 years of age) and willing to ride solo, you can move through the attractions quicker than with FASTPASSES most of the time. Each park includes Single Rider lines for a handful of rides including:
- Radiator Springs Racers
- Goofy’s Sky School
- Grizzly River Rapids
- Space Mountain
- Splash Mountain
- Indiana Jones
If you choose to use Single Rider lines, don’t select FASTPASSES for those attractions. Skip to the next FASTPASS on my list and utilize the Single Rider line instead.
This link details how Single Rider lines work.
***For what this looks like in the park, visit this post.
Follow These Tips for a Late Arrival Day
I highly recommend arriving prior to park opening and following the above listed plans to be sure you get to experience all that the Disneyland Resort has to offer.
However, for an arrival day, or one that you choose to sleep in on, check out this post for how to get the most out of your abbreviated time in the parks.
Magic Morning & Extra Magic Hour
- For detailed explanations of each, visit this post.
- If you don’t have Magic Morning or Extra Magic Hour? Don’t sweat it. There’s still plenty of time for fun and you’ll do just fine by following the posts I share above for each park. (I rarely have either and accomplish everything I want to without it.)
- FASTPASSES are essential for making my strategies work. Whether you’re using the Digital (Classic) version of FASTPASS or MaxPass, you will benefit from my plans. Absolutely review this post to know all about your options and how each works.
- My plans are created with not only the most logical way to tour the parks, but also with how long you will have to wait until you can pull your next FASTPASS. There are many misconceptions on how long you have to wait. Know exactly what your options are prior to visit. This link goes into detail on that.
- All of my plans are created so that any park guest can use them. I do not incorporate Single Rider Lines or Rider Swap because they’re not a fit for everyone. But, if they work for you, certainly consider using these tools.
- I test my plans in the parks about once a month to ensure they’re as up to date as possible, giving you the most current information for your visit. Follow me on Facebook and/or Instagram to keep up with how these plans play out.