My Favorite 7 Day Disneyland Trip Plan for Families

Updated March 10, 2018

Have you been California dreaming? I’ve got a trip plan for you to use exactly as I’ve designed it or to customize it for your own needs. I’m incorporating plenty of time at Disneyland, plus adding in some SoCal favorites that work well with families with young children.

Follow me as we get started on this adventure. We’ll take it day by day.

I’ve listed a few favorite dining options for each day that can be used for lunch or dinner. As always, I recommend leaving the park mid-day, which allows you the chance to order pizza at your hotel room or grab Subway if you’re staying off-site.

Hotel Exterior

Before You Leave:

1. First, decide where to stay. Close to the resort works best for little ones. Step One of my planning process can help narrow down your options.

There are plenty of excellent off-site options, too, and there are many advantages to staying off-site, including lots of nearby dining options and retail.

Check out what your options are off-site. I list my favorites in this post, as well as an option to stay at one of my favorites for 10% off your entire reservation.

2. Be sure you know the basics of any Disneyland visit.

  • Plan to follow my Disneyland Rules for your best chance at peace with young children (and the adults taking care of them).
  • Prepare your princess for her big visit. I have many suggestions, including makeovers, in my princess post.
  • Be ready for meltdowns. They might happen to your children, your spouse or even you! I’ve cried in the middle of Disneyland – for both good and bad reasons. Know this going in and have realistic expectations for the happiest place on earth. And, read this post to avoid the mistakes I’ve made over the years.

3. Buy your theme park tickets. (Take a look at some discounted options for Disneyland and the Southern California City Pass.)

Day 1:

You’re here! (Let’s plan like it’s Monday for this itinerary.) If you flew, be sure to schedule Lansky Enterprises to transport you from airport to hotel.The service is top notch and he provides a stop en route for the grocery store for fresh produce and other perishables. marceline-confectionary

Get settled at your hotel and then visit Downtown Disney for a taste of what’s to come. Entrance is free, there’s lots to do and see and you can eat dinner while you’re there. Return back to your hotel room for plenty of rest. Early wake up follows the next day!

Downtown Disney has many options for dinner. I recommend Earl of Sandwich for a counter service option. Warm toasty sandwiches are yummy, the sides are delicious and the service is excellent. Napolini is a family favorite because it offers pizza, salads and the like. Ralph Brennan’s Jazz Kitchen is great for seafood lovers and those who prefer spicier foods. Of course, there are scaled down children’s options, too.

After dinner, stroll through Downtown Disney for shopping. Don’t miss my absolute favorite, Marceline’s Confectionery, named after Walt Disney’s hometown. Grab a sweet treat. Candy apples are a favorite here!

Back to the hotel now. Nighty night!


Day 2:

If you’re staying off site, I recommend this first day be spent at California Adventure. Disneyland will have Extra Magic Hour this day (Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays), so you’ll be at an advantage visiting DCA (California Adventure) because everyone will start the day at the same time.

For all park visits, I recommend having breakfast finished prior to entering the parks. Don’t use that precious time in the morning with lower crowds to sit for an hour and eat. Grab something at your hotel, en route to the park or even Downtown Disney if their hours coordinate with park opening hours. I list several Downtown Disney breakfast picks in my DTD Post and then also, I include tips on how to manage your mornings at the parks, too, in another post.


Start your day with a focus on the most popular DCA attractions. This post shows you everything to do first, what else to tackle and in what order, and has maps to coordinate the plan.

After your busy morning, proceed on with my 1 day Touring Plan for DCA with Little Ones:

****Use this as a guideline and don’t feel pressured to do EVERYTHING on the list. Gauge how your family is responding to the busy day, break for nap time and then adjust as needed.


For lunch or dinner, I recommend the following at California Adventure:

  • Flo’s V-8 Cafe – In Cars Land, this restaurant is cute and has good food. Try the Beef and Cheddar Sandwich and the Veggie Tater Bake.
  • Pacific Wharf Cafe – I love a good salad or sandwich mid-day at the parks. Pacific Wharf has both of these and more for kids.
  • Ariel’s Grotto – This is a character meal option and is much pricier than other locations. It also requires a reservation. I recommend it for a nice break from the day, a cool place inside to sit down and relax and a fun princessy event.

Walt Disney and Mickey Mouse statue at Disneyland California. Image shot 2009. Exact date unknown.

Day 3:

Today is your Disneyland day. My favorite! As always, arrive early. Every day should start with the same basic routine, found in my Magical Ways to start your Disneyland Days post. These rules apply for both parks.

I always recommend arriving early, leaving mid-day and returning for night time fun. Feel free to stay late on this day, as tomorrow will be an “off” day with a beach visit or just swimming at the pool.

Insider tip: Visit the “dark rides” behind the castle for super short waits late at night (depending on when fireworks are happening). Snow White’s Scary Adventures, Pinocchio, and Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride will all have approximately 10 minute waits usually. Since you’re staying late, take advantage of Fantasyland at dark. It feels different at night. I love it!

These attractions are a bit scary, so know what to expect and if you think your little ones can’t handle them, have one adult take them on the carrousel while the other rides. (Note: these attractions should be done after your touring plan has been followed for this day. I’m suggesting these because you’re likely staying later than normal.)

Follow my Day 1 of 2 Disneyland Touring Plans for this day:


For lunch or dinner, I recommend the following at Disneyland:

  • Jolly Holiday Bakery Cafe – This is one of my favorites. The Jolly Holiday Combo includes grilled cheese and tomato/basil soup. It’s awesome! Their sandwiches are good, too. I’ve actually tried every one of them. (I have a sandwich problem.) This place also has the Matterhorn Macaroon for $1.99, which is one of the best values in the park. If you ask my son, Jack, he’ll recommend the huge cinnamon roll, regardless of what time you’re eating.
  • Rancho del Zacalo – This is my daughter’s absolute favorite and where we eat every time I take her to Disneyland. We share the red sauce enchiladas and also chips/salsa. This restaurant has free drink refills.
  • Cafe Orleans – Make reservations for this one and order the monte cristo and pomme frites. Also, save me a seat because I’ll be joining you. One of the best meals in the park!


Day 4:

You’ve earned a day off. This is it. Sleep in (if kids allow), enjoy your hotel or venture out a bit to see Southern California. I’ve listed the 5 best beach destinations in a recent post.

My two favorites on that list are Crescent Bay (for the sheer beauty of it) and also Balboa Island. Balboa Island incorporates lots of fun “firsts” for many kids. Ride the ferry from mainland to the island, go out on the pier, walk the island, play on the beach and more. It’s a cute place. Check out all of your options for a beach day, with tips on beach visits while on vacation, in that beach post. Then, return back to your hotel for a good night’s sleep before your final theme park day.

Regarding transportation, Lansky can take you to the beach for the following rates:

* Disneyland from/to Balboa Island, Huntington Beach, Newport Beach, Corona Del Mar – $70 flat / 1 way

* Disneyland from/to Crescent Bay – $90 flat / 1 way

* Fare includes driver gratuity – No hidden cost

* Fare same as yellow cab

While you’re out, consider some favorite SoCal eateries:

  • In-n-Out – Yummy burgers and fries. Ask for yours “animal style”. Check their secret menu for more options.
  • The Shake Shack – This place has amazing views, yummy Ruby’s style burgers and fries and delicious milkshakes.
  • Wahoo’s Fish Taco – Wahoo’s is your healthiest version of these three and is delicious, too.


Day 5:

Back to Disneyland! This is your final Disney day, so make it count. I suggest making notes at the end of each day of any theme park visit that includes things you wish you had time for. This last day is your opportunity to work from that list.

Think ahead to iconic photo ops you want to accomplish, final character interactions, souvenir shopping and maybe a specific Disney treat you’ve been dreaming of.

Follow Day 2 of 2 Disneyland Touring Plan for this day:


For lunch, I recommend the following:

  • The French Market – This outdoor patio seating restaurant often has live music playing (not too loud) and delicious dining choices like red beans & rice and the Nawlin’s Salad (my favorite). Choose a seat on the outer skirts of the patio for good people watching.
  • The Golden Horseshoe – An old school Disney favorite, this place has chicken nuggets, fries, and yummy ice cream sundaes. Split the sundaes into two for an ample amount of ice cream treat and you still both get a cookie. Live entertainment is also fun here.

For dinner, I recommend having reservations made for a memorable, final meal in the park or in one of the DLR Hotels. There are so many lovely restaurants. Review this post for information on everything edible at the Disneyland Resort. I break down all of your options into smaller categories so you don’t get overwhelmed.


Day 6:

Another day to sleep in. Yay! Kids should be properly tired by now, so hopefully you’ll all get to rest a bit.

I like to leave this day open for lots of reasons. You may have thought of something, as the week progressed, that you’d like to do in Southern California. The concierge at your hotel might have sparked some interest. There are all sorts of things to do in this area. Here are just a few suggestions:

Los Angeles

San Diego – including the zoo



Each of those links includes information on travel to and from these destinations and suggestions on where to eat. As always, I recommend for nearby trips if you did not rent a car.

If you’re not up for a day trip or another venture out, enjoy your hotel and relax. Disneyland is hard work. Sometimes, I enjoy a nice swim and nap as much as I do a day at the parks – especially after a week full of being on the go.


Day 7:

Travel day! Have a good breakfast, pack up and be on your way. Home sweet home awaits.

Once you’re home, review my post on What to do After Your Disneyland Trip. Lots of good ideas on preserving your special memories.

And while you’re on the plane ride home? Have a cocktail. You’ve earned it. You made it through Disneyland with small children! Some people run marathons. You go to Disneyland. It’s all taxing, physically and emotionally. Reward yourself.


  • Reservations for any dining event can be  made by calling (714) 781-DINE (3463) between 7:00 AM and 9:00 PM daily (Pacific Time).
  • If you call to make special event dining reservations (for World of Color or MSEP), be sure to note that you want that specific dining package, rather than a regular reservation.
  • This trip plan is a model to review and design your own from. If you need help making it work for you, don’t hesitate to email me at
Take a look at how Get Away Today can help with your vacation


  1. I am a single Mom with 3 kids (9,6 and 18m) and I will be going to Disneyland in January!! I have read travel blog after travel blog This is the FIRST post I have found that gives Tips on getting to/from the beach! I had kinda given up on that idea unless I wanted to rent a car and battle California roads. Also I really appreciate your detailed outlines. I will be making my own but will be following your last as examples!! Thank you!

  2. I’m wondering if there is a list of times and places to meet Disney characters. We are taking my soon to be 4 year old for the first time for her birthday.

  3. Thanks for your blog. We are travelling to America for the first time in early november from New Zealand we have five days at disney land resort. The schedule has Just been released and there is no Frozen live. What can I do with two kids who has been waiting to see this show. Is there something similar? Thanks

  4. This is an awesome post! Thank you. I am planning a trip in Nov with my husband and two girls (4 years old and 5 months old). We are driving from LAX to Disney on Monday, planning to spend Tuesday in Disney, then drive to San Diego for Wednesday and Thursday. We fly out of San Diego on Friday back to Canada.

    Couple of questions as this is our first trip to Disney:

    1. Is 1.5 days enough in Disney with my two young girls? (We get into LAX at noon and were planning to drive straight to Disney) What could we do around there that day/evening? Is one park better than the other for younger kids?

    2. Is the drive to San Diego from Disney quite scenic? Are there any stops you would recommend along the way?

    THANKS IN ADVANCE. You’re posts are really helping us plan this trip! My daughter loves all things Disney and will be in total awe!

  5. Casey – your blog is amazing! Thank you for all the work you’ve done to help families enjoy Disneyland! I’d like your advice about which plan to use – big kid or little kid. My kids are (almost) 9, 7, and 5. This will be their first amusement park experience, so I am not sure how adventurous they’ll be. I’m concerned the big kid plan will be too “scary”, but the little kid plan might be too “little.” What would you recommend?

    • Hey, there. I recommend following the big kid plan and then using alternate, nearby attractions, as needed. Most DLR and DCA rides are not super scary and your crew could get bored with the Littles plan. Go for it!

  6. Hi Casey! I’ve been researching your blog for months and postponed our trip from January to this April. I’m wondering if you have an updated itinerary suggestions since some of the rides will be closed. Also, I noticed that your itineraries don’t have any shows or entertainment. Should we do Mickey and the magical map or other shows/parades since its our first visit or skip them and do the rides instead? I’m also trying to find a good time to squeeze in the BBB…any advice would be appreciated! Thank you!

    • Hi, Katie! I don’t include shows or parades because plenty of people (?????) don’t enjoy them. However, I highly recommend catching Mickey’s Soundsarional (afternoon) and Paint the Night (evening). To see PTN, I suggest enjoying a special dining experience that includes reserved viewing and takes the stress out of finding a spot to watch. Check out info on those options here:

      Regarding the BBB, I recommend doing that in the morning, but around 10:30ish am if possible. That way, you’re not missing out on the lower crowd times. Check out more on that and princess everything here:

      Mickey and the Magical Map can be squeezed in while you are in Fantasyland. Check the entertainment schedule upon entering (it’s printed on paper next to the maps at the turn stiles) for timing.

      I don’t edit my touring plans for refurbished attractions because they’re ever changing. But you can check this link on my site prior to visiting to know what to cross off your list:

      Hope this helps!

      • Thanks! I managed to get a 10:10 appointment at BBB and reserved the paint the night dining package. I’m trying not to over plan but at the same time I want my kids to experience more than just rides and waiting in line! You’ve been super helpful so thanks! One last questions…do you have any experience with parksavers or other discount ticket vendors? I’m skeptical but the prices are enticing.

  7. Hi Casey, thanks so much for all of your posts! I’m currently planning my first Disneyland trip for myself and my boyfriend. I’ve been to Disney World countless times (I did the College Program, so I basically lived in the parks on my days off) but Disneyland is a complete mystery to me. I want to get to most of the rides, but especially the ones that aren’t at WDW. Is three days in the parks really enough to be able to do everything? I was hoping to do dinner and reserved Fantasmic!/World of Color spots at night as well.

  8. These are great tips, Casey! We’re thinking of planning a September trip to avoid the crowds and this plan looks wonderful!

  9. Outstanding post, Casey! This is stuff you were so kind to help me with over the last couple of months and I love seeing it all in one post format. Super easy reading. Great job!

  10. Thank you so much for all of the time and effort you have put into dlrp! The information I have found here has been above and beyond any other site, including disney parks moms panel! My family is going to have an amazing time thanks to all your helpful post!

      • Casey,
        I do have a quick question… We are going 4/19-4/23, we rented points to stay at VGC. I’m wondering what day, Monday or Wednesday, is the best to try for frozen meet and greet and if we should use the hotel entrance or go to the main gate? This is the only must do for our DD 2 & 5 and with them being early risers we really want to take advantage of early entry. TIA

        • Hi, Ashley.

          Because you have early entry privileges, I would go on Monday (or Wednesday) because those are early entry days for California Adventure. I suggest Monday because if you like it enough, you can return again on Wednesday for the same events.

          Use this post to know what to do and where to go:

          The main entrance of the park is closer to the Frozen Fun area, but there could be less people at the hotel entrance. Either way, you’ll be totally fine as long as you follow that post.

          Please let me know if you have any questions!


  11. Casey,
    I LOVE reading all of your posts on Disneyland and surrounding areas. This will be our first time. We are avid WDW fans. We are taking our 16 year old and am planning a trip similar to this. What do you think about this plan? We’re going to arrive on a Saturday at LAX and go to Santa Monica Pier. Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday will be Disneyland park days with Wednesday being a hotel day with Halloween party. Thursday will be a trip to Hollywood and Friday a beach day flying home on Saturday. We’re looking at going the week of Columbus Day. Would the first or the last of that week be better for Disney crowds? We’ve been to the Halloween party at WDW. Is the one at Disneyland worth it? Thanks:)

  12. This is perfect timing! I am taking my family (including my sons, 6 and 8) to Disneyland at the end of July. We’re planning something along these lines with 4 days at the parks and 2 rest days! Thank you for the awesome suggestions and itinerary!

  13. hi there, do you think this plan works for tween boys? We are coming in May from NZ and I would love a plan that would suit them. I’m pretty sure they arnt going to be interested in the frozen attractions or should we be doing them anyway?

  14. Great post! We’re headed to SoCal next month and doing a very similar trip starting with an overnight in Newport (we’re coming from the freezing tundra of Chicago and need a beach stat!). Going to take your advice and skip the early entry days at the parks. We did those two years ago, but getting up at 6 am to make rope drop is just too darn early. For us, that’s not what vacation’s all about. Staying at DH again and can’t wait!

  15. I’m so excited we can leave comments now!

    Fun post and you know I agree with the Monte Cristo…a must eat. Another option, which I know you’ll agree with, is having Marri’s Pizza delivered to your hotel.