Everyone wants to go to Disneyland. Why? Because Disneyland is awesome, that’s why. Don’t ask dumb questions, Steve.
If you’re making your way to the Happiest Place On Earth for the first time, you’re bound to make some rookie mistakes. Take it from the Annual Passholders, these are easy pitfalls to avoid.
10. Obsessing Over Your FASTPASS
First timers are easily spotted not by their “1st Visit” button, but by their indigenous song: “Get A FASTPASS.” When you visit for the first time, you’re naturally going to want to skip lines because lines are dumb. FASTPASS can help with that. However, there’s no reason to obsess over it. Do this, and you’re going to miss a lot of the magic in the park. Take things down a notch and enjoy your visit. Grab a FASTPASS for that one “must-ride” attraction first thing in the morning, and take the rest as it comes. Check your wait times on the app (you did download the app, right?) and only use the FASTPASS as a virtual placeholder while you go ride something else. You can absolutely get to all the cool stuff if you use the app and just take your time. Space Mountain has been there since 1977 and is not going anywhere… we promise.
9. Not Thinking Dinner Through Ahead Of Time
If there’s anything you need to knock out ahead of time, it’s your dinner plans. Dining at one of the jewels of the park like Blue Bayou or Wine Country Trattoria can be one of the most memorable experiences of your trip. However, this is something you need to plan ahead for. Blue Bayou is generally booked solid on weekends a good two to three weeks in advance. Here’s the key… make reservations. Shockingly simple, isn’t it? Your trip is likely planned well in advance, so you actually have the jump on us Passholders with this one (we tend to make food plans on the fly.) Your choices are quite simple. Call ahead at (714) 781-3463 and make your reservation, or… and this is a recurring theme here… you can make the reservations using the app. Seriously, download the app.
8. Buying Your Tickets At The Ticket Booth On The Day Of Your Visit
If ever there was a rookie mistake, this is it. Buying your tickets at the booth is not only foolish, but a complete waste of time and kind of a jerk move towards your kids. The lines at the booth are always going to be around the block until about noon — especially on weekends. Even assuming you can get through there inside of half an hour, remember that you then have to get through the turnstiles to enter the park. This is always a madhouse. Not to mention, you probably had to pay for parking at the lot on that day. This is all easily avoided by simply purchasing your tickets ahead of time online or using the app (there’s that word again.) You can either print the old timey way, or you can save the whole family’s tickets on the app you downloaded ahead of time (you did download it ahead of time, right?) You can also bundle your parking with the tickets, so you’re all set to go there. Don’t be a schmuck… plan ahead.
7. Insisting You Catch The 9:30 Showing Of Fantasmic Or World Of Color
Two things are going on here. First, is the timing of this. There is no rule saying you absolutely must catch the 9:30 showing of anything. There’s a reason they run a 9:30 and a 10:15. Always catch the 10:15 show. The crowds will have thinned out and you’ll have a better chance at prime seating. You’re also likely making the mistake of not getting a FASTPASS for the shows. Your first-thing-in-the-morning FASTPASS run should start with Fantasmic/World Of Color. This does not count against your ability to get another FASTPASS later in the day, so you’re fine there. The 10:15 showing, even in the FASTPASS section, has fewer people and a better chance at being down front. For an even better experience, get one of the packages from Blue Bayou or Carthay Circle Restaurant. For about $60/person you get a super swanky meal and total VIP seats for the show. Make your reservations…. wait for it… on the app. At dinner, simply ask for that package, and you’re guaranteed the best seats in the park.
6. Not Bringing A Power Bank (Or Two) For Your Phones
It’s an uncomfortable truth, but Disneyland is hard on your phone’s battery. Whether you think so or not, you’re going to be on your phone a lot during your visit to the park. Whether you’re using Snapchat or Instagram to share your memories, checking wait times on the app (yup, it does that too), or tracking down the rest of your group — your phone battery is going to get a workout. When it’s 4:00 and you notice you’re at 30% battery, this is an emergency. You can always pick up a charging bank from one of the kiosks… for $35. There’s also the charging lockers in Disney California Adventure, but then you’re without a phone. Very often, you’ll see Passholders with USB cords going from our pocket to our backpack. It’s because we pack charging banks for our phones, and always have backup juice. Plan ahead and stay charged.
5. Using Emporium For Your Souvenirs And Not World Of Disney
It’s kind of understandable that Emporium feels like the go-to spot for your souveniers. It’s right there on Main Street U.S.A. and is pretty big. For decades, this was the spot for your t-shirts, plush toys, mugs, and other suitcase fillers. The difficult truth for first-timers to swallow is this… that’s not the best place for souvenir shopping. World Of Disney, located at the far end of Downtown Disney, is hands-down the best place for Disney shopping. Not only is it almost three times the size of Emporium, but the selection is massive, varied, and almost always better stocked than Emporium. Your seasonal park memorabilia, framed art and figurines, clothing… all of it is under one roof. You will rarely catch Passholders at Emporium unless they’re on a hunt for something specific. The two exceptions to this rule are Star Wars items or land-specific items. Neither Emporium or World Of Disney are the spots for this. Star Trader located in Tomorrowland, is by far the most complete collection of Star Wars souvenirs in the park. Items specific to a ride or land are often more easily found in that land. Use the Shopping filter on the app to find the nearest shop. (The app… download it.)
4. Matching T Shirts
Please, for the love of Mickey, please stop doing this. We beg of you. Putting your entire family in matching shirts is not only obnoxious and tacky but it actually hurts everyone’s individual experience. Imagine for a moment that you’re a big Goofy fan. He’s your favorite character and you absolutely need this picture. You find Goofy using the app (more on that in a second), and you get your picture taken with your favorite character. This is a picture to treasure because it was your personal experience with your character who means a lot to you. But there you are with a family t-shirt, forever hitching your personal experience to a group experience. Let everyone in your family wear what they want, and you’ll be able to share both family memories and your own. You don’t have to match to bond as a family.
3. Skipping The PhotoPass
There’s really no nice way to say this. If you don’t get the PhotoPass, you’re an idiot. It’s true that Disneyland has a few pitfalls that are a spectacular waste of money. Souvineer popcorn buckets (except for the Passholder Buckets which rule), Magic Mornings, and stroller rentals in general… just to name a few. A PhotoPass however, is worth every penny. No matter how slick you are with that iPhone or even the DSLR you shlepped from Salt Lake City, you’re not going to get the primo shots and you’re always going to be down a person. PhotoPass photographers have the best angles reserved just for them and you don’t have to ask a stranger to take your phone. Not to mention, you can either pick up the prints or have them sent directly to your phone using the Disneyland app (take the hint already.)
2. Meeting Characters Just By Chance
Meeting characters is literally the best part of your visit. No matter how old you are, no feeling on Earth compares to getting that hug from Snow White, Cinderella, Mary Poppins, or Mickey Mouse. When you get to meet your favorite character, and they come to life right there in front of you… that’s what Walt Disney dreamed of. First time visitors however, try to let this happen organically. They figure Belle or Donald Duck will just sort of wander on by (with no crowd, of course) and you can walk right up. Pro tip, if they’re walking they’re on break and you can’t meet them. Character visits are always stationary and have a line. Use the Characters filter on the app (you knew that was coming) to see who will be where and when. For visits with the Princesses, the Attractions filter will show you the wait time for their meeting place. Plan ahead and you’ll be sure to get that hug from Goofy, whom everyone knows gives the best hugs in the park!
1. Trying To Knock It All Out In One Day
This is easily the worst mistake first-time visitors make. It’s interesting how people accept that visiting Walt Disney World in Florida is a 3-4 day undertaking but not Disneyland. Yes, it’s much bigger, but on the other hand… Disneyland has a lot of stuff. You want to be able to see all of Disneyland as well as Disney California Adventure and you don’t want to be at all rushed. You have two roads to take. You can either accept that you’re going to miss a bunch of things, or you can spring for the 3-Day Park Hopper pass. It’s actually not that much of a jump in price and it’s definitely worth it. You can skip the parade one day and the other day; make a point of it. It’s that simple. These can also be rolled in with a vacation plan — just like Walt Disney World — allowing you to stay at one of the resort hotels. Don’t forget, you’re still in Southern California so you can make a trip out of it and see the rest of Los Angeles and Orange County. Put your 3-day passes in the app (have we not been clear about this?) and enjoy a more leisurely pace.