If you’ve been following Quick Whit Travel on Facebook and Instagram, you know we took advantage of a three-day weekend to visit the Happiest Place on Earth—Disneyland! I did what I thought was quite a bit of research beforehand, such as reading other blogs, Pinteresting things to do, see, and eat, and even calling the Grand Californian Hotel and Spa to ask questions! I found out a lot of things I was glad to know!
It seems, however, that no matter where or how often I travel or how much research I do before a trip, there are some things you just can’t know until you get there. But in an effort to make YOUR travels faster, easier, and more efficient, here is a master list I kept of things I wish we’d known before our trip! Here it is, in no particular order:
Before You Get Inside
- “Run Disney” happened that weekend. I am still not sure how I missed that in all my research and calling the actual resort to ask specifically about running in the area! Apparently, there was a 5K, 10K, ½ Marathon, AND a full Marathon happening over the long weekend, and apparently it’s every year on Veteran’s Day Weekend. Whoops. When my husband and I tried to go for a run early Saturday morning, we started off fine, but then we got caught up in it toward the end of our run. It was frustrating, confusing, and ended up cutting into our precious 36 hours there! Not so happy and magical for us, but not detrimental, either. Just something we wish we’d known about!
- You will be waiting in three (sometimes two?) lines before entering the park. I knew we’d have some lines ahead of us. I knew there’d be a line to get in, but I was still disappointed to get through the first line and realize we were still not in the park! Friday afternoon, we went through a bag check line, a separate security screening line, and then the actual park entrance line.
- The line numbers are tiny. While researching I came across a good bit of info: lines 5, 13, and 21 move the fastest. In our haste to get into ANY line to get into the park after the first two lines, we didn’t see the tiny little numbers up above each line. I didn’t notice them until we were right up at the entry point.
- Plan to use wait time to make a new plan. A LOT of the rides were either closed for refurbishment or closed temporarily. In their efforts to be cautious and keep park-goers safe, Disneyland has a lot of safety checks and fail-safe procedures. It’s great to know you’re out of danger, but that also messed up our plan to visit the park efficiently and effectively. Not every attraction has a FastPass option (more on FastPass below), so for those that don’t, the time we spent in line was useful for making a new short-term plan! The Disneyland App helps with that as well, but more on that in a different post!
- The lines are not so bad. Yes, you will be waiting in line, sometimes even if you have a FastPass! But seriously, the lines are not all that bad! They have done a great job of snaking the lines so you feel like you’re close to the ride or attraction, and there are lots of things to see while you’re waiting. There are usually things to read about what the ride is like; there are atmospheric or mood-setting things to see, hear, and even smell; there’s music; and the people you’re in line with are generally going to be happy to be there! I heard very little complaining and very much happiness and laughter from the people in the lines around us!
- There are sometimes lines for the FastPass Distribution points. These lines go very quickly because the FastPass distribution literally only takes about 3 seconds, and there are multiple kiosks for FastPasses!
- The FastPass distribution kiosks are not always easy to find. Some of them are several yards away, and some are even located at a different attraction than the one you want! For instance, the Star Tours kiosks were located at the Buzz Lightyear attraction across the sidewalk from the Star Tours ride. There was signage telling you where to go, but if you don’t know where to look for the sign, you won’t see it! Keep those eyes peeled!
- FastPass gives you a 1-hour window to return. All I read about FastPasses was that basically you get your FastPass with a time to come back and skip the line to get on the ride. Well, that’s true, but it would have been nice to know you have an hour-long window—you do NOT have to return exactly on the dot at a pre-appointed time that you don’t even get to pick! That really helps with flexibility!
- There will be a sign to tell you what the FastPass time will be! This was extremely handy! There are big marquee signs next to the FastPass Return line (where you go with your FastPass to get into the shorter line) that clearly shows in red lights what time your FastPass time range will be if you get your FastPass right then. Sometimes the FastPass time can be six or seven hours later, and sometimes they run out altogether! It’s good to know if standing in line will take less time than waiting for your FastPass Return time!
At the Park
- Estimated wait times are not always accurate—use multiple apps. The estimated wait times on the Disneyland app and on signage posted in the line were sometimes correct, but we were pretty disappointed when what we thought was a 30 minute line turned into an hour long line for the Finding Nemo attraction. We were actually on a bit of a time crunch to get over to the Haunted Mansion in our FastPass time window, so the Nemo submarine ride was a little less enjoyable than it was anxiety inducing! There are multiple wait time apps for Disneyland, so download a few and cross-check them to get a better idea of your wait time!
- Look out for one-seater rides. For instance, the Matterhorn Bobsled ride is tons of fun, but riders are in a single-file seating configuration, so no one is side-by-side. If we’d realized that beforehand, my husband Steve and I might have gotten into the single-rider line instead of staying in the regular line—we might have gotten on the ride and been on our way to other things faster, since we knew we wouldn’t be sitting next to each other anyway! Another reason this is good info to have is that the Matterhorn doesn’t have a FastPass option, so you really do have to wait in line, no matter how long it is! Splash Mountain is the same one-seater configuration, but they do have a FastPass option, just FYI.
- Rides break down often, but don’t get too upset. If a ride breaks down with you on it, you will receive a special ticket to return with up to 6 people in the FastPass line when it’s fixed! We got into the park early, were 5th and 6th in line for one of the most popular rides at the park, got half way through, and the house lights came on as the ride made its emergency stop! Yes, we got stuck on Hyperspace Mountain (aka Space Mountain). It was kind of exciting because I’d never gotten stranded on a ride before, but it also stunk because we wasted fully HALF of our Extra Magic Hour. Not so magical. BUT, I got to take some inner workings pictures for you, and we got our special return pass!
- If a ride breaks down, consider staying in line. Unless otherwise instructed by Cast Members, stay in line until that ride gets fixed. We didn’t have a choice with the Hyperspace Mountain incident, but for both Splash Mountain and the Snow White ride, we chose to stay in line and were rewarded for our patience! Lots of people ahead of us got out of line, moving us closer to the front, and they had both rides fixed within 15-20 minutes. If we’d left, we would have been waiting in another line much longer than that, and then we’d have to come back and wait in line for those rides again, doubling up some time spent in line instead of on rides!
- Extra Magic Hour only applies to Tomorrowland and Fantasyland. Any extra time you get in the park is awesome and beneficial, but I wish we’d known it only applied to two of Disneyland’s seven “lands!” It’s definitely helpful to know for strategic and planning purposes.
- Parades take up most of the afternoon. Parades are fun and festive, of course, but not so much if it means some of the rides (like the Storybookland Canal Boats) are closed for several hours because of them! The Cast Members also have to rope off Main Street and other areas for parades, so access and short cuts through the park are restricted. Kind of a bummer, wish we’d been more prepared. We could have gone to some rides farther off Main Street!
- The Market House on Main Street is Starbucks! There is exactly one place in the world you can get a Disneyland Starbucks mug if you are a collector like my husband and I are, and that is a very non-descript little shop off of Main Street USA inside the Disneyland Park. They don’t even sell them at Downtown Disney’s Starbucks, which is outside the park gates! It’s not hard to find, but if you’re looking for a big green mermaid sign, you won’t find it here! Also, the mugs are $17-$20, several dollars more than at your regular Starbucks on the street!
Ever had experiences like these? Tell me about it in the comments section!