Please watch the latest video I posted to see what’s been going on with us! https://youtu.be/jjofp1cKSY0
Friends, with the very recent announcement that the prices to have your next magical experience have increased upwards of 25%, I want to have a bit of a conversation with you about whether Disneyland is “worth it”.
First, I want to give you my take on why the prices have gone up. I saw a stat that said the single-day, one park ticket price for Disneyland has increased threefold since 2000. Most of the pain is in the prices of the highest Annual Passes. My take on this is fairly straight-forward. Disney needs to control the crowds somehow. Galaxy’s Edge was just confirmed to open in California in June. This alone is going to drop an atomic bomb on both parks for many months. I’m not saying that Disney is completely innocent here, as far as some calling them greedy. Certainly added profits and revenue are great side-effects. However, Disney also recently announced some price increases across the Nation at Walt Disney World. The difference is that while WDW also has Galaxy’s Edge opening this year, their increases were very small in comparison to Disneyland’s. This cements to me that it’s not at all a greedy move. It’s crowd-control, period.
I will say that it’s unfortunate that it happens. It’s sad that there are many families that will effectively be priced-out of a magical experience. But for some, the challenge is just to work harder to save up and wait a little longer to make it happen. Conveniently, those folks might have just avoided the massive crowds by being patient and saving up.
Some will go no matter the price. We are not what I consider financially well-off. My wife and I both work full time to make things work. We have two kids that normally make the trips with us. We are not currently Annual Passholders but we had been in the past. Because of our feelings about Disneyland and how much we adore the place, we would likely find a way to make it happen, no matter the price. This gets me to answering the title of this article.
Is Disneyland worth it? Let me pull this apart a little to help me illustrate my point. The phrase “worth it” means different things to different people. What does it mean to you? I like cars. I enjoy car shopping. I love watching YouTube videos reviewing cars from A to Z, typical econo-boxes to Ferraris and Bugattis. I love cars! If you were to ask me if owning a $300,000 Lamborghini was worth it, I’d proudly exclaim, YES! But, would I ever buy one? Heck no! Why? While it would be an absolute dream car to own and to drive and to show off, ownership would not make any sense. I certainly could not afford it. The loan payments, the ridiculous insurance, gas, tires, maintenance/repair, and speeding tickets would completely break us financially. Would it be worth it? Yes. Would it make any sense? No. The question about a trip to Disneyland shouldn’t be, “Is it worth it?” Because that answer would always be YES. The question should rather be, “Does it make sense?”. Because we all are in different financial situations, I can’t tell you that Disneyland makes sense. It wouldn’t be fair to tell you that. But, if you could dig in, make a plan, save your money, and dream big, you will discover that it will ALWAYS be worth it!
In an earlier article, HERE, I discussed the idea of separating the financial aspects from the magical experience itself. I won’t re-hash that here, but it does fit here nicely. The bottom-line here is to save up the money, make a smart plan and budget it all accordingly, and make it happen. Once you experience it (again, if it’s been a while), you will never have to approach the topic of the worth of a Disneyland trip. Because, duh!
Generally, folks visit Disneyland with their lovely children. It’s absolutely a family-affair. Like many events parents get a lot of joy from watching their children having a great experience. It’s a lot like watching the kiddos unwrap their presents and seeing that sparkle in their eyes. Walt himself even said he wanted his theme park to be enjoyable to both children and adults.
After 18 years of marriage and every visit to a Disney park including our children, we wanted to do something we’d always talked about doing but never made happen. We went to Disneyland as a couple. No kiddos. Wow. What a very different experience. Thanksgiving weekend in 2018 was when we made it happen. Yes, things at the park were very busy but overall, we felt a lot more relaxed. Our hotel was a little further away than we had envisioned so we ended up using Uber to travel to and from so it was a little like being chauffeured.
Currently, we are not passholders so we had to make some things work a little different. We left our vehicle parked at the hotel. Even this small detail took our anxiety down a notch. One of the biggest differences we noticed was that we could really take it slow. We didn’t feel like we were hurrying around as much. We still used MaxPass and took advantage of some of our normal strategies. We definitely maximised our attraction and show scheduling. We discovered that reserving dining options was also much easier with just a party of two than it had been for three or four.
One interesting thing we noted was that even though we usually let our kids go off and do their own rides and gave them a money card to buy snacks, we felt even more free to do anything we wanted and look for things we’ve never done or stores we never visited. We did feel a little guilty for not including our children but we had such an amazing time that we enjoyed it all immensely. I mean, it’s still Disneyland!
We absolutely recommend planning and executing on an adventure to Disneyland as just a couple. You’ll go again soon and bring along the children, right? Enjoy your significant other’s company. Look at the sparkle in their eyes and create this unique memory to keep forever.
Friends, in the normal course of running a theme park ride or attraction, repairs, maintenance, and upgrades need to happen. Also, Disney is keen to keep things lively, fresh, and relevant to whatever seasonal or popular trends are happening. For these reasons, attractions and shows are closed. Disney refers to this closure as a refurbishment and thankfully in most cases, these are short closures.
Because you want to get your precious money’s worth and experience as much of the resort as possible, you need this information to help plan your trip. Like a lot of things in life, Google is our friend here. There are many resources that provide up-to-date refurbishment information. We don’t have a favorite. Most places provide accurate information but it’s usually smart to look over at least 2-3 websites to corroborate the info. The interesting bit here is that Disney itself doesn’t publish this information in an easy to digest format on any of its websites. They do have current, live info on their calendar and mobile apps on a per-attraction/show basis, but they do not list it otherwise. I can understand this as they want to sell tickets and this could be considered a negative influence on that goal.
Here are a few websites we use and cross-check for this important info:
As you are planning your next trip To Disney, please refer to these resources to ensure you have the latest info as to what you may be missing out on. Sometimes, it’s enough to adjust your schedule. Sometimes, you can’t handle not riding Pirates of the Caribbean. We get that!
Disneyland offers many ways to abbreviate your wait in long queues. We’ve written in-depth on the Fast/MaxPass offerings. We will also write more about strategically planning riding attractions that do not offer these advantages. Single-Rider is a really effective way to get on that attraction quickly.
Currently, the rides with Single-Rider at the California Disney parks are as follows:
- Matterhorn Bobsleds
- Splash Mountain
- Indiana Jones Adventure
- Space Mountain
Disney California Adventure Park:
- Grizzly River Run
- Goofy’s Sky School
- Radiator Springs Racers
As with many of these offerings that Disney provides, there are some trade-offs or compromises. Firstly, it’s called Single-Rider for a reason. It’s just you. If you’re with your family or a group, there’s no guarantee that you’ll all be on the same vehicle together. And chances are, you will not be. For this, we advise using a Fast/MaxPass to ride the attraction once together with your group to get the pictures and have the experience together. For future rides, go Single-Rider. Another gotcha is that sometimes Single-Rider is not available at these locations. Sometimes, due to traffic or other demand-related situations, the attractions do not offer this benefit. Most times, you’ll see a sign or some indication that it’s available or not. Or, asking a Cast Member will get you that information. Because these Single-Rider options are usually taking a different route to get to the platform, please listen and respect the instructions given. Especially from the super helpful Cast Members.
For Matterhorn Bobsleds, the option is extremely efficient and you will get many rides in a very short time. They are constantly pulling from the Single-Rider queues and your wait time is usually very short. You may be placed in either the left or right queue, or you may be given the choice. But if you love this attraction, Single-Rider is pure gold!
Splash Mountain is also really good to take advantage of this program. The lines are much shorter than the Standby or Fast/MaxPass queues. They tend to still be a bit of a wait but very worth it.
Indiana Jones Adventure is a bit hit or miss. Sometimes they don’t do Single-Rider. And even when they do, it’s not as efficient as the others. Still worthwhile to use this on this attraction, absolutely. But they only let a few through at a time since they have to load the handicap elevator and only 6-8 folks can comfortably fit. Again, it’s still better than Standby so go for it.
In Disney California Adventure, definitely use it on Incredicoaster (formerly California Screamin’) and absolutely use it on Radiator Springs Racers. These attractions usually have amazingly long standby lines and the Single-Rider option is heaven!
Here, at ToDisney, we provide the hints and tricks to maximize your fun. The Single-Rider option on these attractions are outstanding ways to accomplish this. As mentioned, always look or ask a Cast Member to find out if Single-Rider is available for that attraction. Also always be kind to those lovely Cast Members! They work hard and have kind of a rough job but they continue to be happy and helpful. If you get on Twitter, send out a hashtag #CastMemberCompliment and mention the name and where they were. Also link @DisneylandToday and/or @Disneyland in your tweet. The company sees these and passes the praise along in a really cool way.
Some of the information here is based on articles from Southern California newspapers or Wikipedia. One amazing article from the L.A. Times has a ton of great information regarding minimizing wait time for attractions.
Friends! We just arranged a fantastic deal with Ye Olde Proppe Shoppe. When you purchase anything from their site and use our exclusive coupon code: DLBLOGGER10, you’ll get an immediate 10% discount!
These are very high quality attractive signs and plaques that will inspire “those Disney feels” every day in your home, garage, or office. Please browse their entire site and you’ll be delighted at what you could bring home.
Not only do they have a great selection of replica Disney and other theme park items, but they have items from video games, TV and movies, and they will even customize something for you!
Visit https://www.yeoldeproppeshoppe.net today and don’t forget to use the coupon code: DLBLOGGER10 to get your instant 10% discount!
Friends, we know it’s been a couple of weeks since we posted. Rest assured that we are hard at work researching and writing drafts in the background. We’ve got some really great info coming soon. Please stick with us!
We all know the primary goal of standing in a queue at Disneyland is to ride the attraction at the end of that line. You either have to just wait until you arrive at that sweet seat, or you can use a shortcut and get close to the finish much faster by reserving your time to get into that shorter queue. Disneyland started issuing FastPasses in late 1999. According to Wikipedia, FastPass is defined to, “allow guests to avoid long lines at the attractions on which the system is installed, freeing them to enjoy other attractions during their wait.”
Considered a virtual queuing system, FastPass is the same as getting in line once you claim it but then you can enjoy other activities in the parks until your scheduled time to return.
FastPasses used to be slightly better than they are today. You used to be able to have one active FastPass per park at a time. You used to be able to return anytime after the first return time. As soon as that first time passed, you could go get another FastPass. We had quite the strategy going at that time. We dashed into Disney’s California Adventure as soon as it opened and ran straight to Radiator Spring’s Racers to grab FastPasses. Then we ran across to Disneyland Resort to grab Space Mountain FastPasses. At that point, if the queue wasn’t too long, we’d get in line for Space Mountain. Once our first time was up, we would grab another FastPass for another ride, etc. Very rarely did we stand in any queue for longer than about 5-10 minutes. But we sure did do a lot of running back and forth from park to park! By the end of the day we had collected quite the stack of FastPasses for our favorite rides, and we could ride them over and over again. That was the life.
Then Disney made a couple changes. First they changed the rule to be that you had to come back during the time specified on your FastPass (as depicted on the photo above, “Return any time between 1:40 pm and 2:40 pm”). We had to plan a new strategy. This was cause for more running back and forth between the parks. The final twist Disney made was only allowing visitors one active FastPass at a time. No longer could you have one per park!
Since these changes, we now tend to spend longer chunks of time in each park at a time. Instead of going back and forth, we are more likely to spend 3-4 hours in each park before switching back to the other park.
Attractions at Disneyland Resort that feature FastPass are:
- Big Thunder Mountain Railroad
- Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters
- Fantasmic! (show ticket; not available via Disney MaxPass)
- Haunted Mansion
- Haunted Mansion Holiday
- Indiana Jones Adventure: Temple of the Forbidden Eye
- It’s a Small World
- It’s a Small World Holiday
- Matterhorn Bobsleds
- Roger Rabbit’s Car Toon Spin
- Space Mountain
- Space Mountain Ghost Galaxy
- Splash Mountain
- Star Tours – The Adventures Continue
Attractions at Disney’s California Adventure with FastPass are:
- Goofy’s Sky School
- Grizzly River Run
- Guardians of the Galaxy – Mission: Breakout!
- Guardians of the Galaxy – Monsters After Dark
- Radiator Springs Racers
- Soarin’ Around the World
- Toy Story Midway Mania!
- World of Color (show ticket; not available via Disney MaxPass)
Recently, in July of 2018, Disneyland introduced MaxPass, an enhanced and paid implementation of the existing FastPass system. MaxPass allows you to digitally reserve FastPasses via the Disneyland App. As soon as you enter the park, scanning your ticket or pass, you can begin taking advantage of the MaxPass program. At a price of $10 per person, per day, you get the added convenience of not having to physically get a FastPass. This is pretty awesome because now there’s no need to run across the park first thing to get a FastPass. You can also use regular FastPasses in the normal way. One really nice benefit to the MaxPass program is that you can get a new one every 90 minutes. Regardless if you’ve used your current ones, you can reserve a new FastPass 90 minutes after reserving your last one. A regular FastPass (not reserved with MaxPass) is only available until two hours after you’ve gotten your last one.
We used the MaxPass program during our last trip to Disneyland and we weren’t sure how it would be. The plan was to use it once just to try it out. We loved it so much we ended up using it most every day we were there. You can buy them with your tickets, or opt-in while you’re at the park. Also, you get free use of the PhotoPass program. This allows you to use the park photographers and the ride photos and download them permanently. That is a much better option than holding your phone up to the screens at the end of the rides.
In our way To Disney, one of our biggest goals is to avoid standing in long queue lines. FastPass and MaxPass are the way to go and offer a great way to plan out your days at the parks. Some are of the opinion that adding FastPass to rides that didn’t already have them makes the experience worse. There is some current debate on whether Disney should add FastPass to Pirates of the Caribbean. Since that ride is so efficient, perhaps FastPass isn’t needed there. Disney has installed what looks like Fast/MaxPass scanner stations in the queue area of Pirates. Last I heard they are still waiting to see if they should use them or not.
The best advice we can give you about the MaxPass and the FastPass, to help you know how To Disney, is to pay attention to the following:
- The shows – Fantasmic & World of Color: These FastPasses are different. The usual FastPass rules don’t apply. You can have these passes all day long while having other ride FastPasses.
- Return Start and End times – don’t miss these! They are not flexible on this – especially now that everything is electronic. If you try to go early, they won’t let you in. If you show up late, they won’t let you in.
- Next available time: At the bottom of the ticket it says “Another FastPass ticket will be available after X time”. For the most part, as soon as the first “next available time” hits, you are free to get a new FastPass. As mentioned before, you can collect a new FastPass every two hours (or every 90 minutes if it’s by MaxPass). What this means is that if your FastPass return time is between 1:40 pm and 2:40 pm, and it’s only 10 am, you can get another FastPass at noon. You don’t have to wait until 1:40 pm to get your next one.
- Attractions go down. Use this to your advantage! Shhh this one is a secret…If you return to your attraction during your scheduled time and it is temporarily down, your FastPass is now available the rest of the day! Use it during the busiest part of the day!
If you want to maximize your attraction play, take advantage of MaxPass and FastPass. They are great programs and worth the bit of effort it takes to plan and use.
Friends, we want to announce that we are so proud that we’ve been able to partner with a couple of amazing travel companies. First, GetAwayToday.com. A Utah-based travel website that will get you some great deals on Disney park tickets and hotels. We’ve used them just this summer to get a really awesome deal on five 5-day Park-Hopper tickets and a fantastic hotel that had two queen beds and bunk beds! The whole process was very clear, efficient and professionally handled. We even got cool lanyards and ticket pouches! We added a link with their logo on the right side of the page (on the bottom on mobile devices) to get you started. We do get a bit of a return when you book a trip through our link, so thank you for your support!
Also, we’ve partnered with Undercover Tourist. They have been around for a long time and until recently, have mostly been focused on Florida theme parks. They just started providing offers and deals for California parks. We jumped all over that for you and also have a special link that gives us a cut when you book through our link. Undercover Tourist has been able to usually get the best discounts on park tickets. Even though Mickey has been very strict about that over the past few years.
We hope you can find your dream vacation through either or both of these incredible partners! Again, please be sure you use our links so we can mutually benefit from your deals and discounts!
We are building a world to help you learn how To Disney! The foundation is this blog. All the knowledge sharing and tips/tricks will be shared here. We also want to engage with you anywhere else to further enhance your experience. So far, we’ve added a new Facebook Group, an Instagram account, and a Twitter account. I’ll add the links below.
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While visiting Disneyland there are many considerations you need to make regarding budget and spending your money wisely. Generally, it’s wise to bring some snacks and plenty of fluids to keep hydrated. I recommend a bladder filled with ice water that you can easily drink from. Disney will provide free cups of ice water* at most Quick Service locations. I don’t want this article to be so much about preparing or planning or budgeting. I want to talk about the food at Disneyland.
*During the hot Summer months, we’ve found that some places don’t add ice to the cups saying they commonly run out due to high demand.
Disney categorizes their dining options as follows:
- Table Service: Sit down, traditional restaurant style dining
- Quick Service: Walk-up ordering with some basic seating
- Cart/Kiosk: Walk-up snack foods such as popcorn or churros
- Dining Event: Highly themed Table Service dining can include character interactions
Disneyland offers such a great variety of foods and snacks that it would be tough to narrow it down. We have some favorite places that over the years we have decided these are “must-haves”. They are our favorites because they are consistently good and have good choices based on our different tastes and appetites.
Rancho del Zocalo – This is one of our two favorite Mexican style dining locations. This is considered a Quick Service location as you stand in a line, order your food, it’s made in front of you. You then get your drinks and other sides and finally pay at the cash register. However, there is a lot of seating and most all of it is at least covered if not indoors. Also a tip here is you can get free drink refills as well as fill your own drink containers. It is located in Frontierland between Big Thunder Mountain Railroad and the Frontierland Shootin’ Exposition. It’s usually busy but folks move through fairly quickly. Wyatt and Rachel love the Burrito Guadalajara. It’s a huge burrito filled with beans, rice and Carnitas. My favorite is the Chile Verde.
Tiki Juice Bar – As the meme above states, “I did it all for the Dole Whip!” This treat is easily my personal favorite food at Disneyland. Soft serve ice cream you can either get in a dish by itself or as a float in a cup of pineapple juice. You can get a Dole Whip elsewhere, maybe a local restaurant, and it may be quite similar but there is truly something magical about getting one at the entry way to Adventureland at the Tiki Room attraction/show. The line at this Quick Service location is usually very long and you will definitely have to wait 10-20 minutes. But, there’s another line inside the Tiki Room attraction that is much, much shorter. But don’t tell anyone! It’s a “secret”!
Carnation Cafe – Right on Main Street, USA, this institution of Disneyland is famous for affordable dining any time of the day. We’ve added this Table Service restaurant to our must-do list recently and found it necessary to reserve it early. We enjoy breakfast at least once per trip here. We’re big fans of the Country-fried Steak and, of course, the Mickey-shaped Waffle! The food is great, the service is fantastic and it is old school, traditional Disney through and through.
Blue Bayou Restaurant – This is easily the height of theming and quite honestly, expense, of where we eat at Disneyland. The restaurant is located inside the Pirates of the Caribbean attraction in New Orleans Square. In fact, if you sit close enough to the waterfront, you can wave and see the riders (please wave back if they wave at you!). If you don’t decide to eat there, please go in and at least look at the place and be taken away to a southern plantation at “night”. Our favorite dish here available during lunch is the Monte Cristo sandwich. Unique to Disneyland, this meal is a very indulgent and heavy “sandwich”. Fluffy egg, or Challah bread topped with powdered sugar and filled with turkey, ham, and Swiss cheese. Small dishes of blackberry sauce and Crème Anglaise are included for dipping. This delectable dish can easily feed two. At $30, it should!
Wyatt and I are huge fans of the N’awlins Gumbo so consider adding that to your next order. The Monte Cristo is also available at the Cafe Orleans restaurant. This location is a lot easier to get into. You usually only need to reserve a week in advance, where you need to reserve Blue Bayou a few weeks to more than a month in advance.
Tortilla Jo’s – Located in Downtown Disney, outside of the Parks, this has become one of our must-eat places as well. A great selection of Mexican fare with unlimited chips & salsa (so good!). Service is excellent. Indoor and outdoor options. I highly recommend the nachos! Consider reserving a table in plenty of time as well.
Along with the restaurants listed above, we love eating the other foods as well. We’ll get clam chowder in a sourdough bread bowl at Pacific Wharf Cafe in Disney California Adventure Park. We love getting a free chocolate square and indulging in a delicious ice cream nearby at the Ghirardelli’s Soda Fountain and Chocolate Shop. Pretzels, popcorn, and Churros will always hit the spot at the many carts around the parks. Corn dogs are amazing from the Little Red Wagon near the Plaza Inn and Corn Dog Castle near Little Mermaid in California Adventure. Burgers are great at the Galactic Grill in Tomorrowland and at Hungry Bear near Splash Mountain. We also like Smokejumper’s burgers next to Soarin’ Over The World in California Adventure. For a hearty way to start your day, check out the breakfast burritos and sandwiches at Galactic Grill.
Recently, Disneyland started adding online ordering options for many Quick Service locations to help get your food faster. Be sure to look through your Disneyland App for what’s available. I just heard that you’ll soon be able to order a Dole Whip with your app and skip that crazy line!
As we mentioned in our first posts, we’re not big into Character interactions. However, a few years ago, we accidentally stumbled upon a Character Breakfast at The Plaza Inn. It is a buffet-style breakfast where Disney Characters, especially Minnie Mouse, would wander around and make some really fun photo-ops for the diners. They sold some photo print packages for added magic. We enjoyed ourselves and were glad we experienced it. We’ll likely not do it again, but if you have young children, these kinds of experiences are pure Disney magic!
Food options are nearly endless at Disneyland Resort. Any price range, almost any kind of cuisine. Full meals to quick snacks. Again, it’s up to you how you decide to budget your trip to Disneyland. Outside the parks are typical places like McDonald’s, Denny’s, iHop, etc.. But I hope this article gave some insight to eating in the parks. We certainly haven’t eaten everywhere. We never made that a goal. We definitely take advantage of the food and dining experiences that are available and really, really good.
-UPDATE: It has been recently reported that Disney is no longer providing lids with any cups except child cups and straws are available by request. This is due to goals to reduce single-use plastics in the parks.