Our trip to Disneyland was a surprise trip planned around my husband’s work. We didn’t even know we were going until about a month beforehand! I kind of panicked. As Walt Disney Worlders, we are used to planning our vacations months in advance, making dining reservations at 180 days out and FASTPASS reservations 60 days in advance. We quickly learned that planning a trip to Disneyland is not at all like planning a trip to Walt Disney World. Here is what we learned.
At Walt Disney World, we always stay on property, and we have stayed at many of the value, moderate, and deluxe resorts. At Disneyland, however, we stayed off property at the Hyatt Regency Orange County. The choice worked out better with my husband’s work, but it also turned out to be a good option for our days at Disneyland. While you have more than twenty choices of hotels at all different levels at Walt Disney World, there are only three on-property hotel choices at Disneyland. Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa, the Disneyland Hotel, and Disney’s Paradise Pier Hotel are all beautiful resorts, but they are all on the deluxe level. There are no moderate and value options on site. If you want a value or moderate-priced hotel, you have to stay at one of Disneyland’s Good Neighbor Hotels. These hotels are all Disney-approved and in close proximity to the parks. The Hyatt Regency Orange County was only about three miles away and had a dedicated shuttle to and from the Disneyland Resort for hotel guests. The cost of the shuttle was $6.00 per day, per person. I did miss the feeling I have at Walt Disney World of being in a separate place away from the everyday world, but the Good Neighbor Hotel was convenient and offered more dining options. I would definitely stay at a Good Neighbor Hotel again, but I also dream of staying at the Disneyland Hotel one day!
As soon as I knew we were going to Disneyland, I began listening more to the Disneyland DIS team and researching dining options through the Disneyland app. We decided to eat at the Carnation Café and Café Orleans. We made reservations for these two restaurants about a week and half out. We also tried to book a Fantasmic Dining Package at the Blue Bayou Restaurant about a month in advance but could not get it. So, we would recommend booking dining packages earlier due to their more limited availability. We were glad that we had booked our other dining reservations before the day of our trip. We saw park guests without reservations at both the Carnation Café and Café Orleans being turned away on the day we were there. So, while reservations cannot and do not need to be made at 180 days out like Walt Disney World, it is still smart to make reservations before you go.
FASTPASS and MaxPass
Disneyland has no advance FASTPASS system or MagicBands. The legacy FASTPASS system where you go to the ride to obtain a return time is still in place, but the resort also has the new MaxPass, which allows guests to reserve digital FASTPASS selections from your mobile device with the Disneyland app while in the parks. This service costs $10.00 per person, per day. We were there Wednesday through Saturday during a lower attendance time. With that in mind, we decided to only pay for the MaxPass on Saturday, which was a much busier day than the other days of our visit. This turned out to be a good plan. We found were able to use the legacy FASTPASS system well during the week and get the benefit of the MaxPass on the weekend. The app worked well, and we had no issues booking our passes.
Another great way we found to manage ride times was by using single-rider lines. We did single-rider lines at the Matterhorn Bobsleds, Indiana Jones Adventure, California Screamin,’ and Radiator Springs Racers. The single-rider line at Radiator Springs Racers really helped. We waited five minutes to ride, while the regular line was well over an hour!
Both Walt Disney World and Disneyland are wonderful, magical places, but if you are looking for laid back, Disneyland is definitely for you! While we did stay off property, the Good Neighbor hotel was convenient with nice accommodations, and the dining and ride planning we had to do beforehand was next to nothing. So, book your trip to Disneyland, and just plan to have fun!