Disneyland: How to make sure your first time doesn't suck

  • 14/03/2018
Disneyland Entrance
Photo credit: Getty Images

By Tenani French

For some people, a trip to the 'Happiest Place on Earth' is a lifelong dream.

But the realities of planning a Disneyland holiday can be daunting once you start looking into it.

Where should you eat? How many days should you spend there? What exactly is a Fastpass?

Here are my top five things to know when planning your first trip to Disneyland Park in Anaheim, California.

Sad family at Disneyland.
The not-so-happy place. Photo credit: Awkward Family Photos.

Know the basics
If you've never been to Disneyland before, you might be surprised to learn that it's actually made up of two theme parks, not one.

Disneyland Park is the original Magic Kingdom you think of when someone says 'Disneyland'. It features the iconic Sleeping Beauty Castle and has areas themed around adventure, fantasy, the future, New Orleans and more.

Directly opposite Disneyland Park's main gate is the resort's second theme park, Disney California Adventure.

Opened in 2001, the park celebrates the state of California through an idealised look at its forests, beaches, cities and more.

Roller-coaster at California Adventure Land
Make sure you work out which rides are worth queuing for. Photo credit: Getty Images.

The best rides
Across the two theme parks in Anaheim there are over 90 attractions from family friendly rides, to high-speed roller coasters, Broadway-style shows, parades and more.

You won't be able to do everything on a single trip.

Check out the website before and choose a few attractions you think you'll enjoy the most, then organise your time in the park around them.

Skipping the stand-by lines
Once you've figured which attractions you most want to experience, a good idea is to make use of Disney's Fastpass service. It's free and allows you to go to the entrance of some of the most popular attractions and reserve your spot in line.

This can save a lot of frustration as on busy days, it's not uncommon for popular attractions to have stand-by wait times of well over an hour.

Disney also offers a paid Fastpass service called MaxPass which allows bookings from the Disneyland app, meaning you don't have to physically go to the attraction to save your spot in line.

This can save a lot of time - but it costs.

Main Street USA at night.
Main Street USA at night. Photo credit: Getty Images.

Consider the spectacular Spectaculars
A trip to Disneyland isn't complete without catching some of the Nighttime Spectaculars - fireworks and light shows that happen at night

My favourites are Fantasmic, Paint the Night, Together Forever - A Pixar Nighttime Spectacular and World of Colour.

What to eat
Disneyland has picnic areas, food carts and even fine dining.

The cheapest option is to bring your own food into the park, which you're allowed to do so long as you're bringing snack items like fruit and muesli bars.

Drinks are also allowed as long as they're non-alcoholic and not in glass bottles.

On that note, it's worth mentioning that Disneyland Park is completely dry, meaning no alcohol is served anywhere in the park. There are, however, some bars dotted around Disney California Adventure.

Man eating hot dog.
Expect hot dogs and lots of them. Photo credit: Getty Images.

Disneyland sells many snacks including giant churros, corn dogs and turkey legs. Then there's plenty of both fast food and table service restaurants in both parks.

One of my favourite eateries is Disneyland's Blue Bayou Restaurant, which has diners seated on a terrace overlooking an ocean scene where you can watch passengers on the Pirates of the Caribbean ride float past.

Bonus tip - get the App
Disneyland has a great app which shows you wait times for attractions in real-time, entertainment schedules, park maps and allows you to make Fastpass reservations (if you pay for it).

I'd highly recommend installing it before you go.

I always tell friends going to keep in mind they probably won't get to do everything they want to on their first day.

Disneyland is designed to get customers coming back for repeat visits, so be open to exploring it and it might just be your actual 'Happiest Place on Earth'.

Tenani French is frequent visitor to Disneyland and other Disney attractions around the world.