By Jennifer Stuart
The most wonderful time of the year can be extra magical when you spend it at the Happiest Place on Earth. Read our tried and tested tips for how to not only survive but also thrive in those Holiday crowds at Disneyland.
Having a plan is always a good idea in our opinion, but essential in the busiest times. Plan ahead by looking online at the entertainment schedule. This way you can know what times any shows or parades are if you want to include these in your day. You can also find out what the park hours are in advance. You may find it helpful to make a priorities list. Which rides, shows or characters are must do's and which would be nice but not make or break your day.
Make Dining Reservations
If you plan on eating at a table service restaurant you will want to make reservations in advance. Unlike Walt Disney World, at Disneyland dining reservations are officially made available for booking 60 days in advance. In actual practice this can vary by a few days. Insider tip: If you don't see the dates you want to book for on the website make sure to call Disneyland Dining Reservations at (714) 781-3463. Sometimes a reservation is available by phone before it shows up on the website. For a highly coveted spot or time -- reserving as early as possible is advisable.
Mobile order is a new feature at Disneyland that was rolled out and then expanded in 2018. Through the Disneyland app you can mobile order ahead at many counter service locations. Look for our post on How to Mobile Order at Disneyland for more information -- coming soon. This can be a big timesaver, particularly when the parks are busy as many guests seem unaware that this is an option (the exception to this rule is when pass-holders are not blocked out -- they all know about this feature and use it heavily). This shouldn't be an issue in peak holiday times as pass-holders are always blocked out over Christmas and New Year's.
Go Early and Stay Late
This is our usual mantra for any Disneyland day (except for extremely reduced hour days in the off season). No matter how busy a day is, the LEAST busy time will always be the first couple of hours. By 11 am the crowds will have peaked and the afternoons are jammed. Once the fireworks are over, there is a mass exodus and you will find that the crowds die down considerably. We like to use this strategy with a break in the middle of the day at the hotel to nap and just have some down time. There is one exception to this rule at Holiday time - see below for when you SHOULD NOT follow this advice.
The Exception to the Rule
The exception to this rule is on THE very busiest days at the park. There are a handful of days over the Holidays when Disneyland will reach capacity and if you leave you will NOT be allowed back in. This typically will include Christmas Day, New Years Eve, and New Year's Day but could potentially be any day between Christmas and New Year's as this is the busiest week of the year. There are several steps that occur before a hard close, including limiting new entries.
Maxpass and Fastpass
Use Fastpass and Maxpass to your advantage. If you are unfamiliar with these systems or need a refresher you may want to read our post Fastpass for Beginners and Maxpass - a Step by Step Guide. Keep in mind that although there is a small per person charge for Maxpass, Fastpass is free to all guests. This does not mean that you will be able to ride a ton of rides- it is not going to be that kind of day - but you will be able to maximize your time and spend less time in line if you use either of these tools. If you have a small child don't forget to take advantage of "rider switch" in combination with Fastpass. You may also want to read our post on 10+ Reasons to Download the Disneyland App for more information on how you can use the app to maximize your day.
Pack Your Patience
It will be busy. There will be a lot of people and some of them are bound to irritate you. You may need extra patience when it is crowded. If you are prepared you will find that you can handle these irritations. Also lines will be longer, think about how you can entertain the kids in longer lines to avoid meltdowns. We like bubbles, snacks and the Disney Parks Play App, depending on the ages of the kids.
Find Your Quiet Corner
Even at the busiest times there are quiet spots where you can escape from the crowds and find a little breathing room to de-compress when you need a break. Just getting away from the crowds for awhile is a benefit for everyone, but especially for kids who can easily get overstimulated. Look for our post on our favourite quiet corners coming soon.
Enjoy the Magic
Disneyland can be extra magical during the holidays. The decorations are beautiful and it is one of our favourite times of the year to enjoy the parks. We hope that our tips will help you enjoy it as well.
If you enjoyed this post you may be interested in some of our other Disneyland posts.
All Photos by Jennifer Stuart and Kim Stuart
Comments? Questions? We would love to hear from you.
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