How to Survive Disneyland During the Busiest Times | Occasionally Crafty: How to Survive Disneyland During the Busiest Times

Friday, December 20

How to Survive Disneyland During the Busiest Times

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As you're reading this, we're headed to Disneyland, the Happiest Place on Earth!  It's our second time going at Christmas time, and our kids are all finally old enough to ride most of the rides!
This is our last trip a few years ago.  No more stroller this year!
You might be thinking- why in the world would you go to Disneyland on Christmas Break?  Isn't it insanely busy?  Well, YES, it is!  Here's why we're going now:

My daughter missed a week of second grade when she broke her arm and had surgery, and when I got her make-up work, she had (no joke!) almost 100 pages of work to complete!  Her school gives credit for every dinky little worksheet and practice exercise they do during school as well as homework.  It was a nightmare trying to get that done- so we don't pull our kids out of school.  It's just not worth it.

So if you're like me and can't pull your kids out of school for whatever reason, you need some help surviving the crush at Disneyland- so read on to find what I hope are some helpful tips!

1.  Plan, Plan, Plan

     Maybe you're not the planning type.  But if you're visiting the Parks during peak times, you have to be or you'll only ride a fraction of the rides you want.  Sit down with your family and decide what you want to do each day.  Then make a plan.  Note which rides have Fastpasses so you can get those throughout the day.  Some people like to move from land to land, riding all the rides in each land first.  Others, like us, zig zag all over the park to take advantage of lower wait times.  Decide how you want to move and try to stick to it.  If you need help making a plan, check out or some of the other helpful sites out there.
Here's what we rode/saw over a three day stretch- just for an example:

Day One: 
Star Tours
Toy Story Astro Blasters
Astro Orbiters
Peter Pan
Splash Mountain
Winnie the Pooh
Haunted Mansion
Big Thunder Mountain
Jedi Training Academy
Finding Nemo Submarine
Pirates of the Caribbean

Day Two:
Space Mountain (DL)
It's a Small World (Holiday edition) (DL)
Soarin' Over California
King Triton's Carousel
Ariel's Undersea Adventure
Grizzly River Run
Jumpin' Jellyfish
Silly Symphony Swings
Golden Zephyr
California Screamin'
Tower of Terror
Heimlich's Chew Chew Train
Flik's Flyers
Francis' Ladybug Boogie
Tuck and Roll's Drive 'Em Buggies
Redwood Creek Challenge Trail
Disney Jr. Live on Stage
Goofy's Sky School
Indiana Jones
World of Color Show

Day Three:
Star Tours (again)
Toy Story Astro Blasters (again)
Astro Orbiters (again)
The Carousel
Casey Jr. Train
The Teacups
Storybook Boat
Snow White's Scary Adventures
Sleeping Beauty Castle Walkthrough
Pinocchio's Daring Journey
Toy Storia Mania (CA)
Ferris Wheel (CA)
Monsters Inc- Mike and Sully to the Rescue (CA)
Toontown- Goofy's House, Donald's Boat, Chip and Dale's Treehouse
Roger Rabbit's Car-Toon Spin
Gadget's Go Coaster
Jungle Cruise
Tarzan's Treehouse
Enchanted Tiki Room
The Magic, The Memories, and You Parade

 2.  Buy a Park-hopper

     We think it's worth the extra money to be able to go back and forth between parks.  We usually do spend most of the first two days at a single park, and then on the third day we do favorite rides again, ride some of the smaller rides like the Carousel, and meet characters.  But, with a Park-hopper, you can take advantage of low wait times at both parks!  Last time we went, we ran back to Disneyland in the evening to ride Indiana Jones during a low-wait time, then went back to California Adventure for the World of Color show. 

3.  Get there Early

     If you're picking up tickets at Disneyland, try to get there the night before and get your tickets at the windows.  There is usually no line, and then you won't have to navigate that extra line early in the morning.  You can just show up and be ready when the park opens.

      Also, they let you in to the park up Main Street before the actual opening time.  So if you get there early enough, you can be all the way at the front of the line by the ropes, so you can be one of the first in line when they officially open the rides.  We did Space Mountain this way, and got Fastpasses for the busy rides like Cars and Toy Story Mania this way as well.  So, for an 8:00 start time, we got to the park by 7:20.

4.  Use Fastpasses as much as possible

     As noted earlier, some rides have Fastpasses.  Take your ticket to the Fastpass Kiosk, and when you scan it you'll receive a pass to come back during a specific, later, time.  Then when you come back, you get to go through a much shorter line.  Some tips for using the Fastpass effectively:
     * You can only have one Fastpass at a time- you can't get a new one until you redeem the one you have, or the start time on your Fastpass.
     * Send one person with everybody's tickets to get the Fastpass.  That way Grandma and/or your little kids don't have to run to the Kiosk every time.
     * You absolutely MUST get a Fastpass for Radiator Springs Racers immediately- and you'll still probably have a return time in the afternoon.  One Fastpasses are out, and they do run out, you'll be stuck waiting in the regular line.  Boo.

5.  Be Ready to Entertain the Kids In Line

    Disneyland really does a great job of providing distractions for you as you're waiting.  Older kids should easily be entertained as you go through the lines.  But your younger children might not have the patience they will need.  Some ideas to help:
     * Pack a little bag with snacks that they can eat- things like trail mix, cereal, etc. that they have to eat a little at a time.  (Yes, you can bring your own snacks in as long as you're not packing in a huge cooler)
     *  Visit a Disney Store or outlet before coming to the parks and pick up a few of those light-up/ spinning toys.  It's much cheaper to buy outside of the parks, and you might be surprised how much it can entertain your child!
     *  Play "I Spy"- there are so many fun things to look at in line, so why not draw your children's attention to them with a game?  My (then) three year old loved this game!
     *  If you have a smartphone, there are some great Disney apps you can use to entertain your child!  Or you could just stick a giant lollipop in their mouths! ;)

5.  If You want to Watch the Shows......

     My husband has little patience for sitting in a park that we paid a lot of money for and watching shows.  So we don't do it too often.  But if you do want to see the fireworks or any other big show that draws a crowd, the best time to show up for seats is right as the crowd from the previous show is leaving.  Just fight the crowd coming out and and grab their seats.  You'll have to wait longer, but you'll have a great seat!  This works great for the Jedi Academy too.

6.  Get Better Reactions from Characters by Interacting With Them

      During busy times, more characters are out and about, but of course there are way more people waiting to see them!  Everyone wants to take pictures with or hug the characters.  But, if you really want a great experience, then remind your child to ask them questions about the characters or their story.  My kids are really hoping to find Captain Hook so they can tease him about Tick Tock Crock.  (Though, contrary to Internet information, the Toy Story toys will not fall to the ground if you shout "Andy's coming!"   Apparently they used to, but can't anymore.)

A good way to meet a bunch of characters without waiting in line is by shelling out extra money for a character dining experience.  We usually do it for breakfast on the day we go home, so we're not using up park time.  It's awesome and the kids love seeing their favorites all in one place!

7.  Be Patient and Have Fun

     Remember, you came here to have an amazing experience with your loved ones.  At least 75% of that is dependent upon your attitude.  So, resist the urge to grumble and fuss about how busy it is- you knew it would be.  So, try to be patient, treat others with respect, and enjoy the magic of Disneyland that is all around you.  
I'm probably standing in a busy line somewhere right now, so this is a great reminder for me too!  Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all of you!
Updated:  Use Promo Code "OCRAFTY" to get an extra $10 off any 2 night Southern California Package (hotel and 2-ticket minimum) from Get Away Today!
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  1. Great tips, but I would also like to add that you can also ask staff what areas of the park have "peak traffic" times. They know better than anyone which areas will be the easiest to maneuver. Example As soon as the park opened We asked a nice attendant about fast passes and he suggested we get a fast pass for a different ride while we rode the one we were in line for, so we did... sure enough by the time we were finished on the ride they were out of fast passes for they day for the other ride. Glad he told us! because it ended up being the kid's favorite ride (P.S.) we went to Disneyworld)

    1. Thanks for the tip Ambrielle! Asking the staff is a great idea!

  2. Great tips I especially like the character breakfast tip. It gives you a little more Disney right before you head out on a long trip home. I will do this next time we visit Disneyland

    1. We love doing it that way! Plus we avoid lines for characters at the park, except for ones we wouldn't see at the meal. Thanks for your comment!


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