Saturday, November 12, 2011

Disneyland Success Tip--The Timing

Its the Happiest Place on Earth.  Its magical.  The name alone puts a smile on your face.  Its Disneyland.  For many families, Disneyland is the BIG vacation they dream about, plan, and save for.  Our family has been planning a Disneyland trip for about two years.  So you can imagine the squeals of delight when we presented each child with a printed ticket at the dinner table last night.   So, when are we going?

Timing a Disneyland vacation is very important, very important.  Summer months can be hot with long lines.  Holiday weeks are similarly crowded, at times reaching maximum capacity (!).  Throughout the year, various rides are closed for maintenance. So if you have a favorite, be sure to check before you book.  Ticket prices fluctuate, but are often cheaper at the beginning of the year and most expensive in the summer.

Want a miserable time?  Be sure to go the first Saturday in July (4th of July weekend) during a heat wave, paying maximum price for maximum lines.    

We are planning on going early December.  Disneyland is decorated for the holidays in quality Disney style complete with parades, fireworks, and specialty shows (like Fantasmic).  And though Thanksgiving week and the last two weeks of December are more crowded than even the summer months, the first two weeks of December are fairly quiet.  As for ride closures, usually none are scheduled between Thanksgiving and New Year's.  Motel rates are reasonable with plenty of vacancies.  The weather should be mild (though you always risk a cold front or storm).  The catch?  We are pulling the kids out of school.

Other good times to go are during October when the park is decorated for Halloween, mid-September which is usually the least crowded time of the year, and any time in the Spring except the two weeks around Easter and Spring Break.  Have to go in the summer because of school or work schedules?  Go the first week of June or the last week of August and make sure to take advantage of any early morning admittance, stay until closing, and rest during the insane afternoons.

I also recommend you go for more than one day.  There is just too much to see or do and trying to pick among your favorites will be almost impossible.  Going during a weekday (preferably Tuesday or Wednesday) as well as a weekend day (preferably Friday) allows you to take advantage of more shows and later weekend hours one day as well as the short lines and smaller crowds on your weekday.

So enjoy the happiest place on Earth during the happiest time of the year!


  1. Hello! I used to work at Disneyland and love the place. I basically agree with what you are saying, but here are some other things to consider.

    Yes basically weekdays during the non-summer months are much better, but even some of them can be surprisingly crowded. The holiday seasons are usually going to be a little more crowded than Sep or Feb'ish because others have the same idea to see the Christmas decorations and parades and take their kids of of school.

    One of the easiest ways to tell crowds is to look at the calendar and see when the park is open till. 6PM means it won't be that crowded. 8PM can be good or sometimes bad, but 10PM or later is usually going to be crowded. As you can see looking at the calendar there are some surprising Thursday and other such days in December that are open until 11!

    Another small consideration is that it will get a little busier later in the day as locals always have annual passes and go after school so they start to filter in around 3 or 4pm

    Also rides can still be closed in Dec. I noticed that Indiana Jones was closed on the 6th and 7th ( and I assume some before those days) but reopened on the 8th.

    I worked on Thunder Mountain and Space Mountain...have fun!

  2. Mike, thanks for the tips. The calendar is indeed your best friend.

  3. The biggest single tip that we used was the FastPass. There's a secret to them though. Every FastPass that you get will have a 1 hour time frame to return between. The secret is that you can return anytime after the "start" time. For example, if you have a FastPass that says return between 2 - 3 pm, you can still use that FastPass at 5pm. You cannot, however, use that FastPass prior to 2pm. If you get a new FastPass as soon as you are able to, you can really avoid some of the longest lines.

  4. Yes, they did that because if a ride breaks down they need to have a way for people to go on the ride later even if it is "past" your time. Plus just to be nice in case you get caught up with something else like lunch, dinner, etc.

    But on busy days it only works so good and the popular rides can run out of fastpass as early as mid to late morning. So as always prioritize what you want to do and get that fastpass first in the morning.

  5. QUESTION: We're planning a Disneyland Trip in February and need feedback on best places to go with 2 kids (7 and 4). We plan to be in that area for about 4 days from Sunday to Thursday.

    Thanks for the feedback.

  6. Thad, I love the fastpass and will probably do an entire post just on them because they are somewhat complicated. It took me almost half a day the first time we used them to get the hang of it. I believe fastpass is the best idea since drive-thru

  7. A disneyland trip in February is a great time. I will be writing an entire series of Disneyland posts which should answer your questions. A few quick tips would include let your kids dress up if they want (little girls especially love coming in a princess costume), spend time playing around Toon Town where you can play at Goofy's House, on Donald's Boat, and explore the whimsical toon street and fountain (a good break from standing in line), spend one day watching the parade and one day riding on rides during the parade (practically no line), favorite rides will be based on how adventurous your 7-year-old is (we had one riding Space Mountain at that age and another who thought Matterhorn was too scary at that same age).