There is plenty of information out there if you're planning a Walt Disney World vacation, but what about the Disneyland Resort? By comparison it looks like there's no where near as much need to plan for a resort that is significantly smaller with only two theme parks. Well, that's where you'd be wrong.
I have a colleague who took his family to Disneyland for the first time this summer and told me he was grateful for us Disneyland fans at work for helping him know how to plan. They tried to wing it one day and said they felt so lost that they quickly regrouped, took our suggestions, and were much more successful the following days. There are a lot of things to take into consideration when planning a trip, but here are just a few of the differences between the resorts.
- Fastpass Services - Walt Disney World offers the Fastpass+ service for their guests allowing them to make selections up to 60 days in advance of their trip helping to ensure they get Fastpasses for the attractions they most want. Disneyland still has the traditional Fastpass service where Fastpasses are only given out on a first-come, first-served basis the day of your trip at Fastpass distribution centers. That means you have to understand how and when to make your selections before you arrive to get the most out of this service and get as many Fastpasses in one day as possible.
- Dining Reservations - Reservations can be made at Walt Disney World up to 180 days in advance for table service dining. We have a Florida trip coming up next year and already have our dining options planned out. Disneyland only takes reservations up to 60 days in advance. This allows you to plan a trip in a shorter time frame if you have trouble thinking months ahead of time, but many people neglect it altogether and don't make reservations hardly at all. Reservations are usually necessary so make sure you're planning at least a month and a half ahead so you can get a table when and where you want.
- Accommodation Choices - There are over 20 Walt Disney World resort hotels ranging from economy to luxury level so there's always a place to stay. Conversely, there are 3 at Disneyland generally priced from deluxe to luxury. If you want to stay on property you have to look ahead for special offers on resort hotel rooms or be willing to opt for a Disney Good Neighbor Hotel instead. You never know when a couple of conventions will reserve all available Disneyland Resort hotel rooms right from under your feet.
- Extra Magic Hours - Extra Magic Hours is a perk offered to Disney resort hotel guests giving you some extra time in the parks when they are not open to the general public. Walt Disney World offers Extra Magic Hours at one or two parks a day either in the morning or evening and they can last up to two hours. At the Disneyland Resort, Extra Magic Hours are only offered at one park each day an hour before the park opens to the public. You must know in advance so that you don't miss out completely on this perk and plan to be up early each day.
- Larger Park - The larger the theme park the more time it takes to get to everything on your to-do list. The Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World is a whopping 107 acres of magic and fun that many people agree takes at least a couple of days to fully experience. The Disneyland Resort is much smaller than the Florida resort, so it makes sense that you'd only need one day per park, right? Right . . . until you realize that Disneyland is 160 acres with a 14 acre expansion just around the corner. The Magic Kingdom has over 35 attractions but Disneyland has over 60. If you're an expert you can get Disneyland done in two days, but more likely than not you'll need at least three days to take it all in. It's much more densely populated so don't underestimate Walt's original park!