Disneyland is a bigger place than most people think, but I've been enough times to figure out how to streamline a visit and maximize time. In fact, these are things most DLR veterans know! But if you're a DLR amateur then you may find yourself wondering how anyone could possibly get more than a handful of attractions and shows crammed into one day. To help, here are some of the top time wasting mistakes I see made all the time by Disneyland newcomers.
- Wrong attraction, wrong time - There are certain attractions that have fairly short lines if you hit them at the right time and very long lines if you come at the wrong time. For example, Radiator Springs Racers has a line shorter than 25 minutes before noon or so, but if you wait until after lunch then the line jumps to over an hour, often longer. The line for the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror generally is no longer than 20 minutes except when a performance of Aladdin lets out next door and the wait is suddenly 75 minutes. Some of this information comes with experience or research, but you can download Disneyland wait time apps (or even the official Disneyland app) and keep tabs on the lines all over the resort and jump on an opportunity for a short wait when it pops up.
- Mid-afternoon rush - Whenever I go to Disneyland, I try to avoid any major attractions between 3 - 5 pm. There is typically a surge of guests during that time arriving for the afternoon parades or simply locals just getting off of work. Wait times can skyrocket for almost no reason during the mid-afternoon so use that time for shopping or consider taking a late lunch somewhere. If you're getting tired from all the walking you've done, even go back and relax at your hotel for an hour or so and come back rejuvenated when everyone has started going to dinner after 5.30 or so. Lines will be much shorter and you'll be able to bank on everyone else being tired and exhausted while you're rested and ready to go!
- Parade/Show crowds - Even if you're not planning on watching one of the parades or shows, check the entertainment guide from the front gate to be aware of when they're happening. Nothing is more aggravating than finding yourself trying to head to Splash Mountain for your FastPass that expires in ten minutes but being stuck by the Disney Gallery on Main Street because the afternoon parade is going by and you can't cross the street. Knowing ahead of time when the parade starts and where it goes will allow you to plan on not crossing to the opposite end of the park and losing out on your FastPass. Also, lines are shorter during parades because everyone is out watching them. Hop on as many as you can!
- Not utilizing FastPasses - I once was walking through the FastPass Return line for Star Tours when someone tapped me on the shoulder and asked "How much are those FastPasses?" When I told them they were free he incredulously asked "Really?!" Make sure you know what FastPasses are and how to use them before you arrive or ask a Cast Member how they work. The Disneyland Resort's FastPass system is a huge time saver that is included in your park admission and is available on most E-ticket attractions so there should be no reason to have to wait for them. I used to have to wait over an hour for Splash Mountain but with a FastPass it's never more than 5 minutes. Seriously, use them!
- Arriving late - Some Disneyland frequent-ers will tell you that staying until the parks close is the best way to get as many rides and attractions in as possible so it doesn't matter when you arrive. Well, it does matter. Before 11 am only a fraction of the day's guests have arrived and virtually no line is over 25 minutes long, even during the holidays. Plan on arriving at the gates before the rope drop and/or use your Extra Magic Hours or Magic Morning. I have easily fit in 8 attractions between 7 - 8 am (EMH) and another 6 in the next hour after the general opening of the park. If you wait until after the evening parades and fireworks, you have to compete with the huge evening crowds and the throngs of people lining the Rivers of America for Fantasmic! I have tried that and only rode one ride in an hour simply because it took forever to get from place to place. Trust me, mornings work better if you want to get everything done. Then you can get back to the hotel early, get some good rest in, and still get more done than those who stayed late!