Last October, I was privileged to take our middle son out to Southern California for a Disney Dream Vacation for his 6th birthday. My folks still live out in San Diego so we combined it with a visit to Grandma and Grandpa’s house. During the long weekend trip, the four of us drove up to Anaheim (a 45 minute drive) for the day. The following January, I repeated the experience with our youngest son, who was turning 4 at the time.
We had a fantastic trip both times and through those experiences, I learned how to maximize our enjoyment and get the most value out of our trip to Disney. I’d like to share a Disneyland itinerary perfect for Kindergarteners with you, which reflects what I did right (by trial and error) on those two trips.
First things first, let me share the biggest lesson I learned from my trip with our middle son. His birthday is just a few days before Halloween so planning the trip around his birthday made it impossible to avoid the park during this unusually busy time. We ended up going on a Saturday.
It was 94 degrees and the park was absolutely packed.
I wasn’t expecting that.
I don’t remember Disneyland celebrating Halloween in this way when I was growing up. The park looks amazing, with Mickey pumpkins and cool decorations everywhere but lots and lots of locals like to enjoy the park during this time. It closes early on numerous days in the week surrounding Halloween. If you can, visit the park another time, unless of course you want to wait in long lines and battle thousands and thousands of other people at the park.
The thing to know about Fast Passes is that they can reduce your waiting time for a ride from over an hour down to less than 15 minutes. That alone makes them worth incorporating into your park strategy.
My son wanted to ride Space Mountain. Well, so does everyone else. I took my time getting over to Space Mountain to collect our fast passes and by 10 in the morning, the return time for the fast pass was already 7 p.m. Not knowing how long my little guy would last, I decided instead to get Fast Passes for Star Tours and Buzz’s Astroblasters ride.
The way Fast Passes work is that you can only get one per ticket per hour, except for the Buzz ride, which you can tack on to an existing fast pass reservation. What I learned the hard way was that my parents, who had NO intention of riding any of the roller coasters, were more than happy to let me use their tickets to get fast passes for my son and I to ride more rides. Had I been thinking about that, I could have used their tickets to get fast passes for Space Mountain (a lesson I implemented throughout the rest of the day and when I went back three months later with our youngest son).
I ended up getting fast passes using all four tickets for Splash Mountain, Big Thunder Railroad and a few other fun rides, all of which shaved hours off our wait time. My son ended up catching a second wind late and stood in line for over an hour at 11 p.m. at night to ride Space Mountain the old fashioned way – waiting in line with a bunch of teenagers 🙂
The last thing I’d like to show you is what rides we rode and in which order, to maximize the number of rides you can get on, while minimizing walking distance and wait times. First let me say that I chose these rides based on my sons’ input. Disneyland has apps that they explored to become familiar with the rides. I asked them for their favorite rides and made sure to plan my strategy around their preferences.
There you have it. My list. The one thing I’d add is that if you want to walk through Sleeping Beauty’s castle, make sure you time it so it’s not within an hour of a parade or fireworks show, because they close it then (learned that the hard way). Also, if you’re looking for a quick, usually not at all crowded ride, Winnie the Pooh’s adventure down by Splash Mountain usually has no to very short wait times and is easy to hop on after Splash Mountain.
What are your favorite rides at Disneyland? When was the last time you visited? What have you learned the hard way at a Disney park? What are your questions about the park?