If you have kids, chances are they want to go to Disneyland. If it’s your family’s first time making the trek to the Happiest Place on Earth, it can seem a little overwhelming. To help you plan the perfect trip, we’ve put together the ultimate Disneyland vacation planning checklist to make sure you get everything you need in the proper order.
1. First things first, figure out when you want to go.
Lines are typically shorter any time the kids are in school. Some of the best months to travel if you’re looking to avoid crowds are: January, February, May, and September, and early November and December. As long as you avoid holidays and holiday weekends (especially the week between Christmas and New Year’s), you should be good to go. It’s a also a good idea to check the Anaheim Convention Center’s website before booking to make sure you’re not planning your trip over a major convention. If you can’t get away when the kids are in school, then spring break, summer, fall break and winter break bring longer hours and more entertainment, so you can still have a great vacation. Also, Halloween Time is a huge draw and normally starts mid-September and runs through Halloween. Holidays at the Disneyland Resort typically begin in mid-November and run through the first week in January. Both are extra magical times to experience the parks in a whole new way!
2. Once you know when you want to go, you’ll need to figure out how to get there.
Flying versus driving is the age old question. Driving normally saves you the most money, especially when you break down the per person price. However, you also need to factor in the driving distance and how long it will take you to get there in the car. If you need to take an extra day or two for a road trip, you may want to consider flying. If you’re looking for a good flight deal, your best bets are to fly on Tuesday or Wednesday. Being a little flexible can help you save a lot of cash. If you are flying, it’s a good idea to check out hotel availability over your dates first, and then book your flights.
3. Once your flights are booked, or you’ve blocked out dates for your road trip, you’ll want to book your hotel.
Deciding on what type of hotel you’re looking for is a big deal. Anaheim has everything from motel-type properties within walking distance to the deluxe Disneyland Resort Hotels that are on property. The surrounding area also offers deluxe hotels a little further out from Disneyland, condo/suite hotels that come with full kitchens, and tons of standard family friendly options. You can look for special deals at the different hotels. Check for things like free breakfast, and parking and resort fees to make sure you know don’t end up with surprise extra costs when you check-in.
4. After your transportation and hotel are figured out, you’ll want to get your tickets.
The most popular length of ticket is a 3-day ticket, but with all of the Diamond Celebration nighttime shows, you could easily do a 4 or 5-day ticket. You can pick between a Park Hopper, which lets you go to both Disneyland and Disney California Adventure Park on the same day, or the 1-Park per day ticket, which is a cheaper choice, but doesn’t have as much flexibility. It’s not too much more to upgrade from a 3-day to a 4 or 5 day ticket, so the longer you stay, the less you pay per day. Plus, you can spread out your activities and won’t feel pressured to fit everything into a 3-day period. You can normally get the best deal by packaging your hotel and tickets together.
5. Once you’ve got your travel plans all booked, you’ll want to make a loose itinerary.
You’ll want to figure out what shows you want to see, what rides you for sure want to hit with your family, and what special restaurants you want to make reservations for. Disneyland normally releases their schedule 30-45 days out, so be sure to check it. You can make dining reservations for character dining and the other sit-down restaurants 60 days out on Disney’s website or by calling 714.781-DINE. I recommend checking the nighttime shows first, then planning your day around those. Keep in mind that the schedules are subject to change, so you will want to try to catch the shows you’re most excited for at the beginning of your trip. World of Color – Celebrate and Fanstasmic now both require a Fastpass ticket. You can get one at the Fastpass machines in the morning, or you can reserve a dining package for premium viewing. Also,you can see the fireworks from five different areas in the park, so you may want to see them at least twice for a different experience each time.
6.Once you have everything planned out, it’s time to let the kids in on the fun!
You’ll always remember the look on your kids’ faces when you announce your trip to the Happiest Place on Earth. You can make the time before your vacation more fun by doing a vacation countdown chain, buying Disney surprises to bring with you, and watching Disney movies as a family prior to your trip.
If you’re looking for the best place to save and plan your Disneyland vacation, we highly recommend Get Away Today. They have been sending families to Disneyland for over 25 years and negotiate the best deals. An average family will save around $400 by booking directly with them. Plus, their staff visits Disneyland regularly, so you can get all of their inside tips and tricks. They ALSO book trips to some other amazing places! Be sure to check them all out – I’m thinking a cruise sounds awesome right now.