1st Trip to Disneyland

Our family has been to Disney World many times, but we are now planning our first trip to Disneyland for next summer. I’m out of my element, so of course turning to the forums for much needed advice.

A little background–Our family (my wife, myself, DD 20, DS 18, and DD 14) typically travel to Disney World every other summer. My Wife and I are teachers, so we always vacation in the summer. Our youngest Daughter plays softball, so in Iowa (where we hail from), that takes up June, so we always vacation in July. On non-Disney years, we usually hike the national parks. This year we hit Zion National Park, Arches National Park, and Rocky Mountain National Park. When arriving home this summer, I said-so next year it’s back to Disney, right? My son replied-“do we have to go to Florida? It’s always hot, it always rains, and we’ve been there a million times.” After calming his sisters down, I came up with a compromise—how about Disneyland?? We can still do Disney, but the weather will be much nicer. My son was an enthusiastic yes, and my girls were a reluctant OK, we’ll give it a try.
Anyway, now that I came up with the idea, I have to plan the trip. I have 3 main questions for starters, so any advice along these lines would be greatly appreciated!!

  1. How many days? Since this is our first trip, I was thinking 5 park days. Is that too many?? We’ll do hopper tickets and Genie Plus, so will 5 days be overkill? We’ll go for a week-8 days, 7 nights, so if we take out 2 travel days, I figured we would do 5 Park Days, and 1 day at the beach. I suggested Universal or the San Diego Zoo, but no one got excited about those. We’ve done Universal Florida a few times and the Omaha Zoo a number of times, so I think they would just prefer doing Disney. Again, too many days? Something else we should see or do??

  2. Where to stay? When we go to Disney World, we usually stay on Disney property, but my first thought for Disneyland is a good neighbor hotel. When we don’t go to Disney, we often stay Best Western, and there are two Best Western good Neighbor hotels directly across the street. We could walk to the parks every day or walk back to the hotel for an afternoon break and earn lots of points for future stays. We’d lose the half hour early entry-would that make it hard to get the ILL’s we want? Do those run out early at these parks?

  3. When to buy tickets? Disney World will often have promotional ticket sales for certain times of the year, does Disneyland do the same? Right now, you can only buy tickets through the end of the year, when will more open up?

Here’s my initial plan, again, any advice or suggestions are greatly appreciated!!
Day 1-Fly in, check into Best Western Anaheim Inn, walk to Downtown Disney, get acclimated
Day 2-DL Park-hop when needed or desired on any park days
Day 3-CA Park
Day 4-DL Park
Day 5-Drive to Huntington Beach
Day 6-CA Park
Day7-DL Park
Day 8-Sleep in, fly Home
I’m completely on new ground, so any advice is welcome and appreciated. Please let me know any thoughts. Thanks!!


We usually go to WDW and are going to DLR for the first time next month. Two adults, we’ve got three days at the Disney parks and one day at Knott’s Berry Farm. We don’t feel a need to do absolutely everything, so for us three days should work.

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I always recommend a bare minimum of 3 for first time visitors. 4 is great. 5 is too much if you’re there from open to close. You might want to go to the beach or pool for half one of those days.

Good neighbor hotels on Harbor are awesome and MUCH cheaper. I highly recommend. However, if you want early entry, on-site is the ONLY way to get this benefit. With 5 days you definitely won’t need EE.

I usually wait as long as possible, within about 2 months of my trip. I’m about to buy tix for my trip in October. Just keep in mind that Disney could do a price increase at any time, but typically they release the price increases when they release the next year’s calendar for dated tickets.

You can get some deals using Mousesavers or Undercover Tourist, but discounted tickets for Disneyland are much harder to find than for WDW, at least for any significant discount.

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I get mine as a package with my off-site hotel. There are times - like my upcoming trip - where there will be a deal with the hotel. In the case of my upcoming trip, I am at the Marriott with a “Get the 4th night free” deal. And just like WDW packages they have a $200 deposit, and you can change for a better deal if one comes up.

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EE literally only helps with PP. There are so few onsite guests and very few use the benefit that FL & TL are still wide open at RD. May help with RSR. More than half the EE guests to DCA use the whole time queuing for RSR, which doesn’t open with RD more than half the time, so it often doesn’t help. I’d save the $ and stay across Harbor.

ILL cannot be purchased until you’ve scanned into the park. They rarely sellout before late afternoon if at all. Onsite gives no benefit for that.

With 5 days, you could easily see everything while taking an afternoon break to swim everyday. You can even do it in 4, 3 if you really know what you’re doing. DLR doesn’t have a lot of designated M&G. Many characters wander around in DL. DCA has more stationary M&G.

Tickets can be purchased 120 days out, unless you’re purchasing a package with hotel. Only promotional tickets are for SoCal residents. Resellers, like Undercover Tourist, do offer discounts.


Thanks everyone for the input! I’m glad that everyone thought the Good Neighbor Hotel was the right way to go. I think it will be great to be able to walk to the parks each day-or return for a break in the afternoon.
For now, I think we will also stick with the 5 park days. Depending on how things go, this may be our only trip to DL, so this would give us the chance to see it all (who knows-maybe my girls will like it as much as DW). It would also be nice to maybe sleep in after a late night–at DW, we always rope drop, so that would be a nice change. My only other thought for now would be to maybe drop to 4 days and try a day at Knott’s Berry Farm, but I know nothing about it. What are people’s thoughts on this park? Is it something we should check out? I will do some research, but I’d like to hear from people who have been there.
Thanks also for the ticket purchase suggestions. I’ll keep my eyes open for any deals that might come around.
Again, I really appreciate everyone’s advice. I’m sure I will have lots of questions along the way, so thanks again for the help!!

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It’s fun and has its charms, but I would always choose Disneyland if given the choice, unless I was local. And indeed, it is basically a locals park.

That said, they have occasional food festivals that is basically like a copycat Food & Wine, so if that appeals to you, look into dates and see if it coincides for you. Also they have a few more thrilling rides / roller coasters, so if your family is thrill junkies, they might appreciate it.

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The original plan was four days with three days at DLR and a “down” day. Our down day became Knott’s when I decided on a whim to go.


I don’t think you’ll regret it. Like I said - it has its charms.

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We just got back from a two-day trip to DLR as part of a longer trip to LA. First trip for us too.

We did two days, which was enough to get everything in, but the first day was a marathon and the kids were complaining towards the end. Our room wasn’t ready, so we were there from 8 - 3 initially, and the DW and I went back after we got to the room and rested a little. We didn’t do anything at Downtown Disney. So, I think 3 days is minimum, 4 or 5 days depending on how long your kids can stay at the park.

We stayed at the Courtyard by Marriott Anaheim Park Entrance, which we though was ideal. Our room (and I think its all of them) had two bunk beds, which was really nice as far as the sleeping arrangements. The kids don’t like sharing a bed, so we usually bring an air mattress which was not necessary. Pretty cheap, and about a 10 minute walk to the park if you are slow (we are not).

WIth only two parks and no EPCOT WS, there are fewer dining options. That was the only thing for us, we have some severe allergies and it was tougher to find something great.

Other than that, we had a fantastic time. Some CA kids went back to school last week, and it could just be me, but I think Genie and LL are used less often at DLR because a lot of the crowd is day trippers who don’t do a ton of planning. I say this because it was remarkably easy to get LL reservs both free and paid. For example, the minute we tapped in at 8 (8:30 open), I got Rise and Indiana Jones for the next hour. I don’t think that would ever happen in Florida.

You’ll have a fantastic time in any case!


This is absolutely true. As a local AP, I only purchase G+ if I’m going with out of town family/friends here on a day ticket, who also have G+. I go about 2X/week for usually 5-6 hours and rarely get it. Most of the locals I know do the same. When MP could be added to the AP, it was great but paying $25-30 each time I go for only 5 hrs is just not worth it. That’s why if you are a tourist coming for just a few days, G+ is totally worth it at DLR.

One big plus for Genie+ for those of us NOT local is that it includes PhotoPass - that is the primary reason I get it. Even if I were to only use it for that (I don’t…I definitely do LLs) it’s still cheaper than getting MemoryMaker at WDW.