Well, I have to say I am amazed how well the trip went.
I have done more research on crowd calendars and I now believe that they are not necessarily an accurate indicator of how crowded the park will actually be.
Having said that, I would certainly advise checking them out and maybe not planning a trip for days that are predicted to be packed. While a slow day may end up being busy, I doubt seriously that a day that’s predicted to be full will end up deserted.
I have been to Disneyland many times and I am familiar with how the MaxPass system works. GET IT! It’s more than worth the money.
While we had booked our trip for days that were predicted to be slow, the opening of Rise of the Resistance changed everything. If you want to see the attraction, you need to have the Disneyland App on your phone and you need to reserve a spot with a boarding group. That boarding group number will determine how long it will be before you get to ride. In order to join a boarding group you and anyone else in your group have to be in the park (you have to have had your ticket scanned at the turnstile) They start giving out boarding goops at the official opening time of the park. They always open the park (at least to the end of Main Street) some time before the official opening time. Once the park is officially open you can join a boarding group. I don’t know how large those groups are but they say that they will get through at least 72 groups by the end of the day. If you get into a boarding group with a higher number, you may still get on but the attraction is very big and very complex consisting of several different ride systems. If they have a problem, they have to stop the ride until they can reset. So if everything goes well, they can get to well over 100 boarding groups but don’t count on it. They say that anything over 90 is a “Standby Group” and you will only get on if there are no slowdowns.
Sorry I just got off on a tangent. What this means is that since everyone wants to ride, everyone (and I mean everyone) is in line trying to get through bag check and the turnstiles and into the park before opening time. That means the park is incredibly crowded right at opening. Everyone has their phone ready and at 8:00 (or whatever the opening time is) they all hit their phones at once. At 8:00 and 15 seconds there is a roar made up of people cheering that they got into a boarding group mixer with the moans of those who didn’t. Pretty much all of the boarding groups are filled within the first minute)
Okay enough about that. Leave it to say that the park was very crowded on the days we were there. But a lot of the people (probably annual pass holders) who didn’t get into a boarding group left at 8:05 so while the park was crowded, it never got to the point where you couldn’t walk through Adventure Land (that’s the point where I say it’s too crowded to enjoy)
We arrived on Sunday, Grandpa, Grandma, Ian (age 13) and Kyle (age 9) After our flight landed we dropped our bags at our hotel (on Harbor Way) we spent the first day at DCA. the first thing we did was to get a FastPass for Radiator Springs Racers. At that point the return time wasn’t until 9:15 PM, so we had to wait 90 minutes to get another FP but it worked out really well. The next thing we got a FP for was Soarin’ Then we waled over to Pixar Pier thinking that we would get in the single rider line for IncediCoaster. the single rider line was really long and one of the kids ran down and checked out the standby line which was only 25 minutes so we did that. Then we wandered around Pixar Pier and did standby on a number of rides that while they said 20 minutes were actually only about 10 or 12. By that time we had a FP to ride IncrediCoaster again so we did that. When we walked by Toy Story Mania, the standby line was only 20 minutes so we did that. Then the big wheel (which they’ve renamed it something too odd) and then we started back. By this time (8PM) they were starting to shut down rides in that area to get ready for the World of Color show. As we passed the IncrediCoster the standby line was closed. I asked if the line was closed for the night and the woman there said yes. Then she said “But you have FastPasses right?” of course we didn’t but she had a big smile on her face. Finally the 9 year old got it and said “Yeah we’ve got FastPasses” so we walked on with a very short line and when we came back out, we started walking back toward the FastPass entrance and as we did, the people “guarding” the line just turned around and looked the other way. We rode the coaster 4 times in a row and then the kids went back and rode it a 5th time. What a very cool thing for the folks working to do. After that we did our ride on RSR had some ice cream and went back to the hotel where we just fell down dead on out beds.
The next day was Monday and the park opening time was 9:00. We got to the bag check on Harbor Way just about 8 and by 8:30 we were sitting at the Jolly Holliday cafe having breakfast (that day they had the rope drops at the entrance to each land instead of the end of Main Street. When 9:00 came around I had my phone out and ready to try for ROTR. I hit the button right at 9 but there was a glitch and it didn’t go through. I tried again about 10 seconds later and we got boarding group 88. I wasn’t sure if they would get to us but right around 8PM we got a notification that our boarding group was loading.
Even before the 9AM opening, I was able to get a FP for Big Thunder at 9:20 so our fist stop was the Matterhorn with a 10 minute wait right after it opened and then off to Big Thunder. Once our BT FP time hit, we got another FP for Indiana Jones, then walked over and did standby (15 minutes) on Splash. Then we got a Space Mountain FP and it just went on from there. Smugglers Run does not have a FP option (although it is apparently coming soon) but that means that the standby line is continuous and predictable. We watched on the app and at one point saw that the wait time was down to 35 minutes. It actually ended up being just about 30 minutes but the theming of the cue is so good and the lines move quickly enough that standing in the cue just seems like part of the ride.
I’ll leave it to others to describe ROTR but I’ll just say it was definitely the coolest ride I’ve ever been on.
We did Big Thunder again at night and the kids did Matterhorn again on their own (also Autopia) and got in StarTours and Buzz Lightyear as well. The only things we didn’t get to that day were Roger Rabbit (which went down while we were in line) and Jungle Cruise.
We left the park about 8:30 and went over to Naples for a really good dinner (and a much needed glass of wine for Grandma and Grandpa
The last day we went early again but took things a bit slower. We got to do Roger Rabbit and Jungle Cruise, another run of Pirates and some really tasty kebobs at the Bengal Barbecue. Then another Autopia run for the kids, another Star Tours ride for everyone and ice cream and shopping on the way out (oh yeah and somewhere in there we got Roger Rabbit done too!)
So what did I learn from this trip.
Get the MaxPass option! it adds cost but we saved more than that by getting 3 Day, 1 Park per Day passes. Considerably cheaper than 3 Day ParkHopper passes without MaxPass.
Download the app and learn all the ins and outs of it. It can be confusing and a lot of the things you want to find are not intuitive but if you take the time to figure it all out in advance it’s well worth the effort. You do NOT want to be in the park, trying to figure out a plan and learn the app at the same time.
Make sure everyone is on the same page. The kids picked up on how the app worked right away, they knew exactly when we could get our next FastPass and what the standby times were on attractions nearby and they understood that when you’ve just gotten off of Splash Mountain, you don’t want to run over to do Roger Rabbit…
This was an amazing trip for me. I have been to Disneyland many many times and I consider my self pretty good at working through everything but the kids getting into it and understanding how the systems work made me feel like we were a team of pros.
However having had such a great trip with the kids, I do look forward to going back without them and sitting on Main Street drinking coffee and watching the folks walk by.
Thanks to everyone for their advice