First DL Trip Planning - Which Dates?

I have been to WDW many times, but I recently stumbled upon a ridiculously good flight deal into LAX and now I want to head out to DL. I would be me and my 3 year old son. The options are either going April 13-17 or May 4-8. Is there an advantage to either date? Do you think 3 days is enough time to spend? He’s a tall 3, but we would be skipping most of the bigger rides and focusing more on characters and smaller attractions. Is there anything special going on during the spring at Disneyland? Thanks!

Definitely go in May. You will encounter Spring Break crowds in April, especially since Easter falls later in the year in 2019.

Awesome! Thank you! I didn’t even think about Spring Break - I was just thinking about Easter and thought I may be in clear as it is the week after

I agree with the May time frame as well. It is after spring break, but before grad night is in full force. Just to be warned there is quite a few middle school groups during that time taking field trips that time of year and they can be a bit rowdy.

Well i just jumped in and did it haha booked May 4-8 at Paradise Pier. So excited! I just hope Paint the Night is running!

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Yay - you will have a great time. Weather is beautiful. You will probably run into “grad nite” at least one of your nights, but you can work around that pretty easily. Three days is perfect - enough time to do everything. And BUY MAXPASS. It is the best $10 (per day, per person) you will ever spend at a Disney park. In addition to the online FP’s (remember the system is way different than WDW), you get unlimited photo downloads. If you add it to your ticket when you’re at the park, you can just add one day rather than all, then do the “big rides” on that day.

I was planning on doing MaxPass, but I’m still trying to figure it out. From my understanding it is basically the paper fastpass system that WDW used before FastPass+, but instead of using the paper ones you can do it all from your phone? Is that kind of how it works? If you know of any thread that kind of outlines this I would be forever grateful haha. Also, if I get MaxPass for all my park days, do I not need to the the PhotoPass+ weeklong package as I will already have the downloads from MaxPass? I hope that question makes sense haha. I’m so excited!

I’m sure there’s a complete thread around here somewhere, but here’s my take. I thought like you did, “What’s the big deal about getting FP’s online? I can just go to the kiosk like usual, right?” (Without MaxPass, Disneyland still does the “legacy” system that WDW used to use). BUT… here’s what we found. The minute you get into the park, you get on the app and see what FP to choose. There’s a whole menu of every ride (both parks) with FP and what time you can get. You choose one and lock it in. Then either 90 minutes later or right after you get off that ride, you open the app and see what’s available and get the next one. You don’t have to walk anywhere, you can get FPs for either park, the app works from Downtown Disney and even close-by hotels, and you don’t waste ANY time waiting or walking. You can also easily change from one time to another if available… if you find yourself in a different location or running behind schedule.

One day went like this: We went into DCA at 9 (opening), got the phone out and snagged a FP for Radiator Springs for 9:30, walked on Soarin’ (short lines in the morning), rode Radiator Springs, got off and got a FP for Guardians for 10:45, rode the other two rides in Carsland with little wait, rode Guardians, got off and got a FP for Incredicoaster, etc… So by noon we had done all the big rides and waited for nothing. This was a 6 on the crowd calendar, so middle of the road, but amazing.

The other thing we found is that since more attractions use FP now, we could often get right on something. Like when we got off the Matterhorn at 11:00, we looked and there were FPs for Small World for 11:10. Normally we would never FP Small World, but in this case it didn’t “cost” us anything because right after we used it we got online and found our next one!

We actually found it sort of addicting. As soon as we had a FP available, we were hopping on the app. It will give you the exact time (“Next FP at 10:03” or whatever) so it was like ride shopping! What’s next? What’s soon? When can we get on _____?

Here’s another strategy we were able to use… Guardians does their Halloween overlay starting around 6, so we wanted a FP for after that time. Starting early in the day, we kept checking back to see what times the FPs were for and we watched them. So as soon as there was an FP for after 6, we got it. Never went to the kiosk, never risked missing out.

I have to say that since trying this I have been to WDW and I found it frustrating! I was locked into the 3 FP+ I had and had to wait for everything else or stick closely to a touring plan or both. I realize the parks have to do things differently because of their relative size, crowds, etc., but after sweating it out in WDW and waiting in more lines in a day than I did at DLR in three days, I was ready to head west again!

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Actually you can select a new FP once you scanned in. I always book a new one while waiting in the line for the current attraction.

Go on YouTube and look up using Maxpass. I think it easier to conceptualize, once you see someone using it.

No need to get a PhotoPass if you get Maxpass the entire trip, it is a bargain just for the PhotoPass. My family is spoiled and will not go without Maxpass.

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Carthy already answered the photo pass question. I would just add that the photo pass with max pass doesn’t include any printed picture, Disneyland resort gallery disc, or a disc with your pictures. It is just the downloads of your pictures that you download when you get home. So if you were hoping for any of those other items you would have to purchase them separately. If you do character dining on a day when you were in the parks with Max pass you can get your dining pictures(digital) included with your max pass photo pass. If you do a character dining on a non-park day, you have to purchase the dining photo package. We went to goofy‘s dinner the night before our park days and I had to purchase the photo package. I was able to get the digital photos into my account, though I can’t remember exactly how.

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^^ 100% this ^^ They do tend to be chaperoned but in large groups & (from my mom-perspective) they seem to spend nearly their entire time at Disneyland gathered right in the middle of the walkway usually with two or more of them darting around the perimeter of the group playing some sort of game that inevitably ends up with them running in front of my stroller, cutting me off as I attempt to maneuver around & through their gaggle of adolescence. And I say this having gone on a trip to Disneyland in high school & most of my memories on that trip involved hanging out in a large group of us most likely in the way of the mom-pushing stroller brigade then. But on this side of life, they make it tricky. At least with the grads they tend to be slightly older & slightly less in the way/rowdy but it really depends on the group.

That being said, I also agree with all the above posts about May & glad you chose it!

Around Easter they will have an “Eggs-stravaganza” Easter egg hunt. They may or may not run it past Easter, but most likely it won’t be there for the dates in May ( I could be very wrong). If it is there, it’s a huge hit with my kids when we have done it so I would recommend it! You purchase a map (~$5-$7) & match up the locations on the map with the stickers of the egg that you found located there. Whether or not you complete the hunt you can redeem your map for a cute Disney-character plastic easter egg. Every year they come out with different designs & the 8 that we have from the 2 yrs we’ve done it are adorable!

Also in the spring DCA has had a Food & Wine festival the last couple of years. Usually from March-ish to end of April. Nothing has been announced about Spring 2019 but it seems like they most likely will keep the trend going as the event tends to bring in some crowds wanting to spend money on the food booths & events.

If there is a F&W Festival, then Paint the Night will NOT be running (at least not on the DCA side) as the food booths take up the viewing areas of the parade route. They could run Paint the Night in Disneyland where it was originally run but I doubt they want to move back to the smaller parade route for such a popular parade. For what it’s worth, I really do hope you get to experience it!! My guess is that after they finish up the F&W Festival in DCA, they bring the parade back to DCA, but again I could be very wrong. I doubt they will run it in Disneyland during the festival at DCA as there is less space & therefore more competition to find a spot on the Disneyland parade route (meaning more time spent holding a spot) so it’s easier for everyone (guests & CMs) if it’s run in DCA. But I love it so much I will take it either way!

Thank you so much! I will have a stroller so that is for sure something to think about. I just hope middle schoolers are bit more well behaved than the Brazilian tour groups that come to WDW. I feel like if you can survive those you can survive anything haha.

I really, really, really hope Paint the Night is running! So in that case I hope there is not a food and wine festival. Do you know when these events, whether it be F&W or Grad nights, are announced? I’m so used to planning at least 6 months out for WDW that this is stressing me out a little :smile:


The waiting for the schedule to come out is agony!! But, the plus side is that the because DLR is such a laid back operation planning-wise, you can so be so much more flexible on EVERYTHING except rope drop is far more important (but easier to get to especially if you are coming from any timezone east of California).

With the schedule in general at DLR the hours are released 6 weeks before, dining at 60 days and entertainment (especially for events) can take all the way up until 2 weeks before to show up on the schedule. For Festivals they are announced somewhere in the middle of the 2-6 weeks beforehand (usually roughly about 30 days before).

The only exception I’ve seen to that is ticketed events that happen annually (ie Mickey Halloween Party & Grad Night). The Grad nights have already been announced & below are the dates but here is the link if you wanted to see the Disney Parks Blog on it.

2019 Disneyland Resort Grad Nite Dates:

  • May 10, 11, 17, 18, 21, 22, 28, 29, and 31
  • June 4, 5, 7, 8, 11, 12, and 14

As for F&W, the event page on Disneyland’s website here states it is “scheduled to return in early 2019.” No dates are yet available but I expect the end of the year to be the soonest they would announce (tail end of the Fesitval of the Holidays that runs until early Jan). It would not surprise me if they wait to release dates until around the Lunar New Year festivities (which will be end of Jan through Feb-ish).

I find that looking at the Historical Calendar for the events is the best way to ease my anxiety of what to somewhat start building a plan around. And then I may or may not every couple of days also stalk whatever Disney events pages for the specific event I am wanting to find out about that may affect my trip :wink: The first time I did this, I also called & chatted with CMs every couple of days just to see if they knew anything in advance (they didn’t) and they would check the same Disney Events page that I was stalking and read me off what the page said about “coming [season] 20xx” so I just go to the event page now.

Let me know if you have any other questions! I have no doubt that you will not only survive the middle school groups but enjoy this awesome trip with your little man!