My California Adventure! A solo last minute DLR trip - planning questions

Yesterday I found out I need to attend a conference in SoCal next Monday through Wednesday night. DH (being the gem that he is) suggested I tack on a day and hit DLR on Thursday… which I wasn’t going to say no to!

I’ve never been, but have helped plan/book some trips. Super excited.

I have a 1 day park hopper. I’ll be driving from conference location Thurs morning early, Parks open at 8 am, Downtown Disney at 7 am. I bought Genie+ as well.

Plan is to rope drop FantasyLand attractions that are not at WDW and not on Genie+ first, while starting to stack Genie+. I am not opposed to backtracking/going back and forth between parks if needed - prioritizing more attractions over slower pace. Hopping to DCA can start at 11.

DL LL priorities are IJ, HM, Matterhorn, Space
DCA LL priorities are Webslingers, GotG: Mission Breakout, Incredicoaster
Buying an ILL for RSR

DL closes at 8, DCA at 9 pm. Fireworks are not a priority for me.

After park close, I am driving to LAX and staying at the Hyatt Regency LAX before a 5 am flight home the next day.

So here are my questions… this has all come about in the last 14 hours… and this time next week I’ll be back home! Crazy!

  1. Is it better for me to arrive, park, and go to Downtown Disney first to be able to tap onto monorail early to get first LL earlier? Or does it just make sense to go to taps at DL and get first LL after the tap in?

  2. Since I’m not onsite, entry at 8 am. Does DL open taps early before park open (and if so how early) or is it right at 8?

  3. With LL priorities listed above, what order makes sense? Will any “run out” like we might expect SD or others to do at WDW? Should I just start with the DL ones and then go to DCA?

  4. What else should I know?

  5. LAX question - I’d prefer to return my rental on Thurs night around 10 pm and take hotel shuttle to terminal in the morning at 0-dark-thirty… but I also could just extend rental one night and return even earlier on Friday morning. Thoughts? Which makes more sense? I’ve never been through LAX before so have no sense of how difficult either option will be.


Yay for a first trip!!! I love that it’s popped up in less than a day and that as you mention, in a week you’ll be done & home from it. Impromptu DL trips are definitely ones I have experience with & so much whimsical fun!

Quick note on your priorities before jumping into your specific questions, Haunted Mansion will be closed for a refurb on your dates (and might already be closed now, I just did a quick check for next Thur specifically).

Good news, though, on the inside it is very much the same ride as WDW’s with WDW having the superior queue with all the story and theming, there’s much less of that in DL’s outdoor queue and most notable of what’s different about DL’s HM can be appreciated by looking at the exterior facade of the mansion which you hopefully might be able to still see behind the gates.

A great substitution for HM is Pirates as DL’s is most definitely different (longer with an extra drop and extra scenes not included at WDW).

Ok, now to questions!

Short answer, no. Before park opening (and maybe even the first hour or so of park opening?), the monorail is reserved for onsite hotel guests. Because the monorail puts you beyond the checkpoints in the park where they check for an onsite reservation to proceed to the queues open for that early entry, they will check before scanning you for entry to the monorail for an onsite reservation.

All the turnstiles open up at the same time for anyone waiting, onsite hotel guest or not. Those who have early entry will be able to show their reservation at checkpoints that will get them past ropes towards the lands open for early entry. The rest will wait behind ropes usually put up around the hub, but could be at the very end of Main St.

My experience since they’ve moved to a 30 min. early entry is that the turnstiles don’t start letting guests in until it’s 5 (or less) min. before the early entry starts & most times it really is just at the early entry time. But I’ve seen others say the turnstiles will open as much as 10-15 min before the early entry starts (so for an 8am opening sometime between 7:15-7:30).

Because you’re parking, you’ll need to wait for the parking lots to open (7am, or one hour before regular park opening is what they advertise but it can be a few minutes earlier or later if they’re delayed/running behind). It’s not uncommon for a line of cars to start forming at 6:30-6:40am either. Once you’re through the parking part and then walk (or tram or shuttle) to the turnstiles, it will be 7:15am at the earliest, and potentially closer to 7:30am. So I would go right to the gates from the parking to get in as close to 7:30am as possible as that’s when the people will be starting to scan in (and if they have G+ getting those first G+'s LL’s).

There’s a great thread on all things G+ for DL here but I’ve included below the general order of priority for each park listed in there which I agree with (it is missing MMRR but as that’s not one of your priorities, I won’t try to figure out where I think it should go but somewhere around MFSR/Matterhorn area).

If I had to combine the parks and then factoring in your priorities, I would probably say
IJ > Space > Webslingers > GotG > Matterhorn > Incredicoaster.

None of them run out terribly quickly but IJ, Space definitely run out in the middle-ish/afternoon part of the day (GotG if it’s not running all elevators/lifts can run out before Space, so just keep an eye out on if times are moving faster than Space’s and/or if the wait times are brutally high like 90-100+ minutes that usually means they’ve had to cut down on running 2 or more elevators, and if they are, still grab Space 2nd since you’re starting there & grab GotG right after tapping into Space to start the DCA stacking). Webslingers and GotG on a normal capacity day will run out too but usually after IJ and Space. Matterhorn and Incredicoaster can run out but are definitely more available and have decent LL capacity.

Another good reason to get IJ first is if it goes down for your window, it will turn into a Golden Ticket and if you use it right, it won’t matter what time you book or when you show up to anything for the rest of the day. But it is complex and I don’t know if I fully understand it to advise on how best to use it, so if you don’t want to dive into the technical details of a Golden Ticket and G+ in the advance G+ threads, then ignore this bit. But IJ is still a good bet to get first because it does run out the soonest of all the LL’s.

Quick service and snacks are good allllll over so no need to advance plan food. If I had to recommend just one QS in each park it would be Cocina Cocomonga in DCA and Bengal BBQ for a smaller lunch or Plaza Inn for a bigger portion in DL. But there’s so many good ones that that was a hard choice and I would put anywhere you can get a corn dog over Plaza Inn (Little Red Wagon & Stage Door Cafe in DL and Corn Dog Castle in DCA). We also love Award Weiners, Pym’s Kitchen (for lunch only), Shawarma, Aunt Cass’s, Cozy Cone #3, Lucky Red Fortune in DCA and Harbor Galley in DL. We do also take every opportunity that we can to snack too (churros, beignets and any flavored Dole Whip treat from Tropical Hidaway or hand-dipped customizable chocolate bars from Clarabelle’s). And since I’ve now given you about 5 days worth of food choices in DL, good luck narrowing it to one day of food :laughing:

And the second thing to know is DL is a lot more “in the moment/go where the wind takes you” so my day always starts out with my plan being more a checklist and as things change we don’t go in order, but follow the flow of how they’re changing (i.e. we didn’t plan to do Incredicoaster until 5pm but right now it’s a 20 min wait and we’re not far away, let’s go there next instead").

I have no experience with LAX (except on a connecting flight to somewhere else) but tagging @Jeff_AZ in case he knows from LAX experience he has. And @Wahoohokie in case she’s ever done a rental and LAX (I’m pretty sure she has).


OMG I didn’t even think to check on refurbs… so thank you! And yes, I meant to have Pirates in that list so that’s a perfect substitute.

Also fantastic information - exactly what I was looking for.

Sounds great… I’m going to add Pirates in there too.

I’m very much looking forward to this, even though it’s not my “way”… but it sounds wonderful.

Thanks again for all the thoughts!


A couple related anecdotes from last weekend:

Entering for rope drop: The middle taps were moving MUCH faster than the outside taps. I was used to having luck at the far sides at WDW so this was a surprise. After we moved to the middle we were inside in 5 minutes.

IJ going down: I booked this first hoping it would turn into a MEP; instead, we got on and then it went down while we were riding. We were stuck for a long while – to the point we were hoping to be evacuated (new experience!) but that didn’t happen – and we were offered an immediate re-ride but no MEP even when we asked two different cast members very nicely.

Single rider lines: we had great luck using Radiator Springs Racers, Incredicoaster, AND MFSR single rider lines!

We had a really nice time overall! It can be so laid back there even when crowds are high. Have fun!!


Single rider! I knew that was something else I should think of. Lots of things have it it looks like… woo hoo!


Hmm I have never rented a car from LAX but the nice thing is if you going that late at night / early in the morning, there will likely not be much traffic, which would be my biggest concern. You may want to call the office of your rental company onsite at LAX to see if they have a preference for drop-off time. Middle of the night could present some issues. It will feel more safe in the evening than 2-3am.


That’s a really good point. Thanks!

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I’m holding a River Belle Terrace ADR just in case… thoughts on food, ambience, etc?

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I have enjoyed the food there and the ambiance is nice, not spectacular. Though if you’re outside during / before Fantasmic that is pretty cool. Not among my favorites, honestly.


I would probably do SR rather than buying the ILL for RSR. Both lines can back up. Also, the WebSlingers SR line is usually pretty quick! I would definitely priotize GOTG LL over WS for this reason. You can always ride it SR. It’s been a minute (but I’ll be there next Wednesday!) so this could have changed, but last time I was there they had a new and fantastic SR set-up for Space. I always want multiple rides on Space so worth keeping in mind. I would still use a LL there so that I could request front row. When I’m solo, I love using the SR lines.


It’s ok. It’s not bad but like Jeff I agree it’s not my favorite. I’d rather a Carnation Cafe or eat at any of the quick service that has a tables with a view of the Rivers of America over sitting down at the River Belle. If it’s a Fantastmic dining package though, either the regular one that gets you a sitting on the ground spot at the front of Rivers of America or the premium package that you get sat at a table to enjoy dinner before the show & then stay seated at for the end to watch the show, then it’s a solid choice.