I am a veteran of many trips to Disneyland, as a Teacher/Chaperone, Parent, and now Grandparent, and every trip yields new Park wisdom. Our SoCal trip was from Sept. 7-17. I selected those dates by consulting the Touring Plans Crowd Calendar and comparing several months (Spring & Fall, NEVER PEAK SEASON) crowd calendar data for the past two years. We are not Halloween people so we wanted to avoid as much of that as possible, and we did avoid most of it. Mostly we wanted to avoid the Halloween Party days at Disneyland because they close DL early, which last trip really increased the crowd level in Disney California after DL closes! We did the 5-day Park Hopper tickets that I purchased ahead of time online from aRes Travel (a San Diego Travel Agency recommended by Mousesavers.com). First time we did that and it saved us a significant amount of $, printed our tickets out at home and went straight to the park entrance where we traded our printed ticket for Disney’s Tickets. Fast, painless, no worries! I tracked discounted tickets at Undercover Tourist and aRes Travel (both recommended by Mousesavers.com) for about two months before our trip, next time I will do it for longer. Check frequently because the discounts change. I missed one terrific deal that was only available for about a week by hesitating. I also purchased discounted Lego Land and Universal Studio Tickets from aRes Travel as well, and all went smoothly. If I could do it over again, I would fork over the additional $10/ticket and purchase MAX PASS! There are lots of great You Tube videos on the MAX PASS. Why spend $10 more per ticket for already expensive tickets, I’ll tell you why. Even on low crowd days, you can expect 30 min. to 50 minute wait times on all the best, most popular rides. MAX PASS allows you to get more Fast Passes quicker than the regular Fast Pass system; more time riding rides less time waiting in lines. PLUS you can reserve a Fast Pass for Cars Land Racers, Toy Story Mania, etc. in DC while you are in Disneyland, or vise versa, a HUGE convenience! You can also download all those great pictures Disney Photographers take of you and the kids for no extra charge with MAX PASS. GET TO THE PARK EARLY, 30 to 45 minutes before it opens! The first hour or two the Parks are less crowded and you can often just walk on to rides. Be sure to factor in time for Parking, shuttling to the Parks, and waiting in line to go through security and bag check (always takes longer than you think). I highly recommend using the TOY STORY PARKING LOT on Beach Blvd,. just south of Katella, $20/day with fast shuttle service just a few blocks to the Parks (Learned about that one on a Disney Hacks article). Take FOOD and WATER, even Soft Drinks in plastic bottles into the park! I saw people take soft sided small coolers, even the hard sided Playmate coolers right through bag check and security! So we took pre-made sandwiches, fruit, snacks, chips, water, and even diet plastic bottled drinks into the Parks. Never a hassle. Believe me, even with that (which saved us a lot of money with hungry adults and kids) we still dropped a lot of cash on Disney meals and must have Disney snacks. In Disneyland, you can refill your water bottles for free at filtered water stations inside the Red Rose Taverne in Fantasy Land (which by the way was one of our favorite places to eat, relax, and cool down (when you sit inside); excellent food! Next time I will take a good quality water bottle or two to refill If your party is more than a few, you should consider Airbnb, We have done that the last two trips and saved $800 or more over comparable hotels! We had a party of six both trips, two parents, 2 children, and two grandparents. Always eat breakfast before you get to the Parks! Always consult the Unofficial Guide to Disneyland (Birnbaums Guide is worthless), and I always subscribe to Touring Plans the year we go, covering the time we are going. The information on dining helped me put together a list of best places to eat in both parks, so we always knew exactly where to head depending on what we were in the mood for. Tip - DON’T order the coffee drinks at Ghiradelli’s; overpriced and not very good, get your coffee at Starbucks! Speaking of ice cream, for the first time I had one of the custom Chocolate Bars at Clarabells Ice Cream in DC, it was magnificent! We always create a Disneyland Group Facebook page for those of us who are going on the trip to post tips, videos, updates, happenings, etc, The Touring Plans blogs, Facebook videos, and newsletters have good stuff we sometimes post. It always helps us be prepared and rev up the excitement for our upcoming trip! Be sure to Fastpass Fantasmic, which is more incredible than ever. One thing we had fun with was looking for Jack Sparrow in the Pirates of the Caribbean ride; he pops up several times if you are looking. One major annoyance is the AWFUL, PRACTICALLY WORTHLESS WiFi in both Disney Parks. It rarely works, and when it does it always drops off, so if you want to use the Disneyland App., plan on using your mobile data. At Universal Studios, they have GREAT WiFi, never a problem. Plan on spending a lot of time in line if you are a Starbucks addict, though the lines in Disneyland are shorter and faster than in DC. In a conversation with the manager of Starbucks DC a couple of years ago (our last trip), he informed me that the 4 busiest Starbucks in the WORLD are on Disney Properties, and two of the top 4 are in the Disneyland Parks! If you are going to rent a car, I have ALWAYS got the best rates through Costco Travel. If you rent a car through Costco Travel, always check back weekly, even after you have reserved a rental for cheaper rates! I started out at $494 for a 10 day rental 3 months ahead of our trip. I cancelled and re-reserved the same Toyota Sienna van 4 times, the last contract was for $364! I hope some of this helps somebody have a better trip.
We do the same! No amount of pre-packed food & snacks completely eliminates our Disney snacking spend, but we do find that when we bring food, we save at least on more of meals!
There’s also one at Rancho del Zocalo in Frontierland, in the uncovered eating area. In DCA across from Soarin’ just outside the gift shop they have those customizable flavor soda machines that also have water, but you have to get a cup from the CM before fillling it, they don’t allow your water bottle to be directly filled from the machine. Also, I believe someone once mentioned there’s a self-filling water inside Boardwalk Pasta & Pizza but we haven’t ever eaten there so I haven’t ever checked out the truth on it.
That sounds like fun! Is this with TP subscribers who aren’t active on the forum/chat?
Yup yup yup.
I believe it! We used to ONLY get bfast at Starbucks when we ate bfast in the parks (one parent would go in & wait in line while the other waited with the kids for RD). Also, we like the DCA one better not because of the lines (the lines may be a tad longer at DCA, but there’s also a lot more room for the line so more people can wait in it whereas at DL the space is more limited). But the reason we like DCA better for Starbucks is their ovens that make the sandwiches never ever burn the croissants. On the DL side they ALWAYS burn sometimes just a bit, but sometimes it’s there’s a sizable amount of the bread that becomes inedible (and this is coming from someone who enjoys toasted buns & even a little slight burn, but the level of the burn that comes out of the DL side is ridiculous). So if we get bfast from the DL side we ask them to please only toast our sandwiches for half the time & don’t burn them, but sometimes it’s just easier to plan for the DCA side where we know they won’t burn them. And in DL we also now prefer Jolly Holiday for bfast to Starbucks.
All in all, sounds like you had a fantastic trip, thanks for all the cost-saving tips too!!! (I also love Mousesavers- they are the ones that directed me to TouringPlans in the first place )
Thanks for your thoughtful responses! Now I know where at least one other water filling station is. To answer your question on our Facebook Trip Page, it is just a small group for all adults going on the trip. It is a great forum for discussing and posting all related info. For us it was 5 adults, representing 3 different households.
That is an awesome idea! I may have to steal this next time we make a trip with multi-families!