Disneyland Planning Guide

Disneyland Planning Guide

2019 Disneyland Planning Guide

disneyland planning guide

Our Disneyland Planning Guide is full of tips and tricks to help you save money at the parks including discounted tickets, dining, the best hotels to stay at and everything that you can expect during 2019 including the opening of the highly anticipated Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge.

As a lot happens during a year at Disneyland, we frequently update this page so you can stay in-tune with what’s happening. Park Savers makes several trips a month to the parks during celebrations, holidays, festivals, special events and of course openings. We don’t want to miss out on anything and neither do you. If you’re just visiting today and not ready to plan a trip, be sure to come back to see what currently happening closer to your vacation. We update this page consistently for best planning practices (last updated April 12th, 2019).

Currently for 2019 “project stardust” is under way which is the code word used for the refurbishment going on at Disneyland right now. The reason for the refurbishment all leads back to Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge. The resort is preparing for its biggest crowds ever and wants the parks to be in tip top shape. Anyone visiting Disneyland Park since early February will have noticed that the castle is under some serious constructions. This remodel is meant to bring it back it back into its glory years status including a new paint job and roofing. We don’t know when the castle will re-open for guests to enjoy their finest pictures or cut through to Fantasyland but we would anticipate sometime in March.

Speaking of March, the announcement for the opening for Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge was made and guests are invited to attend the opening being held on May 31st, 2019! The announcement came as a bit of a shock because we fully expected the new land to open late June, not late May. You will want to read all the official details for opening in our article as it explains that only 1 phase of the new land will be opening.

While guests are probably underestimating the impact Star Wars will have on the resort, we are not. 2019 is already shaping up to be one of the biggest years for the Disneyland Resort and with the opening Star Wars, it will be launched into unknown territory. Guests who visit early in 2019 will see the calm before the storm. As January and February are historically the refurbishment months, guests can expect slower crowds. Once Star Wars opens, chaos will erupt and guests will have to battle just to get into the parks (we’re not even talking wait times yet). Parking lots will close sooner because they will fill up fast. Buses to the parks will take longer because so many people will need to ride them (hint, stay on property if you can). Security lines will be like nothing you’ve ever seen before. Main Gate lines may collide with each other (we’re guessing the Disneyland side will win) and all of this is just to get into the parks!

We anticipate there will be a physical or virtual line to get into Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge for the opening and several weeks after. On top of that there will be the lines to get on the new attractions. If it was anything like Pandora at Walt Disney World it will take guests several hours to get into the new land and then several more hours to get onto the attractions. Guests who happen to get a Fastpass for one of the new attractions will probably have priority over the line to get into the land but will have to verify their Fastpass before entering.

And to further seal in the fate of crowds for Star Wars, we know that the Disneyland Resort has doubled down on their hiring efforts for almost every position. Most of these new-hires are being trained in mid-late March or April despite being hired in January and February. We’re guessing that many of these new hires will have their training days but not a complete schedule until June.

While this sounds like a doomsday speech, we’re not trying to scare anyone. In fact, we would tell you if you plan to visit Disneyland in 2019 (or just ever in your life), wait until Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge opens. It’s going to blow people away with everything it has to offer. We simply just want you to be prepared for the worst and when you are it won’t seem as bad.

For anyone who’s visiting the Disneyland Resort in earlier 2019 (Jan-May) you can join in on the big “Get Your Ears On” celebration that’s currently going on. Both Disneyland Park and Disney California Adventure Park are celebrating Mickey’s 90th birthday and it’s something you won’t want to miss.

To celebrate this special occasion, the resort has brought in a brand new nighttime show called Mickey’s Mix Magic that combines music, lasers, lights and projections into one of the coolest shows we’ve seen! And there are 3 different viewing areas for the show including Main Street U.S.A., Rivers of America and it’s a small world. All 3 offer a unique viewing experience!

Also included with the “Get Your Ears On” celebration is the return of one of our favorite parades, Mickey’s Soundsational Parade! It’s the same parade we know and love with some all-new additions. The parade is sure to have you singing, dancing and partying with all your favorite Disney pals.

Any foodies out there? The “Get Your Ears On” celebration has introduced a lot of new limited-time dining experiences for stands, quick-service dining, lounges and sit-down restaurants throughout the resort. With so much being offered you’ll want to grab an official food guide pamphlet on your way into the parks so you know all that’s being offered and where to find it!

Also going on at Disney California Adventure Park in February-March is the Lunar New Year Celebration. Food Marketplaces, parades, activities and merchandise are all available during this celebration. Plus don’t miss special photo opportunities with Mulan and Mushu!

In comparison to the Holidays like Halloween and Christmas, both “Get Your Ears On” and the Lunar New Year Celebrations are pretty small. The Food and Wine Festival at California Adventure Park which will run from March-May will be bigger than both of these and usually draws in some decent crowds (mostly locals). We anticipate all the celebrations and festivals to be completed by end of May to make way for Star Wars.

From what we’re being told, both Disneyland Park and California Adventure Park will participate in some sort of Star Wars fashion. While nothing has been announced officially we anticipate banners being hung, special character opportunities, Star Wars themed food and merchandise and possibly a new parade or march (like the one in Hollywood Studios). Be sure to join our newsletter to stay up-to-date on these announcements as they are made.

If you like other minor special events like Disney After Dark, there are going to be several that you won’t want to miss. Again, while there events draw in a lot of guests for one night or a few weeks, we anticipate Jan-May to be relatively easy going. Even Disney is anticipating this with its special promotional tickets.

The decision on when to visit is going to come down to this: small crowds or Star Wars? No matter what time you choose to visit, we’ve got you covered with all the resources you need including where to stay, how to save on tickets, best places to eat and so much more.

If you’ve never been to Disneyland you may want to jump down to our first-time visitors sections. Just to be clear, the Disneyland Resort is located in So. California. We don’t want you to get confused with the Walt Disney World Resort located in Orlando Florida.

If you’re a Walt Disney World fan and you’ve never been to Disneyland, you need to go. Yes, Disneyland only has two parks making it smaller than Walt Disney World but there are several reasons why you still need to come visit including:

  • Cars Land
  • Guardians of the Galaxy – Mission: Breakout!
  • Pixar Pier
  • New Orleans Square
  • The original World’s Fair version of “it’s a small world”
  • The Blue Bayou Restaurant (yes, this makes our list) and more.

Guests visiting Disneyland during 2019 should can now enjoy World of Color again. The show went down late last year to to an accident that happened but it is now back up and running with nightly showings. Guests are required to get an entertainment Fastpass in order to view the show. You’ll find these located by Ariel’s Under The Sea Adventure attraction. And new to 2019 you can get these entertainment Fastpasses via MaxPass if you have it.

If you’ve a big fan of “bugs land” at California Adventure Park we have some bad news: it’s closed! Bugs land closed in 2018 to get ready for Marvel Land that will replace it. Hence Paradise Pier was re-themed into Pixar Pier and several new attractions including Inside out Emotional Whirlwind and Jessie’s Critter Carousel will be opened there in 2019. Marvel Land is a ways out from opening so nothing has really be announced other than a possible completion date of 2020.

In early 2019 Adventureland opened a new addition called The Tropical Hideway. This new quick service dining area next to The Enchanted Tiki Room serves up some special Dole Whips and food that you won’t want to miss. We’ve been very pleased with this addition and think you’ll agree with us.

raspberry dole whip

New rules for Disneyland Guests

2019 is also the year of change for some parks rules. There are two pretty big ones and then some smaller ones. First, starting May 1st 2019 guests will not be able to smoke on resort property. This includes inside the parks, outside the parks and Downtown Disney. Smoking includes cigarettes, cigars and vaping. There will no longer be designated smoking areas inside the parks. Guests who want to smoke will have to go outside of the security screening areas to do so.

The second big change has to do with strollers. Guests will no longer be able to bring in wagons or big double strollers. Disney has specified down to the inch what is allowed and what isn’t. They are:

Strollers that are greater than 31” in width and 52” in length will be prohibited. Stroller wagons will also be prohibited.

To complete our 2019 Disneyland Resort Planning Guide, here are some resources you’ll want to be sure and checkout:

First-time visitors

Disneyland Planning Guide will not only help you learn about the Resort, it will also help you save money! Be sure to look for all of our money saving tips in the guide!

If you’ve never been to the Disneyland Resort you’re in for a real treat! It’s the Happiest Place on Earth! Dreams come true here everyday and it’s about time you get to experience it! Planning a trip can be easy or hard, depending on how you approach it. Let us give you some pointers to help you understand a few things.

The Disneyland Resort has 2 Parks, Disneyland Park and Disney California Adventure Park. They have 3 on property hotels:

  1. Disneyland Hotel
  2. Paradise Pier Hotel
  3. Grand Californian Hotel and Spa

These are owned and operated by Disney. All other hotels are known as Good Neighbor Hotels and are off property but considered by Disney as great places to stay.

Disneyland Tickets

Currently you can purchase tickets that range from 1 day to 5 days. Depending on how long you want to play for it’s always best to purchase as many days as possible as the price per day drops the more you add. For instance, the 2 day ticket costs about $99 per day but the 4 day ticket costs about $72.50 per day. So the more you play the less you pay!

Tickets can be purchased as either 1 Park Per Day tickets or as Park Hopper tickets. 1 Park Per Day tickets give you access to one of the 2 parks each day of your visit. You CANNOT visit both parks on the same day.

The Park Hopper tickets give you access to both parks as much as you want for the length of your ticket. We always recommend this ticket as it gives you a lot of flexibility to change parks when one is busy. We recommend getting your Park Hopper tickets using our exclusive link. All all Disneyland tickets are backed by a Best Price Guarantee to ensure you always pay the lowest price!

For more information on discount Disneyland tickets be sure to read our guide so you can save the most money.

Tickets are only valid for 13 day after first use unless you have an annual passport. Tickets cannot be used by different people, it must be used by the same person on each day of use. Disney takes this very serious and will revoke tickets if you’re caught doing this. Only buy your tickets from vendors who are authorized. We suggest using our exclusive link to purchase your discounted tickets

Annual Passports

Get the Magic going all year-round with an annual passport! These give you 1 year of access to the Parks, some with restrictions and black-out dates. All offer discounts on food and merchandise, tours, and special events. Please visit here for information on each individual Passport. You can also read our guide here for picking the best annual pass and how to save money when buying one.

Disneyland Packages

Packages make planning a Disneyland trip so much easier! They typically include your tickets, hotel, and in some cases dining, airfare, and rental car. Not only do packages offer convenience they also come with lots of great extras for free! Lanyards, backpack, coupons, and more!

For more information of Disneyland Packages like the best times to book and who to book through for the best discounts read our guide to Disneyland Packages. You can also book your discount package using our exclusive link and coupon code PARKSAVERS for an additional $10 off your package.

Airports

There are 3 airports that service Disneyland within a 45 minute drive or less:

  1. Orange County – John Wayne SNA
  2. Long Beach Airport LGB
  3. Los Angeles Airport LAX

SNA is the closest airport to Disneyland and typically takes about 15 minutes to drive from there to Disneyland with clear traffic. While the airport is a smaller one it really nice and offers lots of places to eat, shop, and of course catch your flight. It’s also part of the Disneyland Resort Express motorcoach program which you can read about below. Airlines include Southwest, Delta, United, American, and Alaska.

LGB is the second closest airport to the resort and typically takes about a 20-25 minute drive with clear traffic. It’s also a smaller airport but was recently re-done and has some great eating places. Airlines that service Long Beach include Southwest, JetBlue, Delta, and American Eagle.

LAX is the furthest airport from Disneyland and can take anywhere from 45 minutes to an hour to drive. This is a major airport with many airlines servicing it. We won’t list them all but most likely your airline will fly into it. It’s great for International flights. LAX is part of the Disneyland Resort Express motorcoach program which you can read more about below.

Transportation

Getting to and from the airports can be pricey depending on which type of transportation you take. Rental cars can be picked up at all 3 of the airports around Disneyland. If you choose to rent a vehicle keep in mind that your hotel may charge a parking fee. Disneyland also charges a parking fee if you’re thinking about parking at the resort. It’s approximately $20 per day for cars and motorcycles. However, they are a good option if you plan to leave the resort a lot and head to the beach or other So. Cal attractions.

The Disneyland Resort Express Motorcoach is a great way to get to and from the airport and your hotel. It makes several stops around Disneyland including most neighboring hotels and of course the 3 Disneyland Property Hotels. Depending on which airport you fly into it will pick up every 30 minutes to every hour. Be sure to check the schedule while you’re booking. Click here for a coupon to help you save on your booking! See, this Disneyland Planning Guide is already paying off!

Taxis, Uber, and LYFT are great options if you don’t want to pay parking and rental fees. We highly recommend Uber and LYFT for getting to and from the airport. They are readily available and cheaper than taking a taxi. Use our coupon codes to get your first ride free with both companies! If you don’t have these apps on your phone we suggest taking a taxi. Many of them offer a flat rate to Disneyland and back. Just be sure to ask them. If you’re staying at a Disneyland Property Hotel ask the bell desk for a flat rate coupon upon departure.

FASTPASS

An urban legend would have you believe that this service only comes with certain tickets or costs extra. Let us assure you, this is not true. Fastpass comes on EVERY ticket no matter where you get them! It’s like a “save your place in line” service where you get the Fastpass, leave, and come back later to skip the main line and get on the ride! It saves a lot of waiting time and allows you to go do something else until your return time. We suggest always using it! Fastpass machines can be found outside of most major rides. Simply insert in a valid theme park ticket and receive the Fastpass. Return during the posted time and skip the line!

An update to Fastpass happened in 2017 that now makes the entire service electronic, meaning, you no longer need your little slip of paper for your Fastpass. It goes directly on your park ticket which is now scanned at the Fastpass entrance to each ride. Be sure to have your tickets out and ready to scan at the Fastpass machines. You’ll thank us and this Disneyland Planning Guide later for that!

MaxPass

MaxPass is also new to the Disneyland Resort as of 2017 and has made things interesting. This new service enhances the current Fastpass system in that it allows you to make Fastpass reservations without actually having to go to the Fastpass machines and scan your ticket. You can now schedule a Fastpass from your phone anywhere in the park. There are a few exceptions to this but for the most part that’s how it works. Read more about MaxPass, how it works, and if it’s worth the extra money or not in our MaxPass Guide.

New to MaxPass since April 2019 is the option to get Entertainment Fastpasses directly from the Disneyland app on your phone. What this means is that guests who have purchased MaxPass for the day can now pick up a Fantasmic! or World of Color ticket without having to visit the Fastpass machines. As soon as you enter the park you can select to get a Fastpass and choose Fantasmic! if you selected Disneyland Park and World of Color if you selected California Adventure Park. Entertainment Fastpasses do not take away or count towards attraction Fastpasses. They are completely separate.

World of Color

The most amazing and wonderful show you’ve ever seen! Lights, colors, water, fire, and all your favorite Disney characters set to classic Disney music! Wow is right! It’s something you have to experience! A ticket for a showing is required. It works just like Fastpass: It comes on every valid theme park ticket! The machines to get your tickets for a show are located right next to the entrance of Grizzly River Run in California Adventure Park. Show tickets go fast so get there first thing! You can also purchase a meal and receive a special seating ticket to a show by visiting here.

Fantasmic!

New to the Disneyland Planning Guide is Fantasmic!, a nighttime spectacular that takes place around River of America in Frontierland and New Orleans Square. You won’t want to miss this one-of-kind show featuring Mickey Mouse and some nasty villains. The show includes some of your favorite characters and the Mark Twain Riverboat! Singing, dancing and even fireworks make this show a must see. Fastpass tickets can be obtained during the day time by visiting the Fantasmic! Fastpass machines located next to the Mark Twain Riverboat loading area. You will want to get there early as tickets go fast!

Magic Morning Early Entry

This feature comes on 3-day tickets or higher only. It allows you entrance into Disneyland Park 1 hour before it opens to the public. It only runs certain days, typically Sunday, Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday. It comes on your ticket. It is different than Extra Magic Hour (see below) that is offered only to guests of the 3 Disneyland Property Hotels.

Extra Magic Hour

This is only available to guests staying at one of the Disneyland-Owned Property Hotels including Paradise Pier Hotel, Disneyland Hotel, and the Grand Californian Hotel. Extra Magic Hour is everyday at a different park. It typically follows the schedule of Magic Morning Early Entry which is Disneyland Park on Tues, Thurs, and Saturdays. On all the other days Extra Magic Hour is for California Adventure Park. Time are subject to change to check with your hotel the night before to verify the time. Take it from us and this Disneyland Planning Guide, Extra Magic Hour is a must-do each day! You’ll get a lot done in just an hour because the park is pretty empty.

Best Time to Visit Disneyland

There’s a lot to be said about visiting Disneyland. We all want to visit when there are smaller crowds and shorter wait times. We also want to go when it’s easy for families to travel. Finding a balance between the two can be hard but it’s possible. We’ve studied the crowds over the last several years and have broken down each month; what you can expect during each one and when the best weeks are to visit Disneyland.

Read our Best Time to Visit Disneyland Guide for the answers to all these questions and more!

You can also check out our Free Disneyland Crowd Calendars to see which days are going to be the busiest and which ones will be slow. These calendars can help you determine the best days to visit!

Be sure to check-out all of our resources to help you make the most of your Disneyland vacation including hotel reviews, dining reviews how to do Disneyland cheap and how to score cheap Disneyland tickets.