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 now opened 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 Nov. 27th, 2019).

Currently for 2019 “project stardust” is under way which is the code word used for the refurbishment going on at Disneyland right now. While most of project Stardust is completed including an update to Sleeping Beauty Castle, lawn areas around the HUB and some Main Street Stores, there are still some projects going on that may float into 2020.

Currently Tomorrowland is being given a new entrance which includes the removing of the boulders and sign and replacing them with grass lawns and a new sign. It’s opening up the entrance a lot and making it easier for traffic to flow in and out of this area.

Overall Project Stardust has been a great success with park-goers and I’m looking forward to early 2020 renovations for Indiana Jones and Snow White’s Scary Adventures.

Now that Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge has been open for a while now I feel like I can give a meaningful update on this new expansion and what you can expect when you visit. First off, Galaxy’s Edge was a fail in my mind. While the new land is high tech and up to date, it failed to resonate with the younger generation who just isn’t that into Star Wars.

Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge Free Photo

Why do I say this? Since opening reservations were completed, this land was seen much smaller crowds than anticipated. So much so that even Disney didn’t like what they saw and made some changes to Executives over the park. Secondly, Disney over-reacted with with teh opening which scared lots of guests away. It was one of the slowest summers I’ve even seen.

While there was still some hope with the “older” generation for this land, unfortunately none of it included the original Star Wars films. Basically Galaxy’s Edge was built to accommodate only the newer films and not the old ones. I think this has also played a major role.

To top this all off, Millennium Falcon: Smuggler’s Run has maintained a wait time of about 45 minutes everyday since it opened. This is a big sign to me that the lands popularity is small. However, before I go down that road any further I’m going to give the attractions a chance since both are not open yet.

Galaxy's Edge Disneyland

At the end of January, 2020 Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance will open and my guess is that this will draw in massive crowds since it’s supposed to be the better of the two attractions. If either of these two attractions continue to only hold a line around 45 minutes after several months, I’ll know for sure that Galaxy’s Edge won’t ever pan out for Disney.

Right now you won’t want to miss The Holidays going on at the Disneyland Resort right now through January 6th, 2020. I have a complete guide for this that you may want to read but let me give you a quick overview:

Disneyland planning guide

Disneyland Park has decorations galore all over the park including wreaths, garlands, lights, a giant Christmas tree and of course ice and snow on Sleeping Beauty Castle.

“it’s a small world” attraction is decked out in thousands of lights which is amazing and a must-see. Sleeping Beauty Castle lights up in the evening time and it the perfect spot for a picture.

There are tons of limited-time food items that you’ll want to check out as well as merchandise. Holiday spirit jerseys are definitely in this year!

Lastly, there is a new fireworks show and a holiday parade going on each day at the park. Be sure to plan ahead and grab some seating well before the shows start.

Over at California Adventure Park you’ll find some of the same decorations, a large Christmas tree, tree lights and more. Cars Land really gets into the Holidays by dressing up all of Radiator Springs and changing the theme of Mater and Luigi’s to special holiday attractions. Be sure to check it out at night time too!

Also at California Adventure Park is the Festival of Holidays that celebrates all the ways the world celebrates during this time of year. There are special shows each day and guest experiences including music and arts and crafts.

Holidays it's a small world

If you’re a foodie then I have some great news. There are several booths places throughout the park that offer special theme-based dishes like you would find at the Food and Wine Festival. This years is amazing and a must-do. Grab a guide when you walk into the park and start tasting your way through the park!

Lastly, over at Redwood Creek Challenge Trail just guest can get their picture taken with the one and only Santa Clause! He’s there everyday and ready to meet you and your kids. It’s a really fun place and I suggest you get there early in the morning.

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 will open in 2019.

Jessie’s Critter Carousel is now open next to the Incredicoaster at Pixar Pier. Marvel Land is a ways out from opening so nothing has really be announced other than a possible completion date of 2020.

Also announced in April is a new attraction for Mickey’s Toontown called Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railroad. This same attraction is currently being built at Hollywood Studios at Walt Disney World and is expected to open at Disneyland in 2022. We’ll update this as more details emerge.

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 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. We talk about many different place including Sam’s Club, AAA and Costco.

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. Currently MaxPass costs an extra $15 per persoon per day.

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 OR if you have MaxPass you can now reserve it from your phone via the Disneyland Parks Mobile App.

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.