Disneyland Resort Planning Guide
It’s not often that you get something that is genuinely FREE! When it comes to trip planning, Disney offers some fantastic FREE planning tools to help you take advantage of everything these wonderful parks offer. Planning tools are available for Disneyland Resort, Walt Disney World Resort, Aulani Resort in Hawaii, Disney Cruise Line and Adventures By Disney.
Planning a trip to the Disneyland Resort should be a fun experience. NO STRESSING ALLOWED! There are several must-haves before you arrive which we will cover. We’ll also address some optional things that could help make your vacation even more magical. One way or another we’ll have you planning the best Disneyland Resort vacation of your life! Trust us, we’ve been doing this for over 20 years!
Buy your tickets first. It’s your commitment to the trip and there’s no turning back! That’s trip security! 😉 We always suggest doing this in advance as you’ll want to find the best savings on your tickets. Of course Park Savers is the best place to buy your Disneyland Resort tickets! We offer special savings over gate pricing and several ticket promotions throughout the year. Check-out our page on buying Disneyland Resort tickets for further details. You can purchase your tickets here when you’re ready!
Choosing the right ticket is important. We’ll always suggest buying a 3 day Park Hopper® Ticket in order to experience everything the Disneyland Resort has to offer. If you’ve never been consider the 4 or 5 day Park Hopper® Ticket. If you’re unsure of what kind of itinerary you should do check-out our blog post on Disneyland Resort itineraries.
- A Park Hopper Ticket will allow you go between both parks on the same day.
- A 1 Park Per Day Ticket allows you to visit 1 of the 2 parks each day of your visit. You cannot go between parks on the same day.
1 Park Per Day Tickets will cost you less than the Park Hopper® Ticket but again doesn’t allow you to change parks on the same day. We always recommend the Park Hopper® Option no matter how many days you ticket is. This is because park crowds can be lopsided and if you want to avoid a crowded park you can do so with a Park Hopper® Ticket.
The next most important thing to book is your hotel. There are several questions you need to ask yourself before booking your hotel. Do I want to stay on-property or off-property? How far away do I want my hotel if I stay off-property? Do I want to hotel with free parking because I’ll have a car? Does the hotel have a shuttle because I’m not bringing a car? Does it offer a free breakfast?
All of these are important questions to answer….and we can’t answer them for you. We can suggest a few of our top hotels that we’ve stayed in and reviewed independently. You may find that one of them meets your needs:
- Desert Palms Hotel and Suites: Just down the street from the Disneyland Resort entrance is the Desert Palms Hotel and Suites. It is a Good Neighbor Hotel and one of our favorites to stay at. It includes free breakfast, free internet, and free parking. This is hard to beat! Of course because of its location you can walk to and from the hotel to the parks. Across the street is a Walgreens and a Rite-aid. Book Now >
- Residence Inn Marriott Anaheim/Convention Center: We LOVE this hotel! It’s one of the newest hotels to be built near the Disneyland® Resort (2016). A walk across the street and down the block will have you at the parks in about 10 minutes. They offer a free breakfast buffet (which is amazing) and a free internet. They also have a really cool rooftop pool, spa, and splash pad. All the rooms have full kitchens in them (except for the studios). You will need to pay for parking if you have a car. Just 2 doors down from the hotel is a Walgreens and a Rite-aid. Book Now >
- Anaheim Majestic Garden Hotel: This Spanish-style hotel really brings out what Anaheim used to be. If features great pools, a nice restaurant, free internet, and several dining options nearby. The rooms are clean and spacious and it’s just a walk across the street and down the block to Downtown Disney® District. Book Now >
Of course there are several other hotels nearby that are sure to meet your needs if these don’t. If you decide you want to stay on-property at The Hotels of the Disneyland® Resort you’ll have 3 amazing options!
- Disney’s Paradise Pier® Hotel: Celebrate the heyday of California beachfront boardwalks at Disney’s Paradise Pier® Hotel. Step back in time at this old-fashioned yet modern hotel—home to a variety of dining, shopping and recreation opportunities—and ride a wave of relaxation from your charming seaside-themed room all the way up to the rooftop pool for some welcome fun in the sun. Book Now >
- Disneyland® Hotel: Be surrounded in the spirit and wonder of Disneyland® past and present. Stay in the Adventure, Fantasy or Frontier tower, each an homage in sight and sound to the park’s original lands—and delight in the hotel’s sleek, ultra-modern design that surrounds you at every turn. Located just steps from the Downtown Disney® District, the hotel is a short stroll to both Disneyland® Park and Disney California Adventure® Park. Book Now >
- Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel® & Spa: Premium accommodations and impeccable Disney service are combined with Craftsman-style elegance at this stunning hotel that has its own entrance to Disney California Adventure® Park. Luxuriate in an impressive array of amenities, like rich dining experiences and a world-class spa, and see how Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel® & Spa defines grandeur in every way. Book Now >
We recommend any of these 3 hotels as they all offer a really magical experience!
Not just how to get to the Disneyland® Resort but how to get around once you’re there. Let’s start with the latter. Flying to Orange county is usually pretty cheap with 3 major airports servicing the Disneyland® Resort:
- John Wayne/SNA Airport: This is the closest airport to the Disneyland® Resort. It typically takes about 17-20 minutes from airport to resort hotel. This airport is under-used in our opinion and our favorite to fly into. Delta and Southwest Airlines both fly here for less.
- Long Beach/LGB Airport: Long Beach airport is smaller than John Wayne and just a bit further away (about 25 minutes from airport to resort hotel). We still love it though! It’s smaller and less busy than the other 2 and our favorite airline JetBlue flies here direct from several big cities.
- Los Angeles/LAX Airport: The biggest and furthest airport from the Disneyland® Resort but usually the cheapest when it comes to flying Delta. You can expect a 45 minute to 1 hour drive from the airport to your resort hotel. This is a really busy airport so expect a slower response time for baggage and shuttle services.
When you’re ready to get around Orange County we always suggest using UBER or LYFT. They are cheap and readily available compared to cab services. You can get them in the size you need and expect very friendly service. Order one directly from your phone using the UBER or LYFT app and pay via CC or Apple Pay. If you’ve never used them before check-out our promotion codes to help you save on your first trips including $20 off with UBER and $50 in ride credits with LYFT.
If you decide to rent a car keep in the parking fees your hotel may charge per night. Add up what it would cost to use a shuttle or car service like UBER and LYFT vs the cost per day plus parking fees. If you plan on driving to the Disneyland® Resort and parking add an additional $20 per day. Again, we would suggest using UBER or LYFT to help you save on these costs.
Where to eat….there are so many options! Let’s cover the in-park dining first. Both Disneyland® Resort Parks and the Downtown Disney® District offer tons of dining options. You’ll spend an average of $12 per adult and $6 per child per meal if you’re eating in the parks. This is at quick-service dining places. Sit down restaurants will cost you more per person. You can bring in your own food to the parks. Pack a cooler, make some sandwiches, and enjoy the savings!
If you do plan on bringing your own food there are several grocery stores near the parks where you can shop. Vons also offers free local delivery to your hotel and you can order your groceries in advance of your arrival.
Several sit down restaurants in the parks and Downtown Disney® District highly recommend reservations. Be sure to call 714-781-DINE before your trip (60 days in advance at most) to make your reservations or make them online.
Character Dining is a really fun experience for all ages that gives you some personal time with some of your favorite Disney characters. Reservations are highly recommended for these as well. You can choose from breakfast, lunch, or dinner at several locations including in the parks and at The Hotel of the Disneyland® Resort. Our two recommended experiences include Goofy’s Kitchen located at the Disneyland® Hotel and Minnie & Friends Breakfast Buffet at Plaza Inn on Main Street. Buy your Character Dining meals in advance and save.
One of the best tips we can give when it comes to saving money at the parks is water. We never buy water in the parks. Why? Because you can get it for FREE by sipping from a drinking fountain or stopping by any quick service dining location and asking for a cup of water. They’ll give you as many as you need for free. So bring your own water bottle and enjoy some delicious free water!
All of these things you can plan and arrange before you get to the resort. Take advantage of this and plan ahead. We’ve listed a few blog posts below that may be interesting to you as you continue to plan.