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We just went to Disneyland. And by we, I mean my husband and I, two adults in their thirties. And it was glorious.
I highly recommend a Disney trip for adult couples. We had so much fun together. And as adorable as kids’ responses are to the magical atmosphere and the characters, kids also come with a ton of stuff – changes of clothes, snacks, diapers, strollers, emotions. As adults travelling with no kids, we were able to fully immerse ourselves in our own childlike joy. We grew up in the Disney animated film hey-day of the 1990s. Disney is just as much ours as it is a five-year-old kid’s.
I didn’t do a very detailed plan for this trip other than a few Pinterest searches for tips. I learned a lot while we were there that I think could be quite helpful for other adults travelling to Disneyland. These are ways to both have a more enjoyable experience in the park and tips on how to manage your vacation budget. While mainly for couples, this info will also likely be helpful for families going on Disney trips too.
A few notes: I have no problem with people bringing their kids to Disneyland – their reactions to it are super fun to watch. But Disney is EXPENSIVE and having a group of kids with you means the focus will always be on them and the younger they are the less they will remember as they grow. As adults travelling alone, the focus was completely on our own experience – and boy did we have fun.
That being said, when we first started planning this trip last year, I was pregnant and we fully expected to have a five-month-old with us, which would have been a wonderful although very different trip. Unfortunately, our son was stillborn (you can read about my experience with pregnancy loss here), and so rather than have him with us, this vacation ended up being a couples-only trip which was quite healing for us to do something really fun as a couple.
Here’s what we learned that made our Disney experience better.
Stay at a Hotel Within Walking Distance of the Park Gate
I said above that Disney Parks are expensive. And they are. They are VERY EXPENSIVE. But one expense not to skimp on is your hotel. If you have the cash, stay at a Disney hotel – they look super cool and will extend your experience of the magic. But, for most of us, the Disney hotels are going to be way over budget. So, what do you do? Book a hotel across the street from the park. There are so many of them. We stayed at the Fairfield Inn Anaheim Resort by Marriot. It was a seven-minute walk to the park gate.
Why was this helpful? While we spent more than we originally planned on the hotel, we saved on transportation costs and time. Many of the less expensive hotels require you to either rent a car (and thus pay for gas, parking at the hotel and parking at the park) or take a shuttle bus to get to the park. Either way, those two transportation costs add up in either cash (parking is PRICEY) or in time. Wait for the shuttle, ride the shuttle, shuffle off the shuttle…and repeat.
The other HUGE PLUS of having a walking distance hotel? We could head back to our room any time we wanted super easily and quickly. And we did! Every afternoon we took an hour break to chill in our hotel room – A/C, snacks, a nap, some TV. It was glorious to get away from the crowds, take off our shoes, and have a rest. We then felt refreshed and ready to spend a few more hours at the park. Another plus, by going to the hotel in the afternoon I was able to grab a sweater for when the weather cooled off in the evening and I didn’t have to worry about carrying it with me all day. Because our hotel was so close, we never felt bad about going there to take a break. We didn’t feel like we were losing out on a bunch of park time.
Make a Strategy and Adjust it as Necessary
Make a list of the rides or attractions you want to experience. Use the Disneyland App to see where they are in the park and how long the lines are. Then strategize how you want to go about your day. Yes, just wandering the park is wonderful and a great way to experience it. But without some planning, you will miss out on things you want to see and do. We wandered on our first day and then strategized days two and three and it worked out well for us. Every morning, we spent a few minutes talking about which rides we wanted to do, which ones we should go get FASTPASSes for, and what order we might want to do the rides in so we didn’t have to walk back and forth too much. We kept it fluid enough so that if we came across something else while we were exploring, we could do that too. There were only two rides out of our whole list that we didn’t get to – they nearly always had lines of 75 minutes or longer and we just didn’t want to stand in line that long.
Making a strategy is a lot simpler when you’re traveling as a couple rather than as a group or family. There’s only two of you to please (and keep track of) so you can easily get to the top of everyone’s list.
Why is this helpful? It saves you from spending time in long lines when at other times in the day you could walk on and off that ride in minutes. The free Disneyland App is super helpful this way. It also helps you stress less – having even an outline of a plan usually does. And, you’ll be less likely to miss out on something you really want to see or do.
Splurge and Get the Park Hopper Pass
Originally we planned to stick with the one park per day pass. I’m so glad we didn’t. The Park Hopper Pass allows you to go between Disneyland and California Adventure as much as you want throughout the day. This seriously helped with our strategy planning. We were able to go to California Adventure and get a FASTPASS for a ride we really wanted to go on, then head over to Disneyland and go on a few less-busy rides while we waited for our FASTPASS time.
Why is this helpful? It gives you so much freedom to explore the Parks. You can check the Disneyland App for ride line times and easily hop over to the other park for a ride that has an unusually short time instead of feeling like you picked the wrong (read busier) park that day.
Carry Your Park Passes in Your Phone case
When you get to Disneyland, each member of your group will receive a paper ticket with their name on it. This ticket is scanned when you enter the park and is used for getting and using FASTPASSes. You do not want to lose your ticket. But you also want to have it easily accessible when you need it. My husband is a smart, smart man and came up with the perfect way for us to keep our passes handy but also safe. What is the one thing in our day and age that we constantly check for and are absolutely terrified of losing? Our cell phones! So, tuck your pass between your case and your phone. Ta-da! You won’t lose it and will have it on hand whenever you need it.
Why is this helpful? You need to be able to quickly grab and scan your park ticket to get into the parks or to get or use FASTPASSes. Keeping your ticket tucked safely between your cell phone and phone case means you always know where it is, you always have it with you, and you can quickly get it when you need it.
Bonus! You can also add your whole party’s tickets into the Disneyland App. Then, all you need to do is scan the phone screen. (We figured this out half-way through our trip…)
Know How FASTPASS Works – Read the fine print
Disney introduced FASTPASS to their Parks years ago. But…read up on them or ask a cast member to explain them to you. We didn’t and because of it, we missed out. A FASTPASS allows you to skip the bulk of a line for a specific ride at a certain time. Not all rides have FASTPASSes and there are only a certain amount given out each day.
How does it work? You find the FASTPASS machine for the ride you want (usually it’s located near the ride entrance or exit) and scan your Disneyland ticket. It then spits out a little FASTPASS reminder ticket for you with your return time (a one-hour window) to return to the ride and use the FASTPASS line. You can get one FASTPASS every 90 minutes or once you use your current FASTPASS. That’s the part we didn’t understand. We had in our heads that we could only have one FASTPASS at a time….and so when we got FASTPASSes for a ride at 9 AM with a 3:30 PM return time, we thought we were out of FASTPASSes for the day. Oops.
Why is this helpful? Some rides consistently have two- or three-hour lines. A FASTPASS allows you to skip the bulk of that and thus get to ride more rides instead of standing in line for a huge chunk of your day. Knowing that you can get multiple FASTPASSes if your current pass is for a much later time allows you to keep riding rides instead of standing in line.
Bonus! If a ride breaks down during your FASTPASS time window, your pass becomes valid for any ride that allows FASTPASSES. How cool is that?
Use the Time Waiting in Lines to Really Enjoy Each Other’s Company
Life gets busy. We’re always spreading our attention over work, friends, housework, etc, etc, etc. But a vacation as a couple is a time to completely focus on each other. And that’s what we did. We used our time waiting in lines for rides or walking the park or sitting and people watching to just be together. We held hands. We hugged. We whispered sweet nothings. We talked. We laughed. We joked. We dreamed. It was wonderful. I can’t remember the last time we held hands so much. We leaned on each other. We made faces at each other. And yes, we kissed a few times too. PDA in Disneyland queues is definitely a fine line to be aware of, but a little bit is definitely okay. And it makes waiting in line a whole lot more fun.
Why is this helpful? It’s easy to get distracted from your partner by the noise and explosion of colour and atmosphere at Disneyland. But you’re there together for a reason. Focusing in on your partner really does help you both experience the most that Disney has to offer, together.
This is Part 1 of a three-part series on Disneyland tips.
Check out Part 2: What to Wear at Disneyland and Part 3: How to Eat on a Budget at Disneyland.