Disneyland Planning Guide 2022-2023: Start Here to Plan Your Disneyland Trip

In our Disneyland Planning guide we attempt to make your Disneyland vacation extremely magical while saving you save money at Disney. On this page you will find our basic Disneyland planning articles on getting the most out of your vacation and money saving hacks. Planning a trip to Disneyland has never been easier!

We cover everything from finding the best hotel near Disneyland to the most recent Disneyland updates to advice on saving money on Disneyland tickets. Our guide to planning a trip to Disneyland is laid out in the order of steps you would go in as begin planning to make it as simple as possible for first time guests and well-seasoned park goers!

You can read all about what Disneyland is like right now and the Disneyland reservations system in our guides.

Common Questions:

Before jumping into planning and reading the pieces of the guide below, I invite you to join our newsletter. It will help you along the way with more information, discounts, and more tips.

When to Visit Disneyland 2023Disneyland Partners Statue Disneyland Planning Guide

Your first step to planning a Disneyland vacation is to first decide on when you would like to visit the park! There are special events to consider throughout the year along with your own schedule to consider. In order to help you decide when is the best time to visit Disneyland consult our Disneyland crowd calendar which includes crowd predictions along with monthly events for the entire year.

Visiting Disneyland during the summer is often the most obvious choice for guests due to summer vacation for school aged kids. This is a great time to visit Disneyland as you will enjoy longer operating hours and newly introduced events or entertainment. Our guide to summer at Disneyland covers the pros and cons of a summer vacation at the resort. Spring at Disneyland can be another great time to visit, especially if you're looking for discounts for on-site Disney hotels and cheaper airfare.

Disneyland Sleeping Beauty Castle Christmas

The holiday season is also another popular time to enjoy the parks as Disneyland goes all out for both Halloween and Christmas. You can enjoy seasonal ride overlays, an abundance of decorations, seasonal treats and themed entertainment. Picking what time of year to visit Disneyland will alter your resort experience in regards to the type of entertainment you may experience at the park, decorations, crowds, weather and even prices.

Haunted Mansion Holiday

Prices will always be higher during holiday weeks like spring break, Thanksgiving, Christmas, Labor Day, etc. Crowd levels also usually coordinate with these higher prices. Our guide to experiencing crowds at Disneyland help you prepare for surviving anything.

You may also want to take into account the usual yearly refurbishments that may take place at Disneyland when picking your trip dates- these are just the yearly ride closures for usual maintenance or closures for seasonal overlays that happen each year.

You may also consider visiting for a birthday or anniversary which are great milestones to celebrate on Disney! In fact, Disney will help you celebrate those special birthdays and anniversaries.

Regardless of what time of year you pick, there is always a pro/con to each and every day of the year is just as magical as the rest!

Disneyland's New Reservation System 2023Disneyland Planning Guide King Arthur Carousel

Once you've picked your dates for your Disneyland vacation your next step is to purchase your tickets! You can save nearly $20 per ticket for travel when you book with our recommended travel partner Get Away Today. They offer the best discounts while providing top notch customer service. They have worked with Disney for over 30 years selling millions of 2-5 day discount Disney tickets and give our Mickey Visit readers (who book through links on our website) an exclusive discount rate on tickets. I highly recommend going that route for your Disneyland theme park tickets. You can read more about the different ticket options, how many days you need and more in our discount Disneyland guide. 

If you're looking to do Disneyland on a budget, I've got you covered in our budget tips for Disneyland guide. Our list of budget tips will help you save money on park tickets, hotel, dining, and includes information on how to save 5% on Disney gift cards!

It's not enough to just have your theme park tickets to Disneyland, you also need to make a reservation for each day of your visit once you've purchased your tickets! This is extremely important because reservations can run out as your trip dates get closer and since this new reservation system has been implemented it hasn't been uncommon to see guests without a reservation be turned away at the gates… even if they have tickets.

Theme park reservations are available on a 90 day rolling basis for one day tickets and Magic Key Holders and a 120 day basis for multi-day ticket holders (available via our travel partner) in order for Disney to access guest availability and you should reserve your park days the instant you purchase your park tickets. You can easily change these later if you need to but better to book them once you've picked your dates. Our guide to the Disneyland theme park reservation system can walk you through how to make a reservation.

What Disneyland Hotel To Stay In

There are two types of hotels to choose from when visiting the Disneyland Resort. You can either stay at an on-property hotel that is owned by Disney or stay at a Disneyland Good Neighbor hotel, a third party hotel approved by Disney. There is a large price different between these two but the on-property Disney hotels all place you within the “Disney bubble” of being able to access Disneyland by walking through the popular Downtown Disney District which connects the entrance to the theme park and the hotels.

Downtown Disney Disneyland Planning Guide

Downtown Disney contains plenty of shopping, restaurants and live entertainment. It's a great place to spend your arrival day to get your family in the Disney mood before their full day at the parks.

Disney Grand Californian hotel room

The are three Disney owned hotels with three different price tiers: Paradise Pier Hotel, the Disneyland Hotel and the Grand Californian Hotel & Spa. Each of our reviews for these hotels detail the perks each offer along with the theme, dining and Disney details the hotels offer. You can also set aside a day of relaxation at the newly imagined Tenaya Stone Spa inside the Grand Californian with a full body massage, foot treatment, facial, and more!

You can also bundle your Disneyland tickets and hotel into one Disneyland all inclusive vacation package. You can find more information on exclusive discounts, the best places to find powerful discounts, and when to book your package in our Disneyland vacation packages guide.

For guests that are looking to save money or prefer the variety the off-site hotels offer at Disneyland, there is a plethora of options near Disneyland! This is actually one of the best perks Disneyland has over Walt Disney World. Due to its close proximity of being centrally located in the city of Anaheim it's a breeze to use a hotel nearby and walk to the theme park each day. In fact, some of the off-site hotels are actually fewer steps to the entrance gates than some of the Disney owned hotels.

Outside view of Tropicana Hotel sign

Our comprehensive guide to hotels at Disneyland covers our favorite hotels near Disneyland plus includes a detailed list of our personal reviews of these hotels with tips on how to save money by booking through our trusted travel partner. If you're the type of family that plans to spend numerous hours in the park and little time at your hotel, you can save hundreds by staying off-site at a no frills (but clean!) hotel and spend that money saved inside Disneyland instead.

Traveling to DisneylandOutside area of Long Beach Airport with view of passengers departing plane

The Disneyland Resort sits in the middle of numerous nearby airports giving you plenty of options to fly in to the resort. My personal two favorites are Long Beach Airport and John Wayne Airport due to their close proximity (less than 20-30 minutes away!) and their small size. It makes traveling a breeze and I always chose to pay a bit more to fly into Long Beach over Los Angelas Airport which is a much larger airport. LA is also much further away and you will have a longer car ride to Disneyland with plenty of traffic to hold you up.

You can read more about the airports and transportation options to and from the airports in our Disneyland transportation guide. 

Where to Eat on Your Disneyland VacationDisneyland Planning Guide- Snowman Frosted Treats

The Disneyland Resort provides a wide variety of different types of food. You will find classic amusement park food mixed in with upscale restaurants. The food quality is outstanding and whether you are eating a corn dog or pork shank, it will be the best you have ever had.

Disneyland classifies their dining options in two categories: table service and quick service. Table service is defined as restaurants where you are seated with a typical waiter/waitress and offer advance dining reservations you can reserve 60 days in advance. You can book a reservation on the official Disneyland website or call the reservation hotline at (714) 781-3463. Most of the restaurants are Disneyland that are considered table service book up in advance so its highly recommended you book reservations for the ones you're interested in.

View of Pixar Pier from Lamplight Lounge at Disneyland

Quick service refers to walk up locations which typically also offer mobile ordering you can use with the Disneyland app or just a regular walk up line. This is a quick grab and go option and also tends to be more cost effective. Most of the quick service locations at Disneyland offers really great food!

One popular experience that you shouldn't overlook, especially if you have kids, is the character dining at Disneyland! You can find character dining inside the park and at the Disney owned hotels offering a variety of experiences from Princess dining to dinner with Goofy! You can read more about each experience offered in our full guide to character dining at Disneyland.

World of Color Dessert Party

Another popular dining experience at Disneyland is the option of reserving dining experiences that come with reserved seating for popular nighttime entertainment! These experiences are called dining packages and are offered for the popular nighttime spectaculars at Disneyland. This is a great way to combine a great dining experience while also taking the hassle out of saving a spot for a popular show in advance.

Read through our full guide to dining at Disneyland to see a review of all the different restaurants at Disneyland, tips on saving money on food and how to get the best dining reservations.

Disneyland 2023 Packing List Pixar Pier at California Adventure

Once you've made all your theme park reservations, dining reservations and have all those finer details made the next big question becomes…. what should I pack? You want to be prepared for your Disneyland vacation but you also don't want to be so overburdened in the parks you're tipping over backwards with a giant backpack! Our Disneyland packing list helps cover everything you should bring so you come prepared.

Disneyland will have you covered with essentials if you do find you forgot something crucial but you will pay a higher price. It's good in a pinch especially if you forgot something you need immediately in the moment like headache or stomach medicine. Yes, you can even find medicine at Disneyland!

If you want to avoid that giant backpack from tipping you over, you could always rent a locker! Disneyland offers daily locker rentals which is a great solution if you find yourself wanting to store the extra snacks or lunch you brought, the jackets you no longer need or the extra souvenirs you bought.

Disneyland Silhouettes- Disneyland Planning Guide

Disneyland has a great selection of souvenirs which can easily run your wallet down before you have a chance to blink. But there's some souvenirs that are more timeless than others and help preserve the memory of your trip. Read through my top recommendations to the best Disneyland souvenirs to see what are the most unique souvenirs you can find at the parks that are longer lasting memories than the typical t-shirt.

A great idea for Disneyland souvenirs that doesn't break the budget and that kids love are to collect the pressed pennies around the Disneyland.

Another popular item to collect and trade at Disneyland are Disney pins which you can trade with other guests and inside the Disney shops. Our guide to Disney Pin Trading gives an overview of this time honored tradition.

Lego Store in Downtown Disney

And if you find yourself wanting to purchase something that's too large to pack into your suitcase, Disneyland also gives you the option to ship your souvenirs back home. This is especially helpful since purchasing lightsabers has become a popular option! You can also find shipping options from many of the local stores in Downtown Disney which is a good option if you find yourself splurging on the big Lego set!

Disneyland 2023 Park Ride Touring PlansSleeping Beauty's Castle Disneyland

Disneyland Resort includes two theme parks: Disneyland Park and California Adventure Park. Disneyland is the original theme park which is home to all the classic rides such as Haunted Mansion, Pirates of the Caribbean, Mad Tea Party plus the iconic Sleeping Beauty Castle. It is also the theme park where you can find the popular Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge! California Adventure Park opened in 2001 and is now home to favorites such as Cars Land, Pixar Pier plus the new addition of Avengers Campus.

The great thing about Disneyland and one of the biggest differences from Walt Disney World is how easy it is to park hop! Disneyland and California Adventure are located mere steps away from each other making it incredibly easy to walk between each other throughout the day if you wanted. So in the case of visiting Disneyland, I highly recommend you purchase a park hopper ticket.

its a small world disneyland planning guide

One of the biggest questions we get from guests about to visit Disneyland is: how do we beat the crowds? There are two quick and easy methods to doing this that can work well for families of all dynamics. Arrive early or stay until park closing. Or you can hit the hotel in the afternoon for a nap and do both! Crowds will always be dramatically more manageable- even during peak travel times- in the morning and end of the night. Nighttime doesn't require much strategy, just stay until after the fireworks end and hang in there until the park closes. Most families will leave after the fireworks and the lines will decrease significantly- even on holidays! And don't forget about using single rider lines!

For more detailed touring plans, we've put together a step by step touring plan to managing Disneyland in the morning. This guide will give the best list of rides to go on first along with what time to arrive so you have a clear plan when you arrive. We have a similar touring plan for California Adventure in the morning giving you a specific game plan to follow so you don't miss out on any of the newly added attractions and popular rides.

Disney Genie+ is a paid program at Disneyland that replaced the previous FastPass/MaxPass program at the parks. This paid service includes access to quicker lines to 15 attractions in both parks plus the option to pay for access for certain individual attractions. Essentially for certain attractions there's two line options: a standby line and a Lightning Lane.

The Genie+ program gives you access to the Lightning Lane which is significantly shorter than the standby line. It costs $20 per person, per day and include your access to ride reservations plus all your photo downloads for the day. Disneyland has professional photographers stationed around the park to take your picture in front of iconic areas like the castle, the main entrance, Main Street, U.S.A., etc. You can also purchase these photos separately through their service called Disneyland PhotoPass.

Disneyland Haunted Mansion

You reserve a return time in advance via the Disneyland app to use the Lightning Lane and you can book a return time every two hours or after you have redeemed your last booked Lightning Lane reservation. There is also the option to purchase access to the Lightning Lane to select popular attractions individually but these attractions aren't included in the general per day purchase.

I highly recommend you read more about the Disneyland Genie+ program in our guide so you're prepared before your visit. Our guide features the basics of what this paid service can do, the free service that's included for all guests plus tips on how to best maximize its use and get your moneys worth!

Don't forget to spend some time in Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge featuring two great themed rides such as the chance to pilot the Millennium Falcon and the infamous e-ticket ride Rise of the Resistance which is said to be one of the best rides Disney has ever done! Explore Star Wars themed shops, dining plus the chance to build your own droid and lightsaber.

Avengers Campus is the newly added Marvel themed land which opened in California Adventure in 2021 featuring a Spider-Man themed ride, opportunities to meet Marvel characters, an Ant-Man focused food eatery and brewery plus a built to scale Quinjet.

It's also a good idea to check the Disneyland Height Requirements to get the full information on ride height requirements plus the ability to do rider switch – this allows parents with children that don't meet height requirements to only wait in line once so they both can ride!

First time visiting Disneyland or feeling overwhelmed? Don't worry, everyone feels that way their first trip to the Happiest Place on Earth because there's just so much to see and do! Have your family pick a few must see rides and make those priority knowing you won't be able to do it all. Our first timer guide for Disneyland can also help you with those essential tips to make sure you know the basics.

Fireworks and Nighttime Entertainment at Disneyland 2023Fireworks in front of Disneyland castle- Disneyland planning guide

One of the aspects that makes Disneyland so special is the nighttime spectaculars with the most infamous being the Disneyland fireworks shows. Fireworks take place nightly during peak seasons (Spring break, summer, Halloween and Christmas) and on weekends. Each time of the year will feature a different fireworks show as some are changed out seasonly depending on what event is being celebrated at the parks. These fireworks are a must see Disney experience with state of the art projections, lighting effects and some featuring original musical scores.

Aside from fireworks, the biggest nighttime spectacular show in Disneyland is Fantasmic! which debuted in 1992 and has been a beloved part of Disneyland entertainment ever since. Fantasmic! includes fireworks, live performers, water effects, pyrotechnics, music, watercrafts, decorated rafts, animatronics, and projections on the Rivers of America in Frontierland. Our full guide to Fantasmic! includes everything you need to know including tips on getting the best spot.

World of Color at Disneyland

The big nighttime spectacular over at Disney's California Adventure is World of Color! This breathtaking show uses nearly 1,200 fountains capable of shooting water 200 feet up into the air equipped with LED rings to create vivid colors and beautiful water screens. Guests can watch the water dance along with perfectly timed pyrotechnics and momentous music as they enjoy memorable scenes from their favorite Disney and Pixar films. Our extensive guide to World of Color gives you an idea of what to expect and helps you figure out how to get the best spot!

You can also find plenty of unique daytime entertainment around Disneyland such as the Disneyland marching band, the Dapper Dans along with the The Tale of the Lion King, the adaptation of the Lion King, coming to the Fantasyland Theater in Disneyland this year.

Disneyland Parades 2023

Parades at Disneyland are another key part of the entertainment options the resort offers and it's a must see experience for your vacation.

Parades at Disneyland change seasonally with the popular A Christmas Fantasy parade running during the holidays with the Frightfully Fun Parade taking place during the ticketed Halloween event Oogie Boogie Bash at California Adventure. During the summer the current parade will often switch out with various options which we detail, along with our best tips for getting a good viewing spot, in our Disneyland parade guide

Disneyland Characters 2023Chip and Dale disneyland

Characters at Disneyland are another great piece of Disney magic that you cannot miss on your trip! You can meet a variety of beloved Disney characters like the classic Mickey and Minnie Mouse to Pixar characters in California Adventure to Marvel heroes and Star Wars favorites. Character autographs are a big part of meeting characters and its one of the most exciting parts for kids to collect during their trip. This also makes for a great memory and souvenir!

disney character dining

If you want to meet a variety of characters at once, you can enjoy character dining in Disneyland and the Disney resort hotels. These meals offer a buffet selection that guests can enjoy while characters roam throughout the restaurant interacting. This is a great way to meet popular characters without waiting in lines or searching for them in the park.

Tips for Families at Disneyland

Families traveling to Disneyland can find plenty of options at Disneyland to make their visit more comfortable as Disney considers how to best serve their guests needs in the best way they can.

You can begin your planning by seeing which hotels we recommend for kids at Disneyland plus find the best dining options with the best kids meals!

If you're traveling to Disneyland with an infant I highly recommend reading through our guide to traveling with babies to Disneyland so you're prepared for everything you need to know. This guide covers information information on the Baby Care Centers plus tips on rides that you can bring babies on, how to survive hot days, and more. Baby Care Centers are two centers located in both theme parks that offer private nursing rooms with chairs, changing rooms, kid-sized toilets, feeding areas and a fridge to store breast milk. Parents with toddlers can also find plenty of toddler friendly activities and rides in the park- especially in Fantasyland!

There's also plenty do for all ages whether you take advice directly from an eight year old on how to enjoy Disneyland or cruise our list on the best things teens will love in Disneyland and California Adventure! If you're looking for an adult only day, there's also a variety of activities adults will enjoy at Disneyland if you get a break away from the family.

Pregnant mothers can also find tips on which rides they can enjoy along with how to manage comfort in our guide to being pregnant at Disneyland.

Parents traveling alone with their kids to the park can also read my best tips on taking your kids to Disneyland by yourself based on my own trial and error of years of visiting the parks. On the flip side, if you're traveling with a large family or group you can read our guide on navigating Disneyland in a large group effectively. Or perhaps you're traveling to Disney alone and planning your solo Disneyland trip for the first time!

Most of all, be realistic on your trip to Disneyland with your kids and manage expectations with your family. Disney has something for everyone, even those in your group that be a bit less enthusiastic about a day in Disneyland.

We also cover tips on how to stay safe at Disneyland in our lost Children in Disneyland guide with full information on Disneyland's lost child protocol and tips to keep everyone together. If you're looking for tips on traveling safety, our guide to traveling safe with kids has you covered with our best tips on traveling safely and effectively with small children- especially if this is will be their first trip!

And don't forget to plan a creative way to announce your Disneyland trip to your kids!

Disabilities at Disneyland 2023Mark Twain Riverboat Disneyland

One of the best things about Disneyland is the strides towards inclusivity it has taken by ensuring that the theme park goes above and beyond for guests with disabilities. Disneyland strives to make their parks accessible for all guests and offers accommodations that may go overlooked for many guests that may benefit from them.

All of the attractions at Disneyland are wheelchair accessible with each attraction having varying degrees of accessibility from staying in the wheelchair on an accessible boat on “it’s a small world” or transferring directly to the ride vehicle. Disneyland offers a variety of assistive listening systems to handheld captioning devices for guests with hearing disabilities. There is also sign language interpretation available for select live experiences and character interactions on certain days of the week.

DAS (Disability Access Service) is a tool that Disneyland and Disney California Adventure have provided its guests for those who cannot wait in a normal line queue for a variety of medical reasons. DAS grants qualifying guests a return time (equal to the standby wait) for the attraction, one at a time, and then guests can access the Lightning Lane to ride. Guests that have a mobility disability can access rides without using DAS since all line queues are wheelchair accessible.

Disneyland also offers an extensive range of dietary accommodations at their restaurants for guests that may have allergies or certain dietary preferences like vegetarian/vegan diets. Disneyland is also a size inclusive park with many ride vehicles fitting larger sized guests, our guide offers some insight on what to expect with ride vehicle size at Disney.

Read more about disabilities at Disneyland in our comprehensive guide so you're prepared for any accommodations you or your group may need.

Universal Studios Hollywood 2023Universal Studios Hollywood Harry Potter

If you're looking to add a day at another theme park to your Disneyland trip, many guests decide to add on a day at Universal Studios Hollywood which is a great addition to your Southern California vacation. You can also bundle your Disneyland tickets with a day at Universal Studios Hollywood making the process of adding a day to this park easier than ever.

Universal Studios Hollywood Waterworld

The popular Wizarding World of Harry Potter along with the infamous studio tour to see real movie sets, the Jurassic World ride, the Simpsons focused area plus the new Pets ride. Universal Studios Hollywood is also known for its movie quality stage shows with the show Waterworld being a fan favorite at this park.

Beach Day at Disneyland 2023

Many families pair their Disneyland trip with a visit to a local beach to enjoy the beautiful Southern California weather. Disneyland is a close drive away or ride share away from some of the most beautiful beaches in California. Our full guide to planning a beach day for your Disneyland trip covers beach recommendations, transportation advice and tour reviews.

Top Disneyland Lists 2023Sleeping Beauty Castle Disneyland Planning Guide

Looking for top must dos at Disneyland? Our top lists give you simple check lists to add to your Disneyland planning guide so you don't miss out on anything at the Happiest Place on Earth.

Let Us  Help You Plan Your Disneyland Vacation!

That should be everything that you need to plan your Disneyland vacation. If you still have questions about planning, see our Ask Us page.

Keep reading our blog to keep you updated on everything you need to know to prepare for a Disney Parks vacation! We have a team of writers working hard to keep you updated weekly on events in the parks and tips for navigating the magic. Subscribe to our free deals newsletter to receive helpful planning information, exclusive Disney deals, and access to the lowest priced Disney tickets anywhere.

Disclosure: We have used all the products recommended on Mickey Visit. We may receive compensation when you click on links to some products featured.

About Lindsay Brookshier

Lindsay is a college English instructor and has years of writing experience through various nonprofits, charities, newspapers, and online magazines. As the editor of Mickey Visit, she oversees article content and leads our fantastic team of writers to meet guest vacation needs. You can still find her writing weekly content to help make your Disney Parks trip fantastic here on Mickey Visit and writing Disney culture pieces on DisneyDose.com- you can also view her recently featured posts on Disney Parks travel on Visit Anaheim, Nerd Wallet and SFGate. Lindsay comes from a dedicated Disney family and enjoys taking her son to the Disney parks as often as possible.

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