Disneyland (CA)

Disneyland Day-Trip Planning… the 5 minute version!

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A friend of mine told me that he’s going to be down in L.A. this weekend, and decided to tack on 1-day trip to Disneyland on Sunday (to which I replied, “GREAT MOVE!”). I wanted to give him my standard 5-hour research peptalk complete with pivot tables and Betamouse episodes he should catch up on, but I quickly realized I had only 5-minutes to impart any knowledge I could. It’s going to be his first trip since 2002, and he’s bringing his two teenage kids. Of course, I pushed a TouringPlans.com Disneyland account on him, and then sped through the following tips:

Check The Crowd Calendar

If you want to know how crowded it’s going to be, use the Disneyland Crowd Calendar. We quickly saw that he was going on a 10 out of 10 (aka CRAZY CROWDED) day in Disneyland. He couldn’t change his day of travel, but at least he would be mentally prepared for the crushing hordes.

Looking At The Wait Times

We next quickly found our way to the Disneyland wait time forecasts for that day, which is a great way to manage expectations. He was bummed to see that Splash Mountain and Star Tours were going to be closed, but it helped give him perspective on how the crowd level ’10’ would “feel” like in the park (for more on this, see this blog post).

Figuring Out What’s New

One of his first questions was… “what’s new there?” I pointed him to a hard-to-find-but-still-froody page on the site which lists Disneyland Attraction Opening Dates (you can find this page by going to any attraction page and clicking on the Opening Date field in the right-column). Disneyland has built some really nifty attractions since 2002, and I told him about Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters and Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage.

Saving Hours in Line

I next gave him a quick run-down on how a Disneyland Touring Plan can save him up to 4 hours in line, especially on really busy days. Thankfully, being a fellow engineer who appreciates geeky things, he didn’t express any “touring plans resistance.” Since he has two teenage kids, I recommended checking out both the Disneyland Author’s Select One-Day Plan and the Disneyland One-Day Touring Plan for Adults and seeing which made more sense for them.

Knowing the Attractions and How FASTPASS Works

Realizing that my time was quickly running out, I showed him the Disneyland Attractions page and explained that he could sort the attraction ratings by age group to see what attractions his teens might enjoy (or not enjoy), in case he wanted to modify the Touring Plan. I also gave him an introductory lesson in Disneyland FASTPASS 101 (it doesn’t cost money!).


Armed with crowd forecasts, Touring Plans, and attraction information, I finally gave him the straight dope: he needs to get there early. If he can get there and line up before the park opens, he’ll be enjoying a leisurely 10 a.m. Dole Whip with 10 attractions under his belt and a full wallet of FASTPASSes as the spring break crowds flood the park. I didn’t explain what a Dole Whip was or why he’d want one, but he seemed intrigued!

If you have 5 minutes to prepare someone for a day trip to Disneyland or Disney World, what would you tell them?

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Henry Work

Henry is the developer at TouringPlans.com, joining to work on the website and build Lines, among other things! Before joining the Unofficial Guide team, Henry was the lead developer at TechCrunch, one of the world's leading technology blogs. Though he would live at Disney's Caribbean Beach Resort if he could, he's become a huge Disneyland fan since moving to the bay area. You find Henry on the TouringPlans Twitter account or contact him at henry@touringplans.com.

6 thoughts on “Disneyland Day-Trip Planning… the 5 minute version!

  • I experienced the same type of “Hey, we’re going to Disney World next week, any tips for us?” After recovering from what seemed like an endless moment of full-paralysis, I had to do some quick thinking before I started in on my tips. I suspect that what came out of my mouth at first sounded a bit like free word association… along the lines of: oh, Rope drop, ADR’s, Dumbo, Dole Whip, Fastpass, Lines, Soarin’… before I pulled it together and told her that I would get her my Unofficial Guide (w/kids – hey, it’s shorter and perfect for occasions such as this) 2011 ASAP. I managed to follow up on tips via email, but it was touch and go for a bit. Obviously, I needed to tailor my 180 days out, ADR’s, spreadsheet version of planning to their last minute check-out-the-world style. I’m thinking of taking that email and putting it into a Word doc that I can just send out when I get an inquiry.

    OBTW Henry, I’m up to date on Betamouse, but would love to see your 5 hour pivot tables talk! 🙂

  • Glad to know I’m not the only one who plans Disney trips with pivot tables.

  • Much appreciation for the use of the word “froody.” Clearly, Henry knows where his towel is.


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