The Disneyland resort in Anaheim is a magical place. You can try to convince me otherwise but trust me, you won’t!
As soon as you walk through the gates you’re transported and enter a world of whimsy and joy and you can leave yourself behind for a day. For all the problematic issues that people have levied against the Walt Disney Company, there is one thing they have never faltered on. And that’s delivering magic to everyone young and old.
I’ve proudly stated that I’m an introvert. An introvert is not someone who is asocial. We’re people with naturally low energy and must withdraw from the grind to regain it. Now you wouldn’t think that by looking at me that I’m capable of going to places like theme parks where you expend tons of energy every day.
But you’d be wrong. I LOVE Disneyland. I grew up about 6 hours away in the Central Valley, but now I live in Vegas and it’s a smooth four-hour drive. It’s insanely easy to pop over to SoCal without blinking.
I once joked with a cast member that Vegas is Disneyland for adults, but Disneyland is Vegas to me!
Ahh, the joys of living in a vacation destination.
I’m getting ahead of myself.
Here is some advice that I’ve personally experienced and honed to make a wonderful place like Disneyland palatable for people like you and me. These tips also double as a way for people to go to the parks solo. Don’t let anyone judge you for that! Honestly, I prefer that. I control my itinerary, where I eat, where I go and I don’t have to worry about anyone but me.
The Disneyland Resort is closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic and rightfully so. They made the right decision for all guests. Hopefully, this guide will help tamper your homesick feeling for not going to the parks. It’s been awhile for me and writing this guide was insanely therapeutic!
Do Your Homework
Discounted tickets exist. Always check with your bank or your employer if they have access to ticket discount sites, such as PerkSpot, TicketsAtWork, or the like. I’ve saved a few dollars here and there by utilizing them if I didn’t have my Annual Pass (AP). Park hoppers are the best bang for your buck, outside of an AP. If you’re absolutely slim on the funds, 1-day, 1 park option is okay. But for the purposes of this guide, Park Hoppers or bust.
There are ticket brokers out there but honestly, the prices I’ve found on my own were better AND I didn’t have to pay extra fees to the broker.
Know when to go. Find out what the operating times are. Pop them into your calendar so that you don’t forget.
Download my workbook
The Ideal Times to Visit the Disneyland Resort
I created a workbook as a special gift to subscribers of the Guest List, my mailing list. Push past the velvet rope, add your email, and gain access to the download AND lots of other goodies!
Try and go in the middle of the week. My favorite itinerary was drive up after work on Monday, be at the parks Monday night, all day Tuesday, all day Wednesday, and then come back Thursday after checking out.
Everyone and their grandma goes to the Resort during the weekend and a lot of them are locals because they have the SoCal resident pass. They tend to fill up the parks because it’s so easy for them to come and go. So lucky.
Herald Your Arrival
Get a place near the Resort. There are deals upon deals upon deals for hotels there. I prefer the Choice Hotels chain, and my personal favorite hotel is Quality Inn & Suites Anaheim at the Park. It’s not a five-star hotel but honestly, how much time are you going to spend there? It’s quiet, clean, and close to everything.
Arrive the night before. Introverts need complete control of their time, otherwise, they drain their batteries easily.
My favorite thing to do the night before is check-in to my hotel, unload my car, and then boogie down to Downtown Disney. I always grab a 3-day pass for the ART shuttle to get around for cheap.
Depending on when I would have it, I would use my AP or D23 discounts whenever possible. Then I’d catch the latest Disney release at AMC to get in the mood.
You don’t even KNOW how awesome it was to watch Captain America: The Winter Soldier in that art-deco inspired theater!
However, now that AMC is gone, I’ve resigned myself to dinner, window shopping (or shopping shopping, let’s be real), and people watching. Still viable options!
I highly recommend the ART shuttle or your hotel’s shuttle as that’s typically bundled with your stay. You don’t have to futz about parking. If you stay right up until the end, you’re going to be exhausted and you don’t have to worry about wasting your energy slogging back to the parking lot and sitting in traffic trying to exit.
Today’s Gonna Be a Great Day
Bring the smallest bag with you. When I’m at the parks, I like a slim crossbody bag. I carry my wallet (don’t forget your hotel keycard!), chapstick, sunscreen, tissues, sunglasses case, baby wipes, and plastic bags or Ziploc bags to keep your phone safe on water rides are ideal.
You really don’t need much more than that especially if you’re going solo. If you’re going with a bunch of people, then I can see why you would need other things. But really, the less you have to worry about, the better for your mindset.
A smaller bag is easier to get through bag check, easier to cram in the carrying bags on the extra bumpy rides (Indiana Jones, I’m looking at ya), and fewer chances they ask you to put it on the floor. Gross.
Water bottles are allowed. Bring one that stays cool during the day. My everyday water bottle is a
If you end up purchasing a water bottle of this size or larger, it may not fit in the backpacks I recommended up above. The one to the left here is my everyday backpack and I’ve gotten a lot of compliments on it. Plus it fits my water bottle easily!
It does have more space so you may feel compelled to carry more stuff in it for the day, but honestly, keep it as light as possible.
Feed your face. Utilize your hotel’s continental breakfast and if you can, sneak it back to your room. I like being able to gather my thoughts without having to worry about other people. Get to the Resort as early as you can. If you wait until even mid-morning, the park will be relatively full by then.
Choose one park. I like the main park first. Don’t bounce between them. You’ll get drained fast. Focus on one land and STAY there until you’ve done everything you want to do. Don’t go shopping but definitely window shop in between rides and enjoy the experience.
Wear comfy shoes or sandals. I’m partial to Teva sandals. Those things can take a beating! Don’t wear something that needs to be broken in.
Eat when you’re hungry. Rest when you can. There are plenty of quiet pockets to recharge where you don’t need to interact with cast members or other guests. I love people watching on the train or while they’re doing character meet & greets.
Utilize single rider options. There are a handful of rides where you can zip on as a single rider. You do have to skip the preshow (all the fun stuff you look at and see while you’re queuing up) but it’s a small price to pay if you can get on and off the ride quickly.
Disneyland Single Rider (subject to change)
- Indiana Jones Adventure
- Matterhorn Bobsleds
- Millennium Falcon: Smuggler’s Run
- Space Mountain
- Splash Mountain
- Star Tours: The Adventures Continue
Disney California Adventure (subject to change)
- Goofy’s Sky School
- Grizzly River Run
- Radiator Springs Racers
- Soarin’ Around the World
Gimme a break! When you’re ready for a break from the parks, hop on the Disneyland Railroad back to the main gate and go to your hotel. I would say eat lunch while you’re at the parks and go back during the hottest part of the day. Rest and recharge for a few hours. Don’t say no to a nap. There is A LOT of walking and powering through.
Nighttime is my time. Change your shoes before you go back. You’d be surprised how a fresh pair of shoes changes the rest of your night.
Avoid the fireworks, Fantasmic, or the parades. If this is your first time at the parks, by all means, go! These are experiences you can’t find elsewhere. The reason I advocate for this is that you’ll be able to get on the rides faster as everyone else is going to the shows.
If you’re going on a day that the park is open till midnight congrats you’ll be avoiding the massive crowds leaving after the fireworks. Another bonus is that you’ve got the whole park to yourself for a few more hours! Easy off and on for everything. The cast members may be feeling generous towards the end of the night and may let you stay on the ride for another go-through. Just ask! Pirates and Haunted Mansion are excellent for this.
Be mindful of the ART/your hotel shuttle times. They tend to run only 1 hour past closing time but those are always subject to change.
Go to the park you didn’t go to the day before. I usually go to Disney California Adventure (DCA) because I can clear that in the morning. Get your Fastpass for the World of Color. At least you’re guaranteed a section if you do it this way. You’re not flirting with danger by hoping on hope that you can see the show clearly.
Follow the same general plan as day 1. Afterward, prepare for another late night at Disneyland, revisiting rides, shopping, and the like.
See You Real Soon
For the AP holders, feel free to revisit your favorite rides before you leave. Now is also the time to go shopping for gifts and souvenirs.
Notice how I didn’t mention shopping during your previous 2 days. Buying slows you down. I want you to maximize your time and energy. Plus you’re not carrying unwieldy bags and cramming them in the tiny space in front of your knees.
If you only had a 2-day park hopper or single-day passes, go to World of Disney in Downtown Disney. They carry EVERYTHING that’s in the parks. And since you’re there, grab a bag of beignets from Ralph Brennan’s. Yummy!
Thanks for reading!
I hope this was of some use to you. I know how hard it is to want to do things as an introvert and you don’t want to be left out of experiencing something as memorable as the Resort. But why not work around your have limits? Don’t push them. You can skirt the line a bit though, haha.
Let me know if there’s anything you would add, or update, and I’ll see to it that it’s included in the next version! Leave me a comment or use my contact form.
Ready to consume a creative writing podcast?
Subscribe to raconteuse radio!
This podcast examines how the words on a page sound different when the creator brings the words to life. Join me as I celebrate diverse emerging voices and the industry people behind the scenes too.
It’s time to step into the spotlight.