Some Disneyland Observations from a Disney World Veteran

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As you may know, several of the TouringPlans.com staff have taken off to Disneyland for the events of Destination D. You’ll be seeing reports and updates in this space over the next few weeks I’m sure. But as I was the first one to return (ok, I went before they did) here’s some quick hit observations from our trip that will hopefully save you some time or money.

1. Being an Annual Passholder is a big deal – Having an Annual Pass at Walt Disney World is primarily convenient because you don’t have to factor ticket costs into every trip. In Disneyland, however, it’s a HUGE money saving tool. Since the price to upgrade from a Walt Disney World Annual Pass to a Premier Passport (includes all California and Florida parks) was less than a 6 day ticket, my wife and I did so. Just because of that, we saved 10% on our rental car, 20% on our off property hotel, 15% on all meals (both table service and counter service) and 20% on all souvenirs.

By our best estimate, we saved nearly $800 over the course of 6 days in Anaheim just by being Annual Passholders. If you are a Disney World passholder, I definitely advise you to check out the costs and have at least one person in your party hold an Annual Pass for Disneyland as well. If you do the math, it’s well worth it.

As an Annual Passholder, I saved 15% on this delicious pasta with lamb from Carthay Circle.

2. The Photopass Plus is a must have - I plan to write a separate post about this, but if you are in the parks for more than 3-4 days, you have to get the new PhotoPass+. This new product from Disney costs $69.99 if you pre-order it for Disneyland. You get a lanyard that allows you to get unlimited PhotoPass pictures, including the ones at character meals, ride photos and any random photos along the streets. Plus, you get a CD full of Disney stock photography that is pretty breathtaking. For our $70, we got over 128 photos, including 15 ride photos and 2 character meals that would have cost us $255 otherwise. There is a version for Walt Disney World as well that costs $169.99, so I can’t recommend it as highly. The Disneyland version, however, was well worth it.

This fabulous picture of me on California Screamin' was included with Photopass Plus.

3. Get up early and you will be in great shape – Yes, it’s the same as Walt Disney World, but you have to get there at park opening. For the all new Cars Land, you must get to the gates 30 minutes before park opening. Disney will open the gates to California Adventure 30 minutes before the park opens, and if you want to ride Radiator Springs Racers as a group, you’ve got to get in line at that time for a Fastpass, or else wait for 2 hours in the Standby line.

Because we got up early, Mickey's Fun Wheel was a 5 minute wait!

We did this twice, got Fastpasses for later in the morning, rode Luigi’s Flying Tires, Toy Story Mania, and Mickey’s Fun Wheel within the first hour that California Adventure was open. At Disneyland, we got even more done, riding the Matterhorn, the Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage, Alice in Wonderland, the Storybook Land Canal Boats, and Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride during the first hour.

4. Walking is WAY easier – Because the two parks are so close together, and much smaller than parks like Epcot or Animal Kingdom, walking around the parks is much easier. My 6-year-old daughter, who is notorious for wanting to be carried around World Showcase, never asked to be picked up once during 6 solid days in the parks. If you are a parent with a kid on the cusp of ditching the stroller, I would definitely try it without one for the first day and see how it goes. For adults, even with the walk from the hotel, we didn’t get as tired as we do trying to get it all in during a trip to Disney World.

Having such a short distance between the two parks in the Esplanade saves a lot of wear and tear.

5. Take time for the nighttime spectaculars – You may be one of those people who doesn’t go to Fantasmic at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, or never wants to wait around for fireworks at Magic Kingdom. If that’s you, you need to change your mind about the evening shows at Disneyland Resort. Fantasmic is completely different, and in my opinion much better than Walt Disney World’s version. The World of Color show at Disney California Adventure is so breathtaking we had to do it twice. And the fireworks at Disneyland feature things you will never see at another park, like Tinkerbell flying up and around the castle multiple times. Best of all, you can usually grab a churro or a corn dog and sit down about an hour before the shows start to catch them. Not always, but during the busy season of summer, we never waited more than an hour.

World of Color is simply stunning. Make time to see it.

6. Ride the non-FASTPASS rides first – In Walt Disney World, you’re probably used to rides that have high demand featuring FASTPASS. In Disneyland, that’s not always the case. Big rides like the Matterhorn, Toy Story Midway Mania, Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage and others do not have FASTPASS. As such, they build large lines throughout the day.

Mr. Toad's Wild Ride was waiting for us early in the morning.

In addition, most of the time Disneyland cast members do not enforce the end of your FASTPASS window. That means that if you grab a FASTPASS for Tower of Terror that is good from 9:30-10:30 am, you can usually come back to ride the attraction any time after 9:30 am, including 9:00 at night! If you are not following one of our touring plans religously, your next best bet is to collect FASTPASS tickets throughout the day and use them after a nice afternoon break.

Those are some of my money and time saving tips from Disneyland, but I’ll share more info on the trip in the weeks ahead. What are some strategies you use to save money at Disneyland, or what questions do you Disney World vets have?

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Posted on August 20, 2012

10 Responses to “Some Disneyland Observations from a Disney World Veteran”

  • Thanks for the info. We’re long time WDW people and are planning a trip to DLR for the spring so keep the info coming! For instance, what about Good Neighbor hotels? Anything on those would be great since in WDW I always stay on property.

    • I’ll try to write a post about the Good Neighbor hotels, but generally speaking, most hotels on Harbor Boulevard across the street is perfectly fine and is comparable to one of the All-Star or Pop Century hotels at Walt Disney World. Some are better, some are slightly worse, but none would I say are just terrible.

  • Thanks for the great tips! I have a trip soon and love getting extra tips!

  • If you get the premium pass, do you get the discounts at WDW Orlando too?

    • Sadly, no. At Walt Disney World you have to buy Tables In Wonderland to get a dining discount, and merchandise discounts are seasonal at best. It’s a definite flaw in the WDW AP program.

  • Disney is doing a lousy job of advertising that service, which seems to have expanded it’s offerings while also lowering the price. That’s an outstanding service, especially for the ride photos. I’m really really mad we weren’t able to take advantage of this when we were at the parks a couple weeks ago.

    • They definitely are not promoting the Photopass Plus until you get to the park. I read about it and was able to get in beforehand, which saved me a lot of money. I wish they would lower the price for the service at Walt Disney World. At nearly $200, it’s not even close to worth it. Even at $150 it might be closer, but the value just isn’t there at the higher price. At $70 for a week at Disneyland it was probably the best money we spent.

      • At WDW last year, we didn’t get enough pics to make it worth a cd at over 100$ What we did is get a calander of our favorite pictures and scanned them into our computer. It was about $ 30 or less.

  • My daughters never want to stop for shows, they like the fireworks but nothing else. I basically made them wait for the World of Color, they were both crying at one point during the show they loved it so much. They both hugged me and thanked me after the show. We just don’t have anything like this at Disney World, this show is breathtaking and not to be missed.