10 Ways to Get Ready for Your Disneyland Vacation

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You’re going to Disneyland!! And unlike the latest Super Bowl MVP, you probably have more than one evening to plan. So what should you do to get ready? Disneyland isn’t really a show-up-with-no-plan kind of a place. You certainly can do that, and I know people who have, but trust me, it’s better to have some idea of what you’re getting into. Let’s adopt the Boy Scout motto! Be prepared! Prepared is good!

1. Get Your Unofficial GuideThe absolute first thing you need to do is to get a copy of the Unofficial Guide! There’s a reason the series has sold millions of books. It is the perfect planning guide for Disneyland. It’s not a sugar coated view of Disney. It will help you appreciate the highs, and avoid the lows. Do you want to know which rides are going to scare the pants off your kids? The Unofficial Guide will tell you. Do you want to know the best restaurants? The best hotels? Or, more importantly maybe, the worst hotels? Again – the Unofficial Guide. And get it quick! Have you seen them recently? They’re behemoths! Not a quick read! A great read, maybe even an essential one for planning, but not a quick one.

2. Exercise – My husband may or may not have just busted his gut laughing when he saw that I was recommending exercise, but it’s (sadly) true. The amount of walking you do at a Disney park is not for the faint of heart. You can easily walk more than 10 miles in one day. Yep. 10 miles. If exercise is a dirty word to you, that number may scare you a little. It does me! But it doesn’t have to. We’re not talking about running a half marathon here. We’re talking about walking. Walking a lot! But walking. You don’t have to go into serious training. A few weeks of some evening walks with the family will help immensely! Oh yeah, and wear comfortable, worn-in shoes! There’s nothing worse at Disney than realizing your shoes are burning blisters into your feet.

3. Order the Vacation Planning DVD – This one is mostly for fun if you’re a frequent visitor, but if you’re a newbie, the DVD can give you a good overview of Disneyland and what it has to offer. Your kids will probably love it by the way!

4. Watch Disney Movies – If you’re not a Disney movie fan, become one. Especially if you have kids! Some Disney movies are great for a frame of reference. Cars Land is awesome whether you’ve seen the movie or not, but there really are some details that you will miss if you haven’t ever seen it. Finding Nemo is a cute ride, but it’s so much cuter if you know what it’s based on! The Pirates of the Caribbean ride has added some elements from the excellent movie franchise that you’ll immediately recognize if you’ve seen the movies. Haunted Mansion is an awesome ride, but if you see the movie…Wait. Scratch that. Do not, under any circumstances, watch that movie.

5. Prepare the Kids for Scary – There’s some scary stuff at Disneyland for little ones, but a lot of it is the fear of the unknown. Find something that helps with that. One video that was a favorite in our house when the kids were young was the Kirsten Dunst, Steve Guttenberg classic – Tower of Terror! What? You missed that one? Well, go find it! It’s actually not as bad as you may expect, which I fully realize is faint praise. It helped our daughter overcome her fear at the very name of the ride. Once she realized it was all pretend and fun, she tried the ride. And loved it!

6. Study the Maps – Did you know the Disneyland website has maps? Really cool, interactive maps. There’s an overview map of the entire resort, a map of the Disneyland hotels, Disneyland Park, California Adventure, Downtown Disney, Parking, Guest Services, and Good Neighbor Hotels! It’s awesome! You can play with each map and see specific locations on each one. You can print PDFs of each map too. They are super handy planning tools.

7. Download Apps – In a previous blog post I discussed apps that would help you on your vacation. Download them! They really can help you out, and you don’t want to mess with it when you’re already there. As Disney keeps rolling out My Magic + apps are going to become essential parts of touring!

8. Get a Good Packing List – I had another blog post about helpful things to pack, and there are lots of good packing lists out there. Find one, or two or three, you like and get ready! I like to put out an empty suitcase and fill it over time. Whenever I put something in that won’t need to come out again before the trip, I mark it off the list. It saves me from forgetting things in the last minute scramble that inevitably comes.

9. Try to Time Zone Adjust – Of course, this only applies if you actually live in a different time zone, but if you do, you need to know this! Since we moved to the East Coast almost two years ago, trips to Disneyland wreak havoc on my sleep. I am wide awake at 5:30 every morning and as much as I want to stay awake at night, I’m exhausted by 8:30. That just doesn’t work well for all of the nighttime entertainment Disneyland offers! So ,I recommend taking the week before you leave and trying to adjust as much as you can. Go to bed an hour early every night. Sleep in an hour later if you can. If you can’t adjust at all, make sure you give yourself some time to rest every afternoon once you arrive. Naps should help you stay up a little later, and hopefully sleep a little longer in the morning.

10. Make a Must Do List – Finally, after all of your planning and researching, you’ve probably got a good idea of some things you don’t want to miss! Make a list. Sit down with your family, get their input, and make a list. Once you get to Disneyland, it’s easy to get caught up in getting from point A to point B as quickly as possible or getting from shortest line to shortest line. It’s easy to miss things you really want to see! So sit down with your family and let everyone name a few things that are important to them. Check your list every morning and night and make sure you’re making time for these things!

What are some things you do to get ready for your Disney vacations?

 

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Posted on April 19, 2013

13 Responses to “10 Ways to Get Ready for Your Disneyland Vacation”

  • I laughed out loud at your Haunted Mansion comment. Thanks for that.

  • For us, the only way we can “do Disney” is to start saving a year or more in advance. In order to know how much to save, we have to know what we want to do and what our options are. I have a 1″ binder with Mickey on the front, with tabbed dividers. Any lists or notes go in here. I also have a folder in the computer where I put bookmarks for any and everything I think we’re interested in. Tomorrowland Dessert Party; Disney Food Blog; inexpensive men’s size swim shirts with SPF 50; stuff like that. By the time we get close to the trip, I have all the info I need in one place. As we go through the months and decide what we are doing — for example, choosing Wilderness Lodge over FW campgrounds — I eliminate the things we didn’t choose. All the planning is so fun — and it makes for a more organized vacation!

  • We’re WDW vets and heading to DL at the end of May for the first time. Man, I feel like a fish out of water planning this trip, but it’s coming along. We will definitely need those maps!

    • by Tammy Whiting on April 20, 2013, at 10:56 am EDT

      Studying the maps will definitely help! I recently read a trip report where someone was staying offsite and didn’t realize that the park entrance was about 100 yards from Downtown Disney until the 3rd day! One glance at a map would have helped that. :)

  • watching youtube videos of the rides before our first trip really helped our 3-1/2-yr-old not be afraid of a lot of the rides. we watched the Matterhorn over and over and laughed at how silly “Harold” the abominable snowman was and it totally worked!

  • I like the idea of getting the unofficial guide, as I imagine if you get the Disney approved guide then it will be all sugar-coated and paint everything as if it’s amazing. Brittney’s tips are good too but I’d say go to Youtube before even booking the trip just to make sure if Disneyland is right for you.

    • by Tammy Whiting on April 22, 2013, at 5:19 pm EDT

      The Disney approved guide is a little sugar coated. Youtube videos are a great resource these days, too! I agree. :)

  • This website was very helpful!!! Thanks a million