We recently had a post to our Tips from the Disney Diva Facebook page from someone planning their first visit to Disneyland and was only going for one day. We answered her questions, and I decided to summarize them here for other first time visitors.
We are only going to Disneyland for one day. Is it worth buying MaxPass? Do we need to buy it for each person?
Most likely, yes, it will be worth it. Disneyland increased the price earlier in 2019 to $15 per day, but I still think it is worthwhile. I wrote an article last year with more detail (read “When You Should Buy MaxPass at Disneyland“) when it was $10 per day, but the tips still apply. MaxPass is a way to book FastPasses from your phone, without having to go to a kiosk. It also provides you with unlimited PhotoPass digital downloads, including ride photos, for each day that you purchase it. For a one-day ticket, here are some things to consider:
- Will you be riding attractions that have the FastPass Option? If so, yes, it will be worth it to add MaxPass since you only have one day to enjoy the park and will want to allow as much time as you can to do so. You will need to add this feature to each ticket in your party that will be riding these attractions. Remember that many attractions are height restricted, so you can skip adding FastPass to a child ticket when they are either too short or not interested in riding the thrill attractions.
- Will you want all of your attraction ride photos (at Disneyland photos are at Splash Mountain and Space Mountain, and at Disney California Adventure Park they are at Guardians of the Galaxy, Incredicoaster, and Radiator Springs Racers)? Will you also be wanting to take many photos with characters during your trip? You can individually download the photos, but since MaxPass is only $15, it is cheaper to add MaxPass than to pay for photos individually. DIVA TIP FROM DISNEY MAGIC DIVA – If you are only wanting photos and not the FastPass option, have only one person in your party purchase MaxPass. That person can then download all photos taking throughout the trip at a huge savings!
- Are you getting a one-day Park Hopper ticket? Yes, it is VERY worthwhile to buy MaxPass. You can reserve a FastPass ticket while in Disneyland Park for a FastPass attraction at Disney California Adventure Park. Since you only have one day, this will save you hours of walking around to collect paper FastPasses at the kiosks!
- Do you want a FastPass to either Fantasmic! or World of Color? In April 2019, Disney announced that they added the ability to select a FastPass for these shows on the MaxPass system. This will be another time saving feature for you on your one day trip.
What time should we show up at the park?
My recommendation is to always get there as early as you can and this is even more important on a one-day ticket since you are time-limited. If you are driving into Disneyland, the parking structures/parking lots open one hour before regular park opening. If Disneyland opens at 8 am, arrive at the parking structure by 6:45 to line up and be one of the first to park. You will then need to go through security and then line up to take the tram from the structure to the entrance to the parks. You will then line up again to enter the park you will be visiting. If you are staying at a hotel within walking distance or taking a ride share option, arrive at bag security about 45 minutes before park opening (so at 7:15 am if the park opens at 8 am) so you should be in line to enter the park around 30 minutes before opening. They will let you into the park before scheduled opening and bring you down Main Street in Disneyland Park or Buena Vista Street in Disney California Adventure Park. You will line up here in front of a rope and at park opening, the rope will drop and you will be off to your first attraction.
Yes, I realize this is super early and you are on vacation, but it truly is worthwhile to get into the park as they open. On recent trip, we were able to do this without MaxPass in the first two hours:
- Get coffee at Starbucks (technically this was purchased on the way to stand in front of the rope).
- Toy Story Midway Mania!
- Monster, Inc.
- Grizzly River Run
- Guardians of the Galaxy – Mission: BREAKOUT!
- Grabbed a FastPass to Radiator Springs Racers for later in the day.
- Ate a Mickey Bar.
On a recent trip I chatted with a family from out of state that was traveling to Disneyland for the first time. They were frustrated that they went into the park around noon on their first day and only rode three attractions before they gave up and left around 6 pm. I tried to explain to them why getting there early was so important to their enjoyment, but they insisted that there were morning people and do not get up early. That is fine, but you need to understand that the park will be crowded later in the day and that many rides will run out of their FastPass allocation by late-morning or mid-afternoon on a very busy day.
What rides should we go on first?
This is a tougher question to answer than it seems. It is so individual to the party that is traveling and what they have as their priority. If you are traveling with small children that are either height restricted or do not want to ride the thrill attractions, I would recommend that you focus those first few hours at Disneyland in Fantasyland. None of these attraction with the exception of “it’s a small world” have a FastPass option. The line for Peter Pan’s Flight will be 30-45 minutes long with just a few minutes of park opening, so I usually head there first.
If you are getting MaxPass and want to ride the thrill rides, I recommend going to Big Thunder Mountain first and while in line, use MaxPass to select a return time for Space Mountain. Big Thunder Mountain rarely has a line at park opening and you should be able to walk right onto the ride. From there, you can mix it up between selecting FastPasses or waiting in line for the other thrill rides (Matterhorn, Star Tours, Splash Mountain, etc.).
We really want to see Goofy. When is a good time to do that? Do we have to pay to take pictures with the characters?
I usually do my character stops later in the day, but that is also individual to your traveling party. Many small children LOVE to meet character and you might be hard pressed to pass them by to get to an attraction. Characters come and go throughout the park, so my recommendation is to download the Disneyland App to use the “Character” menu and find out when Goofy will be available. You can read this article to learn more about the Disneyland App and how to find a character. Goofy is usually in Toon Town or at the entrance to Main Street, but it can vary.
You do not have to pay to take pictures with the characters, and you can ask a Cast Member (that is the term for an employee at Disney) to take photos with your phone/camera for you. However, you will need to pay to download the ones taken by the PhotoPass photographers unless you buy MaxPass since PhotoPass photos are included in MaxPass.
Do we have to buy souvenirs in the park or is there a place nearby to buy them cheaper?
If you want Disney Parks souvenirs, you will need to buy them at Disneyland. There are no outlet locations near Disneyland that sell the same items at a discount. The only discount inside the parks for non-Annual Passholders is through the Chase Disney Visa credit or debit card, which will give you a 10% discount on merchandise purchases over $50. If you have this card, you can use it at any of the merchandise locations inside the parks except mobile carts that sell items for parades and the like. The discount can also be used at the World of Disney, Home, Dress Shop, Pin Traders, Marceline’s Confectionery and WonderGround Gallery in Downtown Disney.
Do you have other questions for your first time visit? Add them to the comments and I will answer them for you!
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