How to Manage Disneyland in Peak Season

Stef and I have just done two days at Anaheim Disneyland between Christmas and New Year – as peak seasons go, it doesn’t get any peaker than that. In fact, on both days the park hit capacity, meaning that 75,000 plus people had flooded through the gates.

Were the crowds unbearable? That depends on your tolerance level, but we were mostly able to move about the parks with a degree of patience.

Were the lines out of control? Some of the wait time were up to nearly three hours for the most popular rides, but we never waited more than an hour for any ride, and still managed to do all of our most wanted rides at least once.

Here’s how…

Ticket choice is key. We bought a two-day Park Hopper pass with a Max Pass add on.

Buy the passes online and download the Disney app to your smartphone. Upload the passes to your app and you are good to go when you arrive at the Park (no tickets to print).

Ideally, arrive at the park 30 minutes before opening (parks open at 8am most days, but check your times on the app). You have to pass through security screening and then queue for the Disneyland Park (it usually opens before California Adventure Park).

On your first entry you’ll have your photo taken and be given a paper ticket – use this for the rest of your visit.

As soon as you’ve gained access you should book your first Fast Pass – use this for the ride with the longest wait time, not necessarily the ride you most want to go on. Space Mountain,  Matterhorn Bobsleds and Indiana Jones at Disneyland and Cars Radiator Springs Racers, Guardians of The Galaxy, and The Incredicoaster at California Adventure typically had the longest wait times. Then head straight to Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge and get in line because these latest attractions don’t offer the Fast Past service yet.

The Fast Pass will give you a 1 hour time slot to attend for that ride, and you will go pretty much go to the front of the line.

Note that you can’t book Fast Passes on the app unless you have purchased the Max Pass add on. Without a Max Pass you can only get Fast Passes by queueing for a voucher at the ride – time wasted on foot and in a line.

After booking your fast pass, use your app to check the wait times at some of your other favoured rides – head to one with less than an hour wait. Enjoy the ride.

You can use your Fast Pass again after 70 minutes OR straight after you have ridden on the Fast Pass ride that you booked.

The total number of Fast Passes is limited on any given day, and typically run out by mid afternoon. Another reason to get to the park early and make the best strategic use of your passes.

Be warned that you can also lose a lot of time waiting for food in the parks – consider taking snacks in with you (especially if you want to eat healthier) or exiting the park to dine in the Downtown Disney precinct. It will be quicker and less crowded, and re-entry to the parks is usually straightforward after the morning crush.

Alternatively, you can book food in the park on your app.

You can also book priority viewing areas for Fantasmic and World of Colour light and fireworks shows through the app.

We managed to ride all of the best attractions, some of them 2 or 3 times, across our two days. But we did spend a solid 14 hours at the park on the first day.

If travelling with children I’d recommend a 3 day Park Hopper so you can go at a more leisurely pace. (don’t forget to add the Max Pass). This pass also gives you one early entry – you can gain access one hour before regular opening times. Make sure to get to the park on time for this benefit as you’ll be able to fit in a couple of rides with minimal wait times.

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