Sometimes you can’t help planning your Disneyland vacation when the Park will be packed. It’s never ideal to visit the Parks when it’s crowded but often work or school schedules predict your vacation time. Being prepared for the crowds is ideal so you know what to expect and can make a game plan for your day.
Welcome to the first stop on Magical Blogorail Red. Today we are discussing how to manage the crowds at the Disney Parks.
These are my top tips on what to do when you visit on a crowded Disneyland day!
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Know What to Expect
How crowded is crowded at Disneyland? While some areas are more congested on busy days than other areas, on a very crowded day at Disneyland it can be a challenge to find a bench to rest on, a table to eat at or shade to stand under!
There are people…everywhere! Ride queues are long and attractions are jam-packed. If the thought of this sends prickles up your spine, consider rescheduling your vacation for a less busy time!
Keep in mind, any day that kids are out of school (like during summer, winter & spring breaks or the week before and after a national holiday), the Parks are going to be crowded.
Check the Disneyland Resort Parks calendar in advance so you can schedule your day. Know what time the Parks open and close and figure out what shows are must-see. Always purchase your tickets ahead of time so you don’t waste precious time waiting in line to buy them at the gate when you could already be in the Park. I recommend Park Savers, where you can save a few dollars off the price.
Consider subscribing to Touring Plans. You can see the forecast with Crowd Calendar and for a small subscription fee, they will design a “touring plan” that coordinates with the expected busyness of the day.
Always Arrive Early
Ideally you should aim to be at the Park entrance 45 minutes before the official opening. On busy days, the gates will open early and a select amount of those at the front of the lines will be admitted onto Main Street U.S.A. where you can shop, visit the restrooms or stop in at City Hall.
The official “rope drop” (when the rest of the Park opens) will happen on time, if not a few minutes early and you’ll be steps ahead of everyone else who is still lingering at the gate, waiting to be let in.
For more details on how to take advantage of those first few hours after Rope Drop, read my post about how to Make the Most of Your First Two Hours at Disneyland.
Arriving early also holds true when you want to attend parades, fireworks or other shows/attractions. If you want a decent viewing area, you’ll need to get there early and stake out your spot.
A large amount of Guests, in particular those with small children, will immediately pour out of the Park after the Fireworks show. Stay as late as you can to take advantage of the emptying Park and subsequent shorter queues.
Don’t Leave…or You Might Get Shut Out!
Disneyland Parks limit the number of Guests that are allowed into their Parks at any one time. This means that on extremely busy days (think Christmas, Fourth of July and New Years Eve), if you leave the Park for any reason, you may not be allowed entrance back in if the Park has met its capacity. Plan to arrive quite early and stay all day or risk not being allowed back inside if you leave.
Take advantage of the free Fastpass service which essentially gives you a ticket for a return time with a shorter wait in line. Only certain attractions have this service but it can be invaluable on a busy day.
Pay attention to the posted return time before you get your ticket though because once you have a Fastpass, you are locked into it until the time on the pass expires. Therefore if it’s 10:00 am and you get a Fastpass for Radiator Springs Racers but the return time is 8:00 pm, you won’t be able to get another Fastpass until after eight!
Ride the Fast Loaders
Some rides in the Parks are “Fast Loaders”. These rides at the Parks are fast loading or have a large capacity. So even if the lines appear quite long, the speed at which Guests are moving through the queue can be quicker than others.
- Mark Twain Riverboat
- Haunted Mansion
- “it’s a small world”
- The Little Mermaid – Ariel’s Undersea Adventure
- Pirates of the Caribbean
Stay Out of the Parks
If your trip involves multiple days at the Resort, skip what is forecast to be the busiest day and don’t go into the Parks. Go to a Character meal at one of the Resort hotels instead (book an Advanced Dining Reservation ahead of your trip). Lounge poolside. Wander through the Downtown Disney District to shop or see a movie. Check out this post on Spending an Off-Day at the Disneyland Resort for more ideas!
Just Relax and Go with the Flow
If the Park is wall-to-wall people, you may have trouble sticking to your touring plan. It’s important that you do whatever you can to keep your family relaxed and happy. These are a few things you can do:
- Ask each person beforehand what their one “must do” ride or attraction is for the trip. Make sure those things happen! Anything else you can accomplish after that is just a bonus!
- Eat your meals at “off-times” to avoid the meal-time rush.
- Play a game of “I-spy” while you wait in long lines.
- Purchase a Hidden Mickey Book, like Disneyland’s Hidden Mickeys: A Field Guide to Disneyland Resort’s Best Kept Secrets to give your group something to look for while waiting.
- I have more waiting-in-queue tips on my post 12 Things to Do Waiting in Line at Disney Parks.
There are pros and cons to visiting Disneyland when it’s peak season. Yes, you’ll be dealing with more people and possible frustration when waiting in line for everything from a corn dog to the restroom. However Park hours are longer (opens earlier and stays open later) and more rides will be operational (Disney Parks often refurbish rides during slow season so they’ll be up and running during peak season).
It’s a personal choice for sure when scheduling your vacation during peak season. Just remember to relax, have fun and even when the Parks are busy, you can still have a magical time!
Here is the map of our Magical Blogorail Red |Managing the Crowds at the Disney Parks and Beyond Loop:
- 1st Stop – Saving Up for Disney | Tips for Handling a Crowded Disneyland Day
- 2nd Stop – The Disney Point | Making the Most out of Walt Disney World Magic Hours
- 3rd Stop – Trips with Tykes | 6 Tips for Picking Less Crowded Days at Disneyland
- 4th Stop – Disney Mamas | Top 5 Tips for Managing Crowds at Walt Disney World
- 5th Stop – Adventure in the Great Wide Somewhere | The Disney Cruise Alternative to Park Crowds