Your sweaty, swollen feet are throbbing and you’re silently scolding yourself for wearing those cute shoes with absolutely NO arch support. The overwhelmingly sticky smell of stale cinnamon and sugar permeate your clothes, nearly gagging you, and you just KNOW it’s never going to wash out. You’ve been standing in the same spot for the last 10 minutes, hoping for a little shuffle forward, kind of like when you’re in a car at a stop light and you slowly inch forward in anticipation of that red light changing to green. But before you get a nice little change of scenery, 5 kids and another adult join the man in front of you, occupying the space you had earmarked for yourself. Don’t lose your cool: you’re at Disneyland.
“If you haven’t been to Disney as an adult, just imagine you’re standing in line at the DMV…and that’s it. Actually it was Orlando in July, so it was kinda like standing in line on the surface of the sun. Why would we do this to ourselves?
How can I spend an enormous amount of money, be uncomfortable and listen to my children complain and whine? Disney! Oh, good!
I did figure out what makes Disney truly magical though: you can walk around sweating…for 12 hours, and still gain weight.
We eat because there’s pressure to have fun on your vacation. But at Disney, it’s like a desperation. You see it on the faces of parents like, ahhhh this was an enormous mistake! I hope you’re having fun! It was either this or send you to college.
I stood in line for an hour and fifteen minutes for the Dumbo ride. After a minute, I was like I’m the Dumbo!”
-Jim Gaffigan “Disney”
After I graduated from college, I spent over 3 years working at the Disneyland Resort. I typically worked 6 days a week, and anywhere from 4-18 hour shifts. I went to the Parks before shifts, after shifts, and on my days off to play, explore, and fully immerse myself in the Disney culture.
I won’t lie: I’ve seen a lot at Disneyland. Maybe too much.
I’ve seen the tantrums.
I’ve seen the screaming parents, teenagers, grandparents, and children.
I’ve seen that disassociated, glazed-over look in parents’ eyes as their kids drag them to yet another vendor selling Winnie the Pooh-shaped balloons, light-up bouncy balls, and light sabers. I’ve seen the family that will stand together in line, but can’t bring themselves to talk to each other.
If you’ve ever been to any Disney Park around the world, I’m sure you’ve seen these types of people too. Nobody is immune and everyone is susceptible to have a meltdown, no matter what your age. Anyone can lose their cool while trying to make the most of their trip.
But guess what? There are things you can do to help alleviate your mood, calm your nerves, and elevate your Disney experience to reach the magical status that Disney propagates. It can happen. It just takes a little preparation and I’m here to help! So, without further ado, here are RJ’s tips to help you NOT lose your cool at Disneyland!
#1: Do your homework
By knowing ahead of time how crowded Disney anticipates their Parks to be on your visit date, you can mentally prepare for what you’ll be dealing with.
When you finally nail down the date of your trip, have a look online for the attendance trends for that particular season. Before every Park opening, departments meet and go over what the projected Park attendance is and how to prepare for the day. They use this time to make staffing adjustments if needed and it helps the supervisors understand what the pace of the day will be. There’s nothing wrong with doing the same thing as a Guest of Disneyland!
For example, if you’re planning your visit for sometime during the summer or Spring Break, prepare yourself for crowds, long lines, and the possibility for Disneyland to close their gates. Once Disneyland reaches a certain capacity, they legally have to close their gates to stay in accordance with regulations and fire code.
So, to answer your question, yes, Disneyland will be super crowded and super hot in mid-July, April 15th, and Christmas Eve. There’s a reason Southern California passholders stay away during those times of the year.
(btw…Disneyland has a 6-week-long Spring Break season late-March to April)
Have a look, familiarize yourself with the layout, and get a feel for the route you’d like to take. If you’re going to be visiting Disneyland multiple days in a row, think about maybe splitting up the park during your visit. One day focus on Main Street, USA, Adventureland, Frontierland, and New Orleans Square. And then the next day you can visit Tomorrowland, Fantasyland, and ToonTown.
Here are a few more links to help you with your homework:
Ride height requirements https://disneyland.disney.go.com/faq/parks/height-requirements/
Disney app for wait times, FastPass, etc https://disneyland.disney.go.com/guest-services/download-disneyland-mobile-app/
#2: Bring a phone charger
There’s nothing worse than having to lose your cool when your phone dies. All of a sudden you have no way to take selfies, figure out if you can wait that 30 minutes for the Matterhorn before running over to get a good place for the fireworks, or text your friends who broke off from the group. There are tens of thousands of people all around you at any time in Disneyland, so imagine how many mobile devices are trying to post to Instagram or send selfies to their friends back home. Disneyland might be magical, but their bandwidth isn’t without limits.
Whenever I visit Disneyland, I bring a spare phone charger. There are outlets all around the Resort, you just need to look. Some places include the restrooms, Baby Center, and certain stores. If you stop for a meal, have a look around for an outlet. Or if you have a portable charger, make sure it’s ready to go and use it!
#3: Take breaks
It’s really tempting to just go go go when running around Disneyland, FOMO completely kicking in, smells, sounds, and energy all around. It’s really hard to not get totally swept up in the charged atmosphere and run around. I can’t tell you how many 8 hour shifts I had where I walked…WALKED…at least 10 miles. Imagine how many more I could have gotten if I was hustling around like a mom racing to catch the parade with her kids!
There’s this negative stigma out in the universe that if you need a break at Disneyland, you’ll be sitting on a bench, in the middle of the sun, watching everyone else around you have fun. Don’t lose your cool: there are plenty of places around Disneyland to kick your feet up while ticking another item off of your to-do list, and some that you probably didn’t even consider! Here are a few of my favorites:
With 4 stops around Disneyland, there’s no reason that a ride along the Disneyland Railroad shouldn’t be on your to-do list to begin with. The Railroad circumnavigatets Disneyland Park with stops at Main Street, USA, Tomorrowland, ToonTown, and New Orleans Square. The train carriages are covered, so you can stay shaded and cool, while getting a unique tour of Disneyland (including some back stage areas). Do you have kids that need a nap? Ride the Railroad. I have fond memories of taking my brothers on the Railroad when they were little, and just circling the Park for an hour or so. And apparently this was something that my mother did when I was younger! No wonder I love it!
I know the song is annoying after a while, but let’s face it: the Enchanted Tiki Room is dark, air-conditioned, and has a lot of seats. But you know what the best part about The Tiki Room is? That’s right – you can get a pineapple Dole Whip while you wait for the next show! And if you’re not a fan of the pineapple Dole Whip, don’t tell anyone! They’re a cult favorite and no Pinterest recipe can come close. So while you’re sitting in the dark not enjoying your pineapple Dole Whip, marvel at the fact that the Enchanted Tiki Room was the first Auto-Animatronic show ever built, back in 1963!
If you’re traveling with small children, babies, or toddlers, consider stopping by the Baby Care Centers that are located in both Disneyland and Disney’s California Adventure Parks. Having taken many younger siblings and nieces to the parks, I know the challenges of trying to change or feed a baby while running around the park. In the Baby Care Centers, you’ll find a quiet, air-conditioned sanctuary, filled with high chairs, toddler-sized toilets, changing tables, and comfy chairs for nursing. If you’re traveling with kids and they get too stimulated with all the noise and excitement, take a break in the Baby Care Center, put your feet up, and let them kick back to some Disney movies.
The Animation Building
Along Hollywood Blvd in Disney’s California Adventure lies the air-conditioned Animation Building. Inside the veritable wonderland of animation are interactive exhibits to learn more about movie-making magic. Visit the Animation Academy and learn how to draw characters from an actual Disney artist. In the Sorcerer’s Workshop, you can create your own animation short and take a trip to the Beast’s Library. Or you could even dive under the sea at the Turtle Talk With Crush show. AND, if none of those appeal to you, the main hall of the Animation Building is dark, has comfy love seats in the middle, and is constantly playing music videos from all of the Disney movies. You could literally lay on your back and take a quick nap.
The Redwood Creek Challenge Trail has been a family favorite since it opened years ago. If you are in Disney’s California Adventure, GO TO THE REDWOOD CREEK CHALLENGE TRAIL! This is not just a place for kids and small families, trust me. There’s a smaller amphitheater where you can meet Russell from “UP,” and usually some other off-the-beaten-path characters. There are rock walls, slides, places to run, climb, jump, swing…it’s a literal outdoor paradise. The best part for parents? There’s only ONE entrance, so you don’t have to worry about your kids leaving the area. My favorite thing to do when my brothers were smaller was to take them to the Redwood Creek Challenge Trail, find a bench amongst the Redwoods in the shade, and just let them run their little hearts out. Trust me, it does wonders to give them a break from standing in lines.
**Related: The Disney UP House: Plan Your Visit**
#4: Stay cool and hydrate constantly
It is so tempting to keep going from ride to parade to show to ride again, without thinking about how much you’re sweating, walking, and how much sun exposure you’re getting. So then, what’s the best way to stay cool? I’ve already mentioned taking breaks, but what if you really DO need to run around for a bit? Water bottles and drinks from various vendors are just so gosh-darn expensive, your stomach can only handle so much ice cream (shocker), and laughing/screaming/yelling will dry out your mouth. So why not bring your own water bottle? You can be eco-friendly and bring a reusable water bottle, or bring an empty SmartLife or Arrowhead bottle. Disney has it’s own water plant, so the water coming from the fountains and faucets are safe to drink.
Both Disneyland and Disney’s California Adventure both have water rides, so throw your electronics in a locker and take a ride on Splash Mountain or Grizzly River Rapids. Just remember to wear as little clothing as possible while riding. Nothing is worse than wearing sopping wet clothing at night, so just be smart about it.
#5: Realize that Disneyland is Expensive
I know this isn’t news to anyone, but you’d be surprised by how many people lose their cool when they look at price tags on trinkets and food. Disney is expensive. Once you realize this, and I mean seriously understand, you won’t lose your cool when purchasing items. And believe me, the Cast Member at the register has absolutely NO CONTROL over the prices, so losing your cool at checkout and yelling at them won’t do you any good.
So, how do you keep your cool and not blow your wallet at the Disney Resort?
Bring your own food
Seems cheap, but packing your purse or Yoda backpack with some healthy snacks will help curb your hunger, leading you to make fewer purchases. I’m no health or money expert, but I’ve noticed that when I pack a few ziplock baggies full of nuts, fruit, or beef jerky, I tend not to buy as many snacks or meals.
Yes, Disney is known for having amazing food, fun snacks, and who can pass up character dining? So instead of trying to eat out every meal in the park, stop by a grocery store or a convenience store before you park your car, stock up on a few food items, and plan one meal at the park? Or if you can’t do that, there are a few healthy options with the vendors: mango slices with chili powder or pineapple spears are my favorite!
**Most** souvenirs you find in Disneyland can be purchased at the World of Disney store in Downtown Disney
That’s right! Except for a few specialized stores in New Orleans Square and Tomorrowland, you can find most souvenirs outside of the Parks. The World of Disney store is just outside the west gates of the Esplanade and is open long past Park closing. Save yourself the rush and struggle of lugging around junk you bought and do it all as you leave! No need to lose your cool or your presents! And preparing yourself with the realization that Disney is expensive **should** save you that shock while you’re in-the-moment and ready to checkout.
#6: Special Events
The Disneyland Resort (and all other Disney Parks around the world) hosts many special events all year long: from Mariah Carey and Nick Cannon’s wedding, to the world premiers of Pirates of the Caribbean, to Mickey’s Halloween Party, and everything in between. Disney is always hopping. Every single special event requires a special ticket. No, just because you have a day pass to Disneyland does not mean that you get to attend any special events that day. Keep this in mind when you plan your trip. Nothing is worse than showing up, fully expecting to participate in Mickey’s Halloween Party and realizing too late that you needed a special ticket.
So that’s about it for me! I’m sure there are other ways to not lose your cool at Disneyland, but the 6 major points above are my favorite go-to tips. Take it from a former Cast Member: Disney really is a magical place if you let it be!
Do you have any special tips to not lose your cool at Disneyland? Have you ever been?