We survived our first Disneyland trip as parents and lived to tell the tale. But honestly, after our first visit I know we will for sure be back. We had so much fun, and the joy (and sometimes confusion/terror) on Henry’s face was so worth it. Now that we’ve done it, I’ve put together a few tips for anyone planning to visit Disneyland in 2022 (with or without kids!).
PURCHASE TICKETS IN ADVANCE
In this (almost) post-COVID world, advance reservations are necessary pretty much everywhere, including Disneyland. Book your tickets well in advance – we had planned to take H for his birthday but tickets were sold out, so we had to go a few weeks later. We went on a Tuesday, and I honestly can’t imagine how it could get more crowded than it was, so I don’t think it makes a huge difference going on a weekday vs weekend. When you purchase, DEFINITELY add the Genie+ service option (more on that below).
Downloading the Disneyland app before your visit is a must. Not only does it hold your mobile tickets, but you can also choose the rides you want to go on ahead of time, and when you arrive the app’s Genie service will plot out your day based on wait times and location. The app also lets you view wait times for each ride, order food ahead of time to go, book dining reservations, sync photos from rides, and more. We were also able to use it to snag a last minute walk-in reservation at Oga’s Cantina (the only place currently open in Disneyland that serves alcohol!) for some afternoon cocktails and a break from walking around.
GENIE+ SERVICE & LIGHTNING LANES
A day at Disneyland is expensive, I know. But adding on the Genie+ Service to your ticket price is truly worth its weight in gold. This allows you to plan out your day, and on the day you are there, book Lightning Lanes to skip the lines on high-demand rides at specific times. By using this service, we were able to go on 12 rides in 9 hours, which would have been impossible otherwise (standard wait times range from 25 – 95 minutes). Pro tip: you’ll want to book Rise of the Resistance right when you enter the park, as that is the most in-demand currently — it may require an extra fee for Lightening Lane, but it is worth skipping the 2-hour+ line!
*Note, this worked for us because H is just 40”, so he was allowed to go on most of the bigger rides. Unfortunately Fantasyland does not utilize Lightning Lane (aside from It’s a Small World), so if your kids are smaller this might not be as worth it.
With a toddler in tow, we got out of the house a little late, and ended up making it into the park around 8:30am. I would definitely recommend being at the entrance by 8 so you can get in early and start your Lightning Lane bookings. It got really packed around 10:30am, so it was nice to have a couple of hours without crowds and huge lines. We parked at The Anaheim Hotel and walked a few blocks in, which I would recommend.
WHAT TO PACK
Bring a backpack and pack a change of clothes (including socks!) in case you get wet on Splash Mountain (or have an accident on It’s a Small World :). The weather can also fluctuate from morning to night, so layers are a good idea. And wear comfortable shoes – I wore running shoes and my feet were still sore after walking almost 20k steps! Other key items: hand sanitizer, sunscreen, portable phone charger, wipes, reusable water bottles. If you have a young child, definitely bring a stroller even if he is used to walking – there will come a point where they can’t anymore!
While we didn’t utilize it this trip, if you are going with a larger group I would definitely recommend booking a VIP Tour with a Disney guide. This provides priority access and a custom itinerary for up to 10 guests.