Disneyland vacations: 5 things to know that aren’t so magical

I’ve learned a harsh reality over the past few years as I become a more frequent visitor to Disneyland: It’s tiring.

I will absolutely endure the exhaustion to experience one of my favorite vacation destinations.

It taught me, however, that I prefer to have an extra day or two off after a trip to Disneyland just to recuperate before getting back to the daily grind of life.

Here are five things I learned about Disneyland vacations that aren’t so magical, and how to plan for the inevitable anxious and tiring moments that will come.

You are going to hurt – a lot

Those TikTok videos joking about training for a trip to Disneyland aren’t fake: This isn’t your typical “relaxing” vacation.

There’s a lot of walking to do – and a lot of waiting in queues, from security to rides – and you’re going to be in pain after pushing your body each day.

It is therefore particularly important to bring several pairs of shoes, not just flip-flops.

It’s also good to bring any painkillers you’ll need to get over this pain, whether it’s Tylenol or ibuprofen, or even Bengay.

Get up early and stay late if you want your money’s worth

When you think “vacation,” you probably imagine lots of sleep and relaxation.

At Disneyland, however, you have to fight the temptation to hit the snooze button.

Wait times for popular attractions are generally shorter in the morning for the first hour to two hours after opening, making it essential to get to the park before it even opens and be ready to go.

Yes, that sounds about as much fun as it really is – you wake up at, say, 6am, just to wait in line – but it’s worth it.

Staying late at the park is also a must if you’re trying to get as many rides as possible or if you want to see nighttime shows like World of Color and the fireworks display near Sleeping Beauty Castle.

Once these nighttime shows are over, the heaviest crowds of the day begin to dwindle and travel times shorten as you get closer to closing time.

Arriving early and staying late means plenty of time in the park, the trade-off being that there is minimal sleeping time between days if you are there multiple days, but it’s worth maximizing the experience for those who enjoy rides and attractions.

It’s not possible to do everything in one day

Yes, Disneyland is smaller than Disney World – there are two parks compared to four, respectively – and it’s a short walk to get between Disneyland and Disney California Adventure.

And yes, you can buy a Park Hopper ticket to hop between these two parks after 1:00 p.m.

That doesn’t mean you’re likely to be able to do everything you want in a day, especially if you’re not a frequent visitor to the parks and have a long to-do list.

With long lines and often sweltering heat that can slow you down, it can take two to three days to experience everything you want in the parks.

That’s why a multi-day trip is best.

You have been warned: it is expensive. This is not a joke.

Hidden fees aren’t just for banks.

OK, just kidding, but the reality is that the cost of a trip to Disneyland can add up quickly.

It may be easier to see this before you get there, when you book flights and hotels, buy park tickets, and make park reservations.

However, when you’re at the parks, that cost isn’t always easy to track, whether it’s buying snacks or buying the latest Disney memorabilia.

Some of the best experiences also cost big bucks, from restaurant reservations to using the Genie+ service and the Lightning Lane system.

Parking can be a big waste of time

If you are staying at a hotel that is far enough from Disneyland to need to park in one of the Disneyland parking lots, be warned: it may take some time to get to the park.

Disney does a good job of keeping the queues moving, but there will be queues: one when you arrive at the parking structure and wait in your vehicle to pay, one when you park and that you have to go through security, and another when you have to wait for the tram to take you to the park.

When you arrive at the park, you can also queue at the entrance gate.

Then, you have to queue for the tram at the end of the night to get back to the car park, when your feet hurt and your body is tired.

Yes, there is the possibility of walking from the car park to the park, or vice versa, to avoid the tram.

Either way, it’s exhausting.

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