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Disneyland Optimization: Top 10 Tips for Planning a Trip to Disneyland

Are you planning a trip to Disneyland? Check out these 10 Disneyland optimization tips from an optimization expert. Learn how to have an amazing road trip with kids.

Are you planning a trip to Disneyland? Check out these Disneyland optimization tips from my optimization expert (seriously, that's what he teaches) husband. #disney #disneywithkids #disneyplanning #magickingdom #disneyland

This month my four kids went on their very first Disneyland trip – with my husband! I stayed home to go to a meeting, although the three days of time alone were also pretty awesome.

Mike studies optimization for a living, so when I asked him to write a post about the trip he focused on his top tips for optimal Disneyland planning. Here they are!

Dad Tips for Planning a Trip to Disneyland with Kids

Check out my daughter Emma’s Disneyland review on her blog!

Tips for dads taking kids to Disneyland

1) Mobile Food Orders.

Surprisingly, not very many people seem to use the Disneyland app to order food. You just order on the app (perhaps while waiting in line), and then push the button to say you’re there when you’re close to the restaurant.

2) Red Rose Taverne.

We tried a few places that supported mobile orders: Red Rose Taverne, Hungry Bear, and Galactic Grill. The best was Red Rose Taverne.

It has indoor seating, which is nice, especially when it is cold. Also, the Red Rose Taverne has the best food for the price for kids.

At Hungry Bear and Galactic Grill, you get a very small hamburger. At the Red Rose Taverne, you can get a much larger turkey sandwich. All three places support gluten free buns.

gluten free food at Disneyland

3) Paradise Pier Hotel.

This is one of the on-site hotels so you get to go into the park an hour early (depending on the day, you can get into either Disneyland or California Adventure).

This allowed us to get more FastPasses and do more rides without FastPasses before the park got crowded.

Paradise Pier is also way less expensive than the other two hotels. We just parked at the hotel the whole time.

4) PCH Grill.

The PCH Grill is located in the Paradise Pier Hotel, so it’s probably only worth going if you stay there. Most of what they have in the buffet at dinner is not gluten free (it’s an Italian style restaurant after all), but if you let them know in your reservation (which you can do in the Disney app) that you are gluten free, they’ll cook gluten free pizza, pasta, chicken, salmon, etc. specifically for you.

5) Costco.

If you are a Costco member, you can get a free gift card with your reservation, depending on what promotion they have going on.

We got a $185 gift card when booking the hotel and a three day ticket.

When we went, it wasn’t possible to use the gift card with the app, but you can use them at any of the physical registers.

6) Skip the park hopper.

You can pay more for park hopping (which lets you go between Disneyland and California Adventure), but this doesn’t seem to be worth it if you will be there multiple days.

We spent two-thirds of the time at Disneyland and one-third at California Adventure, and that seemed about right.

7) MaxPass.

You get photos (taken with characters) downloaded to your phone and you don’t have to walk to pick up FastPasses.

We did it for one day and it saved time walking around and we saved one character picture with Rey from Star Wars.

This is probably not worth the cost for the full duration of your visit, unless you’re there for only one day and want to be as efficient as possible.

8) Realistic expectations.

I went with my four kids aged 6 to 12. Before we went, we thought we’d be there from the park opening to the closing.

We’d get tired though in the late afternoon, and walked back to the hotel to relax for a bit before going back.

It takes some time to go back and forth. There is a line to go through security to enter Downtown Disney and then another line where you show your tickets to enter the park.

Fun times at Disney for dads and kids

9) Disneyland Fireworks.

They’re great! We saw them driving in, but they were canceled due to wind the other nights.

Disneyland tips

10) The Best Disneyland Rides.

The rides all the kids (6 to 12 years old) liked included Incredicoster (California Adventure), Space Mountain, Small World, and Thunder Mountain Railroad.

I was kind so surprised that my 6 year old liked the fast roller coasters. They all went on the same rides.

Indiana Jones and Pirates were also good. There are more rides for kids at Disneyland than California Adventure.

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What are your top tips for optimal Disneyland planning? One of my friends recommended buying a Disneyland guide book. Have you used one of those?

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MaryAnne lives is a craft loving educator, musician, photographer, and writer who lives in Silicon Valley with her husband Mike and their four children.

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