Disneyland Guide
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First Time to Disneyland – Plan An Amazing Disneyland Trip

Are you planning your first time to Disneyland? Planning a Disneyland trip is much easier than planning a trip to Disneyworld.  I’m excited to share with you all the Disneyland tips for first-timers you will need to plan an amazing trip to Disneyland.

In this post, I will give a general overview of tickets, accommodations, attractions, and helpful Disney tips for first-timers.  Disneyland is so fun and I am excited to share a few things that will make your first time to Disneyland super special! 

Let's plan an amazing first-time to Disneyland experience! 

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This post may contain affiliate links that will give me a commission at no additional charge to you. 

Picking a Date for Disneyland - Calendar

If this is your first time to Disneyland, there are certain times of the year that are better to visit Disneyland. Crowd levels tend to be higher during Christmas, summer, and school break holidays.  

As long as you pick your Disneyland dates a few months ahead of time you should be totally fine.  In the past, you could easily plan a last-minute trip to Disneyland and not have a problem with getting tickets (with the exception of major holidays).

However, because Disneyland is now requiring reservations you will want to plan your trip at least 4-To 5 weeks ahead of time.  

This will allow you to pick the day and park you would like to attend.  

Hot Tip

If you are planning to go during a major holiday, you will need to book your tickets and reservations at least 3 months in advance.  Hotels will book up as well. 

Also, another great Disneyland tip for first-timers is if you are going to Disneyland in September or October, they have an amazing special Disney Halloween event called the Oogle Boogie Bash.  These tickets go on sale in the summertime and sell out!  

How Many Days Do I Need at Disneyland

Plan a Disneyland Trip

If this is your first time to Disneyland you might be wondering how many days you will need. Well, my recommendation is to spend at least 2 full days visiting Disneyland. 

One park each day.  Most people like to purchase a 3-day pass.  This allows them to visit both parks and then have an extra day to hit anything they want to do again or maybe didn't get a chance to do.  

How Many Parks in Disneyland

There are two parks at Disneyland.  Disneyland Park and California Adventure.  

Hot Tip

You can easily do California Adventure in one day.  Disneyland offers more rides, shows, and attractions which makes it difficult to do everything in one day

How to Get to Disneyland

Flying to Disneyland

Most visitors to Disneyland are California residents.  Also, most western states such as Arizona, Nevada, Utah, Idaho, Oregon, and Washington have a good representation as well.

Should I Drive or Fly to Disneyland 

We have been to Disneyland so many times I can’t count them. We usually drive.  It is about a 10-hour drive from Utah.  On our most recent trip, we decided to fly.  So we have had both experiences. 

I recommend flying if you are limited on time unless you live nearby!

Hot Tip 

Driving is probably the most common form of transportation if you live nearby. The best advice I can give is to avoid rush hour time. 

Plan to drive to Anaheim the night before you plan to attend the park.  Traffic is lighter in the evenings. 

Airports Near Disneyland 

There are a lot of airports to choose from near Disneyland.  

  • Los Angeles – LAX (32 miles 35-50 minute drive)
  • Santa Ana – SNA (13 miles 13-18 minute drive)
  • Long Beach – LGB ( 21 miles 22-28 minute drive) 
  • Ontario – ONT (35 miles 35-45 minute drive)
  • Santa Barbara – SBA ( 121 miles 2 -2.5 hour drive)
  • San Diego – SAN (94 miles 1.5-2 hour drive)

Closest Airport to Disneyland 

The closest airport to Disneyland is John Wayne (SNA)  It is about 15 miles from Disneyland.  It is about a 17-minute drive.  

Most Affordable Airport to Disneyland

If you want to save money, most flights at the Los Angeles Airport Port (LAX) tend to have lower fares.  This is because LAX is the largest airport on the west coast. Many airlines have flights that make stops in LA.  

Car Rentals Near Disneyland

Car Rentals for Disneyland

Maybe you have heard the rumors…..Driving in LA is horrible!

It can have some major traffic, but for the most part, getting to Disneyland shouldn’t be a problem. Since most people fly into LAX to go to Disneyland, let's focus on this airport. 

Renting a Car at LAX

Most rental car companies are located off-site at LAX.  You will have to take a shuttle to get your car.  

Uber or Lyft 

From most of the airports listed above, Uber or Lyft isn't the best option.  SNA however is the only airport I would take an Uber or Lyft from. The price of an Uber or Lyft can be very expensive from LAX.  You will have to compare prices to determine if renting a car is a better option.

Hot Tip 

  1. Book your car rental ahead of time!  I like to use Priceline.
  2. There are no tollways from LAX to Disneyland.  This is important if the car company suggests you buy the toll pass….Don’t.
  3. Be aware that most hotels near Disneyland will charge you to park your car. Consider this when pricing out rental cars and Uber and Lyft options. 

Planning a First-Time Disneyland Trip

Pland A Disneyland Trip

There are a few things you need to plan before you go. Tickets, accommodations, and dining reservations are the most important.  

First Time to Disneyland - Tickets Options

Tickets for Disneyland - plan a trip to Disneyland

If this is your first time to Disneyland, buying tickets can be a bit confusing.  Buying tickets directly on the Disneyland site is an option, however, there are a few third-party options to consider. 

Sam's Club

I saved over $70 a person booking through Sam's Club.


first time to Disneyland -Tickets

Get Away Today is another very reputable company that offers great prices.  (You can use my code: Planaway10 for $10 off packages.)

Mult Day Tickets  

Usually, if you go at least 3 days you will get a discount.  The more days you play the average price per day goes down. 

Park Hopping Option Tickets

Once you decide how many days you want to go to Disneyland and who you want to purchase your tickets through, you will have to decide if you want a park hopper ticket. 

What is a Park Hopper Ticket?

A park hopper ticket will allow you to jump from California Adventure to Disneyland on the same day.  

Because of Covid restrictions, park hopping is only allowed after 1:00pm.

What is the Best Way to Book?

We have booked through hotels, travel agents, and even bought tickets at the park.  All of these methods are great.  My only suggestion is to book ahead of time. 

Hot Tip

Once you purchase your ticket you will need to make a reservation.

Park Hopping at Disneyland

Plan a Disneyland Trip

If this is your first time to Disneyland you will need to consider if a park hopper ticket is worth it for your trip. 

Should I Get A Park Hopper Ticket?

We have purchased a one park per day ticket and have also tried park hopping at Disneyland. 

My Opinion

Personally, I prefer one park per day.  I don't feel rushed and I feel like there is plenty to do at both parks. 

Benefits of Park Hopping

Park hopping is extremely easy at Disneyland.  You literally walk next door. 

So if you only have a day at Disneyland and want a taste of both parks, it could be a great option. Or if you go during a very busy time, it is nice to switch parks and hopefully one will be less crowded.

Get A Disneyland Reservation

Walt Disney and Mickey Disneyland

Getting your tickets set up and making reservations is one of the most important steps in planning a Disneyland trip.  It can also be confusing if it is your first time to Disneyland

Disneyland App 

The first thing you will want to do is download the Disneyland App.

Once you have the app you will enter your tickets QR code and connect your tickets. 

Once your tickets are connected you can make a reservation for the days you wish to attend the park.

You will need to pick which park you wish to attend on a specific date. 

First Time to Disneyland - Accommodations Options

Accomdations near Disneyland

Booking accommodations at Disneyland is totally different than Disney World.  Unlike Disney World, you can book Marriott, Hilton, or other hotel brands directly across the street from Disneyland. 

Most of these hotels are within walking distance so you do not need a transportation system to get to the parks. 

Staying at a Disney Resort

Disneyland offers 3 Disneyland Resorts 

  • Disneyland's Grand Californian
  • Disneyland Hotel
  • Disney's Paradise Pier Hotel

These hotels offer that extra Disney touch.  Personally, I think the Grand Californian is your best option because you have direct access to California Adventure. 

It is the closest hotel to the parks.  The other two Disney hotels are much farther and much more expensive than the majority of off-site hotels located near Disneyland.  

David's Vacation Rentals

If you do want to stay at the Grand Californian, I highly recommend booking through David's Vacation Rentals. 

This company offers Disney Vacation Club members to sell the points they are not going to use.  The company will book a room for you for much cheaper than you will find on the Disney website.  I have used this service and it was exceptional!

Staying Off-Site  

When Disneyland was built they did not purchase all the land surrounding the parks.  This allowed many hotel chains to buy property very close to Disneyland.  It is so easy to book a hotel near Disneyland and walk to the parks.

Our Recommendations 

We love Marriott.  There are two amazing Marriott locations very near the entrance of Disneyland. 

The Courtyard Marriott is right across the street and also has a waterpark.  The Spring Hills Suites is less than a mile away in the Convention Center area and is really nice. 

Both of these hotels sleep 6.  They have two queens and an awesome bunk bed! 

You can see the fireworks from most off-site hotels. 

Hot Tip

Right now Disney has done away with the tram system. This system would transport you from the Mickey and Friends Parking Lot to the park. 

If you stayed at a hotel near the parking area you could easily jump on the tram and head to Disney.  Because this is not an option make sure to book a hotel within walking distance.

Parking at Disneyland

Parking at Disneyland

There is a new Toy Story parking lot.  This is your best option right now.  There is a bus that transports you from the parking lot to the park. 

This parking lot is within walking distance of the park. 

Hot Tip

Currently, the Mickey and Friends Lot does not have a transportation system in place, so do not park there.

First Time to Disneyland - Dining Reservations

Disneyland Dining

On your Disney app, you can make reservations for table service locations.  If this is your first time to Disneyland, “Table Service” means a sit-down restaurant. 

Disneyland Character Dining Locations

Minnie and Friends Breakfast in the Park – Plaza Inn (theme park)
Mickey's Tales of Adventure Breakfast Buffet (Grand Californian Resort)
Disney Princess Breakfast Adventure (Grand Californian Resort)
Goofy's Kitchen (Disneyland Hotel) 

Mobile Orders

Mobile ordering is awesome!  Disneyland and California Adventure counter service locations allow you to order through the Disneyland App.  It is easy and so convenient.  Gone are the days of waiting in long lines for food.  

You simply place your order and then when you are near the restaurant you click an “I am Here” button on the app.  Your food is prepared and ready within minutes! 

If this is your first time to Disneyland, “Counter Service” basically means fast food.  There are places to sit and enjoy your food, you just pick it up at the “counter” and find a table to enjoy it. 

Bringing Outside Food into the Park

If you do not want to buy food at the park you can bring in your own snacks and food.  You will need to inform the security cast member that you have it.  Ice chest are not allowed in the park. 

Hot Tip

We tried really hard on our last trip to eat at as many places at both California Adventure and Disneyland. 

California Adventure hands down wins on snacks and food.  If you are planning on eating in the park, I would pick somewhere at California Adventure! 

Planning a First-Time Disneyland Trip

Planning a Disneyland Trip

Hopefully, your first time to Disneyland trip will be amazing! Planning a Disneyland trip is easy and fun with the help of this guide.  These basic tips for booking tickets, accommodations, and dining will get you going as you plan away! 

Major Disney Fan

I am a huge Disney fan.  It is my favorite topic of conversation.  I love to share everything we love and tips about Disney.  We have been to Disney World, Disneyland, Disneyland Paris, and Disney's Aulani.  I hope to visit all the Disney parks around the world. 

Please ask me questions when planning your first-time Disneyland trip, I am happy to help! My Facebook groups are the best way to ask. 

Have More Questions


Join the Families Who Love Disney Facebook Group.  This is a great group that can help you answer your questions. 

Also, the latest and coolest Disney news, products, and vacation tips are posted here weekly! If you have any questions about Disneyland Ticketsstar wars land, the best age to go to DisneylandDisneyland Itinerary helpDisneyland Souvenirs,  or the Disney Halloween Parties or special events this is the place to ask! 

General Trave Facebook Group

If you have any questions join my Facebook Travel  Community.  You can ask any questions you have about upcoming trips and everyone is happy to help you plan your trip.  I also try to give exclusive travel deals that companies send me.  It is a great group to join!

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  1. I love all your tips for a great Disneyland vacation. I know my kids would love to go to both parks.

  2. Our first trip to Disneyland was in 2019, and we fell in love! For our first trip, we did four park days. We love the WDW, so we wanted to spend a lot of time in the parks. We loved walking from our hotel, even though we were off property. For our first trip, we stayed at Howard Johnson’s.

    Then, last September, we were crazy and decided to go to Oogie Boogie in September. We only had two days in the parks, and we didn’t get to do all our favorites because of the party, but we had a great time. We stayed at the Camelot that time, and it was so nice to be so close.

    I love going to Disneyland as much as WDW. I love how much easier it is to get around in Disneyland, but I did miss Epcot. We haven’t been to WDW since 2018. We are tentatively planning for 2024.

  3. These are awesome tips for visiting Disneyland. I’ve been there three times…but it’s been a decade since my last visit. I’d love to go again.

  4. These are great tips on planning a Disneyland vacation for first-timers. So much fun…it truly is magical!

  5. This makes me want to go back to Disneyland so badly! Haha! We took our kids in 2018 and have wanted to take them again. We did DisneyWorld last fall, it was amazing. Disneyland is nice because we can drive there, Utahan as well. I’m saving these tips for our next, hopefully soon, trip.

  6. I’m a huge WDW fan and have always wanted to visit Disneyland. The thought of learning and planning for the two California parks is a little overwhelming, but this is a fantastic guide. Thank you!

  7. I am looking forward to going to Disneyland for the first time in the next few years! Thanks for some great planning tips to tuck away for later!

  8. Wow, I think you covered EVERYTHING to think about for a first time visitor. I am still continuing to save up for this dream vacation 🙂

  9. I have never been to Disneyland so this is just the guide I needed! Your tips and tricks will definitely save me time and money too – plus now I fully understand the benefit of park hopping! I will be referring back to this as I plan my trip.

  10. I appreciate this insider information! Especially since there are no tolls from LAX, good to know to save some money!

  11. These are all such great tips! I love Disneyland! Like you, I’ve been more times than I can count. We live 6-7 hours away in Phoenix, Arizona, so we usually drive, too. Thanks for sharing!

    1. Disneyland was our go-to vacation whenever we got a break when then my kids discovered Disney World….much farther

  12. Thank you for such a helpful step by step guide to Disneyland. It just takes the trip to the next level. I can’t wait to visit the park with my kids!

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