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Things to Consider When Day Tripping at a Disney Resort

Updated: Nov 3, 2023

As an avid visitor of all Disney Parks, I find day tripping Disneyland and Disney California Adventure a great way of enjoying the parks and still not missing a beat in my everyday life. I hold a Signature Plus Annual Pass and I find integrating Disney into my everyday life is seamless and easy. Whether it be daily, weekly, bi-weekly or monthly, here are 10 things to consider when Day Tripping into Disneyland and Disney California

1. Half Day or Whole Day

Planning a Disney day trip is tricky all on its own because I have to decide whether I want to go in the morning and be home early, sleep in and be at the parks in the afternoon or to figure out if I have the time and money (and energy) to stay all day. A “morning” half day will allow me to enjoy the parks in the morning when the crowds are low and the weather is milder and still be home in time for an early dinner with the family or an evening walk with the dogs. An “afternoon” half day means enjoying to sleep longer in the morning and arriving at the parks in the afternoon and enjoying the parks in the cooler evenings with the parade and fireworks show. I can also plan to stay the whole day at the parks but that is all dependent on how much money I can spend and if I have any errands to run that day or if I could put it off for another day. From Rope Drop to Closing is about 16 hours long, depending on the season and the park, but I can definitely plan a great day when staying all day.

2. Weekday or Weekend

Another thing I have to consider is whether to visit the parks during the week or the weekend. When I get a random day off from work (or call in sick) I find myself wanting to go to Disney. I don’t live close by, not even in the same city as Disney but I do have those days where I just NEED to go!! Usually it’s during those times when I’m daydreaming about Disney that I find myself coming to parks during the week. I find that there are less crowds, especially during rope drop and I can get those special photos with hardly anyone on Main Street or in front of the castle. There are no to low queues for rides and attractions and I can usually get on all the rides and attractions I want to experience that day with little to no wait and I can be done by noon, eat lunch and be home by 2pm. I do have to leave my house at 6:30am to bypass the morning commute traffic and leave Disney by 2pm to miss the afternoon commute traffic. I live about an hour away (without traffic). It takes much longer when I have to sit in the dreaded and infamous Los Angeles traffic.

photo credit: Ana Lazo

3. Disneyland App

Downloading this app is a must if guests want to use all the latest and greatest perks Disney Parks has to offer. It’s free to download on the App Store and requires the guest to have a Disney Account. You can set one up for free and be able to use the App for the following:

Bypass the ticket line and buy tickets through the App

Purchase Max Pass for $15 (completely worth it)

Mobile Order your food and drinks for select Counter Service Restaurants

Check blackout dates for any Annual Passes

Check Wait Times for Rides and Attractions

Check Hours for both parks

Check showtimes for parades, fireworks and various shows

Access your park tickets or special event tickets

Access to the Park Map and more…

4. Parking

Parking Garage: Mickey and Friends and Pixar Pals - $25

Overflow Parking: Toy Story - $25

Non-Park Parking: Downtown Disney - $14/half-hour with the 1st 3 hours free with validation at a Downtown Disney restaurant. Max daily parking rate and lost ticket is $56

Everyone parks at Mickey and Friends because..well.. EVERYONE parks there…until Pixar Pals opened up. Cast members who are in charge of parking have their own method of parking cars (I’m sure there’s a method to their madness, but I still haven’t figured out their logic). Toy Story Parking is usually for overflow and is located on Harbor Blvd., it consists of Jessie, Buzz and Woody Lots. There are shuttles that bring guests to the park but your entrance would be on the opposite side of Downtown Disney where the security check is located when you walk back to the Mickey and Friends or Pixar Pals parking lot. It is $25 to Park in these lots and for $15 more, you can opt for Preferred Parking. Click here for more detailed information about the different types parking available at Disney (Handicapped parking, outside the park parking, hotel parking, etc)

5. Is Preferred Parking Worth It?

Preferred parking is an extra bonus if your budget allows. You’re already paying $25 to park then it’s an additional $15 for closer access to elevators and escalators. This is only available at the Mickey and Friends Parking and Pixar Pals Parking. Preferred parking is NOT available at Toy Story Parking or Downtown Disney Parking. Personally, I often opt to pay the extra $ for preferred parking when I’m with friends and family, otherwise, I save that money and use it for in-park purchases.

6. Park Tickets

Park Tickets Vary by date.

Value Tickets are priced at $104 for a 1 Day/1 Park Ticket or $154 for a 1 day Park Hopper. The Disneyland App is a great way to buy tickets, instead of standing in line at the booths, if a valid credit card is being used. Click here to see ALL info regarding park tickets. Just a note, if purchasing an annual pass, these can only be purchased at the ticket booths up until closing AND the purchase of a park ticket totaling $154 can be used as a down payment for the annual pass being purchased.

Photo Credit: Jones Family Travel

7. MaxPass or Not To MaxPass

What’s a MaxPass?? A MaxPass allows guests to grab a Fastpass for a ride or attraction from anywhere and anytime using the Disneyland App. There is a $15 fee for EACH person who has a valid ticket. Purchasing Max pass for your group would also be a good idea since it will cut your time down queuing for rides and attractions the moment you step through the entrance gates. You don’t have to walk to the actual attraction to grab a fast pass for your attraction or ride. You are able to purchase the max pass thought the Disneyland app.

photo credit: undercover tourist

8. Strollers - Bring Your Own or Rent

It may be beneficial to have a stroller available if children are a part of the Disney party and may need to rest often. But be warned, the new rules for bringing a stroller into the parks are strict. Make sure to find a stroller guide, painted on the floor in the parking area and the esplanade and be sure the stroller fits within the pre-fitted area. Cast members may not let the stroller into the park if it’s too big. Strollers may be rented at the stroller/wheelchair area located at the far right of the park entrance within the esplanade. Its been well over 16 years since I’ve brought a stroller into the park, but I remember the umbrella strollers being an easy fit for my daughter and I. I was a single parent bringing a 2 year old into the park, by myself, just carrying a backpack and being able to fold (and unfold) my stroller with one hand was more valuable than gold.

photo credit:

9. Food and Mobile Order

Food at the Disney Parks are expensive but quite affordable if done right. Sharing dishes with those who aren’t quite as hungry or don’t eat much will help your budget, as well as picking one or two sit down meals and settling for lighter fares for the other meals will help suffice any budget. When I get hungry, my first option would to look for a counter service restaurant that lets me access Mobile Order. Mobile Order allows me to order and pay for my meal through the Disneyland App with my credit card on file. NOW I KNOW THIS IS DANGEROUS, however, I constantly check my balance throughout the day as to not go over my food budget for the day. If I already know what I want to eat at the start of the day, I will preorder, pick the time I want to eat and pay for my food ahead of time. When that time comes around, I walk to the restaurant and find a seat, log on to the app and click the “I Am Here” button and wait for a text from the app to let me know my food is ready for pick up. This lets you bypass the line and go straight to the Mobile Order Pick Up window to pick up your tray of food. This cuts the time of walking around the seating area with my tray of food in hand looking for a place to sit, which makes me anxious. Sit Down options are also available when reservations are made ahead of time. Many of the more popular restaurants like Blue Bayou will need a reservations days ahead of my visit. If you see my list below, I have never been to The Blue Bayou (located inside the Pirates of the Caribbean attraction) because it’s out of my budget (its a bit expensive) and I can never find a reservation. If I know I’m coming to the park and I already have a restaurant in mind I want to visit, I will make a reservation a week ahead of time. Now, with that in mind, I have been a late a few times and the cast members running the reservation will usually give me a 10-15 minute grace period, especially if I’m stuck somewhere (parade route, parking, trams, etc) But they won’t hold my reservation for long. The longest I was late was 30 minutes, and the cast member was nice enough to hold my table - granted, it was a weeknight and Catal wasn’t busy at all. I make it a pint to always be on time or early for any of my restaurant reservations just to be sure I don’t miss my reservation.

Our restaurants of choice are


Plaza Inn (Character Breakfast)

Steakhouse 55 (Inside Disneyland Hotel)

Red Rose Tavern

Goofy’s Kitchen (Inside Disneyland Hotel)

Galactic Grill

Storyteller’s Cafe (Inside The Grand Californian and Character Breakfast)

Carnation Cafe


Bengal BBQ

La Brea Bakery (Downtown Disney)

Docking Bay 7

Hungry Bear Restaurant

Plaza Inn

Smoke Jumpers Grill

Stage Door Cafe

Cafe Orleans

Award Weiners

Pacific Wharf Cafe

Riverbelle Terrace

Alien Pizza Planet

Golden Horseshoe

Harbour Galley

Jolly Holiday

Stage Door Cafe


Docking Bay 7

Catal Restaurant

Hungry Bear Restaurant

Ralph Brennan’s Jazz Kitchen

Plaza Inn

Joe Tortilla’s

Cafe Orleans

Storyteller’s Cafe (Inside The Grand Californian & Buffet Available)

Carthay Circle

Pacific Wharf Cafe

Paradise Garden Grill

Jolly Holiday

The Tropical Hideaway


Oga’s Cantina (Drinks and Snacks only)

Salt and Straw

Churro Carts

Wetzel’s Pretzels


Edelweiss Snacks

Mint Julep Bar

Gibson Girl

Market House

Milk Stand (Galaxy’s Edge)

Tiki Juice Bar

Pretzel Carts

Turkey Leg Cart

Adorable Snowman Frosted Treats

Corndog Cart

Fiddler, Fifer and Practical Cafe (Starbucks)

Market House (Starbucks)


photo credit: Ana Lazo

10. Annual Passholder - Should I Take The Plunge??

Now that you’ve paid for your 1 day/1 Park ticket or your 1 day Park Hopper ticket, you actually have to the option to use this toward a down payment for your Annual Pass. Depending on the which pass you choose, the amount you use for a down payment will determine your monthly payment if you’re a California resident. If you’re not a California resident, you can still become an Annual Passholder, however, you cannot make monthly payments towards your pass. For all Annual Passes with the exception of the Signature Plus Pass, Blockout Dates Apply. The passes available are as follows: Or click here for a more detailed comparison between the Annual Passes

Disney Signature Plus - $103.75 monthly payment or $1399 Annual Price

Disney Signature - $82.92 monthly payment or $1149 Annual Price

Disney Deluxe - $53.75 monthly payment or $799 Annual Price

Disney Flex - $37.09 per month (12 monthly payments) or $599 Annual Price

An advance reservation is required for admission to a park on a reservation-required date. Reservations are subject to availability.

Disney SoCal Select - $20.42/month (12 monthly payments) or $399 Annual Price

Edited By: Ryder Lazo

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