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Disneyland Tips & Tails - Tip #1: When to Go to Disneyland

By Edited Nov 13, 2013 1 0

So, you’re thinking about taking your family to Disneyland but you’re still trying to figure out how you’re going to pull it off.    I’ve been exactly where you are now and if you are anything like me you’ve probably already spent quite a bit of time searching for information and answers online.  In many ways, that can be frustrating as you have no doubt discovered the overwhelming amount of information that exists in cyberspace regarding Disneyland, not to mention the never-ending assault of personal opinion.

It’s been said that you can’t put a price on your children’s happiness and while I believe that to be true I have been kicked in the head by “life” enough times to realize that reality brings with it limitations.  I have also come to realize that my children don’t need a “blank check” to be happy.  I firmly believe, and have found it to be true many times, that with a little creativity and a lot of determination it’s possible to make your children’s dreams come true.

I am writing this to share some of the lessons that I have learned and lend some of the creativity that has served me well as I have had to scrape and sacrifice to take my six kids down the very long road between Wyoming and Disneyland.  I’ve never had the luxury of not having to worry about getting the absolute best “bang for my buck” and I share with you some of the ways that I have been able to do that.

One of the first things that you’ll have to decide is when you are going to go.  When trying to find the best time of the year to take your family to Disneyland there are four primary things to take into account:

        I.            Family Schedule

  • Obviously, your decision on when to take your family to Disneyland will depend greatly on your personal schedule.  The amount of vacation time you have from work and any stipulations placed on it will influence your options greatly.  Also, your children’s school and activities will come into play as well.  It should be noted, however, that your ability and willingness to be flexible in this area could have a huge impact on your trip.

      II.            Weather

  • The summer months can be very hot at times but also dry.  From November through April temperatures are cooler but there is an increased chance of rainy days.  Summer weather, in itself, isn’t any reason to change your plans but you would be wise to take the proper precautions in dealing with the sun and heat.  Also, it has been my experience that a little rain and some chilly temperatures during the “winter” months tend to thin out the crowds a bit.

    III.            Holidays & Special Events

  • Holidays – Nobody celebrates quite like Disney and the holidays are no exception.  There are countless small details that really make the magic at Disneyland and all of these details seem to get a complete makeover for every holiday.  The many shows, parades, and decorations take on festive themes during holiday seasons such as Valentine’s Day, St. Patrick’s Day, Easter, and Thanksgiving but there are certain times of the year when it is definitely worth the trip just to experience something truly special:
Independence Day
  • Patriotism is electrifying at Disneyland Resort during 4th of July celebrations with special shows, parades, and breath-taking fireworks displays.

 Halloween

  •  Disneyland is the best place in the world for a "family friendly" Halloween.  The decorations are incredible and all of the characters in the Parks dress up as their favorite villains for the occasion; of course, there are increased numbers of true villain sightings as well.  No visit to Disneyland Resort at Halloween-time would be complete without catching Mickey's Halloween Party, an after-hours Halloween celebration at California Adventure Park.  Finally, some of the rides themselves "dress up" for the spooky time of year like the seasonal re-fit of the Haunted Mansion Holiday featuring Jack Skellington and his gang from the Nightmare Before Christmas.  Space Mountain also gets in on the act as it is re-themed as Space Mountain Ghost Galaxy.

 Christmas

  •  The amazing celebrations continue into the Christmas season as the Haunted Mansion Holiday lasts through the end of the year and is joined by the Holiday re-theme of It's a Small World Holiday.  The foreworks are given an extra bit of yuletide "sparkle" and there is even snow on Main Street U.S.A.!  The entire resort is garnished with the most incredible decorations, including a Christmas tree in Town Square that stands 60 feet tall.
  • Special events – Few things are as frustrating as planning a trip to Disneyland after paying careful attention to ensure small crowds only to show up and find the Park as packed as most days in the middle of summer!  One thing that you should look at is a calendar of special events that could affect Disneyland.  The nearby Anaheim Convention Center is one of the largest such facilities in the country and many of the events held there can make it very difficult to find a hotel room in the area and can make it uncomfortably crowded in the Park as attendees take advantage of Disneyland Resort’s hospitality.

    IV.            Crowds

  • The biggest factor that influences my own, personal, decision as to when I take my family to Disneyland is crowd size.  There are certain times of the year when Disneyland has been known to pack over 70,000 guests inside its gates so consider the following:
Busiest Times Least Busy Times
  • Christmas Day through New Year's Day
  • Thanksgiving Weekend
  • Summer (Memorial Day through Labor Day)
  • Washington's Birthday (February)
  • Spring Break Season
  • Easter
  • After Thanksgiving until before Christmas
  • September (after Labor Day) until before Thanksgiving
  • After New Year's Day through the first week of March
  • After Eatser until before Memorial Day
  •  The crowds at Disneyland fluctuate from one day of the week to the next with Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays being the least crowded and Fridays through Mondays being the busiest.
  • If you don’t mind large crowds or spending extended amounts of time standing in line waiting for rides and attractions then this probably doesn’t worry you as much.  If crowds are not your thing, however, you may want to plan your visit for the off season.  There are trade-offs, though, for both situations:
Large Crowds Small Crowds
  • Longer Hours of Operation (Typically 8am-12 midnite)
  • More shows/activities
  • Less ride closures/rehabs
  • Longer wait times
  • Shorter Hours of Operation (typically 10am-10pm)
  • Less shows/activities
  • More ride closures/rehabs
  • Shorter wait times

RECOMMENDATION

After taking into account the various factors that will influence your experience at Disneyland, your decision with regards to when to go to the Resort is, of course, completely up to you.  For me, personally, I have always taken my family during the off-season, or non-peak times of the year because it takes me a considerable amount of personal sacrifice and effort to even get my family to Disneyland and I can’t stand the thought of wasting any of my hard-earned time or money standing in line or struggling to get from one point to another with my kids.  Also, my kids have never complained at having to miss school to go to Disneyland.  Bottom line, I am willing to trade smaller crowds for more closures or shorter hours.  One way to work around this, though, is to plan your trip in the off-season so that one or more of your days in the Park is Friday, Saturday, or Sunday.  The weekends in the non-peak season typically provide the longer hours of operation as well as the additional shows and activities that are offered during the summer season, all with crowds that are typically smaller than those of mid-summer.

The hard part is up to you now.  Good luck in your battle to get your family to Disneyland and remember this; a bad day at Disneyland is better than a good day almost anywhere else!


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