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

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

I will definitely endure the exhaustion to experience one of my favorite holiday destinations.

It taught me, though, that I’d rather take an extra day or two off after my Disneyland trip just to recover before returning to the tough everyday.

Here are five things I learned about Disneyland vacations that aren’t so easy, and how to plan for the anxious and tired moments that will happen.

You’ll be sore - a lot

TikTok videos joking about training for a Disneyland cruise aren’t wrong: This isn’t your typical “relaxing” vacation.

There’s a lot of walking in it - and a lot of waiting in lines, from safety to horseback riding - and you’ll be sore after pushing your body every day.

This makes it especially important to bring multiple pairs of shoes, not just slippers.

It’s also a good idea to bring whatever pain medication you need to get through that pain, whether it’s Tylenol or ibuprofen, or even Bengay.

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

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

But at Disneyland, you have to resist the temptation to hit the snooze button.

Wait times for popular attractions are usually shorter in the morning during the first one to two hours after opening, which makes getting to the park crucial even before opening and getting ready to set off.

Yes, that sounds as fun as it really is — you get up at 6 am, for example, only to stand in line — but it pays off.

Staying late in the park is a must too, if you’re trying to ride as many rides as possible or want to see night shows like World of Color and a fireworks show near Sleeping Beauty’s castle.

Once those nightly shows are over, the heavy crowds of the day begin to dwindle, and ride times get shorter as closing time approaches.

Getting there early and staying late means plenty of time in the park, with minimal sleep time between days if you’re there for several days, but it’s worth maximizing the experience for those who love the rides and attractions.

Doing everything in one day is not achievable

Yes, Disneyland is smaller than Disney World - there are two parks as opposed to four, respectively - and there is a short walk between Disneyland and Disney California Adventure.

And yes, you can buy a Park Hopper ticket to jump between these two parks after 1pm

This does not mean that you will likely be able to do everything you want in one day, especially if you are not a frequent visitor to the parks and your to-do list is long.

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

This is why a multi-day trip is best.

You’ve been warned: it’s expensive. This is no joke.

Hidden fees aren’t just for banks.

Well, I’m a kid, but the truth is, the cost of a Disneyland trip can add up quickly.

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

When you’re in the parks, though, it’s not always easy to keep track of that cost—whether it’s buying snacks or shopping for the latest Disney memorabilia.

Some of the best experiences take a good chunk of the money, too, from dining reservations to using Genie+ and the Lightning Lane system.

Parking can be a huge time drain

If you’re staying at a hotel far enough from Disneyland that you have to park your car at one of the Disneyland parking structures, beware: it can take a while to get to the park.

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

When you get to the park, you may be waiting in line at the entrance gate as well.

Then you have to wait in line for the tram to arrive at the end of the night to get back to the parking lot, when your feet are sore and your body is tired.

Yes, there is an option to walk from the parking building to the park, or vice versa, to avoid the tram.

Whatever it is, it’s exhausting.