One of the questions we got asked the most on our last trip to Disneyland, was what tips we had for Walt Disney World regulars planning their first trip to Disneyland. We’ve tried to answer those questions in one spot, and share some of our top tips for the main differences you’ll encounter. We love WDW – but more and more we find ourselves running away to Walt’s original park. It’s full of charm and magic that can only come from being in the park where Walt worked (not to sound melodramatic).
-Most visitors are local
Disney World mostly has theme park visitors that are tourists, who’ve planned their trip far in advance. The majority of the crowds at Disneyland come from local Annual Passholders that will pop over for the weekend, or come after work. This can be both good and bad – it means that weekends are slammed no matter what time of day, but if you can plan your trip on a weekday and get there early, you can avoid most of the crowds.
-The FastPass system is completely different
Disneyland doesn’t have FastPass+. There are two options for FastPasses at Disneyland, the old school paper FastPasses that most people are familiar with from when WDW used to run the same system. The other option is MaxPass, which costs $15 a day, per person, and makes it so you can reserve FastPasses on your phone. We recommend MaxPass to any visitor – on our last trip, we were able to get over ten MaxPasses in one day during Spring Break level crowds.
-Staying on property isn’t necessary
Staying on property at WDW is a huge perk, but we recommend staying at a good neighbor hotel, most of which are within walking distance to the park. We love The Howard Johnson Hotel – it’s WAY more affordable than any on property hotels, and takes less than ten minutes to walk to the parks. They also recently renovated and the rooms are great.
-You don’t need to plan as far in advance
At WDW, it’s pretty necessary to plan your dining reservations six months in advance. Disneyland doesn’t even open up dining reservations that far in advance, and a lot of things are still open the week of. If you have somewhere you absolutely need to dine, make the reservation a couple of months in advance, but otherwise, things are pretty relaxed.
-Even the same rides are different
Just because you’ve ridden a ride at WDW, doesn’t mean it’s the same experience at Disneyland. Even the same rides have a ton of differences, so make sure to do them, even if you’ve experienced it at another park.
-Parking is expensive
Another reason we think that staying at a Good Neighbor hotel is that parking is super expensive at Disneyland – it’s way better to have a hotel you can park at, and walk to the parks.
-Things are more spontaneous
Disney World feels much more regimented than Disneyland. At Disneyland, it’s not abnormal to see Mary Poppins and Burt take a stroll down Main Street or to see the Dapper Dans board the carousel for an impromptu show.