Thursday, June 6, 2013

Top 5 Tips for Visiting the Disneyland Resort With a Large Group - Part2

Last week I spent two days at the Disneyland Resort with several of my cousins and had the most amazing time. There is nothing I love more than sharing my favorite place with some of my favorite people and this was certainly one of those times. We were a small but mighty group with a very diverse range of Disney experiences including a few seasoned pros, a first-timer, a birthday celebrator, and even a reluctant traveler who I had to bribe to come, but ended up getting swept up in the magic which made my heart happy (the many Disneyland photos in his Instagram feed are all the proof I need).  

Prior to our arrival I used several of my own tips from a previous post about planning a trip for a large group and made hotel and restaurant reservations, created a basic itinerary, and used online resources such as the Disneyland website and Disney Parks Blog for the most up to date Park information. 

Once all of the advance planning was done and I had arrived at the Disneyland Resort there were a few tried and true tips and tricks I used to help my group navigate the labyrinth of rides and attractions as well as make the day run smoother and more enjoyable for all involved and I'm excited to share them with our Babes In Disneyland readers. Here you go!

Tip #1:  Use the Park Maps and Entertainment Guides

Park maps are an invaluable resource if you or anyone in your group is visiting for the first time or is unfamiliar with the layout of the parks.  Taking a few minutes upon arrival to determine where to start and a sequence of rides to ride and shows to watch early in the day can help to avoid stress and save time throughout the day. 

For example, if most of the rides that your group is interested in are located in Tomorrowland, make a plan to start and stay there until you've done all that you want to do rather than zigzagging to another land only to realize you forgot something. The schedule, locations and offerings of the parades, fireworks and other entertainment can change from day to day so be sure to pick up an Entertainment Guide at the Main Entrance Plaza. The Park maps are generally themed with whatever holiday or special event is going on at the Disneyland Resort, which makes them an excellent souvenir as well as a cute photo opportunity. (You can also send tweets to the Disneyland Resort's official Twitter accounts for up-to-the-minute information on shows and wait times. Click here to learn more about the Disneyland Resort on Twitter.)

Tip #2:  Divide and Conquer

I think we often feel obligated to stick together and hang out with our group at all times, but if there is one thing my many trips have taught me, it's to not be afraid to split up at different times during the day to accommodate the needs of the group. I often have a little dialogue with the groups I travel with, something along the lines of "it's not going to hurt my feelings if there are things you want to do that I don't. We can meet back up for lunch or the parade (you get the idea)."  Because the needs and wants of the group are always different there will for sure be rides that some people won't want to ride or perhaps some would rather meet and greet with the characters than wait for a ride, etc. Making a plan and setting the ground rules for the divide and conquer rule makes the day run so much smoother and allows for everyone in the group to do the things that are most important to them.

Tip #3:  Use FASTPASSes

My least favorite thing to do at Disneyland is wait in line. For that reason I am very selective about the rides I ride and take take full advantage of the FASTPASS service.  If you haven't yet used a FASTPASS or need a refresher check out one of our recent blog posts for the most up to date information on what exactly a FASTPASS is and how to use them. (Click here for everything you need to know about FASTPASS.)

Jeff & Julie bypassing a 60 minute wait with FASTPASSES

Tip #4:  Bring Your Smartphone

There are several apps you can download, many of which are free, to help you and your group through a day at the Park. The two that I use most frequently and quite honestly prefer are the Disney Parks and MouseWait Apps. The Disney Parks app is essentially a virtual park map and entertainment guide. My favorite feature to use is the character locator. If I'm looking for Goofy, for instance, the character locator allows me to search for his location and what time I can expect to find him there. It's amazing!!!  MouseWait provides a crowd index (i.e. how full the parks are) as well as wait times for each ride as well as some of the restaurants as well. I often find myself checking MouseWait several days before my trips to the Disneyland Resort, just to get an idea of how crowded it has been. (Lisa is a fan of Touring Plans, a similar website and app that is for both Disneyland and Walt Disney World.)

Tip #5:  Get and Use a PhotoPass

Photo taken with my camera by a PhotoPass Cast Member
Often trips with large groups involve several generations or friends and relatives that we haven't seen in quite some time. You couldn't ask better backdrop to document your special time together than the Disneyland Resort. As I am almost always the primary photographer in the group, meaning I'm behind rather than in front of the camera, I find myself seeking out PhotoPass Cast Members several times throughout the day to take group photos that I am also in.  PhotoPass Cast Members are on hand at many of the best backdrops in the Parks like Mickey's Fun Wheel in Disney California Adventure and Sleeping Beauty's Castle in Disneyland. They will pose and take pictures of your group and provide you with a card with a code unique to your group that you can show every time you have your picture taken.  All of your photos are linked to that card and code and can be purchased online or at the parks. 

Here's a tip within a tip: PhotoPass Cast Members will also use your personal camera to take photos, which is a great way to save a little bit of money and also to share your photos on social media sites such as Facebook and Instagram. You can also ask PhotoPass Cast Members to help you adjust your camera (even your DSLR) if you are struggling to get your pictures looking just right.
Love dining at The Blue Bayou- reservations highly recommended!

Lastly, if traveling with a group large or small I cannot stress enough the importance of making reservations. Whether it's dining with Minnie Mouse at Breakfast with Minnie and Friends, Premium Viewing for Fantasmic! or treating your princess to a magical makeover at Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique be sure to call 1-714-781-DINE well in advance of your trip.

Are there other tips and tricks you've learned while traveling at the Disneyland Resort?  We'd love to hear them.  Feel free to comment below or post on the Babes in Disneyland Facebook page.

Be sure to follow Kendra on Twitter or on Instagram @kendrakuske for more updates and photos.