10 Things NOT to Do at Disneyland

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With swarms of crowds, tough-to-swallow prices, and an overwhelming assortment of entertainment options, sometimes the happiness can feel hard-earned at “the happiest place on earth.” Fortunately, we're offering our expert advice to help you prepare for your adventure and avoid common ways of wasting time at both Disneyland and Disney California Adventure. Whether it's maximizing your time spent so you can ride Hyperspace Mountain and Radiator Springs Racers within the same hour, or avoiding the long line for Dole Whip, these ten pro tips will make your vacation a success. —Zachary Laks

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Do Not Go Unannounced

Whether it’s your birthday or your wedding day, Disneyland aims to make you feel special as you celebrate your momentous occasions. Don’t pass up the opportunity to announce your celebration at Disneyland’s City Hall (as well the information booths and some food spots including the Tiki Juice Bar) to receive a free button noting the occasion. These buttons aren’t just for decoration—expect a few surprises to come your way from Disney employees (“cast members” in the company’s lingo), as well as perks like preferred seating on rides, surprise cupcakes at sit-down restaurants, and extra ice cream in your sundae. Similarly, don't forget to let your hotel know what you're celebrating— you never know what special treats you might get as a result.

PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Orange County and Catalina Island Guide

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Don’t Miss Your FastPass Window

With policies shifting in recent months, Disneyland Resort is now stricter on timing for the FASTPASS, a change that has thrown park-goers into a scheduling frenzy. A few years behind Walt Disney World’s MagicBand FastPass+ reservation system, FASTPASS tickets are handed out at many of the resort’s most popular attractions including Indiana Jones Adventure, Hyperspace Mountain, and Radiator Springs Racers. Each ticket provides an hour window of time later in the day to return and enter the attraction with minimal standby time. Previously, attraction attendants would honor expired FASTPASSES, but now those windows of time are no longer flexible, requiring a good deal of plotting each move throughout the park. If you’re more inclined to enjoy the park at a leisurely pace and shy away from standby lines that can stretch far past an hour, attractions including Indiana Jones Adventure, Soarin’ Over California, and Goofy's Sky School offer single-rider lines.

PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Orange County and Catalina Island Guide

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Don’t Stay at a Non-Disney Property

They may not be cheap, but booking a Disney-owned property comes with benefits. Arguably the top perk of staying at one of Disneyland Resort’s three hotels (Disneyland Hotel, Grand Californian Hotel & Spa, and Paradise Pier Hotel) is access to Extra Magic Hour, a morning slot in one of the two parks during which hotel guests get first dibs on many of the park’s attractions. Plan to arrive at least 20 minutes before Extra Magic Hour starts to maximize your time in the park, where the thin crowds allow no-wait access to popular attractions such as Hyperspace Mountain (the newly Star Wars–themed Space Mountain) and Peter Pan’s Flight (a park original, newly updated for Disneyland’s 60th anniversary). At Disneyland, FASTPASS distribution doesn’t begin until the park officially opens, while California Adventure begins its FASTPASS distribution for World of Color – Celebrate!, the nightly water and light show at Paradise Pier, during the early morning hour.

PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Orange County and Catalina Island Guide

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Do Not Forget to Book Dinner Reservations

Seeking one-on-one experiences with Disney characters at lunch or an upscale, candle-lit steak dinner? You’re going to have plan weeks in advance for the chance to experience Disney’s most-treasured culinary experiences. While turkey legs and Mickey Mouse ice cream bars populate Main Street, a few dining experiences at the parks are worth planning far in advance, especially as a reward for being on your feet all day. Romantics flock to the incomparable atmosphere of Blue Bayou, a Cajun restaurant in New Orleans Square that offers a twilight setting alongside the Pirates of the Caribbean ride. As for character dining, the classic Plaza Inn on Main Street is the place to be.

PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Orange County and Catalina Island Guide

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Don’t limit the day to one Park

You can see the entire Disneyland Resort in one day if you’re strategic about it. A one-day adult ticket costs $99; for an additional $56, you can upgrade to a Park Hopper ticket, which grants access to Disneyland and Disney California Adventure. (That’s cheaper than a regular two-day ticket, which sells for $185.) Restrictions on FASTPASS timing is specific to each park, meaning you can grab a FASTPASS to Radiator Springs Racers, Disneyland Resort’s top attraction, in California Adventure and then bolt across to Disneyland (about a 12-minute walk) to Indiana Jones Adventure or Hyperspace Mountain for a FASTPASS there as well. Every day in the parks should start at the Radiator Springs Racers FASTPASS distribution spot, as FASTPASSES often sell out before the afternoon and return time slots can stretch late into the day.

PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Orange County and Catalina Island Guide

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Don’t enter the park empty handed

The best theme park in the country in terms of a customer-friendly experience, Disneyland Resort has engineered all rides to allow personal items on board. A convenience that removes a great deal of anxiety from the traditional theme park experience— hats, bags, cameras, phones, and just about everything else—except selfie sticks, now banned—are welcome on all rides and attractions. With that in mind, don’t even think about stepping foot inside the park without a small backpack for water bottles, sun screen, snacks, and an extra pair of socks for the water rides.

PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Orange County and Catalina Island Guide

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Don’t buy souvenirs in the parks

Lightning McQueen mini racecars, an Elsa hat (complete with an extended braid on the back), or a Mickey and Minnie t-shirt—Disney merchandise is irresistible for kids. You’ll find a place to buy souvenirs anywhere you look, but there are less expensive options to consider before you pay premium prices for anything and everything Mickey. Consider stopping by a big-box store like Target prior to your arrival, where official Disney merchandise can be scored for less than half of the parks’ marked-up prices. To offer an element of surprise for the younger set, hide pre-purchased souvenirs in your bag to give as gifts while you’re visiting.

PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Orange County and Catalina Island Guide

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Don’t forget your phone charger

Selfies in front of Sleeping Beauty’s Castle, social media updates, and examining up-to-the-minute attraction wait times on Disneyland’s new app will drain your smartphone battery in no time at all. Come prepared with a battery charger: we recommend the Anker Powercore 20100, which can provide up to seven charges for an iPhone 6s. As the day ends with fireworks over Disneyland, you’ll be glad to capture the moments of magic with a full charge.

PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Orange County and Catalina Island Guide

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Do Not Wear New Shoes

Being on your feet and walking a lot are part of any Disneyland visit—in fact, you’ll likely be racking up thousands of steps every hour. With that in mind, Disneyland is not a place to break in a new pair of shoes, so be sure to pack a comfortable pair that you won’t mind wearing all day. This is also not a place for flip flops or sandals, no matter how much the nice weather makes you want to wear them.

PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Orange County and Catalina Island Guide

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Don’t wait in line for Dole Whip

Sold almost exclusively at Disney properties and Dole’s plant in Hawaii, the pineapple-flavored soft-serve frozen dessert called Dole Whip always attracts long lines, but you shouldn't wait in one. What most visitors don’t know is that there are two counters for the Tiki Juice Bar, one tucked away in the entrance for the Enchanted Tiki Room. Enter through the turnstile of the attraction and bear right for what is certain to be a more manageable line. The Dole Whip Float is a must at the stall, where a generous serving of pineapple-flavored soft-serve sits atop pineapple juice, topped with a cherry.

PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Orange County and Catalina Island Guide