Here is the deal, we love Disneyland. We think it is so fun and happy and all of the above, but it is also one of those places that you can’t just show up without a plan. At its best Disneyland is a total dream, and at its worst… it is a hot and crowded hell (expect a little bit of both on your trip). We have learned that having an outline and a plan for Disney is the best way to go and can make the difference between being the happiest place on earth versus a thousand dollar 4-day nightmare (obviously, we are being a tad dramatic and speaking in hyperbole but you get our point:). Putting together an itinerary for Disneyland also isn’t a walk in the park. It can be tricky. So we are giving you the Ultimate 4 Day Disneyland Itinerary to Avoid Crowds and maximize fun! Disneyland is one of our most favorite vacations in the US and we want to make sure you get the most out of your trip.
A Note About The Ultimate 4 Day Disneyland Itinerary to Avoid Crowds
Who is this Itinerary for?
This is an itinerary (or a Disney touring plan outline if you will) for families and includes many little kid attractions. This itinerary also works if you have really small children who can’t ride certain attractions by using the Parent Swap feature. You can find out more about it here – Disneyland Rider Switch Service. We use the FASTPASS MaxPass option for this touring plan. We have learned that the MaxPass is well worth the extra 10 dollars (per ticket, per day) because it saves so much time and is really convenient. Yes, it is annoying that after paying an arm and a leg for Disney tickets that there is an upcharge but really, it is worth it.
How to use the Itinerary/Outlines
This is meant to be an outline. So if there is a ride you want to skip, skip it. If you want to go to a show just add it in and go to the show. If you want to ride something twice, do it! This touring plan is simply meant to be an outline that will help you avoid the bottlenecks in the parks. There is also ample time in each plan to stop and visit a character if needed. This Ultimate 4 Day Disneyland Itinerary to Avoid Crowds is just that–a guideline to avoid crowds.
We suggest picking up a “Times Guide” or using the Disneyland App (see note below) when you first enter the park (you can get them at the turnstiles) and see what shows are offered that day. We have included Fantasmic!, World of Color, Frozen, Disney Junior Dance Party, and Mickey and the Magical Map in our outlines. However, there are many parades, fireworks, and other shows that are great and will change depending on the time of year. View the Times Guide or use the app and adjust the outline accordingly.
The Most Important Part of the Outlines
Wake up early and use the Disneyland App
Be to the park first thing in the morning! You want to be at the turnstiles when it opens (sometimes you can actually even get inside of the park before it officially opens and will be held back from the attractions by only a rope). I know when you are waking up at the crack of dawn you will be thinking “are you kidding me” but it really is SO much fun to be at the parks when the crowds are the lowest and enjoy time without the hustle and bustle of soo many other people. The best part about this is that you will be able to ride three times the amount of rides in the early morning than you would be able to in the middle of the afternoon.
Also, the Disneyland App is a dream! Even if you decide to not use the MaxPass option, having a quick easy access map and wait times that are updated right on your phone can help you form the best plan and make adjustments on the fly. You can find out more about the app here – Disneyland Mobile App.
All of the daily Disney itineraries (outlines) assume you are arriving at the park before it opens.
Go back and rest
Go early. If the park opens at 9:00 am you want to be at the turnstiles to get into the park by 8:40. Then after you have an awesome morning, go back to the hotel and rest when the crowds are the highest. Return back to the parks in the evening when they are most magical. Everyone will get a chance to decompress and then get revived for the evening fireworks and shows.
When to leave for the parks in the morning
Depending on where you are staying, and your mode of transportation into the park, you will want to figure out what time you need to leave. Keep in mind that you will have to go through security before you are even able to reach the turnstiles. If you are staying on property leave your hotel 40-50 minutes before the park opens. If you have to park your car we suggest leaving at least an hour before the park opens. Modify based on the time of year. If you know it is a crazy busy time of year (Christmas, middle of summer, weekends, etc.) leave a bit earlier.
What days are the best to visit each park?
If you are planning to stay on property, you have access to visit the parks an hour early every day. To make early entry worth it, you must utilize it and show up to the park that is offering it for the day right when you can get in for early entry (sometimes this means being at the turnstiles by 6:40 am). If you are not staying on property and are not planning on using early entry, then it is best to visit the park THAT DOES NOT OFFER early entry for that day. Read more about early entry here – Disney Extra Magic Hour Early Entry
Here is why
If you are planning on visiting Disneyland on an early entry day but you can not use early entry, you will be arriving at the park when people have already been admitted to the park for an hour. Lines will already be formed LONG before you even are able to enter. In this case, it is best to visit the park that is not offering early entry so you don’t have to compete with the people who have already been admitted into the park.
Let’s say you will be visiting the parks Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday.
If you will NOT be utilizing early entry (or you don’t want to wake up even earlier than what you already will be), it is best to go to Disneyland on Monday, DCA on Tuesday, Disneyland on Wednesday and DCA again on Thursday.
Days Disneyland offers Early Entry
Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday
Days Disney California Adventure offers Early Entry
Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday,
Where to eat and Reservations
All Disney restaurants are not created equal. Some of the restaurants are surprisingly yummy and others are well… not so much. We like to have a large sit-down meal just before we leave the park in the afternoon and then eat something small and quick when we return in the evening. Lunch menus are usually a bit cheaper and just as large as the dinner portions. Make reservations for the places you are able, it will save you SOO much time. You can make your dining reservations here – Disney Dining.
The best Restaurants in Disneyland Park
Sit Down Restaurants with Reservations
- The Blue Bayou
- Cafe Orleans
Quick Service Restaurants
- Bengal Barbecue
- French Market
- Jolly Holiday Bakery Cafe
The best Restaurants in Disney California Adventure
Sit down Restaurants with Reservations
- Cathy Circle Lounge
- Wine Country Trattoria
Quick Service Restaurants
- Cozy Cone Motel
- Flo’s V8 Cafe
- Pacific Wharf Cafe
The Ultimate 4 Day Disneyland Itinerary To Avoid Crowds
(This is assuming your first day falls on a Monday, Wednesday, Friday or Sunday. If your first day falls on a Tuesday, Thursday, or Saturday and you will not be utilizing Early Entry then go to DCA on the first day)
First thing when arriving, check times for parades, and shows. Fit them in and create breaks when needed to watch them.
- Get Indiana Jones FASTPASS MaxPass on Phone
- Peter Pan’s Flight Fantasyland
- Dumbo Fantasyland
- Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride Fantasyland
- Alice in Wonderland Fantasyland
- Mad Tea Party Fantasyland
- Snow White’s Scary Adventures Fantasyland
- King Arthur Carrousel Fantasyland
- Pinocchio’s Daring Journey Fantasyland
- Storybook Canal Boats Fantasyland
- Indiana Jones (use FASTPASS) Adventureland
- Get Space Mountain FASTPASS MaxPass on Phone
- Winnie the Pooh Critter Country
- Pirates of the Caribbean New Orleans Square
- FREE TIME
- Jungle Cruise Adventureland
- Tarzan’s Tree House Adventureland
- Get Buzz Lightyear FASTPASS MaxPass on Phone
- Tiki Room Adventureland
- Space Mountain (use FASTPASS) Tomorrowland
- FREE TIME
- Buzz Lightyear (use FASTPASS) Tomorrowland
- Get Star Tours FASTPASS MaxPass on Phone
- Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln Main Street, U.S.A.
- Watch Parade/Fireworks Main Street/Fantasyland
- Star Tours (use FASTPASS) Tomorrowland
Day 1 Tips
Peter Pan is one of the cutest and most nostalgic rides in Disneyland. It also gets busy REALLY fast! We suggest this is the first place you visit in the morning RIGHT after opening. They usually will start forming a line for this ride before the ride even opens so head straight to Peter Pan, go through the castle and hop in the line. The cast members are tricky because they will keep the lines on the outside of the ride so it makes it seem like it is a seriously long wait. Don’t be fooled by this and knock this baby out right when the park opens.
If you are visiting Disneyland on a day that isn’t too busy and lines aren’t too long, we suggest riding the Storybook Canal Boats at night. Trust us, IT IS SOOO CUTE when it is all lit up!
Explore the park in your downtime. We love the shops on Main Street and back in New Orleans Square. Disneyland offers something nearly everywhere you turn.
Disney California Adventure
(This is assuming your second day falls on a Tuesday, Thursday, or Saturday. If your second day falls on a Monday, Wednesday, Friday or Sunday and you will not be utilizing Early Entry then go to Disneyland today)
- Get FASTPASS for Guardians of the Galaxy MaxPass on Phone
- Radiator Springs Racers Cars Land
- Mater’s Junkyard Jamboree Cars Land
- Luigi’s Rollickin’ Roadsters Cars Land
- The Incredibles Coaster Pixar Pier
- Guardians of the Galaxy – (use FASTPASS) Hollywood Land
- Get Toy Story Mania FASTPASS MaxPass on Phone
- Toy Story Mania (use FASTPASS) (Pixar Pier)
- Little Mermaid Paradise Pier
- Get Goofy’s Sky School FASTPASS MaxPass on Phone
- Golden Zephyr Paradise Pier
- Goofy’s Sky School (use FASTPASS) Paradise Pier
- Get FASTPASS for Grizzly River Run MaxPass on Phone
- Silly Symphony Swings Paradise Pier
- Disney Junior Dance Party! Hollywood Land
- Animation Academy Hollywood Land
- Grizzly River Run (use FASTPASS) Condor Flats
- Monsters, Inc. Hollywood Land
Day 2 Tips
Radiator Springs Racers gets SOOO busy no matter the time of year and often FastPasses will run out before the middle of the day. We suggest that you get to the park before opening and are one of the first people through the turnstiles and in line for the ride. It will be a foot race so be prepared.
Also, like Peter Pan, lines for Toy Story, Radiator Springs, Guardians of the Galaxy and usually the roller coaster will have lines forming before the rides even open. If you want to ride one of these rides right when the park opens be sure to ask a cast member where the line starts.
(This is assuming your third day falls on a Monday, Wednesday, Friday or Sunday. If your third day falls on a Tuesday, Thursday, or Saturday and you will not be utilizing Early Entry then go to DCA today)
- Get Matterhorn Bobsleds FASTPASS MaxPass on Phone
- Sign up for Jedi Training Academy Show (see if you can score the 10:30 showtime)
- Finding Nemo Submarines Tomorrowland
- Autopia Tomorrowland
- Astro Orbiter Tomorrowland
- “It’s a small world” Fantasyland
- Matterhorn Bobsleds (use FASTPASS) Fantasyland
- RUN really fast to the FANTASMIC
FASTPASS kiosk right near Big Thunder Adventureland
- Roger Rabbit’s Car Toon Spin Mickey’s Toontown
- Mickey’s House Mickey’s Toontown
- Get FASTPASS for Splash Mountain MaxPass on Phone
- Minnie’s House Mickey’s Toontown
- Miss Daisy, Donald Duck’s Boat Mickey’s Toontown
- Gadget’s Go-Coaster Mickey’s Toontown
- Chip ‘n’ Dale’s Treehouse Mickey’s Toontown
- Jedi Training Academy Show Tomorrowland
- Get FASTPASS for Splash Mountain MaxPass on Phone
- Splash Mountain (use FASTPASS) Critter Country
- FREE TIME
- Get Big Thunder Mountain FASTPASS MaxPass on Phone
- Mark Twain Steamboat Frontierland
- Tom Sawyer Island Adventureland
- Big Thunder Mountain (use FASTPASS) Frontierland
- Visit some of the attractions that you would like to ride a second time or take the Disneyland Railroad around the park.
- Fantasmic! New Orleans Square
Day 3 Tips
At time of writing, you are required to sign up for the Jedi Training Academy in Tomorrowland near Autopia. In order to get registered (these spots can run out fast, we suggest going there first thing in the morning). Children must be between the ages of 4 and 12 to participate.
Mickeys Toontown opens an hour after the rest of the park. To minimize wait times we suggest being there RIGHT when it opens.
If you want to see Fantasmic! you must get a FASTPASS. Unlike the other FastPasses, you can simultaneously hold a Fantasmic! FastPass while holding a FastPass for another ride and it doesn’t interfere. At time of writing, obtaining a FastPass for Fantasmic! is NOT possible through MaxPass. So at least one person in your group must physically be present to get the FastPasses through the kiosks near Big Thunder Mountain.
Our favorite place to watch Fantasmic! is over by the Haunted Mansion. It isn’t as busy and the viewing is usually just as good. We suggest getting to our designated FastPass destination and scouting out a spot at least about an hour before the show begins (we also like to have something to sit on while waiting – a small blanket, hotel towel or something will do the trick). Once you get your spot, be prepared that people are going to try and come and crowd you out. Our biggest piece of advice – don’t let them.
Disney California Adventure Park
(This is assuming your fourth day falls on a Tuesday, Thursday, or Saturday. If your third day falls on a Monday, Wednesday, Friday or Sunday and you will not be utilizing Early Entry then go to Disneyland today)
- Radiator Springs Racers Cars Land
- Get Toy Story Mania FASTPASS (Pixar Pier)
- Toy Story Mania (use FASTPASS) Paradise Pier
- Soarin’ Around the World (see tip #2) Grizzly Peak
- Explore and play on Pixar Pier*
- FREE TIME
- Frozen – Live at the Hyperion Hollywoodland
- FREE TIME
- World of Color Show Paradise Pier
Tips for Day 4
For us, it is worth it to do the World of Color Dining plan. You can make reservations for that here. We like to do it through the Wine Country Trattoria. The viewing areas really are better through this plan. Like Fantasmic!, you will want to arrive at the World of Color viewing areas about an hour before showing and stake out your spot. Be careful, if you are sitting in an area that says you will get wet, because you will get wet.
*Pixar Pier and Bugs Land
At time of writing Pixar Pier, formerly known as Paradise Pier, is not finished, and Bugs Land is soon to be closed to make way for the new Superhero area. Because these areas are not totally complete we can’t provide insight into the best plan at these two locations in the park. So for now, we have suggested riding Radiator Springs and Toy Story again and using your free time to explore the park. There are several other fun shows that haven’t made their way to this itinerary and DCA has lots of entertainment options throughout the park. We like the Boudin Bakery Tour and really love the parades here! Another option would be to go and play at Disneyland in the morning and head over to DCA for World of Color in the evening.
We hope this plan helps!! Please let us know how your Disney trip goes! What tricks do you use to make the most out of Disney vacations? Want more California fun? See our post on The 10 Disney Mom Hacks you Need Now!
To make the most of your trip, see this Free Disney Countdown here!
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