Tokyo Disney Resort 2014 Trip Planning Guide


This Tokyo Disney Resort trip planning guide covers all aspects of a visit to Tokyo Disneyland and Tokyo DisneySea, including Japan information and Disney specifics like where to stay, how long to visit, where to eat, which attractions to do. It also covers a visit to Japan more broadly, including tips on airports, transportation, and phone/internet. We found that there was really no good resource covering all of this when we planned our first visit to Tokyo Disney Resort, so apologies if this guide is overly long. Better to include too much than not enough, we hope. More will be added over time as certain parts are clarified or expanded based on questions we receive from readers.

While we have only taken two trips to Tokyo Disney Resort, we literally spent months preparing for the first trip to make sure everything went smoothly, and we learned a lot while combing through the various information scattered all over the internet. Some of what’s here is based on our first hand experiences, some is based on what we’ve learned elsewhere but never actually put into practice. We’ll let you know when information here is not based on our personal experiences. We know it’s annoying to read things online that are merely parroted from elsewhere, with the author posing as an expert over a topic with which they only are loosely familiar, but in this case, we think some parroted information is better than nothing in certain spots.

If you’re just a “regular” person planning a trip to Japan who happened to stumble upon this page, as you probably can guess, this is a Disney fan-site written for Disney fans by Disney fans. Although anyone can use the information presented here, it’s geared towards serious fans. If you’re not a Disney fan, but are just visiting Tokyo Disney Resort as a small part of a trip to Tokyo, use this information accordingly. Our advice is probably a bit over the top for you “ordinary” people.

Traveling to the two best Disney theme parks in the world (sorry, Walt Disney Studios Park and Disney’s Hollywood Studios!) can be intimidating, but it’s also an incredibly rewarding experience that you’ll definitely want to repeat. Since returning from our first trip to Tokyo Disney Resort, we’ve been accused (several times) of being biased towards the Japanese parks. That isn’t true at all. We’re biased towards excellence.

In any case, when planning a trip to Tokyo (or anywhere, for that matter), it’s good to consult a variety of sources as opinions vary and few single sources are fully comprehensive. There aren’t a lot of great (up to date) sites for planning trips to Tokyo Disney Resort, but we recommend reading Chris’s TDR Site, DejikiDeepDisney, and the MiceChat TDR forums prior to your trip. If you’ve found other useful planning sites, please share them in the comments. You also should have a planning guide in paper form. We didn’t have this luxury as no current books were available before our trips, but in late 2013, Travelers Series Guide to Tokyo Disneyland and Tokyo DisneySea was released. We don’t own this, but based on the “Look Inside” snippet from Amazon, this book is on the money. For general travel advice to Japan, we used several books, but ultimately used Lonely Planet Japan (previous edition), which had great general info, but only okay Tokyo specifics (we couldn’t find a single good “Tokyo” specific book). This guide is great for Kyoto, which we also highly recommend visiting. Whichever books you get, we can’t stress enough to buy them in paper form–we are tech-lovers, but paper books don’t run out of battery, potentially leaving you without critical advice in a foreign place. Also, print out important reservation info just in case you have an internet issue.

Let’s get started with the guide!

Comfort Zone/Language

This is not directly a tip for visiting Tokyo Disney Resort, but it’s mentioned at the top because we think it’s the real reason holding people back from visiting. Without a doubt, traveling to Tokyo is outside comfort zones. From the long international flight to the prospect of navigating a foreign country without speaking its native language, it seems that many people cite costs (we’ll be back soon with another article showing how Tokyo Disney Resort can be affordable!) when the true reason they’re hesitant to visit is that it’s so far outside their comfort zone.

This is normal, and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with being anxious about traveling somewhere because it’s outside of your comfort zone. The first time we traveled somewhere that English wasn’t commonly spoken, we were nervous, too. From our experience, that nervous feeling only lasts about as long as you’re in the airport, and after that you totally forget it as you’re enveloped in an amazing, foreign place.

The bad news is that Tokyo is a long flight to a place where English is a second language (at best). The good news is that the Japanese are some of the universally nicest and most helpful people in the world, and that once you understand the ‘system’ at one Disney theme park, you understand it at all of them, regardless of their dominant language. If you’re staying on property at Tokyo Disney Resort, the biggest obstacle you face is probably getting from the airport to your hotel–and even that isn’t too difficult.

In terms of the language barrier, Sarah and I don’t completely agree on this. I don’t think there is much of one at all. All signs are in Japanese and English and many attractions have dialogue in English (and even the ones that don’t mostly convey their message through visual means. (We both agree up until this point.)

Where we don’t agree is in terms of Cast Members. I think that most Cast Members either speak enough English to effectively communicate with English-speaking guests. Failing that, a bit of pantomime gets the job done. Failing that, their desire to help guests will lead to the Cast Member locating another Cast Member who is proficient in English. Most of the time, verbal communication and pantomime with the first Cast Member you encounter is all you’ll need. I can only think of a handful of times on our visits where the language barrier was any real kind of issue, and the most confusion was probably an attempt to order beer on draught versus in a bottle. Not exactly a huge problem.

Sarah’s take is that communication isn’t quite as smooth as I make it out to be. If you’re one to hold long conversations with different Cast Members, you’re going to be disappointed (although it is possible with some). If you’re only communicating to the extent that you want to order lunch (and you don’t mind pointing at a menu item), you’ll do just fine. In fairness, my social skills are poor and I can barely communicate with people in English, so maybe I’m not the best judge of this, and maybe it is more of an issue than I think. We both agree that the Cast Members in Tokyo are by far the nicest and most helpful in the world, and they will do everything they can to make your experience positive, so long as that does not involve breaking rules.

You might be thinking that you’re not the type to want to break rules, so that doesn’t really affect you. However, the Japanese concept of rules is different than the US concept of rules. Calling them “rules” might be a bit of a misnomer, because it some cases they’re mere statements or policies. For example, you might be used to making substitutions to your meals in the US parks because of a food allergy or preference. What’s on the menu is what’s on the menu in Japan, and attempts at substitutions or changes will typically be met with resistance or confusion. While Americans are more likely to question the “why?” of a rule or policy here in the US and look at whether it really makes sense given the circumstances (even if you don’t think you do this, chances are you probably do), in Japan, adherence to every rule/policy/procedure is universally expected, no matter how arbitrary it might seem.

Most of the time, this results in a more orderly, enjoyable experience in the parks (imagine places where there is no line jumping and every sits down for the parades!). Sometimes it does have unintended consequences. We know some vegetarians who have gone to the parks and didn’t have the best of times because there were extremely limited vegetarian options and they were unable to make substitutions (more on this below) because a substitution is going against established policy.



If your travels to Japan take you beyond Tokyo Disney Resort (and they should), you are going to be stepping further outside of your comfort zone. Again, the same rules about the Japanese being extremely courteous and helpful apply, and the few times we struggled a bit, we put on our ‘confused American’ faces, and invariably, strangers stopped to help us without solicitation.

Despite being a world city, Westerners aren’t as common in Tokyo as we expected. Even though many young Japanese people speak at least some English, Westerners are far less common in Tokyo than they are in Hong Kong or Paris. This is actually even more true in the parks, where the only Westerners you may see all day are those in the shows. (When you think about this, it makes sense: most Americans who visit Tokyo probably are the type of world travelers who are more concerned with culture than theme parks. We’d argue as a counter that what you see in Tokyo Disney Resort is a more accurate representation of current Japanese culture than what you’ll find at any preserved temples or shrines in Japan.)

How Many Days?

Trick question: no number of days is enough…and that’s only a half-joke. Although there are only two theme parks at Tokyo Disney Resort, Tokyo DisneySea is the best Disney park in the world, and Tokyo Disneyland is also near the top (second best, if you ask me). Think of them as “fine moonshine.” You have to sip them slowly enough that you have a nice intoxication, because if you drink them in too quickly, you’re likely to go blind. Or something like that.

You can see the highlights of these parks by spending a day at each park, but that is incredibly difficult, and we’d never recommend that little time there. Instead, aim for 4 or 5 days, and plan to spend more of your time at Tokyo DisneySea. Three days at a single theme park might seem excessive in light of its attraction lineup, but we don’t think a trip to Tokyo is for the type of fan who views the parks as a collection of rides to “complete” as quickly as possible. These parks, DisneySea, especially, are meant to be slowed down and taken in. The best “attraction” at Tokyo DisneySea isn’t an actual attraction that you’ll find on any park map. It’s the sense of place that it has, and this is something that you’ll want to spend some time savoring.

When it comes to actual attractions, the lines are long at both parks. These lines actually starting before the parks open, and guests running for FastPasses immediately. On busier days, it’s difficult to get a FastPass for both Monsters, Inc. Ride & Go Seek and Pooh’s Hunny Hunt in the same day. You’ll run for one, but by the time your window for a second FastPass opens, it may be too late to get a FastPass for the other, and most people won’t want to wait 2 hours or more for either in the standby line. Tokyo Disney Resort’s main demographic is Annual Passholders, and they don’t mind waiting hours in line for a single attraction because they can always come back later to see others.

The third reason why you’ll need more time is the sheer number of shows. These aren’t shows like Disney’s Hollywood Studios has, most of which are skippable. These are all high quality shows, all of which are worth seeing. Shows alone require a significant time commitment, as does timing your day to make sure you’re able to see them all. You could pretty easily spend an entire day at Tokyo DisneySea just doing shows and maybe a few minor attractions in between.

When to Visit

Since we’ve only visited twice, this is mostly based on our research. The first time we followed this Japanese crowd calendar (make sure to view it in Chrome for an okay translation) and picked a week that was predicted to be lightly crowded. The calendar was correct, and crowds were mostly a non-issue. The second time, we didn’t have as much latitude in choosing days, and we went on days the crowd calendar predicted would be busy. It was correct, and two days of our trip the parks sold out of tickets!

We’re not (yet!) experts on the best time of year to visit Tokyo Disney Resort, but we have done a lot of research on this. That research suggests that the spring before or after Golden Week but before summer is the absolute best time, with the second best time being in late November through early December. This is both in terms of crowds and weather. Summer is humid and crowded, Halloween and Christmas have nice weather but are busy, and January/February aren’t too busy but are cold.

Based upon our first-hand experiences, just as important as the time of year you visit (actually more important) is the days of the week you visit. Tokyo Disneyland and Tokyo DisneySea are least busy Monday through Thursday. Friday is the busiest weekday, and weekends are incredibly busy. If at all possible, avoid weekends no matter what time of year you visit. This will save you considerable time in lines. And lines can get very long at Tokyo Disney Resort, so the importance of saving time cannot be understated.

As we visit more and do more research about specific times of year to go, watch for a dedicated article on when to visit Tokyo Disney Resort with more specifics on dates. Choosing the best time to visit is the most important aspect of planning a visit to Tokyo Disney Resort, and the crowds those parks see should not be underestimated.

Air Travel

Besides language, flying to Tokyo is probably the biggest obstacle. This is both in terms of flight duration and cost. The bad news is that we can’t make flights to Tokyo any shorter. They range from 8-10 hours from the west coast to an upwards of 16 hours from the east coast, or more with layovers. That’s a lot of time in the air, but fortunately, the larger planes used for these flights are much more comfortable than your normal planes used for domestic flights.

If you know your travel dates and have no flexibility as to when you travel, we recommend checking out ITA Software. Basically, it’s like a more robust and cleaner version of Kayak and other airfare search engines. There are a myriad of parameters you can set, and in our experience, ITA is the best way to find the lowest prices on airfare for set dates of travel. You can use it to add stopovers (Hong Kong Disneyland, anyone?) to search around a flexible set of dates, or even to specify multiple airports out of which you might be able to fly (we highly recommend using this last feature). Either HND or NRT will work as arrival airports. HND is located closer to the city center, whereas NRT is (slightly) closer to Tokyo Disney Resort, but farther from downtown. NRT is the more common arrival airport for flights from the US, but we’ve flown into both airports.

If you’re in the preliminary stages of researching your flight, you should also use fare alerts on Airfarewatchdog.com. You can set some parameters for the alerts here (although not as many as I’d like) and receive email updates when they deem prices to be low. For flights to Tokyo, we specify a few different departing cities for alerts. The cities we’d recommend are your home city and the closest major international airport, plus Seattle and Los Angeles. For example, if you lived in Indianapolis, you’d get alerts for IND, ORD, SEA, and LAX.

The first reason for including SEA and LAX in this alert is because they are good proxies for airfare prices elsewhere. These two airports do a lot of flights to Asia, and if their prices are dropping, chances are prices are dropping elsewhere. Being alerted of this is helpful because it can give you reason to go to ITA and fiddle around with other searches that might yield you cheaper airfare.

The second reason you might do this is because it might actually behoove you to fly to book a separate ticket to a west coast city and then fly from there to Tokyo from a purely economic perspective. Booking engines should pick up on this and create a flight for you that does this automatically, but that doesn’t always happen. On our first trip to Tokyo, we saved a few hundred dollars by booking flights on a domestic budget carrier to Los Angeles, and then flying United from there to Tokyo. The bonus for us (and other Disney fans!) was that we were able to create a one-day layover in Los Angeles and visit Disneyland for the day. (If you are patching together a flight like this, we highly recommend the day layover–if your first flight is delayed or canceled causing you to miss the international flight, you’d have little recourse since it’s not booked as a package.)

Airfare prices are always changing and are highly dependent upon city of origin, time of year, etc., but with round-trip airfare out of Los Angeles to Tokyo regularly in the ~$800 range, your complete airfare package should definitely cost under $1,250/person if you put some effort into choosing the right times to travel. If you’re booking at the last minute or don’t do any work to find deals, the sky is the limit on the upper end of airfare pricing.

Where to Stay

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We have done one trip to Tokyo Disney Resort during which we stayed on-site in the Tokyo Hilton Bay, and another trip during which we stayed off-site and used public transportation to get to the parks. The latter was the cheaper option, and it’s not uncommon to find nice, nearby accommodations for $75/night that are 1-2 stops away on the JR Line or a short bus ride away. Let’s call this “Tier 3.”

At their cheapest, an on-site “official” hotel like the Tokyo Hilton Bay or Sheraton Grande Tokyo Bay will be around $130/night. This is “Tier 2.” On-site Disney hotels like Hotel MiraCosta or Tokyo Disneyland Hotel are significantly more expensive, with starting prices in the upper $300/night range. Both of these Disney hotels have theming and slight location advantages (as well as limited early entry perks). This is “Tier 1.”

All things considered, our overwhelming pick is Tier 2 if you can get one of these rooms for <$200/night. There’s nothing wrong with a lot of the off-site hotels, but they are a more unknown quantity with rooms that will typically skew towards small, Japanese accommodations. Plus, getting to and from the parks on public transportation can be a real hassle, especially if you’re relying on transportation also utilized by business people and/or students. It’s just not worth the headache and extra time for the savings it entails. After our stay in one of these nearby hotels during our Christmas trip, we’ve vowed never to do it again. Your mileage may vary on this (and we know a few people who like these off-site hotels), but don’t say we didn’t warn you.

Tokyo Disneyland & DisneySea Trip Planning Guide

By contrast, the official hotels in Tier 2 are on the monorail loop, typically offer large, Western accommodations, and are moderately priced given the circumstances. We have a full review of Tokyo Hilton Bay, but suffice to say, we would say it compares very favorably to a Walt Disney World Deluxe hotel. Large, nice rooms. Cinderella Castle or ocean views. Location on the monorail loop. All for $130-180/night, most of the time. (Prices do spike for these hotels certain times of year and at the last minute, so book early.)

While we have not stayed at any of the Tier 1 Disney hotels (Tokyo Disneyland Hotel, Hotel MiraCosta, Disney’s Ambassador Hotel), we view Tokyo Disneyland Hotel and Hotel MiraCosta as potentially worthwhile splurges if you have the resources. The rooms in these hotels are very nice, and overall, these two hotels are likely the #1 and #2 Disney hotels in the world (at worst, they’re both top 5). However, if you’re approaching them solely from a cost-benefit or value perspective, it’s difficult to justify any of the Disney hotels. Their big advantage is location, and that’s biggest in terms of the view from your room (which can be into the park at both Tokyo Disneyland Hotel and Hotel MiraCosta) and not from access, since the Tier 2 official hotels are also located on the monorail loop and also have theme park views in some cases. Is it worth potentially $200-300/night more than the Tier 2 hotels for that view into the park? Probably not, unless money is no issue or you’re viewing this as a once in a lifetime trip.

Transportation

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Out of all of the cities in the world we’ve visited, Tokyo has by far the most complicated transportation network. This should come as no surprise, as it’s the world’s largest city. If you’re only going to Tokyo Disney Resort, it’s rather easy. You just take the Airport Limousine Bus, which you catch outside the airport after purchasing your ticket near the exit at a desk or the ticketing machine. It costs ~$25 per adult each way, and is absolutely the best way to get from the airport to the various hotels around Tokyo Disney Resort. Note that while this bus runs regularly, its schedule generally stops around 5 p.m. Here’s the full schedule to TDR from Narita. So, if your flight arrives into Tokyo after 4 p.m., you should probably look at other options.

If you’re staying off-site, you will probably get dropped off at a station and then transfer to a city bus or take a taxi; we’ve done this in the past and it’s also fairly easy. We did this on our most recent trip and it was convenient, efficient, and inexpensive. This advice can also be applied to those staying at Tokyo Disney Resort hotels arriving after 4 p.m., as there are many stops on the Shin-Urayasu line that are close to Tokyo Disney Resort, and this line runs until about 8:30 p.m. Other schedules are on the Airport Limousine Bus website.

If you’re getting in really late, the easiest alternative is a taxi. These are waiting outside the airport and easy to find. The downside is price. Our understanding is that the cost of a taxi to a Tokyo Disney Resort area hotel from Narita is $200. For this reason, we’ve never taken a taxi.

The cheapest alternative is to use public transportation. This is what we did on our first trip. It was intimidating at first, as Japan’s public transportation system is very complex, but we ultimately had no issues and it’s a relatively straightforward route from the airports to Tokyo Disney Resort. Just make sure you’re familiar with the route before you go. Tokyo Disney Resort’s site has a chart explaining the steps, but it’s probably easier to just pull it up on Google Maps.

Getting around Tokyo Disney Resort, you’ll want to take the monorail. It costs money, but it’s efficient, reliable, and clean. (Sound familiar?) There are also Resort Cruisers, which are buses, that are free of charge. Just pay the minor fee for the monorail unless you have a large party. It’s fun and totally worth it.

If you’re going to be using public transportation in Japan beyond this, having a paper transportation map (they have nice ones they’ll give you at airport info desks) is great. We used Google Maps with great success and that map as a supplement.

While public transportation in Japan likely will be the most confusing and stress-inducing aspect of your trip, the plus side is that it’s convenient, efficient, and clean. Plus, it’s not too confusing if you have the proper tools!

Phone/Internet

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There are two good options for this: renting a SIM card or renting a pocket WiFi/MiFi. We have iPhones through AT&T and we had no desire to rent/buy a second phone (we had no need to make calls in Japan), so that was out. Sorry, but we can’t help if this is what you want to do, although we do know that a popular, inexpensive option for this is B-Mobile.

Renting a SIM card is probably a great option for some people, but we really liked the MiFi rental. We’ve only used Global Advanced Communications, and found them to be excellent. We rented in advance online, and had the MiFi units delivered to the airport post office both times (package pickup for these is common–they know the drill at the airport post office). You can also have them delivered to your hotel, but if you do that, you don’t have internet if you need it to get to your hotel. We also rent one spare battery between the two of us. I can get through an entire day on one MiFi charge, but it’s better to be safe than sorry with the spare battery.

We recommend renting one MiFi per person in your group, so you can communicate if you separate. If you will–under no circumstances separate, just get one MiFi. A single MiFi can handle a few phones on it simultaneously. We found that Global Advanced Communications had the best price (you can get a quote for yourself here). Don’t rent from one of the shops at the airport or at a convenience store–prices are higher and data is typically limited.

For those unfamiliar with the device, it’s basically a pocket WiFi hotspot, providing you with unlimited LTE internet. The internet is fast and reliable throughout Tokyo, including Tokyo Disneyland and Tokyo DisneySea. There were some remote places in Kyoto where our internet was spotty, but otherwise it was flawless. We then used the Facebook Messenger App for communicating with one another and our group, and I was able to communicate with my office and remotely via email and Dropbox on both my phone and computer. Most importantly, having the MiFi gave us the ability to use Google Maps on our phones for public transportation, and this was a huge lifesaver.

There is no publicly-available WiFi internet at Tokyo Disney Resort. Free public WiFi is uncommon in Japan. (By contrast, it’s very common in Hong Kong, if you’re going to both.)

Money/Credit Cards

As of the date of this post, Tokyo Disney Resort (and most Japanese retailers) accepts standard US magnetic strip credit cards, or chipped credit cards. Chipped cards aren’t required. You can use an American credit card anywhere at the Resort, with the exception of small outdoor vending carts (to my knowledge, just the soda and ice cream ones–stands selling anything more accept credit cards). Just make sure your credit card charges no foreign transaction fees.

You do not need to carry cash at Tokyo Disney Resort, but if you anticipate needing cash, get it before you arrive at Tokyo Disney Resort. There are no ATMs at the resort that accept US cards. (If you read elsewhere that the 7-11 in Ikspiari does, that’s outdated information.) This seems like common sense…but Tokyo Disney Resort accepts Japanese Yen, not the US Dollar.

What to Do?

We’ve already written extensive attraction guides for both parks, so there’s no point in rehashing those here. Those guides contain strategy as well as reviews of the attractions. There will be very few attractions you’ll want to skip in Tokyo DisneySea, perhaps more in Tokyo Disneyland (where there are more clones). Here are those guides:

To the extent that you want more thorough plans or strategy than what’s in those guides, check out this site for wait times. There are several official and unofficial apps and pages devoted to wait times at Tokyo Disney Resort. Unfortunately, they’re almost exclusively in Japanese, and this is the best one with English that’s currently available. Before your trip, check whatever app store you use to confirm whether that’s still the case, as more and more apps seem to be coming onto the market…just not for English-speakers.

Even if you go at a less-busy time of year, you will want to arrive at either park at least 30 minutes before it opens. There will already be a long line (or lines) to get inside when you get there, so don’t be alarmed. Once you get inside, run for your first FastPass of the day. This is covered in the strategy guides above, but it’s good to reiterate. The Tokyo parks get busy and long lines are common, so you cannot take the ‘sleep in and go late’ approach, even if that’s what you normally do in the US.

Refurbishments are common at Tokyo Disney Resort, so make sure you consult the Temporary Closure Calendar before booking. It’s good for about 6 months out, so it may not be of much help.

Tokyo Disney Resort also does a lot of seasonal events. The two big ones are Halloween and Christmas, but spring/Easter is also fairly big, and there are a variety of other events throughout the year. Much like the US Disney Parks Blog, Tokyo has an official Parks Blog where info on seasonal happenings and other stuff is posted.

Where to Eat?

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Dining at Tokyo Disney Resort is a huge topic unto itself, and this guide is already getting really long, so this will just cover the basics. First, for specific restaurants, make sure to check out our Disney Restaurant Reviews Index. (Tokyo is near the bottom.) Within the next couple of months, we should be posting reviews from every Tokyo Disney Resort restaurant at which we’ve eaten. We’ve eaten at a lot of them, so that should help.

Snacking should be a big part of your trip. The cost of this can quickly add up, but it’s an integral part of the Tokyo experience. We have a post on Awesome Tokyo Disneyland Snacks that you can check out to get some ideas. You’ve probably already heard about Tokyo Disney Resort’s crazy popcorn flavors, and while we feel these are over-hyped, they’re definitely worth trying so you can form your own opinion and say you’ve tried them. Popcorn at Tokyo Disney Resort is one of those “when in Rome…” type things.  Other snacks are much better than the popcorn, we think, and you could potentially do all of your in-park dining just by grazing snack carts.

We also like stopping for full meals. In our experience, Tokyo Disneyland is the place to do counter service and Tokyo DisneySea is the place to do table service (its counter service options are also good, though). Both parks have some really amazing restaurants that are experiences in themselves.

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The Tokyo parks have a reputation for small portion sizes and high prices, but we have not found this to be the case. Portions can be small, but they aren’t always. We think prices are comparable to the US parks for counter service meals (for similar portion sizes and quality), and table service is cheaper at Tokyo Disney Resort. There’s no tipping (and it’s a strict rule–they won’t let you tip) in Japan, which plays a part in the price differences.

If you do plan on doing table service, know that restaurants often are fully booked in advance. Unfortunately, the only way to make dining reservations is through the Tokyo Disney Resort website (in Japanese) or by emailing the hotel if you are staying at a Disney-owned hotel.

As mentioned above, substitutions are not a ‘thing’ in Tokyo, nor is accommodating those with special dietary needs or preferences. If you are a vegetarian, dining in the Tokyo parks will be a challenge, as there are limited vegetarian menus. If you have other restrictions or preferences, you may have an even more difficult time. Neither of us are vegetarians so we have no first hand experience in this regard, but we’ve heard stories from others. This is not something to brush off, thinking they’ll accommodate you just like they do at Walt Disney World. Fortunately, Tokyo Disney Resort has a list of restaurants that can accommodate guests with special dietary needs. Here it is for Tokyo Disneyland, and for Tokyo DisneySea.

There’s a lot more we could include in this guide, but this is already the longest posts on the blog to date, so let’s cut it off there. We will definitely add to this based on common questions, and I’m more than happy to offer assistance and advice in the comments if you have questions.

Want to see more photos or read about Tokyo Disney Resort in agonizing detail? Check out our Tokyo Disney Resort Trip Report!

Your Thoughts

I know this just begins to scratch the surface of planning for a trip to Tokyo Disney Resort. If you have additional questions, please leave them in the comments. If you’ve been to Tokyo Disney Resort and have tips of your own, please add them in the comments–I might just borrow them for the guide itself! 

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41 Responses to “Tokyo Disney Resort 2014 Trip Planning Guide”

  1. Mitch says:

    This guide is priceless for those of us who have never traveled abroad but are fascinated with the idea of visiting Tokyo and the greatest Disney Parks on planet earth. Thank you! I was pleasantly surprised to see hotel prices are quite affordable and that public transportation is efficient, clean, and safe. My main concern would be crowd levels and wait times. I would want to see as many attractions and shows as possible on a once in a lifetime trip and would be bummed if lines prevented us from seeing the majority of the good stuff.

    Now, I am anxiously awaiting a Hong Kong Disneyland trip report to compliment your excellent Tokyo updates! Thanks for the awesome post!

    • Tom Bricker says:

      There’s no getting around it: the Tokyo parks are routinely PACKED with people. The good news is that if you tour efficiently, you can see a lot.

      If you don’t care about doing Toy Story Mania there, that helps A LOT.

      • Will says:

        Tom is absolutely right on the money. I visited over a September weekend and the parks were mobbed (I doubt I’ll ever see a 90 minute wait for the Haunted Mansion again!) but through smart touring, VERY early arrival (1 hour before the parks opened!), and smart FastPass usage we didn’t wait any longer than 30 minutes for a ride.

        Incidentally, that ride was…Aquatopia.

      • Jessie says:

        Hi! I went to Tokyo Disney Sea in August of last year and it was EMPTY. The longest wait we had was probably 10 minutes.

        Also, I have a friend that lives in Japan and he said that if you go on a day that’s a little rainy/overcast (or there is a high probability of rain) it is usually not so busy if you don’t mind a bit of a sprinkle.

  2. Aaron in DC says:

    TOM!!! We’re fighting!! For years I’ve been considered the international travel Yoda, and you gave away my secret: ITA Software! All kidding aside, it’s an invaluable tool. You can start and stop trip searches anywhere in the world, and it gives you the actual fare code for the trip. I can’t tell you the number of times I tangled with mostly United and some other airlines over how much a ticket should cost, and when they plugged in the ITA code the fare worked.

    While we’re at it, let us not forget Seat Guru. It’s one thing when you’re on a couple hour long domestic flight. When you’re on an overseas flight, you’ll want to know things like reduced leg room, limited recline, equipment boxes under seat, and passenger traffic. Now you can put in your exact flight info and it will pull up your assigned plane’s map.

    How much time do you recommend allotting for non-Disney Japan exploration?

    • Tom Bricker says:

      How about http://www.jetlagrooster.com/ to round out the trifecta of a better international flying experience? Maybe I should do a post of “travel hacks,” because I’ve learned MANY over the last few years. It’s crazy what a difference some of these tools can make.

      Potentially, the sky is the limit on non-Disney Japan. If you do Kyoto (and you absolutely should), I’d say no less than 5 days (3 in Tokyo, 2 in Kyoto). My ideal would probably be 6-8, with an extra day in Tokyo and a couple of days in rural areas.

  3. Steve says:

    For the record, “confused British face” works equally well! I would absolutely echo what you said about the language barrier and helpfulness of cast members. The Japanese are extremely service oriented, and very eager to help, and that definitely makes up for the language barrier. I spent three and a half weeks travelling around Japan, including some fairly remote and rural areas, and the language was never a huge problem. If you have a “western” face then everyone knows that you are a foreigner, and in my experience people quite often seek you out if they speak a bit of english. (Quite often I found kids in school groups would run up to me, asking for my autograph and practicing a few english phrases… bizarre!).

    Furthermore, in Japan, everything just “works”. If a train is due at 12.37, then it arrives at 12.37. Everything happens as promised, according to the schedule. That makes it quite easy to plan. The public transport system is incredibly effective and you can get pretty much anywhere in the country using very comfortable trains. If you get a Japan Rail Pass (which you have to order before arriving), you can get unlimited rail travel for a set period – if you use the trains a lot, it can save a lot of money. And in Tokyo, I suggest getting a Pasmo or Suica card for travel on the subway. It’s a prepayment card, so you load it up with money, and then whenever you get the train or subway, tap it on the reader on the way in and way out, and it will automatically deduct the fare. It saves having to work out how much you need to pay and buying tickets each time. It also works on the Tokyo Disney monorail!

    • Tom Bricker says:

      Thanks for mentioning the Japan Rail Pass. That is HUGE. We saved so much money with that. I believe the total cost for that pass was about as much as the cost of the bullet train to Kyoto (which is included with the pass). Well worth the money.

      For those curious about it, details are here: http://www.japan-rail-pass.com/

  4. Cliff from Jakarta says:

    I just got back from my first Tokyo Disney Resort trip, and must say I 100% in agreement with you on Disney Sea being the Best Disney Resort. We were there during the snow storm in mid February, and had the benefit of experiencing the park half full..can you believe a 10 min line for Tower of Terror, 30 min for both Pooh and Space Mountain, and also seeing the Volcano at Disney Sea covered with real snow! I must say your review really helps, the only correction I would add is Y20,000 or $200, while from Haneda cost us Y6000 or around $60. We stayed at the Hilton Tokyo Bay at Disney, and if you’re travelling with little kid like our 6 yrs daughter, try to get the Happy Magic room….looking forward to read your next review, and will absolutely go back to Tokyo Disney, when it’s warmer…cheers!

    • Tom Bricker says:

      First, let me say that I am SO jealous that you were there during the snow. I know that sounds miserable for some people, but I sat at my keyboard drooling over photos.

      I know lines were short, but I probably wouldn’t have done many attractions–I would’ve just taken photos the entire time.

      By the way, if you have any photos from the trip, PLEASE post a link to them here! :)

  5. Steve (again) says:

    It’s also worth mentioning that the Official Hotels a fairly easy walk from Disneyland. There is a walking path laid out which goes through the various parking lots. I used it a few times in the evening to walk to the Hilton after park close, since they were nice evenings and I didn’t want to wait for the monorail.

    Out of the three Disney hotels, the Ambassador is a bit of an anomaly location-wise. It’s nestled between the park, the train line and Ikspiari (Disney’s indoor mall). I haven’t stayed there (though I did visit), but I would say that in terms of location and views, the Hilton is arguably preferable.

    • Tom Bricker says:

      Yeah, everything is a pretty easy walk there.

      I had the misfortune of having to walk virtually the entire resort one night when I got stranded at Ambassador after the monorail stopped running. Didn’t help that I managed to get turned around and walked way farther than I had to!

      Its location is the reason I have a tough time recommending the Ambassador. I’ve been inside the rooms there and they’re nice, but I could never justify staying there. Makes absolutely no sense to me.

  6. Nita E. says:

    I believe you’ve mentioned before that one of your objectives was to see and share all of the Disney Parks. I must say, I was hesitant to read the Tokyo reviews as I thought it would something I wouldn’t try (teeny domestic comfort zone, apparently) but this post may have helped to extend our bucket list…

    • Tom Bricker says:

      Yep, that’s one of my goals. Another is to convince every Disney fan to visit Tokyo Disney Resort (I’d also recommend Paris and Hong Kong, but not nearly as enthusiastically as Tokyo).

      Tokyo is in another league than the US parks. Don’t get me wrong–I love Walt Disney World and Disneyland–but the US parks don’t hold a candle to the Tokyo ones.

      I think (know) some people have gotten tired of hearing me repeat this. I’ve received some critical “comments” about my enthusiasm for Tokyo, but I don’t really care. Those parks deserve a cheerleader given their quality and how few Americans go see them.

  7. Adrian A. says:

    Hi, great post as always. I went to Tokyo Disneyland Resort mid Feb and i think it was right after the big snow storm. We stayed at one of the Disney partner hotels Hotel Emion Tokyo Bay for about $170 per night including breakfast . A little challenging getting there from the airport but I thought the hotel was great and transportation to and from the park was easy. Also, i kept thinking that Tokyo Disney is like texas, everything is bigger in Tokyo Disney Resort.

    • Tom Bricker says:

      Haha, good comparison between Tokyo Disney Resort and Texas. So true (with regard to the parks).

      Any chance you have photos of the parks in the snow, or had it all melted by then? I’d love to see the pics if you have any!

  8. Cassie says:

    Thanks for the great tips. My fiance and I are going to Walt Disney World for our honeymoon next year and I already have it planned that somewhere along the line we’ll visit all the Disney resorts and go on a Disney cruise on some of our anniversaries. Tokyo Disneyland/Disney Sea was my first pick long before I read this guide . Just a question not really relating to Disney. I know you mentioned checking out Kyoto but is there another place we should get to before we leave?

  9. David says:

    I’m still amazed by how lucky we got with our trip. We visited in the summer expecting hot, rainy weather and tons of crowds. It only rained a bit the first day, and we never waited more than 45 minutes for a ride. One of the days we managed to get on Pooh with a 20 minute wait in late afternoon.

    Tokyo deserves all the praise it gets. I tried to think of why I love Tokyo Disneyland Park, which often gets brushed off as a park of clones, so much. I think I can describe it in one word: nostalgic. Tokyo Disneyland is lost to time but still feels fresh, definitely not outdated. It’s like the Walt Disney World Magic Kingdom I never visited. It’s a very relaxing, nostalgic park. I disagree SO MUCH with comments that it doesn’t have charm. My favorite memory is resting outside on the hub and eating a delicious Mango ice cream cone on a warm lazy afternoon. Both parks are special places.

    Did you go during the huge dance festival they had in front of the hub during the 30th anniversary? It may have been a summer thing because they were drenching everyone with water. It was really crazy how enthusiastic the guests got during it.

  10. Marya D. says:

    I have been planning a trip to Tokyo off and on for about two years. Of course, Tokyo Disney was one of the key factors in my deciding that Tokyo would be my first big step outside the USA. Unfortunately, information for TDLR can be… spotty? Your site has been extremely invaluable in the information it has provided just from your trip reports. But this? This takes the cake! Awesome job all around!
    I am now doubly excited to get the rest of my university loans paid off so I can reward myself with a trip to Tokyo for my 22nd birthday in late April next year:)
    Anyway, I guess I wrote all this just to say “Thank You” for giving me that extra motivation for working harder so I can hurry up and be in Tokyo Disney already!

  11. tim says:

    Tom
    Your photos are off the chart stunning!
    I am on my way after 3 months here in Thailand and Bali.
    I decided to bite the bullet and have booked Ambassador for late Tuesday arrival and then over to MiraCosta for all day Wednesday. Fly home Thursday. (March 20)
    Your blog is just so well done and very helpful so thanks much.
    Once again pictures over the top…you’ve got a good eye for composition and obviously a very nice camera! Wish me luck!
    Tim

  12. Ian Olexsak says:

    Thank you for the wonderful insight for these two parks. I fly to Hong Kong next week and plan on visiting HK Disneyland and loved your post about the Disney Dim Sum and want to try it. I am also in the planning phase of visiting Japan later this year and was thinking of late November, but was a little confused about how busy it may be. You said that late November/early December is 2nd best time to visit, but Im curious if the Christmas crowds have started already?

  13. Audrey says:

    I just wanted to share my experience as a vegetarian. Although my options were EXTREMELY limited, and I mostly snacked in the parks, the one actual meal I did have was at DisneySea’s New York Deli. While I did not request an actual “substitution”, I asked if it would be possible to get a sandwich without the meat (just the cheese, vegetables, and sauce), and they did accommodate this request with a smile, despite a fairly significant language barrier. They simply told me it would be 5 minutes and asked me to wait at the side of the counter.
    Thank you again for all the information you provide :) I am going back next month and will let you know if I have any further vegetarian dining successes :)

  14. Dimi says:

    Thx for this great blogsite Tom!
    Your pics & stories are simply amazing. I’ll be visiting TDR with the lady on June 10-11-12 and am getting most of the advice from your site.
    Too bad I wasn’t able to make use of it when we travelled to WDW in 2010. (still had a stunning trip though)
    Living near Brussels,Belgium, a 3 hour drive away from DLP we feel we got the inferior Disney resort here…
    Anaheim & Hong Kong are still on my bucket list. When they’re due I know what planning resource to use!

    Warm regards from Europe!

    • Tom Bricker says:

      I think Disneyland Paris is a beautiful park, so I wouldn’t say you got the inferior resort. Now, if you’re just looking at the Walt Disney Studios Park, yeah…I’d agree! ;)

  15. Spirit of 74 says:

    Great guide and tips, Tom. You really are my favorite Disney Lifestyler! For someone who is quite new to visiting, you’ve put together a treasure trove of info.

    And don’t feel guilty for telling people they should visit and that the quality is worlds higher than the typical Walmart crap you get today largely at WDW. You have seen the truth and you speak it (or write it!) If people can’t handle it, then they can always go to The Disney Parks Blog for PR spin about how WDW has never been better.

    I am curious as to where you stayed at the ‘Tier 3′ option as we did a TDR Good Neighbor Hotel and got an impeccable clean, convenient 3-star type hotel (where everyone spoke perfect English) with true motor coaches (think the DCL buses in WDW) for transportation for $62 a night. In Tokyo, that’s almost free. And I’d argue that it was much better than a $185 room at the Hilton Tokyo Bay. Over 11 nights, we saved a bundle that paid for lots of fun stuff. Of course, we didn’t have to be up at 4 a.m. to shoot pics in an empty park either, but to be fair, no one else will be doing so :-)

    As to airports, Haneda is actually much more convenient to the resort. It also is pretty much a quick easy trip to Odaiba (where our hotel and two other Good Neighbor Hotels are located).

    Best time of year? In my experience it is last few days of November, first week of December. Weather was damn near perfect (even if we did have a 6.9 earthquake while at TDS!) and crowds were truly easy to handle with only one moderately crowded day (Monday at TDL). As week went on, crowds went down daily. Our Thursday at TDS almost everything was a walk on. Even Monday, longest wait we had was 35 minutes for Jungle Cruise (could have used a translator!) and longest we saw was 120 minutes for Hunny Hunt and 110 minutes for Buzz Lightyear. We did the former at opening as a walk on and then got FP for a second go and skipped the latter because well, if you’ve done it in Anaheim or Paris or HK then you’ve done it here.

    Interested in reading your ride guides and hope to check them out soon.

    Keep up the good work! … And hope to see you in Shanghai if our paths don’t cross in the USA in the next 20 months.

    • Tom Bricker says:

      We stayed at the “Family Fifty’s.” Either you got lucky or we got unlucky, but I don’t plan on rolling the dice on it again, unless Tokyo Hilton Bay or the Sheraton Grande spike to over $200/night (they’ve been $130-150/night recently, which I view as more than reasonable). I think you’ve shared the name of that hotel, but what is it, again? Based on what you’re describing and what I researched (we looked at TONS of hotels for our November trip, and none sounded even close to this good), it sounds too good to be true!

      We visited about a week before your ‘perfect time’ and I think you can expand that to mid-November through the first week of December. HOWEVER, and this is a big however, this is for weekdays only. On weekends from the start of TDR’s Christmas season on, a lot of young couples and groups of girls go for Christmas date nights. While it’s cool to see them all dressed incredibly nice, the crowd levels spike dramatically–even more than they normally do on weekends. So, yeah, weekdays are dead…but weekends are insane.

  16. tim says:

    Tom
    guessing you’ll enjoy my movie..just back last night. amazing!

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rIFx6gvqfys

    • Adam says:

      That’s very nice, Tim! It looks like you had a wonderful time.

      I was there in January. Fantasmic wasn’t being performed, but the parks were still amazing. To similarly share, here’s a trip video I made.

      http://adamc.smugmug.com/Travel/Tokyo-2014/i-vt8tZVQ/A

      • tim says:

        Comment

      • tim says:

        very nice!
        Im missing it today back here in Massachusetts…

      • Tom Bricker says:

        Great video, Adam. I especially like the scene with the people posing wearing the Tigger hats, and several other guests wearing hats walk through the frame. Made me chuckle as it TOTALLY captures the feel of guests there. People totally let loss.

        Thank you both for sharing, if anyone else has photos or video to share, feel free to post links (by the way, if your comment doesn’t appear right away, it probably got flagged as possible spam–I’ll approve it once I see it, though, so don’t fret!).

    • Tom Bricker says:

      Love it! So, based on the video I’m guessing you stayed at Disney’s Ambassador Hotel? What did you think of it? The room looks pretty nice in the video; my balking point with that hotel is that it’s not really close to anything except Ikspiari, and I’m not really looking to be close to that.

      • tim says:

        I loved the Ambassador. Very classy. Immaculate. You couldn’t find a piece of dust or dirt anywhere in that room if you spent a week with a magnifying glass. Heated toilet seats. Deep tubs with water pressure from Niagara falls. Impeccable service almost comic in its dedication and efficiency. Beautiful beyond imagination for its art deco. Ten minute walk to DisneySea. Beautiful art deco bus service leaving every ten minutes. 24 hour canteen. Beautiful views with a balcony looking over the whole of Disneyland Resort. Quiet and peaceful. Gorgeous restaurants and food. No sit down bar unfortunately. Guest services wear white gloves and bow handing you things with two hands gently with a smile, apologizing for a seconds delay for any question or request. Definitely worth a stay if you can pay the price.
        However I found my stay the next night at MiraCosta even better. Busier for sure but the advantage of actually being INSIDE a Disney park was just over the top. The MiraCosta had me in a room facing the main lagoon. Out my window from the comfort of my bed I watched an extravagant Fantasmic show beyond anything at WDW take place from 11pm to midnight for hotel guests only after the park was closed at 10pm. Interesting to watch the efficient exodus of DisneySea quests replaced by staff who work the midnight to morning….all the while they put on this off the charts show I didn’t even know about til I heard the sound out my window and realized the party wasn’t over for my $650 a night. In the morning the bus for the airport left at 7:05 and one second Japanese style. The whole experience was surreal. For the extra $250 and $350 bucks I paid over the Hilton Tokyo Bay I’d originally booked made my entire stay at Disney Tokyo so much more incredible and special. Money is a nice thing if you have a little to throw around. Glad you liked the film.
        Tim

      • Tom Bricker says:

        Awesome–thank you so much for the feedback! :)

  17. Rachelle Beaney says:

    Just a note RE running into the parks. I know everyone does it (we were lucky enough to miss it as we had early entry by staying on property) however it does EXPRESSLY state in the English speaking map guides we had that there should be no running in the parks. Therefore, it is a rule to not do it, it just seems as though the Japanese ignore the rule and the cast members don’t seem to try too hard to stop it (we did see a few cast members futility trying to gesture to guests to slow down) – At the end of the day it depends if your the kind of person who like to follow rules or not but it is a rule no to run…

    • Rachelle Beaney says:

      Oh additionally – thanks Tom for putting together a Tokyo Planning Guide! I wish I had had this to work with when we started planning our trip though your trip report did help heaps! It’s a really involved process planning a trip to Tokyo Disney and so totally worth it! The parks are beautiful and amazing and though, in my opinion, it doesn’t quiet meet the wonder and charm of the original Disneyland Resort it is pretty damn close and Tokyo Disney Sea is without a doubt the most beautiful theme park in the world (if it’s attraction list was a little longer it might change the order i put the Tokyo Disney Resort and Disneyland Resort! I guess I am in some ways one of those people!)..We stayed at the Miracosta with a theme park view room (Harbour View, Piazza View and Venice Side View) and it was the most incredible experience! Since it was a once in a life time thing it was well worth the money but I don’t think we would ever pay the money again!

      • Tom Bricker says:

        As for the running thing, as long as virtually every single other guest does it, we’re going to keep doing it. The Japanese are usually very good about following rules, so I can’t help but think that this isn’t really an *actual* rule, even though it is printed in the maps. Sort of like how FastPass return times in the US parks used to be. Sure, the rule said you had to return within the window, but that was a wink and a nod type thing, and most guests knew it wasn’t an actual rule. Does that make sense?

        In terms of the number of attractions Tokyo DisneySea has, the number certainly isn’t as high as Disneyland, but it takes me far longer to complete the attractions I actually want to do at Tokyo DisneySea, and it would even if wait times were 0 minutes in both parks. There are just a lot of great shows and entertainment that really take time to do at Tokyo DisneySea. It would be one thing if these time-consuming shows weren’t any good, but by and large, they’re amazing. I wouldn’t call you one of “those people,” as Disneyland is an amazing park in its own right, and I can see the argument for either one being better.

        Glad to hear that you enjoyed the MiraCosta. We’re looking forward to staying there soon! :)

  18. Clara says:

    Thanks for the awesome guide! Do you recommend buying park tickets in advance online, or waiting until you get to the parks?

  19. Nina says:

    Thanks so much for this! I relied heavily on your blog for my family’s Disneyland and Disney California Adventure Last Christmas.

    I just came back from Tokyo Disneyland and Disneysea and second getting the Global Advance Communication’s Mifi. I rented the 72mb (even though none of us had 4G) ’cause everyone wanted to go online at the same time and found the battery life to be awesome. I only recharged the device at night (after a whole day of sightseeing).

    I also relied heavily on Tokyo Disney Time (Android; can’t seem to find the link on Google Play though…). It’s spooky how accurate this app is! I personally think they employ someone to stand in front of the FastPass boards and update the times!

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