Our Tokyo Disney Resort 2017 trip planning guide covers all aspects of visiting 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. When we first wrote this, there was really no good resource covering all of this when we planned our first visit to Tokyo Disney Resort (that has since changed!), so apologies if this guide is overly long. Better to include too much than not enough, we hope.
We spend a ton of time planning our trips to Japan, and we’ve updated this almost neurotically as we learn from our travels and research. This Tokyo DisneySea and Tokyo Disneyland Guide has been updated dozens of times since we first wrote it, and more will be added over time as certain parts are clarified or expanded. It was last updated on December 2, 2016 with details from our most recent trip, as well as details about what’s coming up in 2017.
If you’ve ever thought about visiting Tokyo Disneyland and Tokyo DisneySea, 2017 is a good time to go. For starters, Tokyo DisneySea’s 15th Anniversary celebration is ongoing through March 17, 2017. That’s just one of several special events that make 2017 a great time to visit. More importantly, it’s less expensive than ever to visit Japan…
Airfare has fallen to the $500-700 roundtrip range out of many US cities and the value of the dollar versus the yen is still fairly strong. Plus, traveling to the two best Disney theme parks in the world (sorry, Walt Disney Studios Park and Disney’s Hollywood Studios! 😉 ) is an incredible experience.
If you have the means to go or can save for it as a once-in-a-lifetime trip, I think you will be very satisfied with the decision to go. While there’s no question that international travel is costly, traveling to Japan might not be quite as expensive as you might think; you really should crunch the numbers before ruling out the possibility of swinging a trip to Japan. (For additional tips on saving money, read our Tokyo Disney Resort on a Budget article to see how to bring the trip within reach.)
Speaking of which, since we visit Tokyo Disneyland and DisneySea regularly despite living in California, we’ve been accused of being biased towards the Japanese parks. That isn’t true at all. We’re biased towards excellence. 😉
With that, let’s get started with this Tokyo Disney Resort Trip Planning Guide!
This is at the top because we think it’s a big reason holding people back from visiting. Without a doubt, traveling to Japan is outside comfort zones. From the long international flight to the prospect of navigating a foreign country without speaking its native language, a trip to Japan can be overwhelming. This is normal, and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with being anxious about traveling somewhere because it’s outside of your comfort zone.
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, there is not 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). More importantly, most Cast Members either speak enough English to effectively communicate with English-speaking guests or can find someone to help you who does. Failing that, a bit of pantomime gets the job done. 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.
If you’re one to hold long conversations with different Cast Members, you’re going to be disappointed. 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. My social skills are poor and I can barely communicate with people in English, and I still do just fine. Irrespective of that, 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.
Speaking of which, 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.
If you to decide to only spend one day in each park so that you have more time to enjoy the rest of Japan, we have itineraries that cover everything from the order you should do rides, to where you should eat, and more. You can follow to make the most of your time in the parks:
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. 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
Choosing the best time to visit is the most important aspect of planning a visit to Tokyo Disney Resort. We highly recommend reading our When to Visit Tokyo Disneyland post, as that covers this essential topic in much greater detail. Everything from weather (Tokyo has extremes in both directions–it can even snow there!) to seasonal events to crowds is discussed in that post.
When picking our days to visit Tokyo Disney Resort, the first thing we consider is what season we want to visit. For subsequent trips, we wanted to see Christmas, Halloween, Easter, and the Summer Festival. We’ve now visited during every season, and the only special event we have not experienced is “Anna & Elsa’s Frozen Fantasy,” which fittingly occurs during the cold winter months.
Halloween and Christmas are the two most popular seasonal events at Tokyo Disney Resort, and the parks look awesome for both, with a lot of special seasonal entertainment. We have separate posts on these holidays and other seasonal events at Tokyo Disney Resort, so for more info, check out the following posts:
With it narrowed down to which season we wanted to see, think about crowds…
As with weather, Tokyo Disney Resort is a place of extremes when it comes to crowds. This makes it really important to choose the least-crowded dates. We follow TDRNavi for crowds, and also consult this Japanese crowd calendar (make sure to view it in Chrome for translation) and pick a week within the season that is predicted to be lightly crowded. These calendars have never steered us wrong. In one instance, we had to attend during a couple days when it predicted heavy crowds. It was correct, and two days of our trip the parks sold out of tickets!
In terms of the best time of year to visit Tokyo Disney Resort to avoid crowds, 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. We also really like early September, right around the start of the Halloween season.
More important than the time of year 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. Avoid weekends no matter what time of year you visit. This will save you considerable time in lines.
If you’re researching a trip, you might have encountered photos of insane crowds that make you apprehensive about visiting. We think the crowds in Tokyo Disneyland and DisneySea have taken on “urban legend” status as these photos spread.
The reality is that weekends and holidays can be insanely crowded–exactly as the photos depict. On the other hand, low-season days in the middle of the week can feel more pleasant than mid-January at Disneyland. The crowds at these parks fluctuate more than any other Disney parks in the world, which really underscores the importance of carefully choosing days to visit.
The perception of crowds always being insane at Tokyo Disneyland is totally inaccurate.
What to Pack
For any Disney trip, the things on our Unique Disney Packing List will be helpful. There’s not really anything specific to Tokyo that you will need. No voltage converter is necessary. However, there are a few things you might want to pack for the long international flight. Sarah had trouble sleeping on our first couple of flights to Japan, so she purchased these reusable earplugs, this sleep mask, and this fancy inflatable airplane pillow (whatever pillow you get, make sure it’s inflatable–carrying a normal pillow while traveling is a hassle). Now she swears by all 3. I could sleep on a pile of hay during a death metal concert, so I don’t use earplugs or a special pillow.
If you’re visiting during the summer, things like Frogg Togg Chilly Pads will also come in handy, as will moisture wicking clothing because Japan gets really humid in June, July and August. Consult our Beating the Summer Heat at Disney post for more info. In the winter, it’s cold and can even snow in Japan, so read our Packing for Disney in Winter post for tips on visiting then.
Outside of the summer, guests in Tokyo Disney Resort typically dress very nicely, which is something to keep in mind when packing your own clothes. Novelty Disney hats are also common with these nice clothes (quite the contrast), but you’ll want to buy your novelty hat in the parks.
We would caution against overpacking. This is especially true if you’re doing more in Japan than just Tokyo Disney Resort. The rail system in Tokyo is incredibly complex, with a lot of transfers. You will do a lot of walking, riding the rail, etc., and you really don’t want to be encumbered by excess baggage, especially during rush hour on the trains.
Perhaps the best advice we can give you is to pack light. Lay out everything you’re planning on taking before you pack it, and determine if you truly need it. Not if it “might come in handy, maybe,” but if you actually will use it. Don’t pack things you won’t use. If you are going to be staying in multiple hotels during your trip to Japan, we highly recommend packing cubes or compression bags (I prefer the cubes) for organization. You can read more of our “carry-on philosophy” and which types of bags we use here.
Buying Park Tickets
There are several ticket options at Tokyo Disney Resort, we discuss them in more depth in our Disney Parks Ticket Tips post. If you are going on weekdays during non-holiday season, we recommend simply purchasing your park tickets on the day-of at the ticket booths in front of Tokyo Disneyland and Tokyo DisneySea. These rarely have lines, and by doing this, you’re least likely to have headaches. This is what we do the vast majority of the time.
If you’re going during a holiday season or on weekends, you might consider purchasing tickets online via the Tokyo Disney Resort Online Reservation & Tickets website. On the very busiest days of the year, tickets can sell out. You’ll print these tickets out upon purchasing them (there’s no digital option). Don’t worry about the warning that they need to be printed on A4 size paper. Unless you’re a serious printing enthusiast, you won’t have that size of paper, nor a printer capable of handling it. The good news is: it doesn’t matter. This is one “rule” that you can safely ignore. The only thing that matters is the little code thing is visible, and the scanners at the park turnstiles and FastPass machines can read it.
The reason we don’t recommend purchasing tickets in advance is because once you buy them, you’re stuck using them for the park you choose on the day you specified. If something comes up with your travel plans or you want to change your schedule after purchasing the tickets, you can’t do it.
Along those lines, when you purchase tickets at the ticket booths, you also have to specify which day you’ll be visiting each park–for the first two days of your tickets. After that, your 3rd and 4th days are Park Hopper days. Specific Park Hopper tickets are not available for purchase, except for guests of Tokyo Disneyland Hotel, Disney’s Ambassador Hotel, and Hotel MiraCosta. Even when we have the option, we rarely Park Hop. There’s so much to do in each of the parks, and they usually close at the same time, so Park Hopping is not nearly as useful in Japan as it is in the U.S. parks.
Where to Stay
We have stayed at 10 different hotels in and around Tokyo Disney Resort, plus Airbnb apartments. Suffice to say, we have a lot of experience at hotels in Japan, and almost all of it is positive. For our thoughts on hotel options, read our Hotel Reviews & Rankings at Tokyo Disneyland post, as that covers the topic in greater depth, and provides links to specific hotel reviews.
As for an overview, you basically have three options: off-site, on-site “official,” and on-site Disney. We’ll start by covering the Disney hotels. These are Disney’s Ambassador Hotel, Tokyo Disney Celebration Hotel, Tokyo Disneyland Hotel, and Hotel MiraCosta. They are all very pricey. If you have the money, consider a night or two at Hotel MiraCosta or Tokyo Disneyland Hotel. We’ve stayed at both, and they are two of the most unforgettable hotel experiences we’ve ever had.
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 on-site 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 official 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.
As for the on-site official hotels, these are hotels that are on the monorail loop, and typically offer large, Western accommodations, and are moderately priced given the circumstances. Many compare 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.)
Finally, there are the off-site hotels, which we do not recommend. 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, many of the ones closest to Tokyo Disney Resort are overpriced considering what they offer.
There’s also the element of getting to and from the parks on public transportation, which can be a real hassle. Public transportation is also utilized by business people and students around the same time you’ll be heading to the parks, making it chaotic.
If you must stay off-site because the on-site hotels or full, or because you’re on a tight budget, we highly recommend doing an Airbnb rental instead…
We have a post that discusses our Tips for Using Airbnb in case you’re unfamiliar with the service. We’ve used it numerous times in Japan, near Tokyo Disney Resort as well as in Kyoto and Osaka. We typically use it on Friday and Saturday nights near Tokyo Disney Resorts, as hotel rates typically skyrocket for those nights.
When we are traveling throughout Japan but aren’t at Tokyo Disney Resort, we prefer Airbnb to booking hotels because it gives us the option for a much larger room, usually an entire apartment. Japanese hotel rooms (that are not Western chains) tend to be very small, and using Airbnb is the best way to avoid this issue.
Plus, the price is usually cheaper than a hotel room, and Airbnb hosts often include free MiFi so you can use the internet on the go. We’ve had some fun experiences staying at unique Airbnb locations throughout Japan, too. (The photo above is from an Airbnb we rented in Japan that was converted from a bar downstairs.)
You can use Sarah’s sign-up link for a $35 credit your first time using Airbnb!
Even if you go at a less-busy time of year, we recommend arriving 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, walk briskly (or run lightly) for your first FastPass of the day. This is covered in the strategy guides above, but it’s good to reiterate. Once you knock out the main headliners, you can take the ‘sleep in and go late’ approach, on subsequent days if you so desire–but your first day in each park you should arrive prior to opening.
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, we highly recommend downloading the TDRNow Wait Times App by our buddy Chris, the creator of TDRExplorer.com. We actually recommend downloading this well before your trip and looking at it every morning when you wake up to get a feel for wait times (if you live in the U.S. those morning wait times will actually be nighttime waits at Tokyo Disney Resort due to the time difference).
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
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 Tokyo Disney Resort Restaurant Reviews. Within the next few 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 posts on Awesome Tokyo Disneyland Snacks and Awesome Tokyo DisneySea 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.
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.
Flights & Transportation
Flights to Tokyo from the United States are 10+ hours, which is a lot of time in the air. Fortunately, the larger planes used for these flights are much more comfortable than your normal planes used for domestic flights. Complimentary in-flight entertainment (including the latest movies and television shows) also makes things easier.
If you know your travel dates and have no flexibility as to when you travel, we recommend ITA Software to search for flights. ITA is the best way to find the lowest prices on airfare for set dates of travel. 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 have flexibility, look at their calendar of lowest fares.
If you’re in the preliminary stages of researching your flight, 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.
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 <$600 range, your complete airfare package should cost under $1,000/person if you put 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.
If you are looking for a way to get more bang for your buck, you can use it to add stopovers (Shanghai Disneyland, anyone?) to visit multiple locations for the price of a single airfare. We cover this in our “How to Visit 3 Disney Destinations on 1 Airfare” post. It might seem complicated at first, but it is well worth reading that post and figuring it out. That post covers how to incorporate Shanghai Disneyland, Hong Kong Disneyland, and Tokyo Disney Resort into a single trip. We’ve done Hong Kong and Tokyo a few times already, and it’s a painless process, and saves a ton of money.
If you’re also visiting the Hong Kong or Shanghai parks, make sure to consult our Hong Kong Disneyland Trip Planning Guide and our Shanghai Disneyland Trip Planning Guide. There’s a lot more you’ll need to know for those visits!
That covers airfare. Now for using ground transportation in Japan…
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.
The cheapest alternative is to use public transportation. It’s intimidating at first, as Japan’s public transportation system is very complex, but we ultimately have 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. (That all might sound bizarre to Walt Disney World fans…especially the “reliable” part!) 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 as a backup. We always use Google Maps as our main resource when navigating Japan (and we’ve had great success with it), but if internet connectivity issues arise, a paper map is a good 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!
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 have had excellent service every time. 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 recommend renting one MiFi per person in your group, so you can communicate if you separate. If you will not–under any 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.)
Tokyo Disney Resort (and most Japanese retailers) accepts standard US magnetic strip credit cards, or chipped credit cards. Chipped cards aren’t required. Locations at Tokyo Disney Resort accept Visa, Mastercard, and American Express.
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.
If you need an ATM, there are two at Tokyo Disney Resort that accept American Visa debit cards. One is in the basement of Ikspiari near the food court, and the other is in the lobby of the Tokyo Bay Maihama Hotel Club Resort (pictured above). If you’re staying at one of the official hotels on the monorail loop, the second location is going to be far more convenient to you.
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–unless you have a Visa debit card.
This part seems like common sense…but Tokyo Disney Resort accepts Japanese Yen, not the US Dollar.
For general travel advice to Japan, we have used several books, but ultimately used Lonely Planet Japan, which had great general info, but only decent Tokyo specifics. This guide is great for Kyoto, which is one of our favorite cities in the world, and a must-do for Japan. We have written about our favorite places in Kyoto on our other blog, TravelCaffeine.
As for Tokyo Disneyland, there are a lot of links to other resources in this post; feel free to click as you read–the links will open in a new tab so you won’t lose your place in this article. Consider this post a jumping off point–it’s good to consult a variety of sources as opinions vary. There aren’t a lot of great (up to date) sites for planning trips to Tokyo Disney Resort, but we recommend reading TDR Explorer, Honorable Rat, Studio Lorien, Chris’s TDR Site, and Guy’s TDR Planning Guide prior to your trip. If you’ve found other useful planning sites, please share them in the comments.
You also might want a planning guide in paper form. Travelers Series Guide to Tokyo Disneyland and Tokyo DisneySea is a good option for this, with basic info about travel to Japan plus specific insights into Tokyo Disney Resort.
There’s a lot more we could include in this guide, but this is already the longest post 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 from our very first visit to Japan.
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!