2020 Disneyland Planning Guide

Our Disneyland and Disney California Adventure vacation planning guide covers Star Wars Land, when to visit to avoid crowds, best restaurants, hotels in Anaheim, saving money on tickets, ride strategy, and tips & tricks. (Updated January 1, 2020.)

We are Disneyland Annual Passholders, and we update this post monthly with major changes. For more breaking news and essential updates, sign up for our free email newsletter. That covers the latest changes, construction updates, events, and more info on the parks. Suffice to say, a ton has changed at Disneyland in the last two years.

If you’re curious about the specifics, consult our What’s New & Next for Disneyland in 2020. This gives you an idea of when you might want to visit if you’re still choosing dates, trying to find the best time in terms of special events, new rides, and more. However, there’s one upcoming addition we need to emphasize here…

Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance opens on January 17, 2020. If you follow Disneyland news, you know that the debut of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge initially drew lackluster crowds. This has been attributed to a number of reasons, most of which aren’t particularly relevant here. (Read our Star Wars Land Info & Galaxy’s Edge Guide for everything you need to know about this huge addition in meticulous detail.)

Galaxy’s Edge opening without its flagship attraction, Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance, was one pertinent explanation for the subpar debut. Well, if the opening of Rise of the Resistance at Walt Disney World is any indication, this new attraction is going to be huge. And for good reason–it’s incredible! (Read our spoiler-free Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance Review for more details.)

Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance will also dramatically change Disneyland touring strategy. We’ll be there for opening day (and several days thereafter) to bring you the best plan of attack. In the meantime, prepare to be up very early if you’re visiting Disneyland in the days, weeks, and months after Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance opens.

With that out of the way, let’s get down to business: what you need to plan a Disneyland vacation…

Disneyland Trip Planning Resources

If you’ve already made up your mind that now is the time to go to Disneyland and are digging into planning, here are our posts that you need to read when preparing for your Disneyland vacation. Think of them as like the steps to follow to plan your Disneyland trip.

These posts will take you through the planning process to make your visit to Disneyland more enjoyable, helping you save time and money. Armed with knowledge, you will have a much better vacation. Yeah, it’s going to take a couple of hours to read this stuff so you know the basics for visiting, but that pales in comparison to the time you’ll needlessly waste in lines if you go blindly, without doing your homework.

Each link will open in a new tab, so feel free to click away and go down the rabbit hole of Disneyland trip planning…

1. Saving Money on Disneyland Tickets – Our recommendations on what type of Disneyland tickets you should buy, including how many days, whether you should get Park Hopper, and where you can buy Disneyland tickets to save some money!

There are some great offers right now–we recommend bundling park tickets and your hotel stay to save even more, especially with the 3rd and 4th night free specials at hotels near Disneyland. We touch upon this in our Discount Disneyland Ticket Buying Guide, but those package deals can save you a lot of money!

2. Disneyland FREE Crowd Calendars – The single most important part of planning a trip to Disneyland is determining when to visit to avoid crowds. Our totally free Disneyland crowd calendars offer day by day guides as to when the parks will be least busy and busiest.

We also have a Best & Worst Months to Visit Disneyland, which ranks every month, and also shares our 3 favorite weeks of the year to take a Disneyland trip!

3. Rankings & Reviews of the Best & Worst Hotels Near Disneyland – Depending upon where you stay, your hotel room could be the costliest aspect of your trip. This post ranks ~50 hotels near Disneyland at which we have stayed, along with room photos, pros & cons, and other useful information.

In our Where to Stay at Disneyland: Off-Site v. On-Site post, we also cover why “on-site” hotels are not as important at Disneyland as they are at Walt Disney World, and how to score a good deal on a hotel that’s close to Disneyland!

4. Disneyland Restaurant Reviews – The stereotype that all Disney food is unhealthy food like burgers and hot dogs is entirely false. Disneyland has inexpensive unique dining options as well as expensive fine dining. Good dining can help define a trip! Read about which restaurants are best in our dining reviews.

5. Disneyland 1-Day Itinerary – Only have one day to visit Disneyland? This is a step-by-step plan of attack for which attractions you should do, where you should eat, what to see, and more.

Likewise, we also have a Disney California Adventure 1-Day Itinerary if you’re trying to do that park in a single day. Our DCA 1-Day Touring Plan includes strategy for beating the crowds at Radiator Springs Racers, World of Color, and more!

6. Ultimate Guide to Disneyland at Christmas – As mentioned above, there are a lot of great times of year to visit Disneyland, but our favorite time of year is Christmas-time at Disneyland. The decorations are beautiful, the spirit is festive, and there are some fun attraction overlays and seasonal foods to enjoy. It’s also one of the busiest times of year and there’s a lot to see and do, so read this to prepare.

If Christmas isn’t your thing, consider Halloween Time at Disneyland, and check out our Ultimate Guide to Disneyland at Halloween for assistance planning a trip during that specific time of year. We’re already looking forward to the return of Oogie Boogie Bash – A Disney Halloween Party in 2020!

7. Disneyland Ride Reviews & Guide – Disneyland has a ton of attractions, and a lot of visitors only have a day or two to spend at Disneyland. The article reviews every attraction at Disneyland, giving each a numerical score out of 10, plus highlights key attractions that we consider the best ones, which should be prioritized if you have limited time at Disneyland.

We also have a Disney California Adventure Ride Reviews & Guide, which does the same thing for that park. That guide now includes the new Guardians of the Galaxy – Mission: BREAKOUT!

8. Guide to FastPass & MaxPass at Disneyland – Disney California Adventure and Disneyland debuted the new paid MaxPass service. We absolutely love MaxPass and highly recommend it.

That post also contains a list of FastPass priorities (so you choose the FastPasses that run out first and have a solid strategy) and other ins and outs for using both the free and paid services. (You can purchase tickets that include MaxPass.)

9. Disneyland Discount Guide – There are a variety of ways you can save money on a trip to Disneyland. From vacation packages to Costco discounts to off-season percentage off discounts to even discounts for military personnel, this page covers every way you might be able to save money on a trip to Disneyland!

If you’re looking for a quick way to save on an entire vacation package, many of our favorite hotels near Disneyland can be booked via Get Away Today at a discount. If you bundle tickets into your hotel stay, you’ll get an even better deal. You can check package prices here.

10. Our 101 Best Disneyland Tips – This is not nearly as structured as our other advice, but these tips offer great advice and sometimes obscure little things that will help you visit the parks like a local. This is more granular advice than what you’ll find in our other planning articles, but we’ve had a lot of positive feedback from readers who really got a lot more out of their trips because of those tips.

11. What to Pack – Packing for Disneyland is comparable to packing for any vacation, but with a few twists. Here’s our list of “unordinary” items to pack that will help enhance your Disneyland trip!

12. Disneyland Refurbishment Calendar– Read which rides and other attractions are currently closed for maintenance and improvements, and will be throughout 2020.

Southern California BEYOND Disneyland

Unlike Walt Disney World, Disneyland Resort is not a week-long vacation destination unto itself. It’s great for long weekend trips and extended vacations that incorporate a multitude of sights. Let’s start with guides to the other theme parks we recommend near Disneyland Resort:

Universal Studios Hollywood Trip Planning Guide – In just a few years, USH has transformed and improved dramatically. The opening of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter was the ‘big’ thing, but many other additions have made this a great park.

The Studio Tour is our favorite attraction, which is a 45-minute plus tram tour through the working backlot of Universal’s studio. If you are only interested in this Studio Tour, you might broaden your potential options beyond just USH, and also consider the Warner Brothers Studio Tour and Sony Pictures Studio Tour as alternatives.

Guide to Knott’s Berry Farm – An Orange County institution that proudly proclaims itself as “America’s 1st Theme Park.” Really, Knott’s is a tale of two theme parks. It has modern roller coasters and other fare for thrill-seekers. Thematically, this leaves a lot to be desired.

Then there are the quainter areas, reminiscent of Frontierland at Disneyland. We love these areas–and the park’s annual Boysenberry Festival. All things considered, we love both Knott’s Berry Farm and Universal Studios Hollywood, and together with Disneyland Resort, these four gates make for a great theme park vacation in Southern California!

If you want to venture beyond theme parks, you’re in luck. Southern California is one of the best places in the world to visit! Thanks to Los Angeles, San Diego, and the beach cities in between, there’s a ton to do in the area.

If you’re planning a Southern California vacation beyond Disneyland, you’re in luck, as we give away a free eBook, 101 Things to Do in Southern California over on our non-Disney blog, TravelCaffeine. There, we also have a wealth of resources dedicated to visiting the state, including a series of blog posts on California points of interest and our Ultimate Guide to Los Angeles.

Between this blog and that one, you should be totally covered with what you need to know if you’re thinking about visiting Disneyland Resort and Southern California in 2020. We can’t encourage people enough to give Disneyland a try, especially Disney fans who are biased towards Walt Disney World as their “home” park. Disneyland is a totally different, much more relaxed experience. It’s intimate in both size and feel, and is oozing with history and incredible attractions.

In all honesty, comparing Disneyland and Walt Disney World isn’t that easy. It’s like comparing two of your children. Yeah, in the back of your mind, you secretly prefer one over the other (kidding, parents), but it’s a tough comparison because both have endearing qualities.

Saying Walt Disney World is better than Disneyland due to the number of parks each has is about as arbitrary as saying your taller child is better than the shorter one. It reduces the comparison to simple terms that overlooks so much. It’s probably a comparison you shouldn’t even make since both resorts are so different. You simply need to experience both.

I could go on for pages and pages about why I love Disneyland, and why everyone owes it to themselves to visit Disneyland, but hopefully this is a good-enough jumping off point. If you’ve never been to either Walt Disney World or Disneyland Resort, it’s a good place to start as we attempt to weigh the strengths and weaknesses of each in an unbiased manner. If all of this is still overwhelming or you want personalized recommendations for Disneyland Resort, click here to get a vacation quote from a no fee Authorized Disney Vacation Planner

Your Thoughts

Are you planning a Disneyland visit sometime in 2020? Have you already visited Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge or are you waiting until Rise of the Resistance opens? Are you excited for the other relatively new additions, such as Incredicoaster, Guardians of the Galaxy – MISSION: Breakout? Have you previously visited Disneyland? Have any tips of your own to add? Any questions you still have that this guide did not answer? We really appreciate reader feedback and your thoughts, so please share in the comments below! 🙂


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