Our 2018 Tokyo Disney Resort vacation 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. (Last updated June 10, 2018.)
This Tokyo trip planning guide also covers a visit to Japan more broadly, including tips on airports, transportation, and phone/internet. It is incredibly comprehensive–perhaps to a fault–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. We just finished up a two-month stay in Japan, purchased Tokyo Disney Resort Annual Passes during that time, and just returned from our April 2018 visit. So, yeah, you could say we’re fans of Tokyo Disneyland and DisneySea. Just a little! 😉
For starters, if you are wondering when to visit Tokyo Disneyland and Tokyo DisneySea, between now and March 25, 2019 is a great time to go as Tokyo Disneyland’s 35th Anniversary celebration, the Happiest Celebration!, is now underway. The Japan parks celebrate anniversaries right, and Tokyo Disneyland has a lavish new daytime parade, a ton of decorations, and special menus for the anniversary.
While much of this began on the actual date of the park’s anniversary, April 15, 2018, it should be noted that not everything started then. The new nighttime spectacular “Celebrate! Tokyo Disneyland,” a mixed media projection show on Cinderella Castle that will also feature fountains, lasers, and fireworks, does not debut until July 10, 2018. On that same date, new shows also debut in New Orleans Square (“Let’s Party Gras!”) and American Waterfront (“Hello, New York”). Given that, you might want to hold off on visiting until the fall.
If you’re a big fan of Halloween or Christmas, we’d recommend waiting until one of those seasons to ‘double dip’ on the Happiest Celebration and other seasonal festivities. We’ve traveled to Japan during every season, and we cover the events we like and dislike in our When to Visit Tokyo Disneyland post. (We’ll likely be heading back in July for the debut of the new entertainment–in that post we also cover why we do not recommend summer, in case you’re thinking of doing the same.)
Some of you may be thinking even further down the road, and planning a visit for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. That’s a bit of a double-edged sword. On the plus side, Tokyo Disneyland is adding a mega-budget Beauty and the Beast mini-land (read our Beauty and the Beast Land Construction Update for more on that) that includes what promises to be one of the best attractions Imagineering has ever created.
The other benefit of waiting is that there are a lot of beautification and enhancement projects going on throughout Japan right now. During our current trip, we’ve visited more temples than we can count that are in the midst of multi-year refurbishment projects. Almost all of these are slated to be completed in Spring 2020, which is no coincidence. There’s also a concerted effort to make train stations and other public spaces more accommodating to English-speaking visitors. (We’ve heard more English this trip than ever before.)
The downsides to waiting are costs and crowds. Even if you don’t visit Japan for the Tokyo Olympics 2020 and instead wait until they’re over, you’re likely to see increased prices as Japan rides the wave of increased tourism due to its promotional blitz. That advertising will also result in higher crowds. We just experienced Japan’s busy fall foliage season and, frankly, we cannot fathom how bad it’ll be during or post-Olympics.
At Tokyo Disneyland, specifically, you can count on higher attendance and multi-hour waits for the Beauty and the Beast ride for at least its first two years. Beauty and the Beast is incredibly popular in Japan, so the waits for that blockbuster attraction should dwarf the ~180 minute wait times Toy Story Mania saw the first few years it was open here.
We’d fully expect 240 to 300 minute waits to be the norm for that attraction, and FastPass to ‘sell out’ almost instantly for the day at rope drop. (Sorry–just a bit of a reality check in case you’re thinking that visiting for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics will be “perfect.”)
With that said, there are upsides to visiting Japan in 2018. Airfare has fallen to the $500-700 roundtrip range out of many US cities and the value of the dollar versus the yen is strong right now. Plus, traveling to the two best Disney theme parks in the world (sorry, Walt Disney Studios Park!) is an incredible experience.
Personally, if I was planning a once-in-a-lifetime trip to Japan and had to choose between visiting in 2018 or 2020, I’d absolutely choose 2018 (or 2019 for that matter). I fear that the crowds will put a damper on the first-timer experience in 2020, and even though we’ll probably go then…we’re crazy.
If you have the means to go to Japan or can save for it as a once-in-a-lifetime trip, we 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. From maintenance to food quality to Cast Member friendliness, Tokyo Disney Resort is in a league of its own. Moreover, we have yet to encounter anyone who has told us they regretted visiting Japan. (If you want to be the first, feel free to say so in the comments.)
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 English (see above), park maps are available in English, and many attractions have dialogue in English. Even the attractions that have dialogue exclusively in Japanese 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. 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.
If you want to feel more comfortable before you visit, read our 101 Great Tips for Tokyo Disneyland & DisneySea post, which offers a wealth of random advice that will familiarize you with a ton of ‘little things’ (and plenty of big ones) that you should know about Tokyo Disney Resort. Our goal with that post is to help first-timers feel like they are touring the parks like locals.
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 times we have struggled a bit, we put on our ‘confused American’ faces. Invariably, strangers stopped to help us without solicitation.
Despite Tokyo being a world city, westerners aren’t all that common in Tokyo Disney Resort. 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 Shanghai. This is actually even more true in the parks, where the only westerners you may see all day are those in the shows. (On more recent visits, we’ve noticed some spikes in the number of westerners in the parks–but still not many.)
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?
Part of answering this question requires determining how much time you can spend in Japan. If you’re traveling halfway around the world, hopefully you’re planning on seeing more than just the two Disney theme parks in Japan. In addition to these, we’d also strongly recommend spending a good amount of time in Tokyo itself (consult our Top 10 Things to Do in Tokyo for recommendations there). We’d also strongly recommend taking the Shinkansen from Tokyo to Kyoto.
Kyoto is our favorite city in the world, and a place that we view as essential to a trip to Japan. In our Ultimate Guide to Kyoto, Japan, we offer our “sales pitch” as to why we love it so much, and cover everything you need to know for planning a visit to that wonderful city. Total, we’d recommend Disney fans allocate around two-thirds of their trip to the cities of Kyoto and Tokyo.
The other part of answering this question is contingent upon whether you’re a Disney fan planning a pilgrimage to the two best Disney parks in the world, or a regular person visiting Japan who stumbled upon this post via Google. If the latter, two days is sufficient. We have itineraries below for seeing all of the highlights in a single day, and this guide is probably more than you want or need to know about Tokyo Disney Resort.
Those itineraries cover everything from the order you should do rides to experience them efficiently, to where you should eat, and more. Following those touring plans will help you make the most of your time in the parks and see as much as possible in only 2 days.
If you’re a diehard Disney fan wondering how many days you should spend at Tokyo Disney Resort…that’s a trick question. No number of days is enough…and that’s only a half-joke. 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 these parks 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.
Hardcore Disney fans still should not overdo it, and should aim to spend no more than one-third of your trip at Tokyo Disney Resort–or a maximum of 4 or 5 days, whichever is fewer days. 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. 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.
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 (now “Pirates Summer”). We’ve now visited during every season, including during “Anna & Elsa’s Frozen Fantasy.”
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. Once we choose the time of year we want to visit (see our ‘When to Visit’ post above for recommendations), we generally consult this Japanese crowd calendar (make sure to view it in Chrome for translation) and pick specific within the season that is predicted to be lightly crowded.
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 Money-Saving Tips for Tokyo Disneyland Park Tickets post. If you are going on weekdays during non-holiday season, the easiest option is 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 want to save a bit of money and buy tickets before leaving home, we recommend Klook. Not only are their tickets discounted, but it’s easier to navigate than the official (and more expensive) Tokyo Disney Resort website. Unfortunately, that site does not sell every type of park ticket, which could be a problem if you’re doing a longer stay.
If you are doing a longer stay that includes a holiday season or 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.
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 my sign-up link for a free 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 recommend downloading the TDR Dash Wait Times App. (Unfortunately, the wait times app we previously recommended is now offline and that one is in Japanese, so your mileage may vary.)
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. If you are a vegetarian, the buffets are your best option, but vegetarian options at counter service restaurants are starting to become more common.
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.
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. Walking is also an option, although it can be convoluted to get to Tokyo DisneySea.
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 three good options for this: renting a SIM card, renting a pocket WiFi/MiFi, or using your carrier as normal. We recently switched to T-Mobile and now simply use that as there’s no additional charge to use our data in Japan. It runs a bit slower, but we’ve found it perfectly usable for regular internet browsing.
Renting a SIM card is a great option for some people, but we really liked the MiFi rental for our trips prior to switching to T-Mobile. For those unfamiliar with the device, it’s basically a pocket WiFi hotspot, providing you with unlimited LTE internet. MiFi/Pocket WiFi rental is pretty easy. You simply choose how many days you want to rent, how many devices, and specify at which airport you’ll want to pick it up. Here’s a relatively inexpensive and reliable option for MiFi rental.
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 highly recommend renting in advance of your trip. If you wait until you arrive and simply pick one up from the shops at the airport or at a convenience store, prices are higher and data is typically limited.
While the internet can sometimes be spotty in Tokyo DisneySea, the MiFi overall is really reliable. We’ve used it regularly for iMessage and Facebook Messenger App for communicating with one another, email, Dropbox, and even uploading to YouTube. 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. With the parks, Tokyo Disney Resort accepts Visa, Mastercard, and American Express. (If you’re trying to pre-book something online, you’ll need a credit card issued in Japan or a Mastercard. Even then, it can be a painful process.)
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 another blog: TravelCaffeine.com, where we share our non-Disney experiences. Last year we did a two-month stay in Japan, which you can read about in our Brickers’ Fall & Winter Japan Trip Report.
While you’re in Japan, we highly recommend that you travel beyond Tokyo and Tokyo Disney Resort. We have written extensively about our favorite city in the world: Kyoto, Japan on TravelCaffeine. Kyoto has something for everyone, and offers a lot in terms of Japanese culture and history. As mentioned above, our Ultimate Guide to Kyoto, Japan also provides a wealth of planning information.
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!
There are a lot of links to other resources in this post; you can also browse our Tokyo Disneyland posts and Tokyo DisneySea posts to read more. Consider this Tokyo Disneyland Vacation Planning Guide 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 Guy’s TDR Planning Guide, Honorable Rat, TDR Explorer, and Chris’s TDR Site prior to your trip.
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!