2023 Tokyo Disneyland Planning Guide
Our 2023 Tokyo Disneyland & DisneySea vacation planning guide offers info for visiting. We have tips & tricks, where to stay, how long to visit, must-eat food & snacks, best attractions, avoiding crowds, and other things to do while you’re in Japan. (Updated March 10, 2023.)
Whether you’re eager to take your first visit to Japan or make a return visit for Tokyo Disneyland’s 40th Anniversary “Dream-Go-Round” Celebration, we are here to help you start planning! That’s the next big event on the horizon at Tokyo Disney Resort, but far from the only thing. See What’s New & Next at Tokyo Disney Resort in 2023 & 2024 for a more detailed look at what else is new and coming soon.
The good news is that Japan has now reopened to individual travelers, and we’ve already returned to Tokyo Disney Resort to experience everything that’s new and see how the parks have changed as compared to pre-closure. Before we get to the bad news, let’s continue with positive changes as more normalcy is restored…
Last month, restaurants and shops around Tokyo Disney Resort removed plexiglass dividers from tables and counters. These were a common fixture of around the world in 2020 and 2021, so you’ve undoubtedly encountered them and don’t need a full description.
However, it is worth noting that Japan took this a step further than most places we’ve visited–even during the peak of the pandemic. Throughout Japan, we routinely encountered these in the middle of tables meant for a single party, meaning that there would be plexiglass between you and your partner (if traveling as a couple) or between two people on one side of the table and the two on the other. It was…a lot.
The next step forward is that Japan will essentially end mask-wearing guidelines on March 13, 2023. Along with this, Tokyo Disney Resort has announced that Tokyo Disneyland or Tokyo DisneySea will drop face mask rules, both indoors and outside. However, Tokyo Disney Resort has added the caveat that there may be some situations when guests are asked to wear masks by Cast Members, and are expected to comply with those requests.
This comes has Japan has decided to downgrade the legal status of the novel coronavirus to the same category as seasonal influenza, and ease COVID-19 prevention rules ahead of that official status change on May 8, 2023. In Japan even as of Spring 2023, COVID-19 is currently designated in a heightened category of its own special strictness, which puts it above infectious diseases such as tuberculosis and SARS. That explains much of Japan’s approach to safety measures, as well as the lengthy border closure.
A couple of things are worth noting to put these policy changes into perspective. First, Tokyo Disney Resort currently allows guests to not wear masks while outdoors except while viewing entertainment or in areas of congestion, during which masks are requested. This has been the official policy since last fall.
Second, Japan never had legally-enforceable face mask rules–they’ve always been guidelines or guidance. Certain businesses, like Tokyo Disney Resort, have had enforced rules. The government guidelines were relaxed last summer, when masks were no longer recommended outdoors. Despite this distinction, masking remained ubiquitous outdoors and inside. This was also true at Tokyo Disney Resort even after the last rule change. If you didn’t read the official website, you never would’ve known that face masks were not required outdoors.
Suffice to say, masking is still nearly universal in Japan and that likely will continue to be the case at Tokyo Disney Resort at least through this spring. Our guess is that the Japanese start dropping masks after Golden Week, with more giving them up once the summer heat hits. However, public polling indicates that a majority will not unmask until a large percentage of others do so. So while it’s ostensibly a matter of personal choice, it may not feel that way in practice when you’re visiting the country. If you’re interested in more about our experiences with masking during a month in Japan, see Face Masks in Japan: Rules v. Reality (2023) on TravelCaffeine.
Now let’s turn to the bad news, which is that Tokyo Disney Resort is still pretty far from firing on all cylinders. This is something we address at length in Should You Wait to Visit Tokyo Disneyland & DisneySea? That explains the lethargic pace of TDR’s phased reopening, what’s still missing and modified, and also the pros & cons of going now versus waiting until Spring 2024 (or later).
In a nutshell, the easiest way to think about current operations at Tokyo Disney Resort is that they’re about 18 months behind the U.S. parks. In general, it seems like this is the dynamic all around Japan, not just at Tokyo Disney Resort. Staffing shortages are plaguing the parks (and businesses beyond them), capacity is reduced, restaurants and retailed remain closed, entertainment is reduced or heavily modified, and more. That article explains everything, but the bottom line is that the Tokyo Disney Resort of Spring 2023 is very different from the Tokyo Disney Resort of Late 2019.
If it’s your first visit, you probably won’t even notice this–Tokyo Disney Resort still has more (and better) entertainment than the U.S. parks. However, if you’re a repeat visitor, there are ways that the parks currently feel like shadows of their former selves.
It also hasn’t helped that, Tokyo Disney Resort has felt busier during our recent visits than during comparable dates in 2019 and earlier due to a mixture of pent-up demand, domestic travel subsidies, and the aforementioned reduction of capacity. Here’s hoping that Tokyo Disney Resort can restore normalcy and scale up operations quickly, as there’s likely to be even more demand once Tokyo Disneyland’s 40th Anniversary kicks off!
Speaking of which, we spend a ton of time in 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 refreshed dozens of times since we first wrote it, and more will be added over time as certain parts are clarified or expanded. We are slightly obsessed fans of Tokyo Disneyland and DisneySea.
Prior to the closure, we visited Japan multiple times per year for 7 consecutive years, including several multi-month stays. We were Tokyo Disneyland & DisneySea Annual Passholders (until TDR cancelled those) who have dined in almost every restaurant and stayed in most hotels at Tokyo Disney Resort.
If you’re just starting to plan a trip to Japan, there’s a lot to consider. We recommend planning your time at Tokyo Disney Resort in tandem with where else you want to visit in Japan. Consult our Ultimate Tokyo, Japan City Guide for recommendations in the city. While we like Tokyo, we far prefer 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–with more time in Kyoto.
Of course, all of this assumes that you should visit Japan in the first place. Let’s backtrack and address that threshold question…
Should You Visit Japan & Tokyo Disney Resort?
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. Without question, it’s worth the money for Walt Disney World regulars to visit the Japan parks.
Since we visit Tokyo Disneyland and DisneySea regularly, 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.)
Without a doubt, traveling to Japan is outside comfort zones and one of the biggest things holding people back from visiting. 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.
Tokyo is a long flight to a place where English is a second language (at best). However, the Japanese are some of the universally nicest and most helpful people in the world. Once you understand the ‘system’ at one Disney theme park, you understand it at all of them, regardless of their dominant language.
In terms of the language barrier, there is not much of one at all. All signs are in English, 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.
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.
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 unflexible 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. 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. 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. Only in Japan is there no line jumping, and everyone 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 limited vegetarian options and they were unable to make substitutions because a substitution is going against established policy.
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 the quirks of Tokyo Disney Resort. Our goal with that post is to help first-timers feel like they are touring the parks like locals.
With that question settled, let’s dig into planning a trip to Tokyo Disneyland and Tokyo DisneySea…
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 and Kyoto at the very least.
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.
Hardcore Disney fans still should not overdo it, and should aim to spend no more than one-third of your trip to Japan at Tokyo Disney Resort–or a maximum of 4 days, whichever is less. Two days in each theme park might seem excessive, 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.
In our view, a balanced trip to Japan for a Disney fan includes 4 days at Tokyo Disney Resort, 3 days in Tokyo outside the parks, and 5 days in and around Kyoto. If anything, we’d be inclined to pull a day or two from the TDR and Tokyo portion of the trip to reallocate to Kyoto and other areas of the Kansai region (Osaka, Kobe, Nara, etc). Reasonable minds may vary on that, though.
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 can be long at both parks. These lines actually starting before the parks open, and guests running for popular attractions immediately. Tokyo Disney Resort’s main demographic is locals, and they don’t mind waiting hours in line for a single attraction because they can always come back later to see others.
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 in 2023 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 Pirates Summer. We’ve now visited during every season, and they’re all very well done.
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. You can “double dip” by planning a HalloXmas Trip to Tokyo Disney Resort that coincides with both Halloween and Christmas. That’s our absolute favorite time to visit!
We have separate posts on these holidays and other seasonal events at Tokyo Disney Resort, so for more info, check out the following posts:
- Tokyo Disneyland Halloween Guide
- Tokyo DisneySea Halloween Guide
- Tokyo Disneyland Christmas Guide
- Tokyo DisneySea Christmas Guide
- Tokyo Disneyland Easter Guide
- Tokyo Disneyland Tanabata Days Guide
- Tokyo DisneySea Tanabata Days Guide
- Tokyo Disneyland Natsu Matsuri Summer Festival Guide
- Tokyo DisneySea Pirates Summer Guide
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 2023 Crowd Calendars for Tokyo Disneyland and DisneySea to pick specific date ranges within the season that are 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.
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 (if they have inventory–which isn’t always the case). 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, and often they’re sold out entirely.
If Klook is sold out, we simply recommend waiting until you arrive to purchase your park tickets. Although it does happen on occasion, it is rare for Tokyo Disney Resort to sell out of park tickets in advance. Moreover, guests of monorail loop hotels (like the Sheraton and Hilton Tokyo Bay) may purchase tickets from their hotel’s concierge even when the parks are sold out to the general public.
Unfortunately, the Tokyo Disney Resort Online Reservation & Tickets website can be difficult to use, and can often have issues with credit cards issued by U.S. banks.
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, Hotel MiraCosta, and Toy Story Hotel. 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.)
Even if you go at a less-busy time of year, we recommend arriving at either park 30 minutes before it opens for your first couple of days. 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 ride 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:
Refurbishments are common at Tokyo Disney Resort, so make sure you consult the 2023 Tokyo Disney Resort Refurbishment Calendar before booking. It’s good for about 6 months out, so it may not be of much help. 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.
We have individual reviews from every Tokyo Disney Resort restaurant, plus restaurant rankings for both parks. We’ve eaten at every single restaurant in the parks, plus many in the hotels and Ikspiari, 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. Tokyo Disney Resort has some crazy popcorn flavors, and they’re definitely worth trying so you can form your own opinion.
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 that’s hit or miss. 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. 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.
Merchandise at Tokyo Disney Resort is very different from what you’ll find at Walt Disney World or Disneyland. Instead of items with the park logos or attraction names, most items at Tokyo Disney Resort are character-themed or kawaii. Depending upon who you ask, Tokyo either has the best or worst merchandise of any Disney destination in the world.
Our Guide to Tokyo Disneyland Merchandise gives you an idea of what to expect so that you can plan accordingly and adjust your expectations and budget. It’s worth noting that in the last few years, Tokyo has increased the amount of logo merchandise and either things appealing to broader tastes. We’ve found ourselves “embracing the kawaii” of Tokyo Disney Resort’s merchandise more and more, but it’s definitely an acquired taste that isn’t for everyone.
On your arrival or departure day, consider visiting Ikspiari, which is a dining, shopping, and entertainment complex located within walking distance of Tokyo Disneyland, the JR Maihama railway station, and with its own monorail station. It’s Japan’s take on the Downtown Disney concept.
Ikspiari has over 150 restaurants and retail shops, the highlights of which we cover in our Shopping Guide to Ikspiari at Tokyo Disney Resort. Note that while we referred to Ikspiari as Tokyo Disney Resort’s twist on Downtown Disney, it is decidedly not Disney. Oriental Land Company purposefully developed Ikspiari without Disney branding to avoid paying licensing fees.
For those who are big into shopping and want to do some of that in Japan, we’d encourage you to do so in Tokyo proper. Literally every major train or subway station in Tokyo has an above or underground labyrinth of retail and dining. Highlights can be found in the chic storefronts of Ginza and Roppongi Hills, and the otaku items of Asakusa and Harajuku.
However, none of these places will be as compelling for Disney fans as Nakano Broadway, which is full of second-hand stores that cater to collectors and geeks, including Disney fans! We visit Nakano Broadway frequently to buy great Tokyo Disney Resort collectibles. For more info & tips, see our Shopping Guide to Nakano Broadway on our non-Disney blog, TravelCaffeine.com.
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.
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 to visit multiple locations. 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.
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. However, improvements to Google Maps since we’ve started visiting have made this a breeze. (Google now has crowd predictions for trains at different times of day, and recommends certain ones to take!)
To get from either Tokyo airport to Tokyo Disney Resort, it’s relatively 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’s more expensive than public transit, but easier and direct. Note that while this bus runs regularly, its schedule generally stops around 5 p.m. Here’s the full schedule to TDR from Narita. If your flight arrives into Tokyo after 4 p.m., you should probably look at other options.
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 use 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.
There are three good options for this: renting a SIM card, renting a pocket WiFi/MiFi, or using your carrier as normal. We now use T-Mobile and 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. It’s becoming more common for cellular providers to offer international day passes that are comparably priced to MiFi, so check out that.
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 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, except at the entrance to each park. 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.)
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. Typically, you do not need to carry cash at Tokyo Disney Resort, but you might need it in the city of Tokyo.
For general travel advice to Japan, we have another blog: TravelCaffeine.com, where we share our non-Disney experiences. 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’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, when we too were newbies!
Planning a trip to Japan is a lot of work, but it’s ultimately well worth the effort! Hopefully this guide provides a good jumping off point. If you’ve visited Tokyo Disney Resort, do you agree or disagree with our advice? Any questions? Hearing your feedback–even when you disagree with us–is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!
I’ve heard you can use any card in the slot by the door to keep the a/c going.
I loved reading your blog on this! We visited Tokyo in Aug 2019 (Pirates Summer) and it was amazing! Our daughter is active duty Navy and was stationed in Sasebo at the time, so she flew up to meet us. We spent 3 days, 1 at TDL, 2 at TDS and still didn’t see it all. I would love to be able to go back. Because we had 2 full weeks in country, we were on a budget so we stayed “off site” for Disney, but the room was nice, and beds were soft. We were about a 20 min walk to the TDL gate. Our only drawback to the room was the energy saving function. You had to put your room key in a slot by the door, which then turned on the lights and a/c. So- when you left and took your card with you, it also turns off the lights and AC. In August, Tokyo is extremely hot and humid (and can put Florida to shame) Our 3 days it was 102-103 and we came back to a very hot room. Needless to say we all drew straws for the cold shower. Aside from that, our hotel beds in Tokyo turned out to be much more comfortable than in Sasebo where we spent most of our trip. If we’re ever able to visit again, I’d like to have time to visit Tokyo proper, but as far as Disney goes, TDS was definitely our favorite park.
Ok this sounds amazing. I’d love to go to Tokyo Disney! I’m a little shocked you’re saying it’s better than Disney World.
So glad I found your blog. Saved to favourites.
I hope you can advise me.
I want a family holiday to Japan. I would like to visit Disney and also Universal to take my son (and myself) to super Mario world.
I think also some sight seeing. I am unsure who or how to go and organise all this. What is the best way for April 2022
Same question, anyway to pay to skip the lines?
One tip about internet and phone is to get google fi, then itsthe same rate overseas as it is in u.s. its also pretty cheap (not the cheapest) and charge by usage.
“Same question, anyway to pay to skip the lines?”
Not currently, but that might be coming soon. The parks’ operator has indicated they’re “looking into” paid FastPass.
Do you have any views on whether it makes sense to buy a Vacation Package assuming they become available again in the near future. We are planning to go March 2022 (it is the only time that works for us) and we are very nervous about not getting the hotel rooms we want.
Any help would be greatly appreciated and I really love your emails/blog/website.
Hi! Are private vip tours offered at Disneyland Tokyo and Disneysea? And if they are, do you know the approximate price?
I want to sign up for emails when new posts are published.
Don’t forget that if you stay at an official Disney hotel or Disney-affiliated hotel, you can purchase guaranteed-access park tickets from these hotel ticket counters that guarantee you access to the parks even if its a very crowded day and they’ve closed access to the park that day. (Sometimes its so crowded they limit who can go in) You also can enter the parks 15 minutes early before the regular ticket crowd!
Your blog helped us tremendously with our 2015 trip to Japan and Tokyo Disney. For those of us in California who expect to be able to travel to Tokyo Disney before Disneyland opens, we need your help! We are anxiously hoping that Japan opens it borders in April 2021 and are wondering when your 2021 planning guide for Tokyo Disney will be available. We found your 2021 guide to Universal Japan on Travel Caffeine but nothing for Disney. We are really having trouble with the Tokyo Disney website and finding current information on the state of visiting Tokyo Disney. Do we need to make park reservations if we are staying on property? When will vacation packages be available? Are the parks limited in capacity? Help us, please Tom, and thank you for all the helpful information you continue to provide!
You have stuffed your blog with a great deal of knowledge. laudable!
You’ve convinced me to visit Tokyo Disneyland and DisneySea next time I’m there. My family and I are Disney aficionados (not hard core like you, but above average), and we have travelled to Disney World several times. Sadly, it looks like our scheduled trip in mid June will not happen. So, it cheers me up!to look forward to possible trips in the future. We have family in Tokyo and we have visited several times – next time we will make time for Disney. We also went to Kyoto once, and I agree, it is a special city. Is there a hotel or area you recommend in Kyoto? Thank you for your amazing and helpful blog!
Hi Tom! My son has autism and normally has a disney accessibility pass. I saw they require a certificate, can I bring the psychologist report stating he is developmentally disabled and has autism? What do you think they mean by certificate?
This looks like an excellent resource. I’m wondering how much time you typically spend on planning the Disney-oriented aspect of this trip? I’ve already planned a trip to Japan that was to my liking and gave me some insight on getting around. And about how long in advance do you usually start making plans for a trip? Thanks so much
Tokyo is a beautiful country. If I have a chance, I will visit this place with my family.
This is a good opportunity for me to communicate with foreign people.
The new FastPass system came as a surprise (I missed this update, so the first hint I got was when there was barely any queue for the Monsters kiosks!). I didn’t find the Japanese app too hard to get used to though and overall it’s a big upgrade. And of course like any Disney fan I already had a Japanese iTunes account thanks to the need to buy TDR CDs 🙂 Even if you don’t though, 15 minutes’ preparation beats running around the parks trying to score tickets.
Hi ! This is very informative & interesting article. Nice to read your blog post first time ever. I really appreciate this post. Last month i take a tour with Tokyo Escapes who is a custom tour operator to Tokyo, Japan.
This has given me a lot to think about very useful. Thank you!
thank you, your article is very good
So many comprehensive tips! You have almost convinced me to visit…except for one very important problem.
I have severe dietary restrictions, the kind that are life-threatening. The links you currently have that show which restaurants are helpful for those with dietary needs and substitutions is currently “not found.”
Since I have such problems with diet, should I just write Tokyo off as a possibility? 🙁
I would. My 7 year old has severe food allergies, and after some poking around on their sites (thanks Google Translate!), I don’t think it’s really doable. They offer meals without their big 7 (wheat, buckwheat, egg, milk, peanuts, prawn, crab), but they suggest bringing your own food into the parks.
Thanks so much for all the information. My big question is what’s the best way to make reservations for 7 nights on site? The website only lets you book vacation packages for 2 nights and hotels only for 5 nights.