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Dates to Avoid When Planning a Disneyland Vacation

It’s a new year and there is a wide open calendar before us, just waiting to be filled with adventures! Perhaps planning a Disneyland vacation is part of your travel plans? Choosing a vacation date when the stars align and weather, crowds and park hours are optimal is ideal. But that might seem a bit like finding a needle in a haystack! However, there are some tips for choosing the best dates when planning a Disneyland vacation. Here are a few dates I’d recommend avoiding when scheduling your trip.

Planning a Disneyland Vacation? These are the Dates to Avoid!

Planning a Disneyland Vacation? These are the Dates to Avoid!

January

Avoid January 12-16th

runDisney Star Wars Half-Marathon will bring in runners and their families, making the parks busier than usual in January. Martin Luther King Jr. holiday is also that Monday and kids will be out of school. Any time there’s a school holiday, you can be sure that the parks will be more crowded. Other than these few days, January should be fairly quiet in the parks. The chillier weather and frequent rain will keep crowds low.

February

Avoid February 5th

Contrary to popular belief, Super Bowl Sunday is not a good day to go to Disneyland! In fact, the park crowds are usually very heavy with people who thought the same thing and skipped watching the game.

Avoid February 11-13th and February 18-20th.

Lincoln & Washington’s birthdays mean 3-day weekends and more crowds.

Planning a Disneyland Vacation? These are the Dates to Avoid!

March

Other than possible rain showers, March is a pretty good month to visit. However, keep in mind that many schools celebrate their Spring Breaks starting in March so especially late in the month, the park crowds may increase. Even with the rain, you can still have a great Disneyland vacation. Check out my 10 Tips for Surviving a Disneyland Rainy Day.

surviving-a

April

Avoid Spring Break

Spring Break dates vary depending upon where you live. My Southern California kids have their break from April 10th – 23rd. Spring Break is traditionally a very busy time in the parks becasue the weather is generally agreeable.


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May

Avoid May 11-14

Not only is May 14th Mother’s Day (and lots of moms like to spend their day at Disneyland!) but it’s also the runDisney Tinker Bell Half Marathon weekend.

Avoid May 29th

Two weeks later is Memorial Day. Don’t forget the rule about avoiding the 3 day weekends!

Planning a Disneyland Vacation? These are the Dates to Avoid!

June

Avoid June 17-30th

School’s out! Which means Disneyland is going to be more crowded than ever. Early June is usually a great time to visit if you can make it.

Planning a Disneyland Vacation? These are the Dates to Avoid!

Photo Credit: Jeff Holz

July

Avoid the entire month! Or at the least, July 4th.

Okay, I know it’s not fair to say not to plan a Disneyland vacation in July but if you can avoid it, I’d recommend it! In fact, July is the only month I’ve never been to Disneyland because crowds are traditionally heavy in the summer months.

Plan every detail of your Disneyland vacation and stay organized with a PassPorter Disneyland Resort and Southern California Attractions: The Unique Travel Guide, Planner, Organizer, Journal, and Keepsake

August

Avoid August 1st-20th

Once local kids return back to school in late August, the park crowds will lessen considerably. Keep in mind that August is one of the hottest months!

Avoid August 31st

August 31st is the first day of the runDisney Disneyland Half Marathon weekend.

Planning a Disneyland Vacation? These are the Dates to Avoid!

Photo Credit: Jeff Holz

September

Avoid September 1st-4th

Labor Day on September 4th is traditionally packed with local annual pass holders however the crowds will be even heavier than usual because of the runDisney Disneyland Half Marathon that weekend. The rest of the month is usually one of the best times to visit in terms of crowds and warm weather (though it can still be extremely hot with temperatures over 100 degrees in September).

Avoid any day that hosts a Mickey’s Halloween Party

Guests who don’t have tickets to the Halloween Party will have to leave the park earlier than usual. Don’t buy a regular park ticket that day, especially if you plan on attending the Party and have a hard ticket to that event.

Pull out your calendar and figure out which dates work best for your vacation! Thomas Kinkade: The Disney Dreams Collection 2017 Wall Calendar

October

Avoid October 6-9th

Gay Days is an “unofficial” Disneyland event that brings in large crowds. It also falls over the Columbus Day 3-day weekend. However Disneyland does offer special things during the event, like multi-layer rainbow cake!

Avoid any day that hosts a Mickey’s Halloween Party

The operating hours will be shorter than on days without a party. Also guests with the hard ticket for the Party will be allowed into the Parks 3 hours before the event, making the Parks busier than usual.

Planning a Disneyland Vacation? These are the Dates to Avoid!

November

Avoid November 9-12th

Early November is usually a fantastic time for planning a Disneyland vacation. However try to avoid these particular dates as the runDisney Super Heroes Half Marathon will bring in extra crowds.

Avoid November 18-26th

Many people get their Thanksgiving turkey dinner at Disneyland!  The weekend leading into Thanksgiving, the entire week of Thanksgiving and the weekend after the holiday will be packed. I’ve been to Disneyland on Thanksgiving Day itself and for sure the mornings and afternoons had very heavy crowds. However the crowds seemed to lessen (a bit) into the evening as locals left.

Planning a Disneyland Vacation? These are the Dates to Avoid!

December

Avoid December 16-31st

While the first few weeks of December have reasonable crowds, the second two weeks are the busiest of the year! Avoid those dates or at least go into them with a steady game plan and know that you may only experience a small handful of things on your visit because of heavy crowds.

Check out these additional posts on planning a Disneyland vacation, choosing a date for the trip and dealing with heavy crowds.

Best Times of the Year to Visit Disneyland (and Why) and Crowded Disneyland Day? Top Tips on What to Do!

Best times   crowded-day-at

What month do YOU are you planning a Disneyland vacation? Share in the comments!

Planning a Disneyland Vacation? These are the Dates to Avoid!

5 Things You Need to Do Before Your First Disney Vacation

You’ve never been to Disneyland before? Rather than just showing up and hoping that your vacation days fall into place, there are definitely a few things to consider pre-visit. Check out my top 5 tips on planning your first Disney vacation!

5 Things You Need to Do Before Your First Disney Vacation

Photo Credit: Jeff Holz

Planning Your First Disneyland Vacation

An old friend of mine went to Disneyland a few years back with her granddaughter, son and daughter-in-law. The overnight trip was planned on a whim and they had one day to spend inside the Park. They’d done no research ahead of time and sadly, it turned out to be an unfortunate visit.

The Park was busy and crowded and they didn’t arrive until afternoon. The trip was a surprise for the 4-yr old, who ended up terrified of every character and ride because she wasn’t familiar with anything. The family (who were on a special diet) didn’t know what to eat. They ended up staying only a few hours in the Park and returned home, sad that things hadn’t worked out as they’d envisioned.

Certainly this story broke my heart because it didn’t have to end that way at all! With a bit of preparation and planning they could have made the most of their visit. Here are my tips on what you need to do before your first Disney vacation.

5 Things You Need to Do Before Your First Disney Vacation

Please note that I use affiliate links in this post. Clicking through and purchasing via these links helps me in a small financial way, thank you!

Do Your Research

Disneyland, having a smaller footprint than Walt Disney World, requires less upfront planning. But that doesn’t mean you don’t have to think ahead of your trip. Advanced Dining Reservations are generally unnecessary and you’ll schedule FastPass tickets throughout the day (instead of upfront like at Walt Disney World). Your Disneyland day can therefore be more spur-of-the-moment. But that doesn’t mean you should just show up at the gates without a plan.

These are just a few questions you should ask yourself:

Before your visit, you should have a general idea of the rides, attractions and shows you want to see. Ask each family member what they want to accomplish and write it down. Take a look at the Park maps online to get an idea of location so you’re familiar with the “lay of the Lands”.

maps

What time of year is optimal for your visit? Know that certain times of year (when kids are on school break, holidays and even weekends) are going to be much more crowded than a visit in the “off season”. Check out my post about the best times of year for Disneyland.

Best times

The Disneyland Resort offers two theme Parks – Disneyland and Disney California Adventure park. Are you going to stay in one Park for the entire day or purchase a ParkHopper that allows you access to both Parks on the same day? I recommend Park Savers for discounted tickets that can be purchased upfront.

Park Savers affiliate link

Want to maximize your time in the Parks? Plan on arriving at “rope drop” bright and early when the gates open and stay until the Park closes. Early morning and late night hours tend to be the least busy and allow you quicker line access to your favorite rides.

Do you have someone in your group with special needs? Disneyland offers a Disability Assistance Service (DAS) so make City Hall your first stop of the day.

DAS- pin

What will you eat? Do you want to pack in snacks, enjoy sit-down full-service dining for every meal or eat counter-service all day? Certain dining locations will require reservation and others you’ll be able to walk right up to and get a seat.

How to Eat at Disneyland Without Advance Dining Reservations

Tasty sandwiches, salads and pastries at Jolly Holiday Bakery Cafe at the end of Main Street U.S.A.

Best Ways to Research

Your first research stop should be the official Disneyland website. You’ll be able to access an entertainment schedule, see which rides and attractions will be closed for refurbishment during your visit as well as view complete dining menus and prices for all restaurants.

Second, pick up a book that will help you and your family with your research. I recommend The Unofficial Guide to Disneyland 2017 as a book that I use when planning my own trips. Keep reading for more ways to research and plan your first Disney trip.

Planning a Disneyland Vacation? These are the Dates to Avoid!

Photo Credit: Jeff Holz

Make Decisions Before You Get There

If you are making the trip alone, then it’s no sweat to make decisions on the fly. But if you’re traveling with your family, it’s best to have a game plan in place and get decisions made before the trip. Know that everyone will have expectations about what they want to see and do on their first Disneyland visit and you want to make sure that those dreams are fulfilled!

Ask each person in your family what their top three things are and make sure those happen. Consider purchasing a PassPorter Disneyland Resort Organizer to keep track of all your travel plans as you make them.

As the resident “Disney fan”, I am guilty of having a plan in my head about how our Disney day is going to play out…without letting my husband know! Oops. This can lead to major disappointment if the adults aren’t on the same page. I like dining in the Parks and my husband prefers to pack food in. I like to stay in the Parks way after dark and he’s ready to leave after sunset. If you don’t discuss these things upfront before your trip you might run into some big frustrations.

5 Things You Need to Do Before Your First Disney Vacation

Decide where and what you’re going to eat to save time. We like to plan what restaurants and meals we eat upfront so the decision is already made when hunger strikes. Make sure to plan those Advance Dining Reservations if certain dining locations are a “must-do”.

5 Things You Need to Do Before Your First Disney Vacation

Get Everyone Familiar

I’m not big on surprising kids with a Disney vacation because I think half of the fun is in the anticipation. Letting kids know about your vacation and having them help you in the planning stages is especially important if your children are nervous or have special needs. There are lots of ideas on Pinterest for “countdown calendars”.

No need to watch every Disney movie ever made, but a general familiarity with some of the Characters can be helpful, especially for young children. Many of the Fantasyland rides are based on Disney movies so watching a few before your trip will give them a bit of a background. Here is a post about what movies I recommend before your trip.

First Trip to Disneyland? Delightful Movies You Must See First

Order the free Disney vacation planning DVD and watch it several times beforehand. If my child is on the fence about a particular ride, I’ll even pull up a video of it on YouTube for them to watch and that gets them excited about riding it on their visit.

5 Things You Need to Do Before Your First Disney Vacation

Ask Someone Who Knows

Naturally, as someone who has been visiting Disneyland regularly since she was just a baby, I consider myself quite knowledgeable on the subject. That’s why I was disheartened that my coworker hadn’t asked for my advice up before the trip. Knowing her family dynamic, I’d have been happy to offer her customized tips that would have maximize their Disney day.

Chances are you know someone who has been to Disney and who can verse you a bit with their “story” and sage advice for your visit.

5 Things You Need to Do Before Your First Disney Vacation

Find Help Online

If you aren’t able to chat Disney with anyone on your personal circle, you can search online for just about anything you need to plan the best vacation.

I must highly recommend TravelingMom first, as we have dozens of writers who are familiar with the ins and outs of Disney Parks around the world. There are thousands of blogs and websites dedicated to Disney travel so a quick Google search should help you find what you need.

And finally, if you can’t find an answer to your Disney question, ask on the Disney Parks Moms Panel and they’ll be able to offer you a personalized response.

Planning your first Disney vacation? Please check out my other Disney planning posts under the menu, “Tips and Tricks”.

These are the 5 Things You Need to Do Before Your First Disney Vacation! Don't be caught unprepared before your first Disneyland or Walt Disney World trip!