This guide is a short list of things you should know when visiting the Disneyland Resort. It’s not micromanagement of how to do your trip. Just the basic things that set you in the right direction. These tips apply to both Disneyland and California Adventure parks.
The Disneyland App
The Disneyland App covers both parks and is extremely useful in a number of ways.
Maps & Wait Times
The wait times are very accurate. The measurement is the amount of time it takes to get you in the seat of the main ride vehicle.
Mobile Food Ordering
Want to pick up a Dole® Whip on your way over to the Haunted Mansion? Buy it over the app, then pick it up on the way.
All the showtimes for shows, evening events, and other scheduled events.
There’s more to the app, but that’s the main basics that will make your visit more efficient without micromanaging your trip. Make sure you have a Disney.com account and log into the app before you get to the parks. iOS App Store | Google Play Store
Play! Disney Parks App
The Play! app will add more fun to your visit and is completely free. Yes, it’s a separate app, but trust me on getting it on your phone. Like the Disneyland App, make sure to log in and try it out before arriving at the parks.
iOS App Store
Google Play Store
Throughout both parks, there are activations that only happen with this app. Some are in the queues for attractions, others are walk-up installations.
There’s achievements for when you go on attractions and do some of the activities. A nice record of what attractions you went on and what days.
There’s also trivia games to play in spots where you’re waiting in line. If you’re an Apple Music subscriber, there’s playlists for every area and for the road trip to the resort.
In particular, visit Esmeralda, the Fortune Teller at the Penny Arcade on Main Street. She’ll give you a free fortune per day when you use the app.
There’s also a similar machine in New Orleans Square, telling the Tall Tales of Fortune Red.
For Star Wars Galaxies, the land was made with this app in mind and has a lot more to offer. Open the Star Wars Datapad for a preview! The Peter Pan activation is also really good (and what I wish to see more of in the parks).
MaxPass: One Person Should Get It
MaxPass is an add-on to a ticket that costs $15 per day per person. You buy it through the Disneyland App or in advance when buying tickets. Either way, you’ll be using the Disneyland App to use these features:
Digital FastPass Reservations
Without MaxPass, you can make one active FastPass reservation at a time, but you have to physically go to a corresponding FastPass booth for the attraction you want and scan your ticket. With MaxPass, you can reserve this same allotment on your phone. Sadly it doesn’t give you an additional FastPass.
When you visit the park, your photo can be taken at certain attractions and by cast member photographers at various location in the resort. With PhotoPass, all of these offerings are included for unlimited use.
In the past, Disney charged per photo or a pricy package to get these photos. Thankfully, Disney’s caught up with the modern era of digital photography and offers digital download with the PhotoPass, which is rolled into the MaxPass program. It’s currently priced at $20 per day & person.
Throughout the day, you’ll get codes for photos from attractions and cast member photographers.
For attractions, I find taking a quick photo of the code, then entering it later insures you get the image.
For photographers, the easiest is to have the QR code (“Show PhotoPass Code” in the screenshot). Even easier if you take a screenshot of that QR code and load up the photos in your phone’s photo viewer.
One member of your party should get MaxPass.
Establish one person in your party to activate MaxPass to get the photos. Send them the codes throughout the day, have them send you a screenshot of the PhotoPass QR code. After your trip, that person can send the group all the photos.
For other members of the party, it depends on how busy the day is. The $20/day/person gets expensive. After the first person, it’s about FassPasses for the rest of the party. On busy days, this is a big advantage. On not so busy days, you may want to skip it for the rest of the party. Thankfully you can make this call on-site via the app on a day-to-day bases.
The Inexpensive Entry to Pin Trading [Optional]
Disney Pin Trading is a thing. It’s a great way to get very unique gifts to friends if you happen to find the right pin. But buying a single pin can be… expensive.
The pin trading stores will sell a Mystery Bag of pins. Usually 5 count for around $27. Get one of these bags and hope you don’t like any of them. These pins are now available for you to trade around the parks.
Some of the stores will have a large Mickey Ears pin board with some pins. Ask the cast member to look at them, and you can trade one-to-one with any pins on the board. These tend to me more exotic as they’re usually characters or designs others didn’t care for, but may be your (or your friend’s) favorite. The Mystery Bags buy you into pin trading without having to make a hard decision to leave a pin you like behind.
Batuuan Spira [Optional]
Do you want to pay for restaurants or merch with a solid coin? You’ll want to get this Batuuan Spira at the start your visit.
The coin “costs” $100, but works exactly like a $100 Disney Gift card. Reloadable at the Disney Gift Card website or at any Disney merchandise store (including Disney retail stores).
The feel of the coin is a good metal coin. Much larger than any change you’d have in your pocket and has a good weight. It feels good to use it for a restaurant situation (like Oga’s Cantina) or to hand to a cashier at a store. And you can use it at any Disney entity, not just Star Wars land.
To obtain the coin, go to any of the Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge shops including Rebel Trading Post, Droid Depot, First Order Supply, or Doc Ondar’s.
I added the coin to this list so you can plan ahead. If you’re spending more than $100 at the parks, getting this early in the day allows you to do your normal spending and get the coin as a bonus.