Once you've figured out your trip dates and hotel, it's time to start planning the daily itinerary for your trip.
You need to determine how many days to spend in the parks, which parks to visit on which days, and if you plan to do anything else in the southern California area.
Let's walk through how to put together your plan...
How many days should you spend in Disneyland parks?
Though there are just 2 parks at Disneyland Resort, there are still plenty of attractions and things to do.
Ideally, you should plan on spending a total of 3-4 days in the parks to cover most everything, including rides, characters, shows, and fireworks.
Disneyland park hours
If you are familiar with Disney World trip planning, then you'll know that park hours come out 6 months in advance, allowing you time to pick the parks to visit each day of your trip.
That is not at all how it works at Disneyland, with park hours coming out just 6 weeks ahead of time.
However, the exact park hours schedule is less of a factor with Extra Magic Hours and Magic Morning being held on set days of the week.
Let's take a look at how that works.
Extra Magic Hours schedule for onsite Disneyland guests
Unlike Disney World where we recommend avoiding Extra Magic Hours, we suggest taking advantage of them for Disneyland onsite guests.
That's because there's only 3 onsite resorts, so there are far fewer people eligible to attend.
At Disneyland, there's an Extra Magic Hour scheduled every morning, but no evening Extra Magic Hours.
Here's the Disneyland Extra Magic Hours schedule:
- Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays - Disneyland Park opens one hour early for EMH
- Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays - California Adventure opens one hour early for EMH
So even if the actual park hours aren't out yet for your travel dates, you can use this as a guide to help you plan which park to visit each day.
FYI: the Disneyland EMH schedule is the same as Magic Mornings for offsite guests (more on that in the next section) so you will have more people joining you for that than you will at California Adventure which only provides early access to onsite guests.
Note: not all attractions are open for Extra Magic Hours, including Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge.
Click to view chart larger.
Magic Morning schedule for offsite Disneyland guests
If you're staying offsite at Disneyland, you still get a type of Extra Magic Hour that's called Magic Morning.
This is a perk for people who buy at least 3 days of Disneyland tickets. This perk can be used once during your trip.
Magic Morning allows early entry to Disneyland on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays.
So if you're staying offsite and will have 3+ days of tickets, consider visiting on one of those days to get in early.
Note: not all attractions are open during Magic Morning, including Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge.
Planning around nighttime show schedules
One of the most surprising things at Disneyland (especially if you're used to Disney World) is how often fireworks are canceled.
In fact, they are canceled around 20% of the time in the summer due to wind and fire dangers that are posed by fireworks.
For this reason, you may want to plan on seeing fireworks every night of your trip. That way if the first night is canceled, you'll have another chance.
Planning to do non-Disneyland things
One of the perks of visiting Disneyland is how easy it is to combine Disney parks time with other nearby attractions.
Those options include going to the beach, visiting Hollywood, heading down to San Diego, and so many more.
If you want to combine Disneyland with non-Disney things (and will be staying in the same hotel your whole trip), consider alternating between a day in the parks and a day out of the parks.
Planning your schedule like that allows you to stay up late in the parks without necessarily needing to get up super early for rope drop the next day (and if you're driving, you'll want wait until after rush hour anyway).
Choosing park tickets
Once you've decided where you'll be each day, you should know how many days of park tickets you'll need and which type to get. Consider getting those now.