Disneyland Trip Planning Timeline and Free Printable (2024)

Planning an amazing Disneyland vacation is stressful when the to-do list seems endless: book the perfect hotel, buy tickets, make dining and theme park reservations, and decide if Genie+ is worth it. If this is your first Disneyland trip, or even if you’ve planned one before, our free, printable 2024 Disneyland Planning Timeline keeps things simple and avoids mistakes on your next Disneyland vacation.

Use this planning guide for Disneyland in Southern California. If you are planning a Walt Disney World trip here’s our full guide for Florida.

6 to 8 Months Before Disneyland

Sleeping Beauty castle greets guests visiting Disneyland

Research and Book Disneyland Hotels

Disneyland has three on-site resorts and dozens of off-site hotels nearby. Unlike Disney World, many on- and off-site Disneyland hotels are within easy walking distance to the theme parks.

We personally prefer staying on-site at Disneyland. Resort guests get early entry at Disneyland or Disney California Adventure, have shorter security screening lines, and the comfort of being in the Disney bubble.

On-Site Disneyland Resort Hotels

Disney’s Pixar Place Hotel

The least expensive Disneyland Resort Hotel, Pixar Place, got a major upgrade with refurbished rooms, pool deck, lobby, and dining. Pairing this remodel with a newly opened walkway connecting Pixar Place Hotel to Disney California Adventure makes this often overlooked Disneyland resort even more appealing.

Disneyland Hotel

A colorful Sleeping Beauty headboard and couch that transforms into a murphy bed makes a sleek and practical Disneyland Studio villa room

The playful styling, adorable pool, and easy walk to Downtown Disney plus newly opened DVC villas make Disneyland Hotel my go-to on-site hotel. Although not as luxurious as Grand Californian, Disneyland Hotel rooms are larger than those at Grand Californian.

The new Villas at Disneyland Hotel have sleek styling and clever design making them a comfortable option and my new preferred Disneyland room option.

Regular Disneyland Hotel rooms have traditional styling, but could use a refresh. While Disneyland Hotel bathrooms could surely use a remodel the split design remains functional for our family.

Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel

Disney's Grand Californian room with tree murals behind beds

Disney’s Grand Californian has both standard rooms and Disney Vacation Club villa options. The Craftsman styling and rich furnishings make the Grand Californian lobby a stunning sight and it’s even better during the holidays when decorated with a huge gingerbread house and Christmas tree.

Walk directly from Grand Californian into Disney California Adventure park with a dedicated entrance. For your Disneyland days, take a short walk via Downtown Disney. 

The location of Grand Californian is the most convenient of the on-site Disneyland resorts, but the small rooms plus large price tag make Grand Californian less of a value than other options.

Disneyland Off-Site Hotels

Disney World has over 25 resorts and is roughly the size of San Francisco making off-site stays more cumbersome. Disneyland, on the other hand, is compact with many well-reviewed off-site hotel options within walking distance of Disneyland. 

I’m sharing our favorite off-site Disneyland resort, but our travel partners at Get Away Today (affiliate link) continually tour off-site options to help you pick the right one for your vacation.

Courtyard by Marriott Anaheim Theme Park Entrance

Twin beds are a staple at Courtyard Marriott Theme Park Anaheimourtyard

Courtyard by Marriott Theme Park Entrance rooms are spacious with a large split bathroom, bunk beds, and dining area.

We like the layout of the King resort view with balcony rooms which have a small alcove for bunk beds separate from the main bedroom area. This is a perfect spot for kids to fall asleep while parents relax after a day at Disneyland.

The hotel is an easy half mile walk from Disneyland’s Harbor Boulevard entrance and steps away from both a Panera and McDonald’s for quick and inexpensive meals.  

The main downside of this resort is the same as all the off-site options. Disneyland’s Harbor Boulevard entrance is busy which means security screening lines can get long compared to the ones for on-site guests. 

120 Days Before Disneyland

Mickey's Fun Wheel at sunset with Incredicoaster behind at Disney California Adventure

Buy Disneyland Tickets and Make Disneyland Park Reservations

Disneyland requires all guests to purchase valid theme park tickets PLUS make a theme park reservation to enter the parks. This requirement began after Disneyland reopened and looks like it is here to stay. 

When purchasing your Disneyland tickets through the Disneyland website you’ll be prompted to make theme park reservations as part of the purchase process.

If you bought discounted Disneyland tickets (affiliate link) through Get Away Today, like we do, you’ll simply link the tickets to your account and then make Disneyland park reservations.

In general two days at Disneyland with a park hopper ticket lets you experience most of Disneyland and Disney’s California Adventure. We usually spend two or three days at Disneyland when combining it with San Diego.

If our trip to Southern California is only to visit Disneyland we buy three or four day tickets. Adding on a day or two makes for a relaxed Disneyland vacation.

For shorter trips we recommend purchasing a Disneyland park hopper ticket with Disneyland Genie+ included. Buying Genie+ with your ticket locks in the price at $30 per person per day. While sometimes the same day price is still $30, the daily price varies and is routinely $35 during our visits.

For trips of three and four days we buy Genie+ daily. Most of the time we only need the service for two days and regret buying for the duration of longer tickets.

Book Disneyland Flights

Southwest plane sits on the tarmac at a Disneyland area airport

Deciding when to book Disneyland flights is always a gamble. Book too early or too late and end up paying higher prices. We find booking Disneyland flights about 4 months ahead of time has the best balance of prices and availability.

However, if you are inflexible on dates or times and have the budget feel free to book flights earlier. This locks in your preferred route, but at a potentially higher price.

There are several airports near Disneyland which provides lots of flight options when planning. 

Although LAX is the largest airport near Disneyland, it is my least favorite. Traffic from LAX to Disneyland varies widely and the airport can be overwhelming. 

Whenever possible we fly into Long Beach or Orange County/Santa Ana Airport. Both of these are smaller airports within a 30 minute drive of Disneyland. Other local Disneyland airports are Burbank and Ontario, but we’ve yet to use them because they are further away.

Download The Disneyland App

The Disneyland App is handy before and during your vacation. Use the app as your park ticket, to make and manage dining reservations, book lightning lanes, mobile order food, and find out show and attraction wait times.

Download the app for iPhone (App Store) or for Android (Google Play) and get a feel for how to use it before dining reservations open, 60 days before your trip. Disneyland’s app is a convenient way to book dining reservations and also manage any that need to be changed.

60 Days Before Disneyland Vacation

Reserve Disneyland Dining

Disneyland dining reservations open 60 days before your visit. Unlike Disney World, booking Disneyland dining reservations occurs one day at a time 60 days in advance for both on- and off-site guests.

When booking Disneyland dining reservations prioritize character dining like Plaza Inn breakfast, or popular restaurants like Carthay Circle and Blue Bayou, or any dining packages for nighttime spectaculars first. These reservations are the most difficult to find. 

Schedule Droid Depot, Savi’s, and Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique Experiences

A C-series droid poses in Disneyland Galaxy's Edge

People often forget that reservations for these popular experiences open 60 days before your Disneyland visit, too. Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique transforms kids into princesses or princes with fun makeovers done by Fairy Godmothers-in-training.

Star Wars fans won’t want to miss the chance to build a personalized astromech at Droid Depot or a salvaged lightsaber at Savi’s. Book early since these reservations fill up quickly.

Research and Reserve Disneyland Transportation

There are several ways to get to Disneyland from public transportation to Lyft to black car service. We prefer renting a car to drive ourselves from the airport to Disneyland. It provides the greatest flexibility and comfort, but can be a pricey option.

If rental cars are too expensive, our second choice is a Lyft to Disneyland from Orange County/Santa Anna or Long Beach Airport. Unfortunately, this option doesn’t work well for those with small kids needing car seats. If you have a child large enough for a booster seat grabbing a Lyft is easy if you use this tiny Mifold booster seat.

Find more information on transportation use this Disneyland airport transporation guide.

7 Days Before Disneyland Vacation

Avengers Campus is an amazing part of Disneyland

Pack For Disneyland

Packing a few days ahead of time helps discover anything you’ve forgotten with enough time to buy any missing items. Here’s our Disneyland Park Bag packing list to help with what to bring to the parks each day.

Although I don’t have a Disneyland specific packing list, my comprehensive Disney World packing list works well for California, too.

One Day Before Disneyland

Order Disneyland Groceries

Ordering groceries for Disneyland isn’t necessary, but can be a nice time, and money, saver on vacation. We like to order some bottled waters and grab and go breakfast items via Instacart when visiting Disneyland.

Just make sure you are there to meet your driver or confirm that the hotel will accept items for you prior to ordering. Some hotels will turn away grocery deliveries if you are not there to meet the shoppers.

Arrival Day

Have Fun!

There’s nothing quite like walking down Disneyland’s Main Street and taking in all the magical sights and sounds. You’ve arrived and now it’s time to enjoy the parks.

If you’ve pre-purchased Genie+ book your first Lightning Lane after tapping into Disneyland or Disney’s California Adventure. If purchasing day-by-day and arriving late, skip Genie+ on arrival and scan the app for low wait time attractions to make the most of your arrival day.

Once you are inside Disneyland or Disney’s California Adventure purchase Individual Lightning Lanes for rides like Rise of the Resistance or Radiator Springs Racers, if you’d like to pay to skip these long lines.

Final Thoughts on Our Complete Disneyland Planning Timeline

Using our Smart Mouse Travel Disneyland Planning Timeline keeps you organized and prevents big mistakes like forgetting park reservations.

Follow these simple steps in our free, printable Disneyland Planning Timeline to plan your own vacation or reach out to our travel partner, Get Away Today, and let them help plan your Disneyland vacation.

Get your free, printable Disneyland Planning Timeline here!

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Our free printable Disneyland Planning Timeline helps you keep track of every step of planning so you can focus on the fun.