Some of those old, tried and true Disneyland tips won’t help you now—it’s time for the 25 most important Disneyland reopening tips for 2021.
If you’ve read up on Disneyland vacations from various sources, chances are you’ve ran into some things that are no longer relevant in 2021. Keep reading to get the scoop.
The last 12+ months have taught us that the old way doesn’t always work. I’m here to identify which tried and true Disneyland tricks still work and ways to work with new guidelines.
Disneyland Resort is now open with the addition of physical distancing, safety measures and limited theme park capacity. We’ll also be missing of our favorite nighttime spectaculars and some indoor experiences. Beyond the basics, we have even more for you to explore in this article.
Here’s the most important Disneyland reopening tips for 2021, plus our complete Disneyland reopening guide for more in-depth reading.
Plan Almost Everything in Advance
Disneyland has always been called a locals park. And in the beginning stages of reopening in 2021, it will indeed be a locals park. California state guidelines allow guests to visit the theme park only if they’re a resident of the state.
But locals will have a hard time picking up where they left off. With no Annual Passholders and limited capacity, you now need to plan almost everything in advance.
1. Buy your tickets in advance. Don’t expect to show up to Disneyland on a random Saturday with your family in tow. You need to buy your tickets in advance.
2. Secure your Disneyland reservation in advance. You can’t go whenever you please or just drop in for a bit after work like old times. Disneyland capacity will be strictly enforced and reduced. See my Disneyland capacity estimates here.
3. Save on hotels by booking in advance. Many locals are used to heading to Disneyland for a bit and driving home. But if you’re coming from Northern California or want to make a special staycation out of it, booking early will help you save the most. See some of my favorite hotel reviews here and save now.
4. Book table service dining in advance. I always recommend a sit down dining reservation for each day you’re in the parks. It really helps you to regroup, reset and enjoy the atmosphere. Most dining will be outdoors, and limited capacity indoors but reservations for popular restaurants will book quickly.
5. See which rides and shows are closed in advance. It’s always a bit disappointing to see some of your favorite attractions are closed during your visit, but I think knowing beforehand can help squash most disappointments. Check out my list of what’s closed here.
Before Your Disneyland Visit 2021
These are some must dos in semi-advance of your Disneyland visit. There’s no time crunch like the tips above, but definitely do these before you arrive at the gate for a smoother trip.
6. Download the Disneyland App. Grab the official Disneyland App, there’s so much it can do for you! And you’ll need it for things like mobile ordering and joining virtual queues, which we’ll discuss next.
7. Add your credit card or payment method to the Disneyland App. Then get accustomed to using the app for placing mobile orders. It’s much like any other mobile order food app we’ve all been using during the last year or so. You can test it out now, look at menus and add selections. Just don’t go so far as paying for your meal.
8. Buy Disney gift cards at a discount. I love using gift cards, you can use them for so many things and even save 5% with this trick.
9. Refresh your virtual queue skills. Some experiences may be different and now we have even more virtual queues for the newest attractions. Here’s how the FREE virtual queues work at Disneyland Resort.
10. Print your Disneyland Plan. FASTPASS and Disney MaxPass won’t be a thing during reopening. See my DIY Disneyland itineraries for your 2021 visit.
Morning of Your Disneyland Visit
Maximize your time at Disneyland Resort with a morning plan. Quickly review the first 10 most important Disneyland reopening tips for 2021, then come back here.
11. Bring your tickets and QR codes. Only guest with tickets and confirmed reservations will be admitted to the park. Be sure you have required documentation to gain entry. Many guests note they haven’t needed to scan their QR code but have those marked in your inbox and ready to roll if needed.
Keep reading for more of our most important Disneyland reopening tips.
13. Pack a portable charger. Some things never change. Your phone will be in use a ton at Disneyland and a portable charger will be your friend. I like using FuelRods so I can swap them out at Disneyland.
14. Know your parking options. Some things look different in regards to theme park parking. Be sure to check this parking article for quick access to Disneyland, plus parking discounts.
15. Prep for security screenings. If you’re sick, don’t come to Disneyland—that one we should know by now. Health screenings are no longer required but you’ll still go through a security check before entry.
During Your Disneyland Visit 2021
Now that Disneyland capacity is no longer under strict control, there will be some adjustments. Here’s a few tips to help you during your Disneyland day.
16. Don’t rely on FASTPASS or MaxPass yet. None of these options have returned. You’ll need a solid plan for what you want to ride and when.
If nothing else, go land by land and take your time working your way through Disneyland and California Adventure since there’s no longer any need to run from place to place to make it in time for a FASTPASS return.
17. Utilize Disney PhotoPass. PhotoPass photographers are all over Disneyland Resort. It’s one of my favorite ways to get awesome family photos. PhotoPass includes access to their special “Magic Shots” throughout the resort.
18. Keep your eyes open for favorite characters. There will be lots of opportunities to take pictures of Disneyland character, but less with unless you pose for a strategic distant selfie. Like me and Sadness here in front of Emotional Whirlwind.
19. Masking is optional for some, required for unvaccinated when indoors and not eating. This means those not eligible or who choose not to, only need to mask on indoor rides and while shopping indoors. This is a huge change from the early days of reopening.
20. Now you can snack and stroll. Yup, grabbing a churro on the go to your next ride IS happening. Now that guidelines have changed, guests no longer need to be stationary to eat.
Bonus food tip! Place your meal orders via mobile order earlier in the day to secure a desirable time for your family to eat. Most places are only accepting mobile order. Here’s the HOW & WHEN of this food hack.
More Important Disneyland Reopening Tips
In the past, it took time or money to get the best seat in the house. I am all about that upgrade when it comes to things that really matter like the World of Color Dessert Party (took so much convincing from you guys on this one!) and front row seating for things like Fantasmic and my favorite Disneyland parades.
21. Lighting of Sleeping Beauty Castle in Disneyland Park. Each night Sleeping Beauty Castle comes even more alive when the lights come on. Be there right when they come on (ask a Cast Member or check the app for current time) or stop for more pictures in front after the lights are on.
22. Lighting of Cars Land at sunset in California Adventure Park. Every day at sunset, the lights come on and the familiar tune of “life could be a dream” (Sh-boom by The Crew Cuts) plays over Car Land. Arrive in the land a few minutes before sunset for this magical event. If you miss it right at sunset, it’s still plenty worth stopping by.
23. The lights and sights throughout Disneyland Resort at night. My favorite spots at night time? Mad Tea Party in Fantasyland, the colors and lights are stunning. The rock work in Batuu near the Millennium Falcon, especially when fireworks return.
And over at California Adventure, nothing beats Cars Land but peeking into Avengers Campus from there is fantastic too. Another spot I love at night—Pixar Pal-A-Round, gorgeous photo spot!
24. Rare (and more) character sightings. We talked a bit about characters in the section above, but this is a great opportunity to see even some rare characters at Disneyland Resort. And even better news, you won’t have to invest much time to see them. Be sure to check the Disneyland App for new experiences popping up like in Avengers Campus.
They’ll be in places where many guests can see them at once, making it even easier to interact with your favorites than ever before. This is the spot I’ll add where to find Disneyland characters once the parks reopen.
25. Special surprises, both given and received. Have you heard the term Magical Moments or Cast Compliment? Magical Moments are special, pixie-dusted happenings that seem to appear out of nowhere at Disneyland Resort. They can come from a Cast Member, a Disney character, another guest or even YOU! Yes, you.
Many people love to buy a ballon and give it as a gift to someone else or pay for someone’s popcorn behind them in line. Make magic happen and enjoy your Disneyland vacation a bit more.
For Cast Compliments, it’s easy! When a Cast Member goes out of their way to make your day magical, shout them out on social media. Just tag or PM Disneyland’s official social media channels and use the hashtag #CastCompliment, then share your story about how a specific CM made your day.
After months of closures and furloughs, they deserve to know how much we’ve missed them!
Have something to add? Email me [email protected]
2021 is certainly a year of excitement and new beginnings! Let’s keep in touch so I can keep adding and refining my list of the 25 most important Disneyland reopening tips for 2021.