A Solo Guide: Disneyland Tips for First-Timers

Today’s post comes from Hannah Sproul, Resident Artist and Disney lover for Whiskey Tango Globetrot. When she’s not painting murals, you can typically find Hannah climbing or eating Vietnamese food. While Hannah resides at the base of the Sierra Nevada in Reno, she does not enjoy the cold or snow, and spends most of her down time drinking wine while figuring out her next trip to Disney World. You can see her current work, and/or her dogs, at hannahsproul.com or on Instagram at @hanpainteddesigns. Visit Hannah Sproul's blog at drawntodrink.com. (Disneyland tickets were provided complimentary by Disney, but all thoughts and opinions are Hannah’s).

Your first trip to Disneyland is meant to be perfect and magical; it is the happiest place on earth after all. So as the super-fan of Disneyland that I am, I wanted to put together my best tried and true Disneyland tips for first-timers.

9 Disneyland Tips for First-Timers

Park Hopper

Reader, meet Park Hopper pass. Park Hopper pass, meet reader. Under the assumption that you’ll be visiting for at least a couple days, the Park Hopper ticket is a must, featuring two amazing Southern California theme parks, Disneyland and Disney California Adventure Park, all in one ticket. The best part is that both parks are side by side, mere feet from one another, so that you could easily jump from park to park throughout the day. Additionally, other tickets, like the Southern California Citypass, include entrance to nearby LEGOLAND. View ticket options here.

Disney Park Hopper

Download the Disneyland mobile app

With the Disneyland app, you get a singular place to easily glance at wait times and pertinent info for every attraction and character meet-and-greet, as well as have access to your ticket for easy entry to the parks. It’s kind of like your VIP guide to Disneyland. Another perk about the Disneyland app: Every restaurant menu item is available in one place, right at your fingertips! However, more on planning meals later.

Photo from Disneyland’s website

Photo from Disneyland’s website

Arrive Before the Park Opens

I’d highly recommend arriving to Disneyland at the gates before they open, or at least right when they open. This is your window for snagging the best photos of the castle and the lowest wait times of the day. Plus, the morning opening ceremony is one of my absolute favorite Disney traditions. As if that’s not enough, you get to pet horses on Main Street. Tell me you aren’t already sold!


Ask for Photo Help


The biggest question people asked me after my solo Disneyland trip was this: How did you get so many pictures of yourself? Quite simply, I had to get creative in the photo department, especially since selfie sticks are prohibited at Disneyland (and do you really want to be a person who brings their selfie stick to Disneyland?). As such, I highly advise you to be bold and ask people to take photos for you! If you are in a character wait line, offer to take photos for the family in front of you, asking if they’d take photos for you in return. Additionally, for Magic Castle photos especially, everyone is taking photos, so it’s usually no trouble to ask someone.

Single Rider, Baby

Everyone complains that Disneyland is hot and crowded. While I can’t help you with the heat, I can help you with the crowds. My recommendation: Single rider! Single rider is how you can reduce your wait times, often cutting your wait in half. On my solo trip to Disneyland, the longest wait time I had with Single Rider was 20 minutes on Indiana Jones, albeit I went during peak season right after their grand opening of Pixar Pier and on Disneyland’s birthday nonetheless.

All in all, I was truly dumbfounded at how little wait time I had with the single rider option. My personal recommendations: Single ride the heck out of Space Mountain, Indiana Jones, The Incredibles, and Radiator Springs Racers.

Get Your Food Game Squared Away

A complaint I often hear from people about Disneyland is the food prices. But I’m going to go out on a limb here and just say that I don’t think the food is that expensive, especially if you’re by yourself and plan it right. However, the important thing is to time it right, and not over order, which I think is often the case, resulting in food leftover that you don’t exactly want to carry around the park. My recommendation: Snack throughout the day, so you don’t accidentally go ham in New Orleans or on Main Street. Also, be sure to have your next meal planned, so you can plan attractions around them. Bonus points: You can use the Disneyland mobile app to order food ahead of time.

disney food and drinks .jpg

Dress Comfortably

Yes, I realize this is a little “mom” of me to say, but stay with me here. I stick with a simple and comfy outfit that is more practical that stylish, and most importantly, I wear comfortable shoes. However, if you are going to ride Splash Mountain, then bring a spare pair of shoes so you don’t walk around in wet sneakers all day. If you do think you need to bring an extra pair of clothes or shoes, then there are also locker rentals located at a few different locations.

Disney California Adventure.jpg

Skip the Princesses, go for the Characters

I love the Disney princesses. They are poised, funny, and just shy of perfect. But there is no experience like Donald Duck dancing with you down Main Street, or Minnie Mouse taking you by the hand as you chase Mickey down the trolley. The magic of the characters is indescribable, and worth every second of their waits. The best character meet and greets for me were Donald Duck, Minnie, and all the characters at the Dance party in the afternoons in Tomorrowland. As I mentioned earlier, the Disney app comes in handy for locating your favorite characters.

Disneyland Characters.jpg

Don’t leave home without…a power bank or charger

An external charger is a must for fairly obvious reasons, as it’ll become a lifesaver when you’re waiting in line Instagramming all the photos you just took at the Magic Castle. Among my favorite Disney hacks: Every time you eat, charge your phone in the restaurants, which are often lined with outlets. I brought my 10-foot charger with me, charging at every opportune time, and barely needed an external charger. Even still, I highly recommend bringing something like a power bank or solar charger for your phone and other electronics.