Planning a Trip to Disneyland + California Adventure in One Day

Planning a trip to Disneyland + California Adventure in one day can be overwheleming, but it can be done successfully. With a bit of planning before you arrive, flexibility inside the park, and our Disneyland trip tips you will have an awesome day at the California parks.

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Disneyland and California Adventure are two parks that are located at the Disneyland Resort in Anaheim, California. They are so close together, making it easy to hop from park to park. The walk from the Disneyland gate to the California Adventure gate is a few minutes and you can easily visit both.

We have visited the Walt Disney World resort and have planned many visits. This was completely different. The process and planning took a lot of research. Luckily I am putting all our Disneyland planning tips together to help you plan an amazing one day at Disneyland and California Adventure.

Best Disneyland Trip Tips for Families

We had one day to visit both of the California Disney parks and used these tips to maximize our time. After you read the Disney tips check out our full Disneyland Itinerary post to finalize your day.

Do Your Research

I always start with looking at a map or a list of attractions before I visit a park. You can read books or do a google search to learn more about the parks. I like to check out books from our local library to learn more about what to expect. You should have some understanding of what is at each park.

Disneyland vs. California Adventure: A Quick Overview

Both of the parks have something unique and awesome for families. We love Disney and I knew I wanted to visit Disneyland because it is the park that Walt Disney actually walked through. There is history inside Disneyland and we knew it had to be part of our visit.

Disneyland has the classic rides and is similar to Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World. Disneyland will be home to Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge opening in 2019. A few of our favorites from Disneyland are: Pirates of the Caribbean, Indiana Jones, It’s a Small World, Big Thunder Mountain, and all of the Fantasyland classic dark rides.

California Adventure is the newer park out of the two and is similar to Hollywood Studios. Cars Land and Guardians of the Galaxy are at California Adventure and we have been wanting to experience them since they opened. California Adventure also has Pixar Pier, Soarin, and the Marvel characters as well as the coming soon Avengers Campus(2021).

To us there was no debate we knew we would visit both parks and make it work.

disneyland entrance
Entering the Disneyland Resort

Decide What Rides and Attractions Your Family Likes

Every family is different. It depends on the age of your kids and what they like. During each of our visits to the Disney parks our kids interests have changed. They have grown up visiting Disney and it has been awesome to see different aspects of the park at different stages of their lives.

I always go through the ride descriptions and height requirements to see what will work for our family on this visit. During our visit to California Adventure my youngest was an inch short to ride the Incredicoaster.

We decided to save it for our next visit so we could ride it for the first time as a family. There is also an option to do rider switch/child swap where the older kids can ride and an adult can switch out.

A few of the dark ride attractions at Fantasyland in Disneyland, Snow White, Pinocchio, Mr. Toad, can have scary scenes and might be intense for little ones. Do your research on the rides and you will save yourself time and stress inside the parks.

disneyland toon town
Visiting Toontown at Disneyland.

Plan Your Route

This goes along with my planning tips for Disney from above. Once you decide on the rides and attractions, I recommend you look at the park map and decide how you will approach the park. Not everyone agrees with me on this one but I write out every ride we are going to do.

Read: Disneyland Itinerary + California Itinerary for One Day in the Parks

Often it may change but I do the work before we arrive so we can have a much easier visit. Planning your route makes for less walking and backtracking, less stress, and more fun as a family.

california adventure pixar pier
Pixar Pier at Disney’s California Adventure park.

Be Prepared to Skip Some Attractions

Doing Disneyland and California Adventure in one day means you can’t see it all. We fit a lot in but we left some things out too. We didn’t plan time to meet characters or watch shows, although our plans were flexible and some of those things ended up fitting.

If meeting the characters are high on your family priority list, take time to plan it into your day and skip something else.

Plan to do rides during the nightly shows or fireworks, often the lines are short. If you want to see the shows that is okay too!

Make a plan that works for your family. Also check ride refurbishments ahead of time to know what will be open during your visit.

Watch Our Disneyland Day!

Purchase Tickets Before You Arrive

Don’t waste time waiting in line for tickets before you arrive. Purchase your tickets online, I also suggest purchasing MaxPass as an add on with your ticket. MaxPass is the FastPass service that allows you to make FastPass reservations from your phone. Read our full review of Disneyland MaxPass.

You want to purchase the park hopper ticket for 1 Day/2 Parks with MaxPass. To purchase MaxPass you must do it online, or after you enter the park the day of your visit. After you purchase tickets, connect them to your Disneyland account and download the Disneyland app.

The Disneyland app will show you wait times, park hours, and it is where you will make and use your FastPass reservations. You can also use Mobile Ordering for some restaurants at the park.

MaxPass costs $15.00 as I publish this, per person. It is worth it on busy crowd days or if your time is limited. I do not think you would need it if you had many days to visit and it was a low crowd day.

When purchasing tickets check out our partner Get Away Today for the best deals on Disneyland tickets!

I highly suggest you download the Disneyland App on all devices in your party. There were times when mine didn’t work and I was happy to have my husbands to use as a back up.

Another option for families that want to have the trip planned for you is to book a Disney private VIP tour. These tours come at a cost, but they will make sure you experience everything. Learn more about the Disneyland private VIP tour from our friends at PrettySweet.com.

I was so happy we did most of our planning before we arrived at the park. Disney vacations hold special memories for us and we couldn’t wait to see what the parks had in store for us.

Using our Disneyland trip tips helped my family make the best of our limited time in the parks. I am so happy I planned ahead of time and was able to enjoy and create new memories at Disneyland.

Check This Post Out: 9 Day Southwest Road Trip Itinerary: Desert, Beaches, and Theme Parks

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2 thoughts on “Planning a Trip to Disneyland + California Adventure in One Day”

  1. we did DL in one day and I did so much research to prep our route! We wanted to hit everything. We also had the paper fast passes, and since I dont go on all the rides, I would run around grabbing new fast passes as the rest of my family went on the roller coasters! We didnt make it to the fireworks show, but we got to ride everything we had hoped to – in fact I think we did a few rides over and over. This was on the Friday of Labor Day weekend and It wasn’t that crowded.

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