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5 takeaways from my 2019 Disneyland vacation

This Easter, my fiancé and I did something a little special. We joined two of her friends on a road trip from Los Angeles, to the Grand Canyon and back. On this trip we did L.A., Las Vegas, Zion National Park, Bryce Canyon, Lake Powell, Grand Canyon National Park and back to L.A. It was an incredible and truly humbling trip.

However, I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t ask to tack on a few days at Disneyland and Disney’s California Adventure at the end of our trip. I had previously only been on one trip to Walt’s park a few years earlier, and I was eager to go back. What’s more, my fiancé had never been, and it was the last resort she needed to visit to have been to every Disney Park in the world. Added to this, the two people we were traveling with, had never been to ANY Disney Park before, so it felt like a must.

As I did with my trip to WDW in February, I thought it would be fun (for me) to run down 5 takeaways from this latest trip.

Radiator Springs in Disney's California Adventure

1. I love giving people their first Disney Experience

I think this is my favorite thing about going to a Disney Park. Someone experiencing a Disney Park for a first time is a special experience. Unfortunately, I won’t be able to have this experience again, unless they open another park, but seeing my friends enjoy the storytelling and immersion that Disney had to offer was something special.

We were pretty confident that one of our friends was going to have the time of her life. She is a huge Disney fan. However, her boyfriend is not, and I was unsure of how he was going to enjoy the park. Suffice it to say, by the end of the three days, he was a massive fan. His top three attractions were Indiana Jones Adventure, Radiator Springs Racers and Pirates of the Caribbean. I expected the first two but was taken aback by his love for Pirates. Yes it’s a classic, but I didn’t know if it would hold up with a Guest who knew none of the historical context for the attraction. But, it does, and he loved the immersions of the attraction.

Luckily they both loved the trip, as did I, partially because of the attractions, but also because I was able to show them the reasons why I love Disney.

Pixar Pier in Disneyland

2. MaxPass is the future of FastPass

I love MaxPass. I will say it again, I LOVE MaxPass. The first piece of advice I would give to anyone heading to Disneyland is to make the investment. It is hands down the most effective FastPass system that Disney has to offer.

For those of you who don’t know. MaxPass is a mixture of the ticketing FastPass system and a digital ticket. You pay $15 a day and are able to book FastPasses on your phone as soon as you enter the park. This means you do not have to walk from location to location and you are given the opportunity to book more FastPasses throughout the day.

The best part of MaxPass happens when the paper FastPass machines run out of FastPasses. When this occurs, you are still able to book FastPasses for those attractions when someone cancels their FastPass. For our California Adventure day we were lucky enough to get a FastPass for Mission: BREAKOUT!, Grizzly River Run, 2 for Incredicoaster, 2 for Toy Story Mania and 2 for Radiator Springs Racers, making the $10 we paid (as we bought a three day ticket) for the MaxPass for that day, incredibly worth it.

Toontown in Disneyland

3. Disneyland is crowded

We arrived at our hotel around [5:00] PM on Tuesday. We quickly dropped off our things and headed to Disneyland. We had barely stepped into the park and were overwhelmed with how crowded the it seemed. The queue times for the attractions were nothing out of the ordinary, everything just seemed packed. This was something I didn’t quite remember from my last trip.

The next day we went to DCA, and although the queue times were generally higher, the park didn’t seem as busy. Our final day was back in Disneyland, and once again, the park felt very crowded. Don’t get me wrong, it was certainly busy, but the crowds around the walkways didn’t seem to match up to the not too excessive queue times.

I know Project Stardust is in full effect trying to widen pathways and make as much space as possible. I think this is truly needed as I have trouble seeing how the current pathways could handle the crowds at Disneyland once Star Wars -Galaxy’s Edge opens.

Mission: BREAKOUT! entrance sign

4. Mission: BREAKOUT! is something special

Before my trip, I was most excited about experiencing one attraction, Mission: BREAKOUT!. Guardians of the Galaxy is my favorite movie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. When Mission: BREAKOUT! was announced, I think I was one of the only people who was genuinely excited. Yes, Tower of Terror is great, but there are plenty TOTs across the globe, I wanted something new and fresh. The fact that the IP added to it was one of my favorites was just a bonus.

Mission: BREAKOUT! exterior

Due to FastPass times, we did not have the opportunity to experience Mission: BREAKOUT! until halfway through the day. Meaning my anticipation was building as each minute ticked by. But man, it was worth the wait. I think it is one of the best attractions on any Disney property. Its fun, has a great story, is completely immersive and is everything you could want in a Disney dark ride. I was completely blown away. I haven’t had this feeling when experiencing a new attraction in a long while, and I’m already counting down the days until I get to experience it again.

Angry Dogs at Pixar Pier in Disneyland

5. Posted queue times lie

The only other slightly negative thing about the trip had to do with the queue times. Normally, I have found that if you join a queue at a Disney Park, you won’t be waiting the amount of time that is posted at the front of the attraction. Usually, I have experienced that you wait less, causing you and the rest of your party to feel good about the experience. This isn’t a hard and fast rule, and I certainly don’t expect it.

However, the opposite was usually the case more often than not at Disneyland and Disney’s California Adventure. We found several times, that we joined a queue expecting to wait 10-20 minutes, but actually ended up waiting 30-40 minutes for the attraction. I know, queue times aren’t an exact science, but I generally think that times posted should reflect the actual time you spend waiting. Disney days require a lot of planning, especially when you only have a short time to experience the park. Thus, it can be slightly frustrating when your plans are thrown out of whack through no fault of your own.

As I say, it wasn’t constant, but it was enough to be a slight bugbear on the trip.

So, that was my trip to Disneyland and DCA. Overall I had a blast and I was so happy that the rest of my party did, too.

Have you visited Disneyland? What was your biggest takeaway from the West Coast parks? Let’s continue the conversation on the WDW Radio Box People Facebook group.

(All photos are from author’s personal library)

To learn more about Daniel and read his recent posts for the WDW Radio Blog, visit his author page by clicking the link on his name at the top of this post.