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10 Important Things You Need to Know Before Planning a Trip to Disneyland in 2021

Updated May 27, 2021

After waiting for over a year, the Disneyland theme parks finally reopened on April 30, 2021! But before you plan your vacation, there are some important things you need to know!

disneyland sleeping beauty castle
Disneyland Sleeping Beauty Castle © Stuffed Suitcase

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1. California Residents Only (until June 15th, 2021)

Currently, only California residents can enter the Disneyland theme parks. But, state regulations are being lifted after June 15th. Disneyland has announced that they will start allowing out-of-state visitors on June 15th.

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2. Tiered / Multiday / Park Hopper Tickets

When purchasing tickets for Disneyland you’ll have to make a few choices. First, you’ll need to decide how many days you want to visit the parks. If you’re planning to visit Disneyland in one day, you’ll need to buy a tiered ticket. These tickets vary in price based on the day of the week and peak/off-peak season with tier 1 being the cheapest and tier 5 the most expensive.

Check out where I’ve found the cheapest Disneyland tickets.

If you’re buying a multi-day ticket, you don’t need to worry about the tiered schedule. Whether you buy a single-day or multi-day ticket, you’ll be able to choose if you want a park hopper or 1 park per day.

With the current reservation system, if you have a park hopper you’ll make a reservation for the park you want to start in and then be able to “hop” to the other park after 1 pm. You can freely hop between parks after 1 pm.

You can buy discounted multi-day tickets from my partner, Get Away Today, but you can only buy single-day tickets from Disneyland directly.

3. Reservations Required

All ticketed guests will be required to make advance reservations for park entry. Tickets are required to make a reservation. You’ll add your ticket numbers to your My Disney Experience account to make the reservation with your account.

Currently, reservations become available on a rolling 120-day advance calendar. If you’re planning a vacation that is less than 120 days from now, you should confirm that there are park reservations available for your dates before booking.

disneyland park reservation availablity
Check the Disneyland Reservation Availability Calendar.

You’ll also notice that reservation availability varies bases on what type of ticket you have an which park you want to enter. If you have a park hopper you’ll be able to change parks after 1 pm.

If you want to book a Disneyland vacation and keep up to date on all the correct rules and reservations, my best advice is to use a Disneyland travel agent. I work with Get Away Today and they do an amazing job with Disneyland planning and giving you alerts. At no extra cost to you!

Your Get Away Today electronic tickets will also be delivered immediately after purchase (within minutes) and you can add those ticket numbers to your My Disney account and then you can book your park reservations with those tickets.

4. Park Hours

The park hours have been fairly limited lately with the parks closing at 7 pm. But starting in late May I noticed that the parks will start being open from 9 am to 9 pm, offering you more hours to play.

When I visited Disneyland in March for Touch of Disney, there weren’t any expanded shopping hours after the park closes. Downtown Disney is open later than the parks so you can always do your souvenir shopping at the World of Disney store after you leave the parks. I’ve been hearing reports that the lines to get into the stores at the end of the evening are a headache. So consider shopping early or shopping in DTD as I mentioned.

Also note that there is no early entry right now for Disneyland hotel guests or Magic Morning tickets. All guests have the same entry time.

If you do want to get every last minute of your time in the parks, one of my Disneyland tips is that you can enter a ride line just before closing. Another of my tips is also really useful right now, arrive earlier than park opening as they often let guests enter the parks before the official opening time.

5. No FASTPASS or MaxPass

When the parks are operating as usual, using Disneyland Fastpass and MaxPass can help you maximize your time in the parks. However, those are not options at this time. Everyone who is in the park will be waiting in the same standby lines. There also aren’t single rider lines available.

disneyland maxpass
Disney MaxPass costs $20 per day per person and lets you book FASTPASS reservations on your phone. © Stuffed Suitcase

If you need special assistance, you can still request and utilize Disneyland’s Guest Assistance Services (Card). And families with babies can still utilize Rider Swap for height restriction attractions.

Even with the lack of Fastpass and MaxPass, the lower capacity will surely help keep ride waits fairly reasonable. And hey, not paying the $20/day per person for MaxPass will help you reduce the cost of a Disneyland vacation! You can still purchase PhotoPass for $19.99 per day if you’re missing the PhotoPass part of MaxPass.

6. Dining Limitations

With current capacity limitations some popular table dining restaurants are not open in the parks — like Blue Bayou. And to encourage a touchless dining experience for guests and cast members, Disneyland has made mobile food ordering the primary way to manage dining in the parks.

As I discovered at Touch of Disney, mobile ordering isn’t always as nice as it sounds. You’ll decide on your dining location and then be shown when the next food ordering window is available.

screenshots of mobile ordering at disneyland with dining gift card
You’ll use mobile ordering to dine at Disneyland and you can use your Dining Gift Card. © Kim Tate / Stuffed Suitcase

Often you’ll see a timeframe that starts “now”, but sometimes there will be a backlog of orders and you’ll be faced with a time frame that is 20, 40, or even an hour later. Keep in mind, this isn’t like a reservation for seated dining. This time is when you’ll be able to come and request to pick up your food.

Once you’ve placed your order, you’ll make your way to the dining location during your pick-up time frame. Once there you’ll click in the app to say that you’re at the restaurant. It’s then that your order will be prepped and you’ll pick it up. You might have a wait here as well. Some are reporting still having to wait 10-20 minutes for their food after checking in to pick it up.

A couple of tips: make sure you have a battery backup for your phone since you’ll likely be using it a lot during the day. And, consider ordering far in advance. You can choose a time frame that is hours in the future and then wait until that time to go to the restaurant and “check-in”.

Also, my friend @momrewritten discovered that there are very few breakfast dining options in the parks. So make sure you’ve eaten either at your hotel or in Downtown Disney before entering the parks.

7. Stationary Eating & Drinking

Now that you have food, you’ll need to eat it. Well, you can’t eat and walk at Disney, you’ll need to be stationary in order to remove your mask. To help facilitate this, Disneyland has added seating sections in various places around the parks. If you’re worried about finding seating, consider eating outside of the main dining meal hours (i.e avoid noon time if possible).

If you’re able to snag one of the few dining reservations for an open park restaurant then you won’t have to deal with the mobile dining. However, reservations are extremely limited.

8. Masks are Required

Disney requires face coverings for both cast members and guests. The resort also has hand-washing stations and physical barriers, where appropriate. Signs encourage guests to move responsibly throughout the property and keep their distance.

Get some cute Disney face masks at Etsy, the Disney Store, and Amazon.

You’ll also need to have your temperature taken before you enter the resort. Anyone displaying a temperature of 100.4 F or above will be directed to an additional location for re-screening and assistance. Those with temperatures of 100.4 F or above will not be allowed entry and neither will those in their party.

I’m watching to see if these protocols change after June 15th. Disney has said masks will still be required, but it’s possible the social distancing will be ended which will allow more dining options and more people on ride vehicles. It’s also expected that the temperature checks will end.

9. Some Missing Magic?

Keep in mind that some of the typical Disneyland experiences might not be available during your visit due to limitations. Certain attractions like Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters and Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage are closed due to the high touch points or closed environments.

There also are no fireworks or parades. Allowing people to cram together to watch shows, parades, and fireworks won’t allow for physical distancing, so that kind of entertainment has been stopped.

You’ll also notice a difference with characters. You can no longer wait in line for up-close photos or signatures, instead characters will be making appearances and you can try to snap a distanced selfie. While this is a little disappointing, from what I’ve seen there seem to be more characters out and in the open than in the past. Many Disney fans are loving this new level of magic.

Meeting Cruella de vil at Disneyland
Meeting Cruella at Disneyland. © Stuffed Suitcase

10. On-Site Hotels

Lastly, it’s important to know that the only Disneyland Resort hotel open at this time is the Disney Grand Californian. But, the Paradise Pier will be reopening on June 15th, and the Disneyland Hotel will open July 2nd.

But keep in mind that with no early entry, the perks of staying on-site at a Disneyland Hotel are lessened. There are so many great hotels near Disneyland that are within walking distance and more affordable.

disneyland hotel bed
Disneyland Hotel bed © Stuffed Suitcase

Final Thoughts

I’m still eagerly waiting to see what the capacity of the parks looks like. California will be completely removing all restrictions, so technically Disneyland could open to full acceptable capacity. However, with the fact that they’re still doing advance park reservations and the fact that even Disney World hasn’t reopened to complete capacity, I think Disneyland will take a slow approach to capacity increases. Bob Chapek recently said that he expect Disneyland and WDW to be back to full capacity by fall.

Also keep in mind when planning your trips that Avengers Campus and the Spider-Man attraction, Web Slingers, is opening to the public on June 4th. They also just announced that Jungle Cruise will be reopening on July 16th after a renovation.

I hope this has helped you prepare for planning your next Disneyland vacation in 2021! Please let me know if you have any questions, and don’t forget you can get deals on tickets and vacation packages from my friends at Get Away Today. Their website will quickly help you price out a hotel + tickets vacation!

disneyland sleeping beauty castle with text overlay

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