Destination Guides Travel


July 12, 2018
Brennan family at Disneyland

Brennan family at Disneyland

Man oh man what a fun two days we had at Disneyland! In this post, I will recap everything we got to do and how we maximized our time to ensure we were getting our monies worth. All the tips and tricks that worked for me and my family. I did ask on instagram if any of you had tips for me and so many of you came through, so thank you for that!

Ok, so lets get right into it:

Where we Stayed

We stayed at the Paradise Pier Hotel, an actual Disney hotel on Disneyland property, for one reason and one reason only: to take advantage of the magic hours. Every morning, one of the two parks (California Adventure or Disneyland) opens an hour early for the guests staying at Disney hotels. So even though we paid a little more for that hotel, it was well worth it because we got to enter the park early, both on Friday and Saturday mornings. Since we were only staying two days, this was most important to us.

We actually drove from our Newport Beach vacation rental early Friday morning to arrive at the hotel, drop off our bags and get into the park at 7am to take full advantage of our tickets and the park. The hotel staff were so accommodating and were more than willing to store our bags until our room was ready. I would highly recommend staying at the cheapest Disney hotel to get those magic hours.

Disneyland hotel

Inside our hotel room at Paradise Pier.


Ride Every Ride!

I got a lot of recommendations for RideMax, a program that tells you what you should ride when to maximize your time. I ordered this and was fully prepared to use it, but then I was introduced to MaxPass and RideMax went out the window…and for good reason too!

We purchased MaxPasses through the Disneyland app as soon as we entered the gates to the park so we could select Fast Passes digitally through my phone. This was singlehandedly the best purchase I made the entire trip. SO many people didn’t have this option or know about MaxPass and we saved SO much time just by checking out the available fast pass times and selecting what we wanted digitally.

Here’s how it went down:

once the park opened and we were admitted, I purchased our Max Passes and saw that we could select a ride with a digital fast pass between 8:10 and 9:10am…which meant that when we were about to board that ride at 8:11am, I could digitally select our next ride with another Fast Pass with my phone. That ride happened to have an 8:20-9:20am window. So once we walked off our first ride, we were able to walk right over and board our next one and select our third ride at 8:21am while we were walking over. Of course the more popular rides had fast pass times for 10 or 11am, but choosing those meant we couldn’t select any other rides in the mean time. SO! We rode the most popular rides during the magic hour (before the park opened to the general public) and then were able to keep selecting the rides with the least number of wait times.

The app will tell you exactly when you can select a next ride so you’re not waiting around. I ALWAYS remembered when I could next select our next ride so we never had wasted time. The hours between 7 and 10am were our prime riding times because there were so many available fast passes. Less people are in the park before 10am, so we got every ride we wanted (and then some!) in before then. Of course we did throw in a few extra and waited a little longer, even with our fast passes, but we left the park at 12:30 the first day because we had done everything we had wanted to do….and did I mention it was 110 degrees? We wanted to get the heck out of there and cool off at the hotel pool. We met up with some family for dinner in Downtown Disney and then some sweet nieces of ours wanted to watch our kids at our hotel room so Gordon and I could have a little mini date back at California Adventure.

So, Friday was our first day and we spent it all at California Adventure. Between the hours of 7am and 12:30pm, we rode:

  • Mater’s Junkyard Jamboree (twice!)
  • Radiator Springs Racers
  • Soarin’ Around the World
  • Toy Story Midway Mania
  • Golden Zephyr*
  • Goofy’s Sky School (twice!)

That evening, Gordon and I grabbed some fast passes for the Incredicoaster and holy moly, it was so fun!! If you like big and fast roller coasters (like we do!) than this is the one for you.

Our second day, Saturday, we arrived at Disneyland early again (that Magic Hour makes a real difference!) and then met up with the rest of the Brennan Family and were all able to ride:

  • Space Mountain (three times!)
  • Astro Orbiter*
  • Big Thunder Mountain Railroad (twice!)
  • Dumbo the Flying Elephant*
  • Haunted Mansion (twice!)
  • Indiana Jones
  • Jungle Cruise*
  • King Arthur Carrousel*
  • Mad Tea Party*
  • Matterhorn Bobsleds
  • Pirates of the Caribbean
  • Splash Mountain
  • Tarzan’s Tree House*

All the the asterisks represent the rides we didn’t use fast passes for because there was less than a 5 minute wait and we happened to be walking by.

The moral of the story, we packed a TON in and it’s all because of the MaxPasses.

It’s also super helpful if you are in a big group like we were, because the Mom’s with the passes loaded onto our phones could get together and all select the exact same fast passes so we all were always together and no one was left out. So convenient.

Another little bonus is the photo passes are also included in the MaxPass purchase price ($10/person), so any Disney photographer could take your picture along the way and you could have those loaded onto your phone in minutes, like the one below!

Group of people posing in front of Disneyland Castle

Brennan’s do Disney

Eddie with a Mickey balloon

Disneyland hotel pool


What we ate

I think the better title would be what didn’t we eat? But, we found lots of yummy food everywhere. Hello, it’s Disneyland! Of course it’s good. But there were our favorites:

  • Churros from Senor Buzz Churros
  • Turkey Leg from Poultry Palace
  • Funnel Cakes from Stage Door Cafe
  • Mickey Beignets from the Mint Julep Bar
  • Dole Whip from The Tiki Juice Bar
  • Pixar Pier Parfait from Adorable Snowman Frosted Treats
  • Hand Dipped Corn Dogs from The Little Red Wagon

An honorable mention would be the Jo’s Baja Salad Bowl from Tortilla Jo’s in Downtown Disney. So filling and so good! I couldn’t finish it, but I tried really hard!!


Two churros


Other recommendations

Comfortable walking shoes! I wore my trusty Chuck Taylor’s both days because they are so cute and really comfy!

A big stroller! I borrowed one from my cousin-in-law because we didn’t want to have to bring all our luggage, two car seats AND a stroller. But this is the stroller we own and would have brought if there wasn’t one to borrow. You can rent strollers at Disney, but they don’t recline. I needed a recliner for my boys.

Speaking of car seats, we got these car seat bag covers to protect our car seats and they worked amazingly. Plus, they have straps so you can wear it as a backpack!! Worth every penny. (Also, you can stuff them with extra clothes or soft items that won’t fit in your suitcases since carseats check for free on all airlines! Holla!)

An external battery SAVED me both days at the park, since I was using it nearly every hour for fastpass selection, not to mention for taking photos and such. I have owned this one for the last five years and love love love it.

Sunglasses and sunscreen. These are the sunglasses I’m wearing in the photo below. And I still swear by this sunscreen. Also, hats for everyone!

Packing cubes are my LIFE and help me keep everyone’s clothes organized and folded for the entire trip. They are a total game changer. Every person gets a different set (color) of packing cubes and we pack them all the exact same. So, *this* size gets t-shirts and *this* size gets underwear and socks. Makes things so much easier to keep track of.

I think that’s it for now. What are your recommendations for going to Disney?

Read about our Disney World trip and our Disney Cruise here. Or Brooke and my girl’s trip to Disney World here.

Lauren and Eddie

The only photo I got of myself at Disney. Wheee!! I’m posting it because I’m not wearing makeup and my skin looks great! You can hardly see my acne scars! #dermatologistswork


  • Reply
    July 12, 2018 at 9:37 pm

    Great post. We were there a few weeks before you. We had similar strategies but didn’t spring for maxpass. I’m a budget Nazi, but I can see it’s value. We did however use Ridemax and according to that they recommend maxpass and their software as the best option cuz clearly maxpass is brilliant, but it worked great for us with no maxpass too.

    Here’s a giveaway for Ridemax that is current. Just in case there’s anyone that doesn’t want to spring for a maxpass.

  • Reply
    August 5, 2018 at 5:31 pm

    Your recommendation for the MaxPasses is right on. The amount of time saved and the photo access make it more than worth it. I just returned from Disneyland yesterday, and I tried the MaxPass on your recommendation. I can say that it made it possible to see a bunch of rides in a short amount of time. I originally planned to use a MaxPass only for one day of our four-day stay, but once I used it I was a convert.

    Also, the food? Amazing. I’m dreaming about it.

    • Reply
      August 6, 2018 at 11:18 am

      Oh good! I’m so glad you and your Mom had a good time!!

  • Reply
    Vicki Mednick
    September 15, 2018 at 6:36 pm

    Great tips! We are making plans for a second Disneyland/DCA trip✨✨

  • Reply
    Kristi hunter
    September 15, 2018 at 6:58 pm

    Yes! Love max passes!

  • Reply
    Casey Herek
    September 16, 2018 at 9:09 am

    Beautiful family! Love your blog.

  • Reply
    September 17, 2018 at 6:23 am

    We love Disney World and hope to one day make it to Disney Land!

  • Reply
    Emma Keith
    September 18, 2018 at 2:19 pm

    I’ve had a goal to go to Disneyland for my honeymoon for a little while now… now all I need is a honey. Hahaha. Love your posts and your sweet family!

  • Reply
    Donna Brennnan
    September 18, 2018 at 6:30 pm

    What a great day we had. So much fun. Need to do it again!

    • Reply
      Karen Smith
      January 9, 2019 at 4:36 pm

      What a wonderful vacation enjoyed every thing you wrote about. Beautiful family and kids look well behaved Good job; what a fun time. Take care and get your selves back home safely. Karen

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