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Heading to Disneyland but can only spend one day in the parks? Wondering if you should parkhop or get MaxPass? Don’t worry, we have you covered with answers and a plan to make sure your one day at Disneyland is as magical as it can be. Check out these tips for when you can only spend one day at Disneyland.
Only One Day At Disneyland? – Your Guide Starts Here
Not going to lie, I rarely only go to Disneyland for one day. You get a much better value on Disneyland ticket options with multi-day tickets, plus you can get discounted tickets through Get Away Today when you go for multiple days, not to mention Magic Morning on 3 day and longer tickets… but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t go for one day.
Why only go to Disneyland for one day?
I really suggest going to Disneyland for more than one day, but sometimes that is not an option or doesn’t fit your travel plans. Why would someone only go to Disneyland for one day?
A lot of times that is all their schedule permits. Maybe you are in the area for a work trip, kids dance or cheer competition, or maybe, like one of my recent one day trips, you are down there for a few days, one day is the Oogie Boogie Bash Halloween Party and you have one other day and want to hit up the parks.
No matter your reason for going only one day, I always say one day is better than none, and you can definitely get a lot done in one day if you plan it right. Which is exactly why you are in the right spot.
Wondering if you should only go one day or if you should go more? Don’t worry, you can check out how many days to go to Disneyland.
Choosing your one day
If you can only go one day, but maybe you can choose which day to go, I definitely suggest choosing a day when you think it will be least crowded. This will help you maximize your time in the park by having shorter lines, being able to move quickly without fighting crowds, and will just provide an overall more enjoyable experience.
Disneyland crowds can vary greatly and crowd calendars are notoriously wrong, but thankfully, Disneyland has basically put out its own crowd calendar, without calling it as much. Where is this magical, secret crowd calendar? Simple… it is in the ticket options when buying a one day ticket.
One Day Tickets For Disneyland
If you are only going to Disneyland for one day, you might have questions about tickets. Which ticket do you need? Should you parkhop? Prepurchase MaxPass? And again… how do tickets relate to the mysterious crowd calendar?
Disneyland One Day Tickets – Tiers
Disneyland introduced Tiered one day tickets a few years back. This is only on one day tickets, and it can get a bit confusing, but don’t worry, I am here to break it down for you. The good news is, these tiers are a window into Disneyland’s predictions for how crowded the parks will be.
Disneyland’s one day tickets have different pricing based on what they expect crowds to be. As of February 11, 2020, Disneyland has increased their tiers from 3 to 5. And they no longer have cute names like “Value day” or “Peak Day” but instead are simply Tier 1 – 5.
Disney… if it is too many tiers to come up with names for each of them, than maybe it is too many tiers. (I kid… sort of.)
When you go to purchase a Disneyland one day ticket, you will be shown a calendar and asked to choose your day of attendance. A ticket may be used on any day that is the same tier or below, even if you end up going a different day. Or you may apply the value of the ticket to a higher tier, but this must be done at the Ticket Booth.
This calendar is kind of a secret crowd calendar put out by Disneyland. We get a chance to see when they think the parks will be busiest through this calendar.
Here are Disneyland’s one day ticket tiers and their base price. All prices are for an adult, one park per day ticket.
Disneyland One Day Ticket Tier 1 – Starting at $104
Tier 1 is for days that Disneyland expects the least amount of crowds. Remember, Disneyland is never empty (despite what the summer of Galaxy’s Edge opening made it seem) but these are the days when you will see short wait times, Fastpasses available for more immediate return times, and more.
If possible – go on a Tier 1 day. Not only will you save money, but you will have the lower crowds which is ideal for a one day trip.
Disneyland One Day Ticket Tier 2 – Starting at $114
Tier 2 is for days when Disneyland expects a few more crowds, but honestly, it should still be pretty laid back. Since this is one of the newer tiers, we don’t exactly know what to expect for this day, but must of the days in this tier seem to be Thursdays. Most likely thinking crowds will pick up this day with those maybe taking a long weekend to visit the park, but not be as busy as Friday – Sunday.
This is the second best day to go on. Again, one of the more affordable options, but still very manageable crowd wise.
Disneyland One Day Ticket Tier 3 – Starting at $124
It is hard to know if Tier 3 is comparable to the middle Tier from the old 3 tier system. I am guessing it is not quite the same crowd expectancy (simply because a day I plan to travel used to be middle tier is now Tier 4). Here you will start to see crowds pick up. Fastpasses may run out sooner.
This is still a great day to go to Disneyland. Here, you may start to see longer park hours, but the crowds will still be favorable over a Tier 4 or 5 day.
Disneyland One Day Ticket Tier 4 – Starting at $139
Tier 4 means it is starting to get busy. I noticed the first day of Disney California Adventure Food and Wine has been marked as Tier 4 (was previously a middle “moderate” tier under old system). This seems to be days they feel crowds will be increased due to new offerings (Food and Wine and Magic Happens?) or expect more people to travel due to school breaks.
If you can only go on a Tier 4 day, don’t fret. It will just take a little more planning and you will want to be sure to get to the parks early.
Disneyland One Day Ticket Tier 5 – Starting at $154
Tier 5 means they expect the crowds at Disneyland to be pretty heavy. But don’t automatically rule out a Tier 5 day. Spring breaks are seeing a lot of Tier 5 days, but Spring Break at Disneyland is no where near as crowded as winter break at Disneyland, which is also Tier 5.
If you have the option, try to go on a lower Tier day, but if not, you can still enjoy a Tier 5 day at Disneyland. You will just need a plan, and to choose the right add-ons to your tickets.
Should you parkhop when only going for one day?
Disneyland offers a couple of “add-ons” to park tickets for an additional fee. One of which is a Parkhopper option. Parkhopper allows you to enter both Disneyland and Disney California Adventure on the same day. It is $55 to add Parkhopper to your one day ticket, which can take a Tier 5 day to over $200.
So should you add parkhopper when only going for one day?
Vague I know… But let me help you figure it out.
Who should add parkhopper to a one day ticket?
If you are going to mostly focus on the big e-ticket or thrill rides, you may want to parkhop. These rides are located throughout both parks, and most of them utilize the Fastpass and MaxPass system, so you can do them all in one day. When I went a couple years ago on a mother son trip with my oldest, this was what we did and it worked out great.
Also, those going on a Tier 1 day may choose to parkhop because the lower crowds means shorter lines and being able to maneuver around the parks better.
Who should skip parkhopper on a one day trip
Those who are going with small children may want to avoid adding parkhopper. The majority of the “little kid rides” or toddler friendly rides are in Disneyland park, and at Disneyland, those rides are much closer together, making it easier to accomplish more without having to walk as far.
Maneuvering with a stroller at Disneyland and little ones also adds time, so you may not have time to Parkhop.
Those who are visiting on Tier 4 or 5 days may also want to avoid parkhopping. Not only because the crowds will make it more difficult (though not impossible), but because at this point, the cost of a one day parkhopper is not much less than a 2 day, one park per day ticket through my ticket partners at Get Away Today. If possible, think about adding an extra day and sticking to one park each day. Even if you only get an afternoon or morning in at one of the parks.
Should you add MaxPass to a one day ticket?
Those of you that know me, you know I am not always sure if MaxPass is worth the cost. There are a lot of scenarios where I think you may want to save money by skipping MaxPass, but this is not one of them.
If you are only going for one day, I would definitely suggest purchasing MaxPass UNLESS you are going with a young child and know that you will not be riding very many rides with Fastpass lines.
MaxPass is $20 per day per ticket as of February 2020, and allows you to make all of your Fastpass selections on your phone, which saves you precious time running to kiosks. Something you don’t have when you only have one day in the park.
How to get discounts on one day tickets for Disneyland
A lot of people wonder if you can buy discount tickets for one day at Disneyland. Unfortunately, authorized ticket sellers, like my partners at Get Away Today, are not able to sell one day tickets at discounted prices. One day tickets must be purchased through Disney.
That doesn’t mean you can’t get a discount though. One of my favorite ways to save on Disneyland one day tickets is the Red Card Trick. Target (and other locations) often have great programs to purchase Disney gift cards at a discount. Then you can use those on the Disneyland website or at the ticket booth to purchase your one day Disneyland tickets.
The only downside is the Disneyland App still does not accept Disney Gift Cards as payment. So you will have to go to the Disneyland website to do this.
Disneyland Tip: You can only enter one gift card on the Disneyland Website before it requires a debit or credit card to finish the purchase. Use the Disney Gift Card website to combine multiple gift cards onto one (up to $1000) before purchasing your tickets.
How To Maximize One Day At Disneyland
Wondering how to maximize your one day at Disneyland? Then you are in the right place. I am going to give you all of my best tips to make sure you get as much magic in as possible. But remember, you can take it as slow and easy or as fast paced as you wish.
When you only have one day at Disneyland you do not want to spend the morning in line at the ticket booth. Pre-purchase your one day tickets online or through the Disneyland App. Remember, while the app is convenient, you cannot use Disney gift cards to pay, so be sure to be prepared with a debit card.
When purchasing on the Disneyland website, I definitely suggest buying at least 2 days in advance in case there is any issue with the delivery of the eticket.
Both the app and the website give you an eticket. The app, it will autoload into your tickets on the app. With the website, you will receive it via email and need to bring the email up on your phone or have it printed.
With both of these options, simply head to the gate and scan in. The Cast Member will hand you a paper ticket that prints out. If you did not purchase through the app, you can quickly scan this in to your tickets and be on your way.
Disneyland crowds are lowest first thing in the morning. Be at the Disneyland parking lot at least 45 minutes prior to park opening. Currently, with Rise of the Resitance using boarding passes, I would even suggest being at parking lots an hour to 90 minutes early.
Be prepared at security to help things move quickly. If possible, and if you are kid free, avoid bringing any bags, fanny packs, or such so you can utilize the “no bag line” at security.
The parks usually start letting people in at least 15 minutes before official park opening, but sometimes up to an hour before (especially now with the Rise of the Resistance stuff going on). When this happens, you can sometimes start making MaxPass selections before the park is even open.
Get those annoying tasks out of the way
When you are waiting to get in the parks, or waiting for them to open the lands if they let you in early, this is the perfect time to make sure you are set for the day.
Fill up water bottles, use the bathroom, get on sunscreen, feed the kids some snacks… get all of those annoying tasks out of the way so that as soon as the park “officially opens” you are ready to hit the ground running… I mean walking fast as Disneyland asks guests “please do not run” at rope drop.
Did you know: Rope Drop at Disneyland is not as big a production as Walt Disney World. Rope Drop is a short message letting you know the park is officially open and cast members removing or “dropping” the ropes to the lands so that you may leave Main Street.
When it is time to eat, mobile ordering can save you a ton of time. Think of it as Fastpass for your food.
Not all Disneyland dining options include Mobile Order so be sure to take a look in the app for which locations offer it.
I also suggest eating at non-peak dining hours. Have lunch at 11 or 1:20, eat dinner at 7:30. Why? Because even with mobile ordering, those peak dining times (like noon for lunch or 5:00 – 6:00 pm for dinner) tend to be busy and you can even have a wait at the pickup for your food.
Rides, rides, rides
When you are only at Disneyland for one day, those morning hours are extremely crucial to getting in all the rides you possibly can. Everyone has different priorities as far as rides, but these are some of the strategies I find most people will benefit from.
The Fantasyland strategy
If you are going with small children and have Fantasyland on your must-do list, you will want to head there first. This part of the park has very few Fastpass options, and can get crowded and hot as the morning goes on.
If you only have one day at Disneyland, I would urge you to maybe skip Peter Pan’s Flight. Yes it is a great attraction, but the line is usually 30 minutes or longer, even in the early hours of the day. If this truly is on your must-do list, hit the other rides in Fantasyland up first, unless you luck in to a 20 minute or shorter line.
Again, this is where a multi-day ticket would come in handy. Fantasyland is open during the Magic Morning that is included in 3 day or longer tickets purchased in advance. Magic Morning is the perfect time to do these rides.
Thrill ride strategy
If your main focus for your one day at Disneyland is thrill rides, you will want to make sure you plan carefully. First, if you want to ride Rise of the Resistance, you must get a boarding pass, which happens right at park opening.
Once the park opens, I suggest heading to a thrill ride that often gets longer lines later in the day, but not right at park opening. Star Tours in Disneyland is usually my choice, or The Matterhorn Bobsleds. In California Adventure I tend to suggest Guardians of the Galaxy or Incredicoaster. Both Space Mountain (in Disneyland) and Radiator Springs Racers (in DCA) tend to immediately get long lines, but if you can be one of the first there, they are also great choices.
While in line for a thrill ride, begin making Fastpass selections via MaxPass for rides. Be careful…
So many people automatically choose a ride that runs out of Fastpasses by mid-morning…but if you get a return time that is a few hours away, you cannot make a new Fastpass selection until your return time begins or 90 minutes later (whichever comes first). Instead, I start by choosing rides with nearly immediate return times, watching those other rides closely and snagging a later return time before they run out.
Utilizing Fastpass/MaxPass, and possibly single rider, you can definitely get most, if not all, of these e-ticket rides in during your one day at Disneyland, and still have time to stop and eat a churro or two.
Of course, there are many, many ways to maximize your one day at Disneyland. Here are a couple more strategies that may be a good fit for you.
On-Site Perk Strategy: One more strategy is many who are only going to Disneyland for one day might book a room on site. Guests staying at one of the Disneyland owned hotels get early access, called Extra Magic Hour, every day of their visit, to either Disneyland or Disney California Adventure.
Of course, there are plenty of other strategies for spending your one day at Disneyland. If you go often or do not care for rides, you may choose to spend your time doing one of the many non-ride activities at Disneyland.
The beauty about Disneyland is that there is no one way to do it, but when you are only going for one day, you will need to have a plan to make sure your day feels worth it, and not like you wasted $100-200 and didn’t get to do anything you wanted to do.
More Disneyland Tips
For more Disneyland planning tips, you can check out all of my posts, but also be sure to join the Disneyland with Kids group on Facebook and check out my podcast: Disneyland with Kids, where we help you plan your Disneyland vacations in 30 minute episodes.
Wondering How Many Days You Should Spend At Disneyland?
If you read this and thought? HMMM… should I spend more days at Disneyland? Be sure to check out our guide that helps break down how many days at Disneyland may be right for you.