Is Disney worth the money? Short answer for me, not anymore. Long answer? Depends on several things. My kids are so -so on rides and only medium interested in characters. The last time we went was 3 years ago which was peak time for them I think. They were 3 and 6 and the “magic” was better felt then. The wait times were long but could be planned accordingly.
My issues with Disney this time is that it costs a lot more money than it used to and the wait times were way longer. My biggest problem is that in addition to paying for “genie plus” for access to Lightning lanes, you have to pay an additional fee (up to $20 per person) for lightning lanes for popular rides. If you aren’t paying for lightning lanes the wait times for them (Radiator Springs Racers, Rise of the Resistance etc) are up to 2 hours. Both rides were also down quite often (Cars was down for an entire day we were there) so purchasing the lightning lane was necessary if we wanted to do it at all.
If you are only going once every several years like we do and want to get everything in, it is absolutely imperative to plan out your entire day ahead of time. I really disliked that we had to keep such a strict schedule in order to feel like we saw everything we wanted to.
The other change from last time we went was the “magic hour” for hotel guests is now a “magic morning” and only 30 minutes long. It also doesn’t include all the rides which wasn’t advertised well at all. It took us two days until we found where the open rides were listed. The first morning we raced to Star Wars land to find out that it wasn’t open until 8. The second day we raced to Cars Land to find that the ride wasn’t open yet (it was supposed to be).
If you do find yourself wanting to give it a go anyways here are my top tips gained from three different trips over 9 years. My kids ages ranged from 2 months old to 9 years old.
Stay on site. By the time you’re spending all the money, it feels worth it to stay in one of the hotels on site. We prefer California Adventure but it’s the most pricey and hardest to get a reservation. The pools and proximately to the parks are really nice. We absolutely have to come back mid day for a break (people who stay in open to close blow my mind 😳). The day you arrive can be a pool day. You can also book a character meal on a non park day. This is a great way to get photos and interaction without waiting in lines.
Use instacart and uber eats. We flew in so didn’t have food with us. I wish we would have gotten more snacks and breakfast using instacart. We did use Ubereats for dinners and I’m so glad we did. The food in the parks and in Downtown Disney is expensive and not great. My favorite meal we used UberEats for was Vox Kitchen. We got the fried rice, Elote, and a side of salmon, white rice, and steak for the kids. The downside is there isn’t many places to eat around the hotels or in your room. We were able to snag a table at the pool. The kids would swim while we waited for food. Some drivers had a hard time finding the hotel FYI which seemed strange.
Breakfast is a bit of a pain point at the parks I think. There is food in there, but the lowest lines are right away so we didn’t want to waste time to eat. The best option for us was to mobile order Starbucks as soon as it opened (7am) while we were in line for Downtown Disney (doesn’t open until 7:00). Aaron would head straight there to pick it up while the kids and I went and got in line for the park. We would then eat in line while we waited. I think having breakfast in the room or on hand to bring with is a good option as well.
Planning rides: my kids are not thrill seekers and can only handle some of the rides at Disney. To help determine which ones they were interested in we would watch YouTube videos of the rides ahead of time.
It’s a lot of walking. I actually wish we would have brought our umbrella stroller for my 6 year old. Between the late nights and early mornings she was totally beat by the second day. I also know of people that leave a non park day in between the visit to be able to rest.
Because we choose early mornings we didn’t end up staying out late for fireworks or nighttime shows. I have heard that ride times get better late at night, but my kiddos wouldn’t do well at 10pm. Maybe when they’re older.
Ok I want to hear from you! Do you think Disneyland is still worth the expense?