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When you start planning a Disneyland vacation, it can be overwhelming. From booking your vacation to how to plan your days at the park, there are a lot of little details you are probably wondering about. Disneyland 101 will help get you on your way to a magical vacation. Today we are talking about Disneyland parking, Disneyland security, and the basics of buying tickets at Disneyland Resort.
So you are planning your first visit to the Disneyland Resort! Congratulations! You are about to experience some amazing magical memories. Planning your first trip can be overwhelming, so I am going to share with you some things to know before you go.
When guests start planning their visit to Disneyland, they often think about everything from what rides to go on, learning about Disneyland MaxPass and Fastpass, booking character meals, and more. But often times, the things they forget to plan for are the first two things they encounter as they head to the parks. Parking at Disneyland and getting through Disneyland Security.
There is so much to know before you go that I will be breaking it up into several posts. I thought, the most logical way to do this is to go in the order you will, or should, encounter different sections or scenarios. So today I am going to give a general overview of the parks. Starting with parking Disneyland, bag checks at Disneyland security, and a few other things you will encounter before you even enter the parks.
Disneyland Parking – Everything You Need To Know
There are a few things you will need to know about Parking at Disneyland Resort. If you rent or drive your car to the Disneyland Resort, you will need to utilize parking at some point, either at your hotel, at the parks, or both. So I am going to give you all of the info you need about parking at Disneyland so you are prepared.
On-Site Hotel Parking at Disneyland
If you are staying at a Disneyland Resort Hotel and plan on utilizing their parking, you will need to know that there is a fee for parking.
As of early 2019 the rates for parking at the on-site hotels at Disneyland is as follows:
- $25/ night for self-parking
- $35/night for valet parking
Now, I am going to give you my thoughts and that is… If you are going to be parking a vehicle, just do Valet Parking. It is only $10 more per night and in my opinion is totally worth it.
We stayed at Paradise Pier in March 2019, and the lot for the self-parking is pretty big. It is much easier to just utilize the Valet Parking
On-Site Parking for Character Dining
If you are not staying at a Disneyland Resort hotel, but have a character dining experience booked at one of the on-site hotels, it includes parking for a set amount of hours. When we dined at Donald’s Seaside Breakfast we had 3 hours of valet parking. The new Princess Adventure Breakfast at Napa Rose in the Grand Californian includes 5 hours.
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Note: Valet parking fees do not include tip. Carry some cash to tip your valet! Same for when you utilize the parking for character dining.
Disneyland Parking Lots and Structures
There are 2 main parking areas (soon to be 3), and a short term parking area near the Downtown Disney District (with an hourly rate). If you plan on going all day, you will want to park at either the Toy Story parking lot, or the Mickey and Friends Parking structure.
When deciding where to park at Disneyland there are a lot of different factors to consider. First is where you are coming from.
If you are heading south down I-5, there is a carpool lane exit for Disneyland Drive that takes you to the Mickey and Friends Parking Structure and Downtown Disney area.
If you are heading north to get to Disneyland, you will most likely be directed to the Toy Story Parking Lot.
But of course, each parking structure or lot has its pros and cons. Below I will help break down the difference in the options for you to make the decision that is best for your family.
And let’s not forget parking in Downtown Disney! Don’t worry, we will cover that too!
Cost of Parking At Disneyland
- $25 for vehicles and motorcycles
- $30 for oversized vehicles (only available at Toy Story Lot)
- $35 for buses and vehicles with trailers (only available at Toy Story Lot)
What is considered “oversized” when Parking at Disneyland?
The following vehicles are considered oversized and must utilize the the Toy Story Lot and pay the oversized vehicle parking cost”
- Dually trucks
- Motor homes
- Passenger vehicles with a trailer
- Recreational vehicles (RV)
- RV campers
Preferred Parking At Disneyland
Disneyland parking can mean parking pretty far out, in the back corner. Disney offers preffered parking, where you will be parked closer to the trams/escalators/elavators. Preffered parking is only available at the Mickey and Friends parking structure.
The cost for preferred parking at Disneyland is:
- $40 per vehicle
- $15 per vehicle to upgrade prepurchased parking
Electric Vehicle Charging at Disneyland
If you are the owner of an electric vehicle, there are a limited number of ChargePoint charing ports in the Mickey and Friends Parking Structure. You will need to have a ChargePoint card already activated when you arrive and then ask a Cast Member for directions to the charging ports.
Annual Passes with Free Parking
The Disneyland Signature and Signature Plus annual passes include free parking.
Can You Leave and Re-Enter Disneyland Parking Without Paying Again?
Your parking fee gives you in and out access for the day. You do not have to return to the same lot, but a Mickey and Friends or Toy Story Lot parking receipt will not allow you to park at Downtown Disney or one of the Disney Hotels without charge.
If an Annual Pass was used to get free parking, you will have to present the Annual Pass along with your parking stub when you re-enter.
Where To Park At Disneyland – Option 1: Mickey and Friends Parking Structure
Our family prefers the Mickey and Friends Parking Structure for a few reasons. First, if we choose to take the tram, we do not have to fold up our stroller. The first row in the last car and the first car allow you to put your stroller in without folding it.
You will need to remove children from the stroller. Since my family utilizes the picnic area at Disneyland, we like to put all our coolers, dry foods, and sweaters in the stroller so we don’t have to carry it clear to the lockers. It also makes it easy to load these items on to the tram.
We also prefer this lot because a lot of times we choose to walk to Disneyland through Downtown Disney. We find it is sometimes faster, and also, at the end of the night, we don’t like to stop moving because that is when we realize how tired and sore our feet actually are.
Pros of Mickey & Friends Parking Structure:
- Most levels are covered
- Opens 30 minutes earlier than Toy Story Lot
- Close to Downtown Disney for alternate entrance option
- Close enough to walk to parks
- 2 rows of each tram where you do not have to fold up strollers
- Preferred parking available
- Electric Vehicle Charging Available
Cons of Mickey & Friends Parking Structure:
- Often long lines for elevator for those with strollers (Please do NOT take your stroller on the escalator, especially with a child in it.)
- Long lines for trams at end of night often makes it better to walk back
- Anaheim PD often closes off this parking structure for traffic reasons (you may be redirected to Toy Story Lot)
Where to Park At Disneyland – Option 2: Toy Story Lot
With the opening of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, Disney is expanding the Toy Story lot and will also be adding a security check point within the parking lot, much like is at Mickey and Friends. I will be sure to report on this as soon as it is up and running and I have been able to check it out.
- The shuttles seem to load and unload faster, shorter wait to load in both lot and at parks
- No need to utilize an elevator to get to your car if you have a stroller
- Dropped off closer to the park entrance than the trams
- You can walk to the Toy Story Lot from many convention center area hotels and ride to the park
Cons of the Toy Story Lot
- Must fold stroller to get on shuttle
- Not within easy walking distance of the park (you will want to ride)
- No bathrooms
- Currently no security here, Harbor side Security is usually very busy (Note: Disney has plans to add security within the Toy Story Lot)
- No covered parking, cars can get VERY hot
- No preferred parking options
Tips and Alternatives to Disneyland Parking
So the cost or location of the Disneyland Parking lots has you cringing? Not to worry! I have solutions for you including how Disneyland Parking can be FREE for you!
Disneyland Parking Tips- Park closer!
One tip that many people do not know about is that several of the hotels on Harbor Blvd will allow you to pay to park in their lots. The prices may often be close to or the same as Disneyland parking, but you will not have to wait to get to your car via a tram or shuttle, and instead can just simply walk across the street, leaving your kids in their stroller the entire time.
Disneyland Parking – FREE???
Okay, so here are a few ways you can visit Disneyland and NOT pay for parking, even if you drove to the area.
1. Take advantage of your hotel parking! Most of the hotels in Anaheim charge a parking fee. However, booking hotels like the Clarion through Get Away Today can get you free parking (A perk exclusive to Get Away Today customers) and then you can simply walk across the street to the Toy Story Lot and use the shuttles at no cost. Get Away Today also has reduced or free parking at hotels within walking distance of the park, such as Howard Johnson and Fairfield Inn.
Tip: On Get Away Today’s site, search “Free Parking” in the amenities
2. Free Downtown Disney Parking with Validation. If you will only be at Disneyland Resort for a few hours, making a purchase at one of the Downtown Disney restaurants can get your free parking at Disneyland!
You can get 3 hours of free parking with a purchase of $20 (minimum) and validation at any Downtown Disney location.
You can receive 5 hours of free parking in Downtown Disney with validation from any table service restaraunt in Downtown Disney.
The hotels, their restaurants and shops DO NOT count, and will not validate Downtown Disney parking.
After parking, your next stop will be security!
Disneyland Security And Bag Check
Before entering Downtown Disney or the parks, you will have to pass through Disneyland Security. While security isn’t anything to stress over, it is good to know what to expect.
Where are Disneyland Security Points at?
Disneyland security has multiple screening areas. These are the current locations of Disneyland security check points:
- Harbor Blvd near park entrances – This security check point is for the Toy Story Lot shuttles, hotel shuttles, and those entering from the hotels on Harbor Blvd as well as the Uber/Lyft drop off zone on Harbor.
- Inside the Mickey & Friends Parking Structure – This security check point is located just before boarding the Tram to go to the parks.
- Downtown Disney near monorail station– This is for those using the Downtown Disney parking or those who have walked from Mickey & Friends parking structure, as well as those who may be dropped off near Downtown Disney.
- Downtown Disney near Disneyland Hotel – This is the Disneyland security check point most used by Disneyland Resort’s on-site hotel guests. I did a walk to Disneyland from Paradise Pier live stream where you can view this security check point.
- Grand Californian to Downtown Disney – This check point is where the Grand Californian Hotel has an entrance to Downtown Disney. Since the Hotels are not “secured areas” you must pass through this to access Downtown Disney.
- Grand Californian to California Adventure – The Grand Californian has a direct entrance to Califronia Adventure. This entrance is limited to hotel guests in the earlier hours, but after around 11 am, if you go to the Grand you may enter the parks here, after going through security.
- Coming soon– Toy Story Lot Security Check
Currently, the Mickey and Friends and the Harbor Blvd security check points are the busiest.
Tips For Getting Through Disneyland Security
- Have your bags ready, unzipped/clipped (including pockets) and as neatly organized as possible. They will also want to check the bottom of your stroller if you have one, so be prepared for that. Adults will need to go through a metal detector as well.
- There is a lot of confusion about what can and can not enter the parks. Many people believe you can not bring in any outside food (not true). Learn what is actually banned at Disneyland and things that you have heard are banned but really aren’t.
- Utilize the no bag line when possible. A no bag line is just that- no bags. You can take through a phone, keys, and wallet that goes in your pocket (not a cross body wallet ladies). If there is anything that needs to be searched, it cannot go in.
- Get to the security line early. A lot of people will show up about 10 minutes before park opening. To get through security fast, get to the check point at least 30 -45 minutes before park opening.
Buying Disneyland Tickets
- Tickets purchased at these booths will NOT include a Magic Morning Entry. This used to not be the case, but they have changed it over the last few years. We learned this the hard way when we bought tickets here, did not think about it, went for our Magic Morning, and could not get in. Tickets purchased either online or in a package contain a Magic Morning Entry (where you can come one day of your visit and enter Disneyland an hour early).
- If you purchase your tickets ahead of time it is one less line to wait in. You can even print your tickets right at home and go straight to the park entrance.
- Purchasing tickets at a local grocery store that sells them (Fred Meyer, Albertsons, etc) is a great option and the thing I love about them are those tickets are hard plastic tickets so they will survive the water rides better.
- My favorite place to purchase Disneyland tickets is through Get Away Today. They sell discount tickets and can even include Disneyland’s MaxPass already on the tickets.
- Purchasing tickets through Tickets at Work or Entertainment Book MAY save you money. Be careful on this one though. Both of these sites add taxes and fees to your purchase at the end, so it is not always cheaper. Be sure to compare the total price (at the screen where you enter your payment info) to Disneyland’s price to see if it really is a savings. Our favorite place to purchase tickets is actually Get Away Today, or through Disney with gift card we bought using the “Target Red Card trick.”
Once you have your tickets, be sure to snap a picture of the backs of them with your phone. This way if they get lost or water damaged, you have all the info right there when you go to guest relations. I also suggest connecting your tickets to the Disneyland App on your smart phone for a back up.
Ready to book a Disneyland Vacation?
If you are ready to book your Disneyland vacation, we suggest booking through our friends at Get Away Today. They always have a great deal and can add on a lot of magical extras to your vacation. Just click the image below to book now.
Disneyland 101 is a series that I wrote in 2014 for several friends that were planning their first trip. It became our most popular series ever. Be sure to check out the entire Disneyland 101 series HERE.