Avoiding the Lines
If you don't know about the long lines and waits at Disneyland and California Adventure, you're in for a surprise. On a busy day, it can take up to two hours to get onto the parks' most popular rides.
Everyone knows waiting isn't fun, and it certainly isn't what you went to the parks to do, but never fear. There are a number of ways to reduce your wait. The best of the bunch is RideMax, an inexpensive software tool that creates a custom itinerary for you, taking you to each ride when the wait is the shortest. Created by computer programmer Mark Winters to help keep his own family from waiting in line, this program can cut your wait from hours to minutes. All you do is pay $14.95 for a ninety-day subscription at www.ridemax.com, tell the program what you want to do and it does the rest, giving you a schedule that will keep you out of line and on the rides.
Travel writers and everyday users report being able to ride every single ride in Disneyland in one day, even at the busiest times of year using RideMax, with time to spare. You can read these accounts at www.ridemax.com/tripreports.php. They offer a money-back guarantee, so there's no risk and a lot to gain. Unfortunately, Ride-Max works on Windows operating systems only.
Disney's partial solution to reducing long waits is called fastpass. At the entrance to the most popular rides in both parks, you'll find a fastpass machine. Insert your entry ticket and you'll get a pass printed with a time when you can return to the ride. When you come back, you get into a special fastpass line and onto the ride with only a short wait.
To make this system effective, it limits the number of passes issued each day, and if you arrive late, they may be all gone. There are also some restrictions. If you're holding a fastpass, you can't get another until after the return time stamped on the one you have.
JUST FOR PARENTS
If you both want to take a ride that your child is too small for, don't stand in line twice. Get in the line together and when you reach the loading area, tell the cast member that you want to switch off. The first parent can ride while the second waits near the entrance, and as soon as the first parent comes back and collects the child, the second one can get on.
A little-known fact about the lines may also help save time. Some of the popular rides, such as Soarin' Over California and Splash Mountain, offer special “single rider” lines. If you're willing to sit alone rather than next to your buddies, get in this line. Because the cast members use singles to fill in otherwise-unused seats, the wait will be much shorter. A few other tips may also help if all else fails:
Go during less-busy times of the year or on a weekday if you can.
Visit the most popular rides late in the day after some folks wear out and go home.
Opinions vary about taking the most popular rides first thing in the morning. Those who support it say you can get there before the lines build up, but others point out that too many people do the “Indy Dash” as soon as the gates open and the lines get long almost immediately. This strategy also fails if a lot of people get into the park during the early entry days offered by the Disney hotels, and it's less effective when the park opens at 9 A.M. because visitors are allowed all the way to the end of Main Street and they surge into the ride areas immediately.
Many people stake out a spot to watch the fireworks, Fantasmic! or California Adventure's Electrical Parade up to two hours ahead of time, and many more crowd around at the last minute. If you don't mind missing those events, it's a good time to visit popular attractions such as Indiana Jones Adventure, Splash Mountain, Space Mountain, Star Tours, or Soarin' Over California.
Lines for many attractions also are shorter when everyone breaks for lunch and dinner.
The theme parks don't have a monopoly on lines. To avoid lines at the restaurants, eat lunch before 11 A.M. or after 1 P.M.
You'll find people lined up at the ticket booths early in the morning, too. A simple way to avoid standing in this line is to order your tickets online at www.disneyland.com. You can print out your passes at home and then head straight for the gates when you arrive.