Disneyland is a perennial favorite, and it's adding a new feather in its cap: Star Wars Galaxy Edge. We’re as excited as the kids are, but planning a trip to America's favorite theme park can be stressful. How do you navigate your family through the wonder and magic that is Disneyland while still retaining, well, your wonder and magic?

People walk to California Adventure park at Disneyland California
There's a lot to think about when planning the perfect trip to Disneyland in California © Meinzahn / Getty Images

Advanced planning

Disneyland Resort in Anaheim, California, is comprised of two parks, Disneyland and California Adventure Park, and Star Wars Galaxy Edge is part of the former. Before your trip, spend a little time researching the locations of attractions to determine how many days you want to spend at each park and which passes work best for your family.

Each park offers a day pass that permits you to enter once per day, and a park hopper pass that allows you to bounce between both parks on a single day. What you choose depends on your priorities: Marvel-lovers may want to spend more time at California Adventure while princesses abound at Disneyland (except Elsa and Anna, who hang out at California Adventure).

A little girl meets cinderella at Disneyland California
The Disneyland app is a helpful tool for finding and meeting characters © Sarah Stocking / Lonely Planet

Fastpass/Maxpass and using the app

Download the Disneyland app before leaving home. Spend some time learning to use it so you don’t have to ask a cast member to teach you their ways (although they are more than happy to do so).

The app is comprehensive, but not particularly user friendly; it has information on attraction wait times, locations and schedules of various characters, dining options and show times. It's also possible to preorder food and make restaurant reservations using the app.

FastPass is available with every ticket. Go to a kiosk and pull a ticket with a specific ride window, or scan your app at the kiosk for your time. However, an  upgrade to MaxPass yields one very fantastic perk – the ability to remotely book FastPass rides. To achieve a balance between planning and flexibility, use the Maxpass to book a ride that has FastPass availability while waiting in line for one that doesn't; this allows visitors to bounce off one ride and on to another and only waited in line once.

Be sure to upload the entire group’s tickets into a single phone using the QR code, as it allows one person to book FastPasses for everyone rather than just themselves.

The app is also extremely helpful for character sightings – knowing where a character will be ahead of time is very useful when planning to fill that autograph book.

dancers entertain a crowd during a parade at Disneyland, California
Disneyland's parade and fireworks are well worth sticking around for © Sarah Stocking / Lonely Planet

Pace yourself

There is so much to see! The parade at Disneyland is wonderful, the fireworks are totally amazing – nighttime at Disney is so much fun. But you’ll never make it past dark if you arrived at opening and stayed all day. Go back to your hotel, have a nap or take a swim.

Small people have a really hard time when they are asked to stay in line, sit still and stay close all day. Let them run free at California Adventure Park’s Redwood Creek Adventure Trail or at Disneyland’s Tom Sawyer Island, great spots to get a little of that crazy out.

Food & drink

Hard sided coolers aren't permitted, but you can bring your own food in a soft cooler. Bring water to avoid buying single use plastic bottles; any of the vendors will give you ice if you ask.

The food at Disneyland Resort runs the gamut from fruit and celery sticks to burgers and fries. Having that ability to choose what works best for your family is very helpful when you've got a hungry kiddo on your hands. Grabbing a pickle or a pineapple before standing in a long line is a delicious way to conveniently sneak in a snack.

Downtown Disney, just outside the two parks, is also packed with restaurant choices. This is a perfect place to grab a table and a cold drink for dinner before enjoying the fireworks.

What to take with you

Other than staples like snacks and a water bottle, this one depends on who is in your group. If you have small people tagging along, bring a stroller (it’s also a great place to store all the other stuff you may need).

Extra clothes are great for the wet rides, or if a costumed little one starts to get itchy and annoyed with their tulle.

Bring a remote charger for your phone. Between the apps and the camera, battery power goes fast.

Peter Pan sticks his tongue out with a bunch of kids at Disneyland in California
All of the cast members at Disneyland make the resort come alive © Sarah Stocking / Lonely Planet

Try not to pack it all in

Real talk: this writer discovered this by accident on a recent trip to the parks. Through a lucky series of events, we ended up with three days to enjoy the two parks when we’d originally planned on two. It turned out to be the best thing for our family. The first day we were so excited and overwhelmed by all that is Disney we just wanted to take it all in. We got our autograph book and Mickey Mouse ears and simply wandered around looking for princesses. At one point Peter Pan held my daughter’s hand as he walked her to story time, and then used the kids and Captain Hook to tell the story of Cinderella – it was an element of magic and excitement that would have been lost if the day had been previously planned out.

As it was, we didn’t stress about riding all the rides or deciding between characters or shows – we just did whatever felt right to us in that moment, and it was so much fun. That's where the magic of Disney really is: when everyone feels as if they are the star of the show. When trying to decide if that extra day is really worth it, I say yes. Especially now with Star Wars Galaxy Edge. You may need more!

Check out The Secret World of Disneyland.

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