Maximizing Fast Pass at Disneyland (Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Lines)

My friend Mike is a Disney and travel expert and has written extensive Disney content here at The Coupon Project. I recently reached out to him to see if he would discuss strategies for using Fast Passes. As we know, in Disney – time IS money! With that, here’s Mike:


It’s not the first question, or the most common question I get about going to Disneyland, but it’s definitely seems to always be the last question. When I help my clients (and friends) plan their trip to Disneyland, I ask if they’d like to talk about touring and Fast Pass. Most people shrug it off in that moment and probably say to themselves, “That’s Future Me’s problem!” Well you’re leaving for Disneyland next week and “Future Me” is now you!

Some folks have heard about Fast Pass, and even fewer have heard of the next generation Max Pass (like if Fast Pass had a kid who is now 16 and quietly scoffs when you ask how to do something on Facebook). No matter where you are with your Fast Pass knowledge, there’s a surge of understated panic when you consider the crowds and lines you are about to face. Even if you’ve used Fast Pass in the past, there’s trick to the trade that can help you tour like you’re a So Cal local and zip past the crowds and lines.

What is Fast Pass?

As the Mad Hatter says, let’s start at the beginning. Here’s an example. You walk up to Space Mountain at 11AM and you see the wait time is already over 180 minutes. Ouch! But you love Space Mountain (because you have a functioning soul). You could wait in line or come back later. You have the distinct feeling that the line won’t go down until the end of the night (when you want to be watching fireworks). Sigh.

But then suddenly you see a row of kiosks that say “Fast Pass” right next to the entrance. It also clearly says “Fast Pass Return Time” and displays 210PM to 310PM. You walk calmly over, as to not signal others to this fortuitous find, and you scan your park ticket at one of the kiosks. A new ticket is printed out with the Space Mountain logo. It repeats the time you are to return between 2 and 3 and also says when you can get a new Fast Pass. In this case, it says 1PM.

You go leave Space Mountain with a spring in your step. You ride Buzz Lightyear Space Ranger Spin, you grab some corn dogs from the Little Red Wagon, you ride the Matterhorn Mountain, you get off the Matterhorn and wish you had flipped the order of the last two things (milk was a bad choice), you sit and watch the Disneyland Band and compose yourself.

Best Corn Dogs Ever

Now it’s just about 210PM. You head back to Space Mountain and see the line is now over a 240 minute wait for the standard line. But you see the Fast Pass entrance, you walk over, hand them your park tickets, they scan it to verify your Fast Pass, and you walk right by everyone. You spend maybe 10 minutes in line before you are zipped around Space Mountain.

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Walt Disney World Free Dining Offer Dates for 2018

Food from the Yachtsman Steakhouse at Disney’s Yacht Club resort.

My friend Mike regularly writes Disney content here at The Coupon Project. Today he reached out to me to let me know about a current discount for stays at the Disneyland Good Neighbor hotels! With that, here’s Mike:


There’s no way around the fact that a Walt Disney World vacation continues to cost more each and every year. Maybe that is why there is always so much demand for what has become popularly known as “Free Dining.”

Some of the amazing snacks you can at EPCOT get with your snack credits on either dining plan

Today is the launch of the ever sought-after “Free Dining Offer!” The promotion begins today (April 24th) and can be booked until July 7, 2018. (But most likely, availability will go much faster than that).

This year’s Free Dining has selected dates for travel within August 20 through September 29, November 24 through November 27 and December 7 through December 23.

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Budget-Friendly Disneyland: Choosing your Souvenir (California Adventure)

My friend Mike is what I’d call a true Disney expert! He’s been to the parks many times and as a travel agent, he’s coordinated many family vacations over the years – including for a number of my close friends! In the past year, he’s been kind enough to write many Disney posts for the blog. Today, he’s back at it with more expert tips: 

I have been writing about how to do Disney on a budget (see my posts on choosing your best meal, best hotel and best Disneyland souvenirs in case you missed them!). With souvenirs being such a nebulous item to budget for, we took time to review each and every land in Disneyland. This time we will do the same treatment for Disney California Adventure. Hopefully you can guide your kids to some awesome trinkets to take home without overspending.

A quick review of my rules for getting souvenirs. First, no candy or food will be on the list, as we want to focus on things that will actually be taken home. Next, consider getting your kids a Disney Gift card of their own, help them learn the value of budgeting. Definitely consider Max Pass option if you want to consider Disney Photo Pass photos as your souvenir. Lastly, I recommend no article of clothing that has the year printed on it (we can do better!).

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6 Disneyland Holiday Traditions To Delight The Kids

My friend Mike is what I’d call a true Disney expert! He’s been to the parks many times and as a travel agent, he’s coordinated many family vacations over the years – including for a number of my close friends! In the past year, he’s been kind enough to write many Disney posts for the blog. Today, he’s back at it with expert tips for traveling to Disneyland during the holidays. 


What better way to celebrate the most magical time of year than at the original Magic Kingdom, Disneyland. Certainly everyone is always looking for an excuse to visit the Disneyland resort, but perhaps it is time to start some holiday traditions that can justify a trip for the entire family. Here are a few thought on some amazing things to do with the kids (and kids at heart) during the winter season at Disneyland.

Holiday Rides

It isn’t hard to get your kids to want to do rides. In fact, it’s probably why you’re there in the first place. But during the Holiday season, Disneyland mixes it up just a bit, and has some special offerings. With variations on Disneyland classics such as Jack Skellington’s total takeover of the Haunted Mansion.

However, your yule time will officially begin with It’s a Small World Holiday. It’s a Small World normally can be a divisive ride. You love it to death, or you’d rather die before hearing the famed song one more time. But whatever camp you fall into, the holiday version is amazing. Filled with seasonal light, decor, it is quite a breath taking transformation. But possibly the best part is, the music is infused with carols. Thus, you are transported all over the world to watch how kids celebrate the winter holidays.

And don’t miss it at night either, when the exterior is fully decorated in lights. Kids will be blown away to see the wonderous amount of Christmas light twinkle and dance before you’re gleeful eyes.

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Planning a Walt Disney World Vacation 101

My friend Mike is what I’d call a true Disney expert! He’s been to the parks many times and as a travel agent, he’s coordinated many family vacations over the years. He’s written many posts on this blog over the past year (see my Disney page for all of them). Today I’m pleased to be sharing a new post from Mike!


If you’re a West Coast reader, you probably consider Disneyland to be, as the kids say, the bee’s knees (I didn’t say which generation of kids said it). And for many, a trip to the other side of the country to see Walt Disney World might seem either daunting, expensive or redundant. Why fix what ain’t broke? But with the newly opened Frozen Ever After ride in EPCOT, Pandora, the World of Avatar now open, Toy Story Land coming after that, it might be time to explore a whole new World of Disney (see what I did there?).

For those not familiar with Walt Disney World, I thought I’d give a bird’s eye view of some the basics to planning your first trip and a few way to save some money.

Getting There

For many the idea of a flight to Orlando might as well be another country away. But do not fret, a non-stop flight from the Pacific Northwest takes about the same amount of time as a trip to Hawaii. It’s only about 5 to 6 hours, which you know if Disneyland was only a 5 to 6 hour drive, you would be there every other weekend.

Once you land, there is a big money saving opportunity right from the start. Walt Disney World offers free transportation from Orlando International Airport (MCO) to any of their resorts on Walt Disney World property. A nice big comfy touring bus, that even comes with cartoons for everyone to enjoy.


Step right on and head to your resort!

Typically, you won’t even have to grab your luggage as they will deliver it right to your room. Once at your hotel, they have resort wide buses that can take you to the parks and a variety of other locations. If comparing a Disneyland vacation to Walt Disney World in terms of price, remember you won’t need to rent a car, pay a shuttle service or call a cab to get from the airport.

Staying There

Did you know that Walt Disney World is roughly the size of San Francisco? Well you do now, and nothing on the internet is ever false. EVER! With a resort that big, they have over 25 different hotels you can stay at, with various price points. They break their hotels in a couple different categories: value, moderate, deluxe and then “home away from home” villas. As a reference point, the three Disneyland owned and operated hotels would be most comparable to a Walt Disney World deluxe resort in terms of price range. The “Good Neighbor” hotels near Disneyland would be comparable to the value to moderate price point hotels at Walt Disney World.

The Wilderness Lodge, themed around the Pacific Northwest.

Often when people come to Disneyland they want to save the most money possible, but still be steps away from the parks since they anticipate being at the parks from open to close. Walt Disney World offers 5 value resorts (and campgrounds) for those who are attraction-driven, park junkies. And while they won’t be steps away from the Magic Kingdom, you have the bus system so you’re not walking miles at the start or (more importantly) end of your day.

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Budget-Friendly Disneyland: Choosing your Best Hotel

My friend Mike is what I’d call a true Disneyland expert! He’s been there many times and plumbed the park for all kinds of fun experiences. He’s written many posts on this blog over the past year (see my Disney page for all of them), and now he’s about to kick off an entire series for budget-friendly vacationing at Disneyland! Here’s the first in the series.


Often value is in the eye of the beholder. But when it comes to saving money and spending wisely, sometimes money talks. Finding a good deal can be very difficult to determine when it comes to Disneyland. Let’s try to break it down to the most common scenarios in different aspects of Disney travel. Today, let’s look at lodging around the Disneyland resort. Where can you get the best bang for you buck under different circumstances? Here are some helpful tips for saving money on every budget and from common types of vacations.

Best Value for Proximity

Obviously the closest resort to the parks is the Grand Californian. Not only does it have a special entrance into Disney California Adventure, but it also pours out into Downtown Disney. For these reasons alone, many might consider this a value proposition no matter what the price tag. For those with small children or families with special needs, anyone looking to get back to their room in a hurry, this can be an amenity worth considering.

No matter who you are though, no one wants to sojourn back to their hotel at the end of the night so far that they feel like they are training for a Disney race. You’ve already walked several miles that day as you’ve explored the most magical place on earth, and as the late hours of evening set in, you’re ready to be off your feet. It is in that moment, with one passed out kid in your arms, your spouse hauling backpacks, souvenirs and the hands of the other kids, you consider if your “savings” was worth the extra half mile you need to march before you find your pillow. And believe me, there’s nothing magical about Anaheim on Harbor Blvd at 11PM.

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What age should you take your kids to Disney for the first time?

My friend Mike is what I’d call a true Disneyland expert! He’s been there many times and plumbed the park for all kinds of fun experiences. He’s written many posts on this blog over the past year (see my Disney page for all of them), and he’s back at it today with a new post for you! So, Disney fans, here’s Mike:


One question I often get from parents is this: “When is the right age to take my child to Disney for the first trip?”

There are many factors to consider. I have gone on trips with children as young as just a few months and nearly every age up. There are certainly challenges and opportunities at every milestone. So let’s consider a few of the types of trips you might consider for the differing age types.

Before Age 3

Pros: Children before the age of 3 are free in terms of park admission and character dining. So that a huge savings and a pretty good reason to make a trip. Next, kids in this age group will be delighted by almost everything. The sights and sounds, balloons and lights. That will make for pretty amazing memories (and photos) for Mom and Dad.

At this young age, they have the ability to show unbridled enthusiasm for some of the most spectacular wonders they have imagined. That can come in watching a parade or meeting their favorite Disney princess. This is truly a once in a lifetime trip in that regard.

Just a year old and having a blast!

Cons: You have to be on guard against heat and dehydration. Nap time and early bedtimes most likely need to be adhered to. Lastly, while they will be outstanding lifetime memories for you, your child will probably only recall them for a few years after (if that).

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Picking the Best Disney Vacation for Your Budget

Already thinking of your next Disney vacation? You’re not alone! Science tells us that we think of doing a Disney vacation once every three minutes. (It also tells us that 90% of statistics on the internet are completely made up, so don’t quote me on that first fact.) However, if you’re reading this, you’ve probably had some thoughts about taking your family to enjoy the magic.

Disneyland, the original Disney destination in Southern California, has several financial advantages. For those on the West Coast, it usually can be a savings on airfare, or you can chose to drive. There are several non-Disney run hotels that can be substantially lower in cost. Disney slaps the price tag of tickets and hotels for some low rate of $79 (per person, per night in almost microscopic text). That low price seems reasonable and in reach. However, there are other costs to a vacation.

Taking a glance at how to save money on some of these other factors might make the best financial Disney vacation somewhere you haven’t even thought of yet.

Best Vacation To Save Money On Food

Food is often the last thing you think of when planning your vacation. For many, it isn’t until you get back home and review your bank statement that you do a final accounting of every entree, soda and dessert that was partaken of while on holiday. That final tally can be quite shocking for those who didn’t think ahead. Most Disney planning sites agree to think about $40 to $60 per person per day.

You can save a few dollars if your hotel offers a continental breakfast, you do a grocery run or eat outside of the parks. Personally, I always found I could let my kids order meals and then just finish what they inevitably wouldn’t want (I can now say definitively which restaurant in Disneyland serves the best plain hamburgers and/or half eaten mac & cheese).

The Famous Mickey pretzel

Of course, many consider the variety of food offerings inside a park to be a major aspect to the vacation. This theme especially runs true at Walt Disney World where they have no less than three different seasonal events where food is a major draw (Food & Wine, Flower & Garden and the newly added Festival of the Arts).

For those who love a great meal, Walt Disney World occasionally runs “Free Dining” offers. Vacationers who book rooms and tickets at their park can get a set amount of meals included with the price. While wildly popular, the savings can be debatable depending on your particular family vacation for a variety of reasons.

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Best Times Of Year to Visit Disneyland

Best Times of the Year for your Disneyland Trip: When to Visit to Save Money, Avoid Crowds, and More!

My friend Mike is what I’d call a true Disneyland expert! He’s been there many times and plumbed the park for all kinds of fun experiences. He’s written a number of posts for the site over the past month (see my Disney page for all of them), and he’s back at it today with a new post for you! So, Disney fans, here’s Mike:


Disney does a great job of making us all dream about our next great family vacation. But as dreaming becomes planning, the first big question is “when to go?”. As a travel agent who specializes in Disney, I get this question a lot. Unfortunately, it’s not a clear cut answer. If you just throw out the time when hotels will be at their lowest price, you will probably find at least one or two reasons those exact dates don’t work. For others, cost isn’t the only factor when they consider “best” time of year.

The best way to discuss when to go is probably to present the most common scenarios when pick optimal time of year.

Best Time to visit without skipping school

For many folks, their biggest consideration is school breaks. Some families do not feel pulling kids from school to go to Disneyland is being very responsible. A point I can appreciate, though don’t abide by personally. However, this is a major consideration for many who travel. With that, best time of year for those families can be difficult. When school is out, crowds are high. And when crowds are high, discounts are few and far between.


With that in mind, I’d pick the very last week of August, as close to the start of school that you can do. Most people use the few days before school to finish preparing supplies, last minute clothes shopping and getting kids back on to school focused sleep schedules. Thus crowds go down at the parks. And the rates you can get for hotels is lower than any other summer time, spring or mid-winter breaks. The biggest downside of this time is you’re in Southern California in August. Which of course means warm temperatures. If you’re wondering how hot, to quote one of greatest modern day poets, “you might as well be walking on the sun.” Also some of the rides will already be going down for any Halloween makeovers that might be coming up (we’re looking at you Haunted Mansion).

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