A trip to Disneyland — and California Adventure, its exciting sister theme park — can be an enchanting journey, especially since the beloved attraction is considered “the happiest place on Earth.” Make your getaway as effortless as possible by booking a stay at a vacation rental near Disneyland, so you can be within a short drive, bus ride, or walk from the top points of interest in the area. Also, don’t forget to take advantage of apps that monitor the line waiting times at the amusement park. Without further ado, here are the best months, days, and time of day, as well as other helpful tips to ensure a great visit to Disneyland.

1. The Least Crowded Months

The Disneyland Resort is least crowded during the winter months of January through March, after New Year’s has passed and before the spring break period begins. Not surprisingly, the park often offers slightly discounted tickets to people with local ZIP codes during this time to boost attendance a bit. Watch out for spring break, which starts in mid-March and runs through April, as local schools release students at various times. Expect high attendance during these weeks. The next least crowded time to visit is the fall, after school has started. Aim for a September visit, though, since the park starts filling up again in October as it decorates for Halloween. There’s a downside to visiting in the least crowded months, however. Park hours are typically limited, with the park opening as late as 10:00 a.m. and closing as early as 8:00 p.m. Rides are more likely to be closed for maintenance, and nighttime attractions such as parades, Fantasmic, and the World of Color show at California Adventure aren’t available.

2. The Least Crowded Days at Disneyland

If you can visit Disneyland on a Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday, you’re likely to find fewer crowds, especially during the school year. If you have to go during a crowded period, such as summer, spring break, or the winter holidays, going to Disneyland mid-week can make a big difference. Pay attention to crowd calendars, available at sites like Is It Packed? and Touring Plans, as well as Disneyland’s own website. Watch out for unexpected days when local schools are out of session. For example, many schools in the area have midwinter breaks around President’s Day, and some of the larger local school districts close for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur in the fall, sending an influx of students to the parks.

3. Special Times of Year: Halloween and Christmas

The Disneyland Resort treats Halloween and Christmas as very special events, with amazing decorations all over both theme parks. Look for Halloween Party events that may require a separate entrance fee for the evening only. In Disneyland, lines will be long at the Haunted Mansion, redone to celebrate “The Nightmare Before Christmas,” and similar rebranding of rides happens in California Adventure at the Guardians of the Galaxy ride and in Cars Land. Christmas in Disneyland is a huge deal, and fan sites like Disney Dose and Disney Tourist Blog even publish separate guides for the season. Lines at It’s a Small World, which is typically a walk-on, can run two to three hours long. Despite the crowds, Disneyland at Christmas is a magical time. Go early to hit the themed rides — Haunted Mansion also redecorates, and the Jungle Cruise turns into the “Jingle Cruise.” Take time to marvel at the decorations, and stay late for the special fireworks and Christmas parade.

4. When to Arrive at Disneyland: Early!

Arriving early is the key to a relaxing Disneyland visit, especially during the crowded times of the year. Check the park calendar to confirm the hour the park opens, then plan to arrive at least an hour ahead of time. It will take you about half an hour to park and take the tram to Downtown Disney, and then you still need to go through security before you enter the park, which can take another half an hour. Here’s a secret: The park actually opens its doors half an hour before the stated opening time. Go in early and head to the end of Main Street, where you’ll find a velvet rope guarded by Disneyland characters and cast members. That rope will drop at the opening hour, and you’ll be ready to head straight to your favorite ride. Watch out for Magic Mornings: Guests at Disneyland hotels are given early entrance (typically on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday), so you may find lines already in place at some rides.

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5. Visiting Disneyland in the Rain or Heat

Should you visit Disneyland if rain is in the forecast? The answer is an emphatic, “Yes!” Rain cuts down on lines, and it’s rarely strong enough to impact your day significantly. When even a few drops fall, stores at the park bring ponchos and umbrellas out to the front, so even if you’re not prepared, you can get the rain gear you need. You may find a few outdoor attractions closed, but the park itself can be delightful in the rain. As for heat – visiting Disneyland in 100-degree-plus heat can be exhausting. Make sure everyone has sunscreen on, and wear a hat because southern California sun is strong. Stay hydrated, plan a stop at the Dole Whip booth outside the Tiki Lounge, and head to attractions with air conditioning in the middle of the day to keep cool. Many locals prefer to visit Splash Mountain when it’s hot, because they know they’ll dry off in minutes.

6. Visiting California Adventure

Disney California Adventure is seen as taking second place to the legend of Disneyland itself, but many locals consider it their favorite park. Follow the same tips as for Disneyland (in other words, get there early). Head to the rides you most want to experience — Guardians of the Galaxy, Cars Land, and Soarin’ Over California are among the most popular. If you want to see the spectacular World of Color show at night, be prepared to claim a viewing spot several hours early, or look into reserving a premium spot via dinner or dessert packages. A big difference between California Adventure and Disneyland is that California Adventure serves liquor. Check out some of the fine dining restaurants in the park, particularly Carthay Circle and Napa Rose at the nearby Grand Californian Hotel, for an experience you’ll treasure.

7. Planning Ahead: Vacation Rentals and Restaurant Reservations

A Disneyland vacation is never a cheap one, but you can ease the financial strain by booking a vacation rental rather than a hotel room. Vacation rentals in or near Anaheim are the ideal choice: there’s plenty of room to relax after a tiring day, and you can save a bundle by cooking breakfast and even dinner in your own kitchen, rather than having to pay for pricey restaurants at every single meal. Pack lunches to save on your day at Disneyland, since even the simplest snack carries a higher price than you’d pay outside the park. Vacation rentals tend to book up during the busiest times of year, so if your plans take you to Disney during a crowded season, book your rental several months in advance. The same is true for high-end restaurants and attractions within the parks. Check the Disneyland website to see when reservations open for the Blue Bayou, Fantasmic, World of Color packages, Carthay Circle, and character breakfasts, and book your tables ahead of time.

8. Aids That Help You Make the Most of Your Disneyland Visit

Not surprisingly, a host of resources are available to help you plan your Disneyland visit. Among the best are apps that monitor the length of lines in real time to help you adjust your plans on the fly. Check out the Lines app from TouringPlans.com – and consider using Touring Plans or Ridemax to design the perfect touring plan of the parks for your family or group. Other popular line monitoring apps are Mousewait and Disney Mobile Magic. In addition, take advantage of FastPasses, which let you book a window for a return trip to the most popular attractions at each park.

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