6 Months vs. 60 Days – The Big Differences in Planning a Walt Disney World vs. Disneyland Vacation

Welcome to this month’s Blogorail Orange Loop. Today we are comparing Walt Disney World and Disneyland.

Vacation written on calendarGrowing up in Illinois and with many friends in the Eastern U.S., my first Disney Parks experiences were at Walt Disney World. Now that I live in Arizona, I visit Disneyland just as often and probably more often. Knowing that I visit both regularly, my friends, especially my “Disney” friends, often contact me when they are planning a trip to the “other” park. While many think that they are similar, planning trips to them often leaves even the “other” park experts scratching their heads. I find myself telling my Walt Disney World friends to relax when heading to Disneyland. There’s no need to be stressing about dining and Fastpasses six months out. On the opposite end, I find myself exclaiming to my Disneyland friends who are headed to Walt Disney World, “What do you mean you didn’t set up your My Disney Experience account?!? You leave in six weeks!!!” Here’s a handy chart with the basics of what you need to know if you’re planning a trip to the “other” park and how it compares to your “home” park.

Walt Disney World Disneyland
Park Hours Six Months 30 – 60 Days
Park hours and schedules are released about six months out. On July 20, 2015, I could already see the hours as far out as January 26, 2016. This is also true for announcements of special events. Dates are released months out. Park hours are only available 30-60 days in advance. On July 20, 2015, park hours were published through August 29, 2015. This is also true for special events. Dates are only released a couple of months out.
Dining Reservations Six Months 60 Days
Guests can make reservations 180 days in advance or if staying on Walt Disney World property, 180+10/length of stay. In fact, the most popular locations like Be Our Guest can and do fill up six months out. Guests can make reservations 60 days in advance. Popular dining locations like Blue Bayou or packages for World of Color or Fantasmic! are even still available a week or two out except during very busy periods.
Tours Six Months 30 Days
Most tours can be booked 180 days in advance. Most tours require advance reservations. VIP tour requests can be made 90 days in advance. Most tours can be booked 30 days in advance. Some tours may have walk up or same day availability. VIP tour requests can be made up to 90 days in advance.
Fastpass 30 – 60 Days Same Day
Guests can use My Disney Experience to reserve Fastpass+ one hour windows for three selected attractions in one park per day. If staying on Walt Disney World property, times can be reserved 60 days in advance. For everyone else, times can be reserved 30 days in advance. Popular attractions can fill up early and may not be available unless booked in advance. Admission tickets must be linked in My Disney Experience to do this online. Once the first three are used, guests can obtain additional times through the My Disney Experience app on their phones or at kiosks throughout the parks. Fastpasses are distributed at selected attractions the day of visit only. Guests should visit the Fastpass kiosks located near their selected attraction and insert their admission tickets to receive a paper Fastpass with a one-hour window return time. With few exceptions, only one Fastpass can be held at a time. Guests should refer to their Fastpass to see when another can be obtained. Once that Fastpass is used or the time shown on the Fastpass has passed, guests can go to the next attraction to obtain another Fastpass.
Airport Transportation Guests staying at a Walt Disney World Resort hotel can take advantage of Disney’s Magical Express, which is a free service bussing guests to their resort and even delivering checked luggage right to their room. Guests are on their own. If flying into the smaller Santa Ana (John Wayne) airport, there are a few shuttles. A cab costs about $50. If flying into LAX, there are shuttles available. Plan to spend an hour or two in L.A. traffic as LAX is quite a distance from Disneyland.
Resort Transportation There are many options to transport guests around Walt Disney World. Depending on the park or resort, there are boats, the monorail, or buses. Cabs are available and may be complimentary if traveling from resort to resort or to/from a Disney golf course from a Disney resort. Plan on at least 45 minutes to an hour to get from one location to another. Everything at Disneyland is within walking distance except for a couple of parking lots and Disneyland provides a tram or buses from those. One can easily walk from Disneyland to Disney California Adventure to Downtown Disney or to any of the three Disneyland hotels in just a few minutes.
Places to Stay The closest one can get to the parks is by staying at a Walt Disney World resort. There are other perks as well such as earlier dining and Fastpass+ reservations. Staying off-property will often require a rental car or other paid transportation to the parks. While the three Disneyland hotels are within easy walking distance to the parks, so are many other properties. One can even purchase Disneyland packages at a non-Disney “Good Neighbor” hotel.
Summary Walt Disney World is much bigger than Disneyland and with park hours, dining reservations and Fastpass+ attraction times available so far in advance, early planning is necessary for the best experience. Disneyland still has the feel of a local theme park. Even with little to no advance planning, one can have a great time experiencing the most popular attractions and able to find dining options.

Mickey MouseAs this chart shows, planning a trip to Walt Disney World is very different than planning for Disneyland if one wants to experience the most popular restaurants and rides. Which is better? I can’t say. Visiting both regularly, there are times that I love everything Walt Disney World has to offer and love knowing that my schedule is set and I will see and do everything I want. There are other times, though, that I love the spontaneity that Disneyland allows and really love the convenience of being able to walk everywhere. Of course, you can see that famous mouse at either. I guess you’ll just have to visit both to decide for yourself!

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8 thoughts on “6 Months vs. 60 Days – The Big Differences in Planning a Walt Disney World vs. Disneyland Vacation

  1. Leslie Harvey (@TripsWithTykes)

    As someone who loves the planning part as much as the vacation, this is such a helpful comparison chart. I often do my DL trips at the last minute since I live in California, so I’m grateful for the fact that all the good reservations aren’t gone 6 months out there. 😉


  2. disneynouns

    I’m a WDW guy, but I’ve done DL too. I hate that WDW is getting impossible to enjoy without uber planning! DL has an edge for letting the fun unfold as you go.

    Great charts and a great post!


  3. Mary

    I had never seen it shown this way. It really is different! After year of planning for Disney World I like the idea of just enjoying Disneyland.


  4. roemottola

    Great chart! I honestly get nervous now when I go to Disneyland after planning for WDW for many years. I feel like I should be doing SOMETHING to prepare. 🙂



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