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Essential Tips for Planning & Visiting Disneyland Differently in 2022

When Disneyland reopened last April 2021, many of us thought and hoped that things were well on their way back to normal in the theme park world. But the universe had a few more curveballs to throw us all. And here we are in 2022 in a new year. Disneyland has now been back in operation for over 10 months, and things are still, practically speaking, quite a bit different in 2022 at the Happiest Place on Earth – some of them likely permanently so.

If you haven’t been to the parks in awhile, it’s important to get up to date! As a guest, that means you need to come prepared for things to work in very new ways. Many of the old pre-2020 Disneyland tricks and hacks won’t work anymore. You need to have a few new tools at the ready to have the best vacation experience. That’s where this article comes in.

Disneyland Railroad by Small World

If are planning a 2022 Disneyland vacation, this complete planning guide will walk you through all the basics of what to expect this year – new requirements, changes from what you might have experienced before the closures, new ride and land openings, revised touring strategies, and more. I’ve been there first hand all along the way, visiting Disneyland on a half dozen separate trips since the reopening (with another trip coming up in a few weeks).

And I’ll continue to update this annual guide as the year goes on to reflect more changes. So be sure to bookmark and come back to it if your trip is several months down the road from now.

(Trips With Tykes uses affiliate links which means I may earn a small commission if you purchase through links in this post. See our full disclosure policy linked in the menu at the bottom of this site.)

COVID-19 Protocols in 2022 at Disneyland

Over the past two years, COVID-19 protocols in every public setting have been a roller coaster all of their own – no theme parks even needed for that. At Disneyland, the rules have changed often as well and could surely change again several times over the course of the coming year. Here is what you can expect when it comes to public health and safety protocols in 2022 if you visit the parks and resort:

Minnie Mouse mask worn in Disneyland in 2021
  • Masks: As of February 17, 2022, masks are no longer required in any outdoor or indoor spaces at the Disneyland Resort for all fully vaccinated guests. The only exception is Disney transportation (monorail, parking shuttles), where all guests regardless of vaccination status must wear masks.
  • Social Distancing: There is no social distancing observed anymore in any of the parks. Expect that fellow guests (many of whom will be unmasked) will be close to you in indoor queues and other tight spaces. All spaces on ride vehicles are filled and single rider lines have returned to several attractions to fill in all available space.
  • Testing or vaccinations for all visitors are strongly recommended but not required. Disney does not check for test results or ask to see vaccination cards.

The most important additional thing to be aware of when it comes to public health is that these protocols can truly change on a dime with very little notice. You may book a Disneyland vacation now and find the rules have entirely changed by the time your trip rolls around. The rules can even change on you mid-trip – that happened to us last summer when we visited on June 14-16, 2021 when the state of California dropped its mask mandate on June 15 and Disney followed that lead with 12 hours notice.

The bottom line? If you are only comfortable taking a trip due to the promise of a certain level of precautions being in place, you probably shouldn’t plan a trip right now because those rules are not guaranteed. Conversely, if you are taking a trip now because of the lifting of some restrictions (like the mask mandate), know that restrictions could always return if things change. Flexibility is truly the name of the game these days.

What’s New, Returning Soon, or Closed at Disneyland in 2022

Before we get to all the operational changes and new park touring tips, let’s briefly dive into what’s new to see and do at the resort in 2022. And of course, we have to discuss the flip side as well – what’s closed this year for refurbishment or for good.

Avengers Campus

Avengers Campus Disneyland Entrance Sign

Avengers Campus opened in Disney California Adventure the summer of 2021, so is still a new offering to anyone who hasn’t visited the parks since before the closures. This land is anchored by a new attraction, WEB SLINGERS: A Spider-Man Adventure, which joins Guardians of the Galaxy – Mission: BREAKOUT! now incorporated into the land. Get all the tips and details on the offerings in the land in my Avengers Campus guide.

Nighttime Spectaculars & Parades

When Disneyland reopened, shows, parades, and nighttime spectaculars didn’t reopen with the parks in an effort to prevent large crowds from congregating. But finally many of these offering are ready to return! In the next couple of months, quite a few old favorites are finally making their comeback. Here are the dates to watch for as you plan your trip:

April 22, 2022

Returning offerings:

  • World of Color (Disney California Adventure)
  • Disneyland Forever Fireworks (Disneyland park) – for a limited engagement
  • Main Street Electrical Parade (Disneyland park) – for a limited engagement and featuring a brand new closing float featuring Mary Blair style characters including several from newer Disney franchises like Encanto and Raya and the Last Dragon
Main Street Electrical Parade Disneyland new float
Image courtesy of Disneyland.

May 28, 2022

Returning offerings:

  • Fantasmic! (Disneyland park)

See more details on the best spots to view the Disneyland Forever Fireworks or World of Color from my pal Jessica at The Happiest Blog on Earth.

Disneyland After Dark & Special Events

Disneyland recently brought back a number of after hours special events that require separate tickets to participate. Sweethearts Night already took place on five dates in February 2022 and Villains Night just finished up in early March in DCA, and all the other announced events for spring 2022 are all already sold out.

For regular guests, this means one of the parks may close early to you for a night during your trip, so watch these dates:

  • Star Wars Night (Disneyland park): May 3, 4, & 27, 2022

In the fall, Oogie Boogie Bash will likely return to Disney California Adventure select nights in September and October, and a holiday after hours event in Disneyland park could return in November and/or December as well.

And of course if these kinds of special events – which feature lower crowds and special theming and food – interest you, watch for the possibility that more are announced for other times this year.

Toontown Closure

The big closure of note in 2022 is Toontown in Disneyland park. In addition to getting a new ride next year – Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway – it will get a major overhaul and resign all over the land. That means a long term closure that runs from March 9, 2022 into 2023. If you have toddlers and preschoolers who normally enjoy free playing here, be sure to check out some of our family’s favorite non-ride things to do with young kids in Disneyland.

Other closures of significance:

  • Pirates of the Caribbean: March 14, 2022 – summer 2022 TBD
  • Grizzly River Run: closed through March 30, 2022
  • Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage: closed indefinitely for refurbishment with no date announced

There are a number of other short term attraction closures on calendar, so always be sure to check official Disneyland sources before your trip.

Essential Tips for Disneyland Planning & Touring in 2022

So now that all of those dates are out of the way, how do you plan your Disneyland vacation differently in 2022? And how do you approach touring the parks in new ways? Here are the key tips.

Plan Earlier!

Disneyland Jungle Cruise Entrance

Remember the days when you could wake up and decide to go to Disneyland for the day? Or if you are not a local but are within a few hours driving distance, the days when you could decide mid-week to head down to Disneyland for the weekend? Those are (mostly) long gone.

With an ever-increasing number of Americans feeling comfortable traveling, the demand for Disneyland continues to exceed supply many times of year. That means you need to plan early to be able to go at all.

How early is early enough? If you hope to snag the best pricing and availability for hotels or are planning a vacation during a peak holiday period, at least several months in advance is recommended. If you just want to ensure you aren’t locked out entirely thanks to Disneyland’s theme park reservation requirement (more on that later), I’d recommend about 6 weeks in advance.

One important thing to keep in mind – conventions and other special events are rapidly returning to the Anaheim area making hotel demand higher than ever at some times you might not expect. Hotels that are in walking distance of Disneyland especially seem to book up quickly in 2022 as a lot of travelers don’t want the hassle of shuttles or harder-to-find ridesharing to the parks. So earlier really is better when it comes to being able to plan a Disneyland vacation with your preferred logistics.

Secure Theme Park Reservations ASAP

In the last couple of years, we’ve all gotten used to the fact that an increasing number of activities require advance reservations to take part. Disneyland is of course one such place. And it seems likely theme park reservations are here to stay for the indefinite future.

Be sure to read my comprehensive guide to Disneyland reservations as you are planning your Disneyland trip to make sure you get the reservations part right. The bottom line is that you need to a) check to make sure there are reservations available for the days you want to visit and the ticket type you plan to buy before planning a trip and b) book those reservations ASAP before they disappear. Ideally, you should be booking exactly 120 days out on the day the reservations calendar opens for your travel date, especially if you plan to go at a high demand time like Thanksgiving or Christmas holidays.

Practically speaking, however, reservations have usually remained open for almost all dates more than a month out (especially if you have park hopper tickets, where availability is more generous). No, that shouldn’t make you complacent. Availability can really fluctuate. Spring break demand is now resulting in some parks and dates being booked more a month in advance. For example, one park per day ticket reservations for Disney California Adventure are already almost completely sold out for most dates in April due to the popularity of the Food and Wine Festival.

And there are a lot of factors that might cause the parks to book up more quickly as the rest of the year progresses. Improving public health conditions, Disney adjusting allotment of space to annual passes (now known as Magic Keys), or the draw of seasonal offerings could all cause the parks to fill farther in advance even as capacity continues to gradually increase.

Buy the Right Ticket Type

Disneyland Tickets 2022

Before making park reservations, guests of course need theme park tickets. So what are your options for regular tickets? Disneyland offers both single day or multi-day tickets (up to 5 total days). There is an optional park hopper add on for both of these as well that costs a $60 flat fee regardless of the number of days on the ticket.

Over the course of the past year, I have heard a lot of stories of guests who bought the wrong ticket in the first place or who changed their minds about what ticket was right for them after more research. In most cases, however, you really can’t afford to do this right now. You need get your ticket purchase right out of the gate because Disneyland doesn’t make it easy to change or upgrade tickets with the reservations requirement also in place.

For this reason, I highly recommend buying multi-day Disneyland tickets from Trips With Tykes partner Get Away Today. Get Away Today is the only place that offers refundable Disneyland tickets if you get this ticket purchasing step wrong (free if you purchase their $75 Peace of Mind Plan or otherwise a $50 per ticket fee). Plus, their tickets are discounted off of regular Disney direct prices! Book discounted Disneyland park tickets from Get Away Today here. (And also be sure to peek at their discounted Disneyland hotels and vacation packages too – use code TYKES10 for $10 in additional package savings.)

So what else do you need to watch for in terms of tickets? Here’s what is tripping up many guests and what to know:

  • One day tickets can only be purchased through Disneyland directly. These tickets have 6 different prices, corresponding to 6 different tiers. Only Tier 6 tickets can be used every day on the calendar. Other tiers have blockout dates. Be sure that the tier you purchase will allow you to go on the day you want (as well as any day you might switch to if your vacation plans are not yet firm).
  • Multi-day tickets thankfully do not have tiers at all, so you are eligible to book any day on the calendar with them.
  • Multi-day tickets expire 13 days after first use. This makes them great for a multi-day vacation for out-of-towners. Locals who can bunch up several single day visits in a two week window might find some value as well.
  • Park hopper tickets and single-park-per-day tickets each have their own separate reservation availability calendar, regardless of the number of days you purchase on these tickets. Make sure you are checking the reservation calendar that matches the ticket type you intend to buy. The single-park-per-day reservation calendar fills up first. If you are booking more last minute, paying extra for park hopper will likely open up more days on the reservation calendar to you.
  • Magic Key (annual pass) reservations are a totally separate system. Magic Key dates open up 90 days in advance, and many popular dates become booked almost immediately. Consider carefully whether a Magic Key will really enable you to go on the dates you want. Personally, I’ve decided to stick with regular theme park tickets right now until the Magic Key reservations shortage is sorted out.

Have a New Disneyland Dining & Restaurant Strategy in 2022

Disney-California-Adventure-Lamplight-Lounge-Pixar-Pier

When the parks first reopened last spring, things simply weren’t up to speed on the Disneyland dining front. Slowly but surely more restaurants have reopened and dining capacity has returned. But 2022 Disneyland guests need to know that dining still isn’t quite firing on all cylinders. Plan accordingly.

What’s different? Supply chain disruptions continue to present challenges. Some menus are still pared back to a more limited number of choices at some restaurants. And Disneyland still also isn’t quite up to full cast member capacity, so that limits how many guests restaurants can serve each day.

How does all of this change how you approach dining on a Disneyland vacation?

Table Service Restaurants

For table service restaurants, my best advice is to book early (and often). Reservations didn’t used to be incredibly hard to get at Disneyland except for a very few popular restaurants, but they are much harder in 2022. You may not be able to secure your top choice, so consider making backup reservations for restaurants you are happy with when you see they are available – because those too may soon be gone!

When do you need to plan to book dining reservations? Officially, Disneyland table service reservations open up exactly 60 days in advance, usually at 3:00 am PT (but some times at 6:00 am – go figure). Unofficially, however, some restaurants will not open up availability at that time, releasing all availability several days later or releasing additional times in dribs and drabs.

How do you navigate the uncertainty? My best advice is to try at 3:00 am PT (and also at 6:00 am PT for good measure) 60 days in advance. You could then keep refreshing and trying on your own in the days that follow, especially in the days leading up to your trip. Because of the scarcity, a lot of guests are booking multiple reservations to hedge their bets and cancelling some as their plans firm up. Snagging those cancellations is possible with some persistence, especially a day or two before your trip.

I would suggest, however, saving yourself dozens of fruitless refreshes and sign up for a Disney dining reservation monitor service instead. I highly recommend the site Mouse Dining, which is a great tool to help you snag a hard to find reservation by notifying you of cancellations or Disney adding capacity. Mouse Dining has both a free and a paid version, and I’ve had personal success using it to snag over a half dozen dining reservations – just since Disneyland has reopened. If you are serious about a specific hard-to-get restaurant you’ll likely need the paid service which sends text alerts to be competitive. If you are more casually looking for openings at one of several places, the free version which sends email alerts can usually get the job done.

Last but certainly not least, all hope is not lost for the last minute planners! Most table service restaurants have some walkup availability offered. You can join a same day walkup wait list on the Disneyland app on the day of your visit. Your best bet will be to do this early or at off-peak meal times.

Quick Service Restaurants & Mobile Ordering

Disneyland Pym Test Kitchen Mobile Order Pickup Window

If you don’t want a fancier or longer meal, head for one of Disneyland’s quick service restaurants. Actually, don’t physically head there. First, you need to open the Disneyland app. The new normal for these dining locations is that you need to mobile order your food on the app. Cashiers thankfully returned last fall to many of these restaurants to enable walk up orders again, but they are in smaller numbers than before. Mobile ordering will still save you time almost all the time.

To use mobile ordering, the app will first display a list of available time windows for you to return to each restaurant to pick up your order. The closer you get to lunchtime, the more other guests start to place their mobile orders. And the farther out the return times become, although this thankfully has improved lately for a lot of restaurants.

The bottom line? It’s essential to order on the early side, especially if there is a particular popular restaurant that is a must-do for you. You can always cancel an order with no penalty before your pickup window if you change your mind. See the quick and easy guide to Disneyland mobile ordering that my friend Casey at Disneyland Daily has created with step-by-step instructions.

Snack Carts

There are several smaller kiosks and carts located in the parks as well that sell snacks – churros, sodas, popcorn and the like. Most of them are now back open! Thankfully, these are all walk up and order. Use them when you need more immediate gratification on the food front.

Master the Disneyland App

Speaking of the Disneyland app, it’s important for more than just mobile ordering. It’s a backup for your theme park ticket, your ticket to Lightning Lanes (more on that later), your park map, the way to access your PhotoPass images, and more. Disneyland has even been testing it to check out of stores by allowing guests to self-scan merchandise in the app.

It’s essential that you download the app, know your login and password, and load a credit card to your account. Every adult doesn’t need to have it, but the most tech-savvy adult in your party (or at least the one managing the Disneyland vacation planning) should. If more than one adult will be using it, it sometimes easiest both to log in to the same account so that both phones get alerts.

Note that Disney gift cards are now a permitted method of payment in the app as of last year. So if you’ve acquired Disney gift cards at a discount, you can finally use them to save on food too. The only problem is that the app doesn’t store the gift card each time, so be prepared to enter the 16 digit code anew for each purchase (hot tip: copy and paste the number in your phone’s text notes so you don’t have to fish out the card each time).

My friend Jessica from the Happiest Blog on Earth has even more detail and information in this detailed guide to the Disneyland app.

Expect Modified Character Experiences

Disneyland Distanced Character Meet with Rapunzel and Flynn Rider in Royal Hall

One of the favorite parts of a Disneyland vacation for many visitors – especially young kids – is seeing favorite Disney characters. These encounters remain highly modified for now, so it’s important to prepare your family accordingly. Photos are from afar, usually selfie style, with fewer Photopass photographers available in these spots. Characters don’t do autographs at this time either.

The silver lining is that characters are more plentiful that ever all over the parks, popping up in creative distanced ways. Check the Disneyland app under the Entertainment menu option to see the many locations where characters will appear in the parks.

Note that Disneyland character dining remains modified as well. All the character meal restaurants are open again for their usual meal times, but characters won’t stop at your table for photos or autographs. Instead, they parade and dance by quickly several times an hour. Several no longer offer a character photo to start the meal. See all the details in my complete guide to Disneyland character meals.

Have a New Lines Strategy

Disneyland Peter Pan Wait Time sign

If you don’t want to be standing in line for rides (who does?), you’ve got a LOT new to learn in 2022. Fastpass, MaxPass, Extra Magic Hour, even virtual queues…. most of the tricks and hacks we used to use to shortcut lines in the pre-pandemic days are GONE.

In their place are a few brand new tools that you absolutely need to know about. Whether you use them or not, they will affect how long the lines are and what rides you should do and when.

So what are these new options? The most important ones to know about are Disney Genie+ and paid Lightning Lane. Disney Genie+ is a pretty close cousin to MaxPass and allows guests Lightning Lane access for up to 19 eligible attractions. Paid Lightning Lane is a separate Fastpass-like offering for 3 additional super-popular rides with a separate fee. If you want short waits most like the Fastpasses of old, these are upcharges that you should seriously consider. The flip side of course is that they can make standby lines for everyone else much longer. See my complete FAQ for Disneyland’s Genie+ and Lightning Lane and then read these additional advanced Disneyland Genie+ strategies for all the details.

Genie Plus Lightning Lane Sign at Disneyland

For those of you who like to shortcut lines by going during less busy times, is it even possible to find a less crowded day to go to Disneyland in 2022? With the theme park reservations requirement, there are fewer really slow days at Disneyland – most tend to book up to the reservation capacity. That said, midweek dates are still usually going to be less crowded than a holiday weekend – except for when a special like the current spring SoCal offer on weekdays is live. But personally I’d say that it’s less important to try to game the dates you are going to go to hope to luck into low crowds rather than just pick what works best for your travel schedule.

How else can you minimize your wait times in a 2022 Disneyland world? This is an ever changing target, but here has been working of late:

  • Rope dropping still works. Starting early is vital. Get in the front of the line to enter the parks about an hour before park opening and you’ll be in prime position for your first ride of choice – and maybe even your second and third. Disneyland usually opens each park’s gates 30 minutes before park opening to let guests queue at the rope in the center of each park and you want to be near the front of those crowds. (Also be aware that rope drop crowds are very tight and may not be comfortable for everyone.)
  • Use single rider lines when available. Single rider lines are back but not necessarily for all the rides that offered them in 2020 (RIP Indy & Space Mountain single rider).
  • Understand the effect of park hopping. In 2022, park hopping still isn’t permitted until 1pm or later. This creates some artificial constraints on crowd flow that should shape your strategy. Historically, more guests go from California Adventure to Disneyland right at 1pm than the reverse, although the opening of Avengers Campus and food festivals do help to even things out. Watch for lines for some attractions to drop approaching 1pm as a result of guest movement to park hop (and often to eat lunch just before they do) – and take advantage!
  • Know when paid Lightning Lanes may sell out for Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance. While most rides offering Genie+ or paid Lightning Lane don’t run out of reservation times until late in the day, paid Lightning Lane for Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance can go very fast. Check out the latest strategies and trends in my Guide to riding Rise of the Resistance.
  • Hop in line for one last ride a minute or two before closing time. As long as you are in line before the park officially closes, you get to ride. Lines are often very short at this hour as many guests head for the exits. Squeeze in one last ride, especially if you are a night owl!
  • Ride during the fireworks or parades. When fireworks, parades, and other shows are back at Disneyland a lot of guests won’t be on rides in the minutes that lead up to and during the shows. While Fantasyland attractions close during the fireworks, head elsewhere in the park to find shorter ride lines.

Final Thoughts

Disneyland is undoubtedly different in 2022, but still exudes much of the same joy that we all expect from the Happiest Place on Earth. And now you should be armed with all the information you need to adjust accordingly and take maximum advantage of the new rules.

Where to Book Your Disneyland Vacation & Save Money!

Get Away Today Graphic Holidays Disneyland 2022

Save big on your Disneyland vacation with trusted Trips with Tykes partner, Get Away Today. Get Away Today sells park tickets at a discount, helps you find great deals at both on-property and off-property hotels, and provides expert customer service from representatives who visit Disneyland all the time.

For park tickets, don’t purchase direct from Disney and pay more! Book discounted Disneyland park tickets from Get Away Today here. Tickets purchased now are valid through end of 2024. Both park hopper and single park per day tickets are available, as well as tickets that include Genie+.

To take advantage of hotel and other package discounts from Get Away Today, explore and book Disneyland vacation packages here. Be sure to use code TYKES10 for $10 in additional savings.

Current Get Away Today Specials & Deals:

  • Southern California Resident Deal: Save up to $146 per ticket for WEEKDAY travel January 9 – May 25, 2023. Available as 3 day tickets (either park hopper or one park per day, with or without Genie+).
  • Extra Day Free Tickets: Get 5 days at Disneyland for the price of 4 with this extra day free special for longer vacations.
  • 3rd or 4th Night Free: available at select Anaheim area hotels exclusively through Get Away Today bookings (can be combined with all ticket discounts).
Visiting Disneyland in 2022? From park reservations to Disney Genie+ replacing Fastpass, the California theme parks are operating in many new ways. Get the essential tips and learn all about the changes for 2022 Disneyland vacations!

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John McFarland

Sunday 29th of May 2022

Thanks for all of the helpful information. My wife and I are trying to plan a trip for us, our 4 kids (all under 9, with the youngest being almost 3) and probably a few grandparents. We are excited!

Like you, my wife and I are planners and since, this will most likely be our only Disney trip for the foreseeable future, I want to do all that I can in the pre planning stages to help set the trip up for most success (knowing that there will be unforeseen things, ride closures, melt downs, and other unexpected issues.) With all that being said, we are looking at trying to go to Disneyland one of the three following dates, so I wanted to see if you had any insight and advice on these dates and any other thoughts that can help us plan a truly magical trip for our family.

1) November 14-17, 2022 - this is currently our first choice, as it will be Christmas season but probably without the thanksgiving to New Years crowds? It seems park hours, shows, rides, and everything should be going strong as it’s the start of Christmas season at Disneyland. Thoughts?

2) September 5-9, 2022 - this is our second choice, as it seems to be less crowded. - in your experience what do park hours and entertainment look like in what in theory is off season? - saw that D23 is 9/9-9/11, which in theory will bring crowds before and after, right?

3) October 10-13 - 3rd choice, but know that due to Fall Breaks, tends to be more crowded then the other two options. - if crowds are comparable then would rather see Christmas then Halloween at Disneyland.

I know that this become a long post and you probably get a lot of “please help me plan my trip” comments, but any advice and insight you can share would be greatly appreciated! Again, thanks for all that you do and all the helpful posts! And, thanks in advance for any advice you can give my wife and I.