Japan is really lucky to have not one, but two Disney theme parks. While the kids enjoy Disneyland with attractions like Pooh’s Hunny Hunt and Splash Mountain, the grownups have their own fun escape in DisneySea, where the most popular attraction is beer.
The night electrical parade must be amazing when viewed after a few pints, I imagine.
Every day, thousands of people pack the parks – families, couples, groups of friends, students on school trips and of course, tourists.
The parks are enormous, and one day is not nearly enough to explore everything, especially with the long standby times at all the popular attractions that often reach upwards of three hours.
Most people usually take one of two approaches to the theme parks. Some like to make the most out of their time by squeezing in as many rides and attractions as they can (Shiori is a pro at this, wrangling one FastPass after another and planning our day around them, so we usually get to visit all the attractions we want with minimal wait times. She rocks.)
Others prefer to take it slow, perfectly content to hop on a couple of rides and spend the rest of the day enjoying the shows and parades, soaking up the cheerful atmosphere.
Whether you want to go full throttle or nice and easy, these 6 tips will help you get the most out of your Tokyo Disneyland or DisneySea adventure:
1. Buy your tickets in advance
Getting your tickets at the gate on the day itself is not a good idea. The lines for tickets can vary from short to very long (on weekends and public holidays), and once you’ve finally got your tickets, you’ll have to join yet another long line to enter the park, which pretty much guarantees you’ll miss your chance at the big Fastpasses (see tip no.2).
Of course, if you’re with a partner or group one of you can get the tickets while the others stand in line at the entrance, but it’s really not worth the trouble. Also, on busy days they may stop selling tickets at the door to avoid overcrowding, and that would be a major bummer.
Avoid all that hassle by getting your tickets in advance. It’s easy. You can purchase them online, or to drop by one of the Disney stores in Shibuya and Odaiba a few days prior. With a pre-purchased ticket, there’s no need to line up twice in the morning and you’re guaranteed entry.
2. Go early
Trust me on this one – you’ll want to be among the first in line when the park opens, so you can get a head start when the mad dash begins for the Fastpasses.
Why would you want to do that? Because FastPasses will save you literally hours lining up for the more popular attractions (Monsters Inc. Ride and Go Seek and Space Mountain in Disneyland; Toy Story Mania and Journey to the Centre of the Earth in DisneySea, based on my experience).
You’ll also get to take some pretty epic pictures with the park’s landmarks while it’s still clear of people.
The gates open at 9am on weekdays and 8am on weekends (times may change depending on the schedule – check the Disney website for confirmation), but people start lining up as early as 6am. Based on our experience, getting there 90 minutes before opening time is the sweet spot, but the earlier the better.
For an in-depth guide to the Fastpass system, click here.
3. Get a mobile internet connection
This one’s optional, but highly recommended. Disneyland and DisneySea Japan has a web app that shows wait times for all the attractions in real time.
Note: They recently changed it so that you can only access it if you’re in the park (you need to turn on GPS location services on your smartphone) I recommend using Google’s Chrome browser for this so you can use the translation feature.
If you want to hop on as many rides as you can, this is a godsend because it helps plan your next move. You’ll know which rides have the shortest standby times at a glance, which Fastpasses to gun for next, and avoid the situation where you waste time and energy trekking from one end of the park to another for a ride only to give up because of the enormous line.
If you’re visiting Japan, the easiest and cheapest way to get connected is via one of those portable WiFi hotspots that you can rent online. If you need a recommendation, I’ve used Rentafone before in the past and had a good experience. Some AirBnB places include it as part of the amenities, so take full advantage of it.
4. Remember to recharge
When you’re having a blast, it’s really easy to forget to stay hydrated, especially in the summer. While you’re waiting in line is the perfect time to replenish your energy with some light snacks and drinks. Don’t worry, eating and drinking in line is perfectly okay.
And if you packed your own drinks, you’ll save some money too – bottled drinks in the parks cost about three times as much as outside. We like to spend our money trying as many of the delicious popcorn flavors as we can instead (my favorite is soy sauce and butter).
5. Don’t take the train back
If you’re anything like us, you’ll be happy but completely exhausted at the end of the day. And unless you’ve booked a place near the resort for the night, hustling your way through the trains to get back to the hotel is the last thing you want to do.
So don’t. Do what we usually do, and take the bus. There are buses from both Disneyland and Sea that go to every major area in Tokyo. It only costs a little more than the train and is absolutely worth it. No train crowds, transfers and lugging around all those souvenirs you bought.
Instead, you’ll get to take a nice nap on the bus and wake up feeling refreshed. It’s no magic carpet ride, but it sure comes close.
6. Do it last
If you plan to stay at one of the Disney resort hotels after a day at the park, and are flying out from Narita airport, you might want to put the trip at the very end of your itinerary. Because then you can head directly to the airport from the hotel, which is much nearer than downtown Tokyo, and maximize your time in the area.
If you have a few hours to kill before having to head for the airport, there’s a themed shopping mall near the train station to DisneySea called Ikspiari that you can do some last minute shopping in. Doing Disneyland or DisneySea last is a great and memorable way to end your vacation in Japan!