If you’ve been to a Disney theme park before, you know what I mean when I say Disney vacations are unforgettably incredible experiences. Tokyo Disney Resort certainly follows suit. But with extra pixie dust. The Tokyo Disney Resort is not just an amusement park, it’s a cultural experience.
Tokyo Disney Resort is home to numerous attractions unique to only the Tokyo parks, and Tokyo loves their Disney parks. Get ready to sit next an elderly couple on the roller coaster that does a 360. Be prepared to wear some form of Mickey ears otherwise you’ll be the odd man out and you absolutely have to pose with the man himself, Mickey Mouse. No one is too cool for the Disney parks in Tokyo.
If you’re taking your kids, watching their enjoyment is reason enough to go. And they’re going to think you’re the best parent in the world for taking them. At least until you say “no” to something.
If you’re not going with children, get ready for a level of excitement you haven’t experienced since seeing Santa left you a bicycle on Christmas morning. It’s just that much fun. And Tokyo Disney has done an exceptional job with making the experience adult friendly. Margarita or a glass of wine while strolling the park, anyone? A few days at the Tokyo Disney Resort will make a honeymoon to Japan just that much more memorable. Both parks have some incredibly romantic areas.
Follow along with these tips to make the most out of your adventure at Tokyo Disney Resort.
Visit both parks
Tokyo Disney Resort is not actually in Tokyo. It’s right next door in Chiba prefecture. From the core of Tokyo (Shinjuku/Shibuya) it’ll take about 45 minutes on the train to reach Maihama station – the gateway to the Tokyo Disney Resort. Here you have a choice: to the right is Tokyo Disneyland, the classic Disney park. It’s the character-based park with highlights including Pooh’s Hunny Hunt, Splash Mountain, ToonTown and the insanely spectacular Dreamlights Parade once darkness has fallen.
To the left of Maihama station is Tokyo DisneySea – the more adult themed park with less focus on Disney characters. Many theme park reviewers and connoisseurs agree that Tokyo DisneySea is the most beautiful theme park in the world.
Spend 3 days at the parks
The Tokyo Disney Resort doesn’t offer a single-day ticket with entrance to both parks, known as the park-hopper pass in the US. If you’re opting for a one or two day pass, you’ll pick one park per day. Obviously this should be one day for Tokyo Disneyland and one day for Tokyo Disney Sea. But if you’re going for three or four, your tickets will look like this:
One day pass: choose one park
Two day pass: choose one park per day
Three-day pass: choose one park per day for the first two days. Both parks on day three
Four-day pass: choose one park per day for the first two days. Both parks on day three and four
My personal recommendation is going for three days – one full day at each park plus an extra day at both parks to catch anything you missed or revisit favorites. The third day is a great day to catch parades and nighttime shows that you didn’t have time for during the first two days. You’ll feel less rushed to get on all the attractions so you can enjoy the scenery and atmosphere more.
Stay on property
Since the resort is actually 45-minutes away from the heart of Tokyo, staying on the property will make your experience much easier. The four official hotels are special in their unique ways. The swankiest of them is Hotel Miracosta, which is located in Tokyo DisneySea. About half of the rooms face the park which means you could watch the evening shows from your bed! The suites on the upper floor have large balconies which make for the most romantic evening possible.
Besides the best location for easy access to the parks, staying on property means you get a free monorail pass from the date of check-in until the date of check-out as well as a “Happy 15 Entry.” This allows you to enter the park 15 minutes before it opens to the public.
Buy your tickets in advance
You have a few options for buying tickets in advance, but you definitely want to choose one of them. Buying same-day tickets outside of both parks is available, but sometimes the line can be long and you’re likely to encounter enough lines during your day anyway.
If you’re staying at the Tokyo Disney Resort you can buy tickets at the counter in Ikspiari. If you’re a lucky duck and staying at one of the three resort hotels, you can buy your tickets at the hotel. Alternatively you can buy your tickets online and print them out.
Get there before the park opens
I know getting up early on vacation sounds like a I’m asking way too much, but I promise this will make the rest of your day SO much more rewarding. My suggestion is to get in line an half-hour to a hour before the park opens for the day. The waiting time is the perfect opportunity to drink some coffee, have a bite of breakfast and check out the map of the park to strategize which rides are a must and plan a loose itinerary for the day.
Getting into the park a few minutes after it opens means your fastpasses will start stacking quickly. Fastpasses sell out on many attractions by mid-morning or mid-afternoon (depending on the crowds). But getting there when the parks opens will afford you as many opportunities to snatch up fastpasses as possible.
Lines for attractions are separated into fastpass and standby. Standby is exactly what you think it is. But the fastpass line is the one you want. A fastpass means you enter a different line, a shorter line. Fastpasses are distributed at the most popular attractions and indicate what time you can return to get in the fastpass line. Using fastpasses will save you HOURS of time. Time that you can spend taking in all of splendor of the park instead of standing in line.
Eat at slightly off times
You internal clock indicating eating times is likely to be thrown off from the time change anyway, so this one is pretty simple. If you can, eat lunch and dinner either earlier or later than the norm. Some restaurants have priority seating which indicate a time you can return to get seated right away. If your heart is set on a restaurant that offers priority seating, head there at 10 a.m. or soon after to reserve your time slot for later in the day.
Download the wait times app
Tokyo Disney Resort does have an official app with info like wait times, show times, temporary closures etc. However, it’s only available to download from the Japanese app stores. Thankfully there is an app we all have access to called TDR Wait Time Check available on Google Play and the Apple App Store. It’s all in English, too!
This will be your best resource for not standing in epicly long lines during the day.
Pro tip: A lot of the rides aimed at younger kids will empty out after dinner and be even better in the last hour of park operation. If those lines are long during the day, hold off until a bit later and you may break my record of riding Pooh’s Hunny Hunt seven times in a row by walking on with no one in line!
Next to Maihama station is the mall Ikspiari. In addition to clothing stores, a huge Disney store and a movie theatre, the mall has a ton of eating options and a grocery store. If you’re worn out at the park, this is a great place to rest for the afternoon and recharge for the evening. But be sure to head back in time for the night shows in the park. Those will be some of highlights of your day.
Wear your most comfortable shoes/sandals
You might break your Fitbit record on a visit to a one of these parks. The best part is you’ll be so busy feeling like a kid on Christmas morning while running around these parks that you won’t notice at all until you feel the buzz on your wrist.
With this in mind, wear the most comfortable shoes you own. Preferably ones you’ve broken in so you know you won’t be getting blisters or sore spots. Even better news is athletic shoes are all the rage in Japan right now so you’ll fit right in. Running shoes, Birkenstocks, Chacos, Sperrys, Danskos, Merrells and Keens are all popular choices in Japan, so lace up in ultimate comfort.
If you see something you want to own, buy it now
The merchandise at Tokyo Disney Resort is unique to the Tokyo parks only. It has a bit of a cult following among the Disney nerds worldwide. The awesome merch here tends to sell out and often doesn’t come back in stock (at least not while you’re still there). Especially the seasonal merch – if you see something you want, get it right now, because it might not be there later today or tomorrow.
If your stash of goodies has gotten too large to handle, you can store it in a locker found at the entrance to either park. Make sure to get a hand stamp before you exit the park.
Avoid holidays, weekends and school breaks
Holidays, weekends and school breaks according to the Japanese school calendar are rough times to visit. Not to frighten you away, but the lines for popular attractions can creep up into the 200-minute-wait range. It’s intense. However, I like to see this as a testament to just how amazing these parks are. Golden Week is perhaps the largest Japanese holiday, typically an entire week-long vacation that almost everyone in the country has off of school and work. It falls between the end of April and the beginning of May. Expect huge crowds at the parks during this time.
Consult the crowd calendar
The crowd calendar (in Japanese) is a great resource to get a general feel for how busy the park(s) will be on your intended dates. It’s in Japanese but using Google translate will work well enough for you to understand what the calendar is indicating. The lower the number, the better. Don’t read this as a perfect source, though. The predictions are based on past year attendance and hotel reservations. I’ve been many times before when the calendar was pretty far off from how the park felt. That being said, it’s a great first resource for deciding when to visit the parks over your holiday.
My personal favorite times to visit are April and May (minus Golden Week) during the Easter/spring celebration. Also tied for first place is early October because the Tokyo Disney parks really know how to do Halloween. Coincidentally, these are also my personal favorite times to visit Japan because the weather is as perfect as it gets. The spring brings cherry blossom, azalea and iris blooms, and the fall colors of Japan rival the best New England has to offer.
Visit between Tuesday and Friday
Aside from skipping holidays, weekends and school breaks, the best days to visit are Tuesday through Friday. Mondays can sometimes be as crowded as the weekend days! Surprisingly even Friday evenings typically don’t get too packed, either. So don’t be afraid of heading to the park on a Friday.
Don’t be intimidated by the (lack of) language barrier
Almost all of the narration in the rides is in Japanese. However, don’t let this deter you in the slightest. The premise of almost all of them is simple enough that you’ll get the gist even without the language.
Cast members may or may not speak much English. At the ticket counters and information booths, you’ll be able to speak with someone fluent in English. At the restaurants or rides, most will understand and speak some level of English, certainly enough to understand what menu item you’re ordering.
All signage is in Japanese and English.
The cast members at the park are some of the kindest people and if they can’t speak enough English to understand your question, they’ll quickly be on their way to find a cast member who can.
Be single (temporarily)
Both Tokyo Disneyland and Tokyo DisneySea have specific rides that feature a “single-riders” line. This means you ride as an individual rider, getting seated next to a party of an uneven number. For example: on Raging Spirits at Tokyo DisneySea the ride configuration is 2 per row. You’ll sit next to someone who is part of a 3-person party.
This can save a ton of time waiting in line for attractions. Sure, you don’t get to sit next to your chosen Disney adventure partner(s), but the time saved is completely worth it. You’ll be shown to a line with other single riders. If you’re lucky you will walk through the (lack of) line and walk right on the ride. Other times, the wait could be 30 minutes, which is still heaps better than standing in line for 90+ minutes!
To hop in these lines, head to the fastpass riders lines and tell the cast member you’re a single rider. They’ll show you the way.
The attractions with single-rider lines:
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