Casey Hawkins

Teacup ridesTokyo Disney isn’t a small world after all, with over a hundred rides and stalls to visit throughout the various themed lands. Making small adjustments to your game plan can mean all the difference when it comes to feeling comfortable throughout the day, and heading home with some money left in your wallet.

Get prepared to spend an entire day at Disneyland if you’re set on experiencing each of the feature rides. With nine lands and over 130 stalls selling all sorts of sweet and sticky snacks, time will go quicker than your work lunch break. Once you arrive at JR’s Maihama station, you’ll join Mickey and his friends (and he has tens of thousands visiting each day) as they tour the park. Upon entry you’ll receive a map, but I recommend having a quick glance online the night before to get familiar with what’s on offer, especially if you need to negotiate the itinerary with family members.

Disneyland

Think smart and plan ahead

You’re going to be on your feet all day, so the obvious choice would be to wear sneakers. If visiting over the rainy season (June-July) it’s worth purchasing a plastic poncho from a 100 yen store just to be safe; there’s nothing worse than taking a fully-clothed shower while standing in an hour-long queue surrounded by strangers. There are lockers for hire inside the arrival gates, so don’t shy away from packing bulk items like a rubber mat (to sit on during parades), water bottles and fruit snacks. As you’ll be doing a lot of walking, I recommend eating a hearty breakfast during the train ride which is roughly 30-minutes from Tokyo station. While there are plenty of food options on site, they’re certainly not known for being healthy or value for money—think caramel popcorn and churros.

Disneyland attracts holiday makers all year round, so avoiding crowds is pretty much impossible. It’s particularly chaotic over the Christmas and Easter period (even though these holidays are not traditional celebrated in Japan), with special events and elaborate decorations sprayed throughout the park. When you see the Disney characters and parade floats elaborately dressed to celebrate such festivities, you’ll see why people choose to battle the increased crowds. It’s said the park is quietest immediately before and after Golden Week (starting April 29) or during early winter. On an average weekday, queuing for rides is relatively pleasant considering there are few young children present. While there may be several hundred high-school students, they tend to be more fixated on taking selfies in front of Cinderella’s Castle than going on rides.  

Grab a Fastpass and Go

Take advantage of the free FASTPASS ticketing system which operates from morning until tickets ‘run out’. It’ll cut queuing time on popular rides by up to a third, which could mean saving 45-minutes during peak hours. Holding a FASTPASS allows you to bypass the regular queue during a time pre-allocated on your ticket. Bear in mind that you can only gain one FASTPASS at a time, and the tickets are allocated based on first-come-first-served. When I visited, the rides attracting the longest queues were Monsters Inc., Space Mountainand Pooh’s Hunny Pot. However, my personal favourites were Star Tours and Splash Mountain. If you’re thinking of arriving at midday, don’t be surprised if most of the ticketing machines are covered up because they’ve already doled out their daily quota. If lining up the old-fashion way is your only option, expect to wait up to one hour during low-periods and over two hours on weekends and holiday seasons.

Fastpass

Mickey Mouse ears make most adults look pretty ridiculous…unless they are at Disneyland! As you read this, you might be thinking there’s no way you’ll be persuaded to don a pair and skip around the park, but I’m here to tell you, there’s something contagious about this behaviour in Japan. I had no interest in taking a selfie with a silly character hat until I realised I was part of the one-percent who neglected their inner-child’s desire to play dress ups. However, by the time I came around, I was faced with paying an outrageous price for a pair of furry ears produced in China. Even if you’re currently saying to yourself you won’t participant in such shenanigans, go buy yourself some Disney paraphernalia from a 100 yen shop the day before, just in case you change your mind.

Mickey Mouse Ears

Take on the hairy rides before lunch

Knock over each of the hair-raising rides before lunch. Refer to the guide map and look for attractions marked with red triangles, for they indicate potential motion-sickness. Whatever you do, don’t overlook the idyllic spinning teacup ride, as it caters to the placid-natured as well as the thrill-seekers. Depending on the driver at the wheel, the cup has the potential to inflict extreme dizziness or bring back fond memories of riding the spinner at the local playground. If the sun is out or the weather is muggy, pack some neck coolers (from 100-yen store) to keep you comfortable and reduce wooziness from rides. For those looking to satisfy audio-visual senses, perhaps stick to rides marked with an asterisk, as they involve light movement and stunning creative elements.

Teacup ride

Pack a bento (Japanese lunch box)

Most department stores around Tokyo have a basement floor dedicated to selling fresh, healthy take-away food. If you’re leaving from a main station like Shibuya, you can pop down stairs (Tokyu) and pick up a pre-prepared bento box. These boxes usually consist of sushi, fried chicken, rice balls and pickled vegetables. Ask the server to pack your items with small ice packs to keep your food fresh until lunch time. If you do want to indulge in some carnival-style park food, I recommend gnawing on a smoked turkey leg. There are two small carts operating outside Westernland, distributing drumsticks that will taunt your tastebuds every few square metres of the park.

Japanese food

The Ichi-ban (number one) tip

Make sure you stick around for the free lightshow and fireworks display come nightfall. The character floats and projection extravaganza onto Cinderella’s Castle will evoke a child-like happiness from within. Without a doubt, you’re going to want to take pictures of the floats, so position yourself anywhere along the main roadside. This is when you can pull out the rubber mat you cleverly chose to pack in advance; that way you can sit comfortably on the concreate pavement for the show’s duration (approx. 45 minutes). After the spectacular fireworks, whatever you do, don’t run off during the 10-minute interval and miss the highlight of Disneyland—when Cinderella’s Castle becomes a giant storybook!

Disney castle

Casey Hawkins grew up immersed in Australia’s sea, sun and surf culture. She first became a teacher because she was passionate about sharing ideas and experiences. Teaching has led her to explore some unique, remote locations and make friends with people from all walks of life. She is most passionate about learning and sharing their stories with others. Website: Nan’s Lucky Duck 

The views, opinions and positions expressed by the author and those providing comments are theirs alone, and are meant as travel inspiration only. They do not reflect the opinions of Cover-More Insurance. You should always read the PDS available from your travel insurance provider to understand the limits, exclusions and conditions of your policy and to ensure any activities you undertake are covered by your policy.