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Disney Solution

Helping busy families build their dream vacation

Walt Disney World vs Disneyland

This is not going to be one of those “which one is better” post. I truly think that each resort is special and unique in their own way, so I don’t like to compare them in terms of better vs worse. Instead, I like to appreciate them for what they are and not criticize them for what they lack.

Ok…with that being said, let’s get into it…

I guess you can say that my biggest Disney Pet Peeve is when someone mistakenly (or intentionally) calls one Resort by the other name and when they’re corrected, they give the response, “Oh whatever…same thing!” Disneyland is not Disney World and vice versa! Now, I don’t expect everyone to be experts in all things Disney, but these Resorts could not be any more different!2018-01-23

Look at the size of that Resort!

If you’ve ever been to both coasts, the first thing you will notice is the gigantic size difference between the two. You may pass through the entrance of Walt Disney World near Wide World of Sports and find that you still have a 30 minute drive before you even reach your Resort near Magic Kingdom. At Disneyland, you can stay at an off-property “Good Neighbor” Hotel and still be walking distance to Disneyland, Disney’s California Adventure, and Downtown Disney.

Because of this, Park Hopping is so much easier to do at Disneyland because it’s a quick and easy walk between Disneyland and Disney’s California Adventure. Park Hopping at Walt Disney World almost always requires some sort of transportation to Hop from one park to another. Even Parks that are technically “walking distance” from each other will still take you at least 30 minute to walk between the two.

Related Post: Park Hopping: Finding Your Way Around Walt Disney World Without Getting Lost

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Same, but not the same

Even though there are some pretty significant differences between Disney World and Disneyland, there actually are some rides that both coasts share. Because these rides have the same name and overall look, some think that there is no need to ride its equivalent at the “other” park once they’ve ridden it already. But, any diehard Disney fan will tell you that while it may be the same ride, it’s not the same ride…if that makes any sense. From different seating configurations to extra drops, sometimes it’s hard to even call these rides the same thing.

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Fastpass and Fastpass+

Yes, there is a difference! Almost everyone who is planning a trip to either coast knows the basics. Fastpass and Fastpass+ basically gives you a time to come back to your preferred ride, so when it’s your turn, you can enter a separate, shorter line. It gives you the freedom to do more in the parks besides waiting in insanely long lines. But, there is a big difference in how they operate and how to grab them.

Disneyland uses Fastpass, which is the “old” system that requires you to walk from ride to ride, picking up paper FastPasses. This seems like the simpler and “more fair” way of utilizing the system since you need to physically be in the park to grab those passes. Because of this, it was much easier to get FastPasses to popular rides, even if you made a last minute trip to Disneyland. But, with the addition of the Disneyland MaxPass, that may change. Disneyland guests now have the option to reserve their FastPasses online, with the Disneyland App. But, even with this addition, it’s still a big difference from Fastpass+ in Walt Disney World. For one, you have to pay extra to use MaxPass, whereas Fastpass+ is free for anyone with a Park Ticket. Secondly, you are still unable to grab these Disneyland FastPasses ahead of time, so it’s just a matter of convenience while you’re in the park.

Walt Disney World has upgraded their system to digital MagicBands and Fastpass+. The concept is the same, but the biggest difference is the amount of planning that goes into successfully executing a plan for getting good FastPasses. Through the My Disney Experience App, you’re able to grab FastPasses up to 30 days (for off property guests) or 60 days (for those staying on property) ahead of time, meaning popular rides go extremely fast and leaves last minute travelers with very limited options (or sometimes none at all…I’m looking at you Flight of Passage!)

Related Post: Disney MaxPass- What Is It And Why You Should Use It

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Yay…you’re staying on Disney Property!

The benefit of staying at a Disney Resort is the extra magic that gets sprinkled into your vacation. After all, it wouldn’t be Disney without a little bit of extra magic.

No matter what coast you’re visiting, one of the benefits of staying at one of Disney’s Resorts is the Extra Magic Hours. Depending on the the day, you get the added benefit of either entering a park before it opens or stay after its scheduled closing time. And since you’re on Disney property, you’re in close proximity to all that Disney Magic…

No offense to Disneyland, but that’s kind of where the really good benefits ends. In this case, the benefits of staying at a Walt Disney World Resort far exceed those of staying in a Disneyland Resort.

I still have to say, the biggest benefit of staying on Walt Disney World Property is the Magical Express. If you really look, there are some great rates out there for guests to fly into Orlando International Airport (MCO). Once you get there, you get the added benefit of a completely free ride from the airport to Disney. There is no need to rent a car or call an Uber, especially since there is all kinds of transportation to use on Disney property (also free), so it’s saving you some money right from the get-go. As an additional sprinkle of magic, you don’t even have to worry about picking your luggage up from baggage claim. Disney will take care of that for you (just make sure you arrange for that ahead of time, either by yourself or through your travel agent). I’m telling you, it is sooooo nice to not have to carry your luggage all over the airport, onto the bus, and to your Hotel room.

Unfortunately, that’s not an added benefit in Anaheim. No matter what airport you fly into, you are responsible for your own ride to and from the Resort. However, since Disneyland is significantly smaller and easily walkable, you still may not need to rent a car. Disneyland does have a Monorail, shuttles to some off-property resorts, and a tram from the parking lot to the front gates, but again, everything is much smaller in Disneyland, so you may not even need to use them.

Aside from the Magical Express, additional benefits of staying at a Walt Disney World Resort include grabbing those fastpasses 30 days ahead of non-property guests, free parking, proximity to every Resort (making it easier to take a rest in the middle of the day), and more. The price tiers also allow even the most budget conscious families to find an adorably themed Resort on Disney Property within their price range. Unfortunately, Disneyland only has one price tier and it may still be too expensive for some families. However, there are wonderful “Good Neighbor” Hotels that are walking distance to the Parks and work alongside Disney to create a Disney Package.

Related Post: Disney’s Magical Express (Answers to frequently asked questions and links to reserving your spot yourself are all found within this link!)

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Again, it’s totally different!

Due to land space, Disneyland consists of 2 Parks and Downtown Disney. Walt Disney World consists of 4 Parks, 2 Water Parks, Disney Springs, more than a dozen more Hotel Resorts, Golf Courses, Pet Care, ESPN Wide World of Sports, etc…you get the picture.

Even if you have a “Home” Park, chances are, there are attractions that you will want to travel to the other side of the country to see because it just doesn’t exist at your park. There are Disneyland Passholders that love traveling to Walt Disney World just to see Spaceship Earth (or as it’s more commonly called, the “Epcot Ball”) just as much as Walt Disney World Passholders travel to Disneyland to get a glimpse at the original Disney Castle. If they were the “Same Thing” no one would need to experience the “other” park. How boring would that be?

So, instead of arguing which Resort is “better”, lets appreciate just how wonderfully different they are!

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4 Replies to “Walt Disney World vs Disneyland”

  • Oh, man. It is SOO one of my pet peeves when someone calls a park by the wrong name! I correct people but I hope I don’t sound like a jerk!! LOL

    I love Disneyland. I love Disney World. You’re right – one isn’t necessarily better than the other.

    Of course, Disney World is so expansive and has much more to offer. You can spend days and days and not see (or eat) everything. The Magical Express is a serious blessing (as is the Tragical Depress, which is what we call the one that takes you back to the airport…lol!). The on-site value resort options make it possible for me to be able to visit much more often (read: once every year and a half or so). But…Disney World isn’t perfect.

    For the sake of comparing apples to apples, Disney World’s Fantasyland in the Magic Kingdom is just….sad. It’s like an outdoor mall, and each storefront is a ride. The outside theming is weak. What little foliage there is throughout the main stretch is uninspiring. (Tangled themed rest area helped a lot to beautify, but still.) The strolled parking by the carousel is a nightmare eyesore. It doesn’t feel fantastical – it feels commercial. Because it is.

    Disneyland, though….Ohhh how I miss Disneyland. It’s been twelve years since I’ve been. My husband has never been. It’s just too expensive for us to get there, largely because of the cost of place tickets across the country. We’d want to stay on site, but the Disneyland Hotel is just too expensive. We’d have to get an off-site hotel, which wouldn’t be the end of the world. BUT we’d also have to rent a car or figure out how taxis work…lol. If we’re going to be spending a comparable amount for much less park, it just doesn’t make sense for us to go to Disneyland over Disney World.

    Despite all of these shortcomings, and back to the Fantasyland argument, what I do remember about Disneyland is that the whole place felt like walking through a garden. Like, a nice ornamental garden…not a veggie patch. I remember Disneyland having more foliage. The ride fronts were just more inspiring…The obvious comparison here is It’s A Small World. I mean…what an impressive display at Disneyland! It’s almost like a second castle!

    While everything is scaled down, smaller, maybe the paths are narrower and there are trees in the paths…it just felt more like a wholesome family park in Disneyland. Disney World can be magical if you get into the spirit of it, but it can be hard to push past the commercial feel of it sometimes.

    Again, it’s been 12 years. I was 15. I don’t have the best memory in the world, but that’s the memories that I take with me. One of these days I’ll make so much money I won’t think twice about a long weekend at Disneyland…but for now, financially, it just makes more sense to go to Disney World.

    Plus, it would be hard to convince my husband there’s no Epcot in Disneyland. He looooves Epcot. 🙂

    Great article, Catherine! Thanks for letting me rant lol!!

    • Thanks Amy! You can rant anytime! LOL. I love reading your comments!

      Tragical Depress, is absolutely right! That is the saddest ride in all of Disney World!

    • And you’re totally right! It’s hard to fathom paying those airline prices to California when I’ve been lucky enough to find direct flights from Rochester/Buffalo to Orlando (although it’s been a few years) and even from Houston to Orlando for about $100/flight. Between the flight costs and not needing a car because of the magical express and free transportation (among other reasons), it’s just been more economical for us to go to Florida over the years.

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