Are you planning a trip to Shanghai Disneyland?

Being one of the latest theme parks opened by Disney, I was expecting a lot and wanted to make sure both myself and partner got the most out of the experience.

One huge mistake I made was visiting during the Golden Week, a 7 day long public holiday when surely the whole country will visit Disneyland! AHHHHH!

After realizing this mistake, I naturally panicked.

However, I’ll show you exactly what I did to prepare for this chaotic visit to Shanghai Disneyland.

If you follow these tips, I’m sure you’ll have an absolute blast!

Keep in mind, my partner and I are young adults (reasonably fit), so if you have very young kids, some of the tips may not be viable.

Here’s a complete guide and some crucial tips to keep in mind before you go.

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1. How many days should you spend at Shanghai Disneyland?

Plan for 3 full days at Shanghai Disneyland – 1 day for Disneytown and 2 days for the main theme park. 

If you don’t want to spend 3 days, 2 days should be enough to see everything at Disneyland, but 1 day will be near impossible (although still fun)!

On the first day, explore Disneytown, Wishing Star Park and it’s surroundings. 

These areas are free to enter and are located just outside the entrance of the park. 

I did this deliberately so I could familiarise myself with the area and find out where the exact entrance of Shanghai Disneyland was located. 

Although, I didn’t expect to spend so much time exploring Disneytown.

On arrival, I found plenty of interesting shops, restaurants and displays.

The highlights for me, were the lego store and marvel shop which were setup like mini museums.  

With the next 2 days, think about which rides you want to target and have a rough idea of the path you’ll take.

2. Where to Stay

Inside Disneyland

No doubt, if you have the money, staying at one of the 2 hotels on site is the best solution. 

Shanghai Disneyland Hotel is on the higher end and you’ll have a complementary water taxi taking you across the lake to reach the themepark.

If you want to spoil your family to a real princess experience, this is the place to stay.

Toy Story Hotel is cheaper (but still more pricey compared to the average 4-5 star hotels nearby).

There is also a special entrance within Disneytown for guests staying at these hotels.

An extremely valuable perk if you want to avoid the stampede at the entrance (which I’ll share later). 

Outside Disneyland

There are only a few hotels close by that offer free transfer from the hotel to Shanghai Disneyland.

It’s worth paying that bit extra for a comfortable stay and save you the trouble of worrying about transport.

Novotel Shanghai Clover Hotel

This is where I stayed for my 3 day Shanghai Disneyland trip. 

Novotel Shanghai Clover hotel is only a 15 minute drive from the themepark and about a 5 minute walk to the nearest subway. 

The main street was surprisingly quiet. 

It’s interior decor, particularly the lobby, was amazing. 

Rooms were clean and spacious as expected from Novotel so I highly recommend this option if you want to save time and money. 

They have shuttle departing the hotel every 30 minutes, but I suggest you put your name down for the earliest departure time (on arrival, incase it fills up quickly). 

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Shanghai Marriott Hotel Kangqiao

About 15 minutes drive away is Shanghai Marriott Hotel Kangqiao.

It’s another classy hotel with luxury rooms.

The hotel is further away from the subway, but they do offer private transfer to and from the airport with their Disneyland package.

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3. No free transfer? How else can you get there?

You can catch the metro on line 11 which will take you to the last stop Terminal Station Disney Resort. 

From here, it’s only a few minutes walk to the themepark, Disneytown and hotels on site. 

There are a number of trains from early morning til late at night, but be warned, there will always be large crowds.

If you prefer to go by car, bus or taxi, there is a public parking area where you can get dropped off (about 10 minutes walk from Disneyland entry).

We didn’t have any transfer issues near the park entrance during the Golden Week, so vehicles should flow into the main parking area smoothly. 

4. Download the App, Study the Map

I downloaded the app to my phone and spent 15 minutes every couple of days leading up to the trip.

I looked at all the different rides, locations and typical waiting times. 

Of course, you won’t know the themepark inside out until you’re actually there, but at least you have a good idea of where all the rides and attractions are.

The features and information provided in the app will save you hours of waiting time on the day.

Make sure you download the app to your phone, share it with your family or group, and figure out a game plan.

5. Keep an eye on waiting times

Once you’ve downloaded the app, have a look at the different waiting times during the day.

You’ll be able to see the fluctuations of each ride.

Some can be steady at 30 minutes, while at it’s worst, a popular ride could go up to 3 hours wait.

If a ride has a longer waiting time than an hour, I wouldn’t both waiting. 

There will be a time during the day (or early evening) when the waiting times will drop. 

While everyone is stuck in a 2-3 hour wait, tick off the less popular rides or watch a show instead.

6. Appreciate the crowd

This is something I really had to prepare for.

In China, people are typically impatient and you will experience some pushing and shoving in lines.

You’ll find most people don’t really respect space.

I was told many citizens in China have been bought up in tough conditions so they naturally have a fighting spirit. 

Perhaps this is a cultural thing, but you’ll need to expect and appreciate it to get the best out of your day at Disneyland.

If a line starts moving, you better start moving as well.

Otherwise, people behind you will definitely push in front of you.

Be confident and take the space you own!

This might not make sense now…but you’ll see first hand how little space you’ll have once you’re part of the queue. 

Just enjoy the experience.

(Credit to Disney staff, they were actively trying to stamp down on visitors trying to push their way into lines).

7. Line up early

The opening time is generally 9am. 

However, I recommend you arrive at least 8am and start waiting patiently to get your ticket scanned.

Once your ticket is scanned, you really need to get your game face on.

I can assure you, there will be thousands of other fanatic Disney fans, waiting for the main gate to open.

And once the gate is opened, there will be a stampede of people racing towards the fast pass machines. 

Run for the Fastpass

Enjoy this moment, cause it is quite a sight (and experience, even though potentially dangerous).

I chose to join in while my partner waited patiently at one of the stores.

If you follow the crowd, they’ll lead you to the closest fast pass machines where you’ll need to line up again (but this shouldn’t take long if you’re part of the running crowd).

Select your fittest and fastest runner, grab a fast pass to one of the rides and organise a meeting point with the others once this first mission is complete.

What is the Fastpass?

If you have a fastpass to a ride, you can go to the shorter queue and save a load of time. 

Why wait 1-2 hours for a ride, when you can hop on within 10 minutes.

You can get get as many fastpasses as you like throughout the day.

But you do need to wait 1-2 hours (can’t remember how long exactly) before you can get another fastpass.

Which rides have Fastpass?

8. Which rides should you go on first?

Once you’ve got your first Fastpass, make your way to Pirates of the Caribbean Battle for the Sunken Treasure or TRON Lightcycle Power Run – Tomorrowland.

Both rides will likely have very short queues early in the morning.

Keep in mind, once you’ve chosen which ride to go to first, your second ride of choice should be nearby since Tron and the Pirates rides are on opposite sides of the park.

On my second day at Disneyland, we went on the Pirates of the Caribbean Battle for the Sunken Treasure, then quickly went to Seven Dwarfs Mine Train.

We even managed to go on Pirates of the Caribbean Battle a second time later in the day.

On our third day, we went straight to the TRON ride and managed to go on this exciting roller coaster 5 times!

9. What can you eat?

There’s quite a wide range of food selection at Disneyland from fancy cafes, food courts like the popular Food Republic, as well as street stands where you can grab a quick bite.

Overall, I thought the pricing was reasonable. 

It’s not like other themeparks who charge ridiculous prices.

Of course, some options may have a quirky souvenir part of the food package and this will bump up the price.

It’s best to aim for an early lunch around 11am-11:30am to avoid the large crowds. 

There are dining options in all the different zones.

You can also walk out to Disneytown where there are even more restaurants to choose from.

Just make sure you have your tickets on you.

10. Watch the world class live shows

Admittedly, I thought the shows were going to be mediocre.

However, I was completely wrong.

We entered large stadiums and theatres for various shows and there was a sense of the grand scale of each production.

Captain Jack’s Stunt Spectacular was my favorite since it was action packed and there was some real fighting choreography. 

Not just random sword swings.

Frozen was another amazing production with incredible backdrops on top of the amazing singers and dancers.

Most of the major shows can hold a couple of thousand people so in most cases, you should make it through the entry doors if you line up at least 45 minutes before the next show.

11. Reserve a spot early for Nighttime Spectacular

This is one of the main highlights of a day in Disneyland.

Every night, the Enchanted Storybook Castle lights up with a laser show and sparkling fireworks in the background.

Some of the best Disney songs will play around the venue in unison with the laser show and fireworks. 

With thousands of visitors flocking to the front of the castle to end their day, you’ll definitely need to find a seat early if you want the perfect view.

I would recommend finding a spot at least 45 minutes before the show.

While most people will be sitting initially, I guarantee there will be a lot standing as the show starts, blocking the view of everyone behind them.

Some visitors may get cranky, but there really isn’t too much you can do about it.

Gradually, more people will stand, becoming a domino effect.

Basically, you’ll need to stand when the show starts.

If you’re not too fussed about having the perfect view and prefer comfort, dine at one of the restaurants while the fireworks are on.

It should be less crowded and possible window views of the sky lighting up.

12. Book Your Tickets Online

This is a no brainer.

However, I was still surprised to see a huge line for visitors buying their tickets at the door.

Firstly, there is a small risk of Disneyland being too full if you purchase your tickets on the day. 

I know it’s crazy, but China is the most populated country in the world.

Make sure you prepare all your tickets and packages before arrival so you can enjoy the complete experience in Shanghai Disneyland.

If you’re purchasing tickets at the door, firstly, you might be rejected entry, and secondly, you’ll be waiting at least another hour in queue. 

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I hope this has provided some valuable insights into your upcoming experience at Shanghai Disneyland.

If you follow all the tips, I’m sure you’ll have an incredible time with your family and friends.

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For all new cities, I go overboard on my itinerary, just to see every major attraction. Countries I've visited include New Zealand, Singapore, Hong Kong, China, Cambodia, Japan and Thailand. Mostly Asian countries. Next target - Europe!