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  • Writer's pictureCourtney Dempster

Tokyo Disney & DisneySea Tips


In May 2023, we jetted off to Japan with our kiddos, Mason (8) and Havana (3), and Tokyo Disney Resort was non-negotiable! #disneymum It was our second go-around at TDR; the first time was back in January 2019 when Mason was only 4! If you want to read our full 2-week itinerary in Japan with kids, you can find it here!


With two little ones this time, I went all out on research to ensure we had the ultimate Disney experience. I was dead set on squeezing every ounce of fun out of our days, making sure we checked off all our must-dos! There's a treasure trove of info and guides online, but let me share some less common Tokyo Disney and DisneySea tips that really made a difference for us during our trip and information that I found hard to find when I was digging through all the research.


Tokyo Disney


Quick Tips Cheat Guide:


  • Use a Crowd predictor when planning your dates. I used this one. It is in Japanese, but it is the most accurate, and with Google Translate, you can get a good idea of the crowds.

  • Buy your tickets in advance. I used Klook.

  • Download the App

  • Arrive Early! The lines are LONG and they do open the gates earlier than they advertise!

  • Use the Premier Access feature, and book your first one as soon as you arrive.

  • Plan your day, and take note of Rides, Foods, parade times etc & which ones are top of your list,

  • Take a portable charger, and have a pocket wifi or eSim as there is no free wifi in the park.



Planning Your Day


Tickets

Once you've chosen your dates, the ticket hustle begins. Japan's not exactly a place for spontaneous plans... Things tend to sell out fast, so it's all about being prepared. Both times we went, we opted for two days at Tokyo Disney and one day at DisneySea. Trust me, there's a ton to do at Tokyo Disney, especially when you've got little ones in tow. Both times we definitely needed the two days! There is no "Fast Pass" to purchase, TDR parks have "Premier Access" which is a version of Fast Pass that you purchase per ride via the app, only after you have scanned into the gates.


If you're not local, the official website isn't exactly a walk in the park, pun intended. I gave it a shot, but they don't accept very many international cards. I Ended up going the Klook route, and I should have done that to start with, it was a breeze! Plus, paying in Aussie dollars was a bonus - no need to stress about exchange rates & the tickets were right there on the app when I needed them. (Pro tip: Have a printed version of your tickets handy, or keep the Klook app/tickets on a separate phone from the one you'll be using for the park app. You'll need to physically scan your tickets into the app to access Premier Access once you've entered the park)


Rides & Attractions

When it comes to maximizing your park time, especially with little ones, my top advice is to dive into some serious research. Scope out all the different lands and rides, and pay close attention to those height restrictions. With Havana being just 3 years old during our visit, I made it a mission to jot down what she could and couldn't ride. (Turns out, she was surprisingly tall enough for most of them!) Having that list in hand made navigating the park a breeze. We knew exactly which lands offered the most options for us to enjoy together, and which ones we could save for later or skip if time was tight. Plus, it was super helpful to have a rough idea of our "must-ride" attractions beforehand.


Don't forget to download the app! It's seriously a game-changer for planning, not just when you're in the park, but leading up to your visit too! In the weeks before our Disney days, I was on the app, checking out wait times at different times of the day! If you give it about an hour after opening, you'll get the lowdown on which rides are gonna be the most popular. That way, we knew exactly where to head first for our best shot at those must-do rides. Plus, the app clues you in on which rides tend to have shorter waits throughout the day, so we could relax a bit on prioritizing those. (Pro tip: If you're doing multiple days at the parks, hit up those popular rides during the parades for shorter lines. Plan to catch the parade one day, and then use the other day to knock out a few rides while the crowds are busy watching Mickey do his thing!)



Exploring the Parks


Arrive Early

One thing about Japan is they're not afraid of queues! My advice? Get to the parks at least an hour early. The lines at the gates can be pretty long! But don't let that put you off. Often, they'll open the gates 15-45 minutes earlier than scheduled, and once they start moving, it's relatively quick! Oh, and be sure to have a hat or umbrella handy in case you're waiting in the sun—it can get pretty toasty out there! You won't be allowed to bring in outside food or drink, but we had a small bottle of water and a small snack in the line with us & made sure to finish them before reaching the gates. Also, here's a tip I wish I had known earlier: Tripods and selfie sticks are a no-go. Small handheld ones are okay, but anything that extends is a no.


Premier Access

Premier Access is basically TDR's version of FastPass. It's available for select attractions at each park (I'll list them below), and you need to pay for it per attraction, per ticket holder on the app. Oh, and you can only book it once you're already inside the park. (Just so you know, children aged 3 and under get in free, so no Premier Access is needed for them—they'll ride with you.) Once you've scanned into the park, open your app and hit "Scan Ticket" to add each ticket holder to your account. You can use one account for your whole group and scan multiple tickets, but every ticket has to be in your account to book a Premier Access slot. And let me tell you, these slots fill up fast, so be ready! You can only book one Premier Access time slot for your group each hour, so make sure you know which attractions are your top picks and lock them in as soon as you stroll through those gates! Then, if you're feeling ambitious, you can book your next one 60 minutes later.


Family at Toy Story Mania Tokyo

Tokyo Disney

  • Enchanted Tale of Beauty and the Beast - ¥2000 ea (Approx AU $20)

  • The Happy Ride with Baymax - ¥1500 ea (Approx AU $15)

  • Splash Mountain - ¥1500 ea (Approx AU $15)

  • Disney Harmony in Color Parade Priority Seating - ¥2500 ea (Approx AU $15)

  • Tokyo Disneyland Electrical Parade Dreamlights - Priority Seating - ¥2500 ea (Approx AU $15)

DisneySea

  • Soaring: Fantastic Flight - ¥2000 ea (Approx AU $20)

  • Toy Story Mania! - ¥2000 ea (Approx AU $20)

  • Tower of Terror - ¥1500 ea (Approx AU $15)

  • Journey to the Center of the Earth - ¥1500 ea (Approx AU $15)

  • Believe! Sea of Dreams Parade Priority Seating - ¥2500 ea (Approx AU $15)



I Highly recommend using the Premier access for the Beauty and the Beast ride at Tokyo Disney and for Toy Story Mania at DisneySea! They can have wait times over 2 hours long! We actually missed riding Toy Story when we visited in 2019 as the lines were so long and the Fast Pass system they had back then was full!


Character Greetings

At TDR, there are a few ways to get a photo with your favourite characters. You've got Timed Meet & Greets, Wandering Characters, and the Greeting Lottery. For the Timed meetings, just check the App for the location and schedule. They've each got a set spot, and you queue up like you would for a ride. At Tokyo Disney, you can meet Mickey, Minnie, Donald, or Daisy, while at DisneySea, it's Mickey, Minnie, or Donald. Each one has a separate location & the lines are no joke, we waited 45 minutes to meet Minnie at her Style Studio.


You can also catch Mickey and/or Minnie at either of the park entrances at specific times, but you'll need to get a lottery entry through the app. If you're lucky enough to win, they'll let you know when to queue up for your snapshot!


Finding those elusive wandering characters turned out to be quite the adventure, and I was surprised by the lack of information on where or when people had seen them before. But fear not, because I'm here to spill the tea on our escapades! Character greetings are such an important part of the Magical Disney experience, especially for the younger kids. So, I'm going to break it down for you but keep in mind I don't know if the schedules and locations are similar every day or if they are completely random... But I'll share our experience! Our first day at Tokyo Disney was a mad dash of rides, leaving no time for chance encounters. So, let's start with DisneySea, shall we?



DisneySea Greetings

12:15 pm Arabian Coast: Now, I heard through the grapevine that Jasmine and Ariel were exclusive to DisneySea, so they were on my mind! Jasmine apparently wandered around the Arabian Coast, so we took our sweet time exploring when there and guess what? It totally paid off! We spot Princess Jasmine and then the fabulous Daisy (all decked out in her Arabian getup) just near 'Jasmine's Flying Carpets' ride. Havana couldn't have been happier; it was the perfect first meet & greet moment. (Face Characters also speak English, so it's encouraged to interact with them)


2:40 pm Courtyard Entrance: But hold onto your Mickey ears, because we spotted Ariel and Prince Eric in the front Courtyard, only to watch them disappear before we could snap a pic. Seriously so sad! We managed to get another adorable shot with Daisy, rocking a different outfit this time and even got a wave from Chip & Dale on their way out.


2:50 pm Harborfront: Right after that, against the stunning backdrop of the Harbour, the kids got to hang with Jiminy Cricket and Honest John from Pinocchio.


4:20 pm Courtyard Entrance: Just when we thought our luck couldn't get any better, we bumped into Peter Pan and Wendy making their way down the main street. They were taking their exit, so we missed the chance for a photo, but they stopped for a quick chat with the kids, asking if they had spotted Captain Hook! (Wandering characters have a strict time limit, and once they are notified by the staff member accompanying them, they will wrap it up with 1-2 more people and then they have to leave. They will stay in character and chat quickly as they're making their exit, but they won't allow photos once they have left their location) Despite mostly catching characters on their way out, the magic was still very much alive.



Tokyo Disney Greetings

11:10 am - 11:45 am Courtyard Entrance: On our second day at Tokyo Disney, we were on a mission: character hunting! Our eagle eyes spotted Mary Poppins gracefully gliding towards the front courtyard. Naturally, we followed... She found the perfect spot and then engaged in delightful banter and posed for photos. (I should note photos with wandering characters are on a first-come, first-serve basis. There is no queue. Just make yourself seen by the characters so they interact with you. I found that they do try to make sure all the small kids are seen & get a photo) Now, picture this: we look around after leaving Mary Poppins, and guess who we stumbled upon? Rapunzel and Winnie the Pooh, along with all his cuddly crew! Havana's smile could've lit up the whole park! Though we missed out on meeting Pooh's pals, we did manage to squeeze in a hug and a snapshot with the honey-loving bear himself and Rapunzel before they disappeared. A few Disney staff members were waiting near the exit doors, so we decided to hang around. And what do you know? Out strutted Pluto, Goofy, and Donald! We quickly swooped in for some hugs and photos with Pluto and Goofy before they bid us adieu. It seemed like a well-oiled rotation in the courtyard, with characters coming and going every 15 minutes. Waiting for the next group, guess who made a return? Winnie the Pooh, accompanied by Tigger and Eeyore! We were a little excited so this time, we were already waiting by the doors, and Tigger, being the playful sweetheart he is, whisked Havana away hand-in-hand skipping to his greeting spot. Eeyore, bless his cotton tail, got a tad distracted on his way over, but once we were done with Tigger, we made our way over to him & he gladly took Mason and Havana's hands, dancing and twirling them around. And just when we thought our character rendezvous couldn't get any better, we crossed paths with Clarice Chipmunk and the adorable Cinderella Mice! Talk about a full house of furry friends!


1:30 pm Courtyard Entrance: We took a break and secured our spot on the main street, awaiting the parade, when the kids and I decided to take one more peek back at the courtyard in case any new Characters had arrived! Lo and behold, Esmerelda, Peter Pan & the Mad Hatter and Alice were holding court! We joined the small crowd around Alice first, but sadly we were a tad late to the party, and they all had to bid us farewell. Havana was understandably crushed (and crying) but Alice, ever the gracious hostess, gave her a warm hug, promising another rendezvous later on.


3:35 pm Fantasyland: We we're just stepping off the 'Splash Mountain' ride, making our way down the path into Fantasyland. I Couldn't believe it! We spot Snow White! Havana and I bolted as fast as our legs could carry us. My heart was racing, worried we might miss our chance, but as soon as we reached her, Snow White took Havana's hand and dove straight into conversation, posing for photos like old friends. And then, it was like Fantasyland had exploded with characters! The Seven Dwarfs were right behind her, Peter Pan & Captain Hook off to the left, and then Corey points out Princess Belle! Let me tell you, I went full #CrazyDisneyMum mode, practically dragging Havana over to Belle, knowing she's Havana's absolute favourite! Meeting and snapping pics with all of them felt like a major win. As we strolled around we caught a glimpse of Cinderella and Prince Charming, but they were on their way out, so we only got to admire them from a distance. I figured there were so many characters out because the parade wrapped up 30 minutes earlier, so they would have been dressed and ready for some greetings!


4:15 pm World Bazar: As we were winding down for the day, thinking our character encounters were over, we found ourselves strolling through the main street. And guess who pops out of a door? Alice in Wonderland! She recognized Havana right away and took her hand, inviting her to join her on a whimsical adventure. We found a cozy spot near the Waffle Co and settled in for a chat.

Suddenly, the Mad Hatter comes bounding over, fashionably late as usual. They spent a good 5 minutes brewing imaginary tea and snapping photos together, perhaps taking extra time because they remembered the kids missing out last time. But the surprises weren't over yet! Esmerelda was right behind us, with hardly any crowd around her. The kids wasted no time and went straight up to her. And it turned out to be one of the most magical meetings yet. Esmerelda was absolutely enchanting; she took the kids by the hand, and they all spun around in a circle, dancing like there was no tomorrow! It truly was the perfect way to wrap up our day at the park.



To sum it up... If you want to meet Wandering Characters at Tokyo Disney or DisneySea, You will find many at the park entrances (in the courtyard after the ticket gate, but before the main entry) And a higher number after the daytime parades.


Parades

The parades at TDR are an absolute must! It's not just about seeing a huge range of characters; the dancers, floats, and costumes are simply breathtaking! But fair warning, the parade routes tend to get jam-packed with spectators. Families and groups come prepared with picnic rugs, staking out seats a good 2-3 hours beforehand. Trust me, for Tokyo Disney, you'd want to secure your spot at least 1-1.5 hours in advance! Once the parade kicks off, the crowd thickens to about 6-7 people deep, and unless you're right at the back, you'll need to be seated which can mean you have a restricted view. At TokyoSea, the parade glides along the water, making it more visible and enjoyable even from farther back.


My pro tip? Coordinate your lunch (or dinner for the night parade) to coincide with the parade time. That way, you not only snag a prime viewing spot but also get to rest your weary feet and fill your bellies while waiting! And if you're pressed for time, consider splurging on Premier Access for priority seating. With that, you can breeze in just 10 minutes before the parade starts and still snag a prime viewing spot.



If you have made it this far, Thank you for reading! I hope you picked up a few Tokyo Disney and DisneySea tips! I will be updating this guide if I find any new information that I think will be helpful! For more of the Major tips about visiting the parks like Dates to Avoid, Hotel Reviews, Transport and a heap more take a look at TDR Explorer! I used his guidebook when planning my trip (both times!)



Court xx



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