Thinking of heading to Disneyland? The Happiest Place on Earth may also be one of the most crowded. Here’s how to spend more time on the rides and less time waiting in line.
Before you go
VISIT DURING THE OFF-SEASON Summer crowds are fearsome. Your best bets are January to Presidents’ Day, the day after Easter to Memorial Day, and between Labor Day and Columbus Day. Midweek is least crowded, especially Wednesday and Thursday. If you go on a weekend, opt for Sunday.
CONSIDER A AAA TRAVEL PACKAGE Book through AAA Travel Services (888-937-5521) to get exclusive perks such as early entry to Fantasyland and Toontown and the option of multiple Fastpass times rather than just one (see righthand column).
BREAK OUT THE MEASURING TAPE Look up the height requirements for specific rides at www.disneyland.com  (listed under Guest Services) and measure the kids before you go.
DOWNLOAD RIDEMAX Micromanagers will flip for RideMax ($12.95,www.ridemax.com ), a downloadable computer program that uses wait-time statistics and a nifty scheduling formula to generate a customized, minute-by-minute itinerary for a day at Disneyland.
Once you’re there
ARRIVE EARLY Outer security gates open 90 minutes before most of the attractions; Main Street opens 30 minutes before the rides. (Don’t forget to purchase tickets in advance through AAA and receive free parking. You can buy them at most district offices.)
USE FASTPASS Instead of waiting in the regular line, you should head to the free Fastpass machines near the ride entrance, insert your admission ticket, and receive a printed reservation. You’re assigned a one-hour period during which you can return to the ride and join the shorter Fastpass line.
SPLIT UP Jump into the quick-moving single-rider line on attractions such as Splash Mountain if you don’t mind splitting your party.
Photography by Terrence McCarthy