Planning a Shanghai Disneyland vacation is easier than you think – just follow these steps!
NOTE: These steps work in any order. If Step 3 is the most important for you, then move Step 4 to the top. If Step 3 is more important than Step 2, swap them. This is a plug and play step-by-step guide. So…here we go!
Step 1: Choose Your Travel Buddies
Disney Park Nerds love going on a Shanghai Disneyland vacation and traveling to Disney parks with (and sometimes without) the Nerdlings. On occasion, grand-parents and other family/friends may be invited. Generally, though, we choose the “core” group first and invite people once the other steps have been completed.
Once you’ve figured out which folks are worth planning around, it’s time to…
Step 2: Select Dates
Date selection, perhaps more than anything else, will have the biggest impact on your Shanghai Disneyland vacation. The Disney Park Nerds will go to great lengths to avoid crowds; this is the top priority for us when planning a trip to a Disney park and we will face wind, sleet and snow. An added bonus is that this typically comes with lower prices.
Of course, gather the availability of those with whom you plan to travel. From there, we always start off by considering local holidays. That’s right – we are more focused on the holidays for locals who will visit the park than our own holidays!
A quick google search yields a handful of holidays here. We will often verify the holidays on a couple of sites to ensure nothing was missed. If you MUST travel during one of these holidays, we recommend doing everything you can to not visit Shanghai Disneyland on the actual holiday. Google a few of images of crowds (search “Shanghai Disneyland crowded”) and you’ll understand what we mean.
Hotel prices are often a great indicator of crowd levels when planning a Shanghai Disneyland vacation. A quick view of the Shanghai Disneyland Hotel reservation site has some very useful information.
For some, a Shanghai Disneyland vacation is incomplete if the park is not decorated for Halloween or Christmas. Perhaps there is a festival or other special event. It’s also a good idea to reference rides that are scheduled to be close for refurbishment (official refurbishment schedule is a little wonky in the age of COVID and essentially requires you check what is scheduled for closure on the dates of your visit) to ensure you and your travel party do not miss a “must see”. Some resorts, like the Tokyo Disney Resort often post their refurbishment schedule as much as 6 months in advance.
Other Disney parks, like the Walt Disney World Resort, provide this list in conjunction with their calendar – generally 2 or 3 months in advance. In either case, be sure to keep monitoring this list up until your vacation so your expectations are properly set upon arrival.
Crowds are one element of date selection as they impact your enjoyment of the parks and the price you will pay for flights, lodging, tickets, etc. Another crucial element of when to travel is weather.
The Shanghai Disney Resort sees wild swings in weather from freezing lows in January to muggy (and often polluted) highs in July and August. We Nerds prefer it cool (maybe not quite “cold”) for theme park touring and mild is where it’s at….though it is not so easy to find mild weather for your Shanghai Disneyland vacation.
Like any vacation, grab your favorite weather app or web page and take a look at expected weather for the dates you are considering.
Using this information, we generally piece together a date range of options. Sometimes, the dates fit snuggly and the dates are the dates. Other times, there is a range and we let the price or availability of transportation and/or the hotels break the tie. So, now we are on to…
Step 3: Lock Down Flights
No, you cannot ride a TRON Lightcycle to get the Shanghai Disneyland. Going on this particular vacation adventure requires flying to Shanghai. We know this is obvious, but it is worth saying that flying to China will likely feel intimidating and a site aggregator like Kayak is a great way to gain quick insight into your options. Furthermore, Kayak can provide prices for a number of dates AND allows you to select multiple airports; so you can pick schedule or price, based on importance.
If the ticket prices are out of your range, check out travel sites like The Points Guy and learn how using the right credit cards for every day expenses (and some great sign-on bonuses!) could lead to free flights…possibly even in a premium cabin.
Shanghai Pudong International Airport (PVG) ) has regular service from the USA, including non-stops from some major airports (especially on the west coast).
Next up is securing transportation. Although you could arrange public transportation, our very strong recommendation is that you schedule car service from the airport to your hotel. It is the right way, at a relatively low cost, to kick off your Shanghai Disneyland vacation.
We discuss this experience in depth in our post about Getting There! Although it will feel like a bit of a splurge, walking out of an unfamiliar international airport, bleary-eyed after hours of travel and trying to find your way around (or worse – arriving on a delayed flight and the public transportation options are no longer available…been there) is no fun.
Okay, stepping off of our Nerdy soapbox about transportation. Shanghai Disneyland has an official page dedicated to getting to the Resort – and it’s a “must study”.
Step 4: Select Your Hotel
Choosing the right hotel will have an impact on your Shanghai Disneyland vacation. Things to consider are cost including parking and resort fees, distance from the parks and travel time, size, and bed configuration. Then, there is the whole “on property” vs “off property” discussion – generally surrounding each item mentioned above.
As a general rule, we are fans of staying on Disney property whenever feasible because we think it is a more seamless Shanghai Disneyland vacation – and the hotels and resort property are beautiful. There are two Disney-branded hotels with a variety of rooms, views and dining options. The official hotels of the Shanghai Disney Resort are on complete opposite ends of the spectrum.
- Shanghai Disneyland Hotel is a luxury hotel where guests can take a bus or a beautiful stroll through Wishing Star Park to reach Disneytown and the entrance to Disneyland. Standard rooms generally start in the $400 range, though some deals can be found. They can easily reach $500-600+ during more “peak times”.
- Toy Story Hotel is a value/budget hotel where guests must take a bus to Disneytown and Disneyland. Standard rooms generally start in the $150 range and can easily hit $300+ during crowded times.
Whichever hotel you select, we are confident each will enhance your Shanghai Disneyland vacation.
Nothing beats the Shanghai Disneyland Hotel on a Shanghai Disneyland vacation (that’s a lot of Shanghai Disneyland!); it is our favorite and is a luxurious experience. Although we Nerds can very rarely find value in “club” level access at hotels, we did opt for the “club” access on each Shanghai Disneyland vacation and found it was well worth it; the breakfast was outstanding as was the service we received from the moment we stepped foot in the hotel.
The Nerds have not commuted to Shanghai Disneyland from an off-site hotel. We have stayed off-site for other parts of our China trips and found luxury hotels to be affordable and offer incredible service. As you probably know by now, the Nerds are huge fans of the Shanghai Disneyland Hotel – but given the relatively low cost of things like transportation in China, we are confident it would be easy to stay off site and even have a private car escort you to and from the park. Otherwise, you could take public transportation as there is a metro station just steps from the ticket turnstiles and Shanghai Disneyland.
Once you have honed in on your hotel selection, don’t book it just yet. Next, let’s…
Step 5: Select Your Tickets
Before actually purchasing tickets, we need to figure out our travel plan. Here is the critical question:
- How many days do you have dedicated to visit parks?
The Disney Park Nerds think two days is the sweet spot for a Shanghai Disneyland vacation. The park is expansive and your legs will ache. We logged 14 miles and 15 miles on our first two days at the park. In fact, our Nerdy Apple Watch tracked 1/4 mile to just navigate the queue to Tron from entrance to the actual ride. After two days, you will have comfortably seen everything and still leave wanting a little more – the perfect balance!
Although there have traditionally been some approved retailers where you can purchase tickets, sometimes at a small discount, the Nerds feel the extra few dollars is warranted for peace of mind when traveling internationally.
Plus, some Shanghai Disney Resort hotel packages include tickets.
Additional Tips: Shanghai Disney Premiere Access Cost and Tips
Step 6 (optional): Quick Price Comparisons
Armed with your travel companions, dates, transportation plans, hotel, tickets/days in each park schedule, we’d recommend a quick price check (Blue Light Special on Aisle 5?). Sketch out the costs of booking a la carte vs. a package. We discuss how Disney vacation packages can sometimes be quite a bit more expensive without much benefit in our Easy Disney World Vacation Tip #1 – Packages vs a la Carte article. With a Shanghai Disneyland vacation, there are generally some good values available when booking direct. Sometimes a package looks good and sometimes the package is a significant premium, but it’s worth a few minutes checking out the Shanghai Disney Resort site for any special offers.
Step 7: Make Your Shanghai Disneyland Vacation Purchases and Prepare for Once-in-a-Lifetime Fun!
Hopefully, you have enough information to get the details mapped out for your Shanghai Disneyland vacation. It’s time to click “check-out” on your cart and let the moment sink in….you’re going on a SHANGHAI DISNEYLAND VACATION!!