As soon we decided to start off our Japan Christmas vacation at Tokyo DisneySea, I quickly went into research mode. My plan? To figure out the perfect itinerary for my family. I’ve done this countless times for both Disneyland/DCA and Walt Disney World. I expected to have just as easy of a time sifting through commentary by Disney social media influencers and planning out my itinerary with Touring Plans. Boy was I wrong. Touring Plans doesn’t offer a “build your own itinerary” for DisneySea. Furthermore, the amount of “DisneySea experts” bloggers I found were few and far between. And most of them did not have any itinerary examples that dealt with height restrictions and nap times. Therefore, while I am no expert, I figured I would post my itinerary and tips here for the next person that was looking for ideas of how to tackle Tokyo DisneySea with kids.
A Note on Premier Access Passes
My itinerary suggestion is going to heavily rely on the use of Premier Access passes. Premier access is to Tokyo DisneySea what Individual Lightning Lane passes are to Disneyland/DCA and WDW. It is basically a way to pay your way to the front of the line for a select number of rides. I swear by using Premier Access. Do I hate the cost? Yes! Do I hate the cost more than I hate standing in line while my elementary aged kid complains and my preschooler melts down? Definitely not.
Premier Access is currently offered for Toy Story Mania, Soaring: Fantastic Flight, Tower of Terror, and Journey to the Center of the Earth. All four of those rides had lines that crept to over an hour long within minutes of the park opening on the day that we were there. Soaring: Fantastic Flight crept up to a 2 hour wait within the next hour after that. Meanwhile, all four rides were easy to book all the way through to the early afternoon (when I stopped checking). The Tokyo DisneySea Website has a good set of instructions of the app to use and how to book premier access.
When premier access may not be necessary
Keep in mind, we were there during the December holidays, typically one of the busiest times of year. That coupled with the fact that Japan, which had only recently re-opened up to tourists post-covid, was going through a significant devaluation of their yen, led to a huge influx of international visitors (as evidenced by the three hours it took to get through customs at the airport). If you go when the lines are manageable, by all means save your money and wait standby.
Get to Tokyo DisneySea early
I get teased relentlessly from friends and family members about my obsession with getting to the parks for rope drop. I get waking up early (sometimes before the sun even rises) is not everyone’s idea of a good vacation day. But if you are ever going to rope drop a park, let it be for DisneySea! As I mentioned in the previous section, lines for the popular rides crept to an hour within minutes of opening (although keep in mind that those guests staying at a Disney hotel get a 30 minute early access to the park every day).
I had read that we should be at the gate an hour in advance. We got a slightly later start and showed up about 45 minutes before the park opened. This was clearly too late for the Monday before Christmas as evidenced by the long lines. So set those alarms (and don’t hit the snooze button).
Your first land and rides of the day at DisneySea
Visit Lost River Delta
Full disclosure, this isn’t what we did. But after a lot of reflecting on what I would change if I had a do-over, it would be this. I wish we headed over to Lost River Delta first. We could have started off our day riding Indiana Jones Adventure: Temple of the Crystal Skull. My daughter hates Indiana Jones Adventure in Disneyland, my husband is only so-so on it, and my son is too short. It’s my favorite ride in Disneyland but for the sake of my family, I gave it a pass.
In retrospect I wish I had experienced the DisneySea version of Indiana Jones Adventure by using the single rider line. While single rider line is always a much shorter option, it sounds like it is even better at DisneySea. Since it isn’t advertised, very few tourists use single rider line (you have to speak to a cast member). And very few locals use it due to preference.
If your group is like ours, where some individuals wanted to ride Indiana Jones Adventures, while others did not, this is where you would want to split up. You want to maximize your first couple of hours at the park. Splitting up will give you the best option for this to happen. Group A can knock the two Lost River Delta rides out of the way. Meanwhile, Group B can give it a pass, instead venturing on to lands with more kid-friendly rides.
The second ride in Lost River Delta is called Raging Spirits. It never made my list of rides to go on because every blog post I read complained that the ride wasn’t worth the time you would spend standing in line. However, by moving this ride up to your second slot of the day should alleviate this problem.
Visit Mermaid Lagoon
I’m assuming if you are reading this post, you have little kids or are traveling with them. However, if you aren’t traveling with kids, I suggest giving this entire land a pass. Or limit your time here to a quick walk through in order to appreciate its beauty, albeit later in the day when you are out of prime riding time. The rides in Mermaid Lagoon are just not interesting for the older set.
To those of you with little kids, I cannot stress this enough: go first thing in the morning. I went with my son first thing. We walked on to every ride, finished the entire land in an hour and had a great time. I went back with my daughter around 3 PM and am still grumbling about the experience. The lines were up to 30 minutes by that point. While that may seem like nothing compared to the 120-minute wait that other rides have, 30 minutes for rides that are 1 minute long from the moment it starts to the moment it stops… is a lot.
Other members of our travel group visited the Mermaid Lagoon while Believe! Sea of Dreams was going on and the place was empty. So if you cannot fathom giving up your first slot of the day to Mermaid Lagoon, I highly suggest this being an option you think about.
What we did…
My family of four headed to Mysterious Island to start our day at DisneySea. In the first hour we were there, my son and I rode 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea and all 5 rides in Mermaid Lagoon (the Mermaid Lagoon Theater wasn’t in operation yet when we were there). My husband and daughter meanwhile rode Journey To The Center Of The Earth. That’s it. They thought I was trying to trick them when I said we went on 6 rides. I wasn’t. we were there before the park opened and they still waited in a 70 minute line.
The reason I’m suggesting you skip Mysterious Island as the first land to visit is because I think your time would be better spent just paying for Premier Access. I ended up doing just that with my daughter later on in the day. We walked straight on with zero wait. Meanwhile, my son and I were able to walk right onto 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. However, as I didn’t see the line get much busier throughout my 12-hour stint at the park, I think this ride could wait until later in the day as well.
Monitor the Premier Access Passes All Day
After getting your fill of Mermaid Lagoon, I suggest walking around DisneySea clockwise to visit all the lands. However, from this point onward, you want to start monitoring the availability of the rides with Premier Access. Soaring: Fantastic Flight was booking an hour out, but everything else was pretty immediate. Meaning, if you booked premier access, you could ride it instantaneously.
Moving clockwise around the lands at DisneySea
After finishing up at Mermaid Lagoon (and monitoring those Premier Access Rides), start visiting the lands in a clockwise formation. Start with the Arabian Coast, then Mysterious Island, the Mediterranean Harbor, and the American Waterfront, before finishing up at Port Discovery. Assuming that as you monitor the premier access options throughout the day, it continues to be easy to obtain on an as needed basis, try to get them as you estimate you arriving in their respective lands.
Some thoughts on DisneySea: Arabian Coast
- I didn’t get a chance to do this myself, but I heard this land is absolutely gorgeous at dusk, so it may be worth returning to at the end of the evening. I listed it right after Mermaid Lagoon because it is the second most little kid friendly land and worth visiting before kids start needing naps, etc.
- Theming may be fantastic at Arabian Coast and the rides may bring smiles to your kids faces, but my favorite part about this land was the curry popcorn in the Tangled lantern. I may never eat popcorn again without curry flavoring.
- I loved, loved, loved Sinbad’s Storybook Voyage. It is Pirates of the Caribbean (in terms of telling a story during a dark ride), but with the feel of It’s a small world after all. I just wished I knew what the story was about (it is narrated in Japanese) before going on the ride. I found a write up here.
- After finishing up with the rides in Arabian Coast, we grabbed lunch from Casbah Food Court. The food was good, but not spicy. The menu listed out which dishes were low in spice and which would medium or very spicy. My husband and I got a sampler but none of the dishes seemed spicy at all (bad for us but great for our spicy-adverse kids that wanted to eat off of our plates).
Moving on to Mount Prometheus and the Mysterious Island
- Journey to the Center of the Earth is amazing! It did scare my eight-year-old… but she’s afraid of heights and doesn’t like drops. That being said, she still decided to go on it a second time.
- I really liked 20,000 leagues under the sea, a dark ride that doesn’t have height restrictions. That being said, my three-year-old (that is sometimes afraid of the dark) was terrified of this ride. He was screaming he wanted to get off from the minute the ride took off. Compared to how fine he was while riding Soaring: Fantastic Flight and it really just depends on what type of fears your kids may have.
- Mount Prometheus (the first picture at the top of this blog) photographs beautiful at night. That was taken on my iPhone 13. And as I’m sure you’ve been able to tell by now, I have zero photography skills.
Some thoughts on DisneySea: Mediterranean Harbor
- This is the land that you will find Soaring: Fantastic Flight. This ride has a minimum height restriction of 102 cm or 40″. This meant my (very tall) three-year-old was able to ride it. One thing I really liked about Tokyo DisneySea is that instead of being asked to height check my son over and over again by well-meaning cast members, he was height checked by the first cast member we encountered in line. That gentleman put a bracelet on my son that we were able to easily show all the other cast members to prove he was tall enough. So efficient!
- While this comment applies throughout the park, we discovered it while trying to visit Valentina’s Sweets in the Mediterranean Harbor. Some shops require a “standby pass” to enter them. Such was the case with Valentina’s Sweets. And by the time we found out, all passes had been distributed for the day. Don’t be like us. Since the requirement of the standby pass changes based on the time of the year, the best way to figure out what you need is by checking out this section of the Tokyo DisneySea website.
A word on naptime
Due to the fact that we only had one day at the park, my original plans were to just forgo my preschooler’s nap. But as the day progressed, it became obvious that he needed a nap. And that since he suffers from a major case of FOMO (fear of missing out), he would not be interested in passing out on his own in his stroller. We decided that my husband would take him back to the hotel to sleep. If you find yourself in a similar situation, the Mediterranean Harbor and the American Waterfront might be the perfect places to skip out on. We mostly just ate and shopped in these two lands.
Some thoughts on DisneySea: American Waterfront
- Similar to Soaring: Fantastic Flight, Tower of Terror offers one of the shortest of the height restrictions, clocking in with a minimum requirement of 102 cm or 40″. This meant my three-year-old would have also been able to go on this ride. But we passed since we figured he would be too scared.
- As an American with a huge pet peeve for other Americans that travel abroad only eat American food, I was initially going to give this land a huge pass on the food front. However upon reading the menus of the fast food and sit down restaurants, I realized that one of the coolest food options at DisneySea was only obtainable (currently) from the New York Deli.
- Some other items on my must try list included garlic shrimp from the popcorn cart, a bone in sausage from Barnacle Bills, and a shoyu (soy sauce) and butter churro from the liberty landing dinner, which can also be ordered as part of an ice cream sundae.
- You can ride the DisneySea Electric Railway from American Waterfront to Port Discovery. By this point in the day, our feet were aching so we happily jumped on the train for a nice break in walking.
- We skipped two favorite attraction offerings at the American Waterfront: Turtle Talk and Toy Story Mania! Turtle Talk was bypassed since sadly no one in the family can speak Japanese. We skipped Toy Story Mania! after learning that it was the exact same ride as in DCA (Tower of Terror, Indiana Jones Adventure, and Soaring all have some differences). Since this ride garners huge lines, this was one way for us to same time or money (by paying for premier access).
Last land to visit – DisneySea: Port Discovery
- Nemo and Friends SeaRider does have a height restriction, but it is one of the lowest, at 90 cm or 35″ minimum.
- Seaside snacks has one of the cutest snacks found in Tokyo DisneySea. Called the ukiwah bun, it’s a shrimp bun that looks like Donald Duck’s life preserver (with the help of its packaging).
Skip Believe! Sea of Dreams… or at least read my tips
The tips to watching Believe! Sea of Drams
The first step to getting good seats for Believe! Sea of Dreams, is to get a premier access pass. You can simultaneously book premier access passes for shows at the same time as attractions. Therefore, you can obtain the Believe! Sea of Dreams even if you also are still within your 60-minute waiting period for a Premier Access ride. Without this pass, the options for watching this show are not great. However, even with the pass, you would still need to get there somewhat far in advance to get good seats. The premier access pass provides access from ~4 PM.
Due to both the cold weather as well as wanting to get in as much park time as we could, we didn’t bother getting in line until 7:10 PM for the 7:40 PM show. While we did get in to the premier access area, we were in the standing-only section and could barely see. I’m not exactly short at 5’9″ so I had a partial view. Meanwhile my 54-inch tall daughter definitely had trouble seeing the show. You will want to show up closer to 6 PM if you want a good spot to see the show.
And why you may want to miss it
After standing in the cold on feet that had been walking around the park for the past 12 hours, I just didn’t get as much out of the show as I hoped to. Not because the show wasn’t spectacular, because it was. It just wasn’t worth standing around for a partially obstructed view. Once my kids get older, my priorities will shift. I will be all for going to the seating areas early and patiently waiting until the show starts. But until then, I’m going to skip the shows in lieu of empty lands with non-existent lines (here’s looking at you Mermaid Lagoon land).
If you liked this post, maybe you would like these posts from Hawaii Girl Travels:
How to ride Rise of the Resistance at Disneyland: An opening weekend story
Painted Sky: Disney Aulani’s Dream Come True for Princesses in Training
Universal Studios Hollywood: Itinerary for 2 adults, 1 child rider, and 1 child too short to ride most rides