This guide is meant to be a hub for planning your trip to Shanghai Disney Resort. Combining all our Shanghai Disney Resort content in one place would have been a bit unwieldy, so we've broken it up into useful topics, and we link to those posts with some supplemental content here. If you have any questions, let us know and we'll try to answer or find someone who can!
When to Visit Shanghai Disneyland
Shanghai Disneyland is (as of this writing) at an awkward stage. They're past the growing pains and crazy crowds of the opening year, but they haven't mastered celebrations. They'll also be opening their first new land, Toy Story Land, in April 2018. We expect this land to be the same as Toy Story Land at Hong Kong Disneyland and Walt Disney Studios Park.
If you're visiting in the next few years, you'll want to pay attention to weather and any special events when deciding when to visit.
Weather & Daylight in Shanghai
Shanghai experiences four seasons according to the same calendar as the United States, with its winter getting down to freezing but usually not much lower.
Winter also sees less daylight than summer, but we're not sure how this cuts. We visited in November, and while the weather was a bit chilly, we thought certain areas of the park were much better at night and rides in particular were more enjoyable at night even in the cold. That said, Shanghai Disneyland typically closes at 8PM or 9PM, so you won't be squeezing much into that night even with a 5PM sunset.
Snow in Shanghai is rare but does happen, and freezing conditions will shut down some rides. Because Shanghai Disneyland is somewhat limited in its offerings at this point, we would suggest avoiding December through February.
Events at Shanghai Disney Resort
Shanghai Disney Resort celebrates Halloween (approximately October into November) and Christmas (November and December). If you're interested in one of these celebrations, you'll want to keep an eye on the Shanghai Disney Resort website for specific dates.
Toy Story Land will open in April 2018. If you're already looking a few years out, there's a chance they could celebrate their 5-year anniversary in 2021 in a manner worth waiting for, but that's just a guess.
Where to Stay at Shanghai Disney Resort
Shanghai Disneyland Hotel is one of our favorite Disney hotels, and rates start at under $300 per night. We would highly suggest at least one night at that hotel. Toy Story Hotel has also gotten a few positive reviews, and for families with little ones who love Toy Story, rates starting at about $150 per night are hard to beat.
Because it is an hour outside Shanghai center on the Line 11 Subway, staying in Shanghai is also a viable option for visiting Shanghai Disney Resort. Shanghai is a great city, and we highly suggest taking some time to enjoy it.
We had a great time staying at an Airbnb just off Line 11, and we'd highly suggest Airbnb for anyone looking for a budget option in China.
How Long to Visit Shanghai Disney Resort
Two days is enough time to enjoy the attractions and take in the environment of Shanghai Disneyland. You'd also have time to take in a table service meal or two or to check out Shanghai Disneyland Hotel's bar, Bacchus Lounge.
That said, we have a one-day Shanghai Disneyland itinerary that covers the major attractions.
We expect to return to Shanghai Disney Resort and think we will probably stay at an Airbnb in Shanghai off Line 11, commuting to Shanghai Disney Resort for a two-day, one-night stay at Shanghai Disneyland Hotel. This will cost us an extra $40ish for the night at the Airbnb we don't use, but we think it's worth it for a simpler overall trip.
Getting a Visa to Visit China as an American
If you are not a U.S. passport holder, you should check with the Chinese embassy in your country for specific visa restrictions. The rest of this paragraph applies only to Americans. And Americans should always check the Chinese Embassy website in case the information here is out of date.
When visiting Shanghai as an American, you have two options for Visas. First, Americans can get a 144-hour transit exemption at Shanghai's PVG airport. That's 6 days, which is enough to see Shanghai Disney Resort and some of Shanghai proper. There are specific restrictions on this option, though. For example, you can't just fly Chicago to Shanghai to Chicago and use the exemption. We don't have any personal experience with this option, because we went the other route. You can read about the 144-hour exemption at Disney Tourist Blog.
The other route is to apply prior to your trip for a Chinese visa. This can be done either in person or by mail via an agency that will submit the application in person for you. You cannot submit the application via mail to the Chinese consulate directly.
We applied for our visa in-person in Chicago and simply followed the instructions on the Chinese Embassy website. On section 2.2 of our application, which asks how many entries we were requesting and over what time, we chose "Other" and wrote "10-Year, Multiple Entries" to take advantage of China's new 10-year, multiple entry visa for Americans. The hardest part was parting with our passports for a few days, but when we went back to pick them up they came with unfettered entry into China for the next ten years!
We can't vouch for a specific visa agency since we were fortunate enough to be based out of a city with a consulate, but you'll want to consider agencies like VisaRite.
Getting to Shanghai Disney Resort
Getting to Shanghai Disney Resort from the United States is a two-step process. First, you need to get across the world to Shanghai. Then you need to get the shorter (but not necessarily simpler) distance from Shanghai or its airport to Shanghai Disney Resort.
Getting From the United States to Shanghai
Shanghai is a long ways from the United States. From much of the US, you're looking at a flight of over 13 to 14 hours. While you can find reasonable prices ($400-$800 per person) during off-season, we highly suggest you consider using points to fly at least one leg of your trip to Shanghai in style. We flew business class on Korean Air from New York through Seoul, South Korea (including a five-day stopover), and it was awesome.
Getting to Shanghai Disney Resort From PVG Airport
Update: TDR Explorer shared the below tweet endorsing a shuttle service from PVG to Shanghai Disney Resort.
Made it to Shanghai and now on the shuttle to the Toy Story Hotel! I recommend this shuttle. It’s $11USD per person and super simple to use. The counter is right at arrivals. Used it twice now no issues.— TDR Explorer (@tdrexplorer) May 17, 2018
Have the hotel name in Chinese to make things easier. pic.twitter.com/LSIVzpv9nj
If you flew into Shanghai, you likely flew into PVG airport. We know of two ways to get to Shanghai Disney Resort from PVG. The "simplest" way is to take a taxi. There is an official taxi line outside the airport for regulated taxis.
You'll want to ignore the people shouting "taxi! taxi!" as you walk through the terminal. Our trip by taxi was not super smooth, and we've read other stories of problematic trips, but we would take a taxi again. We'd just suggest you follow the following tips:
Make sure you have the address of your Shanghai Disney hotel in Chinese on your phone or written down
Download the Baidu maps app and have the location pulled up on your phone to show to the taxi driver
Most important, if the taxi driver takes a wrong turn on Disney property, either (a) be firm about where you're going or (b) just have him drop you off at any Disney location, and you can shuttle or walk to where you need to be.
The other way is to take a train into central Shanghai and then follow our instructions below ("From Central Shanghai"). The airport is served by both the Line 2 Extension train (slower, cheaper) and the Maglev airport train (faster, more expensive). Both trains will require a transfer onto the regular Line 2 to get you further into the city center.
Coming from the airport, Google suggests taking the Maglev or Line 2 to Longyang Road, transferring to Line 16 for one stop to Luoshon Road, and then transferring to Line 11 to Disney. From city center, Line 11 takes about an hour to get to Disney. From the airport, the total trip should be about two hours.
Getting to Shanghai Disney Resort From Central Shanghai
Shanghai Disney Resort is conveniently located at the end of the Line 11 train. We suggest using Google Maps (though note you cannot use Google Maps within China without a VPN) or some other trip planning app to figure out the best way to get to the Line 11 from your location. Shanghai's metro is very easy to use and navigate.
Important Notes About Navigating Shanghai
As China blocks access to Google, you won't be able to use Google Maps within China unless you use a VPN. Apple maps is a decent alternative. We used a VPN and (with some difficulty) Baidu Maps (only in Chinese) as a backup.
Booking Your Stay at Shanghai Disney Resort
Once you're at Shanghai Disney Resort, you'll need a hotel reservation and park tickets.
Booking Your Shanghai Disney Resort Hotel
The only way to book either Shanghai Disneyland Hotel or Toy Story Hotel that we're aware of is directly through Shanghai Disney Resort via the website or by phone. Booking through the website is straightforward and painless, with very minimal options for add-ons (breakfast, Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique, and park tickets), which is why we don't have a full booking post (as we do for the more complicated Disneyland Paris).
Buying Your Shanghai Disneyland Tickets (with Important Notes)
Shanghai Disneyland tickets are best purchased directly via the Shanghai Disney Resort website or, if you're staying at a Shanghai Disney Resort hotel, at your hotel when you arrive (tickets are guaranteed to hotel guests). Park tickets can only be purchased 45 days in advance and only come in one-day and two-day options. Prices vary by season. In a strange twist, "Adult" and "Child" are defined by height, not age (1.4 meters is the cutoff). Seniors are those aged 65 and above.
IMPORTANT NOTE ABOUT SHANGHAI DISNEYLAND TICKETS!! While the process is simple, there is one important detail to keep in mind. When you purchase your tickets, you'll need to enter the information for an identity document (that is, a passport). You need to bring that document to the turnstile when you arrive, and the Cast Member will use that document to print you your park tickets. Bring that document AGAIN the second day in case they ask for it. They have a big (legitimate) worry about ticket scalping at Shanghai Disney Resort.
Preparing for your Time at Shanghai Disney Resort
We have a series of posts about Shanghai Disney Resort that should get you set for your time there:
Shanghai Disneyland Culture - This post covers language, food, money, internet, and those overblown cultural issues you've heard about other places
Shanghai Disneyland Fastpass - This post explains how Fastpass works at Shanghai Disneyland
Shanghai Disneyland One-Day Itinerary - We suggest reading this post even if you're staying two days, as it will allow you to have a ton of freedom your second day
Shanghai Disneyland Hotel Review - A review of our two nights at the Shanghai Disneyland Hotel
(Optional) Shanghai Disneyland Review - Our thoughts on the park, but we suggest skipping it and going in without spoilers!!
Visiting Shanghai as Part of Your Shanghai Disneyland Trip
This is simple: you should not fly halfway around the world just for Shanghai Disney Resort when there is so much more in Shanghai and beyond to explore.
We found Shanghai to be a good city for four to five days, but stretched for activities beyond that. That said, we'd highly encourage you to plan your trip to include another Asian city. Particularly, we'd suggest Seoul (because we absolutely loved it) if you're not interested in another Disney destination. If you are interested in another Disney destination, Tokyo Disney Resort is absolutely fantastic, while Hong Kong Disneyland is probably not worth going out of your way for (at least not for the next few years).
Have any questions? let us know!