Tokyo Disney Resort, home to Tokyo Disneyland and Tokyo DisneySea, is high on the bucket lists of many Disney fans. But getting to Tokyo and putting together an enjoyable trip can be an intimidating task. That's why we're here to help! This is our guide to planning a trip to Tokyo Disney Resort.
The Basics of Tokyo Disney Resort
Tokyo Disney Resort is a Disney resort complex located just outside the city of Tokyo, Japan. Tokyo Disney Resort comprises:
two parks (Tokyo Disneyland and Tokyo DisneySea)
six official, non-Disney hotels, and a shopping mall (IKSPIARI).
All of those above spots are closely connected by a combination of monorail (the Tokyo Disney Resort Line) and bus. There is also:
an off-site Disney hotel, Tokyo Disney Celebration Hotel, located a 20-minute shuttle ride from the parks, and
16 hotels that are either "Partner" or "Good Neighbor" hotels.
Tokyo Disney Resort is located about an hour by train from Tokyo proper. This means you could visit Tokyo Disney Resort from the city. We don't recommend this if you can avoid it though. This is one of the best resorts Disney has to offer, and you'll want to have as much time on property as you can.
Tokyo Disney Resort is technically owned and operated by The Oriental Land Company under a license from Disney. This will not impact your experience at all, except that the website is noticeably different from other Disney resort websites. Don't for a second think this place will be less "Disney" because of who owns it. It absolutely oozes Disney spirit, details, and touch.
The Parks of Tokyo Disney Resort
Tokyo Disney Resort contains two parks, Tokyo Disneyland, the traditional "castle park," and Tokyo DisneySea (get it? DisneyLAND and DisneySEA), a park themed around nautical exploration. It is not a waterpark.
Tokyo Disneyland Brief Overview
Tokyo Disneyland is the castle park at Tokyo Disney Resort. It features Cinderella Castle (the same as Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World) as its centerpiece. Tom Bricker of Disney Tourist Blog refers to this park as both "bizarro Magic Kingdom" and as containing a "greatest hits" of Magic Kingdom and Disneyland.
We basically agree with this. It's hard to judge Tokyo Disneyland negatively. It's a solid castle park with excellent service (more on that below), excellent snacks (more below), and an impressive attraction lineup.
Tokyo DisneySea Brief Overview
Tokyo DisneySea is, by many accounts, the greatest Disney theme park and possibly the greatest theme park in the world. Having visited all of the Disney parks, one of us ranks it first and one of us ranks it second (behind Disney's Animal Kingdom, of which we are shameless uber-fans).
There's simply no place on earth where so much thought and attention has been put into a theme park as a place to be and to experience. The attraction lineup does not disappoint, with Toy Story Midway Mania, Tower of Terror, and Journey to the Center of the Earth anchoring a lengthy list. Any of the seven "ports" here would be in the top two lands in any Disney park. (Excuse us for fanning out a bit.)
Fastpass and Attractions at Tokyo Disney Resort
For several rides at both Tokyo Disneyland and Tokyo DisneySea, you can obtain Fastpass tickets that allow you to come back at a certain time to skip the line.
This is not an in depth Tokyo Disney Resort Fastpass guide, but here are the basics:
Fastpass is only available on selection attractions.
Fastpass tickets are obtained by going to a ride, scanning your park ticket at a kiosk, and taking a printed ticket that tells you a designated time to return.
Fastpass tickets are typically issued at park open for return slots 30 to 40 minutes after open. Return slots are an hour long. Return slots roll forward in five-minute increments as Fastpass tickets are obtained.
Your Fastpass ticket will tell you when you can obtain your next Fastpass, typically the earlier of two hours after you obtained a Fastpass and the return time for that Fastpass.
We suggest the following resources for preparing your Fastpass strategy at Tokyo Disney Resort:
We'll add two quick tips. First, we found Happy 15 to be next to useless for actually accomplishing anything at Tokyo Disneyland. The only operational ride was Buzz Lightyear, and it was also the only ride issuing Fastpass tickets. We waited in line for Monsters, Inc. Fastpass tickets to open at actual park open and then headed over to Pooh's Honey Hunt.
Second, we had no problem grabbing a Fastpass for Tower of Terror and then waiting 30 minutes in line for Toy Story. We were easily able to knock out most major attractions at Tokyo DisneySea doing this (on a weekday in February).
Park Tickets at Tokyo Disney Resort
Park tickets at Tokyo Disney Resort are unlike what you'll find at Walt Disney World or Disneyland. There are a total of six options (other than annual pass-type options):
1-Day Passport (visit one park)
2-Day Passport (visit one park on day one, one park on day two)
3-Day Passport (2-Day Passport + a third day when you can hop between parks)
4-Day Passport (2-Day Passport + third and fourth days when you can hop between parks)
Special 3-Day Passport (available for Disney hotel guests only, allows you to park hop for three full days)
Special 4-Day Passport (available for Disney hotel guests only, allows you to park hop for four full days)
We didn't note exactly how much the special passports cost, but our recollection is that it was a $40 (USD) premium on the standard passports. As the notes indicate, you can only get those special tickets by staying at one of the four Disney hotels.
We went with the standard 4-day passport, and that would be our recommendation for a four-day trip. For a three-day trip, there's a good argument to get the special passport if there's any chance you won't need a full day at Tokyo Disneyland.
The Hotels of Tokyo Disney Resort
As we touched on in the "basics" section above, there are four Disney hotels and 22 non-Disney hotels affiliated with Tokyo Disney Resort.
Disney Tourist Blog is the our go-to resource on Tokyo Disney Resort's hotels.
If you're considering staying at a non-Disney hotel, remember to consider how hotel status can help you. You may be able to grab an upgrade to a park view room with the right status. There are both Sheraton and Hilton hotels at Tokyo Disney Resort, and at least the Hilton has park view rooms. The Amex Platinum gets you both Starwood SPG Gold Status (for Sheraton) and Hilton Honors Gold Status.
Tokyo Disneyland Hotel vs. Tokyo DisneySea Hotel MiraCosta
Chances are if you're visiting Tokyo Disney Resort, you're considering at least one night at either Tokyo Disneyland Hotel or Tokyo DisneySea Hotel MiraCosta. We'll quickly breakdown these two hotels, but you should read our review of Tokyo Disneyland Hotel and our review of Tokyo DisneySea Hotel MiraCosta as well.
While the hotels are differently themed, they're both great, elegant, Disney-driven hotels. They're also priced very similarly. What really separates these two hotels is location.
Tokyo DisneySea Hotel MiraCosta is located physically within Tokyo DisneySea. Specifically, the hotel is located between the entrance to the park and the Mediterranean Harbor port. All rooms look into some part of the park, but some are looking into the entrance area, which is not an especially impressive view. Our guide to booking Hotel MiraCosta discusses these room types a little more.
As you might imagine, accessing the park from this hotel is also incredibly easy. An elevator ride down to floor one places you about 30 feet from the park, with Hotel MiraCosta having its own private turnstile into Tokyo DisneySea.
Tokyo Disneyland Hotel is positioned just outside of Tokyo Disneyland. It's about a two to three-minute walk into the park. There are rooms with great views into the park, but they'll be views over the monorail and park entrance. They are not direct into the park like the views at MiraCosta.
Both MiraCosta and Disneyland Hotel are accessible by the Tokyo Disney Resort Line monorail.
There's really no bad option when choosing between these hotels, and we advocate a split stay, which is how we visited both. If we were picking only one hotel, we'd choose based on pricing and room types, favoring Hotel MiraCosta a bit. We'd favor Hotel MiraCosta because we are huge fans of Tokyo DisneySea and not as huge fans of Tokyo Disneyland (or any castle parks).
Getting to Tokyo Disney Resort
To get to Tokyo Disney Resort from the United States, you first have to fly to Tokyo, then you have to get from the airport to Tokyo Disney Resort.
Flying to Tokyo from the United States
Tokyo has two international airports: Narita International Airport (NRT) and Haneda Airport (HND). If you're visiting Tokyo Disney Resort when you arrive in Tokyo, it doesn't much matter which you fly into. HND is closer, but unless you're going to spring for a taxi, the distance shouldn't matter much (more below).
Roundtrip flights from the U.S. to Tokyo are routinely available in the range of $700 to $1000 in economy per person. Good deals occasionally drop those rates down to $500 or even sub-$450.
Using points to fly economy will set you back between 40,000 and 70,000 roundtrip, depending on your choice of airline. Flying ANA through their ANA Mileage Club program, which is a transfer partner of both American Express Membership Rewards and Starwood SPG, for 40,000 points roundtrip is probably the best option.
If you're looking to fly business class (your should), you're looking at 75,000 to 140,000 points roundtrip, per person. If you can come up with the miles in ANA Mileage Club or JAL Mileage Bank to fly roundtrip on either of those airlines, that's a great option.
Our preference would be to fly business overnight one direction using points and economy the other way (not overnight) on a cheap fare. If you can come up with Chase points, flying Korean Air business class is a great option. If you can come up with Citi and Amex points, you'll want to consider using Asia Miles to fly American or Japan Airlines.
Getting from NRT to Tokyo Disney Resort
There are basically three ways to get from Tokyo's Narita International Airport to Tokyo Disney Resort.
The Airport Limousine Bus service is our choice method. For 2450 JPY per adult, you can purchase tickets on the (roughly) hourly bus from NRT to Tokyo Disney Resort. The bus doesn't run at all hours, so be sure to check the schedule against when you're arriving. The bus stops at various points on the resort. Heading to Tokyo Disneyland Hotel, we expected to be the sixth stop, but instead we got off the bus at the first stop (Tokyo Disneyland park), and walked three minutes. Our total transit time was one hour, ten minutes.
You can also get from NRT to Tokyo Disney Resort by public transit. Google Maps is a good place to start for checking the route. You're looking at roughly 90 to 120 minutes travel time at about 960 JPY per person.
We're actually huge fans of public transit in general. But having taken public transit in major cities all around the world, we'll say that Tokyo's train system is one of the toughest we've encountered to navigate. This is especially true if you've never visited Tokyo before (if you have, you shouldn't have much difficulty).
Finally, by cab, you're looking at about 20,000 JPY. Honestly, if you arrive outside the Airport Limousine Bus hours and public transit is still running, it's hard to suggest you take a cab. Just weather the storm of the transit system.
Getting from HND to Tokyo Disney Resort
Again, Airport Limousine Bus service is probably the best option for getting from HND to Tokyo Disney Resort. You'll pay 830 JPY per adult, which is quite reasonable. The ride takes 40 minutes to an hour, depending on your airport terminal and destination.
You also can take public transit from HND to Tokyo Disney Resort. The ride comes in at about 800 JPY (more or less depending on your exact routing) and takes between 60 and 90 minutes. This likely makes the Airport Limousine Bus service a better option for most travelers.
Taxi will cost about 7,500 JPY. Still expensive, but at least not as expensive as coming from NRT.
The Tokyo Disney Resort Line
The Disney Resort Line at Tokyo Disney Resort is a monorail with four stops (the route is a closed loop traveling in one direction through the stops in this order):
Resort Gateway Station (for access to JR Mahaima Station, Disney Ambassador Hotel, and IKSPIARI)
Tokyo Disneyland Station (for access to Tokyo Disneyland and Tokyo Disneyland Hotel)
Bayside Station (for access to the Tokyo Disney Resort official hotels)
Tokyo DisneySea Station (for access to Tokyo DisneySea and Tokyo DisneySea Hotel MiraCosta)
Roundtrip on the monorail takes 12 minutes, with the stations just about 3 minutes apart from each other.
Guests at Tokyo Disneyland Hotel and Tokyo DisneySea Hotel MiraCosta get complimentary access to the monorail for their entire stay (we were given a 2-day pass and a 3-day pass for our four nights at Tokyo Disneyland Hotel, for example).
If you're not staying at one of those hotels, you'll need to purchase passes (this can be done conveniently at any of the stations) to use the Resort Line. Current pass options and prices can be found here.
When to Visit Tokyo Disney Resort
TDR Explorer has a great post on when to visit Tokyo Disney Resort.
We would add that the Summer Olympics will be in Tokyo in 2020. That means everything will be crazy awesome but also crazy busy in summer 2020. We haven't decided whether we'll be trying to get back to Tokyo Disney Resort in 2020.
While there are slower seasons at Tokyo Disney Resort, there aren't really down seasons. It's always busy, there will always be lines. On a cold, rainy day, we snapped a picture of people waiting in line to take a picture in front of a construction wall.
Given that, besides planning around hotel and flight rates (and award availability), we'd suggest aiming for a time when there isn't as much scheduled maintenance. We went in a time of "lower crowds" (February), but that also meant much work going on, including closures on Splash Mountain and Haunted Mansion.
How Long to Stay at Tokyo Disney Resort
Tokyo Disney Resort is the international Disney resort that requires the most time. Tokyo Disneyland is at least a one-day park, and if you're interested in trying to take it in, you'll need another half or full day.
Tokyo DisneySea is a two-day park with plenty to support a third day. Since the longest ticket you can buy for the parks is four days, we think planning four park days is a good target.
If you can spare the expense, we suggest finishing with a night at MiraCosta after your last park day. You'll be able to enjoy Fantasmic! from either your room or BellaVista Lounge. Then you can wake up early to breakfast and enjoy the view of the park opening.
The Culture of Tokyo Disney Resort
We always want to help our readers avoid culture shock. To that end, there are a few things you should know about Tokyo Disney Resort.
Major Credit Cards Are Widely Accepted Except at Small Stands
There are ATMs inside both parks and IKSPIARI, but you can pay with major credit cards at most locations other than small snack stands. The local currency at Tokyo Disney Resort is the Japanese Yen, which as of this writing exchanges at a rate of 106 JPY to 1 USD. We've written more extensively about money overseas at Lattes & Runways.
Tokyo Disney Resort sometimes uses a "swipe and sign" method for American cards and other times uses a "chip and sign" method. They may or may not have the ability to take chip-and-pin cards now, as we had an awkward interaction with one cast member who seemed to want a PIN from us before realizing the situation.
You need to sign the back of your credit card.
There Is Great Food, Particularly Snacks
Pretty much every Tokyo Disney Resort snack has been instagrammed and pinned to death. They have lots and lots of great snacks, from Alien Mochi to Melon Soda Sugar Churros to Garlic and Shrimp Popcorn.
We stuck to quick service options and found them sufficient. As vegetarians, we struggled a bit and had to repeat meals (we had pizza in the park twice and ordered it once for room service), but there are a wide range of non-vegetarian options, from pizza to Mickey burgers to curries.
English is Rare at Tokyo Disney Resort, But Don't Worry
English is not the primary spoken language at Tokyo Disney Resort, Japanese is. You won't encounter very many people who are truly fluent in English. This really isn't a problem, though, for a few reasons.
First, there is probably more written English than Japanese at Tokyo Disney Resort, as all major signage is primarily in English.
Second, the cast members are the nicest in the world, by far. They will do whatever they can to help you (within some cultural norms, more below), including finding another cast member who speaks better english, if necessary. Second, all major items (maps, signs, menus) are in English and Japanese (and sometimes Mandarin).
When ordering at restaurants, it is common to have a cast member go over your order on an English menu with you even if you're 100% sure they understood you. If you hear someone ordering in English ahead of you, take a second to listen and see how their conversation goes and what questions the cast member asks, this will help you put your own script together.
Your ride experience won't be significantly impacted by language issues. Tokyo Disney Resort has the least English out of the international parks when it comes to rides, but the rides themselves easily transcend that. You'll get a good enough of a sense of the plot, and the rides are so much more than that anyways.
Finally, cast members are very proficient in hand signals. Not only is Tokyo Disney Resort constantly blanketed in waving cast members and guests, but basically anything that is required of you, from taking off your backpack, to lowering your lap bar, to removing your ears, has a very clear gesture associated with it.
You'll See Lots of Sitting and Lots of Queuing
Our last morning at Tokyo Disney Resort, we watched as the earliest risers poured into Tokyo DisneySea at rope drop. It was 7:45AM, and these earliest people has no doubt been there since at least 6:30AM. No more than ten people had gotten into the park when a dad and son deviated from the rest of the crowd that was heading to Toy Story, spoke with a cast member, and promptly sat down a few feet from a stage. They woke up at probably 6AM to rope drop a show that wouldn't start until 9AM.
In Tokyo Disney Resort, you'll see lots of people sitting for parades or sitting in line for shows hours before they start. If you walk by a stage at 11AM and there is an 11:20 show, chances are the seating will be filled and the queue will be filled with people sitting for the 1PM show.
You don't tip in Japan, which is hard for an American because customer service is excellent.
Everyone Is Super Nice & They Really Love Disney
This is sort of a catch-all, but Tokyo Disney Resort is simply a very fun place to be. The most Disney person you know with the best Disney outfit would probably be underdressed at Tokyo Disney Resort, that's how into it they are. They scream when characters come out, everyone waves to everyone else, everyone participates in every song and dance, and they run giddily from ride to ride.
Odds & Ends Of Tokyo Disney Resort Planning
Finally, here are some odds and ends. Let us know in the comments if we're missing anything big.
Getting a SIM Card for Your Time In Japan
We purchased a SIM to pickup from Tokyo's Narita International Airport through Klook. SIM cards are actually a little surprisingly hard to come by in Japan. A more common way to keep internet access is to rent a wifi hotspot.
Other Things To Do in Japan
As of publication, we're still building our Japan page over at Lattes & Runways. Check it out for help planning your trip to Japan!