I thought one of the first things I’d have to write on this site was how to visit Disneyland from Northern California.

Fly vs Drive

This is the question that I get the most and it’s probably the hardest to answer since it’s so personal on what is important so I’m going to give you the different factors.


On a reasonable fuel efficient car, the gas will cost you about $80 for the full trip. A cheap round trip ticket will be about the same. But for a family of 4, that makes driving 4x cheaper than flying! And don’t forget that you also have to pay for a transfer from the airport. A Lyft from the airport to the hotel is ~30 dollars, so this increases it even more. If you need a transfer (see the logistics section) it could cost even more.


This is where most people get things wrong. They look at only travel time, and don’t take into account how long the ends are.


According to Google travel time is about 5.5 hours from San Jose to Disneyland. Add on a couple stops and usual traffic, that number is more like 7 hours


  • Flying time: 42 minutes
  • Drive to airport: 20 minutes
  • Parking: 10 minutes
  • Arrive before flight: 1.5 hours
  • Land and get bags or get to transfer: 25 minutes
  • Get from SNA to the Disneyland resort: 45 minute (including traffic)
  • Total: ~4 hours

So the time savings here is anywhere from 1.5 hours to 3 hours depending on time of day and traffic. This often surprises people how close it is. Especially when you take into account the cost differences.

Places to stop when Driving

On 101 – The slow drive down, where the journey is the destination. Adds about 1-2 hours to the drive, but its really beautiful

  • King City – Warning that this is a speed trap area, so slow down! But has great places to stop, with a lot of varied food places
  • Paso Robles – Good variety of places to eat
  • Pismo Beach – Beautiful location, not a lot of food options, but has some great views, with a great beach. If you’re going for a slow relaxing drive, its a good stop
  • Solvang – SUPER cute danish village just off 101. Great place to go for various foods, especially some killer bakeries. Its worth a stop, especially if you have kids
  • Ostrichland USA – This s a fun place to visit. Get up close and personal with ostriches and emus. My kids still talk about ti
  • Santa Barbara – Great Sea-side city that has a fun downtown. Its a fun place to stop, with one of the most beautiful missions in California.

On I-5 – FAST FAST FAST WHO NEEDS TO STOP. Taking 5 the stops are more about where you CAN stop, rather than sites to see.

  • Petro station – Since i’m coming from the Bay Area, I often stop here. Its just off of 152, and an easy last stop right before I-5
  • Firebaugh – There’s a Subway here that also sells a bunch of snacks. Fair amount of food in the area.
  • Harris Ranch – Great variety of foods, place to fill up.
  • Lost Hills – pretty much one of these “You gotta stop here” because there’s so much time after this and before it. Nothing too special, but has a large amount of options
  • Lebec – stop here. Seriously. its the last stop before you go over the hill, and you want to make sure you’re fluids are all set, etc. I find it really harder to stop after this point since its getting more into LA proper. Also backups tend to happen on the grapevine, so get your pee break in.
  • Valencia – Just after magic mountain, this is often our very last stop before we push through to the end. I find getting off the freeway in LA to be a pain, and its often late by the time we get here.

Getting from the Airport to the Resort

At Disneyworld, you have a few options to get from the Airport to the Hotel. At Disneyland, due to the variety of airports, and how many locals come, there is not a lot of options

Lyft – This is my choice when kids are not involved, or you bring your own carseat. Its not terrible expensive (~$30 each way), and it gets the job done.

Anaheim Town Car – I’ve used them a few times, and I gotta say I love them. Great responsiveness, and they include carseats, which was a big deal to us. They are a little pricer at about $200 roundtrip. The service you get, along with not having to deal with carseats is worth it to me.

Renting a car – This is an anti-recommendation for this. It’s just not worth it. It takes a bunch of time to get it all set up, is expensive, and then you often have to pay for parking on top of it.

Keeping the kids sane in transit


Really this is a personal choice of cost vs time. I find my personal preference is to Drive. We are a family of 4. So our cost to fly is about $400 on a good day, but can be upwards of $700 with taxes and fees. vs about $100 driving. That difference of hundreds is just not worth the couple hour savings we get.

For me also, I like to be on my schedule. I find the time savings are lost when I take into account the time it takes the get the kids ready. I also like being able to say “HEY let’s stay longer!”

Categories Guides/Tips

Post Author: David