I am firm believer of the Disneyland plan before you hit the parks. It keeps you focused because there is SO much to do and experience. If you wait until you get into the park, you could feel panicked and unsure about where to start. Here is how my family begins the planning process.
Then we make a list of what we want to see in each park. I put them in my notebook to review as I set up the schedule. I ask each family member, if you only had 3 choices that you HAD to ride which would it be. That helps us narrow the schedule, especially for 1 day in each park.
We always use the Magic Mornings to our advantage because you can usually walk on to most Fast Pass lines before non-park guests and single ticket holders can get into the park. Try to use this time for rides like Peter Pan’s Flight or Space Mountain in Disneyland. In Disneyland California Adventure, use it for Tower of Terror, Midway Mania or Radiator Springs. Here is more about riding Radiator Springs multiple times.
Then make a list of 3 Fast Pass rides that you want to ride as a family. Then put these into the schedule as a 2nd ride in the areas you are working through. Example: if you are in Fantasyland pick up Fastpasses for rides like Big Thunder, Indiana Jones, Star Tours or Space Mountain. While you are sitting down to eat lunch get another set of Fast passes of the farther ones like Roger Rabbit, Splash Mountain, Haunted Mansion.
In Disney California Adventure: while you are in Bugsland get your fast passes for Tower of Terror or Radiator Springs.
A note on maps, study them ahead of time, they are divided into sections. Each section also has a list of the food offerings in each “land” so you can plan you snacks and dining appropriately.
I must stress… Even if you don’t plan your rides and attractions, plan your meal plan. Try to eat around 11:3ish or after 1:30pm because at noon, it’s like people become food crazy. At this time of day, people are grouchy and hungry… a deadly combination.