Pulling out one of my favorite topics today: DISNEYLAND! Going to Disneyland with kids can be a completely magical experience for both the parents and the kids, BUT, it can also be overwhelming and tiring. Here are my top tips to make the most of your Disney Day!
Plan ahead: Before your trip, research and make a plan of everyone's priorities for rides, shows, and food! Make sure to check out the attraction list on Disneyland.com to see height limits for each ride. Nothing can cause a meltdown for a young kid faster than getting their hopes up to drive through Radiator Springs but being turned down because they're too little. You can also find accessibility information and warnings for various health issues there.
Arrive early: If you're staying at a Disneyland Resort Hotel (Grand Californian, Disneyland Hotel, Paradise Pier/Pixar Place) you can enter the parks 30 minutes early! Even if you're staying off property, try to get to Disneyland as early as possible to avoid long lines and crowded attractions. Security opens 1 hour prior to park opening and you can get through the turnstiles 30 minutes before park opening. While you'll be confined to Main Street until official park opening, being through the turnstiles before opening ensures that you'll be one of the first at the park and able to get in line for those big rides first! If you have early entry, here's a list of the available attractions during that time.
Let your kids lead: Disneyland can be a lot to handle, especially for kids. There's a lot of movement, light, sounds, people, smells. It's a massive sensory overload! I know you spent a lot of money to be there, I know you have things you want to do, and I know that its exhausting, but nothing can kill the day faster than a melting down toddler. It's hard, but being okay "wasting some time" can save the day, I promise. Find a quiet(er) space, get down on your kids level, and either take a minute to hold them close or let them have some space. Grab a snack, people watch, and take a minute to let your kids regulate.
Along with this, one of my top tips to avoid the meltdowns is to bring noise cancelling headphones! It removes one layer of the sensory overload and makes such a difference for my kids! They're especially helpful for kids that scare easy and are being introduced to some of the bigger rides for the first time. You can find our favorites for babies + kids here!
Pack snacks and water: Disney is expensive, we all know it! One of the best ways to stick to your budget is to bring in your own food and drinks. This is also helpful is you have picky little ones like myself. My kids tend to get extra sensitive if they've had too much sugar, so I try to bring in some solid protein and veggies to have along with all the yummy treats in the parks! If you bring a reusable water bottle, you can refill it at various fountains and Coke Freestyle machines around the park. You can also get free water cups at all quick service restaurants!
Rider Swap: This is a service Disney offers to let adults take turns waiting with kiddos or other guests that are unable/unwilling to ride. Here’s how it works: one adult or supervising guest (14 years or older) can wait with non-riders while the rest of the party enjoys the ride. Then, they switch roles to allow the supervising guest to have a turn without waiting in the regular line again. Just chat with the greeting cast member before you get in line. Split your party into 2 groups- first riders and second riders. The cast members typically need to see your entire group together to get a switch pass! The cast member will scan the tickets of the 2nd party (up to 3 people) and let the first group in your party ride. When they finish the ride, switch off the kiddos and the 2nd group can skip the line and ride! Rider Switch is available at most attractions in Disneyland + DCA.
Baby Care Center: This place is a must if you're traveling with a baby! It's complimentary, but there are other goods available for purchase there. There's a private nursing room, changing tables, toddler size toilets, highchairs, kitchen with sink, bottle warmers, microwaves, and a desk to buy formula, baby food, juice, diapers, wipes, sunscreen, pacifiers, OTC meds, and more. The baby care center in Disneyland is located on the right side of Main Street USA near the First Aid center right before The Plaza Inn. In California Adventure, Baby Care Center is located in front of Ghirardelli's on Pacific Wharf.
Our favorites: There's no shortage of things to do in Disneyland, but if you need a break from the crowds, here are some of our favorite shows and activities! In Disneyland: Toontown, Tale of the Lion King, and Storytelling at the Royal Theatre. In California Adventure: Disney Jr. Dance Party, Turtle Talk with Crush, Animation Academy drawing classes, and last but not least, Redwood Creek Challenge Trail in California Adventure! You can climb, swing, slide, race ducks down the river, and more. This is an AMAZING place to let your kids down and play freely for a bit! We spend hours here every time.
Nighttime Spectaculars: Fireworks, World of Color, Fantasmic, and Parades- so many amazing shows to see! If possible, I highly recommend catching the 2nd show! Parades, Fantasmic, and World of Color frequently have 2 shows per night. The 2nd show always has far lower attendance and it's easier to get a great viewing spot without waiting for an hour or more. Fireworks are shown nightly during the holidays and through the summer, but only on weekends through the rest of the year. While it's great to watch the show from Main Street, I'm not one to wait 1-2 hours to get a good seat. My favorite options are 1. to grab dinner at Jolly Holiday and watch the fireworks from a table out front or 2. watch from the Rivers of America. If you watch from Rivers of America, the projections are cast onto the water and Tom Sawyer's Island, the music is piped in, and you can still see the fireworks from the other side. This is such a fun, non crowded place to watch from!
General Tips: Download the app and get familiar with it, link your tickets to your Disneyland account, and don't forget to make your park reservations! Bring a jacket or sweatshirt for everyone, a change of shoes is helpful, and grab a fan if you'll be there in the summer. I also love to grab a baby carrier when I have a baby/toddler! Even if I have my stroller, its nice to have a carrier for longer lines!
I'll do another post of what I pack, but for now I've compiled a few of my must haves for Disneyland that you can check out here!
Okay, after all these tips I have one more for you- stress less, mama! If you or the kids need extra sleep, don't worry about being there for park opening. If you miss a show, head to the next one. Pick your priorities, take some deep breathes, and let the rest go. It's gonna be a great day and you'll create amazing memories with your kids! If you have any questions or need help, don't hesitate to reach out! I'd love to help however I can.