We took our 5 children to Disneyland last fall,
and here are a few things we learned.
You can also check out my trip planning tips HERE.
1. Have your tickets ready the night before. If you are picking them up, go to the ticket counter the night before and avoid the long line in the morning. There was no wait, and the cast member spent extra time explaining things to us. She even gave each kid a fun button for their first visit!
2. Get to the park early. There will be a line an hour before the park even opens. This blew my mind, even on a slow day people are lined up at the crack of dawn. It will take longer than you think to get out the door, so plan to get up early and get moving.
3. After you get into the park put all the tickets in an envelope or ziploc and have one responsible person keep them. This will really help when it is time to run around and get fast passes and ensures that they won’t get lost.
4. We used the TouringPlans and hit three of our must-see rides in less than an hour when we got to the park. We followed the plan and had seen all the rides on the list by early afternoon. It gave us the rest of the day to move at a slower pace and re-visit favorites or throw in rides that weren’t on the plan. You can get the plans on their website our their book The Unofficial Guide to Disneyland.
5. Take a stroller. We kept our lunches, snacks, blanket to lay out to save space for parade, water bottles, jackets, diaper bag, and any souvenirs we bought in their and it was a life-saver. Even our 7 year old got tired feet and wanted a turn to ride. We love the sit-and-stand for the storage space and bench seat for older kids. We put a brightly colored water bottle in the cup-holder to make it easy to spot in the crowd of strollers. You can park it and visit rides in the surrounding area, no one touched our stuff.
6. The park really clears out after the Fantasmic show. I didn’t think my kids would be able to handle a late night, but we stayed until the park closed at midnight and they were all smiles. There were no-lines for many of our favorite rides, and the park has a completely different feel at night.
7. The water tastes funny. Take bottled water if you are particular about the taste. The kids seemed fine filling up their bottles in the drinking fountain or our condo’s faucet, but this mama had a hard time with it.
8. Buy your own shirts, hats, and souvenirs before you go to save money. I found deals on Disney shirts at Target, Walmart, and Old Navy. I found a cute hat for my little princess on eBay. I paid $5-10 for my items compared to the $20-30 in the park. We gave each kid a $25 Disney card for their entire visit. Since they were on a budget they put thought into their purchases and weren’t asking us for items throughout the visit. I bought Disney party favor items liked Mickey shaped ring pops and character Pez dispensers that the kids loved. Buy glow sticks at the dollar store, you will save the $15 they charge at the park and helps to keep an eye on kids at night. We also bought these glow sticks that came in handy and the boys were convinced they were light sabers, bonus!
9. Wear your most comfortable walking shoes. Most of your pictures will be from the waist up anyhow, you have to go function over fashion for this one. I mentioned in my earlier planning post that you will walk miles. I think the average is 7 miles per day at the park. You can take moleskin along in case of blisters, but we never needed it. I wore these columbia shoes and they were supportive and breathed well.
10. Buy the PhotoPass+ before you go! I should have put this into my planning post, because you really should order it ahead of time (I think 2 weeks in advance) to get the best price. For $70 you will get a card on a lanyard that you will give to any photographer you see, as well as all of the ride photo counters, and all of these pictures will be put onto your account. When you get home you enter a code and have access to download them all. Hundreds of pictures by professional photographers, totally worth it. If you split up, just have the other party get the number of their photo and you can go back with the lanyard and have it put on. You just have to go by the end of the day. If they see other photographer have them get a Photopass card and you can go to the photo shop on Main Street to have them all merged onto your lanyard card. Take a picture of the back of your lanyard card, if you lose it you lose all pictures, but if you have photo of the number they can get them all back for you!
11. A quick tip for the famously busy Cars Land ride at California Adventure. Go straight to that ride when you enter the park. Everyone goes straight to the fast pass line (you can send someone there too if you want to ride it again later) and the line to the actual ride is short. So, send one parent to the fast pass line, and one to go ride with the kids if you can. It is a fun ride, but my 7 year old doesn’t love the feeling of dropping and there are a few good hills where your tummy does a flip. It goes pretty fast at parts and can feel a bit like a roller-coaster ride to a little one. Oh, and if you want a good picture of your kid, have them sit in the back. Otherwise, the windshield will cover their face and you’ll miss a shot of their expression.
12. Although you will be running to and from rides like crazy, don’t forget to savor each moment. Really look at your kids expressions, watch them take it all in. That is why you came, right? It is about creating family memories, so make sure you take moments along the way to really enjoy it.
I will continue to post more Disneyland tips, there is SO much to cover. We haven’t even touched on the yummy food! Mmm…I can smell the churros now.
If you have useful Disney tips for parents, please share in the comments below!