We have had a seasons pass to Disneyland for almost two years now, so pretty much Capri's whole life, and while I'm not an expert by any means, I have learned a few things from going our fare share of times to the park and also from all my friends who are expert "Disneyland Moms". I love learning new tips and tricks every time I go and I asked them a few of their favorite things to help put together some tips on going to Disneyland and also how to survive with a little one there. There are lots of benefits to having a seasons pass like being able to come and go as you please and not feeling rushed to fit everything in because you can come right back the next week, and getting a discount on food and in the stores or also being able to come anytime you want on days that it's not very crowded - but with that being said, I know that most people fly in for a Disney vacation experience and pack everything into a couple of days which I think is great because you really try to make the most of your days. I'm trying to keep that in mind in writing these tips so that these are good suggestions whether you are planning your family vacation or just going for a day trip with your kids if you live here. So here you go, some tips to help you survive the "Happiest Place On Earth" with a baby or crazy toddler.
1. PLAN AHEAD - check the parks schedule for your trip to see the hours the park is open and when you get there grab a map with the shows and parade times to plan out your day. Buy tickets or passes ahead of time so you don't have to deal with it there [you can check at Costco for discount tickets]. Also check if any of the rides are closed where they have them listed at the entrance. My favorite time to go to Disneyland is in the Fall because the decorations are amazing for Halloween and the weather is usually cooler with shorter lines on everything. But you only have September and the first part of October before it gets busy again. The first couple weeks of December are great as well and I love the parks at Christmas time, it's really amazing! January is also great after everyone is back in school. It's always best to avoid any school holidays or three-day weekends because it will be crowded. Also, if you go on a rainy day or when it's cold then it's usually not very busy.
2. USE THE APPS - there are lost of great Disney apps to see all the wait times of rides which is so useful! This will save you lots of time. It's best to plan out your rides in the same area and then move to a different place in the park and do all the rides there rather than running across the whole park all the time getting from ride to ride, this wastes a lot of time. There is also a website called Finding Mickey and it tells you where all the characters are at any time of day, which is so helpful because a lot of times we want to know where a certain one is and it's hard going around trying to find them.
3. GET PINS - you can get a pin in the Main Street City Hall of Disneyland if you are at the park for any special occasion [child's first time, a birthday, anniversary, engagement, honeymoon] and workers at the park will notice your pin and may give you special treatment;) You can also trade character pins with any of the workers wearing them on their suspenders or camera straps so bring some from home if you don't want to buy them there and trade away. These or the smashed coins are probably the cheapest souvenirs you can get.
4. TAKE TONS OF PICTURES - be prepared with your camera in an easy to access spot or if you're using your iPhone for pics be sure to have it charged all the way because there isn't anywhere to charge your phone in the park. It's a good idea to bring an extra charger if you have one, or if you're waiting in long lines or inside of a ride you can put your phone on airplane mode to save the battery. You can also ask any of the workers to take pictures of you even at spots where the park photographers are and they will gladly take one for you. They will also give you a PhotoPass of pictures they take of you at the park and you can see them online when you get home to a computer and I have actually gotten a couple of photos from this of Capri because they captured the best moment of her with the princesses for the first time and they are such high-quality photos with their nice cameras, so I think it's worth it to have these memories.
5. COME WITH SOUVENIRS - we all know that Disneyland can be pretty expensive and now that every store like Target is selling everything Disney, it's great to buy stuffed animals or toys your kids want from there or order them online and then you can bring them to the park with you and avoid them begging for something in one of the many stores there. You can also find cute Princess costumes at the Disney Outlet store or online and I think you have to indulge in letting your daughter dress up at least once like a Princess and bring her to the Royal Hall to meet them. I don't think you'll regret it, especially since everyone tells me they grow out of this stage pretty fast. I also have heard it's quite the experience to go to the Bibbity Bobbity Boutique that's right through Cinderella's Castle where they dress up the little girls as Princesses and then do their hair, makeup and nails. You can bring your own costume and shoes to save money, but all the workers address them as "Princess" and "Your Majesty" and I think they feel pretty special for that day. [Another little souvenir tip - you can get a free antique map from The Jungle Cruise ride if you ask your driver and you can also get a free certificate from the Mark Twain Boat if you ask the conductor - they may even let you drive]
6. USE THE FASTPASS & STROLLER PASS - the fast pass is seriously amazing and it's great that you can have a fast pass to Disneyland and California Adventure at the same time, so take advantage and get passes for the biggest rides first. You can also get a pass to The World of Color show in California adventure at night so that you will have good seats and it's totally worth it. The stroller pass is a lifesaver for moms because your party can go on the ride and then they come out to get you so you can get on the ride right after them plus you can take someone with you if one of the kids wants to ride it again or I have done it with my friends who all have little babies and we just take turns watching the kids while we get to go on a big kid ride for a change:)
7. BRING YOUR GEAR - I have loved my City Select Stroller and it's been great with everywhere I take it to because there's lots of storage underneath plus I got the extra cup holder and compartments up top and I can recline the seat for Capri to take a nap if I'm really lucky and that happens. At first I was a little nervous leaving it in the waiting areas while I was on rides, but I quickly got over that and now I don't even think twice about it. Really there are so many strollers there and everyone leaves them, plus there's usually a park worker attending to the stroller parking area anyway, but I just think if someone was really desperate to steal a stroller than good luck hauling it out of the park, but they must need it more than me haha. I also think it's a great idea to bring a baby carrier like a bjorn or ergo baby for when your baby just wants to be held and won't sit in the stroller [totally happens to me] or if your little babe sleeps better being held. This will save you with all the walking you will do. I've also carried Capri around in a Solly Baby wrap when she was really little and it worked great, I just missed having my stroller to carry my diaper bag on and drinks and stuff. Which leads me to the other really important item - your diaper bag or whatever type of bag you are bringing just make sure it's easy to carry around. When Capri was really young up until recently, I brought my diaper bag that also had backpack straps and it was a lifesaver because I brought it on all the rides with me and I could carry Capri without having to worry about my bag. Now I usually bring a smaller cross body bag because I try to pack as light as I can, but something that will give you free hands to chase your little one is best and that can quickly be put on from ride to ride. Also, if you are breastfeeding it's great to have a nursing cover because there are rides like "It's A Small World" and "Pirates of the Carribean" that are cool and indoors that make them great for breastfeeding on.
8. VISIT THE BABY CENTER - I never knew these places existed until I had my baby girl, but they are really amazing. Disneyland really does think of everything. At the top of Main Street, around the corner by the Hot Dog Cart there is a Baby Center that has private rooms with rocking chairs to nurse in, bathrooms with changing tables and toddler toilets, as well as microwaves to heat up milk or water for formula. They also have one in California Adventure and it's a nice place to take a break with a little baby, especially because my girl didn't love the nursing cover.
9. BE SMART - try to avoid the crowds and lines by eating at times that are not as crowded like earlier in the day before 11 or after 2. You can also get some food and eat it while you're waiting for a parade to start so you can get a good spot to watch, then trade off going to get treats or going on rides if you have another adult with you. It's also smart to come earlier in the day because the park is the least crowded before 11:30 am. If you come right when it's open then be sure to get on Peter Pan because it always has the biggest line and hit up anything in FantasyLand because it gets crowded fast. The Toy Story ride in California Adventure is the best ride to get on there early because you can't get a fast pass for it and the line is always long. It's a great idea to pack your own food because they let you bring anything into the park and I always need lots of snacks for Capri. So I'll usually pack her food and lots of snacks and drinks then I'll pick one food item I want to splurge on and one treat. It's hard for me not to buy any food there because I think it's all part of the experience. [and a little tip - you can get free water at any of the restaurants, but my favorite spot is the refreshment station on Main Street and they'll give you a big cup of ice water complete with lid and straw and it tastes like heaven on a hot day and knowing I didn't spend $5 on a bottle of water] Also don't be afraid to stay late once in awhile because the park is pretty magical at night and all the shows with fireworks are amazing, especially during Christmas time when they make it snow!
10. TAKE A BREAK - after a long day of Disneyland, not only does your little one need a break, but you need one too. If you aren't staying at a hotel here to have the option to go take a nap at or relax at the pool for awhile, I would suggest a few of these other things that are low key like the train ride which is great for a longer ride to sit down and you get great views of the park, plus kids love it. I would also suggest going to a show like the Aladdin show in California Adventure that is a full-blown musical production with amazing talent or the Disney Jr. puppet show that's fun for little ones. We also like the Animation Academy that's right in Hollywood Land in California Adventure and kids who are older can learn to draw different characters in a 15 min class, but for the little ones they have a huge room with songs playing from every different Disney movie as well as the scene projected on the ceiling and walls so they can just dance around hearing all the songs from the different movies without all the talking in between. This place is great to get wiggles out. There is also another hidden secret in Disneyland's Tomorrowland there's a Peter Pan story book room where you can go to a reading of the book with live animations and the whole room is decorated with scenes from the book and kids get to be involved with sprinkling pixie dusk or shooting a canon. There is also a playground in each of the parks which are all Capri wants to do right now so they make a great stop. You can find one in Toon Town and also in California Adventures Grizzly Peak. And probably one of my favorite spots is in Disneyland's Frontier Land where the petting zoo is at Big Thunder Ranch they also put on a big carnival there for Halloween and Christmas and it really is amazing. Everything is decked out and you can see the characters there all dressed up for the holiday and they have crafts for the kids. Also, don't miss out stopping at Main Street Cinema for old classic Disney cartoons. [and a little tip - in the Opera House on Main Street you can see the original Griffith Park bench where Walt Disney dreamt up Disneyland]
| BEST PHOTO OPPS FOR KIDS |
-the Disneyland main entrance usually has characters there later in the afternoon when it's not crowded
-The Royal Hall to the left of Cinderella's Castle is where you can always find three to four princesses to get pictures with. If you go in the morning, the line is not as long
-Pixy Hollow to the right of Cinderella's Castle is where you can find Tinker Bell and her fairy friends.
-The Character Breakfast at the Plaza Inn by Main Street is a must-do I think at least once because you are guaranteed to see lots of characters, plus you get a good breakfast out of it so you can spend the rest of your day going on rides and not worried about hunting down characters.
-Mickey and Minnie's houses in Toon Town are usually where you can find these two, but go later in the day around 5 when it's not as crowded.
-In front of the Disney Jr. Theater in California Adventure you can find characters like Sophia the First and Doc McStuffins during the day and they're not as popular with the older kids so the line is pretty short.
-Arial's Grotto restaurant in California Adventure is where you can always find Arial with a few other princesses, but be sure to get reservations because it's only open for specific seating times during the day. The menu is pretty upscale, but kids under 3 are free so I think the experience is worth it.
-Anna and Elsa from Frozen have their own little cottage in Fantasyland where you can meet them, but we haven't done it yet because you need tickets and the lines are super long, but you can also see them before the parade. There is a Frozen float that comes out by itself before the parade starts and you usually have a great view of the characters.
*DON'T FORGET WHERE YOU PARKED - TAKE A PICTURE OF THE FLOOR NUMBER or CHARACTER
*IF YOU EVER LOSE YOUR CHILD FOR A MINUTE AND CAN'T FIND THEM ANYWHERE, NOTIFY A PARK WORKER BECAUSE THEY WILL SHUT DOWN ALL EXITS TO THE PARK AND NO ONE WILL LEAVE UNTIL YOU FIND YOUR CHILD. THEY TAKE MISSING CHILDREN VERY SERIOUS AND I'M SO HAPPY THEY DO