Monday, December 2, 2013

My Favorite Disneyland Tips

Posted by Devin
I spent my first six years of life living with my family in the city of Corona, CA. Back then the city was still surrounded by orchards, the Southern California real estate boom had not yet made it a major suburb, and traffic was manageable; making the drive to Disneyland a quick 35 minutes. My parents took us there quite often. I can even remember my mom waking us up on a week day and announcing that we were not going to school that day, we were going to Disneyland! As a kid, it just didn't get any better than that. When my parents told me we were going to be moving back to our native Arizona, I remember thinking that a bunch of cactus just could not compare with my two favorite things in the world: the beach and Disneyland. Thankfully my parents continued to take us back for visits throughout my childhood. And so I developed an early love for the happiest place on earth that has followed me to adulthood. Jake and I try to visit with our boys atleast every other year to keep the "magic" alive for our own kids.

As a parent with small children I have learned, however, that keeping the magic alive takes a little bit of planning on my part. Spending 8-12 hours at an amusement park (even if that amusement park IS Disneyland) can quickly become very un-magical without the proper preparation. So I have compiled a list of my top 10 favorite tips for a successful trip to Disneyland with little ones! Some of these are tips to help your wallet (which make Mom and Dad happier), some are tips to manage the crowds, and some are tips to manage the kids. I find all equally useful. ;)

1. Take frozen water bottles & re-fill them at water fountains as you go. Drinks at Disneyland are expensive. And if your kids are like mine, they drink a lot. Particularly when they are running around outside all day long. Make sure to bring water bottles with you to avoid spending loads of money on beverages throughout the day. And bringing them frozen to start with means you'll have cold drinks for atleast the first portion of your visit.
2. Visit one area at a time and ride everything there before moving on to the next "land." You may be tempted to run from one big ride to the next (i.e. Splash Mountain, Space Mountain, The Matterhorn, Thunder Mountain, etc.) but don't fall into this trap. You will wear yourself out before lunch. Take the time to ride all of the rides in each land and then move to the next. Also, don't start your day at Fantasyland. I think it must be the draw of the castle looming majestically at the end of main street, but everyone heads there first. Particularly to Peter Pan. We broke this rule on our first trip to Disneyland as parents and were stuck in this line for forever. (Not to mention our 2 year-old Connor immediately got his head stuck in between the bars of the little fence that forms the Peter Pan waiting line... Great way to start a day.)  Save these rides for later when the first rush has moved on. One more tip: when you can, use the train to travel between lands. It saves your feet and is fun to ride with little surprises along the way.

3. Take dum-dums for the kids to eat while waiting in long lines. Unless you get unbelievably lucky and happen to hit Disneyland on a day where everyone else decides to stay home, you are probably going to encounter some long lines. Long lines are hard to get through with antsy children. Giving kids a dum-dum keeps them happy and busy while waiting and because dum-dums are rather small, they usually finish them before you reach the end of your line. Reserve these for the longer lines to avoid total sugar overload before the end of the day. ;)

4. Eat a big breakfast and take lots of snacks & treats. Again, food is super expensive at Disneyland so we try to minimize the meals we eat inside the park. Don't get me wrong. I think that dining at Disneyland is part of the overall experience and there are always a number of things that we want to eat there before our trip is over, but we are selective in those choices. We try to make sure that everyone eats a very large breakfast before we get started so we can eat a late lunch in the park. Jake and I like to stay at the Embassy Suites when we visit Disneyland. They offer a wonderful complimentary breakfast with many hot items to choose from and everyone is happy to eat their fill. We then usually load a backpack up with some extra fruit from the hotel breakfast, snack items that we have brought from home, and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches that we make in our room before we leave. Having this backpack of food and eating that large breakfast usually allows us to eat only one meal in the park per day without having to leave the park.

5. Take an umbrella stroller with a basket. This is the best tip ever. I may make my youngest ride in a stroller until he's thirteen because having a stroller with you has so many uses. First of all, make sure that you take an umbrella stroller if you can. I have gone with larger strollers before and they are very difficult to maneuver through the crowds and on and off of shuttles if you use those to get to and from the park. Second, make sure the stroller has atleast a basket underneath. Mine has the basket plus a zippered pocket and two water bottle holders on top. All of this is extra storage space for diapers, sweatshirts, maps, sunglasses, hats, food, water bottles, sippy cups... all of the stuff you end up hauling around the park with you. Besides the storage space and saving the legs of little ones, the stroller has some other functions as well that I will get to in my next tip. Can you see Chase asleep in the stroller in the picture below? It made it possible for him to get in on the Mickey picture even though he was asleep. Love that stroller. ;) 

6. The best place to see the parade is between the Castle & the Matterhorn. I highly recommend taking the time to watch the parades and shows. Yes the lines get shorter during this time since everyone is watching them, but they are watching them for a reason: they're awesome. Don't skip it. Now the reason I say to watch the parade between the Castle and the Matterhorn is this: not very many people can fit in this area. This is a tight space where large crowds of people simply cannot fit. If you are standing in this area during the parade you basically have a front row seat, the characters look right at you (Aladdin even blew ME a kiss on our last visit, Jake was jealous), and you're not getting squished by hoards of people. To secure your seat in this area, leave some of your things (i.e. your stroller, back pack, coats...) on the long bench there a few hours before the parade to claim your spot. Then come back about 45 minutes before the parade with your dinner in hand and eat while you wait. You can leave food trays from any of the restaurants on top of any trash can in the park. I would suggest doing all of this for watching Fantasmic as well. Leave stuff to claim your spot, then eat something while you wait. The best spot for Fantasmic is right next to the water, centered with the front of Tom Sawyer's Island. This is a perfect place to watch the fireworks as well. This method really works great and having the best seat in the house is awesome.

7. Use fast passes. If you don't know what those are, google it and make sure you utilize them. They save SO much time. Also, if you have 1 kid too short for a ride, ask the employee at the front of the line checking heights for a child swap. They will give you a piece of paper so after one parent goes with the child who's tall enough (leaving the other to wait with the smaller child), the other parent can then go with the child again in the fast pass line. You don't have to use this child swap right away, you can come back and use it later if you like.

8. Don't park hop in one day. If you're going for multiple days, don't jump back & forth between Disneyland and California Adventure, it's exhausting. Do each one on separate days. If you're doing 3 days, I would suggest 2 at Disneyland, there's more to do there.

9. Take glow sticks, glow wands, glow swords, etc from the dollar store for night time. Our kids LOVED these and it kept them from begging us for the super expensive light-up stuff being sold all over the park once the sun went down. It also kept them happy and busy while we were waiting for the night-time shows to begin.

10. Bring souvenirs with you. I know that sounds crazy, but before our last trip I purchased Disney character stuffed animals and shirts from Walmart. We hid them and then gave them to the kids at the end of the first day. The kids were thrilled with their gifts. I priced the same stuff at Disneyland and this saved us at least 50% of the cost. Walmart usually has lots of Disney stuff for cheap in the spring time in an effort to gear up for everyone's spring break and summer vacations.
All of this Disneyland talk has me itching to make a trip soon. Maybe I'll see you there! ;) I hope you enjoy your trip to the happiest place on earth and that these tips make it a little happier for ya!
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At December 2, 2013 at 11:14 AM , Blogger Ashley said...

Just pinned this so I could look back at it in a few weeks. We're going to Disney World, and obviously all these tips apply!! I'm so excited. Great tip about the lollipops for the long waits. Anything else that can help with waiting for so long?

At December 8, 2013 at 6:16 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

I heard that some people bring a tiny bottle of bubbles and blow them for kiddies to pop in line!

At January 8, 2014 at 10:08 PM , Blogger Douglas Cobia said...

How do you guarantee your stuff won't get stolen while saving your seats for shows?

At January 9, 2014 at 7:37 AM , Blogger Tara and Devin said...

Good question. There is no guarantee your stuff won't get taken, so we make sure to leave things that if they were stolen (as much as that would stink), it wouldn't be a big crisis. We never leave money or wallets or anything very valuable. We have never had anything touched or taken, but if you are not comfortable with doing that, we also sometime leave one adult to hang out with the stuff and wait while the other parent runs and does some more rides with the kiddos. Thanks for your comment!

At January 9, 2014 at 7:38 AM , Blogger Tara and Devin said...

Great idea!

At January 9, 2014 at 7:39 AM , Blogger Tara and Devin said...

The comment below about the bubbles is a great idea and I have also heard of poeple playing simple games like 20 questions and charades while they are in line. Have fun at Disney World!

At January 9, 2014 at 9:04 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

We live near Disneyland and visit several times a month. A tip I actually learned from my kids is that guests can get free cups of ice water at any counter that has fountain drinks. Not worth the wait if you're visiting on busy days, but we stay away when the crowds are high.

At January 10, 2014 at 7:49 AM , Blogger Tara and Devin said...

Good to know! Thanks for your comment!


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