Tips for Taking Toddlers to Disneyland

We LOVE Disneyland!

It’s no secret. The hubby and I love going to the Happiest Place on Earth as a family to make memories and to spend time with one another. It’s our go-to family vacation spot because when we’re there we can just have fun and not worry about anything else. The place is truly magical. Living in Arizona, we went at least once a year and usually ended up going at the end of November as an early Christmas present. The kids knew that if we went to Disney, they’d only get a present or two from Santa, but they were fine with that. They just love Disneyland that much and are always begging us to go. Now that we live in Texas, it’s not as easy to hop in the car for 5 hours and be there, but we did decide to make a last-minute trip this past March and were so glad we were able to squeeze in some Magical Moments with our family in California.

For the longest time, we’ve had friends and family tell us we were crazy for bringing our toddlers and babies there. They told us that kids should be at least 5 before they go to the park, but we disagree. We’ve gone so often now with little ones, that we’ve come up with our own system for making it work with minimum tantrums and not spending a ton of money. Today, I’m here to share our Best Tips for Taking Toddlers to Disneyland. We’ve learned a thing or two (or TEN!!) in the past 7 years we’ve been going with kids and want to share with you those tips so that you can have an even happier and magical experience at the Happiest Place on Earth.

MUST-SEE List of Tips and Tricks for taking Toddlers to Disneyland { lilluna.com }



Now that we have gone so often and have been labeled Disney-addicts, we are constantly getting phone calls and emails from family and friends to share our tips and tricks, so I thought it would be perfect to share them all in ONE blog post – especially since it’s Disney Week here on Lil’ Luna. ;)

I shared my top 15 Tips for going to Disneyland back in 2012, and some of these tips will be repeated here, but this list is geared for those preparing to take young children to the park. :)

Let’s get this started…. (and there is a lot of information)…..

Disneys-Grand-Californian-Hotel-Room

{Disney’s Grand Californian}

PLANNING AHEAD

As part of a fun, memory-filled  and non stressful trip to Disneyland, it’s important to plan ahead. Yes, it takes time, but planning ahead will actually give you MORE time at the parks and more time to enjoy your vacation. As part of planning ahead it’s important to do the following:

  • FIND A GOOD HOTEL – If possible, I suggest staying at one of the Disneyland Hotels. They may be more expensive but the amenities and proximity of these hotels are well worth the cost. Not only do they have Character Breakfast Meet and Greets, but they also allow for EARLY ENTRANCE (Extra Magic Hour) and even an Exclusive Entrance for those staying at Disney’s Grand Californian (our personal favorite). If it’s not possible to stay at one of these hotels, I suggest finding one that is close enough that you can walk to and from the parks (be sure to check the ratings so you have a great hotel experience as well). Having toddlers, you never know if you’ll need to take a nap break or will have to go back to the hotel for a reason, so it’s nice to be close enough to return if needed.
  • GO TO THE PARK DURING OFF-PEAK SEASON – You want to go to the park when it’s least busy so that wait times are minimal and the parks aren’t so crowded. I know this can’t always happen due to a parents vacation time or a school child’s schedule, but if you have any say, I suggest taking a look at the Disneyland “SEASONS” below so you know what you’re getting yourself into. We always go at a time when it isn’t so busy because we know children (and ourselves at time) aren’t always the most patient. Long lines lead to whine-y kids and more stressful times, which is something we try to avoid. If you know you’ll be attending the park at a busier time make sure you tell your children that there will be lines. Also note that if you go at a busier time you’re less likely to hit all the rides and shows the parks have to offer.
    • Off Peak Season – Least Crowded

      January Through Late February (Presidents’ Day)
      April Through the Week Before Memorial Day
      Mid-September (After Labor Day) Through Mid-October (Columbus Day)
      After Thanksgiving Through The Week Before Christmas

      Average Attendence

      Late February Through the Week Before Easter
      Sundays except for Summer and Holiday Weekends
      After Memorial Day Till Schools are out for Summer
      After Columbus Day through Thanksgiving

      Peak Season – Most Crowded

      Saturdays
      3 day Holiday Weekends
      Week Before and After Easter
      Summer (Schools are out) through Labor Day
      Thanksgiving Weekend
      Week Before Christmas through New Years

      NOTE:  Picking which days you attend the park can be very helpful. Tuesday through Thursday will be the least busy since that is mid-week. Friday through Monday are the most busy since it’s easier for most people to go through the weekend to the parks.

      One more thing to consider in choosing your day is that dependent on when you go will also determine what hotel costs are. If you go during the Off Peak season, hotel prices are cheaper. During the Peak Season, hotel prices will be more expensive.

  •  CHECK DISNEYLAND PARKS SCHEDULE BEFORE ATTENDING – Know the Hours of Operation. Knowing when the parks open and when they will close will help you to plan your day and make the most of it. Also, often times, rides are closed for refurbishment. It’s good to know these things beforehand so that you don’t waste time going to these un-open rides at the park as well being able to tell your children beforehand so they don’t get upset. We made this mistake when we kept telling our daughter how fun she would have on the Nemo ride, only to find out it was closed when we got there. Her getting upset could have been easily prevented had we checked the schedule beforehand. It’s also important to know when certain shows and parades are. If you want to attend one of these events you want to plan your day with those times in mind and make sure you arrive early at the designated areas so that you can get in.
    • NOTE: If you are not staying at one of the Disenyland Hotels and DO NOT have Extra Magic Hour, I suggest starting your day at the opposite park. You see, Extra Magic Hour is assigned to one park every day (See the schedule below). For example, if you stay at a Disneyland hotel and it’s Tuesday, then extra Magic Hour is only for DISNEYLAND (and not California Adventure). If you are attending the park on Tuesday and do not have this Extra Magic Hour start your day off at California Adventure. It will be less busy and will allow you to get on more rides before the Disney Hotel residents hop over to the park.

disneyland-map-land-1567423664

princess fantasty faire

FOR AT THE PARK

  • HAVE A PLAN - Now that you know the schedule and which park you will be attending first, have a plan of action for the day. No, you don’t have to stick to it, but having an idea of where you’d like to go to first and knowing which shows you’d like to attend as well as the rides you’d like to go on will help you plan your day better.
    • Look at the Maps – (Disneyland Map can be found HERE, and California Adventure Map can be found HERE). You don’t want to go to Splash Mountain and then head to Space Mountain (they’re on opposite sides of the park). If you know where you are and where you are going you can plan easier and make the most of your time.
      • Character Meet & Greets – If your child wants to see a certain character, find out where they will be and at what times so you can be there.
        • Mickey & Friends can usually be found in Toon Town at their homes and wandering through out.
        • Tinker Bell and her friends can be found at Pixie Hollow (to the right of the Castle)
        • Princesses can be found at the new Princess Fantasy Faire (to the left before the Castle)
        • FROZEN Characters  can be found in Fantasyland (more info HERE) – They are to the left of the Carousel just pass the Pinnochio ride.
          • NOTE: If your children want to see Olaf and Anna & Elsa go here FIRST!!! The line can often be 3-4 hours (no joke), and if your kids are adamant about seeing the Frozen characters going here first will make the wait time closer to 15 – 45 minutes. We were one of the first ones in the park (on an off-peak day) and went there first and the wait was still 30 minutes. :/
      • Popular Rides – If your child likes Fantasyland head there first. Almost all of these rides do not offer Fast Passes, which means lines can get pretty long. Peter Pan, for example, is one of the most popular and is almost an hour wait just minutes after the park opens. If you can’t head her first, go here last. By night fall, kids are tuckered out and most families start heading home. If your kids are still awake night time is also a good time to hit up those nostalgic rides in Fantasyland.

disney-frozen

  • BRING PRE-PACKED ITEMS FOR PARK – Packing for littles and a family at Disney can sometimes be overwhelming and stressful, but it doesn’t need to be. Just cover all your bases and use this list to help you out:
    • WHAT TO PACK FOR KIDS (Items high-lighted in BLUE are the items you want to make come with you to the park)
      • Comfortable Clothes and Undergarments for all days
      • Comfortable Shoes – Make sure new shoes are already broken in!! Tennis shoes are great!
      • Pajamas
      • Toiletries – Shampoo, Conditioner, Soap, Brush, Hair ties, Hair Spray/Gel, Toothbrush, Toothpaste
      • Extra Set of Clothes and Undergarments for each child
      • Sunglasses/Hats
      • Sunscreen
      • Anti-bacterial Wipes/Hand Cleaner – help keep the germs away!
      • Diapers, Pull-Ups & Wipes
      • Sticker with Child’s Name and Phone Number – (These can also be found at the Baby Care Center)
      • Jackets & Blankets
        • Weather can change from morning to lunch to night. Having jackets and blankets can be helpful, especially if you went on ride and are wet and cold. Blankets come in handy too in case a child falls asleep and you need to block the sun.
      • Double Stroller
        • We LOVE our Sit n Stand Double Stroller. We like that if kiddos get tired, they can sit or if they fall asleep you can push the seat back to a laying position so they can take a nap. I see many people with Double-wide Strollers, but they always seem to have a harder time maneuvering through the parks. No, you don’t need a new stroller just for Disney, but it’s something I just wanted to mention in case you have an option of taking a double-wide or non-double-wide stroller. ;)
        • We also like to tie a bright ribbon to our stroller so it’s easier to find in the Stroller Parking.
      • SNACKS & DRINKS (including Sippy Cups, Bottles/Formula)
        • And more SNACKS!! You can never go wrong with bags of treats for the kiddos. Before we leave I always pack individual snack bags for each child for each day at the park. Each child gets the same treats that day and they know that if they’re hungry they can grab something from their bag. It helps save money and minimize whining. As mentioned before, lines can get long and having some treats on hand can be pretty helpful.
        • Water Bottles & Sippy Cups are a must – it can get hot and keeping hydrated is important. There are also water fountains all over the park to fill up at.
      • Umbrellas and Ponchos – No need to bring these to the park unless you see that rainy weather is likely, but it’s nice to have these at the hotel just in case. ;) NOTE: Some people like to bring ponchos to wear for some of the wet rides too.
      • Small Toys – Having some inexpensive (and replaceable) but familiar items from home can be helpful. Not only do small toys entertain, but they may help prevent the constant asking of toys and souvenirs from the stores. We usually do cave by the end of the trip and buy the kids a souvenir, but tell them they have to earn it. If they’re good and do not whine while we’re there we usually reward them with the toy of their choice ($15 and under) at the end of the trip. It’s usually a nice reminder during our vacation if they start acting up. ;)
      • Light-Up Glow Sticks and Jewelry. At night time ALL the fun blinking, glowing and twirling toys come out. If your kids are like mine, they’ll want some, but we like to stock up on some of the glow sticks (that can be made into bracelets and necklaces) and the other glow novelties from the Target Dollar Spot instead. We pack these in our backpack/bag for the day and the kids LOVE them.
    • USE BABY CARE CENTER
      • This is located at the end of Main Street next to First-Aid. If you run out of baby supplies, this is the place to go. Not only can you purchase items from here but you can warm up bottles, nurse in a private spot with rocking chairs, or even change dirty diapers. NOTE: This is also where kids are sent if they are accidentally separated from their parents so knowing where this is located is important.
    • RIDES
      • Contrary to belief, there are TONS of rides at Disney that the littles (even babies) can go on. Practically ever ride in Fantastyland is fair game, along with those in Toon Town. Add Small World, Nemo, Buzz Lightyear’s Astroblasters, Winnie the Pooh, and Pirates of the Carribean to the list too.
        • Height Requirements - Know how tall your children are and also the height requirements for each ride. Cast Members will not let a child go on a ride if they are even half an inch too short. Knowing this information will help you to know beforehand which rides they can go on and can also prevent temper tantrums and disappointment.
    • USE FAST PASSES & RIDER-SWAP PASSES
      • FAST PASSES – A Fast Pass is a ticket that allows you to by-pass the regular line and stand in a much shorter and quicker line that usually allows you to get on a ride within minutes. To obtain a fast pass you need to find the Fast Pass machines, (usually near the entrance of each ride) place your Disneyland ticket in it and a Fast Pass will come out telling you the time to return to that ride. Super easy! The one thing to remember is that you cannot get another Fast Pass until the TIME LISTED at the bottom of your ticket. If you look at the image above it states that another Fast Pass will be available after 12:40. At 12:41 you can get another one. Using these Fast Passes on rides such as Splash Mountain, Space Mountain and Indiana Jones at Disneyland as well as Screamin’ California and Radiator Springs Racers at California Adventure are ESSENTIAL! Who wants to wait in line for 4 hours when they could’ve gotten a Fast Pass and waited in line for 10 minutes? If you really want to maximize all that you can do at the park these Fast Passes play a huge role and can help with that.
        • **Get in line for a Fast Pass for Radiator Spring Racers the second California Adventure opens!! Tickets for this ride run out very quickly once the park opens but the ride is the BEST so it’s worth running there first. ;)
      • RIDER-SWAP PASSESYou are able to use this when one parent goes on the ride with a child and another parent is out waiting with the stroller (whether it’s with another child waiting to go on the ride, a child that is too small to ride the ride or a baby that is sleeping). The person who went on the ride first can ask a cast member for the Rider Switch Pass (at the entrance of the ride) which will allow the waiting parent to come to the front of the line to ride it again with the same child or another child  that was waiting to go on the ride. This is SO helpful when you have multiple little ones who want to ride a ride and you have others that cannot.

have fun

HAVE A GOOD TIME!

  • STAY COOL – Stay hydrated and if warm, take a break. There are several rides and places that will offer a small break from the sun. Rides such as Small World and Pirates of the Carribean are great to ride when you need a cool down at Disney. Ariel and Monsters Inc. are perfect for this at California Adventure. There are also spots through out the park to sit and relax at. Take a seat – catch your breath. There is even a small play area in Toon Town that our kids love to visit. Us parents get to sit and the kids get to run around crazy for a bit.
  • TAKE PICTURES - If you don’t want to bring your nice camera – use your phone! Or use the Disneyland Photo Pass to capture pictures of the WHOLE family!!
  • BE HAPPY – You’re at the Happiest Place on Earth. Things can get hot and stressful, but remember you’re there to have fun!!

WOW – That was a TOOOOOON of information. I know there was a ton to read, but I promise all these tips and tricks can help you to have a more enjoyable time at Disneyland!

I’m sure I missed some tips, so if you have any you’d like to share – please do and I’ll add them on here. :)

In case I missed them, here are some more DISNEYLAND LINKS:

CALENDAR

DISNEYLAND RIDES

CALIFORNIA ADVENTURE RIDES

HOURS

HEIGHT REQUIREMENTS FOR RIDES

DISNEY MAPS

For even more Disneyland posts here on the site check out these posts:

15 MUST-See Disneyland Tips

20 Disneyland Copycat Recipes - now you can have all of your Disneyland favorites without having to make the trip!! { lilluna.com }

20+ Disneyland Copycat Recipes

 ENJOY!

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Discussion

  1. 1

    Great ideas! Thanks.
    Amy@theidearoom recently posted..The Party Bunch–Linky PartyMy Profile

  2. 2

    Thank you for this post! We are heading to Disneyland with our kids (4 1/2 and 2 1/2 for the first time) later in the month. All my memories of Disneyland from childhood through adulthood are so amazing and I tear up just thinking about the anticipation of watching my kids experience this joy for the first time! I have seen many other sites and tips posts, but yours has definitely been the clearest and easiest to take in! Much appreciated! I’ll definitely be following everything Lil Luna from now on!
    Celina S recently posted..blah blahMy Profile


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