Wednesday, February 19, 2014

How to Do Disney with Kids and Not Hate Your Life

This is kind of a random entry after such a long blog silence, but it has been sitting half finished for months and I finally got the chance to finish and post it! Hope you enjoy!!!


I love Disneyland. Like...I love it.

There is just something about the Happiest Place on Earth that makes me...well...happy! I love the feeling of walking down Main Street and knowing I am about to make some unforgettable and wonderful memories. I love the atmosphere, I love how clean and pristine it is, I love the rides, the music, the photo opps and the food. I just love the entire experience, and I would encourage any of you who have never been, to plan a trip in the near future!

I have done Disneyland dozens of times. I have done Disneyland as a child growing up, as an adult going with friends, I even went to Disneyland on my honeymoon! But when I had children of my own, Disneyland became a whole new place to me.

Not only did I get to enjoy it in a whole new way, through the eyes of my sweet babies, I also realized that Disneyland has the potential to quickly turn into a mother's worst nightmare, if not prepared for properly.

I love Disneyland even MORE now that I have children, but I have also learned that you simply cannot have a successful and stress free trip to the Happiest Place on Earth without doing your homework and packing accordingly. People that do Disneyland in a haphazard and careless way literally make me cringe. When I see Facebook posts that say, "It's 3 pm and we're finally rolling out of bed and heading to Disneyland," I want to scream at them for wasting not only HUNDREDS of dollars, but an enormous amount of time and FUN!!!

I have seen parents in line for Dumbo looking as if they are contemplating the consequences of abandoning their children right then and there, while sweet little Susie and Sam wail at them because they're hungry and hot and tired and sad because their parents didn't do their Disney homework.

Think of it this way. Disneyland is an amazing experience. As is standing at the top of Mt. Everest. But you do not show up to climb Mt. Everest with a water bottle, flip flops, and an ipod. If you did, you would fail. Probably also you would die. And while you can show up at Disneyland with a water bottle, flip flops, and an ipod, you probably won't die. But you might wish you were dead about five hours in.

I get that preparation isn't for everyone. I get that some people enjoy not having any kind of plan, and that's fine. Unless you're going to Disneyland with children. Then you're just being an idiot, and trust me, you WILL pay for it. Whether you pay for it in tantrums, tears, missed rides, sore feet, screaming babies, or crappy seats for the parade, I can't tell you. But you will pay. And then you will write me a nice little note apologizing for not taking my advice more seriously.

So, here you will find the best advice I have to offer on taking a trip to Disneyland with your little munchkins, and how to do it without hating your life. While I do not consider myself an expert by any means, I have collected quite a few tips and ideas through the years, so hopefully they will benefit your family as well!

Plan Ahead. Like, Way Ahead

Last minute trips to Disneyland can be so exciting! Unless you have children. Then, as stated above, you're just being an idiot. A trip to Disney with kids takes extra time and planning, and if you want to have the best experience possible, I suggest planning ahead. Why? Because by doing this, you can actually plan your trip on the "low crowd" days, which is the single most influential thing you can do to make your trip a success.

I once went to Disneyland with my parents and family on the busiest day of the entire year (somewhere between Christmas and New Year's. While we are on the subject, NEVER plan a trip to Disney during this time frame unless you are completely out of options. And out of your mind.). It. Was. A. Nightmare. Yes, Disneyland on its worst day is still a pretty awesome day, but when you are waiting in lines that are over two hours long and standing like packed sardines to catch a glimpse of the fireworks, that's no one's idea of a good time.

Use a site like Is It Packed or subscribe to Touring Plans to get access to its very accurate crowd predictor. Aim for the least crowded days! It means shorter lines, fewer crowds, and an overall superior experience. I have been known to pull my kids out of school so we could take our vacation during the off season. This is harder to do as your kids get older and are involved in more stuff, but when they are young (as mine still are), it's not a big deal. And since I plan waaaaay ahead, they are able to make up their work before they even leave. Go ahead and judge me if you want. But I can't hear you, because I'm in Disneyland waiting five minutes to walk on Space Mountain.

I will note here that going on the least crowded days can sometimes mean putting up with one or two ride closures because this is when they schedule maintenance, but again, it is so worth it to not have to put up with the masses. And on that note, you can easily check which rides are scheduled to be closed during your planned trip by visiting Disney's website or Touring Plan's list of scheduled ride closures.

My second most important tip for planning way ahead (like, way ahead), is choosing the right hotel. This will depend a lot upon your family, your budget, and your vacationing style, but there are a few things I will tell you to look for when considering your children.

1. Get Close

Make sure your hotel is within walking distance to the parks. No one, and I mean no one, enjoys lugging strollers, diaper bags, and exhausted children on and off trams. Being within walking distance allows you to get there when you want to get there without waiting for the tram to pick you up, and at the end of the night, you are a stone's throw from your comfy bed, and you can silently mock the exhausted fools who are waiting at the bus stops praying it will be here in the next five minutes.

I have my own favorite places to stay that are literally right across the entrance from Disneyland, and I will tell you those, but there are plenty of options available. My advice is to make sure that when a hotel advertises that it is "within walking distance," they mean "you can easily walk to and from the park with small children and not die" and not "Technically you could walk to the entrance if you are an experienced marathon runner and leave two hours early".

Take a look at an actual map of where your hotel is in relation to the entrance. Some hotels advertise being close, but if you look at the actual pedestrian entrance, it may not be close at all! Keep in mind that you will have spent the ENTIRE day on your feet, and what looks like a short walk while you sit on your bum in the comfort of your living room, may feel like a ten mile hike after a long day at the parks. As a general rule: Get as CLOSE as you can. You and your feet will thank me later.

Walking to the Park a few years back 

My favorite budget friendly hotel is the Park Vue Inn. It is literally as close as you can get to the pedestrian entrance, which is the best selling feature, but it is also clean, has good service, and you can request rooms with a queen and a set of bunk beds, which my kids absolutely adored. As the kids get older, sharing a bed can become more of a hassle than it's worth, so this is a great option. I honestly don't know if they were more excited about Disneyland or their sweet bunk beds.

Another great, less expensive option is the Ramada Maingate. Also budget friendly, but close to the entrance and clean, which for my family, is all we really look for in Disney hotels.

Now, of course, if our budgets allowed it, we would be all about the Disneyland Resort Hotels, because, well, that's just an experience like none other. And if your budget allows it, I'd highly recommend you splurge! But for our family, we gotta go the cheaper route so we can, you know, eat one or two meals while we are there.

I've also stayed at the Carousal Inn, and the Camelot Inn, and both were perfectly adequate. Remember that you get what you pay for, and for us, we like to be as close to the entrance as possible and that's about it.

2. Get the Continental

You are going to be bleeding money the entire time you are there, so why not save yourself the time and cash for one meal a day and stay somewhere that offers free breakfast? This is one reason we LOVE Park Vue Inn, because it offers a delicious continental breakfast every morning with fresh waffles! Literally, they are so fresh you have to make them yourself, but it's actually kind of fun.

They also have a little balcony you can eat your breakfast on and enjoy the fireworks at night if you so desire, and that made for some fun memories for our family. You will not regret having this free meal built into your trip, it is one less thing to pack, worry about, and pay for.

3. Stay Awhile

In my opinion, you need a full three days at Disneyland if you have children and want to see both parks. Trying to pack everything there is to do and see at each park into only one day a piece is just too stressful and quite frankly, impossible. Give yourself that third day so you can take things at your leisure, don't feel rushed, and can even double up on your favorite things! Obviously not everyone has the time or money to spend three days there, but if you do, you won't regret it. Heck, throw in a fourth day if you're able. Then you might actually get a nap or two during your stay.

This is especially true if you are taking very young children. Those of us who have vacationed with little ones know that sometimes you have to just sit and eat an ice cream cone while your little one naps in the stroller for a half hour so your entire day goes a lot better. You have to take it easy with little ones, and spreading your vacation out a bit will make it a much nicer trip for all!

4. Buy Your Tickets Legit

There was a time when you could get discounted Disneyland tickets on the sly through Craigslist or other vendors because people who lived or worked there could easily sell their visitor passes, or more commonly, split a five day pass into two fewer day passes. Disneyland has cracked down on this and now takes photos of each ticket holder as they walk in the gates. Don't try and buy your tickets from a questionable source, because the last thing you want to be doing is standing outside the gates with your children unable to get in because your tickets don't work. Buy legit. Save yourself the risk.

This is not to say that you can't get discounted tickets or a special offer through certain places. Mouse Savers always has a detailed list of ongoing deals and discounts, so before you buy, check there! My family was able to buy our tickets through Expedia on our last vacation and we got a fourth day absolutely free!

A nice benefit of multi-day tickets is the "Magic Morning" that Disneyland offers. This allows you one day of early entry into the parks, which is a great time to get on a couple of those popular rides with hardly any wait.

5. Wait for the Ideal Age

If you are asking my opinion, and I think you are, since you are reading this, I would recommend waiting until your child is at an age when they can fully appreciate the experience before shelling out hundreds or thousands of dollars on this vacation. What is that age? I'd say somewhere between 3-5.

Now, that being said, it is not always possible or realistic to wait until all your children are at an ideal age! I have twins who are eight years old, and at an age where they LOVE everything Disneyland. But I also have a baby.  We want the twins to enjoy Disneyland while they are young, and we didn't feel that leaving the baby behind was a good option, so it is what it is. And guess what, we had a great time!

So, like I said, while there is something to be said for waiting until your child is a bit older and can enjoy it more (as will you), you can ABSOLUTELY take a baby to Disneyland and have a wonderful time!!! Yes, it requires more preparation, more packing, more stuff, and a whole lot more patience, but we still had so much fun watching Jones' face light up during rides and parades, and there is something to be said for that golden Child Swap Pass, which I will cover shortly.

Prepare. Prepare. Prepare. Then Prepare

Alright. You've decided you want to take your kids to Disneyland (Go you! You're the best parent ever!). You've checked the crowd calendar, used it to book your budget-friendly hotel right across the entrance, you bought your tickets on the up and up and even scored yourself a discount because you did your homework. Now you are ready to hit the parks! Right?


You are on the right track, and I'm very proud of you. But if you want to have a successful Disneyland trip with those sweet little sweetums, you need to prepare. Then prepare. Then prepare some more. Sound like a lot of work? Well, it is. But I have to tell you, preparing for our Disneyland vacations is almost as fun for me as actually going! What can I say? I'm a mom.

1. Count it Down

This is one of my kids' favorite things we do when preparing for a Disneyland trip. Just like waiting for Christmas, building up that excitement is half the fun!!! You can think of your own fun way to announce to your children that you're taking them to Disneyland, but make a big deal out of it! You're spending a lot of money and you want to milk your kids' anticipation for all it's worth. Go ahead. You deserve it.

One thing we like to do is make a Disney paper chain. The kids use red and black paper and make as many links as there are days until Disneyland. I would suggest doing this about a month out, so they don't have to wait TOO long. My kids loved ripping one more link off the chain every day and seeing how close we were to our trip!

Another really fun thing you can do that will actually make your trip that much more fun is having Disney Movie Nights every week leading up to your trip! Watch movies that have rides to go along with them at the parks, it will make those rides really come alive for your kiddos! I was surprised that my kids had never even heard of Dumbo on their first trip to Disney, so the next time around I made sure to include some of the classics like Dumbo, Alice in Wonderland, and Peter Pan. Then when they got to go on those rides at Disneyland, they recognized all the characters and were much more excited than if they had never heard of them!

Another thing you can do is order a free Disneyland Vacation Planning DVD and watch it together. It's free, it gets your kids excited, and it helps them understand what to expect if they've never been.

2. Buy Now, Save Later

Disneyland is expensive. This is no secret. And it seems to have special powers over children who see these things and believe that their life happiness is dependent upon that particular souvenir. And somehow it has a power over you as a parent to want to buy your child that $900 stuffed Mickey because they just want it so badly. And it's Disneyland! When will you be back here again?? And you're on vacation! And who wants to be a Debbie Downer at Disneyland!?!

Take it from me, you need to nip this in the bud before it even begins. My family has found some really fun ways to get unique and fun souvenirs for little to no cost, so I will share those here with you! I would also recommend that you set a limit on souvenir spending before walking into the parks, and sticking to it! It's easy to get caught up in the "magic" and forget that $900 for a stuffed monkey is actually quite insane.

The first and most important secret tip that has saved our family so much money and begging is this...did you know that there are actually other stores in the universe that sell Disney products??? I KNOW!!! It's crazy. But when I discovered this, I took full advantage of it.

In the weeks leading up to our Disney trips, I look for cheap Disney items that will undoubtedly sell for ten times the price inside the parks. I buy them, I pack them, I stick them in the stroller before we go in. Throughout the day, I say, "It's time for a souvenir!!!" The kids get insanely excited, I whip out my little stuffed Mickey's that I bought for $3 in the bargain bin at Big Lots, they squeal with excitement, and I come out the hero. That's a good day for everybody.

The Dollar Store has a surprising amount of Disney knick knacks at any given time, including stickers, cups, keychains, and the like, so I suggest starting there. While you're at it, stock up on surprises for the car, which I will cover shortly.

If you are taking younger children, a WONDERFUL souvenir and activity to do inside the park is collecting character signatures in an autograph book! This is a popular thing to do in the parks, and characters routinely have lines of children waiting for them to sign their books. Kids love it, it is completely free (minus the cost of the book and pen) and it makes for some really cute pictures.



You can purchase autograph books in the park, but why purchase what you can make for much less?? I made my kids' books by buying small, plain notebooks, and decorating them with Disney Stickers. While we are on the subject, make sure to bring your own markers!!! Those characters have really big hands and have a hard time manipulating human pens, so I would suggest bringing some standard markers and packing them with the autograph books.

Another fun and cheap souvenir idea is to collect the pressed pennies from the machines all over the park. It usually costs fifty cents to a dollar to press a penny, and the machines only take quarters, so this requires planning ahead. I usually bring a bag filled with quarters and shiny pennies (new ones press so much prettier) and have it easily accessible for when we spot a penny press machine! The kids LOVE doing this, and we have a lot of fun finding the machines and collecting the different pennies!

If you have older school age children, my absolute FAVORITE souvenir idea is for you!!! I got the kids into Pin Trading before our last trip, and it was by far the most fun souvenir out there!!!

You can read up on the way Pin Trading works here.  But to give you the quick lowdown, basically you start your kids off with a lanyard and a few pins. When they get to the parks, they can trade any of their pins with any Cast Member wearing pins. If a child asks to trade a pin with a Cast Member, they have to do it! Pin Trading has become a very popular hobby even with adults, but my kids just enjoyed the experience and care very little about the value of individual pins.

What I love about this is that pins are relatively inexpensive, but a child can walk into a park with ten pins and walk out with ten totally different ones without spending a dime! You can buy starter sets in the parks for a good chunk of change, but my advice is to buy your child a lanyard and ten or so pins off of Ebay before your trip. You can do this for as little as $20, and trust me, that $20 will take your child a LONG way in terms of having a wonderful experience. Some of our best memories from our last trip were watching the kids walk up to cast members and ask to trade! They took it so seriously and made it their mission to find Cast Members wearing pins! Even Josh and I got pretty into it! Here are some pics of my kids trading their pins with Cast Members all through the park!



Going through their pins after a great day of trading!

There are also a few "Pin Boards" throughout the park behind the register that you can ask to see. This is fun because the kids get to see a lot of pins all at once. I know for sure there is one in the Town Hall in Disneyland, but you'll have to do a little research on where the other ones are located. One more note on pin trading, I HIGHLY recommend you replace the black rubber backs your pins come with with the gold locking ones you can get at craft stores. When walking around and doing rides all day, those can easily slip off and you will lose a lot of pins. Don't throw the backs away, but use the locking ones during your vacation. When you go to trade, just tell the Cast Member you'd like to trade "backless". They will just trade you the pin so you can keep your locking back. Happy Hunting!

A completely free but really fun "souvenir" can be found by visiting Town Hall on Main Street. Is it your child's birthday? First trip to Disney? Your anniversary? Ask for a pin! They are free and a great little keepsake. While you're there, ask if your child can call Mickey! Again, totally free and they will get a kick out of it!!!


One more thing I would suggest purchasing at home and packing are glow sticks. There is nothing quite as magical as Disneyland at night, and as soon as the sun goes down, the Glow Booths come out. The parks sell all kinds of glow-in-the-dark merchandise for your little ones to enjoy at night time, but guess what? So does the dollar store. Buy it here, pack it in the stroller, pull it out at night, and be everyone's hero again.

Speaking of being a hero, one of the most important pieces of advice I can give you to making your trip a success is remembering to prepare for that loooong car ride with the kids. This particular tip I inherited from my mother-in-law, so I will give her the credit, but I will never again travel without it because it made such a difference in our trips.

In the weeks leading up to our vacation, I buy a few little toys and surprises and activities for the kids to enjoy in the car. It might be a book, a Mad Libs, some candy, whatever. I then wrap these items up like a present. It doesn't matter if it is a single fruit snack pack. Wrap it up. Put all your wrapped goodies in a bag in the front seat, and every hour or so, give your kids a present to open. My kids go CRAZY for this, they absolutely love it, look forward to it, and it makes our long drives go amazingly well. Every time I sense the kids getting a little antsy, I know it is time for a present. Kids love opening stuff, and after they do, they either have a snack to eat, a book to read, or a toy to play with for the next hour or so. I cannot tell you the magic this little trick is capable of. I have been known to wrap small crayon boxes, a set of stickers, a juice box, and "notes" from Mickey. You don't have to spend a lot to make this work. Trust me, it will be worth it!!!!

3. The Necessities 

Babies and kids require a lot of stuff. They just do. Don't try and fight it and get by on the bare bones during a Disneyland trip. Go with it, pack what you know you will need to make your kids happy and comfortable, and the whole trip will go a lot smoother. Don't get completely crazy, but if you think you might need it, pack it.

The following is a list of a few things I think are necessities when doing Disneyland with little ones. You'll want to tweak it accordingly for your little family, but trust me when I say I speak from experience.

Identity Tags for the Kids
I put this first because it is SO important to remember the safety comes first!!! Disneyland is crowded and kids can easily get separated from mom and dad. First and foremost, talk to your kids if they are old enough. Tell them what to do if they get lost, and come up with a plan. There is a Lost Child pick up in the Baby Care Center, and when I was nursing Jones, I saw THREE children get dropped off by Cast Members and soon picked up by frantic parents. It happens a LOT.

Because many children get shy any scared when lost, I cannot recommend enough labeling your kiddo. I went to the pet store and had simple dog tags made with my child's name, my name, and my cell phone number. They wear them on their lanyards the entire time at the park, and I've instructed them since they were three to find a worker or a mommy and show them their tag.

I also recommend taking a picture of your child each morning before you leave for the park, in the clothes they will be wearing all day. This way, if you happen to get separated, you can show the employees exactly what your child looks like and is wearing that day.


A Good Stroller
Do Not. And I repeat. Do. NOT skimp on the stroller. Do not rent from Disney. Do not bring your rinky dink umbrella stroller. Do not think "My three year old is fine without one" and skip it altogether. Bring the stroller, and bring a good one. My family will never again travel through Disneyland without a stroller, even when my kids are teenagers, simply because they act as free, portable lockers that you can take with you all over the park. We put our cooler, our backpacks, our blankets, jackets, ponchos, and diaper bag in that thing, and it goes where we go.

If you aren't familiar with the Highly Revered but Unspoken Stroller Code at Disneyland, you will see for yourself. People don't mess with other people's strollers. Thieves do not pay $300 a ticket so they can go in and steal your diaper bag. If you leave your stroller in a designated stroller area, it will stay there, and it will not be messed with. Keep in mind, though, that sometimes Cast Members need to repark strollers a bit when there is a parade or something, but it won't have gone far, so don't freak out if it isn't EXACTLY where you left it.

On that note, there are millions of strollers in Disneyland, and when you are searching for yours after stepping off of Pirates, it is nice to spot it quickly. I suggest tying a brightly colored scarf or ribbon around the handle to make it easy to spot.

Comfortable Shoes
There is no better place for good running shoes than at Disneyland. This is not the time to look fashionable, and definitely not the time to break in a new pair of shoes. You and your kids will be walking for miles and stepping in and out of rides all day. Wear comfy tennis shoes, and make sure your kids' shoes fit nicely before leaving for your trip.

A Sling or Carrier
Strollers are necessary, but if you have a very little one, so is a carrier. I do a lot of babywearing, and that served us nicely when we went to Disneyland. Holding them when you're in a long line can get pretty tiring, and you will both be a lot happier if you pack that carrier! I suggest bringing a soft sling or carrier like a Baby K'tan, because it packs easier and the Cast Members will allow you to keep baby in a soft carrier on many of the rides. Ergo's are wonderful, but they are bulky, and space is an issue when you're packing light. I also had a few Cast Members tell me I needed to take Jones out of the Ergo to get on the ride, which was annoying.

Wearing Jones in the sling during Mickey's Halloween Party

Nursing Cover
If you are breastfeeding, you will be thrilled with how nursing friendly Disneyland is. Moms nurse here, there, and everywhere. Many use covers, many do not. When I went with Jones, we were still mastering covert nursing, so I was glad to have my cover, but if I went today I wouldn't even bother with it. But if it makes you more comfortable, bring it!

On that note, Disneyland has lots of great places to nurse your baby. I like to people watch while I nurse, so I scoped out a few good spots while we were there, but for the more private nursing moms, Disneyland has AMAZING Baby Care Centers that offer comfortable and private nursing areas. More on those later.

As for me, my favorite places to plunk down and feed Jones were as follows...

The benches in front of the Matterhorn. These were comfortable, shaded, great for people watching, and a good place to nurse while you wait for the rest of your party to ride the Matterhorn.

The Disneyland Train. You can ride this baby around the park as many times as you want without getting off. This is a great option when you all need some time to sit and rest but the kids still get to enjoy the fun of a ride while you and baby get your feed on.

It's a Small World. This ride is almost twenty minutes long, dark, cool, and entertaining. I nursed Jones on this ride each time we rode it, and because it was so dark, no one was the wiser!

The Bench inside Sleeping Beauty's Castle. There is a little bench next to a statue right through the Castle and next to Bibbity Bobbity Boutique. This was a great place to nurse, people watch, and BONUS, it is right next to the exit where the characters come out. If you sit there for any period of time, you are almost guaranteed to spot a few characters coming out into the park!!! Here is a picture of me nursing in this spot, right before the entire cast from Alice in Wonderland walked by us!!

Ponchos, Blankets, and Layers
Sometimes it rains at Disneyland. Check the weather before you go, and if there is any chance of rain, go to the store and buy ponchos to pack. They will sell them in the park for WAY more, so it is nice to have them on hand. The park clears out when it rains, so if you are prepared, you can benefit from shorter lines while still staying dry! My family has invested in the nicer, durable ponchos because we go that often and have realized that ponchos are great to throw on right before Splash Mountain or the Grizzly River Run. Stay dry and stay happy my friends.

I suggest packing at least one large blanket so you can spread out, save a seat, and watch parades and fireworks comfortably. You might not use it, but we always do.

I also suggest dressing in layers. The park can be sweltering at two in the afternoon and freezing by ten, so bring layers to throw on the kids and take off if needed (this is when you'll be glad to have that portable locker).

On that note, please remember a change of clothes for your little ones, and a change of socks for everyone!!! Accidents happen, especially when you can't always get to a bathroom right away. And you'll be glad to have those extra socks after one trip down Splash Mountain. It sure beats sloshing through the parks in wet socks the rest of the day!

Disneyland allows you to bring soft sided coolers with food and drinks (no alcohol though). We take FULL advantage of this on our trips, and I pack the whole family a nice little lunch to keep in our soft cooler in our stroller. I usually pack sandwiches, fruit, Capri Suns, lots of cold water bottles, fruit snacks, and granola bars. We have an entire backpack devoted to snacks and water, and we never regret it. Bring things that don't crush easily (Pringles are great for this), and can be eaten in line with little mess. Food at the park is expensive, and packing a lunch means you can find a quiet spot to hunker down and eat while everyone else waits in line to pay a hundred bucks for a sandwich. 

Our favorite spot to eat our sack lunches and take a break is at the Hungry Bear Restaurant across from Splash Mountain. You can grab a table right on the river and watch the boats and ducks go by. It's shaded, it's quiet, and it's the perfect spot for a break! They also have good food if you are in the mood to buy something. ;) Here is a pic of me and Jones relaxing at the Hungry Bear while we wait for everyone to ride Splash Mountain!

There are a few treats at the park that I would HIGHLY recommend you try if you're able, and if you save money by eating a continental breakfast and packing a lunch, you can splurge a little on dinners! My top choices are as follows:

Monte Cristo at Cafe Orleans
This is hands down the best sandwich in the history of In the history of food. If you think it sounds gross, you are right, but it is literally the best thing I've ever eaten, worth every penny, and if you want to treat yourself to only one thing on this trip, treat yourself to this sandwich. 

Waiting for my Monte Cristo while Jones gets in a nursing sesh!

Bread Bowl in New Orleans Square
This fairly inexpensive meal is a delicious treat and very filling meal. I love the Clam Chowder, but I believe they also serve gumbo. It is not to be missed!!!

Corn Dog at the Corn Dog Truck
Think you've had a good corn dog? You haven't. Not until you've tried the ones on the Corn Dog Truck on Main Street! It is located just outside the Baby Care Center and just before Tomorrowland. So moms, when you have to break from the crowd to go to the Baby Care Center, treat yourself to a little corn dog on the way out!

Dole Whip outside of Enchanted Tiki Room
Now, I am not much for mixing ice cream with soda, much less pineapple juice, but these delicious Dole Whips are the perfect treat on a hot day! My kids LOVE them, and everyone should try it at least once. :)

4. Get There Early
Nothing annoys me more than getting to the park late. If you are smart, you will plan to get to the park and be in line at the turn styles thirty minutes before the park opens. Why? Because you just spent a couple grand on this vacation, and you need to milk it for all it's worth. Being among the first few hundred people to walk in the park allows you to get on a few of the more popular rides before huge lines form. I would suggest having hubby grab fast passes for Space Mountain or Star Tours while you and the kiddies get in line at Peter Pan. Dad can come join you after he's done. Peter Pan's Flight does not offer fast passes, and the line can get really, really long. So my advice it to knock it (or another ride that doesn't offer fast passes) out first when the line is low, and then you won't feel pressured to get in an insanely long line for it later in the day. Plus when you guys get off, your fast passes will be active! 
In line for Peter Pan

Take Advantage of the Advantages

Disneyland has a lot of wonderful features for those of us traveling with small children (as they should!). Know what they are, and take full advantage of them!!! You're taking children to Disneyland. You deserve a few perks!!!

Baby Care Centers
If the Baby Care Center at Disneyland was a ride, it would be my favorite.

The one located inside of Disneyland park is just at the end of Main Street, next to the first aid center and just before entering Tomorrowland. It is set up like something from the early 1900's, with sweet little old ladies working there to boot! When you walk in, they are there to greet you and tend to your every need. Need a clean place to change a diaper? They've got it! Need a diaper? They've got it! Need to nurse your baby in a quiet, private setting? They will set you up! Need a high chair, a place to pump, or a packet of formula because you forgot it? No problem!!! They've got it covered. You can learn more about the Baby Care Centers here (there is also one inside California Adventure). I took a couple of pictures when I was in nursing Jones on our last trip, but the clicky above has some much better pics!

Fast Passes
If you don't know about Fast Passes, please do not visit the parks until you do. It literally pains me to overhear families say to each other "What are those special passes they have to cut in line? They must have cost a ton of money."

Fast passes do NOT cost money, and when used properly, can save you a TON of time and waiting in line!!! When used in conjunction with the Child Swap passes and after doing a little research on the best way to use your passes, you can pretty much make out like a ride bandit. Rather than going into the details of how fast passes work and how to get the most out of them, I will direct you to a site that explains it much better than I could. Click here to read it. 

Child Swap Passes
This little known perk of traveling with babies is one of the best ideas Disneyland ever had. Worried that one of you will be stuck with the baby while your significant other has all the fun? Worry no more! On all rides that have a height requirement, Disney offers the option to get a Child Swap Pass. All you need to do is go up to the first Cast Member you see working at a particular ride, flash your cute little baby in their face, and ask for a Child Swap Pass. They will give you a pass good for you and one or two other guests. Then, you and your little sweetums do some people watching or shopping while your better half takes the older kids on the ride (hopefully using a fast pass so they don't have to wait long, and neither do you). As soon as they exit the ride, you hand baby off to the adult who just rode, take yourself and one or two of your kids back to the line, flash your pass, and they let you in through the Fast Pass entrance.

Now, the pass usually says it is good for up to two people, but I never had a single Cast Member turn one of my twins away when we walked up together, so if you are paying attention, you realize that basically the older kids got to ride everything twice in a row, without waiting (because we always used our fast passes correctly!!!). They had a blast!!!

If you use your fast passes and child swaps together the right way, you may never need to wait in a regular line the entire time you're there. I know we didn't.

Height Requirements
Do yourself and your kids a favor and check the height requirements for each ride before your trip. This way there are no tears at the end of the line when Junior can't get on. Do NOT be one of those parents who stuffs their kids' shoes and spikes their hair in hopes of sneaking them through. The rules are there to keep your babies safe. Skip it this time, use your Child Swap pass, and look forward to doing it the next time you're there!

Make a Plan, and Be Prepared to Throw it Out

Now, we have covered a LOT of stuff! I hope that my little insights and tips make your trip more enjoyable and less stressful, but remember, while it is important to make a plan and prepare accordingly, keep in mind that your little ones need to set the pace. Be flexible, go with the flow, take lots of breaks, and remember to breathe. Roll with the punches and you will have a much better time than trying to micromanage every minute of your trip!

Last but not least, take lots of pictures!!! There are so many wonderful places to get great pictures of your family, and your child will never smile like they do at Disneyland! Take advantage of it!!!

I hope your family enjoys Disneylad as much as we always do! Have a wonderful time, and if you have more useful tips, leave me a comment! I'd love to hear it!


  1. Now I want to go to Disneyland! Those are great tips, Karen. Thanks for posting.

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