Top 10 Tips for Visiting Disneyland with Big Kids

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A few years ago, I wrote a blog about my Top 10 Tips for Visiting Disneyland with Toddlers…and today, I’m going to share my top 10 tips for visiting Disneyland with big kids!

Disneyland Tips

Photo credit: Disneyland

1. Set a budget

Disneyland is SO fun! And can be SO pricey.  I find it’s easier to have a quick conversation with your spouse (and even kids, if they are old enough to participate) about what’s important to you all during your trip.

For example, how many meals will you be eating there?  Do you want to bring snacks or buy snacks?  Will the kids be getting souvenirs?  Face painting?  By establishing these simple budget parameters before the trip, everyone can be on the same page.

2. Pack a family backpack

Just because your “littles” are now “bigs,” doesn’t mean you still won’t need a few things for the day.  The night before (to save time and sanity), I pack the following:

– Water bottles for each family member (that can be refilled at water fountains, throughout the day).

– Sunscreen (hats too, if it’s a hot/sunny day)

– A change of clothes for the kids, if you plan to go on any water rides.

– Hoodies for the kids (if you plan to stay into the evening).

– Baby wipes and hand sanitizer.

– Snacks, snacks, snacks.  They more you bring, the more you save.  And the more you can avoid potentially cranky kids.

– Band aids and or any medications you might need

– A phone charger

– Your camera (if separate from your phone)

– A small wallet/wristlet with your essentials (instead of your jumbo wallet), that can fit in your backpack OR in your pocket (so much easier than carrying a purse).

3. Visit the locker room

And, if you don’t want to lug the backpack around all day, you can easily store it in a locker, right off of Main Street.  For between $7-$15/day (depending on the size of the locker), you can have your belongings safe and sound, without having to take your stuff with you on every ride.  Now that the kids are big, you aren’t obligated to carry around a backpack or diaper bag all day – woo hoo!

A bonus?  There are outlets to charge your cell phone in the locker room.  I learned this on my last trip when my phone died.  Always good to know where the outlets are!

4. Big kids, big rides, big expectations

I find that with my big kids, they have big dreams of riding the BIG kid rides.  Which is so fantastic since my husband and I love them, too!  However, these popular rides tend to also be the busiest rides.  Talk to your kiddos about their top two or three rides that are a MUST.  This will help manage expectations…and any other rides you can squeeze in are a plus!

Disneyland Family Picture 2015

5. Develop your FastPass plan

Speaking of, let’s talk about FastPasses again.  Here’s a quick reminder of how they work…

This is a free service you can take advantage of at the Disney theme parks.  This is a way to “save” your place in line at some of the most popular attractions, cutting wait time to a minimum.  Score!

You can only FastPass one ride at a time per Disneyland ticket (kiosks can be found by the ride, if it’s available), and they give you an hour time frame to come back. You just go to the FastPass line, hand them your FastPass ticket, and usually only have to wait 5-10 minutes for the ride.

FastPass what you think is going to be the most popular ride first. 
Go to the next ride on your list and wait in line.
  Usually, by the time you’re done with that ride, your FastPass will be ready.
  Go to your FastPass ride and enjoy!  
Get your next FastPass immediately after, and then repeat the cycle.  

Per this Disneyland FastPass site, here is what you can FastPass in the Disneyland Park:

– Autopia
– Big Thunder Mountain Railroad
– Fantasmic!
– Indiana Jones Adventure
– Roger Rabbit’s Car Toon Spin
– Space Mountain
– Splash Mountain
– Star Tours – The Adventures Continue
– Storytelling at Royal Theatre

6. Be in the know with Disney apps

Apps can make life so much easier, right?!  Take advantage of some cool Disney apps that can help you during your visit to the park.  My husband’s favorite is MouseWait, designed for iOS.  It’s a real-time app that tells you all about popular ride wait times and park information.  There are so many apps out there that can be a great resource – I suggest surfing around before go, and find one that works best for you and your phone.

7. Make lunch reservations

The last two times we visited Disneyland, we ended up making lunch reservations, per my brother-in-law and mother-in-law’s suggestion. O.M.G.  Why didn’t I think of this before??  Unless you plan to grab a quick burger or hot dog (and if so, I suggest doing this at off-times to avoid long lines and crowds), then go to this site and peruse the restaurant options.  Then, make reservations for your family.

Here’s my two cents.  I’m a mama on a budget, and typically pick the less expensive option for food.  However, I’ve found that some of these sit-down restaurants aren’t that much more expensive than the “quick burger” places.  The quality of food is much better, you get to sit down and actually relax, and with your reservation secured, you don’t have to wait in long lines with a hungry family.  Win-win-win!  My favorite place right now is Carnation Cafe.

8. Need a break?  Visit Innovations.

Sometimes, you just need a break.  From the crowds, from the lines, from the chaos.  We’ve found that Innovations in Tomorrowland is the perfect place.  My kids love all of the fun, cool technology to play with, including watching the awesome robot, ASIMO, the humanoid robot. The kids spent at least an hour at Innovations during their last Disneyland visit, giving everyone the perfect break to breathe and chill out for a little while.

9. Make a meeting place

When kids get a little older, they want more freedom, right??  If you choose to let your kiddos go off on their own for a little bit (side note – my kids are still way too young to do this, even though they consider themselves”big” kids)…or even if you don’t, and you accidentally get separated in the crowds, it is absolutely imperative that you make a meeting place with your kids.

Now that they are “big” kids, they should understand how important it is for their own safety.  Pick a central place, and have that be “your spot” every single time you are at the park.  So there is no uncertainty, no confusion.

I also suggest you be specific – “in front of Sleeping Beauty’s Castle” still may not be much help in large crowds.  For example, I would say in front of Sleeping Beauty’s Castle, right next to the churro cart to the right of the castle.  Or in front of the Walt Disney statue in the little garden area in front of the castle.  Or, better yet, if you ARE taking advantage of the locker room, meet in front of your family locker.

10. Yes, there is now a Starbucks. IN the park!

Parents, it’s true!  There is now a Starbucks on Main Street where you can get your Venti caffeine fix.  Just be prepared to wade through the long zig zag lines…it is a BUSY place (as you can probably imagine!).  I usually leave the kids with my husband in a ride line, and let them enjoy a ride that I’m not interested in, while I make the coffee run.

Next, stay tuned for an upcoming blog where I’ll talk about my top tips for visiting Disney California Adventure with big kids!  My newest favorite…Anna & Elsa’s Royal Welcome…perfect for anyone who loves Frozen!

Do you have any great Disneyland tips to share?  Please comment below!


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  1. 1
    Jen says:

    I absolutely love the idea of setting a budget and talking through the priorities with kids! Really great tips!

  2. 2
    christy says:

    Thank you! We find it really helps, and sets the right expectations with the kids 🙂

  3. 3
    Mary says:

    awesome! Any more tips would be fantastic! For me, WDW with two littles and a stroller was a no brainer, but now that they are bigger (9 & 12 yrs) and we wont have the stroller to cart all our stuff, I was wondering how to cart all our stuff- LOVE the locker idea, but are they easy to get to in a hurry? Wondering what I should still bring around in a pack and what should stay in the locker… Thanks!!

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