Disneyland. A place that promises magical moments, special family photo ops, quality time with your children and FUN! Absolutely true! But, if you have little ones like I do, a trip to the most “magical place on earth” with toddlers can also mean over-stimulation, skipped naps, cranky mid-afternoon meltdowns, and overwhelmed munchkins. Here are my top 10 tips for visiting Disneyland with toddlers to maximize your fun and minimize the meltdowns!
My little family is incredibly lucky to live about 20 minutes from Disneyland – so we “vacation” in our own backyard and take advantage of Disneyland a couple of times a month. Whether it’s your first visit, or your 50th, I hope these little tips and tricks help you and yours have an extra fabulous time!
Top 10 Tips for Visiting Disneyland with Toddlers
10. Prepare, prepare, prepare! We usually like to get there when it opens…which means an early morning. I don’t know about you, but just getting myself ready and the kids ready is enough work, without adding in special packing. So, I do this the night before.
I pack the following…
~ A lunch tote filled with plenty of favorite snacks (pre-packaged munchies that are easy to grab and take with us in longer lines)
~ Water bottles for everyone (plus extra – they are expensive to buy in the park)
~ Sunscreen, hats and kid sunglasses
~ Autograph books/pens
~ Layers (Anaheim can be cool in the morning and warm up by lunch, so layers are key)
~ Any medicine (if needed), camera, an extra outfit per kid, diapers, wipes, binkies, sippy cups, etc.
~ We find a backpack is easiest.
9. Once inside the park, there is a fabulous Baby Care Center and childcare station at the end of Main Street (like you’re walking to the castle) on the right side – walk all the way down Main Street…it’s the very last part of the building on the right side, tucked back in by the adult bathrooms.
It has mini potties, a nursing station with rocking chairs, changing tables, AND you can buy any childcare supplies you may have forgotten (granted, expensive, but worth it if you need something in a pinch!).
8. We have found that Mickey’s Toontown is the best place to take pictures with the “classic” Disney characters. Pluto, Goofy and Donald typically take turns walking around and smiling for posed photos. Mickey and Minnie’s houses are usually a little bit longer wait for pictures, but the walk through their houses is pretty fun for the kiddos. Plus, it’s Mickey and Minnie! They are not always there, so just make sure to double check.
The Skinny on Rides
7. I’m sure most of you are familiar with “FastPasses” – here’s how to work the system. 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 timeframe 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. That’s why we strategically decide which ride to head to first to get a FastPass.
You can also download a Disneyland app on your smartphone (i.e. Disney Parks Mobile Magic, MouseWait (for iPhone and Andorid phones), etc. to keep you up to the minute on ride wait times and let’s you find the nearest bathroom, restaurant, etc.
6. We just found out about “Switch” passes (“Rider Switch Services“). Um, amazing! Because my five-year-old is tall enough to clear the height requirements for rides my two-year-old does not. When one parent stands in line with the older child, ask for a “switch” pass (they’ll hand you a ticket).
Once off the ride, hand the pass to your partner – then they get to take your kiddo back on the ride – without waiting in the full line!! That way both parents get to enjoy the experience with their older child (your kiddo gets two rides!), and the little one(s) are taken care of.
Need a break?
5. Need to cool off…or just need a break? Visit the Tiki Room in Adventureland – your little ones will love the singing birds show, you get to sit down in air conditioning for 15 minutes AND you can order a pineapple whip before or after (at the stand right outside of the Tiki Room) – yum!
4. Go on popular rides DURING the parade times – sometimes, there are fewer crowds.
3. Want to go on a “big kid” ride without your little ones? For most of the roller coasters, you can ask for the “single rider line” at the beginning of the ride line (where the Disney team member is standing) – this will cut your wait significantly. So, leave your munchkins with your spouse (or whoever else is with you) and go enjoy a few minutes of “big kid” fun!
Your Exit Strategy
2. Pack a pair of pajamas if you plan to stay until bedtime…my hubby and I change them in the car on our way out and just transfer them to their beds in their jammies when we get home. Much simpler!
1. Think about your exit strategy. Have an idea when you may want to leave your Disney adventure…because sometimes it takes us a half hour to an hour to get back to our car and headed on our way from the time we decide we want to go. That is a loooonnnngggg time to wrangle cranky, fussy or screaming children, if it can be helped (i.e. maybe you plan to leave before nap, after lunch, before bedtime, etc.).
Have any great tips or Disneyland advice that works for you and your kids? We’d love to hear it! Share the wealth of information, mamas!