Recently I braved Disneyland with all three of my kids (first time for Sadie and Matilda while Elby was an old pro on trip number four). I’m going to be honest with you: while most people I know can’t wait to get their Disneyland on, I was downright scared. I liken a trip to an amusement park to traveling to a third world country: the idea is noble but the actuality could be seriously lacking in clean bathroom options. But we had relatives in town and when people visit Southern California, a Disneyland trip is de rigueur. You would think I’d be somewhat of a pro since I’ve taken Elbs so many times but I’m really not. Luckily, my BFF Diana is a type A, Disneyland pass bearing, super organized, wealth of information. So I asked her to give me a few tips before I went and now I’m going to share them with you.
1. Order tickets in advance -having to wait in line is a pain in the booty (especially if you have small kids with you). You can buy tickets on the Disney website (you can even pay for parking in advance) or -get this -they have them at the Disney Store so if you’re in the mall and know you’ll be going to D-land get some tickets there.
2. Have snacks for young kids- Disneyland won’t be my best friend for saying this but do yourself a favor and bring a granola bar or seven with you. There is plenty of food at Disney but your kids might not be able to wait for a sit down lunch or they might get hungry in a line and it’s nice to just have a quick snack for them. But I will say that a great thing I found is that Disney now has healthy snack options available. I grabbed a few bananas, some mango and a milk at one point for me and Matilda (my kid who once ate broccoli for dessert).
3. If you have young children don’t start out to the left. That’s a rookie mistake. On the left at the park is Adventure Land and Critters Corner where you will find a lot of great stuff for older kids (Splash Mountain, Pirates of the Caribbean, Big Thunder Mountain) but not the Disneyland that your little ones are jonesing for. If you’ve got the young ‘uns go straight through the castle, head on back to Fantasyland where you can hit the Princess Pavilion, Dumbo, Tea Cups, Mr. Toad, the Carousel and It’s a Small World and then work your way back.
4. Take the train. This tip goes along with the one above. If you’re traveling with the little ones, you can grab the Disneyland train right at the entrance of the park and ride all the way to the back of the park giving you a nice view of everything on your way back. Then, as above, work your way to the front.
5. Go a little later in the day. This might sound counter intuitive to a lot of people who think if they don’t get places by the crack of dawn they’re losing the day. Here’s the thing: if you go around 11 you won’t sit in traffic to get to the park, you’ll still have time to do everything and you can leave at the end of the day after missing traffic again. We followed this advice and it worked perfectly. We got there at 11:30 (after hitting no traffic) and stayed for the fireworks which was (when all is said and done with parking and getting back to the car etc.) a 12 hour excursion. Plenty of time.
6. Check the website best days to go to Disneyland I found this website to be very helpful. There are lots of times that you would never think would be a great time to go to Disney (Mother’s Day) and some times you might not have ever thought of as a bad time (Grad Night). You may end up going at a bad time anyway but at least you won’t be running around screaming “What the heck is up with all the people?” Or maybe you will. I don’t know you and your issues.
7. Stay for the second parade If there is a second parade it’s usually a little later and well after rush hour. The last thing you want to be doing is leaving Disneyland at 6 and hitting the worst of the traffic. I mean, if you’re staying at a hotel right outside the park it doesn’t matter. I guess I should have told you to skip this one if you are staying nearby but I didn’t think of it. My bad.
8. Get the kids ready for bed before you leave. If you have small kids, get them dressed and ready for bed in jammies, have their bottle ready, diaper on etc. Then you can leave right after parade, they’ll fall asleep in the car (or stroller on the way) and you can go home and put them to bed.
9. Bring a blanket If you want to sit down for the parade or fireworks it will be so nice not to have to sit right on the concrete. Lots of people line up a bit beforehand and you will be so happy to have a way to mark a little bit of territory.
10. Get the Fast Passes Fast passes are the greatest thing ever. For some reason I hadn’t heard of them before Diana told me but I made full use of them on my trip and I’m so glad I did. What you do is you choose rides you want to go on but that have a really long line. Then you put your ticket into the Fast Pass kiosk (which are located outside of most of the popular rides that would have a long waiting time). You will get a pass to come back to the ride during a designated time period of one hour and then you barely have to wait in line. There is a catch: you can only get one fast pass per ticket at a time. After about an hour you can go get another one but then you have to use the first one before you can get more. We had five tickets to Disneyland though and not everyone in our group wanted to go on big rides so we could get a lot of Fast Passes. It’s a good tip.
11. Use the app to get all the wait times. The Verizon app will tell you the wait time for every ride in the park and even the wait time for Fast Passes. This is absolutely genius to use if you’re on one side of the park and want to go on a ride on the other side of the park but don’t want to walk all the way over there if the wait is 90 min. We used the app nonstop the whole day.
Shout out to Diana (Kizzle) for giving me so many great tips!
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