Disneyland makes the claim that it is the “happiest place on earth.” Many a parent shudders to think of bringing their child to such an overwhelming, over stimulating wonderland of sights, sounds and non-stop action.But when done correctly, a trip to Disneyland can be a hassle free festival of pure unadulterated fun, not to be feared but enjoyed by you and your kid. How do you make the claim of “the happiest place on earth” ring true for you? Here are 10 tips on how to survive Disneyland with your little ones.
1.Stay at one of the Disneyland Resorts
Staying at one of the Disneyland resorts may be more expensive than the Ramada Inn down the road, but it is – if you can afford it – worth every singlepenny. Seriously. On a recent pilgrimage to Disneyland we were lucky enough to stay at the Arts & Crafts inspired resort, The Grand Californian Hotel and Spa. This Stickley filled ode to the great lodges of the past – on steroids – is a stellar choice for hanging your hat. There are perks of staying at this particular resort. Some of which include the daily storytelling by the hearth of their grand stone fireplace complete with mini kid sized wooden chairs. You can get a wake up call from a classic Disney character and best of all, you’re in walking distance of the park.This comes in extremely handy when it’s naptime, you need to change your clothes after getting drenched from Splash Mountain or you just want to avoid the biggest influx of crowds during the day (from around noon to 4). A short jaunt and your back to your room for some R & R.
One of the best reasons to splurge on a room at one of their resorts? The Disneyland Magical Mornings. What makes these particular mornings oh so magical? Because by just flashing your room key you can get into the park an hour early on select days (currently Sundays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays). On our recent trip we were able to ride Dumbo, Snow White, It’s a Small World, the Matterhorn, Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride, Alice in Wonderland, The Tea Cups all before the park opened to the general public.This takes a whole load of pressure off the rest of the day since you can cross those rides off your list. Only Tomorrow Land and Fantasy Land open early, but once you get those out of the way you can hit the other popular rides in the park before the place gets taken over by the masses. If you don’t plan on staying at one of their hotels you can still get in early by buying a 3+ Day Park Hopper Pass.
3. The Baby Pass
Go with either family members or another family. If they don’t like Disneyland – bribe them, con them or flirt with a little extortion. It’s truly worth going with another set of adults. Why? This way you can ride the big kids rides while someone watches your little ones.When going on one of the bigger rides ask the person at the entrance to the line for a Baby Pass or Rider Switch Pass.After you go on the ride you can give the pass to the friends or family who were watching your offspring and then they can go on it by getting into the much shorter “fast pass” lane.
4.Make a Memory
I’m sure you’ll be bringing your camera with you, but if you don’t, you can get a photo pass that’s available from the Official Disney Photographers appointed to park.They’ll take your photo, upload it into their system and then when you get home you can check them out and order them if you’re game. It is a bit expensive but they’re photos in the prime locations, with all the family members (including the one who is usually doing the snapping). Plus there’s the occasion surprise in the print (like ghosts haunting your Haunted Mansion commemorative photo). And if you want to get all old school, I’d highly recommend getting your child’s silhouette made from the Silhouette Studio on Main Street. The woman who does the cutting created an uncanny likeness of our little girl in what seemed like seconds for just $9.
5.Go to a character breakfast
If you happen to see a character like Minnie or Mickey wandering the streets of the park, they will be instantly bombarded not unlike a Jonas Brother at a middle school dance. Instead, let the characters come to you. If your child is interested in collecting their signature (a popular pastime at Disneyland), get their photo taken with, or just meet one of these rock stars of animation, splurge for a character breakfast. There are four to choose from, but the one I would recommend would be Goofy’s Kitchen.At our brunch at the popular restaurant we met Goofy, Pluto, Chip and Dale, The Jungle Book‘s Baloo and Alice from Alice in Wonderland.There’s a slew of food in the buffet line; the usual suspects of scrambled eggs, bacon and Mickey Mouse waffles are there. There are also some interesting choices like peanut butter and jelly pizza. But be warned, it fills up fast so make sure to make a reservation in advance.
If you have a child still of diaper age, you must mark down where the Baby Care Center is (it’s off of Main Street). This hidden gem features baby changing stations, rooms for nursing, a microwave for heating food or bottles and any supplies you’d need (at a reasonable price). Plus for the toddler and little ones, there are mini flushing toilets just their size.
7. Be prepared…really prepared.
One thing to pay close attention to is where all the bathrooms are. With a child who has yet to fully conquer their bladder, figure out where the nearest loo is at all times. There are bathrooms hidden all over the Magic Kingdom. If you have to run out of line to use the bathroom, people, for the most part, are very forgiving with letting you back in your place in line (as long as one person stays there and holds your place). Also bring snacks, water, extra sunscreen, a change of clothes for the family and stuff it all into one of the Disneyland lockers which you can rent which are located right off of main street. Yes, you can buy all that stuff (and way, way more) in the park but it’s nice to have – just in case. And if you do need anything, you save some cash on bringing it yourself.
8. Small Rides For the Small People
If this is your child’s first experience with amusement park rides, it’s best to start slow so as not to totally freak them out. You really don’t want a toddler to scream out “Mommy, are we going to die!?!” while being locked into the ride. There are a couple classic rides that are quintessential to the Disneyland experience like the Dumbo Ride and the Tea Cups but I would also recommend the soothing 15-minute journey that is It’s a Small World (which is a perfect escape on a hot day), Tom Sawyer’s Island to let the little one’s run amok and the Enchanted Tiki Room that’s totally old school and charming especially with a Pineapple whip in your hand.
It’s been a long day. You’ve been catapulted, rocked, rolled and walked what seems like miles. What do you need? A drink. Now Disneyland proper is notoriously dry but if you’d like to indulge in a nice glass of cabernet or a refreshing jolt of chardonnay, jump over to the Disney California Adventure theme park. Not only do their restaurants sell wine and beer but also there is the Terrace Wine Tasting Bar where you can sip a glass (or a bottle) of the nectar of the gods. You can also indulge in a very fine dining experience at the Napa Rose in the Grand Californian Hotel and Spa where they boast a world class Master Sommelier so you know you’ll get some good grapes there.
10.Be a Kid
The best advice for surviving your Disneyland trip? Be a kid. Let go of all that everyday mumbo jumbo and see the park through your kid’s eyes. Skip, laugh and frolic as is you had not a care in the world. This may be a tall order anyplace else but at Disneyland, it’s surprisingly very very easy.
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Do you have any Disneyland tips you’d like to share?