In December we went to Disneyland for our daughters 3rd birthday. I have been asked many times how the trip went with taking the kids and to share some tips on how we made the trip such a success.
Now I have to say, I am no Disneyland pro what so ever! But after the two years of planning our trip and being there for a week with two kids (3 years old and 15 months old) I have some tips and suggestions to share to hopefully help you on your Disneyland or Disney World vacation.
To start off I have to say the absolute most important aspect of the trip or any trip with kids is to PLAN ahead of time!!! I am a planner in life so this was fun and easy for me but it might not come naturally to others. Planning is what made our vacation. From planning the hotel, planning what we will do each day, to planning each days while in the park and so on. I truly believe if you plan and do your research ahead of time your life is going to be so much easier while on vacation.
If at all possible the TIME OF YEAR is something I would really think about when planning your trip. Obviously any weekend days are going to be busy but then think about the time of the year, summer time, Christmas break and spring break are all extremely busy times at the park.
Another thing to think about is ride closures. Right before holiday decorations are revealed (Halloween, Christmas etc.) rides are closed getting for the decoration process. Also some rides might be closed for maintenance or upgrades so just be sure to take this into consideration.
It's a Small World decorated for Christmas.
After deciding our dates I moved onto the HOTEL. If my children were older and I did not mind spending 2-3 times the amount I would simply stay at the Grand California Hotel on the park site, but that wasn't going to happen. So the first thing I figured out was what our family needed in a hotel which was a suite with two separate rooms and being in tolerable walking distance to the entrance of the park.
We planned to be in Disneyland for a week and I knew we needed a hotel with space to sleep, move around and for the kids to play. As for the location if we were not in walking distance we would be required to use a hotel shuttle or the local bus and I was not fond of that idea at all! Using transportation would require us to load and unload two strollers full of stuff for the day from diapers to jackets to food as well as wait around for a shuttle or bus. We planned to go back for naps during the day and doing this multiple times a day would make us crazy. Our hotel (Anaheim Camelot Inn and Suites, not the newest but clean and met our requirements) literally took us about 5-7 minutes to walk out the room down to the park entrance. In the end our hotel was the best choice for our family and we couldn't have been happier.
Next I would think about your daily plans such as go to Disneyland 3 days, Universal Studios one day etc. Once you have this planned you can then think about RESERVATIONS AND DAILY ACTIVITIES. Disneyland has thousands and thousands of people in the parks everyday so thinking ahead of time of places you might want to eat and special events you would like to attend will help you out in the long run. If possible call ahead before your vacation to make reservations. You are able to make reservations once you arrive as well but I would suggest to do so at least the day before.
We made reservations for a character breakfast a month before our trip
and even then had a hard time getting it.
After calling 2-3 times we finally got one at Ariel's Grotto in California Adventure.
For holidays and selected times of the year there are special events that take place in the park, such as in December they have the nightly candlelight show on Main Street. This requires you to get tickets before the show or you can wait in a standby line but it does not guarantee you a seat. Also in California adventure they have the world of color show each night and you can get FastPass tickets to the show which will get you into closer areas to the water. Just knowing these activities ahead of time and figuring out how to attend them will save you a lot of hassle once you arrive.
Making the Trip with Children
You might not think this is a necessary topic for giving tips but let me tell you I thought about this vacation and how to tolerate two kids in the parks for nearly 2 years. My husband and I were actually so nervous that we would just have tantrum after tantrum with the kids and because of this fear I began thinking about everything, from the strollers, to naps, food, toys, entertainment for the trip, the car to use on the trip etc.
To start off we had a long TRAVEL TIME to arrive in Disneyland. We are about a 7 hour drive from Disneyland and we knew we needed something to entertain the kids. Thankfully our car has a DVD entertainment system in it so we knew we had that to fall back on. I made road trip baskets for the kids with new, fun and exciting toys in them and packed the car full of food. The kids nearly ate and watched movies the entire ride there and back and it was very manageable. We stopped about 2 times each way for the kids to walk around but for the most part it was food, new toys and movies that did it for them.
The other major thing I suggest you think about is the STROLLER situation. We knew we were having other family down with us on the trip and that my parents might take our daughter while someone had our son etc. so originally I thought we needed a double and a single and quickly realized two singles would be our best bet also for the fact of managing the stroller through the crowds. We had parents in Disneyland tell us they wish they had two singles at least a dozen times. Double strollers are usually huge and when you are trying to fight everyone to get out of the park at night or to get in in the morning even a single stroller is hard to manage.
Our two strollers.. Worked out great for us!
I also knew we needed at least one of the strollers to have a parent tray with cup holders and they both needed large storage compartments. I found a Graco light weight (but still seems large) stroller for my son at a garage sale for $15 and it has been the best stroller. It has a huge storage basket abd we could fit so much stuff in the stroller.
Next think about what you will BRING INTO THE PARK. I originally thought my 15 month old would want toys while in the stroller but he could care less about them he just laid back and took in all the sights. I would bring tons of snacks and food for the toddlers and drinks and of course all your other baby/toddler needs.
My last and one of the most important suggestion I have is taking NAPS AND WORKING THE VACATION AROUND THE KIDS. I know this sounds strange but I truly feel parents need to know and listen to children's wants and needs. I strongly suggest going back to your hotel, letting the kids nap, if you are able to nap as well then even better just at least rest and gain some more energy. The reason I suggest pretty much evolving your vacation around your kids is because they have breaking points and if you do not let them rest, give them time to run around, give them quiet time or give them the time and tools to satisfy their needs they will just lose it. You might think I am wasting my time even suggesting this but you walk around Disneyland and you see breakdown after breakdown and kids that have just been pushed to their limits.
I do not want to toot my own horn and maybe it was simply luck for us but during our trip I listened to and read my kids constantly. I knew when it was time for my daughter to take a potty break before she even had to ask, I knew when my son would need his nap so we ate lunch by 11:30am everyday and headed straight to the hotel after, I knew they needed running around time so if they were in the stroller too long I found a place they could run and explore and to our surprise we had maybe 3 at the most slight tantrums while on our trip but they were mild and short lived.
I could go on and on with other Disneyland tips from using FastPass tickets, to eating in Downtown Disney instead of inside the park (its cheaper and better food) but I hope your planning and research you do ahead of time will help you find more fun perks like these. I hope you enjoyed reading my ramblings about our trip and hope you are able to make the awesome Disney trip someday with your family.