With summer approaching, I am sure many families are planning a trip to Disneyland! We did our first Disneyland trip with Kolton and Shayne in November, and learned so much about how to make the most of our vacation. While Disneyland is definitely the most magical place on Earth, there are several tricks to making it even more magical!
I grew up visiting Disneyland fairly regularly, but it feels like forever since I have been there. Taking my children there for the very first time was a big deal to me, and I wanted to make it memorable. With Kolton about to turn 5, this was going to be his big birthday trip as well, so the pressure was on to make it extra special, so I did some research and a lot of planning.
While a lot of people prefer to find last minute deals, I decided to go the opposite route and get a package months in advance. We purchased though the Disneyland website and got a 3-night stay at the Disneyland Hotel & Resort, 3-day park hopper passes and magical mornings (which let you into the park one hour before it opens). This was honestly the best idea EVER! Staying at the Disneyland Hotel, right on site gave us easy access to everything! And the resort has so many extra amenities, including a lot of character sitings and a pool with waterslides! We stayed in the Frontier Tower and the lobby had a miniature version of the Thunder Mountain Railroad. The kids loved it! Our first day there was spent solely at the resort so we could save our passes for a full day of fun. It was nice because we were able to wake up refreshed and enjoy a full day at the park.
- Download the Disneyland APP!! This app is a lifesaver! With it you can find out the wait times to all of your favorite rides, you can make dining reservations, download your ticket so you don’t have to wait in line to get into the park, you can store all of your photos taken at the park, see menus, showtimes and so much more!
- Get a Fuel Rod!! If you haven’t seen these before, it is small, re-chargable device that you can plug into your phone to charge it while in the park. While in the park, your phone is very important for taking photos, getting in contact with your significant other when separated, and of course using the Disneyland app! Mine kept running low on battery, so this fuel rod was amazing! The best part is, there are Fuel Rod stations all around the park where you can drop your old Fuel Rod in and get another one fully charged at no extra cost!
- Character Dining!! This was the best experience for Kolton and Shayne! I am so glad we made reservations at Goofy’s Kitchen and were able to have one-on-one time with some of our favorite characters! It was worth every penny!
- Get a SPECIAL OCCASION BUTTON!! We told the concierge at check-in that we were celebrating Kolton’s birthday and that it was our first time and Kolton got a Birthday button and Shayne got a First Visit button! They were both excited and get some special attention from the cast members. It’s easy, it’s free, and the kids loved it!
- Rent a stroller there!! We rented from Traveling Baby, and they delivered a double stroller to our hotel when we arrived, and picked it up when we left. This was such a great idea because we did not have to bring a stroller with us, and this was perfect for in park naps when the kids were too tired to walk and for us to store some of our things. Just be sure to tie a bright colored balloon on it so you can find it when you are parked near a ride.
- Bring your own Disney gear! I found Minnie ears, a Mickey hat, autograph books, Minnie and Star Wars jackets, stuffed animals and some other surprises to hide in their rooms all from the Disney Outlet Store and on Amazon. These were so much cheaper than buying them in the park and the kids did not know the difference. Since we had passes, we got lanyards for free with a special Disney pin.
- Magical Morning!! If your package does not have the Magical Morning pass, try to add at least one Magical Morning onto your trip. Getting into the park a whole hour before the crowds is HUGE! This is so worth it!
- Make a plan!! I loosely mapped out each day so we were not wandering around aimlessly since the park can be overwhelming. While plans do change, having a loose schedule will help maintain some sanity. I booked reservations a few favorite spots, and sort of planned our day accordingly.
- Get a Fastpass!! Most of your favorite rides will have a Fastpass, which will allow you a one hour window to ride it with little to no wait time! With little kids, this was a definite MUST!! The only line we waited in was to ride Peter Pan since they do not do Fastpasses for some reason. But bringing snacks while waiting in the line helped. NO LINE = FEWER TANTRUMS!
- Bring a water bottle!! We went in November and it was HOT! Stay hydrated and keep filling up your water bottle every chance you get!
- Pack a change of clothes!! You will most likely get wet. You can even rent a locker in the park and put extra clothes in there if you don’t want to carry them with you. Also wear layers. If you get to the park early, it will most likely be cold, but is bound to heat up around noon!
- Take breaks when needed!! We loved exploring Toon Town as sort of a break from the ride chaos. The kids were able to explore their favorite characters homes while we watched in the shade. Some of the houses have playgrounds so this kept them entertained while we got our bearings.
- Wear a watch!! I don’t always want to pull out my phone to check the time, so a watch made it easier to make sure we were on time for reservations, character sitings, Fastpass times, etc.
- Bring your own snacks!! This is huge for when you are waiting in line. You can even bring a mini bag cooler into the park with sandwiches, snacks, etc. if you don’t want to stop having fun to eat in the park. Disneyland just does not allow large coolers.
- Take a million pictures!! You will not regret this! There are so many photo opps everywhere! Also you can ask the professional photographers to use your camera as well as theirs. This way you are not stuck with one family member who never happens to be in any pictures because they are always behind the camera (this is usually me). The ones they take with their cameras will go onto a photo pass card that you can view from your Disneyland app and order from there.
- Wear comfortable shoes!! And bring more than one pair. If you are at the park for multiple days, switch up your shoes each day. This is a HUGE tip that my husband did not follow and he really paid for it by the third day!
- SUNSCREEN!! This is a no brainer, but I had to throw it in anyway! Southern California is HOT pretty much year round!
- Character sitings!! Use the app to find out when your favorite characters will be near you, and be patient and wait to see them. These are the memories my kids will have forever! They got so many autographs from characters, and along with the pictures I took, their autograph books from their first trip to Disneyland will be forever keepsakes! We never had to wait long since I had the app and planned ahead.
- Family Rides!! Disneyland has SOOOO many family rides! These were some of our favorite rides and we got to all go together! So many memories were made here! You can look online or on the app and see what rides are family rides. Our favorites were Peter Pan, Dumbo, Pinnochio (although the kids got a little scared) the Jungle Cruise, Pirates of the Caribbean, and so many more!! I could not believe how many family rides there are! Sometimes you have to go two and two, so it is good to have an even number of riders. We are a family of four, so this worked out for us.
- Find out when the parades are!! There always seems to be something going on in the park. Try to plan your lunch around a band or parade for some extra entertainment.
- Get the Dole Whip!! If you have heard of it and have not tried it yet, trust me, it lives up to the hype! If you have not heard of it, it is like a soft-serve pineapple ice cream that you can only find in the park. The stand is next to the Tiki Room. The inside line tends to be much shorter, so try that.
- Check out California Adventures!! We did this with our Park Hopper passes and it was so much fun. (I will do a separate post about California Adventures since there is so much fun stuff over there). This was not there when I was a kid, so it was a special experience for all of us.
- Plan for a night time parade!! We went during the week so the only night time show available was the World of Color at California Adventures. While this show was INCREDIBLE, next time I want to plan to be there one weekend night to see the Electrical Parade. This is on our bucket list.
- Have fun!! This is of course the most important part!! Plan for meltdowns and tantrums from overstimulation. Just be patient, stay cool and hydrated, be prepared and enjoy it all! This truly is the most MAGICAL PLACE ON EARTH!
I hope that you found these tips helpful when it comes time to planning your Disneyland trip! We are already planning our next visit and are even more excited to do it all over again!! Please comment below with any tips I may have missed!