The Dos and Don’ts When Planning a Trip to Disneyland with Kids
The Dos and Don’ts
Those who do not know, I am a new mother. As of writing this post, my son is 1 and half years old and I am currently planning our trip to Disneyland for next year. So, I haven’t yet gone to a theme a park as a mother just yet. I have gone to Disneyland with small children (Younger cousins) in the past. I have also noticed how other families traveled with children and talked with some of what they have done.
As MouSeekers, this list is dedicated to the families with kids, who must travel to Disneyland. For some, planning trips are fun and challenging. I am one of those. For others, it is a nightmare, due to all the pieces they have to put together. Planning for Disneyland is no different, and might also be a little a bit more difficult due to all the options you are given.
I am going to discuss the dos and don’ts that most families overlook, or don’t realize.
This post contains affiliate links, which means that if you click on one of the product links and buy products, I’ll receive compensation.
Criteria for this list
- Must be a trip to Disneyland (Disneyworld list will be sometime later. Although the lists might be slightly the same, the businesses I mention will not be. Different options for different parks)
- A long-distance trip, or unfamiliar with Anaheim area.
- Does not include travel, just planning.
- This list was made with the inclusion of kids.
Pack or Rent a Stroller
For kids 7-8 years and younger, their little legs will not last all day (or days) walking around the Disneyland and Disney’s California Adventure. This will not only keep them happy longer, but will also provide shade, a place for bags (Do not leave them unattended), a place to sit during breaks, and even sometimes for nap time. Parents will be a lot happier if a stroller in the mix.
Bring your own – If you can manage it, nothing is more familiar than bringing the one you already have. If you are driving, this won’t cost you a thing, except room in your vehicle. If you are flying, ask your airline if there is a price tag to check-in your stroller. Most airlines won’t cost you to do this.
Park Strollers – If a stroller is too much to pack, Disneyland and DCA have stroller rentals. They aren’t the best strollers, which don’t fold up and are slightly uncomfortable (The seats don’t adjust), but they are there at the openings of each park. Price: $15 a day or $25 dollars a day for 2 strollers.
Rent a Stroller – There are also other vendors where you can rent strollers, that can be delivered to your hotel. City Stroller is an Official vendor for the Walt Disney parks and the Good Neighbor hotels. Their prices range from the type of stroller (single or double, and brand) and how many days you want it. Price: 1-3 days will be $35 for the most basic stroller and $45 for a double stroller.
Additional Stroller Rental: Traveling Baby Link
Buy your own – The most expensive route to go and probably the most difficult. If you wait until you get to Disneyland, you will have a much harder time trying to find a place for a stroller. Plus, you must make room or accommodations when you return home. Price: Range from umbrella strollers $17 to top of the line strollers $150.
Packing Meals/Grocery Delivery Service
Kids are going to eat. With all the kiosks and yummy smells coming from Main Street USA, kids are going to be hungry and ask for all the favorites. While it is good to splurge on a few tasty treats in Disneyland (Churros!), it could hurt the bank and now everyone is eating junk food*.
Did you know you can pack and bring food into either of the parks? This saves a lot of money and a lot of time trying to look for a place to eat that everyone will enjoy. Plus, snacks! Especially when someone gets hangry due to the heat and long lines.
Now since you are traveling to Disneyland, you are going to need a place to stock up on groceries. There is one online grocery store that will deliver to your hotel. How great is that!
Now your family can eat a little healthier, along with saving your wallet and your mind.
*There are many healthy options in the parks now. There are fruit and veggies stands, and even dietary menus for those who have strict diets or allergies. I am not saying there is nothing but “junk food” but it will be the first things you will smell. Main Street smells like cookies and cupcakes, then there are the popcorn and churro stands. If you like these items, they will make you weak at your knees.
Participate in Magic Hour
So, what is Magic Hour? Magic Hour is an early admission hour into either of the parks. It is a whole hour that you and your family can enter and enjoy the parks before regular admitted guests are welcome. This is a great time to go, although early, because the crowds will be at their lowest point, which means great opportunities for pictures, meeting with characters, getting a bite to eat, or even to jump on a few rides that are available.
This magic hour admission is made active when you stay at any of the three Disneyland Resort hotels (And I believe Good Neighbor Hotels). You can also gain a single magic hour early admission option when you purchase either 3+ day park tickets, or a Southern California CityPASS.
Magic Hour is only available for certain days of the week for each park, so plan accordingly, and are only active on the days you are staying the night at the hotels.
Disneyland magic hour: Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays
DCA: Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays, and Sundays
If you have a smartphone, this will be one of your favorite apps you will have when visiting the Disneyland parks. This app has a virtual map of the surrounding area of Disneyland and DCA, so it will even have points of interest. Not only is it just a map it will have wait times of all the attractions, where Characters are will be at, PhotoPass locations, restrooms, shops, and everything you would want to find in the parks. It’s your little Disney helper right inside your phone.
The Disneyland app is a free application that you can find through Google’s Play Store or the App Store on iPhone.
1.Enjoy Your Vacation
When planning any vacation for yourselves and/or for your kids, remember to always enjoy it. With a Disneyland trip, it’s not only a vacation it is an experience. It is easy to get caught up with what there is to do and what to see. Keep in mind you might not do it all, and that is okay. Do what you can, and remember to take breaks to take it all in. Let the Disney magic engulf you and enjoy yourselves.
Take your time. Explore. Go searching for hidden Mickeys. Interact with characters.
Getting a hotel that is far away/No transportation to the park
Usually, the first thing I consider and research, are all the hotels that are available around the Disneyland Resort. There are three official Disneyland Resort Hotels, that are right next to the parks. Think walking distance. There is also a large list of Good Neighbor hotels, that offer some perks and rides to the parks. You can also include these hotels in the Disneyland packages, as well, making the planning process easier.
Unfortunately, due to the big price tag of a Disney vacation, most families try to opt for a lesser price hotel that is “near” the parks. This may work for some families if they really know the area. For others, that are new to Anaheim, “near” may be far and difficult to navigate to the parks. Then they must add in parking fees of your hotel and for the park. It can be a real big headache if you don’t do your research for your hotel.
Make sure when booking your hotel, that they offer complimentary or small fee shuttles to the park. Most hotels, if not all, in the area, will charge you for parking on their property, due to the popularity of Disneyland. There is no off-street parking here!
There are bus and rail transportation with the LA Metro, but you should research their schedule and their stops to see if it will really benefit you and your hotel.
I suggest either staying at a resort hotel or at a Good Neighbor hotel, so you won’t have to think about all the ways to get to the park. It may be a little bit more to your budget, but it is worth the extra perks you will get with staying with them.
Bonus tip: If you are a rewards member with hotels (example: Marriott, Best Western, Hilton), use that when booking. It will help shave a few dollars off your price tag.
Planning to go to the park later in the day.
A popular thing to do for visitors is to go to Disneyland during the afternoon. For most families that are going during the summer, it might just be a bad idea. The average temperature in Southern California in the summer is going to be the mid-90s, and the afternoon is going to offer the highest heat. Disneyland attendance also seems to go up during this time a day, along with high crowds in general for the summer. A triple whammy of Heat, popularity, large crowds.
It is best to take advantage of the extra magic hours in the mornings, as I mentioned before. If you don’t have magic hour attendance, it is suggested to come 30 minutes before rope drop so you can be ahead of the lines of guests that are coming in for the day. The lines will be smaller, and it will be cooler at 8 in the morning compared to 2. I recommend taking your break sometime between 2:00 pm to 5:00 pm, to cool off and rest to get ready for the night, if you are staying that long.
Not Planning/Over Planning.
Disneyland means many things for many people. So, it is no surprise that I have seen families/couples on both ends of this spectrum.
Storytime: I have a cousin, who has three kids, decided since her husband was going to be in Anaheim for a couple days that she would take the kids and go to Disneyland for a couple days. I ask her a couple of questions where she was going to stay, and what she was going to do. I could instantly tell she did not know what she was getting herself into. I tried not pry but suggested that she look more into the park before deciding to do this. Sufis to say, she ended up not going in the end because she figured out the cost of everything.
Now this is only one story, and some people do just jump in and go without planning and it works for them. I highly suggest families with small children do need to think and plan things out before traveling to Disneyland for the first time. It can be very overwhelming for first-timers and they will tend to be unprepared with everything. Throwing kids in the mix might ruin things a little. I believe you need to plan at least three things before heading to Disneyland from out of state;
- Pick your hotel strategically
- Go during a time with smaller crowds (no holidays)
- Plan a budget.
On the other end, over-planning can be just as a tragedy as winging it. Some parents like to be in control of every little thing from where and when to eat, to when they should take a break. Structure is good, but sometimes you just got to let the magic happen. Sure, I agree to pick a time to eat is great, maybe you had reservations or a craving for a certain place that everyone wants to go to. That is great! Just don’t try to plan everything down to the minute to make sure you get everything. The best thing about vacations and Disney is the spontaneity of it all. Let your kids pick something to be part of the planning, make it fun.
Also, Disneyland and DCA are always trying to bring new experiences to their parks all the time. So, what you planned to watch 6 months ago when you were setting your trip up, might not be there or something new might of popped up that your family would rather go see.
Having it all.
I always hear the question from family and friends; “we can do the whole park in 1 or 2 days, right?” I always look at them like they sprouted a second head. I always respond with the same answer all the time, “I went there for a week, and couldn’t do everything!” What families aren’t considering are the lines, the weather, the time of year, and events. There are so many factors that will keep a whole family from doing in just one park.
The average family will most likely go in the summer when school is out. Which also marks with the Disney Resorts will be the busiest. There are two factors, heat and lines. There is the FastPass system, but even with that great invention, you won’t make all the rides. The amount of time you want to spend also plays into the notion. Of course, you are going to do a little more with a week’s worth of time than you are in say two days. Just don’t burn yourselves out. Also, your kids will tire easy, and don’t have the same stamina as adults. Which I will cover in the next topic.
As mentioned in “The Do” list, take you time and do what you can. Make a list of everyone’s favorite ride, and try to do those. Then go and check out shows and characters. There is so much to see and do, don’t take away from that by doing everything that there is to offer. There is always the next trip.
1.Having your child spend the whole day in the park
This is a big one that families overlook and ignore and one that I saw a lot of when I visited the parks last. Please don’t have your child spend the whole day in the parks. Especially when they are at a younger age. At least if you are going to this, take a break and let them rest. Have them take a nap in the shade, and/or in a stroller. They are still growing and can’t do as much as an adult can. You may be planning this trip for your children, but you need to look out for their needs, as well.
There is this thought process that if you spent so much money on this trip, you are going to get your monies worth by doing a whole day. Let me tell you, it isn’t worth it to push your children. They will get hot, they will get tired, and they might even get scared. That doesn’t mean you lost out on your money or your experience. Just take your time and let them calm down. Take a break, or even go back to hotel room to relax and try again a little later. It will make a world of a difference.
Wrapping It Up
Whatever you do plan for your family, do not forget to have fun and find your happy! That is what Disneyland was designed and made for. Whether you wanted to go for yourself and to share your experiences with your kids, Disneyland will exceed your expectations
You do not have to take this advice, it is all subjective. It is your vacation, after all, and you can do what want and planned to do. In a respectful manner, of course. This is list is just a collection of things I have noticed and/or experienced firsthand, that might help or deter from your Disneyland experience.
Happy Planning and have a magical day!
Tell Me About It
Do you have a tip that should belong in the top or bottom 5 of planning a Disney vacation? Comment below or contact me! I may put it in a video or future post. I am always learning and any helpful hints will be great!