Tips for Taking Toddlers to Disneyland

Tips for Taking Toddlers to Disneyland

We love Disneyland!

It’s no secret. Husband and I love going to the happiest places on earth as a family, making memories and spending time with each other. This is our family vacation spot because when we are there we can have fun without worrying about anything else. This place is really magical. Living in Arizona, we go at least once a year, usually in late November as an early Christmas present. The kids know that if we go to Disney they’ll only get a present or two from Santa, but they’re fine with that. They just love Disneyland so much and always beg us to go. Now that we live in Texas it’s not easy to be in the car for 5 hours and be there, but we did decide to take a last minute trip last March and it’s great that we were able to squeeze in some magical moments with us family in California.

Our friends and family have been telling us for a long time that we are excited to bring our toddlers and babies there. They told us that kids should be at least 5 years old to go to the park, but we disagreed. We go a lot with young kids now and we came up with our own system to make it work with minimal tantrums and not spend a lot of money. Today, I’m here to share our best tips for taking toddlers to Disneyland. We’ve been learning a thing or two (or ten!!) with kids for the past 7 years and want to share these tips with you so you can be happier and magical in your happiest place Experience Earth.

Now that we go a lot and are tagged as Disney fans, we keep getting calls and emails from family and friends sharing our tips and tricks, so I thought it would be perfect to share them in a blog post – Especially since it’s Lil’ Luna’s Disney Week. 😉

I shared my top 15 Tips for Going to Disneyland Back in 2012, some of those tips will be repeated here, but this list is for those of you ready to take your toddler to the park. 🙂

Let’s get started… (and there’s a lot of info)…

Disney’s Great California

plan in advance

As part of a fun, memory-filled, and stress-free trip to Disneyland, it’s important to plan ahead. Yes, it takes time, but planning ahead will actually give you more time in the park and more time to enjoy your vacation. As part of planning ahead, it’s important to do the following:

  • find a good hotel – I recommend staying at one of the Disneyland hotels if possible. They may be more expensive, but the amenities and proximity of these hotels are well worth it. Not only do they have character breakfast meet-and-greets, but they also allow early entry (for extra magic time) and even have exclusive entry for those who live in Disney’s Greater California (our personal favorite). If you can’t stay in one of the hotels, I recommend finding one that’s close enough to the park (be sure to check the ratings so you too have a great hotel experience). With a toddler, you never know if you need a nap or have to go back to the hotel for some reason, so it’s good to be close enough to return if you need to.
  • Go to the park in the off season – You want to go to the park when it’s least busy, so wait times are minimal and the park isn’t as crowded. I know this can’t always happen due to parental vacation time or school kids’ schedules, but if you have any comments I suggest you take a look at the Disneyland “seasons” below so you know what you’re doing . We always go when we’re not so busy because we know the kids (and sometimes ourselves) aren’t always the most patient. Long queues can lead to whining and more stressful times, which is something we try to avoid. If you know you’ll be going to the park during busy times, be sure to tell your kids that there will be queues. Also note that if you go during busy times, you’re unlikely to attend all the rides and shows that the park has to offer.
    • Low season – least crowded

      January to late February (Presidents Day)
      April to the week before Memorial Day
      Mid-September (after Labor Day) to mid-October (Columbus Day)
      After Thanksgiving to the week before Christmas

      average attendance

      Late February to the week before Easter
      Sundays except summer and holiday weekends
      After Memorial Day until school summer break
      After Columbus Day to Thanksgiving

      Peak season – most crowded

      3 days holiday weekend
      The week around Easter
      Summer (school holidays) to Labor Day
      Thanksgiving weekend
      One week before Christmas to New Years

      notes: It can be helpful to choose the days you go to the park. Tuesday to Thursday will be the least busy as that is mid-week. Friday to Monday is the busiest, as it is easier for most people to go to the park on the weekends.

      Another thing to consider when choosing your days is that depending on when you go will also determine how much the hotel will cost. Hotel prices are cheaper if you go during low season. During peak season, hotel prices are more expensive.

  • Please check the Disneyland schedule before attending – Know the hours of operation. Knowing when the park is open and when it is closed will help you plan your day and make the most of it. Also, many times the rides are closed for renovations. It’s good to know these things ahead of time so you don’t waste time going to these unopened rides in the park, and you can tell your kids beforehand so they don’t get upset. We made this mistake when we kept telling our daughter how much fun she would have had on a Nemo ride, only to find it was closed when we got there. She could have easily avoided getting mad if we had checked the schedule beforehand. It’s also important to know the timing of certain shows and parades. If you want to take part in one of these activities, you will want to plan your day with these times in mind and make sure you arrive at the designated area early so you can enter.
    • notes: If you’re not staying at one of the Disneyland hotels and don’t have the extra magic time, I recommend starting your day at the park opposite. You see, the Extra Magic Hour is assigned to one park per day (see schedule below). For example, if you’re staying at a Disneyland hotel on a Tuesday, the extra magic time only applies to Disneyland (not California Adventure). If you’re heading to the park on a Tuesday but don’t have this extra magic time, start your day at California Adventure. It will be less busy and allow you to take more rides until the residents of the Disney Hotel hop into the park.
      • Extra Magic Timeline:

In the park

  • have a plan – Now that you know the schedule and which park you will be going to first, make an action plan for the day. No, you don’t have to stick to it, but knowing where you want to go first, knowing which shows you want to be on and which rides you want to be on will help you plan your day better.
    • look at the map – (Disneyland map can be found here, California Adventure map can be found here). You don’t want to go to Splash Mountain and then Space Mountain (they are across from the park). If you know where you are and where you are going, it will be easier for you to plan and make the most of your time.
      • character meeting – If your child wants to see a character, find out where and when they will be so you can be there.
        • Mickey and friends can usually be found at their home in Toon and hanging out.
        • Tinker Bell and her friends can be found at Pixie Hollow (right of the castle)
        • The princess can be found at the new Princess Fantasy Faire (left in front of the castle)
        • FROZEN Characters can be found in Fantasyland (more info here) – they are on Carousel’s left, just riding past Pinnochio.
          • notes: If your kids want to see Olaf and Anna and Elsa, come here first! ! ! The line is usually 3-4 hours (no joke), and if your kids insist on seeing the Frozen characters come here first, the wait time will be closer to 15 to 45 minutes. We were one of the first people in the park (on off peak days) to go there first and the wait was still 30 minutes. :/
      • Popular rides – If your kids love Fantasyland, go there first. Almost all of these rides don’t offer fast passes, which means the lines can be long. Peter Pan, for example, was one of the most popular, with a wait of nearly an hour just minutes after the park opened. If you can’t take her first, be here last. By nightfall, the children were all packed up and most families started going home. If your kids are still awake, evening is also a great time to play those nostalgic rides in Fantasyland.
  • Bring prepackaged items to the park – Packing for kids and family at Disney can be overwhelming and stressful at times, but it doesn’t have to be. Just cover all your bases and use this list to help you:
    • what to prepare for the child (Items highlighted in blue are the ones you want to carry with you)
      • All-day comfortable clothing and underwear
      • Comfortable shoes – make sure new shoes are worn! ! The tennis shoes are great!
      • pajamas
      • Toiletries – Shampoo, Conditioner, Soap, Brush, Hair Band, Hair Spray/Gel, Toothbrush, Toothpaste
      • One extra set of clothes and underwear per child
      • Sunglasses/Hat
      • sunscreen
      • Antibacterial wipes/hand sanitizers – help keep germs away!
      • Diapers, pull-ups, and wipes
      • Stickers with child’s name and phone number – (these can also be found at baby care centres)
      • jackets and blankets
        • The weather may change from morning to lunch to evening. It can be helpful to bring a jacket and blanket, especially if you continue to ride and it’s wet and cold. Blankets are also handy in case the child falls asleep and you need to block out the sun.
      • double stroller
        • We love our Sit n Stand double stroller. We like that if the kids get tired, they can sit down, or if they fall asleep, you can push the seat back into the reclining position so they can take a nap. I see a lot of people with double-width strollers, but they always seem to have a hard time navigating the park. No, you don’t need to buy a new stroller just for Disney, but I just wanted to mention it in case you have the option of a double-width or non-double-width stroller. 😉
        • We also like to attach a bright ribbon to our stroller to make it easier to find in the stroller parking lot.
      • Snacks and beverages (including sippy cups, bottles/formula)
        • And more snacks! ! You can never go wrong with a snack bag for kids. I always pack individual snack bags for each kid at the park every day before we leave. Every child gets the same snack that day, and they know they can grab something from their bag if they get hungry. It helps save money and complain less. As mentioned before, the line can be long and having some snacks on hand can be helpful.
        • A water bottle and sippy cup are a must – it gets hot and it’s important to stay hydrated. There are also fountains throughout the park to fill up.
      • Umbrellas and ponchos – you don’t need to bring these to the park unless you see that it might rain, but it’s a good idea to have these at your hotel just in case. 😉 NOTE: Some people also like to wear a poncho for some slippery rides.
      • Small toys – It may be helpful to have some cheap (and replaceable) but familiar items at home. Not only are small toys entertaining, they can also help prevent constant requests to the store for toys and souvenirs. We usually go to the cave at the end of our trip and buy souvenirs for the kids but tell them they have to earn it themselves. If they’re nice and don’t whine while we’re there, we usually reward them with a toy of their choice ($15 and under) at the end of the tour….
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