By Jenna Gurka,
Growing up in Southern California, I was a frequent visitor to the Disneyland Resort. And despite a having moved across the state, my husband and I try to make a pilgrimage at least once a year to relive the carefree visits of our youth. We would geek out on the windows of Main Street, eat and drink to our hearts content, and soak in the excitement. Despite Disneyland being a place for children, we enjoyed not being shackled to a child so we could make our trip our own.
Our experience vastly changed when we had our daughter. Her first trip, at 4 weeks old, was a serious reality check, but after having been countless times (you don’t want to know how many times, it’s embarrassing), we have figured out how to have a great trip that caters to all members of our family. But before you go, there are a few things you need to understand that are crucial to enjoying your experience, whether you go with your family or even child-free.
Try to stay zen
Any Disney Park you visit will be full of people with their own agendas, frantically trying to make the most of a very expensive day. Yes, you also paid a lot to be in the same park, but trying to stay calm is essential. For our family, brunch with Bloody Marys is essential before getting to the park so that everyone (ie. my husband) is more willing to put up with a sea of strollers and grumpy park patrons. For me, it’s a quick yoga session to prepare for all the walking.
Know thyself, then plan around that
Do you not like crowds or heat? Maybe Disneyland during the summer isn’t for you. Try a weekday in November. There are plenty of crowd forecasters that can help you plan! But also be aware of shorter hours and limited shows during off-peak times. Sometimes it’s worth it to skip the crowds.
Make sure everyone has appropriate footwear
Nothing kills a great time faster than blisters. Take this friction stick with you it really works well to prevent blister to appear or soothe them.
With only the two (or one) of you, you don’t have a lot of options as far as rides go. With an extra set of hands, you’ll get a bit of a baby break, and enjoy fully your visit. Disneyland offers a lot of options to help families visiting with bébé.
Fastpass+ is a good place to start. It allows you to reserve access to big rides, character greetings and shows so that you can bypass the normal line. Up to 30 days before your visit, you can reserve one Fastpass+ per day. When you arrive at the park and get your first pass, on the bottom will be printed a time after which you can return to a Fastpass+ kiosk for a second pass. You can use up to three Fastpasses per day. Nice when bébé is deciding to have a meltdown, and you need to get through a line quickly and straight to the distracting music and light.
The Rider Switch is also extremely useful. If you by chance are traveling in a bigger group, you can split into two groups with one group watching bébé first (Group 1) and the other group (Group 2) going ahead on the ride. Group 1 gets Rider Switch passes, which enables them to go check out another sight or attraction while Group 2 goes through the ride. Then, when the Group 2 finishes up and takes over bébé-watch, Group 1 uses their Rider Switch passes essentially like Fastpasses to bypass the normal line.
Clever readers are already saying to themselves: wait a minute. If a Rider Switch pass works like a Fastpass, and you only get a limited number of Fastpasses, why doesn’t Group 1 get Fastpasses for one ride and Group 2 gets Fastpasses for different one? That way, since the waiting group gets Rider Switch passes (which work like Fastpasses), everyone gets Fastpass privileges on double the normal amount of rides! Exactly. If you can split into more groups and have a mathematician in the family, you may be able to do even better.
Sitting in a stroller all day is rough for a one-year-old, especially if they want to practice their newly acquired walking skills. There are great opportunities to let them run loose in a little more of a controlled area. Faye’s favorites were Goofy’s Playhouse in Toon Town, the caves on Tom Sawyer’s Island (I refuse to call it Pirate’s Lair), and The Redwood Creek Challenge Trail at California Adventure. The Challenge Trail is Faye’s favorite with its great slide, a good semi-enclosed space and a lot of things to explore. We also let her run around in more open spaces, but it did get frustrating to corral her from being run over by strollers.
Keep them distracted
Buy yourself a bubble gun before you go. It’s a great distraction for fussy baby/toddlers but costs $12 at the park. Here is the exact one. I’m sure you can find it cheaper in-store or something similar!
Brown bag it
If you can, try to pack your own lunch. A kids meal can cost you around $6-7 and it’s extra painful to watch almost none of it make it to your kid’s mouth. Pack a PB&J (it holds up well) and some good snacks or a pouch, if you forget something, you can always buy fruit in the park (it’s marked way up, but still cheaper than a whole kids meal). Another option is sharing your some of your lunch and then using snacks to round out their meal.
Meet and Greet
Characters can be hit or miss. Some kids are terrified of them, so don’t bother waiting in a long line for a meet and greet. Faye loves seeing the main characters that she recognizes from Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, but it’s best when you don’t have to wait more than 5 minutes in line. Sometimes waving from afar is just as good and it saves you time.
About the author:
Jenna Gurka is a lifestyle blogger based in San Francisco. Her site www.supermellowfuntime.com gathers posts about motherhood, style, DIY ideas, and much more. Check it out!