I have been to Disneyland quite a few times over the past 5 years, both by myself and with kids (both mine and the Biswolds).
Since we haven’t lost a kid or an adult yet (knock furiously on wood that I’m not jinxing myself now), I judge each of these trips to be highly successful.
I’ve also never put a single charge on a credit card for any of these trips, but we will talk about how I do that another time!
Despite the fact I have not been to the parks in over a year, my friends still come to me with questions about how to take your kids to Disneyland and not lose them…or your mind. I am not a travel agent (though I really should be), but I’ve helped plan 10 “magical vacations” in the last 6 months, and I love getting texts with happy photos from people enjoying themselves in the parks!
Because I love you all (and I want you all to be safe and have a magical time going to Disneyland!), I’m sharing the 5 best tips I share with all my friends who are taking their families to the parks.
NOTE: I have heard that most of these will work for Disney World too, though I haven’t been there except the one time I was pregnant with Wolfgang and couldn’t ride anything except Small World. Ahem.
- Buy souvenirs before you go. When I took my kids, I bought custom ears off Etsy for our first day, and a few fun teeshirts for the kids (and one for myself!). I bought little Disney-related things (pez dispensers, a disney pouch for all the autograph pens we took) to keep in my backpack, and fended off a lot of tantrums when I wouldn’t buy the balloon or the *thing* that would get lost or break in 10 minutes.
– I told my kids ahead of time that I would allow one purchase of a big souvenir (a stuffie, a teeshirt, etc) and one hat or pair of ears in the parks. That seemed to sate their shopping beasts.
– I gave them one of the pre-purchased souvenirs each morning before we left the hotel room and BOOM, zero arguments about “BUT I WANT THE $20 ARIEL SPINNING THING”.
– The biggest hit with my kids were their personalized Disney water bottles that I made with stick on letters. Go figure.
- Take a photo of your children before you leave the hotel room each morning, and have your cell phone number on their person somewhere. Taking the photo is important. In case they get lost, you can show cast members a VERY current photo of your kid and what they are wearing. Your cell phone number is so the cast member who finds them can ring you.
– Older kids can take your number on a paper in their pocket, but DON’T let them just put it in their cell phone. What if the battery dies? They need something concrete.
– With smaller children, I’ve seen everything from writing the number on the kid with a Sharpie to temporary tattoos to writing it on the label of their shirts. I highly recommend if you are using the temp tattoos that you test how they wear BEFORE your trip so you don’t lose your kid and the tattoo has worn off three numbers. I’ve “rescued” a lost kid or two on my solo trips where they have the temporary tattoos, but the numbers are missing and I can’t call their parent.
– If you write your number on your kid, make sure it’s somewhere that’s not going to be hard to show an adult, but doesn’t just let your name and cell phone number hang out for anyone around to read.
- Have each person pick one thing they want to do each day.Stalk the Disneyland hashtag on Instagram. Take a look at the park map and watch the ride videos. Figure out one thing that everyone wants to do each day.
– Example: One day in California Adventure Park, I wanted to ride Radiator Springs, one kid wanted to see Donald Duck and the other wanted to ride Grizzly River Run. We got all three done in an hour, and everything else was just icing on the cake! Makes the whole day more enjoyable when you’re not rushing to get EVERYTHING done.
- Hit up the Target on Harbor or the Walmart on Anaheim Boulevard after you settle into your hotel. Stock up on non-perishable snack items and water. Pack snacks and water as much as you can every day, as this will save incredible amounts of hangry meltdowns that turn sour because the “only thing” readily available is an expensive ice cream cone.
– I LOVE Disneyland food! They have so many options. However, it can definitely be a large part of your budget. Agreeing to eat ONE meal a day (and maybe one snack) means you’re not having to wait in another line to get your food, and you’re not breaking the bank every time you have to eat! We made peanut butter sandwiches and brought bananas for lunch one day, and ate those sitting on the benches, looking out at Mickey’s Fun Wheel and California Screamin. Then we ate dinner at the Trattoria!
- Strollers and backpacks and lockers, oh my. If your kids are 6ish and under and don’t mind sitting and being pushed around the parks, I highly recommend renting or bringing a stroller. They corral your littles from running all over the place, gives you a place to stash your snacks, and allows a place to rest if they happen to fall asleep. Save your arms from carrying them!
– Backpacks are a great place to put sunscreen, hats, sweatshirts, whatever you need for a marathon park day. Trust me, the last thing you want to do is pay through the nose for sunscreen or a sweatshirt or a hat because you forgot yours and you’re having too much fun to get back to the hotel. (Plus, stash your snacks in it!)
– Lockers are much more accessible than the hotels, as they’re available in both parks! Pack up your backpack with everything you could possibly need during the day, drop off the pack in the locker and carry a small bag with your wallet and cell phone, etc. Come back to the locker when you need something, and save yourself the time in security lines and entry lines trying to get back and forth between the parks and your hotel. As of this writing (July 2017), lockers are $7 for a backpack-sized locker and $11 for a larger locker. Well worth the price so you aren’t lugging a heavy pack all over the parks, and you’re not paying through the nose for sunscreen, so you can spend those coins on something more awesome that you CAN’T get at home!
All in all, taking kids to Disneyland should be enjoyable for EVERYONE! You should be able to have fun with your kids, and everyone should be able to go home talking about how great your vacation was.
Make sure you plan ahead, and your Disney vacation can be as amazing as you want it to be <3