There are lots of tips out there for enjoying Disneyland to its fullest, I’m going to try and mention only those I haven’t seen all over the internet!
What to do ahead of time (if you have a good week or so before your trip).
Order trading pins from ebay or amazon! Do a search for “Disney trading pins” or “Disney pins lot” and don’t be afraid to spend $16 on 25 pins. At the park, pins go from $9 to $13+. They are EVERYWHERE in the park. Your kid (or you) will want one. It’s easy to get the pins you want by trading for them and going in the park with a cheap “starter” set will totally help you out. While we were at the park, there was a deal on a starter pack of 8 pins (I think) that only cost $18, once you have already spent $40! Almost all Disneyland employees wear pins and they will happily trade if asked.
Upon entering the park (especially if you are there for a magic morning), many employees line Main Street wearing a white Mickey glove. They are literally waiting to trade pins!
I wish I learned this before we went. Once we bought Dallas pins, he didn’t want to trade them away.
Notice the Costco Travel lanyard around his neck? He didn’t seem to care about having a Disney lanyard, but your child may, so shop around ahead of time if you wish to save a few bucks.
Speaking of lanyards, a friend had told me that many people lose their park/hotel tickets by keeping them in the cheap plastic holders that come with most lanyards. Instead of the plastic variety, secure on a fabric, zipper pouch. Kind of like a really thin wallet. Maybe like this one.
The other money-sucker we discovered at the park were the penny crushers. While crushed pennies and pins may sound dull, keep in mind that these souvenirs are more of a way to keep kids distracted in line or busy while waiting for food, than anything else. They are also great time passers for little guys who may have to wait while their older sibling rides a “big” ride.
Come loaded with pennies, but even more loaded with quarters. A few of the really cooler crushers cost $1.26. Most are 51 cents. Seriously? Where is the symbol for cents on the keyboard?
Anyway, one great way of toting all those coins around is with a decorated M&M’s mini or Airborne tube. We bought a penny book at the park for around $8, which provided much entertainment on the way home.
What to Pack
- My friend Mary warned me about packing rain gear and I’m so glad I listened. Southern California weather is about as stable as the celebrities it houses. It was humid, rainy, windy, sunny and hot…all within one morning. Unless major rain is forecasted, skip the rainboots. Just shove mini umbrellas and light rain coats in your suitcase.
- If you are driving, buy a big, fat case of water. If you aren’t driving, buy a case when you get there. This was what we used most. Water sells for $2.79 a bottle in the park and you’ll be so happy you aren’t forking that cash over!
- All sizes of sunscreen. Pack one big bottle for the hotel, and have a few travel sized bottles for your backpack, as well as a face stick. No matter how light I tried to keep my backpack, it always felt too heavy. A small bottle of sunscreen would have helped. I’m totally freaky about sunscreening my family and we still all ended up with burns. Again, coo-coo SoCal weather.
- Via! If you are at all picky about your coffee, pack some regular or iced via. I don’t drink hotel coffee. Blech.
- Plenty of fruit and healthy snacks. Hotel apples tend to have that mushy, meaty taste and there will be no shortage of junk food. Having healthy choices on hand helped out.
- Dum Dums and other small, non-choking type candy. This will save you in lines. Disregard last line about healthy food when it comes to impatient kids.
- Hotel room games & dvds. There will always be some waiting time in the hotel room and if you don’t want your kids to spend the whole time playing with the a/c or the safe, pack some stuff to do.
- Stamps for postcards.
- Your own autograph book. Totally easy, totally cheaper than the park books.
- Bring baseball caps & sunglasses.
- California Adventures has healthier food, except for Ariel’s Grotto, which is totally delicious but also responsible for my vacation weight gain.
- The best coffee is not at the coffee shop on Main Street. It’s definitely at the Jolly Holiday restaurant in between the entrances to Adventureland and Frontierland.
- Jolly Holiday has a roast beef salad with red onions and feta. Sub out the creamy dressing for balsamic, it’s totally yummy.
- Skip Rainforest Cafe. Way overpriced. If your kids insist, ask your hotel for a coupon. Ours had coupons for a free kids meal with priority seating.
- You can find beer at California Adventures over by the pier. You can also find a small smoking section if you need one.
- We have eaten at The Storyteller’s Cafe, Goofy’s Kitchen and the Plaza Inn for character meals. Goofy’s had the best characters, Storytellers had the best food and Plaza Inn was just convenient.
- Tomorrowland and areas of California Adventures have some good breakfast options. $5.99+ will get you either a chorizo burrito, french toast or a platter of fruit.
- Get to the stupid princess hangout early. Like, earlier than you think you should. You’ll wait 30-45 minutes for a few autographs and photos.
- If you are in the park on the weekend for part of your trip, be sure to hit the princess storytelling time, we missed it.
- Same goes for visiting Tink in Pixie Hollow.
- If you have a little one who won’t wait the long wait for the princesses in the morning, throw them in the stroller and jog (seriously honey, jog) over to Tomorrowland for the breakfast I mentioned above. It will help keep them busy while you have another family member hold the line.
My friend Jen said something like, “I will put my kids in strollers at Disneyland until 16.” You’ll want to as well. As much exercise as you want your kid to have, they are going to get tired. And so are you. You’ll end up carrying them. Bring some sort of wheels, you won’t be sorry.
If you are the type of person to say, “I would never put my kid on a leash,” then you have never had the kind of kid that needs one. No, seriously, you haven’t. The rest of us with kids that will absolutely, under no circumstances walk in the same direction as their mothers (like, ever)…we deal with the pain of the harness. Yes, we know it looks like a dog. No, we are not cruel parents. Our kid is not safe in public without it.
Max isn’t one of those kids. Dallas was. Dallas was a walking nightmare. Holding his hand? Ha! Hilarious! Max is a great little walker. However, all bets are off at Disneyland. Parents there are totally overwhelmed with their own kids, so kidnapping isn’t a big worry. It’s more about losing your kids. We’ve all “lost” our kid for even a couple seconds, it sucks.
So don’t roll your eyes at those of us who use these. If you want to, just make sure we can’t see.
World of Color
I know almost everyone loves this show. We bought the special dinner at Ariel’s Grotto to get ourselves special reserved seating at the show. My kids HATED it. Maybe they have sensitive ears, but they both were totally bothered by how loud the music was. They couldn’t see most of the show (we weren’t early enough to be at the rails/ropes) and there was only one row of people ahead of us.
The show is 30 minutes and intense. They didn’t get it. We left early and saw others running for the hills. I can only imagine the mass exodus after the show lets out. There are a.lot.of.people.
There was a little boy wearing large headphones at the Disney Jr. show. It could be that he has noise sensitivity or some type of issue with sounds. However, I thought it was a pretty darn smart idea of his dad to throw those babies on. I’m not an audiologist (but I’m friends with one, if that counts), but the volume of the parades and shows can seriously not be good for little ears.
Until Part II
One quick note for part one. Be prepared for California Adventures if you are going with little ones. There are two water features that require your child to be fully clothed, with shoes on. There are no lockers inside the park until it is finished with the remodel, so you’ll need to carry around clothes and towels. (Remember that stroller I suggested?) Oh, speaking of…we used a Sit & Stand stroller (along with most guests), which helped give Dallas some down time. He woke up on day three with a cold and really needed that rest.