Planning on taking a Disney vacation this summer? My girl Brittany has you covered! As an expert in all things Disney I am so happy for her to share some tips on how to get the most out of your trip this year. This post is loaded with tricks and exclusive insider know how that you'll want to take some notes on (I know I did!) - thank you Brittany for giving us some of your amazing advice on how to plan the best trip this year with our families! Be sure to follow The Cool Hip Mom over on Instagram and visit her blog *throws glitter* Now onto the magic!
Hi everyone! My name is Brittany and I’m a Disney loving Mama to an adventurous two-year-old girl. I blog over at The Cool Hip Mom where I share what I love about Motherhood, Family Friendly things to do in Southern California, Information on my hometown Laguna Beach, all things Disney and anything else I find “cool.”
Disneyland is one of our favorite places and so I’m very excited to share some insight with you in hopes that your next trip to Disneyland is fun, stress-free and doesn’t break the bank!
Book a Hotel Offsite
If you’re traveling from out of state, consider staying at an off-site hotel. While you won’t get the ultimate Disney experience that you would by staying in an onsite resort, you WILL save a ton of money. There are plenty of hotels nearby that are very affordable! If you’re staying for a while, an AirBnB would be a fun experience too.
Get Your Disney Gear Elsewhere
It’s always fun to wear Disney inspired apparel and accessories to the parks, but it can get expensive if purchased while there. If you can, shop for Disney gear before you visit. There is plenty of really cute items for you and your family at Target, Kohls, Old Navy, H&M or even JCPenney!
Follow Disney Social Media
Follow the @DisneylandToday twitter feed for up to date information on the parks daily. They provide any specials going on throughout the day, updates on parking, and more! Follow the @DisneyParks Blog to find major park updates including construction updates, etc…
Download the Disneyland Experience App
The Disneyland App is a great resource for Disneyland and California Adventure. I use it to map out our schedule for the day the night before. You can check wait times for attractions, entertainment times, make dining reservations, link your park tickets and more! If you purchase MaxPass, you can select FastPasses and view your PhotoPass photos easily. MaxPass is fun to get every once in a while if you want fun family photos all around the parks!
Do Your Research and Have a List of “Want To-Dos”
Before every Disneyland trip, I sit down and go through the Disneyland App and map out our day. This includes attractions that my daughter is tall enough for, entertainment that we may want to see throughout the day, and times/places for potential food options. In the “notes” section of my iPhone, I’ll put the names of the attractions in the order that we are hoping to ride, along with tentative times for shows and lunch. This is helpful because it gives us a general idea of what our day may look like. The word of the day for every Disneyland trip is: flexible! You ALWAYS have to be flexible with the day because SO MANY THINGS CAN AND WILL CHANGE. I am yelling this because there are quite a few things that can alter your schedule that are not in your control (parades getting cancelled, fireworks getting canceled, rides closing down for a bit, etc…). Anything reason why the app comes in handy! You will be in the know if you check that occasionally.
Purchase Park Tickets In Advance
You’ll be in plenty of lines all day. Get your tickets online in advance and avoid the ticket line! Link your tickets to your app so you don’t have to carry them around. (unless you like to keep them for keepsakes or scrapbooking?).
Ditch the Diaper Bag
The best bag to bring to the parks with kids is a backpack. A backpack allows you to be hands free, and you can take it on attractions with you! We use this one from Petunia Pickle Bottom and it’s perfect because there are plenty of compartments including a cooler, a spot for a reusable water bottle, diapers, wipes, etc… Great things to pack are:
• Water bottle (no glass)
• Change of Clothes
• Small toys, stickers, books (distractions for long lines, wait times) - Target Dollar Section is KEY for all of these.
• Snacks (A LOT OF THESE)
• Portable phone charger
Parking/Security Bag Check Hack
Prepare to wait in a very long line for security bag checks. A hack that we’ve been using is to park at the Mickey and Friends parking lot, walk to Downtown Disney (about a 5 minute walk…), go through Security there and then walk straight to the parks. This cuts down so much of your waiting time. If you’re planning to go to Disneyland, you can get on the monorail from Downtown Disney and it drops you off in Tomorrowland! <<< this is a great way to avoid another giant line (the one to get into the parks). California Adventure doesn’t have a monorail stop, so it only works if you’re planning to go to Disneyland.
The shortest lines of the day are in the morning. We always try to get to the parks either before they open or right when they open because the crowds tend to be a lot lighter.
Take a Photo of Your Child Right When You Get in the Parks
If you have a toddler that is a runner (like we do), then there is a possibility that they may get lost in the parks. We haven’t had this happen yet, but there are wanderers and with crowds increasing, it’s important to have a “lost child” game plan in place. In case you lose your child, a photo of them with their outfit on will help the Cast Members locate your child in the parks a little easier. Sometimes a visual is better than a description. Also, I believe there are some places around the parks (maybe the Baby Care Center?) that gives out stickers where you can fill out your information (phone number) in case someone finds your child. Also, if you do lose a child, the Cast Members always send them to the Baby Care Center. Which leads me to…..
Don’t Forget About The Baby Care Center
We love the Baby Care Center. It’s great for diaper changes, potty training, nursing, heating up meals, naps, etc.. Also, it you forgot something (like diapers, wipes, sippy cups, first aid items, etc…), then you can purchase them at the Baby Care Center. We love to use the center to regroup, change diapers, and occasionally put our daughter down for a nap (since she’s not a stroller sleeper).
Use Rider Switch for Bigger Rides
If you’re with little kids but still want to ride some thrill rides…YOU CAN (as long as you have someone with you, of course!). Rider switch is amazing! So basically what you do is have someone wait for an attraction while the other person watches the kids. Once they get to the front of the ride, they let a Cast Member know that they want to do rider switch, they’ll then get a pass to give to the other rider who’s waiting with the kids. When the rider is done riding, the person that waited with the kids can go straight to the front of the line and ride the ride! Here is more information on Rider Switch, including which attractions offer it: https://disneyland.disney.go.com/guest-services/rider-switch/.
If You Have a Child That Loves Meeting Characters….
If your child loves meeting Characters, then I would suggest going to Disneyland and visiting Mickey’s ToonTown right when it opens. ToonTown opens at 9am (an hour after the park opens). When they open, a few characters (Mickey, Minnie, Pluto and sometimes Goofy) come and greet the kids at the gate and grab their hands and take them to their meet and greet spots! Wait times are roughly 5-10 minutes first thing in the morning, so if this is priority for you, I suggest doing this. When we go to Disneyland we ALWAYS do this first. If we get there a little early, then we jump on “It’s a Small World” to kill time before ToonTown opens.
Plan to Camp Out to See Parades
Parades are fairly popular at the parks. When it’s our whole family at the parks, I usually camp out at our parade spot 2 hours before the parade (on busy days) and an hour before (when it’s just baby girl and I on a less crowded day). This is one of the instances when snacks, toys and stickers come in handy. Major distractions are needed for this kind of wait time. This is also a good time to get a quick serve meal and eat it together at the parade camp out spot.
Hope these are helpful for you! Have a magical day!
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