Thursday, June 4, 2015

Disneyland for Dummies. Tips for first time visitors.


Disneyland for Dummies. MamaMAE's Top Tips for First Time Visitors (and Parents!!)

Let me give you the back story to this post...I've been DREAMING about visiting Disneyland since I visited the park with my family as a kid. I was maybe 7 or 8, and all I can remember about the trip is that it was a magical day and I was extremely happy and had the time of my life. As an adult, I felt that a trip to Disneyland would be my dream family vacation. This year my hubby and I felt like our kiddos were old enough to go, so we booked our condo and I spent every free moment I had reading every piece of material I could get my hands on about Disneyland. I read every Disney blog I could find, I met with long time Disneyland veterans and asked them every question I could think of, and I spent tons of time researching all the best tips and tricks that would make my experience magical. And you know what I found?...a lot of overwhelming information. I walked into Disneyland thinking that I knew it all, that I was a pro and the day would be perfect. And to skip to the ending of the first day...I cried the entire walk back to the parking lot because I was so overwhelmed, and learned that I had missed out on so much. So after crying the whole way back to the car, I pulled myself together and went back to the drawing board and made an entirely new plan for the next visit. And you know what? It was the most magical day for my kids, and for me.

I decided to write down all the essential beginners tips for all you first timers, in hopes that these will help you get an idea of how the park works, and how to make the most of your trip without over stressing or over spending. All of my best tips for parents who plan on bringing their munchkins to the park are near the bottom.


1. Get to know the Disneyland website, and familiarize yourself with the ENTERTAINMENT SCHEDULE, and ATTRACTIONS pages.
My biggest frustration was that I had heard all these amazing things about certain shows and parades, and then found that they had all been CANCELED on the day we were visiting. I crawled over the website when we first booked our condo, and thought that all the shows we were wanting to see where on the daily schedule. Come to find out that they had changed the schedule the week before we came and I forgot to check back on the website. So the best time to check what they have planned on the day you are visiting is to look over the entertainment schedule 1 week before you visit. You can visit their entertainment schedule page HEREThat page will allow you to filter which park you are visiting, what date you will be there, and it will give you a master list of what the park will be doing while you are there. You can click on an item and it will give you a detailed description of what it is, when it will be happening, where it will be, (including the location on a map of the park) and it will let you know if you can get a FastPass for it (explained later) and it will tell you if a FastPass is mandatory. (for example the Meet and Greet with Anna and Elsa at California Adventure needs a mandatory FastPass as of May 2015)

If you are really committed, I would recommend reading the detailed description of each show or performance they have listed on that site. Because we decided to skip the "Mickey and the Magical Map" show because my kids don't quite know who Mickey is yet. Only to find out afterwards, that there are special performances by princesses that you won't see at Fantasy Fare or anywhere else around the park. We missed seeing Pocahontas and Mulan...SHUCKS!!!! But lesson learned, and so I recommend that you read the description for each one and even search the title of the show on YouTube. There are a ton of short clips of what the performance looks like, and this will give you a better idea of what each item entails.

Not only will this page show you all the performances and shows, but it will also give you an idea of which characters will be there for meet and greets and autographs for your kids. And just like the performances, it will give you a general time for when they will be at the park, and it will let you know if you need a FastPass (again keep reading for more info on these) in order to see these characters.

This entertainment schedule is way 
out of date, but I wanted to find
a picture that would give you
an idea of what the booklet will
look like when you enter the park.
When you enter the park, they will give you a printed entertainment schedule with all the same info on a pamphlet, but I would make sure to take some time a few days before you visit to get to know what each show is, and where it will be. That way when you get into the park, you can look over the entertainment schedule and make a plan for the day so you can fit in all that you want to see and do.

I also recommend looking at the attractions page on the Disneyland website. It will show you a detailed list of every ride and activity that will be up and running during your visit. You will find the height requirements for each ride, and it will show you where that ride is on the map. If you have little ones, I would print out a Disneyland map ahead of time, and then go through with a sharpie and circle every ride on the map that your kids meet the height requirement. (There are a TON of rides that have no height requirement so it's great for babies who will just sit on your lap.) If you mark your map ahead of time, then when you are in a certain area (such as Fantasyland, or Tomorrowland), you can look at your pre-made custom map and use it to decide which rides to go to while you're there.

(FYI - Disneyland and California Adventure split their parks into different "LANDS" in order for you to navigate through the park. Such as Critter Country, Fantasy Land, Adventure Land and Cars Land, Bugs Land, Paradise Pier, etc. All of these sections will be highlighted in different colors on your park map.)

2. Use the Disney Hotline Number!!! It's 1(714)781-0000 for the operator and I would keep this number on speed dial while you're there. I called it several times to check the schedules of characters, and to check if World of Color or other programs would be canceled due to weather. There are INFO kiosks all over the park that are made to answer questions. But whenever I had specific questions about what characters would be available, or where they would be, they gave me the generic answer of what is listed on the entertainment schedule that you're given when you enter the park.
But when I called the glorious hotline number, and the rep would give me specific details of which princess would be visiting the park that day, where they would be, and how long they would be there. For example:

Jasmine and Aladdin will be outside Aladdin's Oasis from 3:00-3:45PM, 4:00-4:45PM
Rapunzel will be outside of Fantasy Fair from 12:30AM -1:45 PM
Tinkerbell and Silvermist will be in Pixie Hollow from 9:00AM -3:00PM taking a 15 minute break every hour on the hour.

UPDATE!!!!
Disney has made the entire process streamlined and much easier than having to call into the hotline, although I still recommend you keep this number handy just in case. They use an app now called My Disney Experience and it has everything you need in one place. Wait Times, Park Map, Parade Schedules, Show Times, and Character Experiences! The only downside I've found to this app, is that you can't access the info for your designated park day in advance...which means if you're trying to make a custom disney signature book like this one on my blog,  you'll have to take a chance on who was there the day before in order to plan ahead. But otherwise this app is a lifesaver...and it really helps to make the most of your trip.

And if you or your child had their heart set on seeing a particular character like Elsa or Minnie Mouse, ask the rep or consult your app on how to find them. You can find out if the character will be there during your visit, what times they will be available to pictures and autographs, and exactly where they will be spotted so you don't miss them. The app is also great for looking at wait times, and current FastPass times too.

But like I said, keep the number with you just in case. The woman I spoke to was WONDERFUL, and their training is made to make sure that every interaction is a magical one. So don't be afraid to tell them what you want out of the day, because they will do whatever they can to make sure you have a magical experience. The cast members at the hotline will give you incredibly detailed info, and they are extremely helpful. And if they can't answer your question, they will find someone who can.

For example...a friend of mine was visiting Disneyland for the first time without her children for a work retreat and left her infant at home with family, but was still nursing. She was still nursing at the time and needed to pump every 4 hours while in the park and needed to know if there was a designated area for her to do that. The bathrooms don't typically have an outlet in the stalls for her to plug her pump into, and a hand pump would've taken forever and wasted precious park time. So I called the hotline, told the representative her situation and just like that she was tracking down the info faster than Peter Pan on his way to Neverland. She called to the Nursery Centers that are in each park, and found out that they have designated nursing stalls WITH an outlet! She could pump in private, and not needing to bring an extension cord to find a nearby plug. Wahhlaa!!! It's a magical number...USE IT.

3. Learn How FastPasses Work before you go, the best site I found to explain how these work is here at DLRPrepSchool.com  It was the most confusing system to me at first, but after reading her blog it really helped me understand. The whole system is designed to lower ride wait times, and to space out the amount of people riding at a certain time. You need to know that there are only FastPasses for certain rides (that info can be found on the Disneyland website and on your entertainment schedule you receive when you enter the park)

As soon as you enter the park, first thing you need to do is grab a FastPass for your favorite ride along with any performance/show FastPasses that you want to see.

For us, our go-to FastPasses were Radiator Springs (which had the longest line by far) and Indiana Jones. Also, some people are confused about how FastPasses work in regards to when you can get a new one. If you pick up a FastPass at 10AM, and your ticket says you can use it at 3PM, you don't have to wait until 3PM to get another FastPass. At the bottom of your ticket it will say you can get another FastPass at 12PM, which is 2 hours after you pulled your first ticket. So keep up on FastPasses so that you get the maximum use out of them.

There are some performances, shows, or meet and greets that require a FastPass that won't take up your normal waiting time for your next FastPass. Shows like: World of Color, Fantasmic, Frozen Sing-a-long, Meet and Greet with Elsa and Anna and Olaf. I could list where you pick up each FastPass, but it would take a lot of space. So look over your entertainment schedule, and call the hotline and ask where you can pick up FastPasses for them.

Our family game plan at California Adventure (CA) was that I took everyone's tickets and went to retrieve our FastPasses for World of Color, Anna and Elsa, Olaf, and Radiator Racers and the rest of our group went to stand in line at ToyStory Mania. (which we had been told by others was a super fun ride and had one of the longest lines without an option for a FastPass.) This worked out really really well, and I'm so glad we got FastPasses for Radiator Racers...they only give a certain amount of passes out each day, and by the time I got there (maybe 10 minutes after the park opened) the "come back" time was already at 6:00PM. YIKES!!

4. You can only get a Magic Morning Pass (which allows you into the park 1 hour before it opens) by staying at a Disney resort, or purchasing a 3+ park ticket ONLINE. From everyone we have spoken with, this pass is awesome because it gives you an extra hour of park time, and the crowds are much less. We thought that we would get a magic morning pass if we bought a 3 day pass at the gate, but they only offer this as an incentive to purchase your tickets online in order to reduce waiting times at the park ticket stands. We didn't figure this out until we were there an hour early to use our pass...bummer! But it turned out fine because we were there early enough to walk around Buena Vista street and get something to eat before they opened up the rides at California Adventure.

Also, if you get a Magic Morning pass by purchasing 3 or more tickets, this is only good to use at Disneyland, not California Adventure. If you stay at the Disney hotel, this won't apply to your group, you can use them at either park. And one extra tip, my Disney veteran Sue informed me that they only open one "land" (ex: Tomorrowland, Adventureland, etc) for the magic morning pass. So call the hotline number before hand and confirm which land they will open for the day you plan to use your Magic Morning Pass.

On the same topic as PURCHASING PARK TICKETS...You have the option to buy a PARK HOPPER that allows you to jump from Disneyland and California Adventure on the same day. It's $40.00 more per person, and if you have little kids I wouldn't recommend it for your first trip. It's almost the same price to buy a 2 day hopper pass, as the 3 day single park pass. We saved the extra cash by purchasing single park tickets for the kids, and splurged on a park hopper pass for the adults so that we could jump from park to park on our "adults only day." I felt like it was definitely worth the money because by the time we had our "kid free day" we had gotten to know the park much better so we could navigate with a lot more ease. We also could walk the distance between the parks without getting exhausted and without having to push around a stroller from place to place. But to each their own, and after your first trip you might feel like you know the park a little bit better, and can hop from park to park without missing anything.

5. Make Sure To Get Into The Park EARLY.
This ended up being super hard for us to do, because with little ones we run a bit behind schedule anyways, and because the condo was an hour+ away from the resort to begin with. If you can, try to be there an hour (or more) before the park opens, this will allow you to get an awesome parking spot and get a good spot in line to be one of the first into the park. If you get there too early, the worst that will happen is that you get to walk around Downtown Disney to kill time (which has plenty of entertainment and food) and then be at the front of the lines to the park...not a bad idea!!!

Both parks will open the gates into Buena Vista street and Main Street about 30 minutes before the park opens, and it allows you time to get little ones to the potty and run to the front of the line to pick up the best times for FastPasses. Plus while you wait you can look around the street at souvenirs and look around all the cool shops, and have a little time to look over your entertainment schedule pamphlet and plan out your day and which shows you want to see.

And while you're waiting, ask a cast member how to get a celebration pin! These pins work like magic to get special attention from cast members and characters no matter what you're celebrating. They have some for birthdays, anniversaries, and to celebrate your first trip to the park. You can get them at City Hall on Main Street in Disneyland. I'm not sure where you can get them in California Adventure, but don't let that keep you from asking a cast member as you come through the gates, they might have one handy, or they can show you were you can get one.

6. Make A Trip To The Dollar Store before you go and pick up cheap souvenirs for your kids, and ponchos. If you're kids are young like mine, they probably won't even notice the toys and souvenirs unless you take them into the stores, so this tip is better for moms who have kids that are 4+yrs.

But none the less, ABSOLUTELY buy some ponchos. Every single blog I read told me to pick up some ponchos before we go and I thought, Nah...I won't need them. I WAS WRONG. Luckily it rained on a day where we went with my brother and sister-in law for our adult only day, and we didn't have the kids. But if it had rained while we had the kids with us, we would've been paying 8 bucks a pop for a poncho just to keep them dry while we ran back to our car with the other loads of parents.

If you bring ponchos, then you can usually wait out the rain in the Tiki Room, or on the long Pirates Ride, or heck any of the rides where the line is inside a building. The wait for the rides went down a ton on the day that it rained because most all of the parents were rushing to get their kids to the car and out of the rain. I can handle heat, I can handle tired...but wet and cold? NO WAY. So buy the ponchos, and if you don't use them, you are only out $1.00 a person. Plus if you want to stay dry and still go on a wet ride, use your ponchos then.

7. Download a Disneyland Park App before you go. There are several different kinds out there, and I would recommend using one that will fit your family the best. Jordan from Fun Cheap or Free recommends the RideMax app, and says that this nifty little tool will plan out your day for you, and is genius. I didn't want to go that route because of my little ones having fluctuating nap times, and I had specific times I wanted to set aside for lunch and getting good spots for the parade. So I ended up downloading the Disneyland Wait Times App, which was FREE and it basically showed an up to date list of wait times for each ride. This allowed us to go with the flow, and made it easier for us to look at all the choices and decide what was best for us in the moment.

8. TIMING. Timing is EVERYTHING.
This tip can be a little tricky because we wanted to visit during a time where the weather wouldn't be too cold or too hot (so we could keep little ones comfortable) and we didn't want long lines. We chose a week in May before school got out and decided to visit during the slowest days of the week (Mon-Thurs) and we didn't spend much time at all standing in line. Many other blogs say that you can be standing in line for hours to get on one ride during the busy summer season...THAT'S NUTS!!! But even though our lines were short, we missed out on a lot of shows. Since it was the week before their 60th anniversary celebration, the park was only doing fireworks, parades, and the Fantastmic shows on the weekends which we missed because we visited them on a week day. Pick what is most important to you and your family and plan your trip around that factor. For example right now they are celebrating their 60th Anniversary, so they have extended hours, and more parades and shows, and it's also probably crazy busy and the lines are probably outrageously long. DLRPrepSchool has a good chart for busy VS non busy times of the year to visit, so maybe take a look at that before planning your trip.

9. Ask A Cast Member!!! 
During our visit, we were sitting in a prime seating spot waiting for a parade, when around the corner came the Mad Hatter and a cast member that completely changed our whole day. While the kids visited with the Mad Hatter, Brian and I visited with "Prince David" and picked his brain about the park. He gave us all kinds of insider tips and informed us of all the changes that we hadn't been aware of (like the parade being canceled.) He even made a special call and took my daughter and I around the park to find all of our favorite princesses and then introduced us to them so we could get a picture and signature. He is this amazingly positive sweetheart that lifted up the rest of our day. We ended up making an awesome friend, and learning so much about the park and the company behind it.

My awesome new friend "Prince David" and I. 
You might not make the same connection with the first cast member you strike up a conversation with, but I give you this tip because these cast members are amazing. Their training program is unbelievable. They are so completely dedicated to their job and to the magical experience for the visitors, that they are literally living the standards that the company teaches.

For example: as we were waiting for the Circus Train ride in Fantasyland, we were casually chatting with a cast member. My husband said to him, "I can't believe how good of an actor the woman playing Princess Ariel was." and the cast member gave him a really confused look and said, "What? What do you mean?" So my hubbs repeated himself and the cast member replied, "I don't get it, that IS the real Princess Ariel." Seriously, he didn't break character for a second. And that was standard with every single cast member we came across, even David who we ended up spending time with everyday while we were there.

They are incredibly dedicated, and they will do almost anything in their power to stay in character. It's not just the princesses or the characters signing autographs that are committed, its the cast members too. So if you're lost, or if you have a question about FastPasses or wait times, or ANYTHING, please don't be afraid to ask a cast member, because this will be the best customer service you will ever experience.

Not to mention, they have the best tips you will ever get, because they hold all the insider secrets. While talking with that same cast member at the Circus Train ride, we asked which cart was the best, and he told us the back one is definitely the best. Why? It faces both front and back, is an open cart but still has a top to provide shade. Don't miss out, strike up a conversation and get to know these awesome people.

10.  Best Seating for Parades and World of Color/Fantasmic Shows
We didn't get to see the parade as Disneyland, but we did catch the Pixar Parade at C.A. and that was the favorite part of the day for my kids. Seriously, I have a video of my daughter screaming and dancing around during almost the entire show. This is a great place to see all of your/their favorite characters, and it's a great time to catch a breather in-between all the running around. If parades or shows aren't your jive, then I suggest using this time to catch all your favorite rides because the lines will be shorter since most of the people will be gone watching the show.

Although we didn't actually get to see the Soundsational Parade as Disneyland, I do have to say that we had the best seating for it! Thanks to OverTheBigMoon, Pam and Lisa wrote that the best seating for that parade is the alley strip between the Castle and the Matterhorn, and they were right! The road is very narrow right there, so there isn't a lot of room for people to stack up front and behind one another. This area also has a lot of tall bushes, and trees, and benches which meant that we could put the kids on a blanket in front of a bench so they had prime viewing space, and we sat on the bench behind them and relaxed in the shade. It would've been better if we had actually SEEN the parade, but I was pretty excited about finding this awesome spot none the less.

And for the Pixar Parade at California Adventure, my mom grabbed a bench on the corner of Buena Vista Street just after turning towards Hollywood land, and it was perfect!! Both parades were scheduled at around 3-4PM, and both of these spots are perfect if you're needing to stay out of the sun. These benches were placed perfectly under the shade of the palm trees that lined the street in Hollywood Land, and allowed the kids to sit on the curb right in front of us and get a perfect view of the parade, while the adults had a comfortable spot to sit down and relax for a while.
DLRPrep has a great blog with all the details about the parades, including Paint the Night (which I have no idea about that one, but it looks really cool!)

A word to the wise however, GET THERE EARLY and be prepared to fight for your space. My mom said that while waiting for me to get back from getting a signature with my daughter, people were constantly asking her if the seat was taken, and she had to basically fight them off with a stick! My suggestion would be to get there 45 minutes to an hour early, and take that extra time to eat and relax. People will start filling in about 30 minutes before, and the seating options will disappear quickly so it was worth it to us to get there early. Bring a light blanket or sheet with you to help save your spot, this will help to keep people from squishing in next to you or taking your space while you're not looking. If you have kids, make sure to bring some bubbles to help kill the time. This is one of those toys that never gets old, and I bet your kids will even make a few friends while you're waiting (because who doesn't love bubbles!?) ... which will make their day even more special.

World of Color is almost impossible to see or enjoy unless you get a FastPass that puts you up at the front. The Blue and Yellow sections are the best ones as far as I can tell (without having to pay extra for special dining seating) and the earlier you get your FastPass, the better your seating will be. Now, even if you get your FastPass, I would plan on getting there an hour early. Plan on sending your group through the line with a sheet or blanket to save a spot while someone else from the group grabs dinner (that is, if you didn't pack one) This way you can do the same as the parade, you can take 20 minutes to relax and eat your meal, and then spend the last 20 minutes cracking open glowstick (keep reading for that tip) or playing games.

We had a Blue section FastPass but didn't get in line until 30 minutes before the show, and by the time we got there, the blue section was already full so they sent us to the next closest section (which was already filled to the rim as well) and we found ourselves at the very back and our kids could hardly see what was happening. We put them up on our shoulders, but they were pretty sick of that within the first 10 minutes so we didn't stay to the end of the show. I can't wait to go see it again, but it looked SO COOL and I think the kids would've loved it if we'd had better seating.


11. (yes I have more than 10 tips, are you surprised? Come on! This is me we're talking about!)  Be Patient and Believe In The Magic.

Now this tip is not exactly like the other tips obviously, this one is for your state of mind. My husband and I talked afterwards and we had come to the conclusion that we had expected A LOT out of Disneyland and were really disappointed that first day when it didn't go our way. And the next day, when we pulled into the parking garage and there were 17 school buses ahead of us (apparently it was graduate day?! FACE PALM.) we were on the brink of frustration and a nervous break down. But after going through all that stress I gotta tell you, if you are bringing your kids, please remember to be patient with whatever the day throws at you.

You will probably be frustrated if there is a huge line of school buses when you pull into the parking lot, but your kids won't even notice. You will probably be crushed if the parade is canceled last second, but your kids won't know the difference. You know why? Because they are looking for magic wherever they can find it, and they aren't looking at the negatives.

If you change your focus to the cool things that are happening around you, I promise you will have a great experience. Don't worry about that tantrum that your child is having in the middle of a crowd... take a deep breath and do your best to turn the day around. Disneyland is an investment, both of your time and your money. So make sure to do your best to stay calm and  make the most of your day. And if you can, maybe walk into the park knowing that it WILL be magical, and it WON'T be perfect...that will help you brace yourself for anything that might not go according to plan. Commit to the state of mind just like the cast member do everyday, and you will find that no matter what the day brings, you will find some of that good ol' Disneyland magic.

The next tips are all related to bringing your munchkins to Disneyland, and are all GENIUS if I do say so myself.

12. Bring A Stroller. Not your wimpy light weight stroller, your MONDO HULK SIZED stroller, and pack it for the apocalypse. Bring ponchos, Tylenol, a light weight blanket, hand sanitizer, and everything else you might need. Because even if you're staying at a resort nearby, you won't want to waste time walking back and forth from the park to your hotel to pick up that extra something, or having the kids take a nap. You won't want to leave, so make the stroller ready for nap times and pack it for emergency cuts or headaches. This next tip also goes together with the stroller tip....If you bring a stroller, BUY A BALLOON. Not joking, this was the best purchase of our day. A distinct balloon tied to your stroller will save you so much time finding it in the sea of people and other strollers. If we ever got separated in the crowd, it was easy to catch up because we could see the balloon. When I took the kids on the ride at Pirates and left the stroller behind, my hubbs (who had just finished a different ride nearby) knew where we were because he saw the balloon and stroller right away. When my daughter and I were trying to meet back up with the group to catch the parade, no one could hear their phone ringing, and we were looking for them among thousands of people lining the streets. The only way we found them? We looked for the balloon, and found them within minutes. BUY A BALLOON, and pick one of the not so popular colors. They were also selling Olaf balloons and those were everywhere so steer clear of the popular kinds. Yes it's 8 bucks, but the balloon lasted us the entire week, and that included getting a small hole in it on the first day which I covered with a piece of tape, and it just kept on going strong.

13. Bring A Small Backpack with a large ziploc bag inside it. (for your phones so they never get wet on the water rides or if it rains) This bag is a place to put all your essentials and take them on the ride with you. We never had a problem with theft, but just to be sure we packed our wallets, phones, keys, tickets, a few diapers and wipes in the backpack and took it with us on every ride and it became really handy.

14. Bring a Small Bag of DumDum Suckers and Wipes. Whenever we were in a long line and the kids were getting frustrated, we pulled out a sucker and it kept them happy for several minutes before we had to wipe them down and give them another. Happy kids make sane parents. I also put these suckers in our small essentials backpack, that way I always had it with me while we were waiting in line for a ride.

15. Buy Several Large Carabiners (aka Mommy Hook), and hang everything that you can (safely!) on your stroller. We stuffed our stroller basket with blankets and coats, and then hung the cooler bag to the center of the main frame (in order to keep the weight centered for safety) and hung our light weight diaper bag to the handle bars and each kid brought their own backpack and I hung those from each side of the stroller. This made it way easier to keep things organized and separate, and we didn't end up having to dig through everything from the stroller basket to retrieve one item. I will put a short clip about this because when you pack like I do (for the apocalypse) you need to stay organized.

16. Bring Hand Sanitizer, and keep it handy. We bought this little guy, and kept it attached to our essentials bag and used it after each ride or before we ate anything. None of us got sick, and I seriously think a huge part of that is just keeping your hands clean, and keeping your kids from licking the sidewalk. Good luck with that last one, I can't say that I was entirely successful with it.




17. Grab Some Glow Sticks At The Dollar Store,
even if you don't plan on staying until dark.
There were so many rides that the lines wind into dark buildings like Star Tours, or Pirates, or (heaven forbid you take your kids) the Haunted Mansion. These glow sticks were awesome to have not only at night while all the light up toys were out, but also while we were standing in line at Indiana Jones or on the Pirates ride. We actually didn't use them while the kids were with us, I pulled the remainder of my stash out while we were in the park on our adult only day, and us adults had a blast with them like we were little kids again. I found a cylinder container of 20 glowstick bracelets for $1.00 at the dollar store, and we had a ridiculous amount of fun with them. And throughout the rest of the night, we had fun giving them out to little kids we passed that were scared to go on a ride, or sad that they had to go home and it seemed like it made their day :) Don't spend money on the huge necklaces though, they are bulky and if you bend them at all then they crack early and won't work when you need them. Spend 5 bucks on 100 bracelets and if your daughter wants a crown or necklace, just connect them together. We spent most of our time while waiting in lines creating different looks with our cool bracelets, making crowns, or belts or funky necklaces. Not just for kids!

18. Bring Your Own Frozen Water Bottles. Go to Costco and spend 4 bucks on a case of water bottles and freeze a bunch of them the night before. I recommend maybe 1 for every person going. These will keep the rest of your cooler bag cold all day, and you can drink the cold water as it melts, and then refill it at the water fountains as you need.

19. If your main gadget for getting pictures and videos of your kids at the park is your phone, then go Splurge On A Portable Charger.
Lot of blogs listed different places where you can find an outlet to charge your phone...but seriously, that is ridiculous. Don't waste time sitting next to a light pole in order to charge your phone. If you plan on taking as many pictures as I did, then you will definitely need some extra juice to keep your device going. This little portable guy will give you an extra 50% or more battery life and it's so light weight that you can plug it in anywhere you need it. You can also save battery life by turning off wifi and bluetooth, decreasing the brightness of your screen, and switching your phone from vibrate to sound and turning the volume down to the softest setting.


20. Bring One Bag for Each Child You Bring With You.

If your kids are little enough that you need to pack an extra pair of clothes or diapers, bring a separate bag for each of them. Seriously!
I know that it sounds like it's going to be a lot to carry, but if you look at my video for how to pack your stroller (tip#15 above), you will find that it's much easier to separate the items you use for each kid, than to stuff them all into the basket of your stroller and have to dig through a huge mess to find one tiny thing. We used the 5.00 dollar backpacks we found at Walmart, and hung each of them on the sides of the stroller where they could keep their water bottle, baseball hat, change of clothes or diapers, and any extra goodies in. This way if I needed to take my daughter to a separate ride, to the bathroom or to see visit a character, I un-clipped her bag and took it with us without having to unpack the diaper bag to find what I needed for her.

21. Use the Rider Swap Option, and Send One Parent In The Line Separately So Your Kids Can Ride Twice.
We learned on our first ride in California Adventure, that it is a GREAT idea to send one parent into the line maybe 5-15 minutes after the rest of your group when you have little kids. This gave the kids a chance to go through the ride, and by the time they got off, the other parent had made it to the front of the line and was waiting for them to hop right back on. What you need to do is tell a character worker when you get to the front that you are waiting for the rest of your group to join you, and that there are little babies/kids in the group. They will tell you to have your group come up through the FastPass lane, or exit to join you. They won't allow line jumping or saving unless you have as least half of your party with you UNLESS you have little kids or babies in your group because they understand how hard it is for little ones to wait!

For the rides that won't allow kids of a certain height to join you, make sure to ask the first character worker you see at the beginning of the ride line for a RiderSwap pass. Tell them that you have little ones waiting for another person from your party and they will give you a RiderSwap pass that will allow the person who is waiting with your kids to come through the FastPass lane with one other person (so you're not riding alone) and you can use this pass at any time, unlike FastPasses that you can only use during your dedicated ticket time. This was great if the majority of your kids can ride, except for your youngest, or a baby...one person hangs back and rides after you switch places, plus you get to take an extra person on the ride for a 2nd time! Pretty neat! If for some reason the ride's FastPass lane is closed, take your RiderSwap pass and go up through the exit and give it to a character worker.

22. Leave Souvenirs Until the End of the Day.
If you plan on spending some money on souvenirs for your kids (or yourself), try to wait to buy them until the end of the day. There is the Emporium store on Main Street in Disneyland, and they carry almost everything that you will find in the rest of the park. So tell your munchkins that they can look as much as they want, and then decide on what they want to buy when you visit the Emporium on your way out of the park. They keep the emporium open for a little while after the park closes the rides, so you won't have to use precious park time shopping for souvenirs. If you child finds a toy that they want earlier in the day, make sure to check with a cast member to confirm that they carry that particular item in the emporium. If they don't have that specific item and your kid is convinced that they want that toy above all other toys...stick it in their backpack so it doesn't get lost and you won't have to carry it around all day. (That is...if you followed tip #15 and hooked your backpack to your stroller.)

23. Bring a Helper, Grandparent, or Nanny.
Since this was my first trip to Disneyland in YEARS, I wanted to have a day in the park without having to juggle the kids around. I know, it's selfish, but I've been dreaming of this vacation for so long and I wanted to experience the side of Disneyland that was made of thrills and yummy treats, and frankly I think it's hard to experience both the kid side of Disneyland and also the adult side.

So I ask my mom if she would come on the vacation with us, and help out with the munchkins. I offered to pay for her airfare, park tickets, and food but she said she was just thrilled to have time to spend with her grandbabies...isn't she great!? So we took 2 days (1 day for each park, no hopper) and spent the entire day doing everything around what the kids wanted to do and see. We didn't try to use the RiderSwap too much because if the kids couldn't go on it, we weren't interested in going either. We had an extremely filled day at California Adventure, and didn't have much more time that we could've squeezed in adult themed rides or activities.

Then on the last day before heading home, my mom stayed at the condo with our munchkins and my hubbs, myself and my brother and sister-in-law visited the park on our own and spent the whole day running around the park and getting on as many rides as we could fit in. We ended up going on 18 different rides throughout the day, and on some of those rides we went several times in a row if the lines weren't too long. It was so great to spend an entire day focusing on the kids and then spending another day with my hunny husband and getting to take a break from my kids.

My mom was such a huge help, and we couldn't have done it without her! If you don't have the option to take a grandparent or aunt/uncle to help, I would seriously consider budgeting for a nanny or babysitter to come along with you. The extra hands in the park were very helpful, and with 3 little ones, I can't imagine what it would've been like to be out numbered.

24. Sharpie Your Info On Your Kids.
You think it will never happen to you, you think that because you have an equal number of adults to children there is no way you will loose track of someone, but I'm here to tell you that IT CAN HAPPEN. It happened to us, and it was a terrifying 5 minutes of our lives.

We stopped just outside of the Monsters Inc ride, and I told my husband I was going to grab a cup of hot water from a food vendor cart so I could make a bottle for our youngest. So the group walked into the ride and I left and walked around the corner to find some water. My son must have wanted to come with me, and wandered away from my husband and my mom and GOT LOST. After realizing he was gone, it took me less than 30 seconds to grab a cast member, have them contact security and give them a picture and detailed description of what he was wearing. We found him around the corner from the ride crying. Apparently he had fallen down and cut his lip and started crying and the people aroun him noticed that there was no parent around to comfort him...Seriously we were lucky. As soon as he was back in my arms, I grabbed a permanent marker and  wrote down "If Lost, call (my cell #) on each of their arms.

Use a permanent market to write down your contact info, then cover it with some skin shield that you can pick up at the drug store, let it dry and it should last all day, even through the sweat and water.  Do this before you enter the park just to keep your mind at ease, but make sure to not write down their names with your phone number. Predators can use this pull your kids away from your group by calling them by their names, and your kids will not understand the difference between a stranger and a "friend of your mom." Has anyone seen this video about kids walking away from their parents at the playground during a social experiment? Yes it can happen, so do what you can to keep your kids safe. Sorry to go so dark, but it can happen to anyone so better safe than sorry.

On a happy note...here is my last tip!

As you can see, our reservation was so late at night that my
youngest didn't make it through the car ride to the restaurant.
25. Character Dinners.
I have a mixed feeling about character dinners, but my hubbs thinks that it's worth mentioning to those who have little ones that are set on seeing certain characters during your trip. We spent BIG BUCKS (like $40 a person...OUCH) for dinner at Goofy's Kitchen (which is buffet style) and we were expecting to see at least 5 different characters. But the only reservation they had left for that day was at 8:45PM so our kids were lucky to be awake at that point. Plus they closed so soon after we got there that there were only 3 characters still visiting. They also have character dinners at Ariel's Grotto if you've got a little princess of your own, and I've heard amazing things about that. It's a great way to get pictures and one on one time with all the princesses, and you don't have to wait in line to see them, they come to each table and visit each child. We ended up taking the last reservation which happened to be on Mother's Day...so I think if we had booked it earlier we would've really enjoyed it. I liked the idea of visiting Goofy's Kitchen on a day we weren't visiting the park, because we could see characters without using park time to do it and there were no lines to see them. Most of the character dining options are expensive, but the food at the buffet was kid friendly (peanut butter and jam pizza) and also adult friendly (scalloped potatoes and salmon that was de-lish!!!) As always, call the Disney hotline to get info on how to make reservations, and which restaurant to visit to see your favorite characters.

Wow you must be dedicated....Seriously you deserve some serious kudos if you read all the way through my list...that was a lot of stuff. And believe it or not, there is still a TON of stuff that I didn't list because quite honestly, there are lot of other bloggers who have already done that work for me, and they cover it in quite a bit more detail. Whether it's your first time, or your first time with kids, or it's been years since you're last trip, these are the top 3 blogs I would recommend when planning your trip to Disneyland.

Jordan from Fun Cheap or Free  * Pam and Lisa with OvertheBigMoon  * and the mother of all Disneyland blogs is with Casey at Disneyland Resort Prep School

I hope that you've found these tips useful and that your next trip to Disneyland is (mostly) stress free and full of magic. If you have any questions or feedback please make sure to leave a comment! Thanks for reading!

6 comments:

  1. What an awesome blog. Seriously, you covered everything! One of my favorite memories of the trip was when we pulled the stroller out of the car and you explained everything inside as you attached it on. Your hubby turned to me and said, admiringly, "She's like a superhero mixed with Mary Poppins!"

    There was one piece of advice your hubby gave the day you were so disappointed that should be noted... "There's never going to be a truly perfect day." But I have to say that you truly did everything in your power to get darn close.

    These tips are golden. Great job hon. Love, Nana.

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  2. Absolutely amazing!! Great post my dear!

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    1. Thank you darling girl! Now I need to use these tips for the next time we go to Disneyland with you!!!

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  3. Thanks you! So excited about going . going to try an use as many if ur tips as possible

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  4. Thanks you! So excited about going . going to try an use as many if ur tips as possible

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    1. You are so welcome, and I hope you had a wonderful trip!!

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