I know, I know. With a title like that, I sound like a privileged brat who doesn’t notice the blessing that’s right under her nose. I mean, how many people are dying to a) Just have children (that was us not that long ago), or, B) be able to afford a trip to Disneyland?
I’m grateful, truly I am. That being said, taking two such young children to Disneyland is no piece of cake. I wrote out some tips below for taking small children to Disneyland that I want to remember in the future. And maybe if you’ve got little kids and are planning a similar trip, this post will be a blessing to you too!
1. In all seriousness: Consider delaying your trip. If your children are like ours — both under 2 years old — then I suggest waiting a year or two. We went to Disneyland because my sister and her family are here for a short time in the U.S. and we didn’t want to miss out on a family vacation with them before their kids are all grown up. That is the ONLY reason we went. We didn’t plan this trip for our kiddos (sorry, kids). At their age and stage, smaller scale trips (like to a train museum or a pumpkin patch) are much more their speed.
2. You’re still reading, so I’m guessing this means you’re convinced you need a trip to Disneyland. That’s great! Now you need to decide if you want to drive or fly. Both of our kids are prone to crying/screaming in the car. Our littlest is 5 months old and nurses every 2.5-3 hours except at night. So 8-9 hours (not including needing to stop and nurse Rachel) of driving to Disneyland seemed like a terrible idea. If your kid loves the car, then by all means– drive! Driving all night is also an option because the kids are sleeping, but probably not a safe option for us. We chose the more expensive route and decided to fly and rent a car. This became stressful when we realized we’d have to bring: 2 port a cribs, 1 double stroller, 2 car seats, 1-2 diaper bags, plus all of our clothes/diapers/burp clothes/sippy cups, toiletries, etc. We spent a LOT of time on the TSA and Jet Blue websites trying to figure out what was allowed as far as liquids, and what wasn’t included in our plane fare (we had to pay $20 to check a bag that was 1 inch too large to be a carry-on). Most airlines have special allowances for babies/toddlers so be sure to check that out.
3. If you fly, have a plan for getting through security with all your items and children. I got picked by TSA for a full pat down (yay, me) and both kids were crying at the time. If we hadn’t had help, my husband would have had to go through security with all our luggage, stroller (which they wanted collapsed) and our upset children while I was away not enjoying the pat down. With help it was still a stressful situation. Without help, I probably would have had my own personal meltdown.
4. Which leads me to this: BRING HELP! This is of utmost importance. Invite your family or friends to come along and give you a hand. My parents and little sister flew with us both directions (I asked for this specifically). And although we walked to the parks alone, we were almost always quickly joined by various family members. I don’t know how we would have managed without their help. I’m not kidding. At one point my husband was in line somewhere in the park buying us breakfast, and I was at the entrance of Toon Town nursing Rachel on a bench and verbally talking with Josh to encourage him to stay near me. He was obeying for the most part, but it wasn’t a good situation. Thankfully, a Disneyland worker came up and voluntarily stayed nearby to help corral Josh until my family members arrived.
5. Have low expectations. My goal was to do half days at the parks. On the first day we went for the morning and then came back to the house for naps mid-day. We returned for a couple of hours in the evening and Josh suddenly snapped and had an epic meltdown– which is crazy high-pitched screaming for 10 minutes (it’s never fun when strangers are shielding their ears from the screaming). We learned from that experience, and the next day we just went for a couple of hours in the morning. Josh had a blast playing at the house and Rachel napped well. After the kids went to bed, my mom graciously baby sat and hubby and I went back for a few hours to enjoy some rides.
6. Take a good stroller. There’s a ton of walking involved on trips like these, such as: Getting to your gate at the airport, walking from the hotel or house to the park (our walk was 1.7 miles each way), and not to mention walking around the parks. Bring a stroller that has reclining seats so that your children can nap in it. We took a double Bob stroller and never had to collapse it once while at the parks. Don’t be afraid to take your nice, expensive stroller. There are expensive strollers everywhere you look at Disneyland! They are also parked everywhere unattended while people go on rides. Just bring your valuables with you.
(On a side note, Disneyland does rent single strollers for $15/day. We opted not to go that route because we would have had to rent two strollers, they don’t recline, and the word on the street was that they’re hard and uncomfortable.)
7. Have your diaper bag situation down to an exact science. Hubby and I did. We each took a back pack, and each of us had a ziplock bag with wipes, ointment and diapers for both children. We weren’t sure if we’d always be together at any given point in time, so we were both prepared to change diapers. In my backpack I also had my wallet, spare change of clothes for Rachel, burp cloths, two lightweight large blankets (for swaddling/shade), hats for both kids, spare pacifiers (for meltdowns), snacks galore, sippy cup, nursing cover, sunblock, and water for me. If you’re looking for a nice diaper bag that’s also a backpack, here’s the one I have (and recommend!).
8. Avoid rides with long lines at all costs. For an almost two year old, waiting in line is equivalent to getting your teeth pulled. Stick with rides that have a 5 minute wait time!
9. Download the Glympse and the Disneyland app before you go (both free). I hadn’t heard about Glympse before this trip, but it’s is basically using your phone as a tracking device (when you decide to share your location) so that you and your family members can see where the other is at at any given time. Obviously not everyone wanted to go on toddler rides, so we split up a lot. It was easy to tell when a ride was over or if a person was still waiting in line using the app. The Disneyland app was invaluable because it had live wait times for each ride in both parks. Great information to know before making a trek across the park!
10. Review rides before you go. Make sure they are appropriate for your baby/toddler. I literally watched YouTube videos of rides before we went, because several toddler rides at Disneyland have scary themes! If they don’t have scary content, they are at a minimum very loud and overstimulating. Rachel cried during The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh at one point because it was scary and loud for her (Josh did okay). Both did fine on It’s a Small World. Our kids don’t have much exposure to TV (Rachel has none) so we definitely took that into consideration when choosing what rides they could go on.
11. Even if you’re like us and your child has had a meltdown before even entering the park, try to recover and have an upbeat attitude (not something I’m gifted at). Look around and realize that children are melting down everywhere, at all times of the day. You’re not alone, and you’re not the only crazy one to take such little children to Disneyland. (All I had to do was just be thankful that I wasn’t pregnant at the time, because that would have made the trip about 100x harder!) Perspective is everything. 🙂