How to Survive at Disneyland with a Toddler

When the Warden and I decided to go on a family vacation and we chose Disneyland, everyone thought we were crazy! I mean who in their right mind would go to Disneyland with a 18 month toddler while they are 6 1/2 months pregnant. I guess at first we were a little worried but decided to go against everyone's advise and we just went for it. We first flew into San Diego and explored the city. Than after a couple of days there we drove to Anaheim and started our Disney adventure. The smiles and memories that we created through out our entire trip was priceless, and even though we are exhausted we would do it over and over again. However this trip wouldn't have been very stressful if we didn't do a lot of planning and research about the happiest place on earth. So here are all of our tips that worked for us in navigating Disneyland.

 The Disney park is opened from 8 am to 12 am. We got to the park for 7:30 am to get close parking and scope out the scene. Once we parked and took the tram into the front gates  and lined up for our tickets. Tickets to the park are pretty expensive, so the question is what type of tickets to get? We knew that the park is huge and it was impossible for us to do it all in one day so we opted for the 2 day pass (at $199 per person). We planned to first visit Disneyland Park (and Disney California Adventure on day 2), because it is more kid friendly where 70% of the rides Mase was able to go on. You could also get something called park hopper ($45 extra per person), which gives you the ability to jump from one park to the other. Good news is that you don't have to decide right away as yo can do the upgrade at anytime. And another plus is that kids under 3 years old gets in to Disneyland for free.
When you get there early the parks may not be opened but Downtown Disney (filled with shops and restaurants) is; so I suggest that you get your caffeine fix there before you endure your long day. Be aware that the lines for Starbucks within the parks are big right at 8 am; so save yourself the headache of waiting in another line and get your coffee at Downtown Disney.
Another bonus on going to the park early is that you are able to take pictures at all of the major landmarks (like in front of Cinderella's castle and the front gates) without huge crowds of people fighting for the same picture.

There are many rides that are fan favorites which have a long wait time, and Mase is pretty young so he couldn't go on all of the rides. That's why the Disneyland app was great for us as we used it to set our guidelines as to which rides we would wait for and which ones to skip. The night before we figured out the different rides and different sections of the park we would explore by how many rides Mase can go on in day with the allotted wait times that the park provided, so no time wasted.
For the popular rides there is also something called Fastpass; where you scan your admission ticket to get another ticket and it gives you a time-frame for you to come back where you stand in a shorter line. This really works and saves time so take advantage of it; for example we would go to a less busier ride with a shorter line (like the Tea Cup or King Author's Carousal) and the other parent would go get the fast pass for a more popular ride with a bigger line (like Roger Rabbit Car Toon Ride). However not all rides offers Fastpass only the ones that are most popular, check the app to find them.
Lastly the app is also very useful when you need to find a bathroom or a diaper changing area close to you. There are at least 2 nursing areas where you can go and get your kids cleaned up instead of in the middle of the park or in the public bathroom. Much more comfortable.

Ladies leave your designer purses at home because it will get in the way. When you go on rides there are stroller parking available to park your stroller as you wait in the lines. So whatever you leave in your stroller it could get stolen, and that's why carrying a back pack to hold all of your valuables is key in this situation. Not only does it leave your 2 hands free to attend to your toddler, it is also easy to carry around. But remember DO NOT over pack the bag as you will be carrying it all day and you don't want it to break your back. We carried one backpack for our phones wallets and essentials for Mason (like diapers, wipes, changing pads,  water and snacks), and that was it!  

We decided not to stay in the park but at an Airbnb very close by (literally a 5 minute drive) because we wanted to be able to leave the park sometimes and have our own space. We also wanted 2 rooms, so Mason could have his own room and we wouldn't have to co-sleep with him, and ruin his normal habits when we got home. This also came in handy when it came to nap time, as he was able to sleep in his own room and we would have mommy and daddy time in ours. Plus the Airbnb was much cheaper to get a 2 bedroom condo than 1 hotel room in Disneyland.
As for meal times, we would have breakfast at the park because we would get there so early and have no time to eat at our condo. Than for lunch we would go back to our Airbnb where we would all eat and Mase would take his nap. Once Mase woke up we would go back to the park have dinner and stay for the rest of the night. With this schedule we were able to do more at the park and not feel rushed. I also brought a lot of snacks for Mase for when he got restless while we waited in line or was walking around the park. This kept him calm and prevented him from throwing temper tantrums. Trust me having that apple or food pouch really made a difference while we were waiting in lines.

We went to Disneyland at the beginning of the summer so it was very hot! The sun really came down at you and the only way to keep going was staying hydrated. The parks lets you bring your own bottles of waters in, so don't forget to bring one cause you will need it after all of the walking you will be doing. There are also water filling stations and fountains everywhere so its easy to re-up. But one thing that people may not know is that all of the restaurants in the park will give you free ice water without the need to purchase anything, so take advantage of it!

We didn't try to see all of the characters only the ones that Mase already knew from watching on TV; like Mickey and Goofy. We used the app to find them and waited in line for around 10 to 15 minutes to take pictures and say hi.
Another way of meeting some of the characters is by having breakfast or dinner with the characters. We had dinner at Goofy's Kitchen where Mickey, Minni, Goofy and Pluto were all there. All of the characters interacted with all of the tables more than one time so it was worth going (and Mase loved it). If you do decide to do this make sure you book one day in advance as they book up really fast. The dinner was a buffet and it cost us $60 per person (kids under 3 years old eat for free).

These are the memories and laughter that will last with us forever. We had the best time and so glad we did it! Hope our tips and tricks will help you for your next visit to the happiest place on earth!


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