I’m a Disney person, through and through. In college I was a dancer in the Electrical Parade, and at that point it was my favorite thing I had ever done in my whole life — a literal dream come true. To this day, it’s probably still in my top 5. I still go to Disneyland every chance I get (I consider myself quite the Disney tour guide, if you ever need a park buddy 😉 ), and now with kids it’s even sweeter. We recently took a trip to Disneyland and Disney’s California Adventure with Hank and Maggie, so I thought I’d share a few photos and our best tricks for how to do Disneyland with a baby and a toddler.
Plan Ahead First of all, you’ve gotta know your kids. You’ve got to have a plan for what you’d like to see and do in the park. We know Henry is over the moon for the Cars gang, so we hit California Adventure first and covered all of Radiator Springs. Maggie took her morning nap in her stroller with me while Ryan and Henry tackled a few rides. Maybe your kid is totally into the classic Disney movies. So make a beeline to Fantasyland first thing. Check out the parade schedules, entertainment schedules, and when or where to find their favorite characters. You can download the Disneyland app and it will tell you all that and more. Make a plan for what will work for your family — you know them best.
Bring the Essentials It pays to be prepared. But it doesn’t pay to bring so much junk that you can’t comfortably maneuver around the parks. We brought a single stroller and a carrier, and the kids switched off all day. Other things to consider: wipes, sunscreen, water bottles for everyone, snacks, a light muslin blanket (to cover the stroller, or use as a towel, or sit on for the parades), an extra charge for your phone (ours both died from taking too many photos).
Use the Facilities Disneyland offers a Baby Care Station in every park. It’s rad — nursing chairs, changing areas, high chairs, a kitchen, a little store with baby supplies. We ended up not needing it because Maggie was doing great out and about. But if you have tiny ones, this place could be a lifesaver.
Get a Nap In Y’all, you have to know where to nap at Disneyland. Our kids for sure need one good nap in the middle of the day, and there are some good secret spots that you can take one. We used the lobby of the Grand Californian Hotel. It’s quiet and peaceful with lots of armchairs and couches. Another great spot? The Animation building in California Adventure. And in a pinch, Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln.
Leverage the Rides After the morning in Radiator Springs, we spent most of our time in Toontown, Fantasyland, and Tomorrowland. But we also wanted to get back over to California Adventure later in the day for the Pixar parade. If you need to get back and forth easily, use the Monorail or the Disneyland train to get around the park. It’s way easier than walking from the back end of Disneyland all the way out (I just mapped it — it’s a half-mile). And to the kids, it’s another exciting ride.
Lower Your Expecations Pre-kids, Ryan and I would dominate Disneyland. We would be there from opening to closing and never stop moving. Post-kids, we have much lower expectations. We arrive on their schedules and leave somewhere around bedtime. With a baby and a toddler, you’re in the parks for them and the things that they love. So set aside your dreams of Indiana Jones and get excited about the Dumbo ride. (Which, by the way, is one of the best rides in the park.)
Don’t Push This is one I have to remind myself of often: to a kid, even one ride or one character meeting means the world. So if you don’t do every single thing you’d hoped to do in the park, don’t sweat it. The kids are having the time of their lives. Let them look around and explore and give them time to soak it all in. It’ll make for a more relaxed day than if you push and push and try to get them pumped about every single moment. Lay back. Watch their little faces light up. Let them decide what to do next. It’s a magical place, and the more you let them discover that for themselves, the better.
We were graciously provided two one-day Park Hopper passes from the Disneyland Resort to create this post. All opinions and ideas are my very own.