We just returned from our first family trip to Disneyland, and I can confidently state that Disneyland is no place for children. Let me tell you why:
- Heat and sun
- Sensory overload
- Blisters on feet
- Strategically placed toys and food that will guarantee at least one begging meltdown
Disneyland is also not a place for adults for all the aforementioned reasons. Plus, every ride is the same. Sure, they all have different themes and unique things to see, but Buzz Lightyear is the same as Roger Rabbit’s Car Toon Spin, only Buzz Lightyear has guns. Pirates of the Caribbean is the same as It’s a Small World, only Pirates has pirates.
You know I’m right.
Yet somehow, this place still manages to be completely magical, and it lives up to its claim of being “the happiest place on Earth.” I don’t know how it’s possible that in between wiping the thirtieth stain from my baby’s shirt, reapplying sticky sunscreen, adding Band-Aids on top of Band-Aids, and threatening my 4-year-old that I would most definitely march her right back to the hotel if she didn’t stop whining this instant (!), I still felt giddy, happy, and ready for more.
So even though the land of Disney is a sure disaster, if you still insist on taking your children (and I recommend you do!), here are some tips from me to you.
Snack, snack, snack it up!
To save money on food, bring in snacks. LOTS of snacks. Enough snacks that you can safely skip an expensive meal at Disneyland. We brought granola bars, fruit ropes, grapes, apples, and crackers every day. We also packed peanut butter sandwiches on squaw bread (more filling). This way, we never spent money on lunch. The grapes and apples were the best snacks because they helped fill our bellies while also quenching our thirst. And if we had a long line, we brought snacks with us through the line.
Get a hotel with a fridge and microwave
We also saved money by bringing Costco tamales. One night, we went back to the hotel and ate those with a variety of fruit. It felt great to save money, but…
Be prepared to waste money
Plain and simple, you’re going to want to eat something at the park. When the sun is beating down, that frozen lemonade stand looks mighty tempting, even though the tiny cup of lemonade costs $5.00. But sometimes, it’s just worth it.
We brought a stroller for our baby because… duh. But on Day 2 and 3, we ended up renting a stroller for our 4-year-old because this mama was ready to forget the whole blinkin’ vacation if there wasn’t a place for the whiny child (acting bored on the left in the picture below) to rest her feet. Best $15 per day I’ve ever spent. Be smarter than me, and bring enough stroller seats to fit your family.
Go with another family
We met up with Lydia’s cousin of the same age and two of her aunts on Day 2 and 3 of our trip. The cousin cut whining right in half because the two were having too much fun together to spend time whining. The aunts provided great moral support for an already weary mama (me), and provided enough adults to switch off babysitting so all four of us adults could go on rides the kiddos didn’t want to or couldn’t ride.
There are a gazillion Disneyland apps designed to help you get through lines faster. We only used Mousewait, and we were happy with it. It’s updated periodically with real-time wait times for all the rides. It’s helpful to have so you don’t have to trek all over the park to find a short line.
Hold off on the expensive character breakfasts and lunches
Wait and see how satisfied your child is with the whole Disneyland experience before you fork over the money for a character breakfast. This won’t apply to all children, but Lydia was happy just to see a few characters from a distance. There are always characters out on Main Street. She would have loved to get up close and personal, but it wasn’t a necessity. Mickey Mouse was her only request, and so we waited in the 30 minute line so she could give him a hug. (She had hoped he would share some snacks with her, and was a bit disappointed.) Mickey is a fun character to visit because his house is an attraction in and of itself.
The parade is worth it
Again, this is another chance for your kids to see the characters from a distance. Plus, it’s a relatively short parade, and it’s very entertaining. But you only need to see it once. Watch it your first night, and go on your favorite rides while everyone is lining the streets instead of the rides.
Make your kids go on a scary ride
Wait, don’t. That cute, adorable, trusting face won’t last very long.
Buy your child a souvenir on the way out
That way, you don’t have to cart it around all the livelong day. Plus, she’ll have had plenty of time to see every popular toy and make up her mind. Even if her mind is convinced she can’t survive without a cheap, plastic $15 spray bottle.