Remember back when I went to Disney World when Evelyn was a baby and I said, “Taking babies to Disney World sucks, don’t do it”? Well…Oops, I did it again. And boy did I learn a lot.
This time we went to Disneyland instead of Disney World, so smaller area to cover, less overwhelming right? Wrong. The toddler was a lot more work than the baby on this vacation.
Evelyn is almost 3 and Remington is 9 months. Why was she harder? She doesn’t take naps in the stroller. She wants to run around. She can voice her opinions. Rem will just sleep. Which is awesome.
We bought a three day ticket, non park hopper. My plan of attack was to get to Disneyland when it opens to beat the bulk of the crowd and it worked really well. The first day we were there from about 8:30am to 8pm. Both kids were SO ready for bed by the time we made it back to our hotel. However, in trying to replicate the “get there early” plan for day 2, there was a lot of crying and whining and general tantrums. We had to actually wake Evelyn up to go to the park and she was really enjoying her sleep. We left the park early on day 2, around 4 pm and figured day 3 would be even shorter and more low key. I think we spent a grand total of 3 hours in the park on day 3. Totally worth the hundreds of dollars we spent on the tickets. And I didn’t even get a corn dog. But I digress.
In retrospect, these are my tips for planning a Disney trip with a toddler:
I genuinely enjoy planning Disney trips. I like to pick out the restaurants I want to go to and figure out where we’ll need fastpasses and decide what part of the park we’ll start at and where we’ll end up. This is really helpful to make the most of your time there. It will keep you from going back and forth all over the park all day. A little research on the best restaurants in each area of the park will help you decide where to eat whenever hunger hits you.
If there are characters your kids want to meet, it’s definitely easiest when you are one of the first in line and you don’t have to wait forever. Look up the schedules online and plan around that.
Buy Souvenirs Beforehand
A couple of weeks before our trip, I hit up Target, Walmart and even Dollar Tree, to stock up on souvenirs for the trip. It worked out so perfectly! They were great bribery (Don’t cry, have a toy) I wasn’t sad when they got lost (That Elsa keychain only cost a dollar, so no big deal that you dropped it within seconds of me handing it to you.) And when she did decide to wander through one of the shops and found a stuffed Elsa she just had to have, I coerced her back to the stroller and handed her one from the backpack that I picked up at the Disney Store on sale before the trip.
We also brought her princess dresses along with us and she had the option of changing outfits whenever she wanted throughout the day. Especially since we could put everything in the stroller and didn’t actually have to carry anything.
Get there Early/Leave Early
One of the best things we did was get to the park around opening. Most people on vacation want to sleep in (believe me, we did too) but by getting there early, we got to grab fast passes for the faster roller coasters for later in the day and hit a bunch of the little kid rides while they still had short lines.
We were like 5th in line to see Elsa, 2nd in line to meet Aurora, and 2nd in line to meet Minnie Those line went much more smoothly than the 45 minutes we waited to see Snow White, Cinderella, and Ariel, or even Mickey (even though the Mickey line is pretty fun).
The only thing we should have done differently is not stayed so late. If we had shorter days, I’m sure the subsequent days wouldn’t have been so bad.
Use Rider Swap
Oh my goodness, rider swap. Such a magical way to work the system without actually working the system. The idea of rider swap is that for any ride with a height requirement, one parent can wait in line, get a rider swap pass which they can give to the other parent which allows them (and up to 2 guests) to go to the fast pass line.
Now for the best way to use it to your advantage: It’s really best if you have a third adult with you who can help watch the kids, and therefore 3 tickets to use to get fast passes. You really only need one fast pass for each ride since your rider swap pass can get three people into the fast pass line. SO get one fast pass ticket and that person rides alone and gets a rider swap pass. Then, they give the pass to the other two people who head straight through the fast pass line. You can have three fast passes for three different rides at the same time. Get it? It’s so great! We hardly had to wait it any lines.
It works really well in California adventure where some of the adult rides and kid rides are intertwined. So whoever is watching kids can take them on some rides or to see a character while the other people are on an adult ride. And the best part of rider swap, no expiration time.
Have a Rest Day
^^ So done right now
Evelyn was so tired on day two, I really wish we had just spent that day hanging around the hotel, watching TV and playing in the pool and then gone back to the park on the third day. It would have given us all time to rest and recoup from walking around the park all day and Evelyn would have gotten some much needed sleep.
Keep the trip short
For a toddler, something like Disneyland is SO overwhelming! It’s like too much to handle all at once. Three days was just too many in the park. Two days would have given us plenty of time to do everything. And a rest day in between would have insured minimal tantrums from sleep deprivation.
Take advantage of Play Grounds
When you have a toddler stuck in a stroller most of the day, the second you let them out, they are ready to RUN. I think Evelyn’s favorite part of the trip was the adventure trail in California Adventure. It was just a big playground with slides and tunnels and she didn’t have to wait in line for anything. Plus we could let Remi crawl around and get some energy out too.
Sidenote: It would also help if you go during a non-peak time. We didn’t really have a choice in our instance, but if you can manage it, it would make for much less lining waiting and much happier kids.
Going to Disney any time soon?? What are you doing to plan? What are you excited for?
Been with toddlers? What’s your advice??