There is nothing better than visiting Disneyland with preschool-age children. From the wonder in their eyes and the merriment they experience with the sites, sounds and tastes of the park, Disneyland is like the culmination of many toddler dreams come to life.
But of course, taking a tantrum-prone, picky eater who may still wear a diaper and nap one or more times a day to a busy, sensory overwhelming place like Disneyland can tricky.
In the past year, I spent about 15 days in the park, most of them as a guest of Disneyland. Of course, Disneyland pulls out all of the stops, from individualized tours by Disneyland employees, a behind-the-scenes look inside shows, specials places, rides and performances, and an opportunity to try most of the food, experience the parades and fireworks, I was treated to an Insider view of the park.
I am this insider information with you for the first time:
When you are packing for a day in the park, make sure to remember:
- PRO TIP: it should never have any ingredients starting oxy in it. JUST Zinc Oxide & Titanium Dioxide.
- Waters (pack as many as possible in the storage portion of your stroller)
- Snacks (you know your child best. Pick easy things they can eat while waiting in line to stave off boredom, or long waits or walks towards food. Also make sure to pack a few “special items” you can use as rewards for good behavior. I like YumEarth lollipops and candy necklaces / bracelets.
- A change of clothes. More if your child is still nursing, potty training or if it’s going to be hot out, pack two changes of clothes.
- A jacket. Disneyland is pretty far from the ocean, which means it gets chillier at night.
- Diapers and wipes.
- Hand sanitizer or hand & face wipes.
- If your child uses one, an ipad. If not, some books. Or both?
- Your camera. If you have a nice camera, I always recommend taking one. You just can’t get the same quality pictures on your phone.
- A back-up phone charger AND cable. With so many people on their devices, your phone will be constantly searching for cell towers, and drain faster.
- A stroller. My favorite for Disneyland is the BOB Gear stroller. My second is the Cosatto umbrella stroller.
- PRO TIP: Make sure you have a stroller clip for your bag and a console to put your drink and cell phone down easily.
- A backpack. Two favorites are the Jujube Be Right Back Backpack and the Petunia Pickle Bottom Pathway Backpack. Both have space for sippy cups and lots of compartments so you never lose your things.
- PRO TIP: you can also bring a smaller backpack for the more expensive items. I leave the larger one in the stroller when we got on rides, and take the smaller one with my phone, camera and keys. Jujube even makes a matching small backpack the MiniBe.
- Sippy Cups or Honest Juice (100% juice)
- Tylenol or Advil. And maybe some band-aids.
- Back up container of bubbles (see my post last week. You will be buying a bubble maker. it will run our of bubbles and your child will cry. You will then be searching for one of the small kiosks that sell bubbles for 20 minutes when all you want is a churro. So just bring the bubbles!)
Download the App Before you Get to the Park
The app will be your best friend. It tell you where you are in the park. Of course you will still get the park map. But just hand it to your child (they will love it) and use the app. It will tell you where rides and performances are located, wait times, the closest bathrooms and food, where characters are and the times of the parades and other special events.
Get to the Park As Early As Possible
The earlier you get to the park, the easier everything is. From parking, to security, food and ride lines, everything is faster and easier when the park first opens.
Ride the Most Important Ride for Your Child that Averages the Longest Line First
Whoa, what a mouthful. Think about all of your child’s favorite rides or what you think will be their favorite, and then figure out which one averages the longest line. Go to that ride first.
For preschoolers generally, that ride will be Peter Pan or Dumbo. Both average waits of about 45 minute. While It’s A Small World may have a long line, it goes very fast, especially when both boat lines are open. If the boat line on the left is open, go to that one. It almost always goes faster, unless there are a lot of disabled riders in their line.
Rides with Shorter Waits (under 30 minutes)
- King Arthur’s Carrousel
- It’s A Small World
- The Tea Cups (even when the line is “long” it moves quickly because of how many tea cups there are, and most take 2-4 people).
- All attractions in Toon Town
- All rides in California Adventure Bug’s Land
- Rides with Lines Around 30 Minutes
- Casey Junior Circus Train
- Storybook Land Canal Boats
- Alice in Wonderland
- Mr. Toad’s Wild Road
- Snow White (a little scary for kids)
Rides Only for Kids Over 2.5 Years Old
- Buzz Light Year Blaster’s
- Toy Story Mania
- Autotopia (height based, must be closer to 5 to drive the car)
- Truck and Roll’s Drive Em Bumper Cars (height based)
If You Have a Little Princess
Book an appointment at Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique in Fantasyland right past the Castle. Your little princess can choose between one of three hair styles. They get a crown, a sash, nail polish painting, some makeup and hair done. This takes about 10-15 minutes and they will shine all day afterwards.
If you have a mini knight, your child can be turned into a knight with a sword, hair style and special magic in his hair.
If The Force Is Strong In Your Child
If you have a mini Jedi, sign up for Jedi Knight training. Do this FIRST THING in the morning. Go into the park and go directly there. Do not past go. Do not collect $100. Just go sign up. Your child will be in HEAVEN! They get assigned a time slot from about 5-7 per day, and perform some tricks in costume with a light saber with surprise guests that lasts about 30 minutes.
If You Have A Frozen Fan
Go and see Frozen Live at the Hyperion! All seating is now standby (no more Fastpass) so get there early and bring snacks.
If Your Child Loves Characters or Disney Junior
Go to the character meet and greets around the park, ranging from Mickey and Minnie Mouse, Elsa and Anna, and new this summer, Super Heroes on the Backlot at California Adventure.
Best Places to Take an Instagram Photo
- The front entrance across from the ticket booths
- Inside the Park, take the entrance on the right. There is a gorgeous wall to the left right past the bridge. There is sometimes a bench there that you can push out
- In front of the entrance train station, when you are facing Main Street
- During any holiday period, in front of the pumpkin / Christmas Tree at the start of Main Street
- On Main Street
- In front of the Castle
- In front of the It’s A Small World Wall located across from the exit to the store at the end of the It’s A Small World ride
- In front of the entrance to California Adventure
- In the circle at the end of the entrance street to California Adventure
- On the boardwalk at California Adventure
- In front of the lake at California Adventure
- In front of the main entrance to the Hyperion theater
Naps can be hard at Disneyland, as no kid ever wants to miss out on the fun. So pull your stroller shade down or put your child in a carrier and pull up the hood, and walk. If it’s a hot day, go outside the park and walk through the Disneyland Grand Californian Hotel where it is cooler and dark.
If You are Napping or Potty-Training
Go visit the Baby Care Center. They have changing tables, rocking chairs with privacy to nurse, and extra essentials like diapers, wipes and even formula. There are also toddler-size potties.
And those are my insider secrets!