Disneyland – Tips for an easier trip!

We are big lovers of Disneyland! On a scale of 1-10, 10 being the most Disney crazy, we are probably about a 7 (and that’s pretty crazy!)  We live a 10-12 hour drive (as you know, it can take a a lot longer with kids) from Disneyland.  We have spent a total of about 25 days in the parks in the last five years.  I would go tomorrow if we could.  It pretty much is the happiest place on earth!

A word of warning: be ready to stand in line, and then stand in line some more.  Just when you think you are done standing in line (like at the end of the day and you are trying to get out of the park) guess what?  MORE LINES!!  We try to avoid this by traveling off season and going early in the week, which makes a huge difference.  A big perk of visiting in the off season are less crowds, but a big draw back is that certain attractions will be closed for maintenance (you can check on-line ahead of time to see what the refurbishment schedule is). We had amazing weather in February, and great weather when we went last January too.  It’s a little bit chilly in the mornings and evening, so starting and ending the day with a light jacket is a good idea.  I also stocked up on small emergency rain ponchos before we went.  We never had to use them for the rain, but used them on the Grizzly River Run in California Adventure!

(Above, the Haunted Mansion line)

As anyone with an active two year old knows, two year olds do not do well standing in line!  Our baby kept us running and doing anything to keep her entertained.  Having little snacks on hand while we were waiting in line did help. I had some gummy bears in my diaper bag that were for emergencies only!
(*and my husband brings her back into line for about the fifth time for that ride!)
(above, me and my big kids on Space Mountain!)
For our family, the main priority is the rides!! Take advantage of the fast pass service, it’s a great way to manage your time.  For the rides with longer waits, using your park ticket, you can get a fast pass that gives you a specific one hour window of time to return.  While you are waiting for your turn, you can go on other attractions.  When it’s your time, they have a special, shorter line you can access with your fast pass, brilliant!!! In Disneyland, you are only allowed one fast pass at a time.  At California Adventure, you can have the Cars fast pass, a reserved  space for World of Color, and an additional fast pass at the same time. If you have a child who is not big enough for the ride or sleeping, you can ask the Disney cast member at the ride for a rider switch.  This will give you a ticket to return that works like a fast pass so the parent who waits out with the stroller child gets to come back and use the fast pass line with two other guests.  Rider switches are great too because there is no time restraints!  It’s great for the older kids because they get to ride again with the other adult.
On our days in Disneyland (we did two days at Disneyland and two at California Adventure) we used lunch time to escape to Pirate Cove.  We like to bring our lunch into the parks (thankfully Disney allows this) so we just buy one meal in the parks a day.  Over the four days, this easily saved us $200.  Pirate Cove was a great little escape too.  They have a few picnic tables, where you can relax for a bit and enjoy a bite to eat, and the kids enjoy exploring the island.
Mainly for our use of time, I am a little grateful our kids are not incredibly into meeting the characters.  If we stumble upon Mickey and there is not a long line, we usually wait to say hello.  Other than that, we just wave and keep going.  Our baby enjoyed looking at Tigger from a distance and got very shy (so did Tigger!) If this is one of the reasons you come to Disneyland, then by all means stand in line, but it’s not a huge priority for us.  In Fantasyland, they had the princesses from Frozen in a special house to greet people and there was a two hour wait, AHHHHH!

 We used our phil&teds legacy explorer like a pack animal! (Thankfully the phil&teds webshop still has explorer parts & accessories available if you are looking to spruce up your buggy, so you can keep on trucking along) Our kids have now out grown the double kit, but it makes for amazing extra storage!! Having extra storage for all those bits and pieces was really helpful.

Since we also had a 10-12 hour drive home, we took a rest day after four straight days at Disney to enjoy other features of California.  We used our ASTC passport to go to a great science center, and we headed to Huntington Beach.  Our kids did not mind the little break before the drive home.
Does your family like to visit Disneyland? Share some of your helpful tips for getting the most out of the special trip!

For more of Anns awesome adventures click the links below:

Fun places to Explore with Kids: Hawaii!

About the author:

Prior to becoming a traveling opera wife and full-time mother, Ann Hinckley Stucki studied socio-cultural anthropology as an undergraduate and went on to receive her master’s degree in social work. She has worked in a variety of fields from health education, mental health/community/school social work, geriatrics, childbirth labor support, and disease prevention in Latin America. Her research pursuits have taken her from a Costa Rican/Nicaraguan border dispute to London, England to present graduate research at a Medical Anthropology conference. Additionally, she is an award-winning photographer and enjoys portrait work. She also teaches fire breathing. Brian Stucki has been singing professionally full-time for more than six years, taking his family on the road with him. He has sung with companies and orchestras from coast to coast and on three continents. Highlights include The Pearl Fishers with Seattle Opera, Così fan tutte with the New Israeli Opera, Haydn’s Creation, with Boston Baroque, The Barber of Seville with the Compaña Nacional de Mexico in Mexico City, and The Fall of the House of Usher with the Polish National Opera..