Disneyland. One word evokes so many positive and FUN memories. It’s “the happiest place on earth”. The place where a full grown woman can go and feel like a kid again —unless, that is, she’s too worried about losing her kids in the crazy crowds, sweating profusely in the Southern California heat, standing in long lines with whiny kids, or shelling out the big bucks to feed the fam junky park food. Wow, that went downhill fast.
When we decided to take our kids to Disneyland for the first time, we wanted it to be full of fun memories and NOT stress. We’re definitely not Disneyland pros or anything, but I did my research before we ever took kids and gathered all my favorite ideas. Then, of course, our first trip with our daughter led to some other strokes of genius.
A lot of you were asking about our Disneyland tricks and tips while we were there a few weeks ago, so I wanted to make sure and compile a list of our 10 favorite ideas to make your Disneyland trip a little smoother, a little cheaper and a LOT more fun!
Disclosure: You have to face the fact that you’ve chosen an expensive trip. Which leads me to my first point.
The best way to go on this trip (even with all the greatest tips in the world) is to save ahead of time and have a guilt-free experience! Create a budget and save a little each month until you reach your goal. There are plenty of apps out there that help you save up (I’ve used Mint in the past, but there are seriously so many now!) Or, if you are motivated by visual progress, you can create a trip jar, where the whole family can watch as the goal gets closer. Overall, it’s way sweeter to go on a trip you know you can afford.
* Here are some super adorable DIY trip jar ideas I found on Pinterest.
2. Check the crowds long before you book your trip! There’s nothing worse than trying to navigate giant crowds with kids in tow (especially cranky kids at the end of a long day). There are some awesome sites that tell you when the park is the most busy. I checked Is It Packed? each time we’ve gone with the kids and it has been pretty accurate.
Below is the calendar for June, just to give you an idea.
3. Go when the weather is nice! This seems like a no brainer, but it can make or break a trip. It is no fun to be stuck at a theme park with minimal shade in the dead summer heat. Even 85 feels exhausting when you’re walking around in it all day long. If you must go in the summer, go as early as you can.
*Each time we have taken our kids, we’ve gone in early to mid May and it was very enjoyable. We wore light layers and comfy shoes, which was perfect for the warm day and breezy evenings.
4. Do your research when it comes to hotel and tickets. We took advantage of the Southern California 3-day pass and booked our hotel separately. I did see a lot of deals where the price of tickets were combined with hotel stay. At first glance these looked appealing, but when I compared the benefits of having the three day pass and booking the hotel separately, we ended up saving a couple hundred dollars. It’s kind of a pain, but even spending 30 mins to an hour comparing prices and options can save big time!
Here’s the hotel where we stayed: Anaheim Majestic Garden Hotel
*We ended up booking the Castle Bunk room directly through the hotel website, because of the $15 discount they offer for booking direct. It had the coolest castle bed for the kids and a comfy queen size bed for us. The kids still talk about it how much they loved the room. They also had a pretty great restaurant on the ground floor, a koi pond and really pretty garden courtyards.
**Our car stayed in the lot for our entire stay, because the hotel offered a free shuttle that ran every 30 mins. to the park and back.
***The fireworks are very easily seen from this hotel. It was so nice to head back to the hotel when the kids got tired. We bathed them, put jammies on, and then walked down to the front of the hotel for the fireworks show. After the fireworks we were so glad we just had to head back up the elevator to get in bed, instead of fighting crowds and waiting on shuttles to get out of the park.
5. Pack your lunches, drinks, snacks, etc. Well, except for the churro…definitely buy the churro...and maybe the Dole whip. Also, make sure everyone has a refillable water bottle. Not only do you save a TON of money, but you also have so much more freedom to eat when and where you and your little people desire.
I didn’t manage to snap any pics of our lunches, but I went to Pinterest and found some great ideas for lunch on the go ideas! I especially love these Bento box style lunches. Everything is so neat, and each person has all their items all in one place.
6. B.Y.O.S. (Bring your own SWAG) This one is one of my favorite tips. Each time we have taken our kids it has been in honor of a birthday, so we wanted to make the trip extra special. In any event though, the temptation to drop some serious dollars on the crazy steep in-your-face Disney toys is REAL. Give yourself some time before the trip to collect some MUCH cheaper Disney themed toys from The Dollar Store and Walmart. I put mine in bags and randomly pull out prizes either at the beginning of the day or throughout the park. It’s way cheaper than buying them in the park, and a lot of it is similar items to what they sell in the park, if not better. The kids still have the special memory of receiving it at Disneyland, and you save money!
Here are some things I’ve purchased in the past: princess dress up jewels and crown, bubble wands, glow sticks, character shirts, small plush characters, sunglasses, hats, stickers, etc. The glasses, hats, and musical bubble wands shown here are from Walmart. The mini Jasmine & Aladdin stuffs, and Mickey tees are from Target. The glow sticks, CUTE autograph books, Disney pens, and wands are from The Dollar Tree. Minnie ears are from Amazon.
7. Bring or rent strollers enough for each kid to have a seat (if possible). It seems like a lot, but it’s so worth it to keep kids from whining of tired legs. It also provides a fabulous place to put all your stuff. Make sure to check stroller dimensions ahead of time, because as of May 1st 2019 they created new stroller size restrictions. They also banned wagons.
We have a Bob and also this cheapy light one from Target. We rotated the kids throughout the day. Basically whatever kid was sleepy got to ride in the Bob, because it’s way more comfy and can be fully shaded.
8. Tie a bright colored ribbon or something recognizable to your stroller handle. I saw one family on our last trip that had a laminated sign with their family’s name on it that was attached to the stroller handle using binder rings. A lot of times your stroller will get moved by the Disneyland employees while you’re on a ride, and you’ll need a way to recognize it among the sea of other black strollers.
Heres the laminated sign mentioned above. I shamelessly snapped a pic for example’s sake.
9. Use the free Disneyland app! You can save your tickets and fast passes to it, download park photos, check wait times, find characters, see maps and more! Trust me, this is a life saver when trying to plan out your day and not worry about finding paper items down at the bottom of your bags!
10. Ride the Disneyland Railroad. Maybe this is a widely known thing, and we are late to the game, but it ended up being one of our park favorites! First of all, I had no idea how much you get to see of each town (plus behind the scenes) from a completely different vantage point. There’s even a section where you through a tunnel and see some pretty cool interactive prehistoric scenes. Second, what a life saver it is to sit for awhile when you just need to rest your legs and simultaneously keep your kids entertained. Third, you have guaranteed shade and breeze. Fourth, it’s a great way to get from one end of the park to another without walking through crowds.
Welp, that’s it, friends! My top 10 Disneyland tips and tricks. I hope you’ve enjoyed these and maybe learned something. Many of the tips are simple, but I know they were game changers for us, so I couldn’t not share! Maybe you’ll just walk away inspired to plan your next trip. No matter what you gained, I hope that all your future Disney trips will be nothing short of magical!