DISNEYLAND WITH A TODDLER
Ok… so I’ve had a lot of friends ask me about doing Disneyland with a toddler. It seems like a lot of people out there want to go but they’re worried that their kiddos are too young and that it will be a waste/not worth it.
WELL – I am all about Disney at any age. This was actually our second trip with Peyton to Disneyland in the last year. We took her for 1 day when she was 13 months old, and this time we went for 2 days (she’s now 20 months old).
Earlier this month we took a long weekend trip to Southern California and spent 2 days at Disneyland, below is some advice about what worked for us. I also shared the first part of our trip here.
Disney with a Toddler – Tips & Tricks!
My first few tips are in regards to planning your days. I read some different blog posts about advice for doing Disney with young kids, and a few of them had literal excel spreadsheets planning out their routes, rides, and dining. More power to you if that’s your style, but that would definitely NOT work for us. Here is what DID work for us.
- Be Flexible : We didn’t try to kill ourselves making it to the park right when it opened, or hitting certain rides at certain times, or eating right on our normal schedule. Having a more laidback attitude about what we wanted to do and when to do it made our whole experience much more enjoyable! We didn’t worry about exact nap times or getting back to the hotel for our usual bedtime… my thinking was that 2 days staying up a little later will be worth the excitement on P’s face when she saw Cars Land light up at night!
- Download apps : I downloaded 2 apps for our Disney adventure – the Disneyland app & the Mousewait app. I used the Disneyland app for almost everything we did. I bought our tickets on the app and stored them on my phone for use throughout the weekend, I added the Disney MaxPass option which let us sign up for FastPasses & get access to any photos taken in the park, and I used it to find wait times, characters, dining, restrooms and I’m sure more! It is seriously SO useful. We also used the Mousewait app to help us decide what park to be and what was coming up next that we could check out. The Mousewait app has a feature that shows the % full each park is which is what we used it for the most.
- Park & walk : We parked in 2 different parking areas during our visit, most parking lots/structures have trams that drop you off near the front of the Parks – however if you have a stroller you have to fold it up to take it on the tram. There was also a really long line to get on the trams the first day we arrived, so we decided to park and walk! The walk took us through Downtown Disney and it takes you by 2 Starbucks locations – if you need coffee like we did stop in one of those vs. the ones in the park in the morning! The coffee shops in the park are super crowded when it first opens. Most of the restaurants in Downtown Disney also serve breakfast so if you want to grab a full meal before heading in this is a good place to do it! (Also – how cute are these little Mini Melissa shoes ♥)
- Bring a stroller : I couldn’t decide if I should purchase something more like an umbrella stroller (like the UppaBaby G-Lite or G-Luxe), but I finally decided that I would just bring our day-to-day stroller since it actually folds up more compact than most umbrella strollers, has a lot of storage space, the seat can be reversed, and it fully reclines for naps! We use the Nuna Mixx which we seriously love (and so does P as you can see below), but I would have probably bought the BabyZen YoYo stroller if I would have known that I would want to travel so much with her. I tested it out at Nordstrom recently and it is amazing. It folds up so compact that it can fit in most overhead bins, and is super versatile. I know you can also rent strollers at Disneyland but I wanted one I knew that she would nap in and could cover her from the sun if needed, so if you have the space I would say bring one you’re familiar with.
OUTFITS & WHAT TO BRING TO THE PARK
- Diaper Backpack & Essentials : I would say a diaper bag backpack is a must-have! It makes navigating the parks SO much easier. I use the Skip Hop Chelsea Downtown Backpack and love it, but I know that the new FP Convertible Diaper Bag is really popular. Obviously diapers & wipes are essentials if your child is still in them. Both parks have amazing Baby Care Centers. I’ve used both locations (Disneyland & California Adventure) and they are never very crowded. They have really great changing tables, as well as small toilets for kids working on potty training, and private nursing areas. They also offer diapers, wipes, bottles, formula, baby food, and other things you may run out of/forget for purchase. Other things to make sure you pack – sunscreen, snacks (!), water, sunglasses, your camera & a portable phone charger can always come in handy.
- Outfits : Everywhere you look people are in custom Disney shirts or shirts they purchased at the park. I am all for showing some Disneyland spirit but I wanted to be a little subtle and not super matchy with Peyton. I ordered us these cute custom tees from Etsy and I love them! P and I wore them the first day – then I got here the Star Wars themed “Daddy’s Princess” for day 2 which Jordan thought was hilarious.
RIDES & CHARACTERS
- Rides : Since we had already taken P to Disneyland once before when she was 13 month old I wasn’t nervous about whether or not she would actually like the rides. I wasn’t nervous the first time we went until we got on the first ride which was dark with bright lights and loud noises (Buzz Lightyears AstroBlasters)… that was not great thinking on my part. If I did it again I would probably try to start her off on something like the Carousel or “it’s a small world.” Anyways – this time she was all about the rides! We spent a lot of time on the first day in the California Adventure “A Bug’s Life” area. She loved Flik’s Flyers & the Ladybug Boogie. Pretty sure she also hyped up everyone waiting in line since she would cheer every time the ride would stop and we could get on. She also would yell “RIDE! RIDE! RIDE! YAAAY!!” in line while watching it go while waiting. Her favorite ride was definitely the AstroOrbiters in Disneyland though. Every time she saw it she got SUPER excited and we would have to get in line. We had to run by it leaving the park so she didn’t throw a tantrum hah! She was also a big fan of the teacups & carousel on the Disney side.
- Characters : Characters are kind of hit or miss at this age. I would say there is a lot better chance with the “face” characters (like Moana, Belle, Elsa, etc.) that your kid won’t freak out. Peyton was not a fan of Pluto the first time we went in September, but this time she did much better with Minnie & Daisy! I think it helped that we watch Mickey Mouse Clubhouse sometimes so she knows who Minnie is “Ninnie” in her words. She also loves Moana so it was awesome that we got to meet her. The Disneyland App is what I used to help find out where the Characters would be & when… very helpful if there is a particular one you want to meet! We also saw Cruella deVille on our way in to Disney the first day when P was napping. She let us know that it was “the most expensive nap she would ever take” hahaha
Overall I don’t think it is a waste at all to take a young child to Disneyland. You can have an amazing time if you go in to it with the right attitude. I also am a big Disneyland fan anyways, I have lots of great memories from family trips there when I was growing up and it has been so fun to start building those memories with P! Let me know if I missed any great tips/ideas that you know about below and if you have any questions send them my way!