I’m a Disney mom who’s been to Disneyland more times than I can count. I’ve been as a child, as an adult with my significant other, while pregnant, and while pregnant with a toddler!
Here are my must-have hack and tips for Disneyland with toddlers.
- Stay at a Disneyland hotel
Yes, we’ve all heard this before, but it’s TOTALLY worth it! Imagine it’s noon and you’ve been in the park since 7am. Your toddler is hungry, cranky, and hot. Instead of walking out of the park, and waiting in line for the hotel shuttle or walking to your hotel or car, walk to the exit and across to your hotel. It makes it easy to take multiple breaks throughout the day if you need it (and trust me…if your kids don’t need it, you sure will!). Check out these current deals on Disneyland hotels (via official Disneyland website).
- Use the stroller (a big one if you got it)
Other moms suggest renting a small umbrella stroller for the park. I DO NOT! If you have the means to bring your large stroller, I highlight recommend it! A) you know your kid likes it. B) you’ll have storage space for bags, snacks, jackets…etc. and C) Your kids may be more comfy napping in their large padded stroller. Your brood and the stroller are also a force to be reckoned with while navigating the streets of Disneyland (although it may slow you down slightly). We love our UppaBaby Stroller.
- Nap time hiatus
The park is 1 million times busier in the afternoon and evening. Take this opportunity for a siesta or nap after lunch back at your hotel, or on a stroll through Downtown Disney. If you need afternoon entertainment for the kids, consider bringing some craft or art kits at the local Walmart or craft store for them to have a quiet activity in the hotel room. Or if you’re a Pinterest Mom like me, look for a Disney themed craft or activity you could make.
- Snacks and drinks
Park snacks are expensive when your family has munchkins. Consider packing a few healthy (or not-so-healthy snacks for the park). Or treat your kids to a snack they can share like a churro or popcorn!
- Fastpasses and child swap
There are plenty of other articles that explain fastpasses and the child swap so I won’t repeat them all here. I will add that when you can, do the ride queues with the kids exit before the ride. The Disneyland ride queues are so elaborate and your kids will love them!
- Get a button pin from city hall
You probably already know that Disneyland “City Hall” gives out free button pins for guests celebrating something. If it’s your kids first time, birthday, or any other occasion you can think of, they can get a badge. They’ll get a little extra attention from many of the park staff and will love it! Here is a great post on 17 Things That Are Free at Disneyland Resort (via Travelling Mom)
- Share meals
When you buy park food consider if you can share a bit of your adult meal, or buy a meal that your kids can share. We know that kids don’t eat all their meals anyway so why not share. Or buy 1 meal for your kid but split in between 2 meals so it’s less expensive.
- Do Peter pan when you FIRST arrive
This is one of the most popular kids rides and it’s often got the longest line (especially for a ride that’s 3 short mins). Try to do this ride early in the morning before the crowds get in.
- Early entry
Read your park pass carefully to see if you have any early entry (usually called Magic Morning). Get in an hour before the rest of the guests and take advantage of shorter lines. Magic morning is only available on select days with select park passes, so please check how many early entries you have, what days they are, and which park you can get into (its usually only 1 park that has early entry each day)
- Ride queue entertainment
If being stuck in a long ride queue with no where for the kids to run scares the s**t outta you, you’re not alone. The cramped quarters of Disneyland ride queue can be a nightmare for an active toddler (like mine). Think of ways to entertain them in line like, playing I-spy, offering snacks, or singing songs.
- Plane or car entertainment
How are you getting to Disneyland? Whether your driving, or flying you’ll need something to keep the kids busy. Here are a few ideas you could use:
• Special snack or colouring book bags every few hours
• In-flight (or ipad) movies
• Activity bags (that include dollar store crafts, books, and quiet siting-down crafts)
• Car games anyone?
- Baby/Toddler proofing the hotel:
Until your kids are much older, you’ll probably need to do some child proofing of your hotel room (for their safety and for your sanity). Here is a quick checklist of things to do when you check into your room.
• Block drawers (if your toddler likes to explore and slam drawers shut)
• Cover outlets (for the younger ones, cover exposed outlets with painter’s tape)
• Hide the free shampoos (last thing you need is your toddler to pour the complimentary shampoo or lotion all over your bed or the walls)
• Lock the mini-bar (we don’t want any drunk toddlers at midnight)
For more baby proofing hotel room hacks, check out this article by Delicious Baby.
- Ice-cream sink!
If you do plan to buy snacks or food in the park, consider paying a little more if it comes with a fun souvenir cup. One afternoon our family shared a Mickey Mouse “Kitchen Sink” ice-cream Sunday and it came with a plastic Mickey Mouse bowl that looks like a kitchen sink. My son has gotten SO much use out of it since we got home. It was the ONLY bowl he’d eat out of for weeks!
- Get in faster by prepping for bag search/ security
With recent security concerns, bags and people are searched before they enter a Disney park. Expedite searches by removing all items from your person that could set off a metal detector, and open all bags before you get to the inspection station so you’re ready to go and the quick search will go faster. Also, make sure you don’t have any banned items in your baggage or they’ll be confiscated.
- Cheerios necklace
For a healthy, portable snack that can be eaten in the stroller, while walking, or waiting in a ride queue, consider a cheerios necklace! String a bunch of cheerios on a string that is big enough to wear as a necklace. Your kids get a fun snack and you don’t have to clean crushed cheerios off the ground or stroller seat!
- Prep night before
We parents all know how hectic mornings are at home. When you’re in an unfamiliar room (aka your Disney hotel), it can be harder. Minimize the stress by packing your daypacks, snacks, and drinks the night before so it’s a few less things you need to do when you wake up.
- DIY lunchables
If your kids are like mine, they like foods like lunchables. Consider buying a couple compartmentalized plastic lunch containers and making your own lunchables with your kids favourite foods. It’s healthier than store bought, and could be used as a snack if your children don’t want to sit still for a full meal.
- Pool time “break”
If your hotel has a pool, a quick dip might be a great afternoon activity that is less crowded than the park.
- Safety tips for toddlers in Disneyland
As with all busy theme parks, kids get separated from their families every day. Thankfully Disney staff are excellent at spotting lost children and know how to keep them safe should they get lost. A great tip is to take a photo of your children every morning in the clothes they’re wearing into the park. Should you get separated from your child, show the picture to a Disney staff member who can help find your child. Another tip is to write your phone number on your child’s arm with pen, and cover it with clear, liquid bandage.
- Free water in the park!
Disneyland can get expensive the bigger your family gets. Did you know that many in-park restaurants offer free water (even without purchase)? You can also request cups at the restaurants for free water from the fountains. Here is a handy map listing all the water fountains in Disneyland! I also recently found that great PopSugar post for additional tips to get free water in Disneyland and Disney California Adventure parks.
My final bonus tip, especially when travelling with young toddlers, is don’t expect a relaxing vacation. If you’re like me you’ll spend much of your time chasing after your runaway kids, entertaining them, and planning the next meal or nap time for the exact right moment to avoid a public meltdown (from you or your kids) in the park!
I have SO many amazing memories visiting Disneyland as a child growing up. I only hope that my kids will remember our family vacations as fondly as I did.
(Disclaimer: This post contained a few affiliate links with products I recommend. If you make a purchase from my referral, I get a small commission and it doesn’t cost you a cent. Thanks in advance for supporting my caffeine addiction!)