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I grew up going to Disneyland! It was the happiest place on earth and I was so excited to take my kids! But as our trip got closer…I started panicking about all the things we needed! Going to Disneyland as a kids versus as the mom is a totally different story! I’m a planner and organizer and packer and I wanted to make sure I knew/had/planned for it all! So Here is my rundown of awesome things and tips to make your Disneyland trip a total hit!!!
Disclaimer: I do not have little kids. My youngest is 9. We didn’t have to deal with strollers and sippy cups and stuff like that!
HOW MANY DAYS DO YOU NEED AT DISNEYLAND/CALIFORNIA ADVENTURE
I totally hemmed and hawed about what kind of package I should buy. Would 3 days be too much? not enough? Do we need the park hopper? Was it worth it? I went back and forth and back and forth and annoyed my husband about it wayyy to much.
We ended up doing a 3 day park hopper pass. I had specifically planned going January because I wanted the park to be a “ghost town” (you can check busy dates HERE) I didn’t want my family’s first trip to Disneyland to be filled with waiting in lines and trying to maneuver the crowds. That being said…the “ghost town” still means lots of people. BUT…the wait times for lines was not bad! I wanted to conquer all of Disneyland–from small world to Winnie the Pooh to the tiki room. Disneyland has SO MUCH. SO MUCH. and in the peak months with people and waits I don’t think you can even get close to seeing it all. Our first day was a Sunday. We got there 10 minutes before it opened. Stayed until about 9 o’clock (it was open until 11) and we DID IT ALL. ALLLLL. (okay..not all–but almost all. We did skip the tiki room and other odds and ends) Things I didn’t even do when I was a kid! We did hustle around the park and had the max pass (more down below) but we rode all our favorite rides at least twice. So by the 3rd day….we actually headed to the hotel early to swim because we had rode allll the things! So here is my advice (finally!) the 3 day was perfect. If you have small kids and going when it’s busy and have to factor in naps and watching the shows (like frozen) and waiting in lines to see the characters (we skipped that) a 5 day might more ideal. We killed ourselves the first day. If we had a 5 day, we would have slowed down and not push ourselves so hard! I’m also torn about the park hopper. I don’t really love park hopping. Takes time to jump from park to park. We used it the last day so we could go on Guardians and Cars ride one last time but that was it!
I did shop around to get the best deal…cause hot dang! That happiest place on earth is EXPENSIVE! The Best deal I found was GET AWAY TODAY! It had the best price and we bundled with our Universal Studio tickets and got them for so cheap! They have lots of bundling options and deals if you book your hotel through them (which I will do next time!) Head here to plug in your dates and see what they can save you!
OFF SEASON at Disneyland
I know I talked a little about this above. I totally wanted a less insane with wall to wall people experience. But I wanted to let you know…Lots of things were down for “refurbishment!” Definitely something to keep in mind. They were redoing the middle of main street and so the statue with walt and Mickey was covered. (the don’t like people to see what they are working on so they put up big walls.) So instead of walking right up to the castle–you had to walk around a big barrier to get to it. A little inconvenient. Splash mountain was closed and they were working on the pier in California Adventure so lots of walls there with the roller coaster being closed. I’m okay with it..because I just think how fun it will be to have “new stuff” to ride when we go next time–but I would have been REALLY disappointed if it was one of my Most favorite rides that was closed! The Disney app will actually tell you what is closed!
WEATHER at Disneyland:
The weather was a little bit chilly in January! Jacket and sweatshirts were perfect to have (especially at night)
HOTELS in California
I am very PRO having a hotel super close so you can head back to it if you need to (and grab said sweatshirt) I didn’t want to mess with trying to maneuver buses or the parking garage or traffic. You are walking allll over Disneyland…so why not a little further to get to the hotel. We stayed at the Hyatt House…and loved it. It had a kitchen (not that we used it) but it had a couple restaurants right by so we could eat out by the pool (and hot tub!) A MAJOR PLUS was that it was attached to a walgreens! (That is only reason I mentioned hotels!) I can not tell you how handy it was to have a store right below you! We grabbed treats and food and chapstick and any odds and ends that you totally forget when you are the mom and trying to pack for EVERYONE! They even had souvenirs there–so much cheaper than at the park! (I mean not as many options…but if you were trying to bring back some fun treats for you neighbors/friends it would be a great place to grab them!
THINGS TO PACK (Random things I didn’t think about)
- Battery Charger We used our phone for the maxpass and photos and our batteries were drained!I love this charger because you can plug in more than one device and get over 2 full chargers with it!
- Treats (more on why you need lots of treats below)
- Autograph books (if you want to collect autograph books! Making some or buying some beforehand is lots cheaper than in the park)
- Dramamine (I’m old. So this was nice to have on hand)
- bandaids/moleskin: So much walking…your feet around going to have some wear and tear. And nothing puts a damper on a trip than a big ole blister!
- disney trivia cards (and stuff to play in line! WHole post HERE!)
- Backpacks (or fanny packs) more on that below
- GLOW STICKS! (way cheaper than buying in park!)
Dude. Shoes. I wore my most comfortable, broken in nike’s every day..and my feet still hurt at the end of the day!
DO NOT WEAR new shoes. Every night we would come back to the hotel room and say…”best part of the day” and kick off our shoes!!! None of us got blisters or anything…but lots of walking takes it toll!
What a gamechanger!!
Download it now and check it out! It tells you wait time!
It tells you where the bathrooms are
It tells you where the characters are
You can look up dining and see the full menus and even book reservations!
You can zoom in close. You can zoom out. You can even check out what is happening in California adventure!
But the BEST reason to get it is……..
DISNEY FASTPASS MAX:
and that is coming from one of the cheapest people!
I had some major anxiety we would never be able to tackle all of Disneyland with the crowds. I knew it would stress me out trying to get as much in as possible (without being crazy mom!) And I LOVED the fastpass! You can pull it right up on your phone. You can see how long wait times are. You can click on fastpass and it gives you a whole list of options –and you can just click the one that best suits you! So we looked at one oclock , saw that the guardians of the galaxy was available at 2. So we grabbed that one so we could have a little time to eat! One time we looked at it…saw that the Matterhorn was for like 30 minutes away….so we snagged that one, went on the finding nemo submarine and then hit up Matterhorn! It’s so easy! We had an easy 10 fast passes that last day! The longest line we waiting in was that dang peter pan!!! (no fastpass) It’s so great to walk right on every single ride! (original fast pass options are still there–but that involves going to the attraction and getting them and then having to go back at the scheduled time! Last time we were there…An adult would sprint off with all our tickets to go get fastpasses while we were in line somewhere else. And I totally remember having to run across the park because the fastpass we got wasn’t close by! Now that we have maxpass..you can play it a little more strategic so you can hit as many rides as humanely possible!
Now…one thing I didn’t notice until the 2nd day was…sometimes you can have multiple fastpasses out. We got a fastpass for Cars Land (it was awesome!) But it was 2…and the fastpass was for 6 (those suckers go SOOOO FAST!) I thought you had to wait until 6 to get a new fastpass…but as I clicked on it, I noticed it told me a time that I could get new fastpass! (it was 3:55!) There was one time we had 3 fastpasses out at once! AND one time Indiana Jones broke down. Our fastpass on our phone automatically changed to any ride in the park with fast pass access! AWESOME! It is $10 per person PER Day. So realistically you could buy it for Disneyland and then next day not bother for California Adventure…(but when you stand in line for 2 hours at the cars ride and you will be regretting it!) You could also just splurge ONE day and try to hit allllll your favorite rides over and over again and the other days you can hit up everything else. We did get it all 3 days (After day one..we were sold! ) Just for good measure: The longest wait we had was 4o minutes in the peter pan line. that was a LONG 40 minutes. Why does that ride NEVER have a small wait!
Some things to note: You can purchase the fastpass as soon as your tickets are scanned–but not sooner. So as soon as you are in the park–run to get in line and then purchase! . It takes a minute because you have to scan all the tickets on your phone so you can make a “party” (You can make different parties so if your group divides, you can get fast passes for the people who are with you!) Also…the app will drain your battery. One thing we didn’t realize was you could scan your cards in the fast pass lane instead of scanning the barcode on your app. Just a little trick to keep that phone from dying! (Also sidenote: Cars goes so fast. So if you are California Adventure….get the fastpass for that FIRST! WE only got to ride it twice (once each day) and everything else with a fast pass was at least 3-4 times. we hit Matterhorn 5 times!
ANOTHER Totally awesome benefit of the max pass was….PHOTO PASS! (it’s included in the price)
Photographers are stationed all over the park. You jump in front of them. They snap some photos and you show them your code and they scan it! Within like 10 minutes those photos are on your phone!
SO AWESOME! They even put photo shopped the balloons in my daughter’s hands and told us to act like she was going to float away!
It was A. nice to not have to harass strangers to get a photo of us. And B. These photographers are good! A couple different shots. vertical horizontal. WHen we took one my cars…she waited to get a perfect shot of the cars coming over the hill!
They also take pictures of you with the characters
ALSO….when you get off those rides and you get to see those embarrassing photos of you……there is a code at the top. Punch that in your app and that photo gets uploaded too! Now we get to have a great photo of this forever!
So between the time in lines….and the photos…..YOU SHOULD GET IT!!! I am not being paid to say that–and like I said–I’m cheap! I would have given up all food at the park and spend my money on it if I had to pick between the two!
Okay…let’s move on!
I totally didn’t want to haul around backpacks all over Disneyland. I was thinking you would have to put them in a locker before each ride. WRONG. Husband ended up bringing a backpack and there was not one locker. You just take it off and put it on a hook or on your knee on each ride. It would have been nice to know! Me and Husband have discussed what we would have done different and we both think that next time EACH KID WOULD HAVE THEIR OWN BACKPACKS. Not huge full sized ones…but just a nice normal size. In it, they get to keep their sunglasses, their waterbottles, their food and snacks for the day, autograph books etc. I know this won’t work for all families–our kids are older and we don’t have a stroller to keep stocked!
I totally want to get us these those! So cute!
Okay guys….serious moment. The fanny pack is the best invention ever. My only complaint is I want a bigger one! So nice not have straps digging in your shoulders (and can we talk about back sweat). Let’s all vow to bring the fanny pack back!
This brings us to
We ate all meals at Disneyland. I wanted the full on Disneyland experience–and that included food. BUT I regret it! We walked 30,000 miles the first day. We were hungry ALL THE TIME. and guess what….food is expensive. I wish we would have had more snacks just to keep us from starving! Uncrustables, bags of chips, apples, trail mix, sweets (no chocolate! It will melt!) Like I mentioned: next time we would have the kids each pack and carry their own snacks and water so they can graze as they want. There were some long lines that give perfect time to chow down on a sandwich! We think next time we will give the kids a treat allowance–So each day they can pick what they want…(churro, dole whip, etc! and then we can have ONE BIG MEAL there! (Lunch menu is sometimes a little cheaper..so if you catch it at 2:00…you get the cheap price and no lines!– (also: quick tip: you can ask for cups so you can fill them up with water!
-YOU HAVE to check out Play Party Plan’s amazing Disney food roundup! We missed so many of these!!! Don’t they all look yummy! I would do my research. There are snacks you can only get in certain places…so I wish I would have paid better attention and planned out what we wanted to make sure to try!
Guys. Part of the magic of Disneyland is that everyone is all dressed up! So many fun shirts and jackets and the EARS! I loved all the ears! Jedis and all the little girls dressed like Princesses! I just loved it all! Disneyland kind of hypnotizes you into wanting all the mickey mouse things…but once again…in the park pricing is EXPENSIVE! So I would recommend buying your shirts and jackets beforehand! Target and walmart sells some pretty freakin cute Disney stuff!
and of course…you can DIY SOME! I don’t sport Mickey Mouse stuff on a regular day to day–so I didn’t want to end up with lots of expensive shirts I won’t wear very much!
and you might think….I don’t need any Disney/Mickey themed clothes. But once you are in there…you are the odd man out!
If you have never been to California Adventure–I wanted to give you a warning. It’s not Disneyland. DUH! There was still a lot to see and do…but we actually finished California Adventure up way early than we thought (the pier was all closed) Keep in mind–my kids are older to the whole bugs land was pretty much a waste! The Cars land was AMAZING. Guardians is one of my favorite rides. Soarin over is so COOL! Monsters inc and Little mermaid were just so dang cute…and I loved the Toy Story arcade game!!! But everything else kind of seemed very theme parky (Like we have a theme park close to us that has the swings and a little roller coaster and a carousel. (and bugs land is CUTE…but very much for LITTLE kids….even a little splash pad) It was fun to see it all but on our third day with our park hopper….we ran over and did cars, ate lunch by the water and jumped on guardians before we headed back to Disneyland! It still is amazing and I can’t wait for pixar pier (The incredible is my favorite NEWer disney movie) But it definitely doesn’t hold quite the magic that Disneyland has! (We did miss the frozen show which I have heard is AWESOME–we were so tired that we knew we would allll fall asleep if we sat still long enough) and another thing we missed was the lights on the water (we wrapped up early and didn’t want to wait around for it to start…the hot tub was calling our names!
Okay! I think I’ve exhausted all the Disney things! I hope this helps anyone who is planning a trip! I love Disneyland and my husband has never been a fan. I think this trip made him SOLD! It seriously is the best! People are nice. There is so much detail into EVERY LITTLE THING. It’s seriously the best place! Can’t wait to go back!
If you have any tips, Tricks, or hints–leave me them in the comments!