Ten Tips for Taking Your Kids to Disneyland
Written by Kathleen F. Miller
Disneyland may be the happiest place on earth, but traveling anywhere with a child younger than 5 can be a challenge. We’ve gathered great tips on how to make your trip to Disneyland with a younger child as enchanting as you wish.
1. Stay on-site at a Disneyland resort
Stay on-site at one of the three Disneyland resort hotels or plan for naps in the park. Staying at a Disneyland resort is more expensive than the many hotels located across from the park entrance, but for many parents, being able to take the monorail back to the hotel for a midday nap or swim makes the expense worth it. If you plan to stay in the park all day, bring a stroller, or rent one at the entrance.
2. Let your child pick the day's activities
Let your child set the agenda and go with the flow. Debi Mandel, a North Seattle teacher, has traveled to Disneyland twice with daughter Maggie, now age 6. When you visit the park with a child younger than 5, “don’t rush and [don’t] make the rides the focus,” says Mandel; instead, enjoy all the wonderful things there are to marvel at together.
3. Bring extra snacks and water
Bring snacks and water, and ask for support for a child with food allergies. Your bags will be inspected before you enter the park. You can bring plastic water bottles and snacks into the park; just avoid packing anything that is glass. If you have a child with food allergies, as Mandel does, the park’s restaurants will happily accommodate you with special menus and made-to-order meals; just ask.
4. Splurge on a “character meal” and autograph books.
Sharman Ghio is mother to Morgen, age 6, and Peyton, age 8, and the founder of Redmond’s Orange Blossom Society enrichment center for families. When her family is at Disneyland, they splurge on a “character meal” at Ariel’s Grotto at nearby California Adventure’s Paradise Pier. “Make reservations at Ariel’s Grotto, where the princesses make the rounds to each table,” Ghio says. “It’s a bit spendy, but worth it when your little girl gets to meet the princess of her dreams.” Debi Mandel also advises purchasing an autograph book at the beginning of your trip, because these books make it easier for little kids to approach their favorite character in the park.
5. Wear sunblock and good walking shoes
Pack sunscreen, hats, water and good walking shoes (not sandals!), says Ghio. And Mandel advises moms whose little girl wants to visit the park in her princess costume to “bring another set of clothes, because she will really want out of that dress before the end of the day.”
6. Save on Disneyland goodies and souvenirs
On your way to Disneyland, stop at the Anaheim Walmart, which is less than three miles from the park, at 440 North Euclid. You can buy anything you forgot as well as Disney-brand attire and souvenirs for a fraction of the price you’ll pay inside the park.
7. Disneyland's baby center
Disneyland has a baby center behind the Plaza Inn restaurant on Main Street. You can buy diapers, baby food and other baby supplies here for a reasonable price — and you can also nurse in private. This is also Disneyland’s “lost child” waiting area.
8. Look for age-appropriate rides
Hang out in Mickey’s Toontown and Fantasyland for great “little kid” rides and frequent character visits, but first screen the rides for speed and fright factors. Malissa Grunke is the Redmond mom of Audrey, age 5, and Anna, age 4. She is happy her husband scouted out the rides ahead of time on their recent trip. “My husband and oldest child checked out the Mr. Toad ride and the Snow White ride, and while they were OK for [Audrey], we realized they would be too intense for my youngest.”
9. Use the FASTPASS system
Avoid the lines by going early and utilizing the FASTPASS system. If you are staying at a Disneyland resort, you can enter the park ahead of all other guests on “Magic Morning” days, and all guests can utilize the FASTPASS system for popular rides. Find the FASTPASS box by the ride entrance, insert your ticket and you’ll get a “pass” marked with a time period during which you can return to the ride and skip most of the line. Insider tip: You can often use your FASTPASS later that day, even after it has officially “expired.”
10. Finding the best fireworks view
If you are staying at a Disneyland resort hotel, ask where you can view the fireworks from the hotel, with your child already in pajamas. But if you want to be inside the park for fireworks, go to the back of the Disneyland train station on Main Street, facing the castle. Find the garbage can against the wall. As the fireworks start, stand your child up on the garbage can while you hold on to him or her. You will both have a perfect view of the fireworks and an easy “escape route” to the exit while avoiding the crowds once the show is over.
Sammamish writer Kathleen F. Miller first rode the Small World ride as a toddler with her mom at the 1964 New York World’s Fair, and enjoyed her most recent ride with her children at Disneyland last summer.