This past week my Family was surprised with Disneyland tickets (thanks Uncle!) during our annual LA vacation. It was my daughter's first visit and I couldn't have been happier with our trip!
I was planning for a later-in-the-year trip and thankfully did my due diligence (as far as game planning went) so I felt prepared going in. I like to be over-prepared as far as planning everything because it makes me feel less stressed and boosts my confidence. Win-win, right?
Here are my planning tips for an easy Disneyland visit. *Note: we only did one day/one park and stayed a total of 7 hours. It was the perfect amount of time for my 2 year old.*
I referenced this site (found through Pinterest) This mom did a great job of organizing info and she was brave enough to take her newborn! With her info coupled with the Disneyland site I made my preliminary notes.
The Disneyland site lets you check up to 2 weeks in advance what attractions are closed for maintenance and what times the Parades/Fireworks/Shows will be starting on your visit days. It also estimates weather forecasts, which is pretty cool.
All rides without a height restriction can accommodate babies/toddlers. That means only the 8 roller coasters were off-limits this trip: Autopia, Space Mountain, Star Tours (Tomorrowland), Gadget GoCoaster (ToonTown), Indiana Jones (Adventureland), Matterhorn (Fantasyland), Splash Mountain (Critter Country), and Big Thunder Mountain Railroad (Frontierland). If you're feeling up to it, FastPass and Rider Switch Passes are available on these rides. *Only one FastPass can be in use at a time. Choose wisely and check return times carefully.*
After eliminating what we couldn't go on, I went through each Land and prioritized what we HAD to do and what we could do, time allowing. Items in bold were our MUSTS.
Tiki Juice Bar- Dole Whips dessert (I didn't get one yet, the line was humongous!)
Winnie-the-Pooh (last ride and short wait time of 5 minutes!)
Davy Crockett's Explorer Canoes
Alice in Wonderland (30 minute wait and my All-Time Fave)
Casey Jr's Circus Train
It's a small world (we didn't make it. Heard it shut down. Dodged that catastrophy)
Mr. Toad's Wild Ride
Peter Pan (longest wait of 40 minutes. In the direct sun. But worth every second. She loved it! Hard to tell by that picture though, haha)
Pinocchio (first ride of the day, short 10 minute wait. Maybe a little scary)
Fireworks over Castle (9:30, 10p but check Disneyland site to confirm)
Big Thunder Ranch petting zoo (really wanted to go, but darling was napping)
Rancho del Zocalo (lunch for 3 was $40 bucks, not bad!)
Main Street Cinema
Baby Center (next to First Aid across from Central Plaza)
New Orleans Square-
Pirates of the Caribbean (surprisingly short wait time 25 minutes)
Haunted Mansion (20 minutes, terrified my daughter, but it was the only adult ride we rode)
Fantasmic! Show (9, 10:30p Again, check times on Disneyland site)
Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters
Finding Nemo Submarines
Redd Rocket Pizza Port (second favorite Restaurant. Didn't need to stop for dinner)
Roger Rabbit (no Roger this visit)
Character houses & meet and greets
[I typed this same list up on my Evernote app on my phone to reference throughout the day]
Disney allows patrons to bring their own snacks as long as there are no glass containers. I used our old nursing milk bag cooler and ice pack to bring cheese sticks and sliced apples. (Grapes would do good too.) I also always carry a water bottle. A couple pouches, fruit leather and granola bars rounded out our provisions. We did end up buying a giant pickle (my favorite snack at Disneyland) and 3 water bottles (I just couldn't seem to find a water fountain when I needed to refill?)
I also brought a change of clothes for my daughter (leggings and a cardigan) just in case the temperature dropped at night. We also had her PJs in the car for a quick change before she crashed for the night on the drive back to my uncle's. These items proved to be unnecessary this trip, as we left at 6p, but I would definitely bring them again.
Sunscreen and extra diapers completed my backpack. I opted for a backpack vs my traditional diaper bag for ease of carrying around and less availability to wondering eyes/hands. For the most part I actually kept it in the stroller and nothing was disturbed. But on that note any personalizing of your stroller is recommended. I made this sign out of scrapbook paper, a page protector and ribbon, it says "My First Visit Disneyland 2013". Easy to spot in a sea of parked strollers and detracts from theft.
I'm big on announcing what we're celebrating at Disney and wanted a First Visit button for my daughter. You can ask for one at Town Hall (at Main entrance or in any Disneyland Park store) just ask a Cast Member! (there is a bunch of buttons for all occasions: just married, anniversary, birthday. Don't be shy!)
Be realistic- you won't be able to ride every ride. That's o.k! We only made it on 6 and still had an enjoyable visit. Out of the 7 rides that were MUSTS we made it on 5- not bad! We actually didn't even make it to Tomorrowland or ToonTown. Such is life.
I didn't have high hopes for a nap but she surprised us and conked out after 3 rides. We took the opportunity to eat lunch at our favorite restaurant, Ranch del Zocalo. Great Mexican food with vegetarian options and reasonable prices and good portion sizes. My friend suggested hanging out in the Cinema for a dark, cool place to nap. Genius! (I bet the Baby Center would be a good place to park too. We never made it lol.)
We also did our souvenir shopping during her nap and walked through the Gallery. Be prepared to spend $$$ on souvenirs. I really wanted to get my daughter a Mickey Ears hat and embroider it, but she can't stand anything on her head, so why bother? We opted for a Minnie Mouse sweater that has ears and a bow on the hood (close enough to a hat, right?) and a Peter Pan figurine play set. We had a Disney Gift Card saved from my daughter's birthday in February and used that, bringing our out-of-pocket expense down. The only other things we bought were a .51 cent pressed penny (which I plan on making into a bracelet) and an $8 dollar balloon. Basically we did Disneyland on a $100 dollar budget!
We didn't do any Character dining or pictures, my daughter was very wary of it all. But I look forward to it in the future. :)
I hope this helps you plan your Disneyland Trip! It took me 3 days to compile and you wouldn't believe how good I felt knowing I was prepared for anything! Let me know how you do Disneyland, I'd love your input and suggestions! Thanks!