Disneyland with a Toddler


Disneyland is not the same experience with a toddler as it is without. It’s not even the same with an older kid.

We hit Disneyland with Joshua last week. He’s a little young, but we had tickets with an expiration date, so we made the trip. Janelle and I are pretty big Disneyland fans, and have a pretty solid routine of rides we want to go on and areas we want to hit and things we like to do. 98% of those items are excluded by the presence of a small child. Here are some observations and notes about our experience.

– If you can go with multiple groups and multiple kids, do it. Joshua’s attention was flagging in the early afternoon, but then we met up with his cousins, each a few years older than him. It was an instant shot of energy for him.

– It may not be as painful as you think. Joshua managed 10 full hours at Disneyland without a single incident (barring an example I’ll cover later on). However, he likes to watch people and does well in a crowd, which means Disneyland lined up with him pretty well. Does your baby hate being in a stroller? Will they immediately get lost in a crowd if given half a chance? Do people make them anxious? Do they dislike loud noises? Maybe you want to rethink your trip then. Think back to times your baby has gotten upset to see how the journey might go.

– Know where you can let a kid run around. Toon Town and the Bug’s Life area in California Adventure are obvious spots. You’re going to be too tired to carry your kid everywhere all the time, and they won’t want to be in a stroller all day long. Being able to plunk a kid down in an area filled with running kids and sitting parents that’s a little fenced off is key.

– Don’t have an agenda. Just don’t. Go where you want, expect to stay as long as your kid will. Don’t be married to any ride because the line may be a deal-breaker. Speaking of, maybe aim for short lines to minimize the sting if you have to leave the line before you get on the ride.

– Avoid Snow White like the plague. Janelle pointed out to me after the fact that it’s actually called “Snow White’s Scary Adventure”, which is the kind of info I wished I had not glossed over. I remembered the ride being scary at the end. What I did not remember is that the ride is only a couple minutes long and about 90% of it is the in dark, and of that 90%, 90% is terrifying. As soon as the wicked Queen turns around and reveals her old woman form with a cackling laugh, Joshua lost it. Immediately he was trying to get out of his seat, calling out “All done! All done!” and trying to hide under Mommy. Sad-larity at its absolute peak.

– Go in the off-season. November is usually pretty ripe. Dodgy weather means people are less likely to show and it’s between their Halloween and Christmas decoration periods.

– FastPass. Use it. But also, combine it with a Parent Swap pass. FastPass lets you reserve a spot in a shortened line at Disneyland. You basically agree to return to the ride during a later, pre-set period of time and then you get to move to an advanced section of the line. With Parent Swap, find a ride attendant (typically whoever is collecting FastPass tickets) and ask for Parent Swap pass. Show them your kid and they’ll give it to you. Then, one parent can wait in line and the other can stay with the child. After the first parent returns, the other can use the Parent Swap pass to jump in as if they had a fast pass. Since you can only have one FastPass out at a time, this is a way to help increase your ride efficiency, and you don’t need to make the kid wait in line to allow both parents the ability to enjoy the ride easily.

– Be wary of characters. Your kid will very likely be scared of them. Before you wait in line to meet anyone, try and find someone walking around and bring your kid close to them. Judge the terror level.

– Come laden with snacks. Grab a ton. A very easy way to stave off an impatient child.

All together, the trip was fun. Though, it was more an outing than it was an adventure in wonder as I think it will be with an older kid who knows Disney characters a bit more. It was way easier than I expected, though.

Please to share tips if you have them as well.

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  1. #1 by Oliver on November 9, 2011 - 9:32 AM

    Yeah, going in a group if you can is absolutely key, for just about any ages. Abby & I went during the height of summer with my family including all three nieces (5, 7 and 12 years old). Those are much easier ages to begin with and the girls were up for just about anything (including Space Mountain because they crazy) but having a total of 7 adults made things much easier. I ended up holding the youngest while in line for Star Tours who then proceeded to take a nap. No way I could have done that all day by myself.

    Having a group like that also makes you not even care that much about lines as you’re just hanging out and talking. Plus there’s always someone available to go on a much needed churro run.

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