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10 Tips To Know Before Heading To Disneyland

Scottsdale Moms Blog, Disneyland Tips, TravelingJason and I LOVE going to Disneyland with our kids. It’s a special place to us! Not only did we get engaged there over ten years ago, but it’s always been something that we’ve enjoyed doing together as a family. We started taking our kids to Disneyland when they were months old! Yes, I am that mom that wore my babies all over that park, “introducing them” to Mickey, Minnie, and all the characters when they were little guys.

IT’S SO FUN.

Our kids, now 4 & 2, have already grown up knowing what Disneyland is and they LOVE IT. We try to go a couple times a year if possible and it’s really something we enjoy doing together.

But whether you’re experienced Disneyland travelers like us, OR considering taking your family for the first time, I’ve complied a list here that will HELP YOU. Disneyland can be overwhelming and a ton of work if you aren’t sure what you’re doing. So here’s a good list of tips that I’ve learned in the past. Keep in mind, this is NOT a sponsored post. I did not receive anything for free from Disney or anyone else in return for sharing my tips. I just want to share what I’ve learned!

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tips to know before heading to Disneyland

1.Stay Close to the Park

Staying right across from the park is where it’s at. No trams, no buses, no waiting, no hassle. When we go to Disneyland, we stay along Harbor Blvd, and anywhere that says it’s at Disney’s main gate. The last time we went, we stayed at the Park Vue Inn and it was literally RIGHT ACROSS THE STREET. The hotel itself wasn’t expensive and we had a room with a king size bed AND a bunk bed. SCORE. Why do we like this? Because when your kids fall asleep in their strollers from pure Disney excitement overload, you don’t have to wake them up to get onto the tram. You don’t have to load everything into the car and then wait in line to exit the parking lot. You just walk across the street to your hotel, take the elevator up to your room, wheel the stroller in and PUT THEM IN BED. Sure, you have to walk a little bit further. But they’re already sleeping, right? So why disturb the peace and enjoy a little California midnight stroll. And it literally takes ten minutes once you exit the gate. Plus, if you forgot something at the hotel or even if you want to head back for a rest, you don’t have to wait for the bus or tram, giving you back so much time to play inside the parks.

2.Buy Full Price or Special Offers Through Disney

There are A LOT of websites out there that are claiming that you can purchase Disneyland tickets at a VERY discounted price. I know how tempting this can be- Disneyland is expensive! But these websites work because they are purchasing 6 day Disneyland passes and renting them out to 2-3 families at a time at a discounted rate to you. Seems like a good plan, yes? Especially financially! BUT. EVERY TIME WE GO we see Disney confiscating tickets that have been purchased this way. They are REALLY cracking down. And there would be nothing worse than spending any amount of money, getting to the gates with your excited children, and being told that you can’t get in because your tickets are fraudulent.

My advice? Save up for the trip and purchase them from Disney’s main gates or website. I know they’re not cheap and that it can cost a pretty penny to take even just a family of four. But it would be better than not getting in at all! And those websites will NOT give you your money back if Disney takes your tickets away. Save up, purchase from Disney, and check their website often! Disney is always running packages and specials that can save you a little money.

3. Do One Park Per Day

We USED buy the park hopper tickets when we would go, and try to cram in both parks in one day. But this time when Jason and I took our boys in May, we decided to do ONE park per day (we were only there two days). It was SO much better! We were able to focus on each park and accomplished SO much more each day and our time wasn’t divided. When you try to squeeze both parks into one day, you don’t realize how much time you waste just walking back and forth! And you have to exit and re-enter both gates, swipe tickets, get hands stamped etc. When we committed to and stayed in one park for an entire day, we were able to do AND see SO much more than we had before. And it eliminated the stress of “not getting to ride everything”. With no walking back and forth, we were able to do it all and MORE.

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4. Eat Breakfast As You Walk, Pack your lunch, Purchase Dinner

We love to try to save money where we can when we go to Disneyland. Food just isn’t something that we want to spend our money on. EXCEPT- I DO have to say that we LOVE Disneyland’s food options. But it can get REALLY expensive really quickly, so we choose to put our money elsewhere when we are on the trip. So whenever we plan a Disneyland trip, we ALWAYS bring easy things for breakfast (granola bars, fruit, pop tarts, pastries  and take advantage of the hotels continental breakfast. We usually make our own iced coffee too and bring it in a gallon sized container. So when we leave the hotel, ALL of us eat AND have our coffee on the walk over. To snag the coffee recipe we use and are obsessed with, check out The Pioneer Woman’s Iced Coffee recipe. It’s the bom dot com.

I make sure to pack sandwiches for lunch with fruit, pretzels, bagged chips, juice boxes, veggies, and nuts. I grocery shop before we leave and bring a cooler. The hotels all have refrigerators in them that you can stash everything in once you get there. Seems like a lot of work, but it’s worth it. We typically plan to buy a couple snacks in the park and we ALWAYS buy our dinners at Disneyland. Pizza Port is our most favorite spot to dine. Ariel’s Grotto in California Adventure is awesome too. But we save a lot of time AND money eating this way. Our kids eat breakfast in the stroller and because lunch is already made and ready, we can stop anywhere and eat really quick. No lines, no waiting, no spending unnecessary money.

WINNING.

5. Buy souvenirs at the beginning of the trip

This one is personal preference. BUT, we like to buy our kiddos a special little stuffed animal or souvenir at the beginning of the trip. This eliminates the whining and asking for something new every time we get off a ride and it dumps us into the gift shop. I just can’t handle whining. AND they get to snuggle their new stuffed animal the entire trip which makes for special memories.

6. Use the Baby Center

THIS ONE IS BRILLIANT. If you have a baby, small children or are nursing- this tip is for YOU. Disneyland has a Baby Center stocked with diapers, formula and other supplies you might need or run out of while in Disneyland. Not only that, but they provide comfortable facilities for you to nurse or bottle feed your baby in. If any of you have tried nursing your four month old on one of those Disneyland benches, you know it’s NOT FUN. Trust me, I’ve done it! Take advantage of the Baby Center and you won’t regret it.

7. Get a locker INSIDE the park

They have lockers available outside both gates of the park, BUT if you need to get a locker, I would get one inside whichever park you are going to do for the day (assuming that you’re doing one park per day). Then you don’t have to leave the park to go grab your jacket and all your belongings are somewhat close.

Scottsdale Moms Blog, Disneyland Tips, Traveling

8. Fast pass/Rider switch pass

Whether you have small kids or not, your party should TOTALLY USE THE FAST PASS SYSTEM. It basically puts you in line without having to physically wait. You receive a Fast Pass ticket with a time allotted on it. You return between that time, and you get to move to the front of the line to jump on the ride. And while you’re “waiting” for your time to arrive, you’re free to enjoy the park. It’s a no-brainer.

The Rider Switch Pass is for those families who have small kids with them, who can’t yet ride the adult rides. You arrive to the ride, speak to an attendant who is working the line, and ask for a Rider Switch Pass. They’ll give you one and ask who is riding now, and who is staying with the baby or kiddos. Whoever is waiting goes and sits down (or gets a snack nearby ETC) while the rest of the family rides the ride. When your family gets off the ride, you and one other person get to jump right to the front of the line to ride it. So no one misses out and you don’t have to wait double the amount of time to ensure everyone gets to ride.

9. Don’t go back for naps

Even with your hotel being right across the street, we have found that going back to the hotel for naps is a waste of time. If your kids will nap in the stroller, then it’s best to let them do that! Then you don’t miss out on any time in the park walking to and from the hotel. And if your kids sleep for at least two hours like mine, then that’s a lot of sitting around in the hotel waiting for them to wake up. Sure they might get grumpy, and they’ll be exhausted. But kids are flexible and will adjust! Not to mention, they’ll probably sleep better for you once you’re back to the hotel for the night!

Scottsdale Moms Blog, Disneyland Tips, Traveling

10. Turtle Talk with Crush

While all the rides, exhibits and shows at Disneyland are totally worth it (in my opinion), we stumbled upon a new one that I HAVE to share with you! The next time you’re in California Adventure, you HAVE to check out Turtle Talk with Crush. I’m not sure how Disney does this, but it’s awesome. Basically, you all file in to a big room that looks similar to a movie theatre. Kids are allowed to sit in the front on the floor. When it starts, Crush arrives on the screen and in REAL TIME speaks with individuals in the audience. BY NAME. He answers questions from the audience on anything anyone wants to know. It was amazing! He actually picked our oldest son, Cruz, out of the crowd and had a whole conversation with him! Trust me, it was the highlight of our trip that he got to talk to CRUSH HIMSELF. It was pure amazement and totally thrilling for my little guy. Next time you’re there, you have to check it out. Check out this video to see more of what I’m talking about. But to get the FULL experience, you obviously have to just go experience it.

Like anything, there’s always more than one way to do it. SO. What are some of YOUR tips for traveling to Disneyland? Are there things that worked for you that I need to know about? I’d love to hear your suggestions as I’m always looking to make this trip with growing kiddos easier, more enjoyable, and as inexpensive as possible!

*Remember, this is not a sponsored post. I did not receive anything from Disney in return for sharing my tips. I just thought maybe it would help out another mama who is looking to take her sweet family there!

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29 Responses to 10 Tips To Know Before Heading To Disneyland

  1. becca h June 6, 2013 at 9:35 am #

    It’s been 3 years since we went to disneyland with my then almost 3 year old and it was awesome! I got so many tips from mousesavers.com and have been stalking it again as we are planning to take both kids back as a surprise in October! Can’t wait to see what other tips people share.

  2. abbi June 6, 2013 at 1:28 pm #

    The only thing I would add is that for Number 2 – I totally agree except that there are legitimate places to buy discounted tickets – they just aren’t hugely discounted.

    We get ours through AAA which saves anywhere from $10-$50 a ticket (depending on the number of days) but considering that we have to buy 5 tickets, that adds up super fast for us! And they are are real legitimate tickets. Also, Costco occasionally sells ticket packs but they sell out fast!

    • Jessica Williams June 6, 2013 at 2:14 pm #

      I totally agree Abbi! There are legitimate places for sure. I just wanted everyone to be weary of the huge discounted rates places. Because they’re tempting, it’s not always legit. AAA is a great place to buy them and I actually had no idea Costco sold them! That’s awesome!

  3. Meredith June 6, 2013 at 1:35 pm #

    I buy my souvenirs before we go. The Disney outlet at az mills has Disneyland gear. I bought each kid a Disneyland shirt and a stuffed animal to give to them when we got there. I do the same with Disney on ice events..saves tons of $$$.

    • Jessica June 6, 2013 at 2:22 pm #

      Brilliant! I’ll have to remember that next time. Although, my boys love picking them out once we are there. : / Thanks for commenting girl!! ~Jess xo

  4. Lori June 6, 2013 at 2:09 pm #

    There are a couple great rides that are the perfect amount of time for nursing. Small world and Pirates of the Caribbean. This worked so great for us. We weren’t slowing everyone else down, and it was air conditioned, dark and comfortable.

    • Jessica June 6, 2013 at 2:16 pm #

      That’s a great tip Lori!! I never considered that! Thanks for commenting!!

    • Ashley June 6, 2013 at 2:37 pm #

      This is so true! We just went two weeks ago and these were my go to rides for nursing!!! Nice and cool and long enough to take care of business 🙂

  5. Producergirl June 6, 2013 at 2:18 pm #

    Fantastic advice! Thank u for taking the time to do this and share! Really loved ur advice!

    • Jessica June 6, 2013 at 2:19 pm #

      Thank you SO much!! ~Jess xoxo

  6. Erin McFarland June 7, 2013 at 7:43 am #

    This is so great Jess!! I practically grew up at Disneyland, but that was in the days that my Papa could get my whole family in for free through his company. As we are planning on taking our kids for the 1st time this fall, I’m seeing how crazy expensive it can all get really fast! Question- are there enough things for the kids to do in California Adventure to make a whole day of it? I’ve actually never been in that park. Thanks girl!

  7. Elizabeth June 7, 2013 at 10:41 pm #

    We have a similar approach to the souvenirs, except we have the kids pick them out on the last day. That way they can see what catches their eye the whole time we’re there & it also helps ease their sadness of the trip being over when they know they still get to go shopping. Another thing we recently learned is that Disney is working very hard to make sure that any restaraunt can accommodate any dietary needs! It’s amazing! We need gluten. & dairy free for our son and there wasn’t a single place that didn’t have something for him. At each restaraunt, just let then know what you need and the head chef will come out and tell you exactly what they have 🙂

  8. Elizabeth July 11, 2013 at 11:52 am #

    AP holder with 5 kids. Have some tips. If you have children 4 on down strollers are recommended ! The strollers that recline are best . We use one light weight stroller and one standard . The standard is useful because they tend to have a large basket underneath for storage . I take an insulated bag that holds at least 7-8 bottles of water I freeze half which keeps water cold all day. You can also refill them at the water fountains or even restaurants that have the drink dispensers open to guests. Take a change of clothes for the little ones and a sweatshirt zip up or hoodie for each family member. The weather changes dramatically around 7-8 pm with med-high winds. Pack plenty of gummy candies and fruit chews for the kiddos they tend to get impatient waiting in long lines having something sweet to chew on or even lolly pops will keep them entertained. Have wet wipes handy as well. At all family style meals or buffets children 2 and under are free. Kids meals are expensive and are usually tasteless what I do is buy a nice meal and split it between 2 kids. Don’t forget the free chocolate at the gherardelli soda shop .

  9. Elizabeth July 11, 2013 at 11:53 am #

    AP holder with 5 kids. Have some tips. If you have children 4 on down strollers are recommended ! The strollers that recline are best . We use one light weight stroller and one standard . The standard is useful because they tend to have a large basket underneath for storage . I take an insulated bag that holds at least 7-8 bottles of water I freeze half which keeps water cold all day. You can also refill them at the water fountains or even restaurants that have the drink dispensers open to guests. Take a change of clothes for the little ones and a sweatshirt zip up or hoodie for each family member. The weather changes dramatically around 7-8 pm with med-high winds. Pack plenty of gummy candies and fruit chews for the kiddos they tend to get impatient waiting in long lines having something sweet to chew on or even lolly pops will keep them entertained. Have wet wipes handy as well. At all family style meals or buffets children 2 and under are free. Kids meals are expensive and are usually tasteless what I do is buy a nice meal and split it between 2 kids. Don’t forget the free chocolate at the gherardelli soda shop . Target down the street from DL has great Disney items great prices s well

  10. Michelle August 1, 2013 at 6:20 am #

    Erin- I am an AP holder and frequent Disneyland go-er. To answer your question as to whether or not California adventure is worth it depends on a few factors. How old are the people you are going with? What are their likes and dislikes in terms of rides/attractions? If you have children that are into Cars, the Cars Land area is amazing. Lightening McQueen, Mater etc comes out for meet and greets. There is also Radiator Springs Racers which is one of the most popular attractions in either park (if you plan to ride this, get there at opening and get fast passes because wait times tend to skyrocket to 80+ minutes stand by). If you have mellow children that aren’t thrill seekers Calif

  11. Michelle August 1, 2013 at 6:26 am #

    Erin- I am an AP holder and frequent Disneyland go-er. To answer your question as to whether or not California adventure is worth it depends on a few factors. How old are the people you are going with? What are their likes and dislikes in terms of rides/attractions? If you have children that are into Cars, the Cars Land area is amazing. Lightening McQueen, Mater etc comes out for meet and greets. There is also Radiator Springs Racers which is one of the most popular attractions in either park (if you plan to ride this, get there at opening and get fast passes because wait times tend to skyrocket to 90+ minutes stand by). If you have mellow children that aren’t thrill seekers California Adventure may offer less to you than Disneyland but that’s not to say it isn’t worth it.

    Also a separate thought: any counter food service will give you free ice water when requested. Split meals between two people because portion tend to be huge (like at Plaza Inn for fried chicken). One other sad but unfortunate piece of advice is to NOT bring a stroller you wouldn’t mind losing. Either rent one and make it stand out with a colorful scarf wrapped on it or bring strollers that you won’t lose sleep over if it is taken. Unfortunately stroller get taken accidentally and purposely all the time so please be aware of that.

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  16. Sherri February 8, 2014 at 8:29 pm #

    Great list of ideas, thanks so much!! You mention bringing in food – the website says no to this. Do they not enforce it or is a new rule? We did WDW about 4 years ago and brought stuff in but I don’t want to haul all this food and then be told no…

  17. Melissa March 23, 2014 at 11:16 am #

    I’ve read tons of posts similar to this before our second trip to Disneyland but found majority seemed catered to annual pass holders. I really liked this one though! Having a six year old, we really enjoyed leaving the park for a couple of hours in the middle of the day to hit the pool at the hotel – it refreshed us all for dinner and shows in the park that night. I think a mention needs to go out for more shows. Aladdin is our favourite show, and this past time we took in world of color and fantasmic which were definitely worth it! Also a good tip would be to know when is ‘off season’ as the fireworks are only on weekends (and no one does fireworks like Disney). 🙂

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