I’m not a Disneyland fanatic, but it is definitely my favorite theme park. It’s the only one I’ve visited multiple times, and the only one that makes me smile when I think of it. It’s also a little bittersweet to me- my father always swore he would take my brother and I to the park, but never did… but because he wanted to do it, no one else could. Therefore, I didn’t get to experience the magic of Disneyland until I was 11.
Needless to say, it was and is very, very important to me that my own children get to go to Disneyland when they are small enough to really fall in love with the characters and to fall under the Disneyland spell.
However, and this is a big however, I was scared to go to the park with my small children. My children are on a pretty strict schedule and theme parks aren’t really conducive to nap times. Nevertheless, as David’s third birthday approached and the realization that we’ll have to pay over $100 for him to get into the park after he hits the that third birthday, it hit me, now or never. My frugality won out.
So… we did it.
I don’t think I was fully prepared for what to bring or expect, but I did learn a few lessons and have a few tips that I think might help other families planning their own trip.
Firstly, we only did one day, and yes, that’s a luxury of living only a few hours away from the park. Some people might say that’s not long enough, but for my almost 3 year old and 10 month old, one day was plenty. It’s been three days since we got home, and they’re still recovering! We arrived on Saturday evening, went to the park all day on Sunday, and left Anaheim Monday morning. Obviously a weekday would have been less crowded, but the park was pretty empty when it opened, and it was drizzly, which kept some people away. (We didn’t mind the rain at all.)
I’m really glad we brought our stroller, but regret not having a double stroller. David wanted to ride in the stroller all day, and between Caroline’s napping and need to be out of the Ergobaby carrier (which was another good call), he didn’t get enough rest time from walking. He ended up on Jensen’s shoulders a lot, which David didn’t mind, but Jensen’s shoulders did. The stroller carried our snack bag, which was a good call- I could keep the kids fueled up and didn’t need to buy a lot of extra food besides meals.
If you have the money in your trip budget, I cannot recommend Breakfast in the Plaza with Minnie and Friends enough. The meal was delicious and both kids really loved meeting Chip and Dale, Minnie, and Tigger. It was also a nice way to start the day- low key and a filling meal.
Disneyland offers a baby center for moms and babies, and I loved this resource. I wish there were more around the park, honestly. It was a quiet place to nurse Caroline, and she’s pretty easily distracted now, so I appreciated that she wasn’t constantly flopping over to see all the goings-on. It also offered a really nice changing table, and even potties for little kids. I imagine it would be great for babies in the summer, as well, because it would be air conditioned.
David liked most of the rides, especially the train and Pirates of the Caribbean. Caroline loved the carousel and It’s A Small World. Word to the wise- don’t take your toddler on the Haunted Mansion. It was a pretty rough start for David, and we got a lot of dirty looks when he was yelling “I gotta get out of here!!!” (Again, it ended well, but getting started was always the hardest part of each ride for him.) He also loved the tea cups, and now says he loved the Tiki Room. (I think the Dole Whips helped, just saying.)
I think my most important lesson here was to just go with the flow. My kids’ schedules are still off, but I really forced myself to be in the moment and not worry about the clock. They’ll get back to normal, eventually, and watching my children laugh and smile nearly all day <<only a few meltdowns on David’s part, yesssss>> is something I’ll cherish for the rest of my life. Sometimes, you just have to go all day to get the most out of a short period of time. They’re not little forever, so I had to force myself to embrace it. I’m so glad I did. I couldn’t help but tear up a few times throughout the day, it means that much to me to be able to give my children the experiences I never had myself.