Our favorite go-to vacation spot is… Disneyland. Really, it’s my favorite vacation spot, but I have a wonderful husband who humors me. We went there on our honeymoon and it was the first vacation we took with kids. We recently went again this year. Because we’ve been so many times, we’ve learned some tips and tricks for what works… and what doesn’t . Here are some tips to make your Disneyland vacation easier on you, your kids, and your wallet. By the way, when I say Disneyland, I really mean the entire resort, include California Adventure.
Booking your vacation:
- It’s really hard to get deals on Disneyland tickets, so to make our lives easier, we go through the Disneyland website. When you go through Disney, you get extra perks like free pins and lanyards, free photographs on specific rides and luggage tags. You also get a lot of mail/emails from Disney that can help with vacation planning.
- Because we book through the Disneyland, we do a tickets and hotel package. Rather than stay in a Disneyland Resort Hotel, we stay in a “Good Neighbor hotel.” This is an option when you are browsing hotels on the website. The hotels are within walking distance of the park. Check several hotels. This time, we stayed in a hotel that is normally more expensive, but had a deal giving us the 4th night free.
- Be flexible and check different dates. With airfare and hotel prices, we would have paid $300 more if we went two weeks earlier, which we originally considered.
- If you’re staying close to Disneyland and not traveling anywhere else, book a shuttle instead of renting a car. We’ve found the best prices through Super Shuttle.
Traveling with kids:
- Rather than spend the day on airplanes, buses shuttles, etc.; and then heading right to Disneyland, we decided to devote two days to travel alone. We arrived in CA on Monday, visited Disneyland on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday and then devoted Friday to travel home.
- An essential item in our carry-on is a bag of Dum Dums. I’ve decided, traveling on a cramped airplane with two kids, 200 other passengers, and nothing to do but stare at the seat in front of me while trying not to get sick is not the time to demonstrate my stellar parenting skills. Therefore, whatever keeps the kids quiet goes. This includes eating Dum Dum after Dum Dum during the flight. They are small and take a while to eat, so I feel better about this than other treats. Dum Dums also really help with air pressure during take-off and landing. The sucking helps keep the pressure in kids’ little ears stable.
- If you have a sit and stand stroller, bring it. If you don’t, buy one. These are GREAT during travel and through the park. My youngest is still small enough for a stroller, but my oldest is getting too big. With a sit and stand stroller, my oldest can sit in the back, stand on it, or get out and walk. Plus, it’s a lot smaller than a bulky double stroller. You can check your stroller at the gate so it can stay with you during your airport wait. We purchased our sit and stand stroller used for only $60.
- Rather than spend way too much on TV/movies (which we were glad for since the only thing on during our flight was Sponge Bob), we loaded our iPad with movies and shows for the kids to watch and invested in cheap headphones. We’ve done this before with a portable DVD player and a small CD case full of DVDs. We also purchased new coloring books for each of our kids (set us back about $3) that were only for the flight. This way, they were excited about their new books and weren’t bored of them before we even left the house.
- Because we’re cheap, we checked one bag between the four of us, and carried on the rest. Because flights are now so over-stuffed with carry-on luggage, they will often check a carry-on item for free at the gate. Be brought a small rolling suitcase as a carry on, but always checked it… for free!!!!
- Before we even left home, we made the purchasing expectations very clear. Each day, we were allowed one treat. This could be a churro, a mickey mouse ice cream treat, popcorn, etc. Whatever we picked, we each got one per day.
- Also to keep expectations clear, the kids knew we each got one souvenir during the trip, which would be purchased on the last day. We picked the last day so the kids didn’t pick the first toy they saw in the first store we walked into, and then spend the rest of the trip experiencing buyer’s remorse.
- This tip came from my genius sister! Von’s Food delivers groceries throughout CA. This means, you can order groceries online and they will deliver them to your hotel. Because our hotel had a continental breakfast, we purchased food for lunches and snacks to bring into the parks. We even ordered a pack of water so we didn’t have to purchase drinks.
- Since we ordered snacks and were only allotted one treat per day, we made sure to bring fun snacks the kids may not normally get. For example, we bought Disney character fruit snacks so the kids felt like they were having a “Disneyland treat” without having to spend a ton of money.
- We have one child tall enough to go on the thrill rides and one who isn’t. That means one parent gets to ride the awesome rides with the big kid while the other gets to ride Winnie-the-Pooh or Heimlich’s Train 15 times in a row. To prevent us from having to wait in line twice, we always got a Rider-Switch-Pass on the thrill rides. For example, my son and I waited in line for 70 minutes to ride the new Cars Land ride. When we got to the front of the line, I asked the “cast member” for a Rider-Switch-Pass. After my son and I rode, I took the pass to my husband, and he and my son got to ride again by going in through the Fast Pass line. With some rides, you get to go in through the exit, so make sure you ask the cast member how to get back on the ride. This works with any ride that accepts Fast Passes.
- This trip, we discovered a new area of California Adventure called “Redwood Creek Challenge Trail.” Since we’ve been to Disneyland so many times, we were shocked to learned this has been there since California Adventure opened. We were told most people pass it by. This is a GREAT way for the kids to get out and run around. Based on the movie, “Up,” kids get to go through an obstacle course to become a “Senior Wilderness Explorer.” There are slides, a rock-climbing wall, a net bridge (which I proudly crossed after some teasing from my son), and a rope swing. This was one of my favorite things we did that day.
- I know it’s not possible for everyone, but if you can, travel during January, February, September, October and early November. And if possible, avoid weekends. Wait times are extremely short, so there is less time for kids to get angry due to standing in line. Aside from our 70 minute wait for the new Cars ride, our longest wait time was 20 minutes. By doing this, we miss out on fireworks, a few rides are often under repair and the park opens later and closes earlier, but with small kids, the sacrifices are worth it. Check the website to see ride closures before you book your trip.
That’s all from me! Please let me know if you have tips as well. We make this trip a lot, and I’d love to hear your ideas!