Sunday, July 17, 2011

Travel Tips - Disneyland with your Infants and Toddlers

This post is packed full of information and tips on how to spend your time at Disneyland with your infant or toddler.  Just like my last Disney travel post, I will tell you this is simply based on my own experiences and our vacation style.  You may not share my opinions and your comments are welcomed on this post.

I'm touching quite a few topics: our favorite rides, what we do at nap time, and how to find the short lines.  I'm sharing some tips on buying balloons and candy at the park too.  You will find helpful information about seeing the princesses and Tinker Bell.  Lastly, you'll read my dining tips and a couple more things you shouldn't miss while visiting Disneyland.

I hope this helps you plan a successful trip to Disneyland with your infant or toddler!

Disneyland Rides

The Disneyland website has a very long list of attractions with out height restrictions.  My daughter has been going on most of the rides in that list since her very first visit.  Through our many visits she has made her own list of favorites.  I'll share some of the rides we seem to spend the most time on while we're visiting Disneyland.

Fantasyland is where you'll find a lot of rides suitable for infants and toddlers.  The very first ride my daughter rode was Peter Pan's Flight.  She hated it!  Hopefully she'll like it someday because I remember it being one of my favorites. 

Dumbo the Flying Elephant is definitely one you will want to ride! 

Don't miss the King Arthur Carrousel!
You will find my daughter's favorite ride at The Mad Tea Party.  She loves riding the Teacups with her daddy!  I don't like to spin so I watch from a shaded spot near the ride.  She is now old enough to spin the Teacups herself and makes sure she lets my husband know when she will be taking charge of their ride.

We usually end up spending a lot of time in Mickey's Toontown!  Minnie is usually always waiting on her front steps to greet guests and take pictures.  There is normally a long line but don't let that discourage you because the line usually moves pretty quickly.  Minnie's House offers a great little area to step inside and take a quick break.  My daughter loves touching everything in the house just as much now as she did when she was smaller.
 Goofy's Playhouse is a great shaded play area for small children.  It's the perfect place to get out of the stroller to run around in a safe and enclosed space.

Mickey's house is a lot of fun to explore.  Toward the end of the house tour you can choose to either exit back into Toontown or wait in line to meet Mickey.  I agree that spending some time with Mickey is definitely important if this is your first visit to Disneyland or don't get to visit that often.  With that being said, the line is usually always very long to see Mickey at his house.  Instead we usually wait in the shorter lines at the park's entrance to see the characters.  Mickey is usually always waiting to greet guests in the morning.  My daughter doesn't know the difference and we are happier with the shorter wait times.

New Orleans Square is home to The Pirates of the Caribbean and The Haunted Mansion.  Both rides do not have height restrictions.  My daughter absolutely loves the Pirates ride!  The best part - there is usually a very short wait time to get on the ride!  As for the mansion, she recently decided the ghosts were scary so we haven't been on in awhile.

You'll find The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh in Critter Country.  The ride is fun and afterwards you can stop nearby for pictures with the characters!
There are a few rides that my daughter is now just tall enough to ride.  The Disneyland site allows you to search for rides by the height requirement.  There is only one ride with a 32" requirement - Autopia.  My daughter had fun the first time she rode the ride as the passenger between my husband and I.  Our next visit to Disneyland she insisted on driving the car while I sat next to her.  I let her steer and used my foot to push the gas pedal.  She was initially excited but then wasn't able to control the car and we were bouncing off the rails on the track.  Since then she has had no desire to ride again.  Oops.
The next height requirement category is 35" and only has two rides - Gadget's Go Coaster and the Matterhorn Bobsleds.  The coaster is located in Toontown and we've only been on it once with my daughter.  She was familiar with the ride because she watched a video online.  She loved it but unfortunately it has had a long line each time we tried to ride again.  The Bobsleds are known to my daughter as the "Yeti Ride."  She asks to ride it and then closes her eyes from start to finish.  I would recommend riding it with your adventurous toddlers!

As I mentioned yesterday, YouTube has an extensive library of Disneyland ride videos.  Watching the videos prior to your vacation is a great way to get your toddler familiar with the rides.  My daughter knows what to expect before she ever tries a new ride and is typically not scared.

Nap and Break Time

The excitement of Disney with children definitely wears you out.  If you are staying at one of the Disneyland Resort Hotels, you have the convenience of simply returning to your room for a quick break during nap times.  But if you're staying somewhere else, taking the tram back to your car and then driving to your hotel with a sleeping child might not be ideal.  I know each time we tried to go back to our hotel after our daughter had fallen asleep, she was wide awake by the time we arrived back in our room.  We now have a few preferred locations we go to when she gets sleepy if we don't want to leave the parks.   

The Enchanted Tiki Room is a nice place to sit and cool off or stay out of the rain.  There is noise but never enough to wake up my daughter while she was napping.  You are able to sit while you wait for the doors to open before each show.  The show room is dark and temperature controlled.  Be sure to sit on the exit side at the end of a row in case your little one wakes up and you need to leave before the show ends.

If you are looking for a more permanent place to sit for a couple of hours, try the Rancho del Zocalo Restaurant in Disneyland.  I love Mexican food and I will be honest, I'm not in love with the food here.  But it offers a great shaded place to sit while you let your infant or toddler sleep in the stroller.  We usually have a light blanket with us to put over the stroller while my daughter naps.  Occasionally we have sat next to very noisy guests and this didn't work out for my daughter's nap.  But for the most part we have always been able to find seating in an isolated corner where we could chat and my daughter could rest up for more fun.

Short Lines

There are plenty of rides with short wait times but we have found The Pirates of the Caribbean to be our best option consistently when we are looking for a good ride with a short line.

Disney's FASTPASS Service is complimentary to all guests and allows you to get a pass to return to rides at designated times and avoid long lines.  I would suggest looking online and determining which rides you plan to FASTPASS before running around the park with out a plan.

I added Mouse Wait, a great app, to my iPhone before our last visit to Disneyland.  We love it!  It's a free app that covers Disneyland, California Adventure, and Downtown Disney.  It shows you updated and accurate wait times for nearly all of the attractions.  In addition to the most accurate wait times, you have other wonderful resources available including a list of attractions by height and where to find important things like first aid and phone charging stations.  I also recently (five minutes ago) read their Top 10 Disneyland Tips.  I suggest you go and do that now too!  You can also check out their blog for interesting Disney related tips and information.

Balloons

Disneyland has several ATMs but I would strongly suggest having cash on hand before you enter the park.  This might seem silly until you see hundreds of kids carrying balloons and your child starts begging for one too.  There are so many different types to choose from so make sure you make a good choice the first time.  While looking through our pictures from the past couple of years I was amazed to discover just how many different balloons we've purchased at Disneyland.
About a year ago my daughter was sitting in her stroller happily gazing at her balloon when an older kid ran up to us, punched her balloon, and then ran off as the balloon flew away.  Really, that happened to us.  I remember my husband and I standing there in complete disbelief.  Who would let their kid behave like that and not even offer to replace my cute daughter's balloon?  As we were walking away, an employee stopped us and shared information everyone should be told upon purchasing a balloon.  The balloons are meant to last at least one full week.  If you are at the park and your balloon is "dying," simply take it back to a balloon vendor and they will replace it for free.  Secondly, if your balloon pops or comes untied from the string, bring your string to a balloon vendor and they will replace your balloon for free.  Good to know!

Candy

You will also probably notice all the kids with giant Disney suckers as you walk around the park.  If you don't, your sugar loving toddler definitely will!  We caved in a few times and bought one for my daughter.

We have found that it's much better to buy a package containing a few small lollipops instead of buying a giant sucker.  Common sense will tell you a lollipop that big is going to have your small child bouncing off the walls for days.  What were we thinking?

Tinker Bell and the Princesses

If you have a little girl that loves Tinker Bell and the Disney Princesses, expect to wait in really long lines!  Or just be smart about when you choose to visit them. 

The Disney Princess Fantasy Faire is where you will get to spend some time with a few princesses and have your picture taken.  There is a long list of potential princesses that will be present but only three Disney Princesses are guaranteed to be present when you get your turn to walk the greeting pathway.  Be sure you set appropriate expectations!  Instead of asking your daughter if she wants to meet Cinderella, ask her if she wants to meet princesses instead.  Trust me, this will go over much better if Cinderella isn't there!
If you want the opportunity to meet Tinker Bell, make sure you visit Pixie Hollow - Tinker Bell & Her Fairy Friends! 
I have never seen either of these attractions with short wait times as we've strolled by.  The best advice I have is to go here immediately when the park opens to hopefully avoid an incredibly long wait time (seriously, sometimes the wait for the princesses is hours). 

If you are staying at Disneyland Resort Hotels and have magic morning early entry, be sure to make it over to these attractions at least 15 minutes prior to the park opening to the general public.  The attractions open at that time and usually a huge crowd forms before you can even start to get in line!


Dining

We usually don't eat meals in the park because my daughter is extremely picky and we don't want to spend our vacation fund on pricey food she won't eat.  Don't be shy about bringing your own snacks into the park.  I've seen plenty of families eating from lunch bags on park benches!  Most times we end up stopping somewhere in Downtown Disney to eat dinner.  Our favorite restaurant there with our daughter is The Rainforest Cafe.  Unfortunately there is usually a very long wait around dinner time.  You can't call ahead to make reservations so you end up having to wait.  The other con is that there is no guarantee you will be seated next to the aquariums or moving animals.  We recently discovered something that will make every experience there so much better!  For only $10, you can become a member of the restaurant's Safari Club.  As a member you will receive 10% off entrees or a free appetizer EVERY time you visit.  You also receive priority seating.  No more long wait times!  Best $10 we ever spent last month!  We were told our table would be ready in approximately 45 minutes.  We joined the club on site and were called to our table in less than 10 minutes!  Additionally, we were seated directly in front of a large aquarium!  If you plan to eat here, join the club!
Character dining is something we don't do often but definitely enjoy!  Check out all the options here.



A Few More Must Sees

Don't forget about the Disney parades!  Watching a parade here is the best way to see all your favorite characters!  You typically have to arrive incredibly early to find decent seats.  Sometimes there are opportunities to take tours that will give you premium seats for the parades.  Two years ago we went on the holiday walking tour and then sat in the front row where the parade started with complimentary fudge and hot chocolate.  It was an awesome experience!

You have to see the Disneyland fireworks!  There are a few ways to view them.  You can sit on the ground close to an hour before the show starts in front of the castle for the best view.  We did this the last time we visited and it was absolutely worth the wait.  We bought corn dogs and popcorn before we sat down.  My daughter loved seeing Tinker Bell and Dumbo fly over the castle!
You can see fireworks and here the music at most locations in the park but you won't be able to see Tinker Bell or Dumbo.  We normally sit directly in front of the Small World ride for a pretty decent view.  Currently the fireworks show has lights that dance on the front of Small World ride.


Before your first visit you should absolutely explore the Disneyland website.  You will have a much more enjoyable visit if you know what to expect and plan accordingly!

I have one more post planned about our Disney experiences.  Later I'll be sharing information on California Adventure.
 

1 comment:

izza said...

Hi! Thanks for the tips! This is just the right info that I'm needing for. We just planned a trip to Disney next month and your post has been so helpful for us. Anyway, renting Handy Stroller in Disney might help you too. Thanks for sharing your Disney adventure.