Disneyland is so much fun for toddlers, but it can be a grueling task for parents who aren’t sure what to expect. If you are unprepared, Disneyland is a strange, foreign place with crowds and rules, lines in the bathrooms, and $3 water bottles. To preserve your sanity and make the experience a memorable one. Here is my simple guide to having a blast at Disneyland with your toddlers.
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How to Survive with Toddlers at Disneyland
Consult a map beforehand
Plan your trip before you go and get a better understanding of where things are in the park by looking online at disneyland.disney.go.com. You can plan a route, so you don’t waste time and energy getting around. You can also learn information about specific ride requirements, restroom locations, and types of restaurants available. (Trust me, with toddlers getting overly excited by all the stimulation you will need to know where the restrooms are!)
While you are planning, consider what is the least you can do that you will be happy with and try not to push too hard beyond that. It’s better to seize opportunities as they come then be overly ambitious, because things will not go according to plan. When you get into the park, be sure to grab a map and show schedule on the way in. They’re indispensable.
It’s really hard to get toddlers out the door and remember all the food, diapers, sunscreen, emergency clothes, etc that they’ll need for the day. But if you wake up early the day of and get as much prepping done as possible before waking the little ones, it can be done. If you are not a morning person, a little coffee goes a long way and you’ll be glad you did when afternoon rolls around.
What to pack in a diaper bag for Disney
- Change of clothes
- Children’s pain reliever
- Sippy cup or bottle
- Autograph book
- Battery operated fan with mister
- Thin rain jacket or ponchos
- Extra batteries or chargers
Bring the Stroller
You will definitely want a stroller with you as you navigate Disneyland. They also have some you can rent if you are flying in and didn’t bring one.
Waiting in Line
Strollers are not allowed in lines for the attractions so you will have to park them nearby. Be sure to bring valuables with you when you do. Early arrival means you’ll get in a few rides fairly easily without having to wait too long while carrying a toddler.
When you do end up standing in line, use an app on your phone to keep them entertained. Here are a few I recommend:
Bring water and snacks
Part of your inventory should include water bottles and snacks. This isn’t necessarily a substitute for Disneyland cart snacks. If you want a churro, by all means get one. They’re awesome. Collect ’em all, because they’ve got a scavenger hunt going right now for Pixar Fest. But you don’t want to be hungry on a hot, crowded day, wandering around trying to find a kiosk that serves Mickey pretzels. And yes, it’s better not to have to pay for water. Keep in mind that you can get a cup of water for free at all quick service restaurants.
Here is a list of food and drinks you can take into Disneyland.
Some restaurants at Disneyland have toddler meals including Village Haus and French Quarter These are sometimes even cheaper than the standard kids meal.
Baby Care Center
Definitely make use of the Baby Care Center, on Main Street USA. They have changing stations, toddler size toilets, which is quite helpful if you are potty training, a feeding room and everything you need in a pinch. Just be careful with the water cooler. People refill bottles and touch the spout with them. I personally wouldn’t trust that, it just isn’t worth getting sick.
You don’t need to go out of your way to use the baby center. It’s meant to be a convenience, but you can change your toddler in any Disneyland restroom. In Disneyland, the Baby Care Center is located on Main Street, next to the First Aid Station. In Disney California Adventure, the Baby Care Center is located next to the Ghiradelli Soda Fountain and Chocolate Shop.
Take time for playgrounds
Toddlers are at the age where they can do most of the attractions in the park. But what is perfect for them are the playgrounds in Toontown and on Tom Sawyer’s Island. Letting them burn off energy and then take a nap in their stroller is the best way to spend an afternoon in Disneyland. I recommend taking a break at Bengal Barbecue with a Jungle Julep.
Stay near the parks
If possible and in your budget, try to stay as close as possible to the parks. When Jonah was little we stayed at the Disneyland Resort. This made it so easy to pop in and out of the parks anytime we needed to. When he needed a nap, I took him back to the room while Noah, Eden, and my mom continued in the parks. One of the most beneficial perks of staying at a Disney hotel is the Extra Magic Hour or Magic Morning. This is a great time to be in the parks and avoid crowds and lines.
Find some sort of way to put your contact info on your toddler. I only lost a kid once and only for a few minutes, but it was scary. A simple thing to do is put your phone number on a sticky label and just stick it on the back of their shirt.
We spent so much time at Disney when my kids were toddlers (since kids under 3 are free) and it is some of my best memories. I hope your Disney trip with toddlers is amazing and memorable too!