If you are like me you are super excited to go Disneyland and want to make sure your kids are happy, have a great time, and make memories of the place and not of their parents losing their cool.
I love to plan and organize and did a lot of reading about what others did and gleaned from their tips, made my own agenda, and found a lot of hidden treasures and lessons learned so you and I can have happy kids and parents at Disneyland.
My hubby and I went to Disneyland and California Adventure for 3 days for my son’s 5th birthday, with my 2 year old daughter, and grandma. We survived and my kids walked away with great memories and photos!!!
When we planned this trip I was thinking we would stay around Disneyland, but not at Disneyland. I mean you just sleep there and no big deal. Thankfully planning a hotel 5 months before around Christmas time is too late and the only options were The Grand Californian and Paradise Pier Disneyland hotel, all onsite. I was also VERY wrong, hotel does matter and save yourself even more waiting and hassle by getting a hotel at Disneyland. You deserve it as parents for already being so awesome and brining your little ones to Disneyland.
Tip 1 – Stay at a Disneyland Hotel
Why stay onsite at a Disneyland hotel:
- You don’t have to wait for a shuttle when your kids vomit all over themselves and you 🙂 Or when you are just tired and done waiting in lines.
- Magic Hour is offered so you can go to the park an hour before it opens if your kids wake up at 4am and are already going crazy in the hotel room.
- Character breakfasts at the hotel are a MUST. You don’t have to wait in crazy lines to get a cute photo of Micky and your little ones while you are drinking a mimosa.
We stayed at Paradise Pier Hotel this time and here are the pros and cons of that hotel. Might try doing another Disneyland hotel next time but would stay here again if it was my only Disneyland hotel option. I travel a lot and have a few things that make a hotel room great for me (full-length mirror, good iron, shampoo and conditioner not all in one, and a bathroom with a fan) but everyone is different. Here are my pros and cons.
Pros of Disneyland Paradise Pier Hotel:
- Very kid-friendly hotel with a pack-and-play in the room, cleared out fridge, and a counter in the bathroom the kids can reach to wash hands.
- There is a hide-a-bed so if you don’t want to sleep with your kids that is an option.
- Yippie they have a full-length mirror and nice products without combining shampoo and conditioner.
- Our room had an amazing view of California Adventure and the fireworks show every night.
- Cleaning staff not only does an amazing job, but they are super nice. We had to call them two times for some major clean up.
- You can walk to the park and don’t have to take a shuttle. This makes it super easy to take naps and relax mid-day.
- When you check-in this can take a good 30 minutes. If you are like me you just got off of a flight and your kids are crazy. There is an arcade and movie room on the first floor to hang out with your littles ones as your room gets taken care of.
- Character breakfast was perfect!!!!
- Awesome pool with a waterslide. My kids didn’t want to do it but I can see how it would be fun for older kids.
Cons of Disneyland Paradise Pier Hotel:
- No bathroom fan. Now a lot of people don’t think this is a big deal when picking out a hotel room. Not till you are running late for a meeting and can’t see yourself in the bathroom mirror to get ready. Or in our situation here when your 2 year old pukes all over the place and you use up every bath towel and the room without windows that open makes the room stink!!!
- Its an old hotel so the elevators are small and with strollers only 2 families can fit. So you often have to wait for a few to get on one.
- The other side of the hotel is the pool side. Should be called the parking lot side. If you are up higher than the 3rd floor you no longer see the pool but rather a HUGE parking lot for Disneyland. So totally worth paying extra for the nice side!
- Cleaning staff does amazing but the people at the front desk are super slow or maybe not organized. We called about our room being really dirty and stinky due to a sick kid around 8am. When we got back to the room at 3 it still wasn’t cleaned and the staff had to wait till our nap time was over and we had a stinky relaxing time. With that check-in was also slow.
Tip 2 – Have an Agenda
Having an agenda is key! Of course you aren’t going to stay on it but having it planned out before hand will really help. I’ve already done it, tested it, and know it to be true. I’ll follow this one again, next time we go.
Skip the magic hour. If your kids are 5 and under and they didn’t wake up and crack of dawn since they stayed up late, walked a ton, and frankly who wants to get up in the dark, get kids ready, and start a long day on the wrong foot?
Disneyland Day 1
8am – Character Breakfast at the Hotel. I was thankful to have a good, hardy breakfast. You can also avoid all the crazy long lines to get a good photo of your littles ones with Micky. Second they just got ready so everyone looks their best and you get digitals and photos to keep before you leave.
10am – Make sure you have the Disneyland app and one you walk over to the park find the first Max Pass ride you want to go on. We only did Max Pass rides since the wait time is under 30 minutes. In the meantime while you wait for that first ride, head over to a ride with a small wait time. Thankfully a lot of the baby rides my 2 year old can go on aren’t too bad.
Noon – Don’t bother with a sit down lunch and instead just eat snacks. If your kids are anything like mine they love snacks and you can get healthy ones if you head to Toontown. Got hummus, veggies, mango, and a park for the kids to run around in that is gated. There are so many yummy treats my kids just grazed inline for the most part. There is also a house and lot of shade.
12:30pm – Find a spot on the sidewalk to watch the 1pm Main Street Parade. I stayed there with the stroller and one kid while the hubby and the other kid got snacks. Took a good 30 minutes and they joined me for the show. We have a BOB stroller my son could sit on the tip to watch front row.
3pm – After doing a few more Max Pass rides and hanging in there till the kids are exhausted, head back to the hotel for a late nap or quiet time. My 2 year old did nap a little in her stroller and so happy we had our personal one that fully reclined and gave her a lot of shade. At the hotel we cleaned up and got on warmer clothes, and brought our light up toys and whatnot.
5pm – We book dinner reservations in the app once you got our hotel. Things get booked up quickly so don’t wait till the day of. Things are also expensive at Disneyland so it is up to you if you want to spend $180 on pizza and bad sangria or $200 on scallops and really good cocktails. We went to 3 places for dinner and I write up on them in more details below to help you pick the best one for you and your family. Do have reservations!!!
We ate at these 3 places for dinner and I would go back to one of them, maybe two:
Naples is a pizza place so we came her on my son’s birthday, the first night. We got a pitcher of sangria, pizzas, dessert and some soup and salad. The bill was about $180 before tip. They brought out the kids meals last and the food wasn’t that good.
Catal, was about $200 for a scallops, nice cocktails, and lots of appetizers. Even the kids mac & cheese was huge (they could have shared) and the staff was really nice and it had great ambiance. We would come here again next time for sure.
Cafe Orleans is a great place to get dinner at 7pm if you can wait that long. Great view of the fireworks show. The food was good but very limited menu and no alcohol.
7pm – People are still eating dinner so lines are a little shorter. Go on a quick one while you wait for a Max Pass ride to start. There is a great fireworks water show you can see even at a distance. We parked it near the Mark Twan boat ride and saw a good side of it without being in the middle of the crowds.
9pm – We stayed out as late as possible and our kids loved all the light and attractions. Got dessert and road one last big kid ride as my hubby and I did a switch pass and by son got to go on twice. Tip: get in line right when the other parent is about to get on the ride, so the line for the little kid is shorter the second time around.
My sons favorite ride was Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters.
Tip 3 – Pack Smart
Yes you are going to want the fun matching shirts! I was so happy I got mine last minute from Etsy Store. Here are some other must-bring items (if you ask me):
- Mickey Ears – everyone has them and if you want to spend $50 for two then get them at Disneyland. I got mine at Target for $12 for 2.
- Light Up Everything – I brought a light rope that I used to outline my stroller and it was so nice to have everyone be able to see me as we walked at night. We had light up gloves, hats, wristbands, rings, and lots of glow lights.
- Disney To-go Cups – I got a 4 pack and we used them every day. Either for water or to discretely hold my adult beverage.
- Gallon Size Bags – We used Ziplock bags for dirty diapers, dirty clothes, and really they just come so in handy.
- Identification – If your kids are too young to know your name and cell phone number then make sure they have this on them. We used a clip on ID that was easy for anyone to see on the back of my daughter who is 2.
- Disney Clothing – Got them into the spirit with Mickey and Minnie sweaters they could use on their way there.
Tip 4 – Travel Busy Book
There is a lot of waiting, so make sure to have a Travel Busy Book or something to keep them entertained while in line, waiting for food, and while traveling of course. I made my kids travel busy books and my little one loved it while she chilled in the stroller.
My kids also played with them on the airplane and I am so happy I made them. Here is a better photo to see what was included in the one I made for my son.
Tip 5 – What to Buy
Of course, there are some things you will want to buy there. We got my daughter her first princess dress. Took it to the hotel and she was so excited to wear it that evening for dinner. Got them a Mickey bubble wand that lights up and a Fantasia wand that changes color.
The thing you do not want to miss that was a big hit was the penny souvenir. It only costs 50 cents but they watch it being made and both fell asleep holding on to it. You can get this on your way out of the park on the left-hand side near the gate, with a few other souvenirs.
Another thing you cannot miss is the Dole whip, yes even in the winter this is a must! They sell it at the park, but the line is always a good 30 minutes. The Disneyland Hotel has a “The Coffee House” that sells it too. Not only that but they sell a version with rum!!!
This place is a gem and I cannot believe no one told me about it. We came here a few times while on vacation and every time there was no line.
Both of our kids had a great first vacation at Disneyland. My hubby and I didn’t lose our cool and we made some great memories, got a lot of fun photos, and learned so much.
Q: What are your Disneyland tips for me to consider next time we go? * L