15 Must-Read Tricks For Tackling Disneyland With Young Kids

Thursday, January 22, 2015

15 parenting tricks for Disneyland with young kids

Ah, Disneyland. Almost every family I know wants to go there at least once while their kids are young. There are dreams of Mickey, and princesses, and rides, and Cars Land. It’s the happiest place on earth, right? Well, if you go in unprepared you might as well hand the mouse your money, turn around, and go home.

My family has now been a number of times with our young kids and developed a list of tricks that are “must follow.” Beware, if you don’t go in with a game plan, your trip can turn from one of amazement to one of absolute frustration. This list will save you from that frustration.

1. Use this trick to get a rare discount on park tickets…
If you aren’t buying park tickets in a package deal, it’s hard to find discounts on them. Did you know you can buy tickets using Disney gift cards? Furthermore, at the time of this writing, you can receive a 5% discount on gift cards by buying them with your Target credit card. It might not seem like much of a savings, but if you are buying for a whole family the discount adds up. On our last trip we saved about $70. Disney gift cards can also be used for food and merchandise in the park.

Also, never buy your tickets at the gate; get them online. When you buy them online you can use your gift cards and get a free magic morning at Disneyland (only on park passes for 3 days or longer). Magic mornings get you into the gate one hour before opening to the public. They are awesome. If you buy your tickets at the front gate, you might hit a long line and you don’t get that early entry. My family found this out the hard way. 



15 parenting tricks for Disneyland with young kids
2. This is necessary for anyone under five…
Make sure to bring or rent a stroller for kids five and under. We brought one for our baby and rented one for our four-year-old. As the day went on, the rented stroller was a lifesaver for carrying items and navigating crowds. If you are staying offsite and need to go back to your room for a nap, you can drop off the stroller at the rental location by the front gate, and pick it up when you come back.

You should also bring a baby carrier in addition to a stroller. They are lifesavers for holding your kids in line, even if you are waiting for only ten minutes. 

3. Make reservations at restaurants now...
This may seem like a no brainer but every time I’m at a place like Ariel’s Grotto, I see upset parents and melting down kids who are out of luck. During busier times of year it’s almost impossible to find seating. Of course you can always buy a turkey leg or corn dog, however, it is easy to make reservations online or over the phone.


4. Speaking of Ariel’s Grotto…
If you have young kids and have never eaten at a Disney character dining restaurant you should do it, at least once. We like Ariel’s Grotto because princesses come around to each table so you won’t have to wait in long lines in the park. Some also like Goofy’s kitchen. Either way, it is a great way to make memories and take wonderful pictures.


15 parenting tricks for Disneyland with young kids

5. For outside of the park eating…
A few blocks south of Disneyland is a strip mall across from The Candy Cane Inn. It is an easy walk from the park and at last count offered at least five types of food to choose from. We found the food and prices to be a good if you are on a budget or just tired of Disney food.

6. Speaking of saving money on food…
Did you know you can bring food and drink into Disneyland and California Adventure? Even if you are planning on eating in the parks bring water bottles. If you are reading this, you probably have young kids. If you have young kids you should also have a stroller. Put a load of water bottles in the bottom of the stroller each day and you will not only stay hydrated, but you will also save a ton of money on drinks.


15 parenting tricks for Disneyland with young kids
7. To load up on coffee, skip Starbucks and go here…
First of all, try and get your coffee before you go in the park in the morning. You will want to head straight to rides and not wait in line for food or drinks. You will waste valuable time. If you need a caffeinated pick me up during the day, don’t go to Starbucks on Main St. in Disneyland. Instead, hit the Jolly Holiday. It’s the big yellow restaurant right at the end of Main St. They have most specialty coffee drinks and usually a way shorter line.

8. You must bring this…
Bring a blanket that you don’t mind getting dirty. It’s not to keep warm, but to put on the ground for shows. It’s a good idea to get to fireworks, World of Color, parades and other shows at least 30-45 minutes early. It’s nice to have somewhere for the kids to sit. A blanket is perfect for this.

9. And this…
Cell phones are needed but coverage at Disneyland is spotty at best. This means your phone will be constantly searching for a better signal and your battery will die fast. Do not forget to bring a mini external charger to recharge your phone with. Just keep it in the stroller for when needed. You can get them on Amazon for relatively cheap.

10. Try these bathrooms first…
If you have young kids or babies try using the companion bathrooms. They are stroller friendly and there usually isn’t much of a line. Also, every bathroom that I have seen has a dedicated changing table. This means moms AND dads can take the babies to clean up!

11. This little known area can be a parent lifesaver…
Disneyland and California Adventure have a Baby Center. Parents can go there for a nursing room, changing area, kitchen with microwave, and a store with all sorts of baby products. Best of all, it has a big room for crawling kids to move around in to get the wiggles out.

12. This will save you more time on rides that anything else…
If you haven’t heard of the website RideMax.com, you are missing out. It is a site about visiting Disneyland and it maps out your entire day for you to save the most time possible and spend the least time in lines. I have used it for two trips and it is very efficient. It almost seems as if you stay ahead of the crowds all day long. The site also gives you many other tips that you will not want to miss. RideMax costs $15 for a 90-day subscription. However, this will be some of the best money you spend on your whole trip.

13. You might know about Fast Passes but do you know about these other passes…
Many people know that fast passes for Disney rides are free and really necessary to hit everything. However, did you know that if you have a child who is too small to ride, you can get a switch pass? This lets you and two other go on the ride again at any point during the day. 

15 parenting tricks for Disneyland with young kids

14. When watching parades, do this…
Why does everyone sit in the middle of a parade? Sit at the beginning or end and there are usually many more spots available. Another plus is that after the parade you can easily leave and beat the crowds to your next stop.

15. Here is how to beat the crowds on Cars Land Radiator Springs Racers in the morning…
This is easily the most popular ride in Disneyland and California Adventure. Standby lines can get to 2 hours long; so hit this ride first thing. Enter the front gate and head straight ahead to where the crowd will be gathering to be led into Cars Land. If you are heading right to the ride, get to the very right of the crowd. Stay to the right all the way to the line because the cast members will eventually make everyone merge to the right. You will be one step ahead.

If you are trying for Radiator Springs Racers Fast Passes, move to the very left of the crowd. Make sure you give one person everyone’s passes to streamline this process. When they open up the Fast Pass line, walk as fast as you can, staying to the left. This will get you to the machines quickly and let you enjoy the rest of your day.

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