Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Disneyland Survival Tips - Part 2

You've made it through the car ride and now you're in California. Congrats!! Disneyland is great. It's fun, magical, exciting and kids love it. Ironically, kids also make it almost intolerable. Okay, not completely. But, man it can be rough. We've taken our kids to Disneyland 5 times in the last 4 years. *checks calendar* Seriously, oh my gosh. New vacation ideas are in order. We've learned things though. Lots of things. Lest we forget - here they are:

1. Reality Check those Expectations. 
This is the greatest picture ever taken at Disneyland. Ever.
The happiest place on earth. Just... no. Yes, it's fun, it's awesome. But no. There will be crying. There will be frustration, screaming, breakdowns. That's okay. You're a parent - you deal with that stuff all the time. Now you'll just have an audience of hundreds of people to witness your child's breakdown. It's alright. Just expect it.

When it happens, deal with it, give yourself time to recover, and then shake it off. Life in all it's multi-hued variety continues even at Disneyland.

2. Get There Early.

Be there at opening or just after. There really are less people and this is the best chance to walk onto rides. Magic Mornings are awesome... if you're the magical one who gets to walk in early.

Jonas resented all the magic morningers mightily.
If you don't have a magic morning ticket, keep in mind that the park may already have been open for an hour for others so that's why Fantasyland is packed on Tuesday and Thursday morning.

3. Laid Back Philosophy - Paying for the Atmosphere, Not Non-Stop Rides.

 This is a hard lesson to learn, but totally vital to having an enjoyable trip so here goes: You will not be going on all the rides if you have kids. Yes, there's Rider Swap. Yes, you can divide and conquer. But kids, man. They just are slow, fickle, and needy. As soon as I stopped scheduling our days and trying to rush from one ride to the next frantically trying to beat the crowds, Disneyland got a lot better. If you're there for the atmosphere, you're a winner as soon as you make it into the park. Lines become a chance to soak it all in. Zen vibes all around.

4. Kids Need Unstructured Playtime - Even at Disneyland.
Disney magic shooting out of Gwen's eye's like rainbow lasers.
A half hour running around with other kids is as rejuvenating to them as a dole whip in the shade is for you.

5. Let the Kids' Needs be your Guide.

If they say they're hungry, believe them. If they're doing a potty dance, notice. If they say the Haunted Mansion is too scary, listen. Or you'll find yourself carrying a screaming toddler up the hidden disenchanting staircase that will lead you back to the light of day. Twice.

6. Little Kids Love Parades.

 I never want to stop riding rides for parades. I can't help but look around at all the people waiting and think "Aha! These suckers have taken themselves out of lines for an hour! Now's our chance to wait 2 minutes less!". It only took once with our kids to realize that, as long as we're in the shade, it's a great break for the parents, and the kids love love love it. They dance and laugh and sing.

Our favorite place to watch the parade is by the toilets behind Alice in Wonderland. There are little benches that you can snag for the grownups. There's no crowd on the other side because of the matterhorn, so all the princesses wave right at your excited little girl. Plus, come on, easy access to toilets. Amiright?!

7. Lines Suck. Know Your Line Limits.

Try to avoid the long lines by taking advantage of fast passes and Rider Swaps. The morning lines will be shorter. Get on all the rides you can in the morning. By about 1pm there are going to be long lines even in February. Let that be your time to relax with the kids and see shows, window shopping, and line-free attractions. At some point you'll be ready for rides again, just pick the rides you want the most and bite the bullet. Make the most of the time in lines by noticing all the cool details around you. Make up stories while you wait. I even have brought a couple distractions along in my pocket for my son who can't handle waiting. I've found that if a line is more than 30 minute wait, it's just not worth it. No matter what. That's my line limit. So if it's longer than that, we do something, anything, else.

8. All about the Stroller.

Reclining seats for afternoon naps. Colorful ribbon for easy identification. Under baskets for easy stowing of water and snacks.

A comfy carrier is great for a baby. Umbrella stroller is perfect for 1 kid. Double Umbrella Stroller for 2.
At least the baby, the one who won't remember, is happy.
Sit and Stand Stroller for 3. If you have more kids than three, there is no stroller in the world that save you. Heaven help you.

9. You Need Food.

We buy our meals and one snack a day in the park. Other than that I make sure to have plenty of snacks and water on hand. If you have kids you really can't make it from meal to meal without snacks for them. They need constant nourishment.

Keep in mind that you're walking constantly in the sun outside so you're going to be much hungrier than a typical day. Make sure some of them are healthy snacks to help balance the beignets and dole whips that will be bought and eaten plentifully. Before we leave I pack up a separate bag for each day we'll be at the park so it's easy to grab and go. When we arrive in CA I stop at Target and get oranges, grapes, carrots, hummus, and gogurts to supplement.

10. Souvenirs.

You think you're not going to want them. You think you're strong. But something happens when you walk through those gates. The inexplicable mickey ears suddenly make perfect sense. Grown men in goofy hats. Baby girls with gelled glittered hair and tiaras. Most of this stuff is available and cheaper at your mall's Disney store.

We've bought stuffed Mickeys and Minnies before we go, and bring them every trip. I picked up mickey ears at DI for a dollar a piece (They're always at second-hand stores because they really do stop making sense outside of Disneyland. People wake up out of their amnesia and wonder how they spent $20 on something so ridiculous and toss them away in disgust.) But despite all your good intentions, there really is something fun about buying a souvenir in the park. So each kid gets $10 to get whatever tiny thing they can find. Princess pins, Star Wars comics, Princess figurines, and tiny hats have all been cherished purchases in the past.

Glowsticks and light up stickers are a great thing to bring with you. So when your kid asks to buy a $20 light up balloon, you can hand them these instead.

11. Hotel Rooms are Boring.

You can circumvent this completely buy renting a vacation condo with multiple rooms. But if you can't convince your friends to go with you to split the cost of a condo so that you can get their kids sick by sharing a living space, just prepare for the confined quarters of a hotel room.

I'll usually bring a few little things for them to do. Dollar Puzzles, Popcorn, Games, a few little toys.

12. Take a Beach Break Day!

You know the old trope "Take a vacation from your vacation"? Well it's a good idea. And going to the beach in the morning, naps in the hotel in the afternoon, and a pizza/movie night are a great vacation in a vacation. We've gone to Huntington Beach, Newport Beach, and Laguna Beach.

Huntington Beach is a big, flat, sandy beach with lots of paid parking. There's a pier with a burger joint and lots of room to just walk around.

Newport Beach has boats, a boardwalk, and too many people.

So far, Laguna has been our favorite. Heisler Park is beautifully landscaped, and the beach below is rocky and interesting. Great for exploring. If you go on the weekend it's going to be crazy. Any beach is crazy on the weekend. The worst part of going to the beach is finding parking. Just give yourself permission to have a half hour window of stress and cyclical driving so you won't be surprised when it happens. But after you park, you've got a few hours of fun for you and the kids. We're not big ocean swimmers, we just wear clothes that are sand friendly and bring some buckets and shovels for the kids.

13. Matching Personalized Disney Shirts for the Whole Family.

 Don't. Please don't. Unless you must. Then go ahead.

See Part 1 for Surviving Road Trips here.


Katie said...

Anna! Even though I don't blog anymore, I've still been following yours. This post is such a delight, I just wanted to tell you! Your writing is so funny and I think many of your tips are good even if it's just adults going. And I love Disneyland! Hope you're doing well!

Dean, Andrea, Tanner, Landon, & Braddock said...

Five times in four years!? I know who I'm going to advice when we finally get around to it!

Anna said...

Thanks Katie! That's a great compliment coming from you, I've always admired your writing. Hope you're well too! I've between watching twin peaks for the first time today and for some reason it reminds me of you. I think it's because you always knew all the good shows.

And yes Andrea, it's crazy. I'm kinda embarrassed at how many times we've been. :) I think we may have finally worn ourselves out for a few years.