Dinseyland with a Toddler: What we did right/What we did wrong

First of all, let me just say that I mostly mean me (at least for the mistakes). Disneyland. oh holy hell. So much fun and so, so crappy. All at the same time. I’m still recovering and processing. I think I’ll hold off on the photo bomb post just to get some of my thoughts down while they are still fresh. We decided to go a bit at the last minute. We’d been intending to go before June this year to take advantage of the Southern California resident discount, but hadn’t set a date. Just last Saturday, we realized that Monday-Tuesday of the same week might be our only option so we went for it.

Ultimately, it’s probably for the best that we did things last minute given my tendancy to overplan and stress. We didn’t even have a hotel reservation! But only because the hotel’s website went down when I was trying to make a reservation. We did have a plan. Sort of.

What we did right:

  • drove down the night before so we could swim (for Spencer) and get settled before heading to the park bright and early.
  • bought park hopper tickets (for only $15 more, could visit both parks (Disneyland & California Adventure) on both days
  • packed light (only carried a purse)
  • If you are bringing disposable diapers (which we did), bring a new vacuum sealed pack of diapers. When you take the diapers out to bring to the park, they will be super flat and take up almost no room in your bag.
  • rented a stroller on the second day (strollers are only $15/day. Don’t be a hero! Or, you know, remember to bring a stroller)
  • asked at City Hall about times for cast member appearances (the was a great tip from my Disney-savvy friends at SoCal Lady Bloggers. I asked about Buzz on the second day and not only was given the exact time he would be appearing and where, but she gave us some Fast Passes, too.)
  • line snacks/ride cookies (small snacks distract and satisfy a toddler, espcially on longer rides like the submarine)
  • don’t buy any toys/gifts/presents the first day (I didn’t have to cary them and we could use the purchase as bribery for good behavior)
  • Meal Box for toddler (We had lunch in tomorrowland (and caught the awesome Jedi training live show accidentally) and they had something called a Jedi Snack Pack or something and it was the prefect toddler lunch: yogurt, string cheese, apple slices and goldfish with a juice box. All individually packaged so I could carry what he didn’t eat. Much better than Spence taking three bites of an expensive hamburger and abandoning the remainder. Overall we made pretty poor food choices, but this was a winner.
  • I left my big camera at home. Maybe I don’t have the best pictures in the world (photo bomb post coming soon), but have have the memories and didn’t have to carry my DSLR around for two days. We actually just used our phones but a little point and shoot would work too.
  • You can see the parade from Alice in Wonderland’s line if you time it right. Also, the lines in Fantasyland are really short right then. We aren’t parade people.

What we did wrong

  • we didn’t go back for our stroller. I remembered right when we got on the freeway and it was my call to keep going. We could have done one day without, but no way we could have made it through the second.
  • stayed at a hotel on the Anaheim Resort Transit system instead of a hotel with a private shuttle. We had to pay, it didn’t come very often AND I lost my ticket and had to pay again for the ride home. We walked the second day, there and back. It took us over an hour to get home the first night, the second night we hustled and were back at the hotel in 15 minutes.
  • relatedly: choose a hotel more carefully. This is the one place where our spontaneous trip hurt us. I didn’t have time to research shuttles/perks/free breakfasts and the like. It wasn’t so bad that I would bash the hotel chain on the internet, but I wouldn’t recommend it either.
  • I committed the ultimate mom of a toddler sin: I offered a choice and then didn’t follow through on the answer. I asked Spencer if he wanted ears or a balloon. He chose ballon and then I found out they were $12 and I refused. TWELVE DOLLARS FOR A BALLOON. No way. I refused. So we got ears and he is ambivalent. I hope he likes them later.
  • check the weather everyday. This is just me being dumb. It was cloudy and awesome the first day and I assumed it would be the second because that’s what the weather said on Sunday. Because I didn’t check the weather, I ended up lugging Spencer’s jacket around all day. It’s not that big of a deal, but it did take up valuable purse space.


I love the girls posing. I have no idea who they are.

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7 Responses to “Dinseyland with a Toddler: What we did right/What we did wrong”

  1. Amanda says:

    Thanks for the tips! I can’t wait to see the pictures. We are surprising the girls with a trip to Disneyland during our California vacation next month- I can’t wait!


  2. Amanda says:

    Not next month. No sleep really screws with a person. Not till August. Still plenty of time to plan and stress myself out.


  3. Kimberly says:

    We will be getting there Saturday, so I was so excited to see this. And sad I missed running into you and Spence there by a week :( I have already written a note to myself to remember the City Hall & Meal Box tips. Thanks!


  4. Sarah says:

    Thank you so much for the tips. We are going in August and I am trying to gather as many tips/ideas as I can. The ride/line snacks is a GREAT idea, we will definitely use that one!


  5. […] Audrey is doing a fun what’s in your purse blog hop and since I love this in magazines and recently on the Hairpin, I thought I would join in. First off – the purse itself. This is a relatively new purchase, found at Target on clearance. I’d been carrying the same bag previously since I found it on Mackinac Island on vacation in 2009 (our last vacation before I got pregnant. Ahh memories) and it was gross and didn’t have a shoulder strap. So I’d been looking for quite a while before I found this one about a month ago. This is also the bag I carried at Disneyland. […]

  6. Tiffany says:

    So glad you had fun! We love Disneyland and are headed back for a third time (with our toddler and now another little one) in September. We can’t wait!

    Thanks for the cast member tip. I didn’t know that one.

    We love those Kid’s Snack Packs. P ate one for almost every meal the last time. Perfect for a toddler and also pretty healthy.


  7. Jennifer says:

    Thank you so much for this post!! I know we’ll be taking a Disney World trip (we’re East coast) in the next few years, and this info totally helps our planning process. Sounds like you guys had a blast!


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