The Best Tips for Disneyland with Small Children
Heading to Disneyland with small children? Here are the best tips for making your trip even better!
As they say- Disneyland is the happiest place on earth.
But if you’ve ever been to Disneyland with children you also know sometimes things aren’t always rainbows and sunshine!
Kids will be kids and sometimes that means things are little more difficult- between nap schedules and potty breaks and over-tired feet- you have to be prepared for anything when it comes to vacationing with children at Disneyland.
Yet, Disneyland is arguably the most magical for kids- so as parents we are always going to bring them along, right?
Today I’ve put together a great list of tips and suggestions to help make your Disney trip with your children the best it can be!
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Invite Help Along
When we went to Disneyland last year we had my parents and a couple of my siblings and their families with us. It was so nice to have extra hands and bodies around to help with potty breaks, pushing the stroller, standing in line and ride switching.
Make sure you take advantage of the MaxPass\Fast passes they have. The MaxPass allows unlimited Disney PhotoPass downloads for the day- you can acces photos taken on select attractions and during select Character dining experiences. Magic Shots are also included. Guests may purchase Disney MaxPass when they purchase their ticket, or as an add-on through the Disneyland App once they enter either theme park. It is $10 per day, per ticket.
You can make the FastPass Selections from your mobile device when you are in the parks. You won’t need to walk over to a kiosk to secure a FASTPASS entitlement—you can simply make a FASTPASS selection (subject to availability) using the Disneyland app and then scan your code at the entrance when it’s time to experience the attraction.
If you are going with multiple adults, you can even get away with just getting the MaxPass for a few people, and then take advantage of the rider switch.
Don’t want to pay for it all? Not a problem. You can still take advantage of the FastPass system by going to the stations by FastPass rides.
Know the Ride and Height Limits and “Scariness” Factor
They don’t bend any rules at the Disney parks, and they are very strict about height requirements. When we went last year we thought our little one would be tall enough for most of the rides- it turned out that she was not.
Knowing the requirements ahead of time can help you let your children know what rides they can and cannot ride- hopefully that relieves some meltdowns or tantrums if they know what to expect!
We went on the Ferris Wheel and accidentally got on the “rocking” cart. We all screamed a little on that one and wish we had gotten in a non-rocking one.
Make sure you read our post about fun for under 40″ and ‘fraidy cats!
I know, I know- when you’re at Disneyland you want to go, go, go and see everything.
But trust me- when traveling with children breaks are a must! Plan to go back to your hotel in the middle of the day to relax, take a little rest and let your little ones decompress. If that isn’t possible, consider scheduling an hour here and there when you eat lunch or have snacks that you can be content to just find a bench or table and rest your feet.
Breaks are essential for children and it allows them the ability to continue on longer.
Bring Lots of Water and Snacks
Yes! You can bring your own snacks and water into the parks!
This is so important to help save money- and your sanity when it comes to thirsty and hungry kids. While I’m all about splurging and buying yummy treats inside the parks- it would be wise to bring in your own snacks and water – because if your kids are like mine- they like to snack and eat a lot!
I packed several snack sized baggies filled with different snacks like banana chips, trail mix, goldfish crackers, granola bars, cheese crackers, craisins, etc. When we were waiting in line and someone was hungry I was able to hand them the small, portion controlled snack.
Coolers are allowed so plan accordingly with your perishable snacks and drinks that you want to keep cold.
Bring Refillable Water Bottles
You can find great refillable water bottles on Amazon at reasonable prices – we LOVE insulated water bottles because they keep the water cold for so long. You could even get a backpack with a camelbak to make it easier to stay hydrated.
Bring a Stroller
When traveling with little kids a strollers is a must! As mentioned above- kids get tired from walking- especially if you are planning on being at the park all day.
Strollers might seem like a pain but they are worth it. Not only can kids be contained in them but they are great for naps, or even carrying your own bags, souvenirs and backpacks.
The downside is you can’t bring strollers in line so be prepared to leave them parked outside the ride among millions of other strollers. Be sure to bring valuables like purses and wallets with you on the rides so they are not left unattended.
Bring Your Own Souvenirs
Yes, there is something magical about picking out a special souvenir at the parks, and I fully support budgeting for that- but did you know you can buy Disney themed toys and trinkets from your own local stores? Here is a huge list of ones at the Dollar Tree!
If you take the time to notice- you will find so many souvenirs with Disney on them that you can bring from home! You can find hats, shirts, pens, books, dolls and more either online or in-store.
We bought character signature books ahead of time to give our kids for signatures and they didn’t care that it wasn’t from Disneyland itself. Stocking up at the Dollar Tree with small Disney things could also be a lifesaver for small kids who might need an incentive during the day.
Find the Best Rides for Younger Kids
There are some really wonderful kid friendly rides and attractions that are just right for younger patrons.
Make sure you hit those ones up each day and be okay with going on them multiple times if they turn out to be your kid’s favorite!
Some good ones include:
Dumbo the Flying Elephant
Alice in Wonderland
The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh
it’s a small world
Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage
Mickey’s Toon Town
Peter Pan’s Flight
King Triton’s Carousel
Enchanted Tiki Room
A Bug’s Land at Disney California Adventure
Mater’s Junkyard Jamboree at Disney California Adventure
Mickey’s Fun Wheel at Disney California Adventure Paradise Pier
Waiting In Line Tips
Sometimes the lines can be quite long.
Bring small snacks that you can hand out to help pass the time and make sure to change diapers or take potty breaks before getting in longer line if possible.
Games like “20 Questions” or “Eye Spy” are great ways to pass the time. Bubbles are always fun for little kids and a great way to have fun in line. And of course, download some child friendly games and apps on your phone for them to use as well. No one will judge you!
Consider Character Dining
Look into the many Character Dining options that are available. We did this and it was by far one of our favorite parts of the trip!
Not only do you get a delicious meal but you get the full attention of several popular characters.
This also helps eliminate waiting in the lines to see the characters out in the park. The characters do a great job of walking around to all the guests and you can visit, dance and takes as many pictures as you’d like!
Here is everything you need to know about Disneyland Character Dining.
Wristbands with Your Phone Number
One of the scariest things that you might worry about is losing your child at Disneyland. The crowds can be heavy and kids are quick. Make a wristband with your phone number on it in case they get separated from you- this is especially handy for kids who are too young (or afraid) to talk. You can buy travel bands for fairly cheap to help with this, too.
You can also get a Bluetooth watch that alerts you when your child walks away- just another great tool to help keep you and your family safe. These anti-lost wrist bands also seem really helpful.
What to Take to Disneyland With Kids
Most people plan on spending hours at Disneyland. Pack accordingly. Bring enough diapers, wipes, snacks, cash, and drinks that you might need. You might even want to bring a change of clothes for each child- you never know when someone might get sick, or get wet, spill food, etc.
Also bring sunscreen, hats, extra socks, jackets (if applicable to weather) and good walking shoes. Water sprayers and mini fans are also really helpful for hot days.
As an adult I found that carrying a backpack was way more practical than carrying a purse. I hear fanny packs are coming back, too, so don’t be afraid to sport one of those to help keep everything you need in one place.
Perks If It’s Your Birthday
If you or your child has a birthday while on your trip you can get a special “Happy Birthday” pin as a fun and free souvenir.
Know Where to Stay
Staying onsite is awesome if possible! It makes it easy for daytime naps for kids as you can easily stop off at the hotel without wasting too much time going back and forth.
Here are the best family suites near Disneyland!
Baby Carrier for Younger Kids
If you have a baby carrier- use it!
It helps you to have hands free for other needs and if your kid is already used to being in one it could be helpful for naps and containment. You might feel like you are over packing, but trust me, you’d rather have the extra conveniences than not and they really will come in handy.
Baby Care Centers
If you have a baby or small child, baby care centers can be a life saver! They have them in both Disneyland and California Adventure. You can go there to breastfeed, feed a bottle, or pump; change diapers; or just take a break from the day. They also sell diapers, wipes, formula, etc.
Check out the Disneyland App for Wait Times
Some people plan their entire day around the wait times of rides and having the Disneyland App will definitely help out with that. Knowing the current wait times is a plus when it comes to knowing how much longer your kids can handle waiting in lines.
Even though it can be nice to know the wait times, don’t let it consume you either. Running across the park just to get in a short line isn’t always worth it. But do take the time to check out the wait lines where you are in the moment.
Know the Weather
It might be sunny and hot one day and rainy the next. Don’t forget to check the forecast!
Bring rain ponchos, umbrellas, jackets and weather appropriate shoes on days that might be overcast. Likewise, if it is going to be hot- forgo the extra baggage and don’t weigh yourself down with un-needed gear.
Yes, weather can change quickly and sometimes it is colder in the morning and in the evening so I’d recommend always having a light jacket – just in case!
Oh, I love the parades! They are seriously so magical and your kids will love them. My husband doesn’t really like parades, but he went for our kids and he ended up becoming a believer! Our children were in awe of them and it was a highlight of the trip.
We have found that the less busy ones are during the day in California Adventure.
Our Disneyland trip was amazing and so fun. I still think back on it fondly and wish we were there again.
Traveling with young kids and babies can be hard but it is so worth it. You will be making amazing memories that they will not soon forget!