A couple of weeks ago, I took all 3 kids to California on my own to do Disneyland. Crazy? Probably so. But we were itching for an adventure! This week here in Arizona, a lot of the kids [including my daughter] have fall break and a lot of families will go to Southern California and/or Disneyland. So I thought it might be helpful to share my top 5 tips for how I managed Disneyland with 3 kids ages 6 and under.
This year my son and daughter have different school breaks. Which is kinda annoying for me because for every school break I try to plan fun stuff to do with the kids to make it special. Life has just been moving so fast lately and suddenly I realized that my oldest boy had a break coming up. My husband was out of town that week for work. Even still I thought, we should just go and do something fun! Arizona is only about a 6 hour drive from Southern California. And even though the kids are still young, they are at more manageable ages to take a road trip with now.
My sister lives in Los Angeles and offered her home for us to stay. So it worked out well for me to throw the kids in the car and just go!
I’ll admit, I was a bit nervous for the drive. We have done road trips before with the kids at various ages, but always with both my husband and I in the car. I’m usually the one shuffling all the snacks, ipad, and toys, because I hate driving. So before we left, I explained to my 6-year-old that he would be in charge of snacks and helping his brother and sister with whatever they needed. He really did step up and was such a good helper!
For tips on road tips with kids, check out my post from last year’s epic road trip here.
Once we got to my sister’s house in Sherman Oaks, (which is just outside of LA) we settled in and then went to the park. We had a quiet evening at her house so we could get up early the next day for Disneyland! I basically had to unpack the car from our trip and just pack it back up for our next day. Oh and by the way, my sister did come with us to Disneyland! So although I braved the drive on my own, I was technically not on my own for our day at Disneyland. 😉
Since we used to live in SoCal, I have been to Disneyland a few times with the kids at various ages. Now, I am no season-pass-holder-expert or anything. But here are a few of my own personal tips, tricks, do’s and don’ts if you are just going for one day with little ones:
O N E.
DON’T try to do both parks in one day. There is a Park Hopper pass that allows you to do both parks. But both parks are so big and have so much to do at them, you really don’t need to worry about trying to conquer both parks in one day when you have little ones. So save your money and just get the one park pass! For this trip, we chose classic Disney mostly for the nostalgic rides. I tend to think it’s a little better for younger kids. Although, California Adventure has a lot of fun Pixar characters and can also be really fun for little ones who are into those characters.
PRO TIP: There really aren’t any discounts on the one-park, one day pass [available through the Disneyland website]. But it is the least expensive way to go if you only have one day. If you have more than one day, you can for sure save some money by getting multi-day passes or multi-park passes. Check out the site Get Away Today for lots of awesome deals. And you can use my code lovelife for an extra $10 off any Southern California vacation package!
T W O.
If you know which rides you for sure want to hit up, go to those first. With the more little-kid friendly rides, there are no fast passes available. So you can just go wait in line and if you get there early, you can get a lot of rides in. Even though my 6 year old probably would have been into some of the faster rides, we stuck to all family friendly ones so we could all go together or take turns hanging out with Diego and maximize our time together. If you are into the faster/more adventurous rides, go early to snag fast passes for your favorites and then you can come back at the predetermined time. But at the same time, DON’T be stuck too an agenda. If you go with the flow, you will still find plenty of fun stuff to do! I was just trying to snap some pics of the kids on this wall when look who showed up to help my sweet girl twirl! Day. Made.
T H R E E.
Go right when the park opens to avoid the crowds. We actually kinda failed at this. We meant to get there right when it opened, but getting out the door took a little longer than expected [doesn’t it always with kids?]. Then it poured on our drive down [my sis lives about 2 hours away, with traffic]. Then the park was busier than we expected so it took a while to park. And after all that, we needed coffee. More lines. So by the time we got in it was about 10:30am. It wasn’t totally packed, but there for sure was waiting for all the rides and just generally more crowded.
F O U R
Bring snacks and lots of them! The official “park rules” say no outside food or drink. But you can actually bring in anything, as long as it’s not glass. They will check your bag, but you don’t have to hide anything at all. Snacks and meals inside the park can get pricey quick. So we packed snacks and lunches for all the kiddos for our day, and then planned to stay for dinner. We looked around at various restaurants but just ended up eating in the Downtown Disney area right outside the park. There were a ton of restaurants, sidewalk entertainment, and not too long of a wait, so it worked out perfectly.
F O U R.
Meeting up with friends is fun, but keep your core group small. I think one of the things that made our day mostly easy was that there were just 2 adults with our 3 kids. We could split up if we needed to for bathroom breaks or what have you. But we could also all go on a few of the rides together. The more people you have in your group, the more people you have to worry about needing potty breaks, snacks, or having meltdowns. All that being said, I am SO glad I got to meetup with one of my long time Instagram-turned-real-life friend Erin and her daughter Kenzie [aka @helloerinv]! They had to leave a bit earlier than us, but at least we scored this epic picture of the kids where Diego was totally cooperating. [insert eyeroll emoji]
So that’s it! To be honest, I suffer from anxiety in general, but I actually get really bad crowd anxiety sometimes. But having a plan like this, as well as help from my sister, and a LOT of deep breaths helped get me through the day. And I still left feeling so happy and grateful to experience the magic of Disney with my kiddos.
I hope to go back often as my kiddos get older. But my hubs told me, he’s not so thrilled with the idea. [He also is not a fan of crowds.] So I would love to know, what are your best tips for doing Disneyland? Tell me in the comments below!!
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