Posted: Jun 02 2016
The business of Disney is no joke. The "stuff" (aka paraphernalia that we as mamas mostly try to avoid) is one thing—but it's the "world", the "land", the "house of the mouse" if you will that blows the mind—a fine-tuned, magical place that appears to print money. Unless of course, you're a parent and in that case, it's a massive cash suck. (Albeit a super fun cash suck—bringing your child so much joy that it can cause true happiness tears as you witness their amazement).
As this was my first trip to Disneyland, I was a complete novice when it came to planning. The more I learned, the more confused I became. I made the decision to simplify things—we would go for one day only...a trial run if you will. It was the right call and I learned a lot along the way. For any other first timers—I'm hoping these tips help!
TIP 1: DON'T GO UNTIL YOUR CHILD ASKS TO GO
Why rush it? If they are not asking (more like begging) then I suggest waiting until they do. I don't think the Disney empire is going anywhere.
TIP 2: PICK THE RIGHT PARK(S)
Olive (at 3.5 years old) is all about the Princesses and she's still far to little to ride the big kid rides so Disneyland was the better choice for us. It's smaller and more manageable with all the highlights that interest her. Take the time to research what is where ahead of time so you can be sure to see the things most important to your child(ren).
TIP 3: MAKE RESERVATIONS (TO EAT)
Perhaps I've been living under a rock, but I had NO idea that Disney restaurant reservations were as tough as getting a table at French Laundry. Though that's a slight exaggeration, if you want a non-buffet, sit down experience (even for burgers) then you best have a reservation. AND if you want to guarantee Princess or character time, then you should definitely book a table at one of those spots. We kicked off our day with an early lunch at Ariel's Grotto. Olive had personal time with 5+ Princesses while Brett and I ate some decent food al fresco. It was a win, win.
TIP 4: EAT AT OFF PEAK TIMES
Save yourself additional stress and plan to eat early (or really late if you have night owl littles). We chose the early route. We showed up for lunch at 10:45. They seated us right away and we took photos with Ariel after a 2 minute (tops) wait. It was seamless. I was borderline in shock at the efficiency. But by the time we left (around 12:30) the restaurant was swarming with families. The line to Ariel was 30 deep and the hostess was passing out pagers to signal table being ready (even to reservation guests). Accidental WIN. I'll take it.
TIP 5: WHEN IN DOUBT, TAKE THE STROLLER
At 3.5, Olive is certainly exercising her right to walk—even when strolling is a far more convenient option. I debated not bringing a stroller in fear that it would be a pain to lug around in the event she wanted nothing to do with it. Thank goodness we took it! I swear there was so much for her to see and take in, that she wanted the "ride" to truly enjoy all the eye candy. She also took as nap in it (HALLELUJAH!) which gave us some time to relax and take it all in ourselves.
TIP 6: DON'T FALL INTO A HOTEL TRAP
This specifically applies to Disneyland and the Los Angeles area, and also only to those who decide to give it a one-day trial run like we did. There is no need to stay "on-site". The hotels seem overpriced for the quality. Find a hotel you are excited about staying in and get a rental car. Why should you sacrifice style and quality for proximity when it doesn't effect the fun you will have at the park. You can always fill the rental car with emergency supplies and a change of clothes!
TIP 7: DRESS FOR PICTURES (AND COMFORT)
You may notice I listed comfort second in that tip. The truth is there is so much good (even great) #momstyle out there that looks as good as it feels. Take Ace & Jig for example—it's washable, it's stylish, it's comfy, AND it looks good in pictures! Don't ruin what can be a magical (and frameable) moment by looking "sloppy"! Rule applies to your little ones as well!
TIP 8: SET REALISTIC EXPECTATIONS
This is key. You are NOT going to see it all. Even with a Fast Pass (which doesn't apply to any of the little kid rides btw) you just can't do it. Ask your child to pick his or her top 3 wishlist items and makes those a focus (also make sure they are open and not under renovation!) Everything else will be gravy!