If you don’t already know, our whole family is obsessed with all things Disney. Since moving to Orange County, we ended up buying season passes to Disneyland since we live only about 20 minutes away. It’s so wild because as a kid growing up, I never went to Disneyland or Disneyworld. It wasn’t until I visited Disneyland for the first time as an adult that I experienced the magic. Needless to say, the love affair began. We try to go pretty regularly since we don’t have the pressure of spending a full day there and can pop in and out. I know so many people don’t have the luxury of being able to stop in at the parks so it can be overwhelming planning your trip when you want to get the most out of your day. I also always get questions of whether or not its work taking a baby or going to the park pregnant and I have to say I have just as great a time either pregnant, with my baby, or alone on a date night. We have done it all! I want to be the first to tell you that Disneyland and Disney California Adventure can be amazing whether you are with kids of not. Even Blake likes going! I often get asked for tips and tricks for your visit so wanted to share some of my top tricks for having a great day at Disney. I mean, you really don’t need any tips because your day is going to be amazing no matter what you plan to do.
Early is always better. If it works with your schedule. As the day goes on, wait times for attractions can become longer so if you really have some specific things on your list that you want to hit up, go early and do them first. Weekdays are always less crowded than weekends but it also depends on the time of year. I love checking crowd websites like this one to see if it’s packed or not before I go. I would also recommend buying your tickets ahead of time online here.
DOWNLOAD THE DISNEYLAND APP
I highly suggest downloading the Disneyland app. You can check the park hours for the day and make sure there aren’t any special events that might cut your visit short. Another great thing is you can store your tickets or annual pass in the app and have them scan your phone instead of having a paper ticket. I also love being able to check the wait times before walking over to something. This will help you plan your day. The app has a map so it can help you find your way around if you get lost. Also a great feature is being able to make food reservations or mobile food orders. Such a great way to beat the lines when you are starving. It’s also a great tool to check times for entertainment like shows and parades. You can also use the app to manage fastpass for attractions which can be a big timesaver if you buy a maxpass.
My favorite hack is that when you are in the Attractions tab in the app, you can filter rides by age and select all ages to see what attractions could be appropriate for babies or if you have little ones and want to filter the app by their heights. Its a great way to figure out what attractions you can enjoy. Make sure to download it before you go and create an account so everything is easy breezy when you are checking into the park.
UTILIZE THE BABY CARE CENTERS
The Baby Care Centers are a Mama’s best friend and I never knew they existed until I had Otis! They have a private nursing room with chairs for mothers as well as private little areas for pumping mamas as well. They also have a changing room with tables, Toddler-size toilets, a feeding area with highchairs, bottle warmers and microwaves. Another great feature is that they have vending machines full of baby goodies like formula, baby food, juice, diapers, wipes, sunscreen, pacifiers, and over-the-counter medications that you can purchase with a credit card. So if you all of a sudden realize you forgot diapers, they have you covered. The Baby Care Center is also air conditioned so it’s a great little hidden gem during the hot Summer months. It’s basically a little baby oasis and the people that work there are so friendly and helpful and for a new mom, it’s nice to have a little safe haven on those crowded days to have some peace and quiet and take care of your baby. Even if you don’t have a baby, it’s important to note that if your children happen to get lost in Disney, any children separated from their parents will be brought by a Cast Member to the nearest Baby Care Center. So good to take note of those locations just in case.
In Disneyland Park, the Baby Care Center is at the end of Main Street, U.S.A, next to First Aid.
In California Adventure Park, the Baby Care Center is next to Ghirardelli Soda Fountain and Chocolate Shop and across from The Bakery Tour in Pacific Wharf.
MAKE DINING RESERVATIONS
You might like to play things by ear, but if there is something you are dying to try when visiting Disneyland, I suggest making a reservation. It also can be a nice way of breaking up your day and knowing when you have some scheduled meals to take a seat and rest. One of my favorite places I always make a reservation is the Carnation Cafe. It’s great for breakfast if you are looking for Mickey Mouse Waffles! You can either go online, call, or use the Disneyland App to make your reservation. I always use the app because it’s super simple and easy.
BABY WEAR VS STROLLER
I think whether you baby wear or use a stroller depends on how long you will be in the parks. If you are only staying for a few short hours in the park, it can be great to use a baby carrier so you don’t have to worry about lugging extra things with you besides your baby and diaper bag. I have used both of these (this and this) carriers at the parks. Babywearing can also be great for naps on the go with Baby and you can still enjoy yourself walking around and checking stuff out while baby is sleeping. Even sneak in a ride! It’s been a game changer even with Otis at 1 year old while waiting in lines since he’s super squirmy.
If you are planning a longer day at Disney, or you have a little one that’s going to want to be walking, a stroller is the way to go. It’s great because you can keep all your “supplies” in the stroller and not have to carry them. We always take our diaper backpack with us while waiting for attractions as we have our valuables in it but leave behind sweaters, or other non important things in the strollers. A lot of people ask if we lock our stroller up and the answer is no. Basically there are specific areas near attractions designated as “Stroller Parking” and usually there is a cast member there rearranging and keeping the stroller situation on lock down. Of course there is always a risk that not everyone can be kind and might take something or, even worse, steal your stroller. Luckily we have had the BEST experiences at Disney and I would like to think people are on their best behavior. It’s all your own personal decision but we don’t personally lock up our stroller. Also note that you can not lock your stroller to structures or any Disney property or a cast member will have the lock cut. Using a stroller at the park can be great if you can get your little ones to take a nap while you walk around, or if you are waiting for parades and need them to be contained. We use our Colugo travel stroller because I like to bring as small a stroller as I can so it’s easy to maneuver through the crowds. It also folds up compact and it’s easy to use the strap to carry when its folded up. Something to note is that you have to take the tram to get to and from the Parking Structures unless you opt to walk. So be prepared. Make sure to check out Disney’s website here for all their official rules and FAQ on stroller sizes allowed in the park.
PREPARE FOR THE TRAM
After you park, you will need to hop on a very short tram which will take you to Downtown Disney and the entrances to both Disneyland and Disney California Adventure. When you arrive to the tram, be prepared to take your child out of your stroller. You can either fold it up and slide it in with you, or if you don’t want to fold your stroller you can go to the front of the tram lines to the double wide doors where you can bring your open stroller. Just note you must take your child out even if you are leaving your stroller open on the tram. If you have a sleepy little one, you can always opt to take the walking path which will take about 10-15 minutes to get to the park without the tram. It’s always great to know these options before hand so you aren’t stuffing your stroller full of stuff and having to fold it up last minute when the tram arrives. So wait till you get to the park to organize the stroller for your day.
BE HANDS FREE
I know this seems pretty explanatory but I love to put my phone in my bandolier crossbody phone case so I can be able to run after Otis and not worry about leaving my phone in my stroller or dropping it on a ride. Because trust me, I have left my phone in the my stroller caddy too many times and thankfully no one has taken it. Another thing I love to wear for our trip is my apple watch. It just makes it easy for me to check quick messages without detracting from my day. Also, I love to track how many steps we take. I also love the little Mickey watch face for our trips. Simple pleasures!
FAVORITE RIDES AT DISNEYLAND
It’s A Small World: Great lights, slow moving and fun music
Jungle Cruise: Fun outdoor boat ride
Pirates of the Caribean: This one has 2 small drops and potential scare factor but Otis is great on it
Haunted Mansion: Super fun but also a potential scare factor
Finding Nemo: Otis loves the bubbles from the submarine
The Adventures of Winnie the Pooh: Fun music
Peter Pan’s Flight: This is in the dark but very fun
Dumbo the Flying Elephant: Outdoor ride that is great when you are baby wearing
Animation Academy: Fun place to let little ones walk around and get hands on with some exhibits
Buzz Lightyear: Fun one for the parents
Mad Tea Party: Great music and alot of stimulation with the spinning. Be careful if you easily get motion sick this one isn’t for you.
Disneyland Monorail: Not a ride but Otis loves looking out the windows in this.
Disneyland Railroad. This is great to get to different parts of the park and makes for a fun “ride”.
FAVORITE RIDES AT DISNEY CALIFORNIA ADVENTURE
Toy Story Midway Mania!: So fun for the parents!
Jessie’s Critter Carousel: A cute themed carousel that’s a must ride
The Little Mermaid: The music and all the sea creatures are so fun. It’s one of my favorites!
PLAN A DATE WITH MICKEY MOUSE
I mean, I wish I could plan a date with Mickey Mouse!! But in all seriousness, if you check the Disneyland app, you can filter the map by “Characters” and it’s an easy way to find where your favorite characters will be for a meet and greet. If you can’t leave the park without meeting Pluto, who I am obsessed with, you can check out on the map where he will be and go find him! Honestly it never gets old meeting those guys and seeing Otis’ face just light up when he sees Mickey Mouse makes me so happy I could cry.
HAVE ZERO EXPECTATIONS
I know this header might seem a little negative, but I mean it in the most positive of ways. I think traveling and doing things with babies or kids can always have their unpredictable obstacles. You have those perfect days where your baby naps on time, there are no wait times and your day is a perfect dream. Then you have days where your baby is having a meltdown and a blowout in the same hour. I think my biggest advice when headed to the parks is that while having a plan is always a good idea, go into things without any expectations. Just know you will have a magical day regardless because you will. Every time we go now, we maybe pick 1 thing we would love to do but if for some reason the wait is long, or its too hot, we go with the flow and change our plans. It’s all about making your day happy for your whole family. The more you can just let go the better day you will have. And trust me, if your kid has a meltdown, your are in good company and a lot of other parents there knowing exactly what you are going through, ready to give you a high five because you are amazing for gathering up your family and sharing the Disney magic with them.
Happy to answer any questions in the comments below and hope you have a magical trip if you are planning to visit soon!