Just a week or two ago I dropped everything going on and took a trip to California! It was fantabulous! I brought my four children, my mom, sister and her best friend that babysits for us a lot. My husband stayed home to take care of the house as we are at the end of our renovation and he wanted to be there and make sure things were done correctly. I learned a few things the hard way, so I want to share 25 Disneyland tips and tricks with you, so you don’t have to learn things the hard way too.
So let me tell you why we spontaneously decided to go on this trip – as I just mentioned, we are renovating our home and in the final stages. So the week we went on vacation was when they were painting and installing everything, among other things. AKA a disaster to have four children around. So the Friday before we went I was talking to my employees about getting a hotel for the week to avoid the construction.
So my sister jokingly suggested going to Disneyland if I was already spending money on a hotel. So we spent that day trying to get the cost down and figure out if the trip was plausible. After hours of playing with numbers and revising our plan over and over we had a good plan. We waited a day to make sure we weren’t doing something crazy and by Saturday night we had everything reserved and planned out.
Our California/Disneyland Trip
Day 1 (Monday): Traveling
We left our home in Utah just after 9 am to make the drive to Anaheim, CA in one day. This is a big deal with four children. We made sure we had everything and started on our way. The trip went pretty smoothly, the kids were able to be entertained and didn’t have a hard time. We only stopped a couple of times and had one car sickness accident at the gas station. so we had nice people help us clean it up. We ate at Cafe Rio for lunch (one of our favorites) and Olive Garden for dinner. We arrived around 9 pm CA time. The kids went to sleep well in anticipation for the next day!
If you are traveling make sure to have things to entertain the children. We watched a lot of Disney movies in the car and time went by fairly fast doing this.
Day 2-5: Disneyland Days
Before entering the park you have go through security, but you only have to once. So have all your bags unzipped and ready to go to make the flow of traffic faster. They check strollers and bags.
If you bring a stroller, it can be a good way to store things and not have to carry them around all the time. However, the strollers are not with you when you are in lines or on rides, so don’t put anything valuable in there.
There are a lot of strollers everywhere, so find a way to make yours stand out. You could use a bright colored item attached, a balloon, or some other identifier to make it easier to find yours after an attraction.
We had 4 adults and 4 children between the ages 4 and 10. This made it very doable to manage the children and have all kinds of fun. We were blessed to have this situation while we were there. We had times when we were together doing rides and such but then later we split up into to groups so that the two older ones could go on the bigger rides and the little ones could still have fun.
If you are planning on splitting up at all, make sure the adults have tickets for everyone in that group so you can park hop and get fast passes without problems. We might have learned this the hard way…:)
When you have children with you that are really young, including babies and toddlers, take advantage of Rider Swap Pass. This is where you can wait in line and some people can go on the ride while someone stays with the little ones but then you get to swap with a pass and not have to wait in the whole line again. It is wonderful when little ones are there.
If you have children old enough that they aren’t too scared to ride by themselves, or you are with all adults, the Single Rider line is WAY faster than the normal line. This is especially nice for the popular rides. You still get to wait with your group and come out relatively at the same time. You just have to sit by a stranger but it’s not like you have time to sit and have a conversation or anything. . . This is highly recommended!
Stay in a hotel that is within walking distance of the parks. This makes taking breaks for naps, resting, meals, etc. a lot easier and maximizes the time you can have in the parks! Read our guide and reviews of all the best hotels near Disneyland that are within walking distance.
We went in January and it was fantastic. It was in the 70s the whole week and the parks were not very crowded. The longest we ever waited for one ride was 30 minutes and that is really good for Disneyland.
Even if you go at a time of the year that has shorter lines, there are still lines. So it can be a good idea to bring something to entertain yourselves while you are in line. Whether that is a book, playing simple games, taking it as a chance to get to know each other better, planning the rest of the day, etc.
I think the overall favorite ride was at California Adventure – the Cars ride. It is so awesome! Some other favorites in both parks were Small World, Teacups, Peter Pan, Indiana Jones, Toy Story and Thunder Mountain Railroad.
We used the app RideMax to plan out our days and to get the most in our time at the parks. We mostly used it for the beginning of the day and then just went with the flow later on.
MouseWait is a great FREE app that has show schedules, parades, restaurants, and attraction wait times. It has quite a few active users in the parks who update it frequently during the day.
Make sure if you have children you know the heights of your children and you tell them ahead of time which rides they will not be able to ride. My youngest daughter was 39 3/4 inches tall and one of the main height requirements was 40 inches and some workers would let her ride and other workers wouldn’t. We told her we would give it a try but couldn’t promise anything. It helped prepare and made it less dramatic for her when she couldn’t go on some of the rides.
Here is a picture from the Toy Story ride. You sit in a car and it is like a video game where you compete with the person in your cart with you. Megan beat me the first time we did it, I was impressed.
It is always good to make sure your cell phone and cameras are charged, but no worries if they aren’t. You can drop them off at the Locker Area in Disneyland’s Main Street and charge your phone for $2 an hour.
If have little ones with you, it could be a good idea to make or buy id tags that have the child’s name and a number to call if they get lost to make it easier to find them. Disneyland is a huge place and one of the worst things to ruin your trip is to lose someone!
Since we were at Disneyland for a total of four days, eating food was a big deal. We would eat breakfast at our hotel before leaving and then we would have two meals in the parks. There are a lot of restaurants to choose from and it can become very pricy very fast.
It is imperative to plan out where you want to eat for each meal before arriving to the park. It saves a lot of time and hassle. Make reservations ahead of time so that you know you have a spot waiting for you. You can look at all of the menus and such before getting there so you can see if it is somewhere your party would want to eat.
A lot of the restaurants were similar and about the same thing. Some of them were different and so just take the time to decide what you want to do. They have nicer restaurants and then they also have the stands you can get more quick and fair/park type of food such as a hand battered corn dog.
There are also many places you can get treats in the parks and they can be great to have in between meals to help fuel and keep the energy going.
Dairy-Free and Vegan Eaters, in the Disneyland park by the Tiki Room you can buy Pineapple Dole Whip, which is a fantastic choice. It tastes very good and is great for people who don’t want to eat dairy, or anyone, for that matter.
Bring easy snacks with you to keep people satisified in the lines. Some ideas would be granola bars, crackers, pretzels, chips, juice, water, fruit leather, or beef jerky. You don’t want to bring a ton cause then you will have to carry it around, but it can be nice and save some money!
We went in January 2015 and there was a special Frozen event in California Adventures. You can click here to see events currently showing. The Frozen show we saw(see picture below) they play all the music scenes from the movie while you sing along (which I thought was kind of lame, but nice for a break to sit down). But I liked the end where they sing “Let It Go” again and all the characters are on the stage and “snow” is falling around you and lights are moving all around you. I thought that part was pretty emotional and fun. You can also meet Elsa and Anna. There was a two hour wait when we were there at the slow time of the year but there is a Fast Pass for it. You can also meet Olaf. There was about an hour wait for that but while we were waiting in line for a Fast Pass, there was no one else there so we got lucky and only had to wait about five minutes. In fact, the Stand-by line for the Frozen show was only about five minutes long too, so it is worth a try because not everyone uses their Fast Passes.
Using Fast Passes is a great way to not have to wait in extremely long lines and avoid becoming restless. You have to make sure you use your fast pass in the time frame they give you. So be careful with that!
The other part of the Frozen Event is in the same building where you meet Olaf. There is an area with fake snow. So, I live in Utah but this is not snow. We had to wait over an hour while they blew “snow” on the ground. The “snow” is like tiny pieces of ice and the ground is like six inches of compacted, trampled on ice. But – my children still loved playing in it and it was weird but it stayed frozen even though the room wasn’t very cold. There was also a sledding area that was extremely crowded but looked fun. I thought it was lame but my children loved it, so if you have young children, you may want to check it out. The Frozen Event is there for a limited time only but they don’t say when it will end.
The other place we saw Elsa and Anna was at the Parade in Disneyland.
I threw this picture in as an example of the freedom at Disneyland. We took this picture to show my husband how my kids were eating cotton candy and all sticky and loving it. They loved doing things like screaming as loud as they could on the rides. I mean, we spend tons of time in regular life telling them to be quiet all the time and this was a chance for them to just yell and it didn’t matter. A chance to eat cotton candy during the middle of the day when they normally very rarely get treats like that. The freedom to choose which ride they wanted to go on next. And just the overall feeling there of magic and that anything is possible if you will just believe.
No trip to Disneyland is complete without visiting the characters so here are some photos I took of my children with some of their favorite characters.
If you think your children would enjoy meeting the Disney characters bring a dollar store notebook with you so that they can have them get the characters signatures; it made meeting a lot of fun for the kids.
If there are certain characters you want to meet, make sure you look up the schedules and ask cast members. They will help you know where and when you can find them.
It might be helpful to explain to your children that any of the characters other than the ones with faces such as the princesses don’t talk when they meet with them. They do in parades and shows but not for signings.
We got to meet some of the Disney characters, which made the trip fun too.
To avoid crowds on Main Street around fireworks and parade times, you can go through the stores on Main Street because they are all connected together.
You can save a lot of money by purchasing souvenirs ahead of time at the Disney Store or online, nobody will notice or care!
The best times for short ride lines would be first thing in the morning, right before it closes, during/right before a parade, or big shows. (just what we seemed to notice).
Try not to let little disappoints or missed expectations bring down the mood of the happy days in the parks! Your plan won’t go perfectly, so don’t except it to and enjoy your trip! You are lucky. There are a lot people who haven’t had the chance to go!
Day 5 -6: Beach Play
We spent half of our last day at Disneyland at the parks but then we left to go to the beach. Our hotel was in Sunset Beach and was literally right on the beach. It was so relaxing. Here is a view from our balcony to show how close we were.
We had a lot of fun taking walks along the beach, playing in the sand and the water, and collecting sea shells. We ended up with a bag full of shells we got together. It was a really nice break from the freezing cold Utah weather.
We then drove the bulk of the way home and stayed in Saint George, Utah for the night. It was nice to not drive all of the way in one day again. Especially since one of my daughters had a moment of vomiting all over the car 20 minutes from civilization…that was fun. 🙂
Day 7: Saint George and Make it Home!
We spent a couple of hours at the Outlet Malls in Saint George and had lunch, then we made it back to our home by dinner time. It was a nice stress-free day.
That was our trip to Disneyland! We absolutely loved it and we are so glad we did it, even though it was a last minute plan and it all happened so fast! What tips do you have to share with everyone you have heard from others or figured out going to Disneyland yourself? We would love to hear and others would too so please comment below! Ready set comment!