We wanted to keep our four toddlers happy while we visited the ‘happiest place on Earth.’ We started out on this mission two weeks before our trip with a crash course in Disney characters. We read Disney books, saw a few episodes of the Mickey Mouse Club and discussed how we would be going to Disneyland where Mickey and Minnie (and the other characters) lived. We booked our hotel, The Residence Inn, Anaheim Maingate, and purchased our Disneyland tickets. There are some great apps for Disneyland and I went a little wild downloading them. One wonderful app to download for free is Mouse Wait which you can get for your smartphone or iphone. It tells you the average wait time for the rides which is very useful in deciding which ride to choose with your toddler who hates to wait. There is another app which has Disneyland maps ($1.99), including where the bathrooms and eateries are located, which is a great tool to have while walking around or to plan your day while at the hotel.
Our Pro’s and Con’s of Staying at a hotel which is not within walking distance of Disneyland:
- We were able to get an affordable room with a full kitchen which was great for storing milk and snacks.
- The hotel price included a full breakfast (including scrambled eggs, bananas, pancakes and French toast!)
- There are shuttles (which you buy day passes for) that run every 20 minutes right to your hotel. Children under the age of three are free on the shuttles.
- You get a much better price for hotels a little further from the park
- The shuttle ride back and forth cuts into nap time (especially if you just miss it)
- You must collapse your stroller and lug it onto the shuttle (which can be a challenge during times when it is crowded)
- You need to bring more things to the park (which you can store in a rented locker) than you would if your hotel were in walking distance
- You lose out on the convenience of going right to your hotel if your toddler has a meltdown
There is a Baby Care Center at the park for nursing or changing diapers. There are also several family bathrooms that have changing stations. The bathrooms are clean and well maintained. There are lockers that you can rent for the day when you enter the park which is great for storing snacks in a cooler, diapers or changes of clothing. You can save a lot of money by bringing your own snacks, and bottles of water with you. If you do not want to bring your own stroller, you can rent one at Disneyland for a daily fee. While relaxing at your hotel, you can use the map in the phone app or research online to see which rides have a height requirement. Fantasyland is a great place to start the day with toddlers. Our first ride at Disneyland was the Dumbo ride. It is a pretty tame ride and a great introduction to toddler rides. Next, we went on “It’s a Small World” which is another wonderful ride for toddlers.
All Smiles for the Dumbo Ride
Our toddlers enjoyed the Jungle Cruise ride where hippos peaked out of the water and gorillas graced the shores. There were some mixed feelings about the Pirates of the Carribean ride. Some of our toddlers loved it while others were frightened by the sudden drops, darkness and gruff pirates on the shores. I would suggest gauging the personalities of your toddlers before deciding whether or not to go on the ride. One not to be missed attraction for toddlers is Mickey’s House where they can meet Mickey Mouse face to face. Our toddlers who were scared of Santa and terrified of the Easter Bunny gave Mickey high fives! We just about fell over when they all instantly warmed up to him. There is a classic King Arthur carrousel which is nice for toddlers and they allow adults to stand between the horses or ride alongside your little one.
They have photographers there who take pictures for you that you can later purchase and you can take your own photos too. I suggest allowing (or even seeking out) their photographers because there is no obligation to buy and you can look at the pictures and decide from the comfort of your own chair at home (or on your phone or laptop while you are there). Another nice thing about it is they capture you with your children which is something you may not get from your own camera. There are also lots of photo ops around the park, such as cars your toddlers can sit in or a Dumbo ride car that is stationary by the ride solely for taking pictures. We found out our toddlers liked those almost as much as the real rides.
If you are willing to step outside your toddler’s bedtime, the fireworks are simply amazing. Our little ones had never seen fireworks in person and could only identify them in story books (which just don’t capture the experience). We kept them up to see the show and we are so glad we did. One was a little scared and the rest were fascinated. They must have had some pretty magical dreams that night with all of the characters they saw, the rides they experienced and the fireworks that lit up the sky. If you are debating on whether or not to take your toddler to Disneyland, I would recommend it. Our four toddlers loved it and talked about if for a week afterwards. With a little planning ahead, it is possible to keep your toddlers happy in the ‘happiest place on earth’ and to experience the magic from their point of view.