Our Disneyland Spring Break Vacation

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We had the time of our lives on a three-day vacation to Disneyland! Last Sunday, we told the kids that we were going to a very early church service and as they were about to jump into the car we told them we were going to Disneyland instead. You should have seen their faces!

Along with my parents we arrived at the airport at 7am for an early flight to Orange County. It was Nolan’s first plane ride and besides being way too large to be a lap child, he was perfect! I’m telling you, this kid makes life with three so much fun (and actually not too difficult). When we landed, we persuaded my parents to give Uber a try for the first-time. It took a bit of convincing since my mom is certain that everyone is “out to steal her credit card” and Uber is no exception but after one ride, they are now believers.

We arrived at the hotel, dropped off our bags and boarded a shuttle to Disneyland! We were inside the Disneyland Park gates just in time to eat lunch with Darth Vader. Perfect timing! Below are some photos and stories from our Disneyland vacation. I had a hard time narrowing down photos for this post, so apologies for the photo overload.

 

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As I was waiting for Ryan and the kids to finish up a ride, Nolan and I were walking up and down Main Street. I was people watching and he was chasing anyone who had a balloon. About five minutes later, he decided to sit in the MIDDLE of Main Street. I apologized to about 50 people who had to walk around him, but then noticed that everyone smiled the minute they saw him. There is something about a cute pudgy baby that no one can resist.

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Our favorite California residents Aunt Lauren and Uncle Brian drove down from Los Angeles to meet us for dinner. About seven minutes into this plate of spaghetti I realized that I forgot to pack two important things: Nolan’s bib and my makeup bag. Looking back on this photo, the bib was missed the most.

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It took this picture just as we arrived at California Adventure Park. Since Kelsey “remembers more” from the last time she was here, she took Colton’s finger and started pointing at all of the sights – explaining to him, “this is this and that is that” – it was so incredibly cute! And, believe it or not, these two got along the ENTIRE trip. Not one fight between them. If you have two kids close in age you know how miraculous this is!

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*Colton is pointing to Cross street. 🙂

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Nolan woke up from his nap, jumped out of his stroller and strutted around Cars Land. This was the cutest moment … he looks like such a man on a mission.

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Talk about the thrill of the ride, these kids were obsessed with all of the exhilarating rides like Thunder Mountain. Which was so interesting to me because the last time we went to Disneyworld (seen here) they were more into the characters than the rides. It’s funny how quickly their interests change.

Ryan and I were riding Thunder Mountain with Kelsey and Colton – if you have been on this ride, then you know it’s a jerky rollercoaster with a lot of turns and dips – and, I don’t love rollercoasters, in fact, I’m pretty terrified of heights so I’m not the best one to partner up with. Anyway, as we were on our second dip my eyes began to water. This is new, I thought. Must be something that happens when you get old (ha!) but then Kelsey turned to me and I noticed her eyes were watering too. She and I busted out laughing and the boys just looked at us like we were insane. Guess that’s a genetic thing we do … we cry on rides.

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I love this photo. Colton’s face is so sweet, innocent and filled with joy. Ryan’s got our 18 month old on his own horse. And, if you look closely, you’ll noticed Ryan is strapped in. Yep. He is THE ONLY adult in history that uses a seatbelt on a merry-go-round horse. That’s my husband, folks. Mr. Safety First.

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I tried so hard to stay away from desserts on this trip, but when your son hands you his incredibly messy and melting Mickey Mouse ice cream and says he “is done” you kind of just devour the rest of it without thinking. And the churros … don’t even get me started on the churros.

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*That moment you realize you’re on a baby ride.

Bug’s Land was a trip. The kids loved the bumper cars but after Thunder Mountain and Space Mountain, the Bug’s Land “rollercoaster” just didn’t cut it. However, if you get the chance, do the Bug’s Life 3D movie. It was incredible and the kids enjoyed every second of it.

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*Spring was in full bloom at the park.

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* What happens when Grandpa is in charge of getting breakfast

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The kids wanted to go on Space Mountain (whose kids are these?) and Ryan snapped this photo just before we boarded the ride. Colton’s face symbolizes how he felt going in … and coming out. He wasn’t a fan but Kelsey took about 30 seconds to regroup and then asked if she could ride it again. Little thrill seekers, I tell you.

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My dad bought the kids these Mickey bubble wands. They light up at night and put out a gazillion bubbles. It added to the magic. Thank you, dad. And thank you for buying three of these things (Colton lost his first one on our last evening so Grandpa replaced it).

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I have so many great memories from this trip, but the Electric Light Parade was particularly special. I remember seeing this same parade with parents when I was little, and here I am watching it with them and my husband and three children.

I twisted my ankle during a workout the day before we left for Disneyland (good timing, I know) and about 45 minutes before the parade started my ankle gave out on me. I told Ryan I would just sit alongside the street with Nolan to save our seats while he rode some rides with the kids. For awhile it was just Nolan and I in the center of Main Street watching the sun set over the Park. It was a special moment because Nolan just lit up my heart with his giggles as he danced in the middle of the street to the music. Moments later Ryan arrived with a churro in hand (he loves me so!) and we bundled up to watch the parade.

Disneyland has given me so many magical memories over my lifetime and this is another one I won’t forget.

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*No more pictures, mom!

There is something about Disneyland that gives parents freedom from judgement. Am I right? It’s like, if your child is throwing a tantrum or screaming in the middle of the restaurant … it doesn’t matter because everyone around you is in the same boat. At Disneyland, it’s like you’re in a safe zone because everyone around you “gets it”. I wish the world was more like that, don’t you? No judgement for parents. Just everyone living for the moment.

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I snapped this photo on our last night from the top of Tarzan’s tree house. We were climbing up the treehouse when I happened to glance back and see this gorgeous sight and it’s one I will never forget.

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And that’s a wrap! The kids (and my mom) have already started to plan for Disneyworld 2019. We have plans to go back to Florida with my brothers and sister-in-law. Maybe for Ryan’s 40th birthday? He wants to go to Europe, but maybe we’ll end up at Epcot instead. Or, maybe I can convince him to invest in both. Wish me luck on that!

Family Fun at DisneyWorld

You guys. I just found this post I had drafted from 2015. I can’t believe this post has been hiding out and never got published. It put such a smile on my face to go through the stories I wrote and the photos I captured during the holidays at Disneyworld. This was before Nolan was born, Colton had just turned two (while we were there) and Kelsey was only four.

If you don’t mind … let’s take a trip down memory lane and go through some of my favorite family photos from our trip. However, a warning is in order: I really didn’t condense down the number of photos I wanted to post. Photo overload! Sorry in advance.

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In December, along with my family, we spent one week at the Disneyworld Parks. We went to Epcot, Disneyworld, MGM Studios, and Disney’s Animal Kingdom. We experienced the character breakfast the first morning at the Disneyworld Grand Floridian Hotel (totally reminded me of the Hotel Del). And the best part? The parks were decorated for the holidays! My faaaaaaaaaaaavorite time of year.

There was Starbucks in the park. Autographs by the characters. Larger than life Christmas trees. Nighttime parades. Fireworks. A few tantrums (from the kids and from me). Great Disney desserts. A few lost park passes (mom!) and so many smiles from ear to ear from our two little kids. Colton turned 2 during our trip, so it’s a bit of a blast from the past to see him looking so little in these pictures.

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We went to Epcot for dinner on the first night. No one told me that you had to get reservations 6 months in advance. I booked our reservations 3 months out and thought I was getting a head start. Luckily, we got great reservations at the San Angel Inn Restaurante and it was a great first night out.

It reminded me a lot of the Blue Bayuo restaurant in Disneyland. It was a themed Mexican restaurant with a huge Mayan temple inside. It was just loud enough to where the kids were able to enjoy themselves (and me!) and the drinks and food were great. There is a ride inside and a gift shop (good luck getting past that without buying something) and it truly felt like an authentic Mexican experience.

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Epcot family vacation
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We were back at Epcot the next morning. We had just gotten Starbucks when Colton saw this huge fountain. He immediately ran to it and watched the water “jump around.” Then, he decided to squat down and refused to move. Literally. He wouldn’t budge. I think he was like this for a good 5 minutes before we bribed him with, “Nanni’s over there! Let’s go find her!”

Nanni was quickly replaced though when we spotted our first characters at Epcot: Chip & Dale. Get your autograph books out! This was a real treat and one of Kelsey’s first times really getting the concept of getting their autograph. It was so precious to watch them anxiously wait in line for this moment.

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Epcot Family Vacation
Epcot family vacation

He actually did good in the long lines. Some moments were better than others, but what can you expect from an almost-two-year-old. He was a perfect gentleman, most of the time. Kelsey was on point, as always. I was just happy I wore my running shoes. Do you know how much walking you do at Disneyworld? We must have taken a gazillion steps each day.

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epcot family vacation
Those curls! And that smile. I remember his face looking like this like it was yesterday. The humidity only made those curls more magical.
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epcot family vacation

We met up with Nanni and the crew for lunch at the Coral Reef Restaurant. I highly recommend reservations there if you have kids. It’s inside this huge aquarium and every seat as a great view of the sharks and fish swimming by. Colton loved it! After you exit, you can go on the Finding Nemo ride and see all the fish once more. Cute little place.

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We went back to the main Disneyworld park that evening. It was like planes, trains and automobiles to get to into the park. You drive from your hotel to the park. Park your car. Grab the strollers. Stroll to the shuttle. Take the shuttle to your choice of the ferry or the monorail. Then stand in line to get into the gates.

Looking back though, I think getting to the park was one of the best parts for the kids. The ferry was so relaxing and cool to cruise over water as the park gets closer and closer. And the monorail was “so fast!” that Kelsey kept staring out the window in awe. Disney does that too you, doesn’t it? As parents you spend more time looking into your child’s eyes than you do experiencing the park yourself.

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Disneyworld Holidays with Kids

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Once you enter the Magic Kingdom and see all of the Christmas lights take over, it’s pretty remarkable. You smell the sweet scent of popcorn and hot chocolate, along with hearing Christmas carols and kids laughing for miles.

We window shopped as we walked down Maine Street, peeking inside and seeing little Disney music boxes sing and ornaments glow on little Christmas trees. Then, we made our way to the castle – the most magical thing in the place.

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disneyworld during the holidays

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Disneyworld with Kids

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We were back at it again the next morning! At this point, I thought for sure I would have lost 10lbs with all of the walking that we did, but then I remembered … the Mickey Mouse popsicles, chocolate covered bananas, churros and all of that other amazingly horrible food for you that you just have to indulge in while at Disneyworld. It’s like a right of passage.

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disneyworld | many hats of a mom blog

disneyworld | many hats of a mom blog

Before a storm rolled in that left us SOAKED she was able to convince Grandpa to ride the merry-go-round with her. Carousels, tea cups, and this mom do not mix. So, I was happy to sit this one out. Thanks, Grandpa.

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disneyworld | many hats of a mom blog
disneyworld mom blogger
disneyworld | many hats of a mom blog
Disneyworld has some of the best people watching. Am I right? Like this guy with the selfie stick. I can’t tell you how many selfie sticks we saw at the park. A sign of the times, don’t you think?

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By the time we got to MGM Studios for their nighttime holiday shows, I was so incredibly tired. Tired of walking. Strolling. Bribing the kids to behave. All of it. I may have thrown a little adult tantrum right when we walked in. After a few minutes, my husband was able to snap me out of my terrible mood so we could enjoy the night. He’s kind of perfect like that. We saw some remarkable Christmas light displays and then wandered into a Fantasmic! Firework show.

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Then it was off to Disney’s Animal Kindgom to celebrate Colton’s second birthday! It did not feel like December, it felt like summer, and the crowds were a bit out of control, but when you look back – you never really remember all of that. You just remember these moments that make you smile from ear to ear.

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disney animal kingdom mom bloggers
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The next night, Ryan and I snuck off for an aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaamazing dinner at Victoria & Albert’s. It’s this fancy pants restaurant located at one of the Disneyworld resorts. My brother and his wife gave us a $400 gift card to dine here + they babysit the kids for us. I mean, how could we not be smiling from ear to ear after this evening?

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victoria and alberts orlando restaurant

Then it was back to parenthood and another few days in Orlando. What an amazing vacation this was! Memories to last a lifetime, that is for sure. Tantrums and all.

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Update: We are looking to take a Disneyland trip in the Fall with all three kids (are we crazy?) and I look forward to any and all of your recommendations.

See more of my posts from past Disney family trips here, here and here,

Playing Catch up from Disneyworld

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Disneyworld family vacation

Disneyworld family vacation

Disneyworld family vacation

Here I am!

I feel like I have been so absent on this blog. But, one thing I decided when I first started this blog in 2010 was that I was never (ever, ever) going to feel bad if I didn’t blog. If I felt like blogging, I would. If I didn’t, I wouldn’t. It’s that simple, but … there is so much to talk about. We just got back from a 7 day vacation to the happiest place on earth, Disneyworld!

Once I get caught up on work, life, and Christmas shopping (where does the time go?), I’ll post some stories and photos from our trip. It was exhausting, but magical at the same time. Lots of stories to come … but for now I’m going to enjoy the fact that it’s Friday and I – somehow –  made it through the work week alive.

13 Disneyland Park Tips for Little Girls

In September, we took our 3 1/2 year-old girl to the most magical place on earth, Disneyland! My friends have been asking for some tips from our experience, so I’ll lay them out here. Have an amazing time!

1. Bring a stroller
Preferably an umbrella stroller that reclines for naps. Sure, they have them to rent but who wants to wait in a stroller line when you’re eager to get in and out of the park. Plus, if you leave for naps you’ll have to return in and then check one out again. Just another line you’ll avoid.

2. Bring a backpack
You can take them on the rides. We just stuffed ours under our seat. And our backpack was huge, filled with: Snacks, water bottles, camera, video camera, sunglasses, sunscreen, hats and a change of clothes for Kelsey (just in case).

3. Tie a balloon to your stroller
This way you can easily identify your stroller amongst the hundreds parked outside rides. No one steals your stroller. It’s like an unwritten stroller/ parent rule there.

4. See Tinkerbell
She’s in Pixie Hollow just to the east of the castle. We walked right by this place last time we were here (it’s kind of hidden). It’s worth the wait because your child gets great one on one time with the pixie. She told Kelsey jokes, let her look around her tree house and posed for pictures.

5. Get a Three-Day Pass
Because then you’re not rushed to see everything in a short time frame. And, with a three-day pass, you’ll get one Magic Hour day. This means, you get to enter the park one hour early before it opens to everyone else. During this time you can hit up all the kid rides that usually take forever to ride. See: Peter Pan, Cars Land.

6. Ariel’s Grotto is Fantastic!
We went for lunch. It was a bit pricey (I think about $100 for 2 adults, 1 kid) but oh-so worth it! Kelsey still talks about meeting Ariel and all of the Princesses (they greet every table). She met Cinderella, Snow White, Sleeping Beauty and Bell. They do this for breakfast or lunch only (not dinner) so book one of those times. Reservations go fast (I booked mine 2 weeks in advance and didn’t get the time I wanted). So, book early. You can email dine@disneyland.com.

7. Big Thunder Ranch Barbecue
If you love country music and good ‘ole family style barbecue, then you’ll love this place. We sat at picnic tables and food was brought to us right when we sat down. No ordering here, it’s all the same. I think. At least our neighbors to our right were eating the same food too. Country singers invited kids up on stage and put on a great show. Plus, they had red tongs on the table that kept Kelsey very entertained. Who knew.

8. Best Ice Cream at the Park is …
At Cozy Cone Motel in California Adventure Park. It’s really just ice cream cones and such, but go here when the sun goes down and enjoy ice cream in this snack area. The orange cones light up at night and make for a really pretty (and cozy) little spot.

9. Starbucks is now on Main Street
This is an obvious adult-pit stop right when you arrive in the park. Get your caffeine fix, but make it a Grande. We got Ventis and then quickly realized that you can’t take them with you on any rides. Doh.

10. Buy stuffed animals before you go
This sounds a little cheap, but trust me, it’s a good tip: Go to Costco, Target or even the Disney store and purchase a stuffed animal before you go. Little girls everywhere were carrying around little stuffed animals. It keeps them busy in line and is great for them to have and hold throughout the entire day. Plus, you’ll avoid the large markup if you were to purchase this toy inside the Park.

11. Bring a costume
We brought two. One of the days, we let her dress up like her favorite Princess. With running shoes on, she sported a Disney costume and loved the attention she got, “Here comes a real Princess” strangers would say. It was so cute. And meeting Snow White, while dressed as Snow White … well, you can only imagine her excitement there. Tip: Wear clothes under the costume because if you know three-year-olds then you know they are ‘over it’ as quickly as they were into it.

12. Check the event calendar
I checked the hours and the event calendar one week prior to our trip. This way you know when the park opens (it varies by season) and what parades or special events are happening. Kelsey sat through an entire parade! I was impressed (and oh-so grateful because our feet were killing us). Here’s a link to the Event Schedule.

13. Take it all in!
Stop to take it all in. At some point, you’ve made your dinner reservations, planned the must-see spots for the day, brought all of your gear … now, let loose. Enjoy the rides, watch your child’s eyes light up when they watch “World of Color” and really soak it all in. Seeing Disneyland from a child’s eyes is truly the most magical thing to see.

View more pictures and details from our Disneyland trip here.

Feel free to add your travel tips to this post too. We’re taking both kids to Disneyworld next year and I sure could use the tips for taking kids there.

The Family Hat: Yes, Your Heiness

Snow White came to visit this morning. She’s a lot more sassy than Belle is. In fact, she demands that I am Prince Charming, my husband is Dopey. And Colton? Well, that’s the best part. She insists that we call him The Queen. Poor guy. I wonder if he’ll pay her back when he’s older and demand that she plays trucks, trains and automobiles with him.

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The Vacation Hat: Disneyland with a Toddler

I’m no pro, but Ryan and I took our 22 month-old to Disneyland and have some great tips to share. For those people who say, “she’s too young and won’t get it”, I say they are crazy. She loved every minute of Disneyland, and really “got it”. Here are some tips for traveling to Disneyland with a toddler, from our experience. Enjoy!

Tips for traveling to Disneyland with a Toddler.

1. Buy a 3-day park hopper pass
Try to go on weekdays to avoid the crowds, if you can. 3 days give you just enough time to see both parks. With a toddler in tow you tend to go at a slower pace, and spend a lot of time in Toon Town, so the 3-day pass was perfect. Plus, with a 3-day pass, Disney grants you one day early entry. Which means you get into the park 1 hour before it opens.

2. Bring reinforcement
Try to bring grandparents or family along. We took my parents and my brothers with us and what a blessing that was. The extra helpers made it so Ryan and I could relax and could go on some ‘adult’ rides. The extra kept us sane. This was our crew (Sabrina took the pic).

3. Buy toys at home, then bring them with you
Call this cheap or genius. But, my husband bought a Mickey Mouse stuffed animal at home for $14. Then, we showed it to Kelsey while at Disneyland (she thought we bought it there). The same stuffed animal (in a smaller size) was $26 at the park. Score.

4. Bring a backpack
If fanny packs were in style, I might have sported one. Instead, we ditched our diaper bag for an Under Armor backpack. It was the best thing we did because we could store our diapers, wipes, snacks, sippy cups, hats, sunscreen and toys all in one place. Plus, we could carry it on the rides with us.

5. Plan your meals in advance
I would eat a good breakfast at the hotel before going to the park. And a good dinner. You’ll get sick of chicken nuggets, pizza and mac n’ cheese really quick. Try to get a good breakfast in, then you can snack until the restaurants open for lunch, around 11:30am.

6. Know where the fruit stand is
In Toon Town, right across from Daisy’s House is a fruit stand. You can rest and enjoy apples, watermelon and some juice. Funny enough, fruit was hard for us to find, so locating this little stand was a big deal.

7. The train is a great spot to rest
We took the train to get around the park. It was a great way to rest our feet and give baby a break. Plus, it’s pretty entertaining. If you love people watching, the train is probably the best way to go. I would say it is the most relaxing way to get around the park.

8. The Jungle Cruise and Tiki Room
These are also two great rides to rest and relax. Finding time for a ‘time out’ was a great way to keep a toddler in good spirits.

9. Bring bubbles for the long lines
Toddlers like repetition. This is why going to Disneyland on a weekday is a great idea. When your toddler is done with a ride, he or she may scream, “go again!” For this, we brought bubbles. Just in case the line was really long for a ride, we were going to bust out our bubbles to keep baby entertained (although we never had to use them).

10. Get your 1st visit badge at City Hall
Right when you walk in, go to your left and you’ll find City Hall. Inside there, you can tell the employees that it’s your toddlers first visit and they’ll give you a 1st visit pin. It’s a great keepsake and fun for baby to have throughout your trip. Here’s Kelsey with her daddy and her pin!

11. Fast passes for World of Color
Disneyland Adventure’s World of Color is a show not to be missed. Even though my toddler curled up in my arms (she hated the loud noise) other kids were loving it. A fast pass secures you a better seat (standing only) for the show. Trick: If you have grandparents, they can sit in the handicap section with your toddler.

12. Stay close by
If you can’t stay on property at the Disneyland Hotel, I would recommend the Sheraton Park at Anaheim Resort. You can buy a $4 adult and $1 kid pass to ride the shuttle to and from Disneyland. The shuttle picks you up at the hotel and drops you off at the front gates. The shuttle runs every 20 minutes (so they say, ours was more like 25, but still worth it).

13. Buy a balloon for your stroller
This is a great idea so you can spot your stroller from far away. It’s stroller mania at Disneyland so spotting your stroller easily saves you lots of “where in the world did I park that thing” moments. But then, ditch the balloon at night (or leave it at the hotel) because navigating in the dark with a baby and a balloon ain’t pretty. Just ask my husband.

14. Say, “Cheese!”
Try to snap your child’s face as they embark on their first ride. Their reaction will be priceless!

15. Have a good stroller
We didn’t rent the strollers at Disneyland (although they were really nice Jogger-type strollers) because we didn’t want the hassle of turning it in every time we left the park for nap time. So, we made sure we had a good umbrella (that leaned back for napping) for the park. We bought the Chicco Liteway Stroller. Also, it was nice not having a stroller with a tray in front since our toddler has ants in her pants. Without the tray, we were able to jump in and out of the stroller (we bought clip-on cup holders instead).

16. Dinner requires reservations
If you’re going to eat at the park or Downtown Disneyland, we learned quickly that restaurants require reservations. They don’t really require them, but the wait times were about 1 hour without them. Instead, we had a good dinner at the hotel, then ventured out for fireworks, hot chocolate, ice cream and churros at the park. Sounds healthy, doesn’t it? Hey, we were on vacation.

17. Find Mickey!
Toon Town is where Mickey lives. Make sure you take time to go to his house. We never waited more than 15 minutes to see him. Watching your child hug Mickey … well, that’s the magic of the entire place. We got really lucky too. Before Mickey took a break, he took the last girl in line (that was us!) on a personal tour through his house. More photos on this magical moment in a bit.

18. Good 1st Ride
King Arthur’s Carousel was a great ride for baby to try first. It was like getting her feet wet. She liked it for about 4 seconds. Turns out, she liked all of the action packed rides more than the baby rides. Who knew? Have a wonderful time. It is the “Happiest Place on Earth” for a reason.

19. Take one (or more) mental snapshots
When I was little, my family and I were leaving Disneyworld on the fairy. When we were crossing the lake to leave the park, I looked back in sadness. At that moment, my dad leaned over my shoulder and said, “Take a photo in your mind to always remember what you see”. So, I looked really hard for a second and snapped a mental memory. I still remember, vividly, everything I saw. The lights. The castle. The magic. Find your ‘moment’ on your trip and store it away forever.

20. One last tip
If you can go during the holidays, please do. After Thanksgiving the park turns into a winter wonderland. It really gets you in the spirit.

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*Leave more tips in the comments so we can swap ideas!

The Friendship Hat: Disney Princess

Our friend, Sabrina just got back from a spur-of-the-moment trip to Disneyland. My brother flew in from Austin, TX and surprised her with a trip to the Happiest Place on Earth. Who doesn’t love Disneyland? We can’t wait to take our daughter there and experience all of the magic through her eyes. Sabrina’s a shopper, like all of us girls, and couldn’t help but design a pretty pink princess hat for baby! It’s personalized with her name in hot, pink letters on the back. Too cute! I can’t wait to take it with us on our first family trip to Disneyland.
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Thanks, Sabrina!