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!

3 thoughts on “The Vacation Hat: Disneyland with a Toddler

  1. Honestly, when I read the title of the post, the thought of a toddler in Disneyland made my eye twitch. These are pretty perfect tips for traveling with a little one, though!

    1. Tori, that is so funny. It was heaven though. The best part? Toddlers under three are free!

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