DISNEYLAND WITH A 1 YEAR OLD
My husband, my son and I live in Dallas and were invited to attend San Diego wedding this April. We have a 22mo old and decided to take this opportunity and do a little side excursion over to Disneyland. Disneyland is MUCH smaller and easy to manage than Disney World making it a “stepping stone” for the motherland to which we plan on going in a few years… I would not attempt taking a 1 year old there.
Since we have a small child who is right on the delightful cusp of the terrible twos we decided in advance that one day would plenty. This was our first time, so I am an inexpert Disney-goer but I wanted to share my experience for anyone who might be planning a trip with a toddler.
I recommend doing as much research as possible, read blogs, troll Instagram, download the Disney apps and maps and go in prepared with a plan! That being said… prepare to have your plan annihilated! There is a comfort in having an idea of what to expect but part of that expectation is knowing that things will change and you will have to roll with the punches.
It can be easy with a toddler to lose your cool and get frustrated with them or your spouse (we’ve all been there), but If you can go in with a flexible mentality, pack some extra patience in your fanny pack, and you and your spouse have a good pep talk beforehand, you will have a great time a make the best memories!
WHERE TO STAY
Disneyland has its own resorts which give you direct access to the parks and also grant you a magic hour which allows you to enter the park one hour before it opens to the public. This is a desirable lodging option as the Disney resort offers character breakfasts and heated pools with splash parks that by far exceed the surrounding hotels.
The onsite resorts are nice but it will cost you, the Disney resort was 4 times the price of the Hilton where we stayed located 2 blocks from the park. The offsite hotel was a nice option for us, although we didn’t get the full magical experience, Dexter is so young and doesn’t know the difference we felt the savings was worth it.
All the hotels offer shuttles to the park, but honestly it was easier just to walk. You are already going to be walking the whole day a couple more blocks is nothing. Also, by the time you unload everything from your stroller to fold it, and have to hold all that stuff plus your toddler while waiting for everyone else to do the same on a stuffy bus… no thanks. The walk nice and easy breezy.
WHAT TO WEAR
Wear clothes that are very comfortable, you will likely be carrying and lifting your toddler throughout the attraction lines and it’s pretty much a work out so active wear is the way to go. Wear a fanny pack, you may laugh now but it will quickly become your best friend. Which leads me to my next segment… Strollers!
THE STROLLER SITCH
Everyone brings their stroller which simultaneously serves as a cart for all the stuff you’ll pack for the day. The stroller is great for walking around the park but something to know ahead of time is that you are not allowed to bring your stroller through the lines for ANY of the attractions, you have to leave them in the designated “Stroller Parking” area and then go wait in line.
Sounds a little sketchy to just leave your stroller with all your stuff in it right? Right, but everyone does it. There are 50-100 strollers in one little parking area and everyone just goes on the honor system which is why I suggest renting a stroller (which you can reference our experience with stroller rental HERE), which also brings me back to the fanny pack! I let the hubs sport that little accessory!
But you will definitely want to keep all your important things in the ever so trusty fanny pack; phone, keys, wallet, etc. which you can wear on all the rides.
TODDLER RIDES and ATTRACTIONS
Disneyland is divided into two parks; Disneyland Park and Disney California Adventure Park. For us, this trip was really for our son Dexter so we decided to keep it all toddler friendly and skip the “big kid” rides, and since we were only there for one day we went with Disneyland Park. I tried to best plan our day by using the Disneyland App and getting on their website to find all the rides that allowed for “any height” to participate.
Something to keep in mind is that the lines move pretty fast, some of the lines looked really long and intimidating but the actual wait time was only about 20 min, and if you use the app it shows the wait times for each ride right on your phone. Some of the rides have a Fast Pass option but it did not apply to any of the toddler rides.
To avoid the crowds we went immediately upon entering the park Mickey’s toon town in the very back as opposed to the going straight for the castle which is where most people start. Toon town is the most toddler friendly part of the park and littles ones can do all of the activities.
As a parent my personal favorite thing were the playhouses, they are essentially Disney themed playgrounds where your toddler can be out of the stroller, run, and stretch their legs all while you can sit and take a breather. They can visit Mickey & Minnie and all of their other favorites, there is a food court, and the crowds seemed to be down in this area
Disney is really great about letting you bring in your own food. There was a huge CVS about 1 block from the entrance, we stopped in there on our way and grabbed waters, power bars and little snacky things.
You likely want more than just packaged food and Disney offers many quality, healthier options. The restaurants are all great but if you are looking for a quick snack there are several fruit stands, we got hummus and carrots and Dexter ate a turkey dog and loved it!
The big question with toddlers, “What do we do about a nap?” Its right in the middle of the day, you don’t want it to kill the momentum, what worked very well for us was napping in the stroller. By this point in the day your toddler will be beyond exhausted from all the excitement and activity they will likely fall right to sleep.
The key is to have a stroller that reclines back to lying position, we used the B.o.b. This not only worked for us but we saw several toddlers doing this. My suggestion is to feed your little one lunch, let them drift off then find a nicer “sit down” spot for you and your spouse to grab a good lunch or a show while tiny is napping.
DIAPERS and THE BABY CENTER
Don’t you just love changing diapers in public park restrooms…said no one ever! Well you don’t have to here! A little hidden gem and game changer is the Disneyland Baby Care Center. We stumbled upon this just as we needed to change a stinky diaper and it was nothing short of awesome. This center is a cozy and soothing place mothers can feed baby, breast feed, nap little ones who need a crib and best of all change diapers in a sanitary easy to manage space. They also sell, diapers, formula, baby food and other necessary baby items.
Disneyland is magical at night time too! They put on an electric parade that is full of music and dancing all made out of lights. I noticed many parents with young children would start to head back to their hotel around 5:30 to do dinner and bath then return to the park with their kids in pjs ready to watch the night parade and once again fall asleep in their stroller.
This may sound like no fun pushing around a sleeping kid while you still have to supervise, but the park is beautiful at night when lit up and there is a lot to look at, this is a good opportunity for you and your husband to enjoy the park together and have some adult conversation and maybe a late dinner.
This was the first trip to Disneyland for all of us so I am absolutely an amateur, however if you are considering taking your toddler I hope you got something out of this recap and a bit more incite from our experience. We hope to go to Disney World in the future with older children but for now this was a good place to start and a fun experience full of memories I will adore forever!