Sunday, February 9, 2014

Big Family Disneyland Hacks



We moved to Los Angeles when Jack was four, but we didn't make our first family trip to Disneyland until his sixth birthday. We really think that's the ideal age for the trip. At six our kids are old enough to be familiar with the characters, but not too old to hug them. They are tall enough for all the rides, and brave enough for the Haunted Mansion.


Jack's trip started a tradition of going for each kid's sixth birthday. This weekend, we took a belated trip for Gus's sixth birthday which was in November, but we delayed the trip a bit because of the birth of baby Louise.

That was our fourth trip, and each time the family has been a bit bigger. So, here are some things we've learned over the years about bringing a whole bunch of little kids to Disneyland . . . 








1. Get There Early

We get to the gate before the park opens. Always. On crowded days, we can sometimes ride as many rides that first hour as we can the whole rest of the day. 


We also always take advantage of being there before everone else to get Fastpasses. Little kids don't love line time. Planning ahead can minimize it.

2. Save the Stroller for Stuff (and Toddlers)

If you have a sleeping baby in a stroller at Disneyland, you pretty much get to spend your day going on a walk at Disneyland. I don't know about you, but I don't think that sounds very fun. If you WEAR baby, she can still sleep, but you can join in the fun. Babywearing works GREAT at Disneyland, and (even though I have some issues with babywearing) I always do it. But it can be frustrating if you don't have the lowdown. 





Your best bet is a buckling-type carrier with baby in front. That gives you the most ride options. There are some rides that will allow soft carriers, or babies in back, but not all. So if, like me, you DO NOT LIKE WAKING UP SLEEPING BABIES (sorry, was I shouting?) just start them off in an Ergo or Bjorn in the front (I borrowed one before I owned my own). You'll be able to take them on just about any ride without a height requirement in either Disneyland or California Adventure, and that's a lot of rides.


The only exceptions I'm aware of are a few spinning-type rides like the Rocketships in Tomorrowland and the Teacups. Those rides require baby to be "sitting" on the seat. (Seems less safe to me, but I'm not in charge.) I really don't mind skipping those myself, but you can also just plan your spinning for in between naps.





Disneyland isn't particularly rollercoaster-focused, so there are quite a few major attractions you can go on while wearing a baby.


3. Divide and Conquer

Extra grownups or teenagers are a big help. We always have my parents with us (which also helps us with details like "buying tickets to Disneyland"). But even with just two grownups, we can split into groups of "tall enough" and "not tall enough" for a particular ride. The big kid group goes on the ride, the grownup with the little kids gets a "rider switch pass" from the ride operator. This allows up to three people to return to the ride anytime and go in the Fastpass line.


scarves are great for nursing under
AND helping little kids not get lost in a crowd

big kids at Space Mountain
While big kids are riding one thing, I take the little kids on something else. Disneyland is great for having different level rides close to each other. If you're too short for Indiana Jones, you can go on the Jungle Cruise, if you can't go on Space Mountain, you can go on the Submarines. Then, once baby wakes up, we switch. Someone else wears the baby, and I take a couple of people with me and go on the tall people rides. In between, we usually go on something all together.




It's not fool-proof, of course. Cars Land (so, so cool!) and the Aviation land in California Adventure have no little kid rides, so I ended up just wandering around and going in gift shops with Frankie and Lulu. 



Next time I'll just take them to A Bug's Land where the little kids rides are while the big kids are doing rides in those areas. And I got a phone call that Lulu was missing me just as I was about to get on Luigi's Flying Tires, but everyone said that ride wasn't so great anyway (maybe they were just being nice?).



4. The Tiki Room

Oh Tiki Room, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways . . .




  • Great for quick naps (for me)
  • Baby-wearing friendly
  • Air-conditioned
  • Secret bathroom
  • DOLE WHIP!
And I am going to take a moment here to publicly admit my love for robot birds (draw what conclusions you will) and that oh so catchy song.



4. Don't Get Lost (unless you do)

I've mentioned this before, but it's so great that I'm going to mention it again. We write our cell phone numbers on little kids' arms. So if they get lost, a friendly grownup can just call us.





We didn't end up losing anyone at either day at the theme parks, so that was nice. I did NOT write phone numbers on kids arms on Thursday night when we went to dinner in Downtown Disney . . . 




They say you're not supposed to leave children unattended in the Lego Store. But if you DO, they give them free Legos. I'm just sayin'.



5. Dress for Success

This has very little to do with being a big family, but it is so, so fun for the kids to dress up at Disneyland.






Nana outfitted the kids for the Disneyland day for this trip, but in other years we have just let the kids wear things out of the dress up box.



I sewed that Dorothy costume
for myself in high school
The people working at the park all greet the kids by their character names (even non-Disney characters like Dorothy!).

Frankie in a Tigger costume was a big hit with cast members and tourists alike. A BIG hit. At first it was making him super-duper mad that people kept calling him Tigger. ("NO. Me a FRANG-kee!") But he eventually got on board.





And we always tell them at the front gate that we're celebrating a birthday. Then they give us a birthday button with the child's name on it. And all day, everyone wishes him a Happy Birthday!





Dressing up and/or having a birthday button also seems to make it more likely they'll get picked to participate in the shows.


6. Stay here

We live about an hour away from Disneyland without traffic, but there's almost always traffic. It's really awesome to get to stay in a hotel walking distance to the parks, to help with point 1. We stay in the 2 Bedroom Family Suite at the Camelot Inn and Suites. The Disneyland resort hotels don't offer any two bedroom suites, and it would cost six times as much for adjoining rooms there.





It's no frills inside the rooms, but Tudor-cottage-themed on the outside, so my kids think it's plenty fancy. And nice hotels make me nervous anyway. Plus it's got a little kitchenette so we can have breakfast in the room.





And there's a heated pool. Perfect for February!


And that's it. Thanks Nana and Grandad! Anita's sixth birthday is next up, we'll see you then Disneyland . . . 




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17 comments:

  1. Don't forget the baby care area off of Main Street. Kid-sized toilets, nursing area (good for super distracted babies), changing area, kid sitting area. It's really great for rainy days...which I think is the best time for rides too.

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    1. Ooh yes! I can't believe I forgot that. The tiny toilets are hilarious. Since my kids don't go to traditional school, they've never seen tiny toilets before.

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  2. Oh Disneyland...someday I'll go! And Lulu's hair! I love it. *sigh* Darrow's is falling out and it makes me so sad. What an adorable family you have!

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  3. Love the tips! I'm typically a disney-grump but you make it actually sound kinda fun! I would never have thought they'd let a mom on the rides with a baby in the carrier, that is genius! I will definitely utilize that tip if I need to when we finally make the big trek to Disney!

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  4. This is great advice! Since we're stationed in Florida my sister insisted on taking us and the kids to Disney World last year...and let me say being pregnant in Disney is not my favorite :)

    Now a question unrelated to Disney Land: I have the same old blue ergo that you are sporting and it's been going strong for the past five and half years or so but yours looks amazingly clean and mine has turned a weird greenish color where the straps meet the main pouch (from babies chewing on it). Do you have any tips for keeping yours looking so brand new?

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    1. I wash mine in the machine, on the gentle cycle, and hang it to dry. It is faded some, but looks good enough.

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  5. Very cool. We did the one in Florida last year, but I like your ideas for the one in California (I couldn't seem to find a hotel/condo within walking distance in Orlando). I don't know if/when we will go back...it's quite a trip for us being in the midwest (either direction).

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  6. Additional hints from Grandad & Nanna the purchasing agents for the Disneyland trip. Grandad is retired military so if you qualify that's the best place to get tickets. If you aren't then CA residents get good deals in off season. Costco has pkgs including hotels but not just tickets.
    If you want to outfit kids do it before you go unless you like to spend lots of $s at the Disney Stores. I got the 4 shirts for the boys and the 3 Minnie Mouse dresses for the girls from Amazon.com. The Alice dress for Anita came from the Disney Park store 2 yrs go and still fits so it was a good deal. The hats on the boys came from the trip 4 yrs ago so they have been well used and were worth getting on the 1st trip.
    For us this Disney trip is like the old Master Card commercial...priceless and worth every dollar and tired foot.
    Nanacamille

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  7. Looks like a great day! I did not know about the rider switch pass. That is awesome! Will have to use that in the future.

    P.S. Blog redesign is looking very nice.

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  8. We went to Disney World for the first time this past October with our six, ages 12-2. It went really, really well. Like you, we wrote our names and cell numbers in sharpie on their arms, but instead of dressing up, we dressed alike. My husband tie-dyed t-shirts for all of us before we went, so we could spot each other right away. Everyone seemed to get a big kick out of seeing us, too! We did six parks in six days, so we also brought food in with us. I was amazed at how accommodating Disney is on this now! We brought enough to snack in the morning and have lunch for each person, and then we splurged on an afternoon snack for everyone. Dinner was back at our rental each night. It is possible to budget and not blow a ton of money at the parks.

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    1. That's a really good point. If we went more often I'd definitely bring our food with us. But . . . mmmmm, corndogs.

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  9. Looks like a wonderful trip, Kendra! How fun. Also - LOVE the new blog design! Fantastic!

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  10. Roger rabbit and lady bugs in bugs land are also no baby in carrier rides. Also good to note is that some rides have a number of how many can ride limit and babies strapped on count. So for instance dumbo allows three people per elephant. That means I can't take my 2yr old, 3yr old, and baby strapped on by myself. Great tips!! We go often and do a lot of these. Love the tiki room! There is a baby room in CA as well. Also good to note that you are allowed to bring your own food and beverages (no glass containers). We always bring our own food/snacks.

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  11. All great ideas! I've heard and read here and there that they've tightened up rules when using military tickets. My father-in-law is retired military. Could he purchase tickets and gift them to us or does he have to be there in person? Do you happen to know?

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    1. He does have to be there and show his ID the first time you use the tickets. My dad was with us today. However, the deal is on the three-day tickets, and once you've activated them, I believe you can use them on your own the other two days you choose to use them.

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